Suddenly the arena burst into wild screams of insults and crumbled paper cups were tossed by the hundreds as the most hated man in wrestling started his slow walk to ringside, completely surrounded by a protective ring of uniformed policemen. With blonde hair cropped in crew cut fashion and a rugged face scowling with contempt, he growled like a caged lion, exchanging insults with those near enough to hear and challenging them all to enter the ring with him.
This was the entrance of Dick the Bruiser, a man who, since he left professional football for professional wrestling in 1954, has become the most disliked and most feared man of his profession.
On through the crowd he moved, his gigantic arms hanging outward from his frame because of the muscle spread he possessed in his great chest and shoulders that makes it impossible for him to relax either arm down to his side.
He shrugged off a hysteric fan who had slipped through the police to attack him, then pulled his 6-1, 265-pound frame onto the ring apron. With surprising agility for his huge body he leaped across the top rope and immediately rushed across the ring to attack Ellis, sending autograph seekers flying from the ring apron.
Order was restored and he returned to his corner, pacing like a mad bull during introduction formalities. Cheers for Ellis informed the crowd of the occupant in the other corner. To all this the Bruiser only growled, with gestures of contempt for his would-be tormentors. The bell rang and it started as a good night for the Bruiser. He quickly won the first fall with his questionable ring tactics.
He had Ellis groggy from his clinched fists and vicious knee drops in the second fall when the referee jerked him by the shoulder to pull him off the disabled Cowboy hanging helpless on the ring ropes. The enraged Bruiser turned on the official, slugging him with an elbow and tossing him from the ring. But even the Bruiser cannot get away with this type of action. He was disquilified and lost the match, fined $500 and suspended from Indiana wrestling for 60 days.
To all this the Bruiser had only a cruel smile: "The promoters will be the ones to suffer," he growled. "I have plenty of money and can still wrestle in other states. Those fans come out to see a real he-man in actioin and with me on the card it's a sure sellout. Without me they have nothing. Yeah, only the promoters will suffer because of that hick commission."
Two months later he was back in his native state (although he hates to admit he was born in Indiana) and once more wrestling before sellout crowds just as rough and nasty as he was before the Hoosier commission "cracked down."
From pro football player to bouncer in Las Vegas to one of the top box office attractions in wrestling is the story of Dick Afflis, accurately nicknamed "The Bruiser" for his bone-jarring ring tactics. One of the strongest men in wrestling (he claims to be the strongest), Bruiser has gained fame as one of the roughest and most talented grapplers in the world.
He is also one of the most wealthy. From wrestling the Bruiser's estimated income (he keeps the actual figure a closely guarded secret) is more than $100,000 a year. In addition he has a large investment in a contruction company, building more than 20 homes a year in addition to larger construction work.
And despite his crude ring tactics, Dick is one of the most intelligent men in the wrestling ring. He has attended Purdue, Notre Dame, Alabama, Miami and Nevada Universities, receiving his degree from Nevada.
"I could have graduated from any of those places," the conceited wrestler declares. "I just wasn't satisfied with the small time activities of most of them. Nevada is a wide-open state where anything goes. That's the place for me."
That's why he has abandoned his home state of Indiana and now bills himself out of his adopted home, Reno, Nevada. It was at Harold's Club in Reno where for five years Dick served as bouncer while not playing pro football that he learned the ways of the care-free, gambling, money-loaded visitors.
"That's the way I want to live," the transplanted Hoosier declared to his few friends.
He couldn't do it on his football or bouncer pay, so when a promoter took a look at his remarkable body after watching his jarring tackles on the football field he suggested the Bruiser try wrestling. "In a few years I'm sure you could be making $50,000 a year," was the promoter's promise.
Dick took him up on the proposition, but didn't wait "a few years" to move into the big money. That was in 1954, and in 1955 his earnings exceeded $75,000 and since then are estimated to be between $100,000 and $150,000 every year.
"The fans hate me and I sure have no love for them," the Bruiser says. "They can hate me all they want as long as they buy tickets to see me massacre their heroes."
Dick Afflis as a youngster was the same as thousands of other Hoosier boys. Born in Lafayette, Ind. of middle class parents there was no indication he would become the most feared brute in the wrestling ring.
It was during his high school days at Lafayette Jefferson that this ruggged athlete started a training campaign, bent on becoming the world's strongest and most feared human. During his four years of varsity football in his high school his slam-bang style of play was so violent that he left many opposing linemen with hosptial injuries.
Other teams assigned three and sometimes four men to stop the crushing force of the teenager who was strong enough and cruel enough to have been clashing head on with college, or even professional gridiron roughnecks.
In 1946 when he was graduated from high school, Dick Afflis was the unanimous choice of all three major wire services for All-State honors. His fame had become so great that almost every major college and university in the nation offered him a football scholarship.
He chose Purdue in his hometown of Lafayette where he so impressed the coaching staff that he was given a starting tackle assignment in his freshman year. His second year as a sophomore his performance won him a place on many of the nation's All-America teams and he was an almost unanimous choice for the All Big Ten team.
