Memories of wrestling in Toronto
I’m writing from a plane on the way to Toronto for the media launch of Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang. The animated series debuts Sunday at 11:30 on YTV and in celebration there’s a new release of the classic children’s book.
By the way, I’m The Hooded Fang.
I often wondered what my life after wrestling would bring but never did I think it would include a moniker as dastardly as the scariest villains of the squared circle.
Going back to Toronto brings back a lot of memories for me. Like the first time I walked up to the back door of the old Maple Leaf Gardens to wrestle for the NWA. The security guards wouldn’t let me into the building. One of them had never heard of Bret Hart and the other one had but was sure I wasn’t him.
That’s because some guy stole my name and was wrestling all over as The Bret Hart - and always losing too!
And so that’s how I came to be called Buddy The Hearthrob. I went on to have an excellent match that night with a Japanese wrestler who, luckily for me, had great respect for me only because we’d both learned wrestling from the same teacher, Mr. Hito.
I was sidelined by a bad knee injury for a while and by the time I resurfaced in Toronto I was working for the WWF and tagged up with Jim The Anvil Neidhart as The Hart Foundation. I wasn’t a babyface any more and one of the most enjoyable memories I have about wrestling in Toronto is of riling up the fans who had now come to despise everything about me - mostly because I’m from out west!
Anvil and I cheated so ruthlessly that some of the best matches at the old MLG were between the security guards and the irate fans that climbed the fence that was around the ring!
I remember one night when the Killer Bees took us on and after The Hart Foundation broke every rule in the book The Bees were about to pull off a stunning upset by donning yellow masks and switching places when an enraged fan climbed into the ring and was heading straight for me. He was tackled by security guards and hauled him out of there.
After the match Anvil and I came back through the dressing room curtain victorious only to find this same fan in hand cuffs tearfully pleading to the cops that he wasn’t after me at all - he wanted to get his hands on Bee Brian Blair because those Killer Bees were trying to cheat to win! Then there was Wrestlemania VI when The Hart Foundation defeated The Bolsheviks in seventeen seconds in the packed to the rafters Sky Dome! Wrestling in Toronto wasn’t always great memories.
In a match with Dino Bravo he catapulted me backwards into a solid steel fence and I broke my sternum and cracked four ribs. I could hardly breath and as I writhed around on the floor outside the ring struggling for air the fans - and everybody else - thought it was part of the show. I thought I could very well die there on a sticky floor full of popcorn and beer.
This was one of the few times that I seriously injured myself but for the rest of my career every bear hug that I was ever put in hurt. Probably my most memorable moment wresting in Toronto came in 1999 when I was working for the hapless WCW. I don’t have very many good memories of WCW except possibly this one, maybe because it was the only time they ever listened to me.
It was the first time WCW came to Canada and I knew there were a lot of great fans who’d been waiting two years since my departure from the WWF for me to return. For several weeks leading up to the WCW show in Toronto I’d been mouthing off to Bill Goldberg as part of a storyline. They’d built Goldberg with a series of undefeated matches and I kept taunting him to try me on. There were fans outside the Canada Center chanting my name all day long before the match and by the time I walked out in front of the sold out crowd the response was deafening. Not to mention, I was wearing a Calgary Hitmen Jersey. I took the mic and went on to bash Goldberg, pulling off my Hitmen jersey to reveal a Maple Leafs jersey underneath - and declared to the big tough ex-football player that this is hockey country! And if Bill Goldberg had any guts he’d come out and face me right then and there!
Little did I know at the time that the WCW bosses were running around backstage fearful that for once an angle made too much sense. They quickly tried to ruin it by pushing Goldberg out through the curtain out of fear that the response I was getting from the fans was going to turn Goldberg heel! Goldberg stomped out and took the bait and tackled me full force like a practice dummy, leaving us both sprawled out on the mat. The Toronto fans were going crazy as they waited for one of us to get up. The cheering only got louder when I pulled myself up from the rubble and Goldberg didn’t budge at all.
I peeled off my Maple Leafs jersey to reveal that I was wearing a solid steel chest plate!
I rolled over that big gorilla Goldberg and the fans counted along with me as I became the first guy to ever pin him.
This, of course, eventually lead to other matches with Bill.
Unfortunately his skill was nil and six months later he ended my career with a mule kick to the side of my skull that nearly ripped my head off and sent my brain rocking like jello.
Now about to land in Toronto as The Hooded Fang, I wonder what strange new storylines are yet to come!