?Now that I’ve left that company, like so many others before me, like Savage and Hogan, I unfortunately have lost my history and my legacy. I feel a lot like a singer, maybe Frank Sinatra, who, for years, wrote and sang some of the greatest songs of all-time for a record company only to be swerved in the end and forbidden to sing those songs ever again. ‘These songs belong to us and from here on in; Mr. Hitman, you and your lousy tunes don’t exist!’
There are those in life who meet their own demise by their own actions. It may be based in selfishness, greed, addiction, or overindulgence. For our heroes, they meet their demise not because of their failures as human beings, but because they are unwilling to compromise their morals for the sake of survival. Last week it was announced that Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, is coming out on DVD featuring a second disc on the death of Owen Hart. Keeping up with my series on heroes, I decided to shift my thoughts to the tragic hero and how we have seen one of the all-time greats meet his demise because of his own actions.
When I was a kid I went through a period between late 1991 and early 1993 where I didn?t watch very much wrestling. Why I stopped I can?t exactly say. The one Saturday morning, I turned the TV on to see Bret Hart as the WWF champion. The last thing I remembered happening in the wrestling world was Undertaker defeating Hulk Hogan for the title. The times had indeed changed. We were coming up on Wrestlemania IX and Bret was going to defend his championship against some guy named Yokozuna. I was totally stoked to see Bret as champ and was intrigued to see how his match with Yoko would end up. Bret Hart was a new breed of hero at the top of the sport. He was a true wrestler, not some super-tan dude with a monster physic. He may not have told you to say your prayers or call us his ?little worriers,? but Bret was still inspiring based on his fighting spirit. Everything that Bret did in and out of the ring made us change our perception of our wrestling heroes because he was tangible. Even when the WWF tried to build Lex Luger as the new superhero, it didn?t work. If you go back and watch the 1994 Royal Rumble, there were two winners due to a controversial ending. The two men were Luger and Hart. The crowd was not torn at all between the top two babyfaces; they hated the idea of Luger winning. They wanted Bret and Bret alone to walk out with the Wrestlemania title shot. The days of the superhero were over, and the real, tangible hero had supplanted him. It may have been that tangibility that ended Hart’s WWF career, which brings us to the Montreal Screwjob.
Talking about the Montreal Screwjob is not flogging a dead horse. It’s like flogging a dead horse with another dead horse that’s already been flogged, but it is an essential part of Bret Hart’s story, because it says so much about who he was as the Hitman, and the man behind the sunglasses and leather jacket. As the Hitman character, he could not loose the championship in Canada after everything he had been through in the past year. Even though he was doing the whole anti-America campaign, it wasn?t the same as other wrestlers who had gone that route before. If you could step back and look at the whole seen from the nosebleeds, you could sympathize with Bret and why he had turned away from a segment of the crowd. Not only that, but Hart had the most controversial character in the industry at that point. The mixed reactions he received I have not seen a wrestler come close to since. Sure guys like Hogan, Rock, and Cena would get mixed reactions, but that was because fans had lost their taste for them in one way or another. Bret Hart actually worked the crowds to make Americans despise him, and Canadians and many others love him. After months of this, Bret was going to square off against his arch rival, Shawn Michaels, in Montreal. Michaels represented everything that was wrong with America in Hart’s eyes. From a character standpoint, there is no way that Hart could allow Michaels to defeat him in Montreal.
If we dig deeper and look at the man, there are more reasons why Michaels could not go over Hart. Hart had taken a huge chance with his character and it paid off big time. Now Michaels was trying to overtake him as the top heel in the company. While Michaels could very well have been the one to beat Hart, it would have made no sense to have a heel-heel match when these two were destined for a big face-heel match at the next Wrestlemania. Hell, if you wanted to keep both of them heels, they could have done a triple threat match with Undertaker, had Michaels pin Taker and then have those two go another round. Instead, they were asking Hart to take his character, which he had taken a huge gamble on changing, and kill it by losing to another heel in Canada. It just didn?t make any sense.
We all know what happened from there and the tragic events that unfolded in the WWF in Bret’s absence. Bret did not compromise what he stood for, but in the end he brought his own demise upon himself. While WCW was always a wild card when it came to booking, there is a good chance he would not have suffered the concussion brought on the a sidekick from Bill Goldberg, and his career could very well still be going. Because he could not compromise what he stood for, Bret became a victim of some of his closest allies and spent his last years as a wrestler being overlooked and underutilized, only to be kicked in the head for his trouble.
He could have just done the job, but that was not who Bret Hart was or is. He could have done the job to Michaels at Montreal and kept his position in the WWF and been there to face guys like Rock, Angle, and Cena. We may have seen Bret do a take on a backstage role and helped guide younger talent or been a part of the booking committee. There are so many scenarios that could have played, but we will never know.
At the end of his autobiography, Bret Hart says that he left the business with a clear conscience. Bret ?Hitman? Hart was my hero. I truly believe that the conscience of the Hitman is clear. On the flip side, I don?t know about Bret Hart the man. Bret truly fuzzed the line between what was real and what was a work in wrestling. As a fan I have always walked a fine line and still haven?t been able to decide which side I am on, because what we view the wrestling business to be has serious consequences, no matter which way we fall off that fine line. While Bret may say his conscience is clear, I am not so sure that I, as a wrestling fan, can say the same thing.