That's when he decided he was destined for bigger things than "this hick Hoosier state has to offer" and moved his college training and football talents to Nevada. He was a unamimous choice for the All-Pacific coast team in 1949 and 1950.
In 1950 the Bruiser signed a professional contract with the Green Bay Packers and for four years was a mainstay in the line. So great was his play in the 1951 and 1952 seasons that he was chosen team captain in 1953 and 1954. The National Football League will probably never forget the big No. 72 across the powerful shoulders of the great offensive and sometimes defensive tackle of Green Bay. His bone-crushing blocks and jarring tackles earned him the title of professional football's strongest man.
Afflis brought the same human shattering power into the wrestling ring. The awesome visage that is so much a part of the Bruiser has caused American sports writers to speak of him in terms of titanic being. Today the many unbelievable stories of his physical prowess has become an inseparable part of his biography.
He's proud of the time he wrestled and defeated a huge ape. Also of the time he challenged and beat one of the nation's top tag teams--beating them alone.
Many experts speak of Dick as the "greatest attraction in the history of professional wrestling." It can hardly be denied when checking gate receipts from his appearances--receipts from filled stadiums across the country--from the huge San Francisco Cow Palace to Briggs Stadium in Detroit and on to Madison Square Garden in New York. He's broken attendance records in almost every state in the union and several foreign countries.
It's his terrific hatred of the fans, his opponents, the officials, the promoters-all those with whom he comes in contact that has made the Bruiser a top drawing card. Crowds flock to arenas in hopes of seeing him pinned to the mat, but their hope is seldom fulfilled. There are few strong enough to hold him on his back for the required three seconds. Most of his ring losses have been because of disqualifications or injury that his own aggressiveness have brought on.
The Bruiser's temper has become known wherever he has appeared. Almost anything can set it off and the one-time gambling hall bouncer goes berserk every time he gets into the ring. A murderous fury seizes him and he becomes a raging animal. It was that temper that caused opponents to fear him and coaches to demand his ouster while he was playing both college and professional football.
As a professional wrestler he is even meaner and nastier than ever. At times he has been suspended in 16 states and three Canadian provinces for his assaults on other wrestlers, officials or fans.
"Nobody is going to push me around," the brute snarls and means it. "All my life I've had to fight for everything I got. I'm used to fighting. When someone gets in my way, I can't control myself. I want to tear them to pieces and try my best to get the job done. I don't take nothing from nobody."
Many of today's top grapplers express scorn for the Bruiser's wrestling talents. They don't think much of the ex-gridder's technical skill or scientific prowess.
"The Bruiser is no wrestler," claims Bill Melby who has felt the wrath of the Hoosier strongman in the ring. "He's just a big, ugly, dirty bully. He knows practically nothing about wrestling holds and counter-holds-and he cares less."
Despite these claims the Bruiser has beaten some of the ring's greatest-fellows like Verne Gagne, Don Eagle, Wilbur Snyder, Don Leo Jonathan, Ed Carpentier and a score of others.
Carpentier, who has a great deal of respect for Bruiser's strength and ring ability despite the foul tactics, says: "This is not strong man turned wrestler because he couldn't do anything else. The Bruiser was great in football and after college he could have gone in for social work, applied psychology or any of several other fields. Instead, and wisely so, he chose a professtion that afforded him a good income and made use of the incredible physical power that nature, with an assist from weight lifting and football, had endowed him with."
Persons close to the Bruiser (and there are very few) confide that he is not really a psychotic-he's not a schizophrenic or anything like that-but he does have two definite sides to his character.
One is the ring monster the fans see-the vicious, brawling beast that seems to delight in seeing his opponents helpless on the mat as he applies more and more punishment.
But they say there is also another side to the Bruiser-one which the public never sees. That's Dick Afflis, the man who is decent and feels sorry for humanity and wants to do something about it. The "humanity" part of the Bruiser will never be seen by wrestling fans.
There is nothing faked about his hate for his ring foes and fans. His animal instincts in the ring are real and something he enjoys too much to give up.
He almost became a ring hero recently when he teamed with Wilbur Snyder as one of the most successful tag-teams in the midwest. Bruiser had always respected Snyder's ability as a wrestler but declared "he is too nice to ever be really dangerous in the ring." Snyder admired Bruiser's strength, but has called him "the meanest man in the ring."
Promoter Balk Estes of Indianapolis originated the idea of teaming the two, and the move was a great success. In 12 matches the two were undefeated, but their personalities simply would not fit. Bruiser attempted to change Snyder into a roughouse brawler and Wilbur tried to reform the Bruiser.
But the combination was almost unbeatable and, although they have broken up for the present, both admit that they made a good team and someday may rejoin forces to challenge the best among tag-teams.
"Those crazy fans thought just because I accepted Snyder as a partner I was going to be gentle with my wrestling opponents," the Bruiser snarled. "Those guys are out to whip me, so I'll continue to use any means I see fit to beat them to the mat."
