First column after the infamous Montreal screw job
"High station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace."
-- Tennessee Williams
I am going to be very honest and open about a profession I love very much. A profession that has no guilt and no innocence, at least only in rare exceptions. It's not my intention to hurt pro wrestling in any way, but I do need to tell the truth.
I never got into wrestling thinking that some day I would be rich or famous and, never in my wildest dreams, did I imagine I'd be where I am today. I am truly grateful to all my fans around the world who have allowed me into their hearts, live or on TV, to be their hero. Especially here in western Canada where I've had a place on TV every Saturday for 21 years.
I owe so much to my dad and everyone else who played a part in my early Stampede Wrestling days.
In August 1984 I moved up to the big league WWF and, eventually, evolved into this larger-than-life superhero, Bret `Hitman' Hart. I've always believed that the best chance you have to rise to the top involves giving yourself up to loneliness, fearing nothing and working hard. For 14 years, that's what I did.
I've always tried to give my absolute best in every match, in every city -- big or small -- in countries all over the world. I cannot begin to explain what an honor it's been for me to be hailed as a hero here in Canada, the U.S. and in far off places like Bombay, Belfast, Berlin, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Rome, London ...
I always let the world know that I was from Calgary, Canada -- and was proud of it. I fought long and hard against all sorts of evils, from bad guy wrestlers and managers, but I never thought I'd get screwed in the end by a wicked promoter.
Ever since I first met Vince McMahon, owner and promoter of the WWF, I was told by many who knew him that he was a dishonest, unsavory, lying, double-crossing, dirty, rotten scoundrel. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, but year after year, wrestler after wrestler, they have left with such bitter hatred.
Despite those early warnings, I put my heart and soul into everything I did and, through Vince McMahon, I became a hero beyond my wildest dreams. In March 1996, after seven title reigns, I left wrestling to pursue a possible TV/movie career, not sure if I would ever go back. Eight months later I decided to return. Wrestling was my calling and I felt it was screaming for me to come back.
In my absence, the WWF had been overtaken by Shawn Michaels, a primadonna of unmatched proportions. I was approached by the WCW about working for them, and was offered double the money. But, my heart had always been with the WWF and I was not greedy for money, but greedy for respect. Unlike most people I know, I thanked the WCW and turned them down. Instead I signed with the WWF for considerably less money and for an unprecedented twenty year deal. The Hitman stayed loyal.
In my fourteen years in the WWF, I only missed two scheduled bouts, often having between 250 and 300 bouts a year. I've never injured or prevented a fellow wrestler from working or feeding his family.
Out of nowhere on Sept. 21, into my fifth world title reign, I was informed by McMahon that he was in financial dire straits and was going to be forced to break my contract. McMahon urged me to go back and see if the WCW would take me, thus allowing him to get out of his twenty year contract.
McMahon said I would be doing him a favor. Crushed, I understood he was a friend to me and I did what he asked and started talks with the WCW. Saddened by this, and ever more so by the overall direction of the WWF in recent months, I negotiated a deal with the WCW and sent McMahon my release. He promised me we could be friends, told me to think with my head and not with my heart, that I could leave on my own terms, with dignity and respect. All I really wanted was to leave a Canadian hero. At the least, my fans deserved that. That became a problem.
Things became suddenly cold between McMahon and I, and I sensed something was up. The night before Montreal, I spoke with my friend, Earl Hebner, the referee, and I told him I thought McMahon and Michaels were going to pull something on me in Montreal. Hebner swore on his children that he would never let it happen. He was a close friend and I believed him.
In Montreal, I met with McMahon before my match and he had loosened up a lot. He said it would be okay to leave with my head up, with dignity and respect. I thanked him and got ready to give him, as always, the best possible match I could. In the middle of my match, McMahon came out to the ringside in a carefully thought out conspiracy, waited for me to be put in a submission hold. As I was escaping, my so-called friend Hebner signalled that I submitted and McMahon ordered the timekeeper to ring the bell.
My career ended with my evil boss, that no-good Shawn Michaels and a cowardly referee, in the saddest way I ever imagined. They killed me. Oh sure, Bret Hart is okay. I always will be. But the Hitman, well, they murdered him, right there in front of the world. I spit in McMahon's face and dealt with him accordingly in the dressing room, but it still hurts a lot. I never thought they'd do such a horrible thing to the hardest working, most dependable, honest and loyal hero the WWF ever had. The WWF can go to hell, they're going there anyway. And as for me, I'll come back to life soon enough in the WCW, where I vow only to do my best, keep my promises and smile -- as Canada slowly turns the WWF off. We'll see who kills who.
Hey, Hulkster... see ya soon...