Whole truth revealed
By BRET HART -- For The Calgary Sun
By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For the Calgary Sun
This is an open letter to my family, friends, and fans because I want to tell you all what's been up with Bret Hart this week.
For those of you who've been telling me to get over what happened in Montreal and get on with my life, I should warn you that the two are not mutually exclusive. I have gotten on with my life but I'm going to be talking about Montreal. I can understand why you'd be sick of hearing about what Vince McMahon tried to do to me a year ago and if it means anything to you, I want you to know that I'm sick of talking about it.
Why do I? Because with the release of the documentary Hitman Hart, Wrestling With Shadows, all of that has been dredged back up to the surface again. I think wrestling fans need to realize that even though you guys know what happened in Montreal, the rest of the people who will see this film don't. Also, until you've seen Wrestling with Shadows, you only think you know what happened in Montreal.
That's not to say that the film is about Montreal because that's understating it's accomplishment. About a year ago an award-winning documentary company, High Road Productions, out of Toronto, asked me if they could follow me around for a year to get a glimpse of the inside world of a Canadian sports hero. The reason I did it has nothing to do with ego, nor does it have to do with money because the money goes to charity. I did it to help the wrestling business. To anyone who knows me, that won't come as a surprise.
It's no secret to readers of this column that I don't like the direction the wrestling business is going and that I've contemplated various ways to put it back on what I consider to be the right track, where athleticism and wrestling ability are respected and rewarded. Too great a percentage of the unprecedented TV ratings success that wrestling has enjoyed over the past couple of years is based on over-the-top sexuality and violence (over-the-top means stuff like barbed wire matches and men abusing women.)
I'm what they call a second-generation, technical, old-school wrestler (that refers to style, not age). A couple of years ago, the very thought of anyone pulling back the curtain to reveal what the magic of professional wrestling is all about would have set my blood to boil. In fact, I still feel awkward writing these words and part of me still wonders if I've done the right thing. I keep telling myself that as long as I'm doing what's right for the business I'm doing the right thing.
There is a generations-old code of conduct that is not to be broken but the problem is that the advent of pay-per-view brought about a new breed of wrestler, here for the money, not the tradition. A wrestler can make more in one match now than I dreamed to make in my whole career.
They will do whatever it takes to get high TV ratings, even if it results in smut TV like what the WWF has, unfortunately, become. In my last days there, I'd started to feel like one of the last remaining true artists in professional wrestling. I can't begin to describe the relief I felt when I got to WCW and met guys who still respect the old ways -- Benoit, Malenko, Flair, Savage, Piper --it's nice that there are too many to mention! But in the tunnel vision world of living in the WWF machine, when the documentary crew showed up at my doorstep I thought they were the last hope to show the world what wrestling is, was, and is supposed to be, not just in my eyes but through an unbiased camera. It is my hope that this rare glimpse into my secret world will heighten understanding and appreciation of what we do. Throughout the filming, I was reticent about peeling back the layers because I didn't know if my message would get through. It is a tribute to Paul Jay and his company that it did.
Monday was the first anniversary of what I've come to call the attempted murder in Montreal and I found myself in, of all places, New York City, wrestling for WCW.
New York has always been McMahon family territory. That goes back to Vince's father and even grandfather, both of whom, I'm sure, are turning over in their graves. So, there I am, at Nassau Coliseum, which is out on Long Island. That's as close to New York City as WCW can get right now because Vince has Madison Square Garden all locked up in an exclusive wrestling contract.
These people, who have been die-hard WWF fans for generations, sold out the WCW's Nitro show. When I walked out to wrestle Konnan, they stood and cheered for me. That was a little disconcerting since my Hitman character is such a bad guy these days. I couldn't figure out the cheers until I saw the signs.
"Welcome home Bret." "Vince was wrong." "Respect Bret." "You're still our hero". These people remembered it was the anniversary of Montreal.
The next day I was in Toronto for the premier screening of the documentary. It was fascinating to me to listen to the reactions of the 1200 fans in the sold-out theater as they watched each scene. I was moved by the standing ovation they gave me. They stood behind a guy who stood up for what's right. I can't begin to tell you what it felt like to know that people still cheer for heroes. Thank you for still letting me be your hero. You know that's Bret Hart talking, not my bad guy alter ego, The Hitman.
Sitting on the plane home to Calgary, the biggest test was a few hours away, when my family would see the film, for the first time, at the premier screening in Calgary.
They loved it.
Stu loved it.
The ultimate stamp of approval.
Now the rest is up to you. The wait is over.
Tune in tomorrow night at 7 p.m. on A-channel. The film has one more big test to pass, will it get a thumbs up from the people of Calgary?
I'm waiting to hear from you.