And so long as the Bruiser remains a wrestler his fury in the ring will be felt in blood and bumps.
And as long as he is the demon he has shown
himself to be in the past, fans will flock to arenas where his name appears. His
claim to wrestling greatness is borne in scars and stiches-mostly on the bodies
of his opponents. But the fans love it.
DAVE MELTZER'S TRUTH ABOUT BRET HART
(Posted to Internet by Scott Keith, June 26, 1998)
(ED. NOTE -- The following is a full transcript of a recent issue of the Wrestling
Observer, detailing (and I mean DETAILing) the whole Bret Hart fiasco. An
unbelievable read, and one that will change the way you think about Bret, Vince
and everyone involved, I guarantee. All spelling and grammar errors are Dave
Meltzer's, and this is reprinted without permission from him.)
By Dave Meltzer
It will go down in history as the single most famous finish of a pro wrestling match in the modern era. Twenty or thirty years from now this story, more than any famous wrestler jumping promotions, more than and prominent death, and more than any record setting house, will be remembered vividly by all who watched it live, and remembered as legendary from all who hear about it later. Through the magic of video tape, the last minute of this match will live forever and be replayed literally millions of times by tens of thousands of people all looking for the most minute pieces of detail to this strange puzzle. But the story of what led to those few seconds starts more than one year ago. It is far more reminiscent of the dirty con man past of the industry than the current attempted facade of a multi-million dollar corporate above board image those in the industry like to portray outwardly that it has evolved into.
October 20, 1996 -- Bret Hart was in a hotel room in San Jose, Ca, hours from making the biggest decision of his life - who would win the biggest bidding war in the history of pro wrestling. He had pretty well leaned toward staying with the World Wrestling Federation despite a much larger offer from World Championship Wrestling, but had changed his mind a few times over the previous two weeks as each side presented new offers. In the waning hours, Eric Bischoff and Kevin Nash were trying to convince him to change his mind and how great life was with an easier schedule. Bischoff was offering big money and a shot at becoming a movie star, a goal Hart had been pursuing while on semince. McMahon was offering him, in the now immortal words of Arn Anderson, not just a spot but the top spot in the company, and almost literally to be WWF 4 life. Many close advisers of Hart's tried to tell him going to WCW was the best move for his present, and more importantly his future after wrestling. But largely out of loyalty, and that obviously wasn't the only factor involved, he declined the offer. McMahon, not to lose a very public fight, offered him the famous 20-year contract where he'd, after retirement in about three years, become almost a first lieutenant when it came to the booking process. Hart would earn somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million per year as an active wrestler, and a healthy but far lesser figure working in the front office for the 17 years after retirement as an active wrestler. As part of McMahon's offer, he also was going to allow Hart to explain live on television his decision making process, should he sign with WCW. Hart flew to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the WWF was holding its live Raw taping, after having already verbally agreed to the deal, signed the contract, and gave the interview saying basically that he would be in the WWF forever, figuring to be positioned as the top babyface and perennial champion until he finished his active career riding off into the sunset in a blaze of glory, like Hogan and Savage and the rest of the Superstars before him didn't. As is the case in wrestling, not all the promised scenarios that everyone believed were going to happen transpire as originally planned. And just over one year later, the feelings between McMahon and Bret Hart had taken a 180 degree turn, to the degree nobody would have ever believed.
March 10, 1996 - Top babyface didn't last long as McMahon asked him to turn heel. At first Hart balked at the idea but after three days, McMahon presented him with two lists. One list was his prospective opponents as a babyface - Vader, Mankind, and Steve Austin. the other list was his prospective opponents as a heel, Undertaker, Michaels, and Austin. Hart agreed for drawing money. His opponents as a heel made up a better list and he and McMahon agreed that he would turn back babyface over the last few months of his contract and end his career on a positive note. He and Steve Austin did the double-turn at Wrestlemania. Hart himself then came up with the Anti-American angle, where he would remain a babyface in Canada and Europe and do interviews that would for the most part speak the truth, so he could, when the time came to turn back in the U.S., have a reasonable explanation.
September 8, 1997 - Vince McMahon and Bret Hart had their first meeting where McMahon seriously approached Hart about his contract. About three months earlier, McMahon had told Hart that the company was in bad financial straights and that they might have to defer some of the money until later in the contract. This time his approach was more than point blank. He wanted to cut Hart's regular salary, around $30,000 per week, more than in half and defer the rest of the money until later in the contract period when hopefully the company would be in better shape financially. Hart declined the suggestion, because he didn't want to risk not getting the money in the future after he was through taking all the bumps.
