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  October 30, 1999



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Drop your gloves!

It's a gas to 'wrestle' The Great One

By BRET "The Hitman" HART -- For The Calgary Sun
  People are telling me that they really like the Esso commercial I did with Wayne Gretzky.

 Me too.

 The commercial is humorous but, looking back, what happened behind the scenes was pretty funny too, although it didn't always seem that way to me at the time.

 For starters, when they told Wayne they were going to have him wrestle "somebody" in a commercial, he told them not "somebody," he wanted Bret Hart.

 It was a big honour for me that Gretzky let me be in his commercial. I've been a big fan of his for years and I don't mind admitting I was exited about it.

 WCW had other ideas though, not that it was their fault.

 They thought the commercial was really cool but I was on call to WCW if they should need me -- and it turned out to be the worst possible timing but they needed me, big time.

 Just as I was packing to go to Toronto to film the commercial, Eric Bischoff, then WCW Prez, called and told me that some of the top wrestlers were hurt, couldn't make the show at the Los Angeles Forum, and they were now counting on me to be the main event -- against Hulk Hogan!

 WCW picked one heck of a time to give me the match I'd waited so long for!

 I didn't want to miss it, but I didn't want to disappoint Wayne, either.

 The problem was that the latest plane out of LA to Toronto was at 10:30 the night of the show and I needed to be in Toronto at daybreak.

 I asked Bischoff if he could put the match on earlier in the card but he couldn't because they wanted the main event to be last. It meant I'd get out of the ring at about 10 p.m. And still have to get dressed. And get to the airport. For an international flight. All in under 30 minutes.

 They said it couldn't be done.

 The epic battle with Hogan took my mind off the ticking clock. It ended up there was all kinds of interference in the match and so there was no winner or loser and Hogan and I shook hands at the end.

 I beat it down the aisle, through the curtain, into a waiting limo with a driver who I'm sure could make a good living in racing.

 I'd guess it takes a lot to surprise the people in L.A., used to seeing all sorts of bizarre things happening around them in show business, but even they looked amused watching me blur through Los Angeles International Airport at a full run, all sweaty and still wearing my Hitman gear.

 I can imagine some little kid pointing, "see ma, I told you they always dress like that ..."

 Well ... I flew all night and couldn't even get any sleep on the plane because some old biddy with a cackling voice was gossiping with Aunt Millie.

 I got my second wind when I got to the set. It's a good thing too, because they had me beating up on Gretzky's stunt double for a while. I tossed him around, suplexed him, headlocked him ... trying not to be too hard on the poor guy. All the while Wayne Gretzky was roaring with laughter.

 The guy looked so much like him that to Wayne it must have been like he was looking in some sort of a mirror from the Twilight Zone, watching himself wrestle The Hitman.

 Besides, the guy taking all the bumps turned out to be a buddy of his!

 I tossed this guy around for two hours, on no sleep, and just when I felt really tired, of course, that's when they went and put Wayne in. I grabbed Gretzky in a flying head mare, pulled his head down about 3 ins. --and they yelled "cut."

 And that was it! It took all of three seconds!

 Now I was the one laughing, thinking, "gee, it must be so great to be the star!"

 But there was no pretense about Gretzky at all and he was as amused by all of it as I was.

 I've found that, with a lot of stars, you have to be careful not to get too close because they lose their glow.

 That wasn't the case at all with Wayne. He's got this bright, shining spirit and he remains a hero to me.

 Speaking of heroes, I was honoured to be in distinguished company when I was chosen by the Glenbow Museum, along with David Suzuki, Peter Lougheed, Carol Shields, Tom Jackson and Pamela Wallin to do an exhibit for the millennium.

 Each of us could pick our own theme and I immediately saw it as a great opportunity to showcase Canadian heroes.

 We've been working on what we think will be an innovative and inspiring presentation. I look forward to giving you more details in the coming weeks.

 Meanwhile, I wonder if you can guess which great Canadians I chose to include in the exhibit?

 Narrowing it down wasn't easy, but it sure was fascinating and fun.

 Before I can focus on that in the way it deserves, I need to sort some things out on Nitro this week. I was really impressed with Bill Goldberg last week.

 What a piece of work he is.

 That is a serious challenge for anyone in wrestling to step up to.

 When I jumped on his back to lock on the sleeper I couldn't help but thinking that must be what it feels like to be one of those bull riders in the Calgary Stampede on a big ol' brahma bull!

 In fact, I think I went a little light on the sleeper because who wants to make a big bull angry?

 It's great to be U.S. heavyweight champion again -- but the thing is, I don't like the way I won the match.

 I don't know what, if anything, I can do about it but I intend to find out, at Nitro.

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