By BRET 'The Hitman' HART -- For The Calgary Sun
Last week, I asked if you'd like to guess which Canadian heroes I chose for my upcoming exhibit at The Glenbow Museum and what a fascinating assortment of entertaining, thought-provoking letters you sent.
And so, it was with heroes on my mind that I heard about the grisly demise of Greg Moore.
My sons and I had the privilege of meeting Greg a few times and I was immediately drawn to the zeal with which he followed his dreams. I found his earthy enthusiasm refreshing and was pleased that my boys had such a fine, young, Canadian role model to look up to.
In the past couple of years, I've discovered the excitement of cart racing and came to have an appreciation for the raw nerve of the drivers.
I thought my job is tough, but this stuff is downright scary, especially when the inevitable accidents happen. I'd come to know the lump-in-your-throat feeling of relieved amazement that comes when drivers walk away from wrecks. Now I know what it feels like when they don't.
I last spoke with Greg Moore in July, when I told him I respected what he'd done to raise the level of appreciation for racing in Canada. As we parted on a handshake, my last words to him were, "just don't get hurt."
Those are haunting words that cut deeper than the sad irony of Moore's passing, for they are the same words that I said to my brother Owen.
It was a few days after the now infamous screw job at Survivor Series, in Montreal. Vince McMahon let my brother-in-law, The British Bulldog, out of his contract, with a penalty of $100,000 US, of which, to the best of my knowledge, WCW paid half up front and then deducted the rest from his pay.
But the WWF wouldn't let my brother out of his contract.
Owen and I decided that we weren't going to let the wrestling business come between us and one day we'd be retired old men telling each other stories of our travels and triumphs.
But I was uneasy about leaving Owen behind with a dictatorial, megalomaniac for a boss. After Montreal, every wrestler realized that if Vince could swerve Bret Hart, it could happen to anybody -- and Davey and I wouldn't be there to watch Owen's back. It seems so inadequate that all I could say to Owen was "be careful and whatever you do, don't get hurt".
Two years later, the award-winning documentary Wrestling With Shadows, already seen in Canada and the U.S., premiers in England tonight. I'm over here on what some people would call a whirlwind promotional tour but, to me, the only thing I'm promoting is the truth about what happened in Montreal. A long-overdue explanation to my very patient fans in the U.K. about what happened and why they haven't seen me wrestle over here in a long time. A lot of old emotions have been dredged up by all this.
Call it fate, but at the same time Shadows debuts in the U.K., a new documentary, The Life and Death of Owen Hart, premiers in Calgary on A-channel at 9 p.m. tonight. I viewed a rough cut and you can imagine that it wasn't an easy thing for a brother to watch. The people who made Shadows had taped rare interviews with Owen that didn't make the cut into Shadows because they told a separate story. Owen's story.
And no one imagined Owen's story would end so suddenly or so unfairly.
Listening to Owen in the documentary, talking about how he felt about the wrestling business and then reading about Walter Payton's death, brought back something that Owen said to me at the WWF's Slammy Awards in '97.
Owen and I met Walter Payton in Chicago during the Wrestlemania 13 weekend. Payton was a guest at the Slammies and he showed up for what he thought was an important awards banquet where wrestlers and wrestling would be honoured. Owen and I believed the same thing and we brought our families and friends to what, until then, had been the WWF's version of the Academy Awards.
Unfortunately, that was the year even the Slammies fell prey to the new, lewd, direction of the WWF. There were crude comments and gestures throughout the show to the point where there was mud slinging about people's private lives on international TV.
When Walter Payton stepped up to the podium to speak, the new breed of WWF fan heckled him. Owen and I were thoroughly embarrassed that such a great role model was disrespected at an event that we were in any way associated with. Owen commented to me in disgust, "Walter Payton is just too good for this."
Backstage, Payton told us it was bull and he couldn't wait to leave.
I was thinking about that on the way to England. When I changed planes, I read the following in the Chicago Tribune:
"I'm not a role model, I'm just Walter Payton. If kids see some good in me that they can utilize and emulate ... so well and so good. But they have to realize that I'm only human just like anybody else. I'm capable of making mistakes. I'm capable of making wrong decisions. They should realize that I'm not perfect. Please don't put that on me because I'm not perfect."
I wish I could say to Walter Payton that his humble acknowledgement that he wasn't perfect is one of the things that made him such a great role model. One who is as real as you and me. One who doesn't inspire us towards the impossible goal of perfection but who leads us by example to attain our own personal best.
I think you'll enjoy getting to know the private side of my brother Owen on A-channel tonight. You'll see why everyone who was close to Owen misses him so much.
He was an extraordinary human being who just wanted to be ordinary, a hero to so many -- including me.