September 20, 1997 - About one hour before the beginning of the PPV show in Birmingham, England, McMahon approached Davey Boy Smith and asked him to put over Shawn Michaels that night for the European title. Smith was apparently shocked, having been told all along in the build-up of the show, that Michaels was going to do a job for him, since Europe was promised to be "his territory". the explanation, which made and still makes logical business sense, is that they wanted to build for a bigger show - a second PPV show from Manchester, England, Smith's former home town, where Smith would regain the title - the same scenario the WWF did to draw 60,000 fans in San Antonio with Michaels in the other role working a program with Sycho Sid. So while it all made sense, it was rather strange he wasn't approached with this idea until just before the start of the show. At around this same time period, McMahon approached Hart about working with Michaels. Hart said that he had a problem with that since Michaels had still never really apologized to him for the Sunny days comment, and said it would be hard to trust somebody like that in the ring and due to their past, and told McMahon that he would figure that Michaels would have the same concerns, since a few weeks earlier after first making it clear he would never work with anyone in the Hart Foundation, Michaels had finally agreed to work with only Smith, saying he still couldn't trust Bret or Owen.
September 22, 1997 - On the day of the Raw taping at Madison Square Garden, McMahon told Bret Hart flat out that they were going to intentionally breach his contract because they couldn't afford the deal. He told a shocked Hart that he should go to World Championship Wrestling and make whatever deal he could with that group. "I didn't feel comfortable doing it, "Hart said of the suggestion. "I feel like an old prisoner in a prison where I know all the guards and all the inmates and i have the best cell. Why would I want to move to a new prison where I don't know the guards and the inmates and I no longer have the best cell? I felt really bad after all the years of working for the WCW." Hart had an escape clause in his contract since he had so much negotiating leverage when making his WWF deal 11 months earlier, in that he could leave the company giving 30 days notice and that he would have what the contract called "reasonable creative control" of his character during that lame duck period so that he couldn't be unreasonably buried on the way out. There was a window period for giving that notice and negotiating elsewhere that hadn't begun yet, so McMahon, showing he was serious, gave Hart written permission to begin negotiating with WCW and Hart contacted Eric Bischoff. The same day, during a meeting with Hart, Michaels and McMahon, Michaels told both of them point blank that he wouldn't do any jobs for anyone in the territory, word that when it got out made most of the other top wrestlers feel even more warmly than usual toward Michaels. Michaels later reiterated that statement to Hart on 10/4 in St. Paul when the two agreed that for the good of the business that they'd work together. At a meeting, McMahon proposed a scenario where the two would have their first singles match in Montreal, where Undertaker would interfere causing a non-finish. This would lead to Hart wrestling Undertaker on the 12/7 PPV in Springfield, Ma., where Michaels would interfere causing Bret to win the title, which was poetic justice since it was his interference that caused Bret to win the title in the first place, and that Royal Rumble on 1/8, in San Jose, would be headlined by Undertaker vs. Michaels. During the meeting, Hart told Michaels that he'd be happy to put him over at the end of the run, but Michaels told Hart flat out that he wouldn't return the favor to him. Michaels and Hart spoke again on the subject on 10/12 in San Jose, when once again Michaels told Hart that he wasn't going to do a job for him.
October 21, 1997 - McMahon approached Hart wit the idea of losing the title to Michaels in Montreal but promised that he would win it back on 12/7. Hart, remembering his conversations where Michaels was adamant about not doing any more jobs in the territory, was reluctant, saying after the way the angle had been done with him representing Canada and it becoming a big patriotic deal, that he didn't want to lose the title in Canada. He was then asked to lose to Michaels on 12/7 in Springfield, Ma. Hart told McMahon that since Michaels had told both of them that he wasn't doing any more jobs in the territory, that he had a problem doing a job for somebody who wouldn't do a job back. He told McMahon that he didn't want to drop the title in Montreal. Later, McMahon, Pat Patterson, Michaels, and Hart had another meeting where Michaels, teary eyes, sad that he was looking forward to returning the favor to Bret an and once again talked about his mouth saying the stupidest things. Hart still refused to lose the title in Montreal. The night before, he had been asked to put Hunter Heart Helmseley over in Oklahoma City via pin fall due to Michaels' interference, but changed the finish to a count out. On this night he was asked to tap out to Ken Shamrock, before the DQ ending involving Michaels, which he had no problem doing because he liked and respected Shamrock and wanted to help elevate him. The personal problems with himself and Michaels, which had become legendary in the business, resurfaced once again when the two and McMahon made an agreement to work together but to leave their respective families out of their interviews. It took just one week before Michaels did the interview talking about Stu Hart being dead but walking around Calgary because his body and brain hadn't figured it out yet. By this point, Hart had already stopped watching Raw because he had problems wit the content of the show because he has four children that were wrestling fans that he didn't want seeing the direction it was going, so he was reacting to the remark based on the fact that his father and brother Owen heard the remarks and were upset about them.
October 24, 1997 - McMahon, before the show at Nassau Coliseum, told Hart that the money situation in the company had changed and they would have no problems paying him everything promised in his contract. Hart told McMahon that WCW really hadn't made him a serious offer and that he really didn't want to leave but that he was still uncomfortable doing the job for Michaels in that situation. He left the country for the tour of Oman with the idea that he was staying with the WWF, but knowing due to his window in his contract, he had to make the decision to give notice by midnight on 11/1.
