week of 11-16-97

by: Fritz Capp

From the Calgary Sun

"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 the 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...

Shoot....(n, adj.) 1 - a work (dfn) that becomes a legitimate wrestling contest or fight. 2 - (v, slang) To legitimately hit or hurt one's opponent on purpose. 3 - (adj.) A comment with some truth behind it.

Work.....(n) 1 - A rationalized lie. 2 - Predetermined outcome. (v) To lie, deceive, or mislead someone. 3 - (v) To skillfully wrestle.

Now although I have never said that the Bret Hart situation was a work, I have said that with all the pieces that we had that it was a possibility. I said in the last issue of Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets that until I saw the contract, saw Bret in a WCW ring or heard it from Bret himself, I would not believe otherwise. Although there can be an excellent arguement made to as why this could still be a "work in progress", to assume that the WWF has the intelligence to pull off such an elaborate and intricate charade and also knowing full well how the WWF has 'screwed' over past employees, I am going to forgo my knowledge of wrestling and the inner workings and mentality of the business for a minute and focus on the human side of the business or lack thereof.

After reading Bret's column, my first reaction was outrage. Here was the man himself telling his side of the story of the 'screwjob' that his longtime employer and supposed friend, Vince McMahon, had perpetrated on him after his long association with the WWF. How another friend, Earl Hebner, swore to Bret that he would not let any type of 'screwjob' go down if he had anything to do with it. And how, in the middle of his 'last' match in the WWF, Vince changed the finish to 'put over' the man he feels the WWF will ride on in the upcoming years.

There is quite a few problems with this as a whole, but trying to digest the fact that McMahon would even do such a thing to the man who truly 'took over' when Hogan left and helped catapult the WWF to new heights worldwide is beyond comprehension. To get a better idea of just how low the devil will go let's look at some facts.

1 - Even though Hogan was around for a lot of the time that Bret was in the WWF, that did not change the fact that Bret was about the most popular worker in the WWF. It is plain to see that Bret never stood in the shadows of Hulk Hogan.

2 - That while Hogan may have held the World Title 5 times, Bret held every title that the WWF had to offer (a few times each) with the exception of the new European Title.

3 - That although Hogan did bring wrestling to the forefront as far as the commercialization of the product is concerned, it was Bret that took this acclaim worldwide, with both his wrestling abilities and his personality, something that Hogan was sorely lacking.

4 - That Vince McMahon could not even let Bret Hart leave on his own terms after asking Bret himself to seek another avenue of employment so as to help his company out of financial straits.

To have a long association with someone, either friend or employee (in this case both), and to blatently stab them when they have done all you asked of them, showed their loyalty to you 100 fold, made you countless hundreds of thousands of dollars,and when faced with the possibility to go to your biggest rival for more money only to stay with you out of that loyalty.....to stab that person maliciously and with malice is nothing less than reprehensible.

For Vince McMahon, if this is indeed all true, he must now look upon how he will be viewed by the other workers, not just in the WWF, but in the enitre industry. If Vince could do this to Bret Hart, can any of them think that they are above reproach? How can anyone in their right mind even want to sign with the WWF, knowing that at any moment, your boss will put the screws to you without even thinking twice. Don't get me wrong, Eric Bischoff is no crowned prince but I see a lot more workers leaving the WWF to go to WCW than I see the other way around.

It has been said for a few months now that the WWF is in financial trouble. That Vince went to Bret saying that he couldn't afford his contract. But how much trouble can it really be in considering that Vince's estimated worth the last time I heard was around 5 billion dollars. (Although I never got the actual figures and it is kinda hard to imagine that the WWF is actually worth that much, I do believe that the WWF is far from crashing tomorrow) Be that as it may, no matter whether its millions or billions to me that does not sound like fiscal difficulty to me. The problem with the WWF is that it may have listened to someone outside the organization as to where the product should be headed and VInce in a moment of desperation...listened. Do not get me wrong, the product that the WWF is putting out is far superior than to what it was, but is it the physical work that is going on in the ring, or the mental work of the angles? Either way, you cannot have a superior product unless you have the superior personel to make it work. To see the superiority of the WWF over the past couple years (before Bischoff and Turner started to throw money around like dubloons at a Mardi Gras parade) all you have to do is look in the WCW locker room and see the wealth of talent that the WWF once had. To lose your top draw and to actually ask them to leave and to go to the competition wants to me make me think that there is something a lot deeper going on in the WWF than what the wrestling world and its multitude of loyal fans, except for a chosen few inside the closed walls of Titan Towers, are allowed to be privy too. What that actually is has yet to be seen.

What I think that Vince truly has a problem with is letting too many of the inmates run the prison. As in any business, you cannot have too many chiefs and not enough indians. With the loss of Bret Hart and the obvious dissatisfaction of his brother Owen and brother-in-law the British Bulldog, who does Vince really have now to take him in the next century? Michaels? He is a main draw but not the draw he used to be. Helmsley? Although he can work like hell, is he really anything without his association with Michaels? The Undertaker? Taker is of course the WWF proclaimed phenom of wrestling, but he was always a piece of the puzzle, not the puzzle itself. Stone Cold. A great worker and top draw without a doubt. About the best worker they might have but does he possess the pizzazz and qualities to put the WWF on his shoulders and run with it? He could if he had the qualified opponents to keep an angle going but with someone named the 'Toughest SOB" in the fed, how long before the ego takes over and he starts believing his own press. Ahmed, LOD, Goldust and Shamrock do not have the drawing power put together to equal what Bret Hart did by himself.

All in all I think Vince has pulled a perverbial Paul Heyman and shot himself in the foot. With the loyalty that was in Bret Hart, if Vince would have come to him and told him of the problem, I am sure Bret would have bent over backwards to accomadate him. There is such a thing as contract restructuring. There is such a thing as friends going out of their way to help friends. That seems to me to have never been in Vince's mind. With the way that Vince told Bret what he wanted to hear so as to get what he wanted from Bret, knowing full well that he would never make good on his promises, I can only hope that Bret does carry out his threat and will be the one to teach Vince the lesson that no one has ever been able to teach him before. Vince is about to find out just what losing Bret Hart will do to his company. And even though I am sure that Paul Heyman is swimming the shark circle around Vince knowing that there is now an opening for him and a few of the ECW workers, there is no way that ECW can help the WWF out of this mess. They do not possess the talent anymore to be able to help themselves let alone a company the stature of the WWF. No...Vince and the WWF organization as a whole are going to pay the price for Vince's maladjusted set of values and his lack of moralistic integrity.

Fritz Capp is the editor of Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Fritz Capp

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