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  January 17, 1998



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Flair for the dramatic
By BRET "THE HIT MAN" HART -- For the Calgary Sun

  Welcome back to another session of thinking out loud with The Hitman.

 Mostly what I've been thinking about is my big match that's coming up against Ric Flair at the WCW's Souled Out pay per view on January 24.

 I want my fans to know that I'm taking this match with Flair very seriously. Ric Flair has almost universally been ac-claimed as the greatest wrestler if all time and it's certainly not easy to dispute that with him having 13 different world title reigns. Having virtually ruled the WCW forever, Flair did make a jump to the WWF in 1992, where he again showed his incredible skill and intestinal fortitude by becoming the WWF World Champion.

 Now for me, back in 1992, I was beginning to finally come into my own and basically, like many others, looked to a time when I would get a rare title shot with the Nature Boy, the so-called greatest performer of all time.

 Out of nowhere, on Oct. 12, 1992, in the very same city where I'd had my very first bout with the Cuban Assassin back in 1978, I got my WWF title shot. Much to my surprise -- and maybe everybody in the wrestling world -- I defeated Ric Flair with my patented Sharpshooter.

 While I agreed that Ric Flair was cagey and relentless, I thought he showed a lot of weaknesses and made a lot of mistakes. In actual truth, there was one point in that match, back in Saskatoon, having broken my finger and badly twisting my ankle, Flair slapped on a figure four leg lock. The pain was absolutely unbearable and finally, with no escape, I found myself getting ready to say those never-before-uttered words, "I give."

 Then, for no apparent reason or logic, Flair let go of the hold. What a monumental error that would turn out to be. I recovered and the rest is history.

 Flair never really got over losing to me and I admit my criticism of his shortcomings were a little severe; the utterings of a younger man yet to fill the shoes of this so-called legend. Well, a few years have gone by and after five world title reigns of my own, I've altered my thinking on Ric Flair. Ric said to me, on Nitro, that its not just being the man but staying the man. My challenge now is to be acknowledged as the best in the WCW and that means I have to get past Ric Flair.

 Even without the WCW title, Flair is still the No. 1 guy. The WCW title still remains vacant as a result of the controversial finish in the rematch with Hogan and Sting that I wrote about last week. I would think that by now JJ Dillon and the WCW executive committee would have announced a rematch but I've heard rumblings that the belt may be up for grabs in a title tournament involving eight guys.

 I hope you caught the remarkable fight between Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko on Nitro. It was a back-and-forth battle between The Ice Man and the Canadian Crippler that left them both struggling to stay standing. I was so inspired by Benoit and Malenko that after the match, I pulled each of them aside. I didn't take sides with either of them about their many in-ring battles but I told them how I was beginning to fear that the art of wrestling was dead. That maybe I was the last surviving member of a dying species that no one even cared about saving. It's really eerie how much Benoit is the spitting image of the Dynamite Kid.

 Speaking of the Kid, here's an interesting little story for the wrestling history books. I have a ring at my home where I train and work out. My son Blade, 7, and his cousin Marek, 9, who just happens to be Dynamite's son, decided to hold their very own rasslin' show. They set up chairs, made tickets and sold them to an eager flock of neighborhood kids. In a classic bout the likes of which nobody in northwest Calgary has ever seen, they put on a great show -- ring music, popcorn and all -- and donated $12 to Blade's own charity. History just keeps on repeating itself. I can't wait to see what these kids come up with in a few years!

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