October 31, 1997 - Never one to work without a flair for the dramatics, Bischoff finally caught up with Hart who was basically incommunicado in a foreign land most of the week. Just one day before Hart had to either give notice or stay for another year, Bischoff made a huge concrete offer. We don't know the exact terms of the offer, only that Hart said of the $3 million per year figure that both Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler talked about on the 11/10 Raw, that "they don't have any idea what I was offered", but other close to the situation say that figure is "close enough that you couldn't call it wrong". Hart neither agreed nor turned down the deal, but gave the impression to WCW that they had a great shot at getting him.
November 1, 1997 - Hart had until midnight to make up his mind. he called McMahon and told him about the WCW offer and said that he wasn't asking for anymore money to stay, but that he wanted to know what his future in the WWF would be over the next two years as an active wrestler and that at this point he was leaning toward accepting the WCW offer. McMahon said he'd think about it and call him back in an hour with some scenarios. Before McMahon called back, Bischoff called again trying to solidify the deal. McMahon ended up calling back four hours later from his barber shop and told Hart he didn't know what he was going to do with him but that he should trust his judgment because of their past relationship. That he had made him into a superstar and he wanted him to stay and that he should trust him and asked Hart to give him idea of where he wanted to go. During the conversation, McMahon still brought up the scenario of wanting Hart to drop the title in Montreal, but promised that he would get it back in Springfield. "I realized he ha given the top heel spot to Shawn, but to turn back babyface it was too soon," Hart said. Like in the negotiations one year earlier, it was going down to the wire and he had until midnight t make up his mind. When he was talking to McMahon, McMahon told him he could extend the deadline for giving notice. Hart asked for the permission in writing but McMahon told him that he was going out to a movie that night wit his wife and said he was verbally giving permission to extend it and get written permission from the chief financial officer of the company. When Hart called to get the written notice he wasn't given it because he was told he couldn't get it in writing in such short notice. AT 7pm Bischoff called again and presented a deal that, according to Hart, " would have been insane not to be taken". at that point Hart was really having mixed emotions. He somehow felt bad about leaving the WCW and was hoping McMahon would lay out a good set of sceneries for him and convince him to stay, At 9 p.m., McMahon called and, reversing fields once again, urged him to take the WCW offer. Hart told him that his heart was with the company and it would break his heart to leave, and that he appreciated everything McMahon and the company had done for him. McMahon told Hart that he wanted him back as a babyface, and had been wanting him to turn babyface for two or three months but just hadn't brought it up until this point. he then presented a scenario to Hart, presenting it as a way to get Hart to stay, but obviously designed to get Hart to take the WCW offer. He wanted Michaels to win the title in Montreal. For Springfield, they would do a final four match with he, Michaels, Undertaker, and Ken Shamrock, that Michaels would again win. At the Royal Rumble, the two would have a ladder match, which Michaels would win. On Raw, on 1/19 in Fresno, Ca., Hart would open the show and say that if he couldn't beat Michaels and win the title that night. that he would retire from wrestling, and in that match he would regain the title. And then in Boston at Wrestlemania he'd drop the strap to Austin. Hart looked at the scenario of four major losses with only one win and before his midnight deadline, gave official notice to the WWF and signed the contract WCW had sent over, with the agreement from all parties that the word wouldn't leak out until 11/10 to protect the Survivor Series PPV. Hart went so far as to have his few confidants sign written confidentiality letters to make sure word of his negotiations and signing with WCW didn't get out until 11/10.
November 2, 1997 - Hart and McMahon started a very amicable conversation with the pressure finally off and the decision for Hart to leave having been made. He again suggested that Michaels win the title in Montreal and in what will go down as perhaps the ultimate irony, said they could do a screw job ending to steal the title from him, and that the next night, on Raw, McMahon suggested the two get into a mock argument where Hart would punch him, blaming him for the screw job. McMahon even suggested to hardway him to make it look legit. Hart again refused to do the job in Montreal, saying that he had never refused to do a job but he wasn't going to lose on Sunday or Monday (at Raw in Ottawa). He agreed to put Michaels over in Madison Square Garden on 11/15, Springfield or anywhere else and said he'd put over Vader,Shamrock, Mankind, Undertaker or even Steve Lombardi. McMahon then made legal threats to Hart if he wouldn't lose in Montreal. Hart talked about the clause in his contract giving him "reasonable creative control" but McMahon claimed that refusing to drop the strap in Montreal wasn't "reasonable". The two argued about the finish in Montreal and the legalities of their respective positions all day Sunday and well into the night before finally agreeing to do a DQ finish in Montreal. then in Springfield, in the final four match, Michaels would win the title. Bret would then go out on Raw on 12/8 in Portland, Me., and give a farewell interview as a babyface to the WWF fans and put the company and McMahon over as big as possible. He would apologize to the American fans and try to reasonably explain his actions in a way to end his 14-year association with the WWF on the highest note possible, something largely unheard of in pro wrestling, so that all parties and the fans could come out if it and his legacy with the company with a good feeling, Technically there was a problem, in that his WCW contract began on 12/1 so Hart called Bishoff, who when presented the scenario, agreed to allow him to work through 12/8 with Titan. Hart asked an associate who monitors news for him if he thought it was possible to keep the secret from the public until 11/10. Hart specifically asked about being able to keep it secret from one person until after the show and the associated laughed and said they would be a million dollars that person already knew.
