A guy came up to me at the airport in San Francisco yesterday, asked for my autograph and inquired what brought me out that way. When I replied that I was there to make an appearance at a wrestling show he got so excited that he ran off saying, “I have to call my friend and tell him The Hitman is making a comeback!” He was gone before I could stop him to tell him that I’m not making a comeback - because, in a sense, I never really left! Most of you know that I had no choice but to hang up my tights as a result of a career ending concussion. Not to mention that it was followed not that long after by a major stroke. I bet you’d be amazed at how many people still come up to me wanting to know when I’ll be back. I take that as a good sign that my recovery has come a long way. But, like I said, I never really left. Take last night’s show for example. It’s for an outfit called Big Time Wrestling, which is run by a friend of mine by the name of Kirke White. Kirke is a struggling independent promoter who prides himself on making sure that all the boys get paid, even when things don’t go so well, and in putting on old fashioned realistic style rasslin’ shows that are simple but well structured. But what I really like about Big Time Wrestling is that they’re small time - only in the sense that a few hundred people turn out for each show. I’ve wrestled in front of huge crowds, - 67,000 at the Skydome, 86,000 at Wembley Stadium. I main evented the biggest venues in the world for twenty years straight ..... and I do have a standing open invitation to do it again - any time I want. But right now I actually prefer a more intimate setting. It’s like the Rolling Stones showing up unannounced to play a small club in Greenwich Village. Since I can’t wrestle any more, what I usually do is sign autographs. Occasionally I get in the ring and say a few words to the crowd. When I had my stroke I got piles of letters of concern and support from my fans and I like to go out and show them that I’m doing much better now. I also enjoy visiting the young wrestlers in the dressing room. Even when I was world champion I always made a point of shaking hands with and addressing every wrestler from the top to the bottom of the card as equal. A lot of wrestlers that go to the top forget that they were once on the bottom. I always take it as a compliment when any wrestler asks me to watch their match, and if I can I will, afterwards giving an honest appraisal. I’ve done these sorts of things all over North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, among other places too, but I often choose not to widely publicize these appearances because I like an atmosphere of being able to hold conversations with old fans who tell me they tried everything over the years to find a way to meet me. Now they can! I actually recognize a lot of them as regulars who attended my matches or from autograph sessions or even from mobs in hotel lobbies. So many times I wished I could actually talk to and get to know this sea of faces who supported me through thick and thin. Now I can! Another thing I enjoy about these independent shows is that they give me a chance to catch up with wrestlers who I was on the road with but haven’t seen for a while. Guys like Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Bryan Adams (Crush), Sabu - or even Harley Race. Not too long ago there was actually a Hart Foundation reunion, in Buffalo, New York. The Hitman, Anvil and Jimmy Mouth of the South Hart walked out to the ring and we each said a few words to a delighted crowd that gave us a touching thunderous ovation. I wonder if they could tell that The Hart Foundation got a kick out of it every bit as much as they did! The next day I was in Toronto doing something with CBC - and it just so happened that Summerslam was at the AIr Canada Centre. Well, there were Hitman sightings all over town! Pointing and with wide eyes wrestling fans naturally assumed that I was somehow involved with the pay per view and it was amusing how rumors were flying world wide on the internet. Ironically, I’d just told the crowd in Buffalo, the night before, that at the present time I prefer to be more accessible to my fans rather than the atmosphere of barricades and security necessary at the big shows. Take Wrestlemania XVIII, for example. The WWE invited me to be a guest referee, but I declined. I was insulted when a high ranking WWE suit (no, not Vince) told me that he’d seen me on a small time wrestling show out of Australia and, he proceeded to strongly advise me to stop doing appearances for independent promoters. To look at myself, that my stock was at an all time low. I smiled to myself when I realized that he just didn’t get it. I’m retired from wrestling. And I am fortunate that my name is big enough that I can choose to do small things - or big things - simply because I enjoy them. I might accept a booking in Montreal just because I like the food. Or Hawaii, because it’s a nice break in winter. Or a small town in the middle of nowhere because I get to see an old friend. I like to think that I’m a down to earth guy and I think being unpretentious is actually what keeps my stock high. Hey, my dad was an independent promoter so maybe that’s why I enjoy helping them when I can. Of course I can’t do every show but I try to position myself where I think I’ll do the most good. I find something personally satisfying in seeing guys going in there and giving it all they’ve got just for the love of wrestling, and not the recognition or the money. And maybe that’s the point. For my whole life I’ve loved wrestling and it just plain feels good to go back to my roots once in a while, without any fanfare or cameras rolling.