November 4, 1997 - McMahon called Hart and said that he had changed his mind. He suggested now that Michaels should lose clean in Montreal, then he'd "steal" the title with a controversial finish in Springfield and Hart would get to do his farewell speech in Portland. He said he was going to call Michaels and present the scenario to him. By this point word that Hart had signed with WCW had actually been reported the previous night on the Observer and Torch hotlines and it was only about one hour later before the folks who call those hotlines for much of their news started breaking the latest "biggest story in the history of wrestling" as their "exclusives." In response, WWF Canada released a press statement originally totally denying the story, claiming it was simply propaganda being spread by WCW. However, as the word got out Titan Sports in Connecticut a few hours later contradicting that story saying simply that Bret Hart was exploring all his options but not going any further, with the feeling that they wanted to protect the PPV show. Hart wouldn't publicly talk to anyone.
November 5, 1997 - The internet had paved the way for stories in the Calgary Sun, the Toronto Sun and one line in the Montreal Gazette in a PPV preview story about Steve Austin a line which resulted in the paper getting an incredible switchboard-blowing response of phone calls. McMahon called Hart and said that Michaels had agreed to the previous day's scenario, but that now he had changed his mind. He said the news was out everywhere and that Bret had to drop the belt before Monday because he couldn't have Bischoff go on television on 11/10 and announce the signing of his world champion while he still had the belt. Hart said that he would get Bischoff to postpone the announcement, but with Bischoff on a hunting trip all week in Wyoming. Hart couldn't get a hold of him. McMahon then asked Hart to drop the title on 11/8 at the house show in Detroit. Hart again refused, feeling the way everything had been built up, he wanted the match with Michaels, which in the wake of all the insider publicity was building up a life of its own like no match in the recent history of wrestling, to not come off as anti-climatic and for that to happen he needed to go into Montreal as champion. He said that he would drop the title any time after 11/12 suggesting he'd do it at the house shows in Youngstown, OH, on 11/13, Pittsburgh on 11/14, or in Madison Square Garden if they wanted it that soon rather than waiting for 12/7. Jim Ross on the company's 900 line acknowledged the statement that Hart was exploring other options said that nobody knows the real story, and in hyping the big match tossed in the phrase they'd be pushing in the final days leading up to the match--it will be their first meeting in 18 months, and most likely the final match between the two ever.
November 6,1997 - In a story in the Toronto Sun, Tiger Ali Singh, at a press conference promoting the WWF house show the next night in Toronto said of Hart's leaving. "It's very disheartening. He's not only been a mentor, but I've been a great admirer of him since I was a kid, and if he leaves you're going to see a whole bunch of other people leaving. And I'm not going to mention any names but WCW has been approaching a lot of people."
November 7, 1997 - There is no question that the power of on-line services when it comes to influence of pro wrestling was established this past week. It was generally portrayed that it was a power struggle between Hart and Michaels, that Michaels had won out, and to a lesser extent Hart was leaving over the direction of the product. While there was some truth to all of this, probably the greatest truth of all is it was simply a manipulation by McMahon to get out of a contract that in hindsight he wished he'd never offered. Whether Michaels who the wrestlers feel has McMahon's ear right now and has convinced him that what turned around WCW is Kevin Nash and Scott Hall and not Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper, and that he should and the company should do what they do to get WCW over. There is also a feeling amongst WWF wrestlers that Michaels pushed McMahon in the direction to rid the company of his hated rival who had apparently one-upped him when signing the new deal that made him so much higher paid. Maybe it was simply economics because the company is in financial straights. Hart did have a lot of problems over the direction of the company and his own decision was partially made based on that, but it's clear in hindsight that McMahon had a strong hand in manipulating Hart decision to get out of the contract. In the vast majority opinion on-line from people who really had no clue as to what was really going on, Titan, McMahon and Michaels were coming off as major heels. The WWF's own on-line site said to be the domain of young kids with no clue about wrestling was besieged with reports about Hart leaving and the so-called marks were reacting very negatively toward Titan to the point Titan pulled all it folders by the early afternoon which caused another outcry of censorship of opinions from wrestling fans. Finally McMahon responded publicly on-line with a letter of his own stating: "Over the past few days I have read certain comments on the internet concerning Bret Hart and his "alleged" reasons for wanting to pursue other avenues than the World Wrestling Federation to earn his livelihood. while I respect the "opinions" of others, as owner of the World Wrestling Federation I felt that it was time to set the record straight. As it has been reported recently on line, part of Bret Hart's decision of pursue other options is "allegedly due to his concerns with the "direction of the World Wrestling Federation. Whereby each and every individual is entitled to his, or her opinion I take great offense when the issue of the direction of the World Wrestling Federation is raised. In the age of sports entertainment, the World Wrestling Federation REFUSES to insult its audience in terms of "Baby Faces" and "Heels." In 1997, how many people do you truly know that are strictly "good" guys or "bad" guys? World Wrestling Federation programming reflects more of a reality based product in which life, as well as World Wrestling Federation superstars are portrayed as they truly are -- in shades of gray...not black or white. From what I am reading it has been reported that Bret may be concerned about the morality issues in the World Wrestling Federation. Questionable language, questionable gestures, questionable sexuality, questionable racial issues. Questionable? All of the issues mentioned above are issues that every human being must deal with every day of their lives. Also, with that in mind, please be aware that Bret Hart has been cautioned--on "numerous" occasions--to alter his language by not using expletives or God's name in vain. He was also told -- on numerous occasions -- not to use certain hand gestures some might find offensive. My point is:regardless of what some are reporting, Bret's decision to pursue other career options IS NOT genuinely a Shawn Michaels direction issue, as they would like you to believe! In the personification of DeGeneration X, Shawn Michaels character is EXPECTED to be living on the edge -- which Imight add Mr. Michaels portrays extremely well. The issue here is that the "direction" of the World Wrestling Federation is not determined by Shawn Michaels, OR Bret Hart for that matter. It is determined by you -- the fans of the World Wrestling Federation. You DEMAND a more sophisticated approach! You DEMAND to be intellectually challenged! You demand a product with ATTITUDE and as owner of this company -- it is my responsibility to give you exactly what you want! Personally, I regret the animosity that has built up between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, but in the end, it is the World Wrestling Federation that is solely responsible for the content of this product -- NOT Bret Hart -- NOT Shawn Michaels -- NOT Vince McMahon for that matter. May the best man win at the Survivor Series!...This only made the situation worse in regard to how fans were viewing McMahon and the company even worse. "You demand to be intellectually challenged?" By doing racial angles. The fans chose that direction? The asked to see Michaels pull his pants down and jump up and down on television? Hart was booked for his first public appearance before the house show that night at the Sky Dome in Toronto. It was on a half hour TSN (The Sports Network, the Canadian version of ESPN) talk show called "Off the Record" Host Michael Landsberg opened the show saying the show had received more than 1000 calls to ask Hart if he was leaving for WCW. Despite the word being out everywhere by this point Hart would only go so far as to say that he had given his 30 day notice to the WWF, that he's reviewing offers from both groups and is strongly leaning going one way. "I'd like to really come more clean on this as I can, you know, that I have, but I have to do this thing by the book kind of thing'. Hart categorized the split as not being a money issue but said that he and the WWF had "reached" kind of a crisis or we've reached professional differences as to what direction that the wrestling shows are taking. You know, I'm not saying I'm always right, but I feel that some of the content of the shows goes against my belief in what wrestling should be and can be. Later in the show he criticized Michaels and then stated that "wrestling is often scoffed at as a form of entertainment sometimes. or it used to be. I believe it came way up and I was very proud in the direction which has a lot to do with where I am right now today -- Wrestling was cleaned up and it became something families could watch.
He talked about inner workings of the business having to trust the guy you are working with because you give them your body and said the real animosities and hatred that exists have to be set aside. He said that everything he has said about Shawn Michaels is about the Shawn Michaels character, but said that Michaels has said things that have hit a raw nerve with him to the point it unprofessional. The show aired the footage of the Shawn Michaels interview where he blamed the Hart Foundation for trashing the NOD dressing room and insinuating that Hart was a racist. Hart said that he doesn't blame Michaels for that, That's obviously a promotional direction and that's a poor concept. I think that racial tension is something to be very very careful with. When you start messing around with racial things that I don't like. Hart said that he stopped watching Raw about five weeks earlier because he didn't like the direction and agreed when the host brought up Michaels calling him the Grand Wizard (a KKK reference, not a reference to a famous wrestling manager of the 70s) and then brought up what Michaels said about his father that he didn't see. You know I don't mind if anyone pokes fun at my dad. Jerry Lawler's made a living the last two or three years saying comments about my mom and dad but he's always fairly humorous about it. Actually I used to get offended at some of the things he used to say about my mother--until I realized that my mother thought they were humorous and this it was kind of OK with me. He then spoke at length about Brian Pillman. By this point in certain circles and particularly within the industry, interest in he match on Sunday due to all the uncertainty some of which was known and most of which actually wasn't had reached a level not seen in years. For all of Hart and McMahon's wanting to keep the story quiet, word getting out was the greatest thing for the buy rate. There were 14,374 fans paying $496,674 at the Sky Dome one night before the show. To credit the huge house to the interest in Canada since Hart leaving had been reported in the local newspapers would be incorrect as WWF officials a week before the event had figured on a crowd of 15,000. Obviously some fans knew and there were chants of "you sold out" directed at Hart. Although this should have been expected and Hart had been a pro wrestler for 21 years and been around the business a lot longer than that, the chants in his home country knowing what he was going through did get to him. The main event was a six-man tag with Undertaker & Mankind & Austin vs. Bret & Smith & Neidhart, subbing for brother Owen who was supposed to start back but wasn't ready to return after a severe concussion from a few weeks earlier. Bret was asked to do the job for the stone cold stunner, debated the question for a while then refused figuring he was the only Canadian in the main event in the U.S. vs Canada type match with the big nationalistic angle and Austin ended up using the stunner on Neidhart instead.
November 8, 1997-The WWF ran a house show in Detroit at Cobo Arena for what would turn out to be Bret Hart's final match in the United States as a wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation. Tensions were really high and the prospect of a double-cross were looming by this time in many of the more paranoid types. By really this was 1997 and this was the World Wrestling Federation. That's stuff from the '20s where the real bad guy low-lifes were running the business. The days of making Lou Thesz world champion because you needed someone who could handle himself in the case of a double-cross had been over for more than three decades. That day Hart went to the one member of the front office he knew he could trust, Earl Hebner. While there are what you call a lot of good acquaintances in this business Hart and Hebner were genuine close friends for years. Hart said he'd use his influence to get Hebner to referee the match because he wanted someone in the ring that he could trust. Hebner said he understood the situation and told Hart "I swear on my kids lives that I'd quit my job before double-crossing you" On a personal basis a little more than 24 hours later, remembrance of that conversation crushed him more than anything. At about the same time the WWF braintrust was in Montreal one day early. Vince McMahon held a meeting at the hotel with Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, Pat Patterson and Michaels. Reports are that at least two of the aforementioned names looked extremely uncomfortable leaving the meeting. Ross on the WWF 900 line filed a report saying due to the tension between Hart and Michaels that there would be armed security backstage and the two would dress as far apart from each other as possible. That was a total work since Michaels and Hart actually dressed together and were on professional terms the next afternoon. He also said that McMahon was not going to announce the show and instead would be handling any last minute problems backstage. Ross also hinted that it could be Harts final match in the world Wrestling Federation something Hart at that point wasn't aware of. November 9, 1997-The Prelude-Imagine giving into the most anticipated match on the inside of pro wrestling in years and on the day of the show not having any semblance of a finish? McMahon and Hart met that afternoon and McMahon said something to the effect of "What do you want me to do,You've got me by the balls" Hart said that he just wants to leave the building with his head up. Hart said to McMahon "let me hand you the belt on Raw (the next night in Ottawa). Everyone knows I'm leaving I'd like to tell the truth on Raw Monday. At this point the "truth" wouldn't include talking about finances, contract breaches, arguments about finishes, or anything that would make McMahon or the company look bad publicly. McMahon said he agreed., that it was the right thing to do and the two shook hands on it. Hart and Michaels were dressing together putting together a match. both were professional with one another and talking about putting on the best match possible in Harts last hurrah. agreeing to a DQ finish in about 17:00 after a lengthy brawl before the bell would even sound to start the match. As they were putting their spots together Patterson came in. He had a suggestion for a high spot in the match as a false finish. There would be a referee bump. Michaels would put Hart in his own sharpshooter. Hart would reverse the hold . Hebner would still be down at this point and not see Michaels tap out, Hart would release the hold to revive Hebner. Michaels would hit him when he turned around with the sweet chin music. A second ref. Mike Ciota would haul ass to the ring and begin the count. A few paces behind Owen Hart and Smith and possibly Neidhart as well would run down to the ring. Ciora would count 1-2, and whomever got to the ring first likely Owen would drag Ciota out of the ring. While they think they've saved the day on the pin on Bret suddenly Hebner would recover 1,2 and Bret would kick out. That would set the pace for about five more minutes of near falls before it would end up in a disqualification ending. Before the show started both Vader with his Japanese experiences and Smith told Hart to watch himself. He was warned not to lay down and not to allow himself to be put in a compromising position. He was told to kick out at one, not two and not to allow himself into any submission holds. Hart recognized the possibility of the situation but his thoughts regarding a double-cross were more along the lines of always protecting himself in case Michaels tried to hit him with a sucker punch when he left himself open. The idea that being put in a submission or one of the near falls while working spots would be dangerous for him would be something to worry about normally, but he put it out of his mind because he had Hebner in the ring as the referee.
The Match: People on the inside were watching this as close as on the outside. Would Bret do the job? Would Shawn do the job? Would Bret give Shawn a real beating before putting him over? The Molson Center was packed with more than 20,000 rabid fans, who up to that point had seen a largely lackluster undercard. While the fear going in about the word getting out of Hart leaving hurting the PPV most likely turned out to be just the opposite, the sellout was not indicative of that either or it was well known by the advance that the show was going to sellout one or two days early. It appeared that about 10 to 20 percent of the crowd knew Hart was leaving and there were negative signs regarding his decision and negative signs toward the promotion for picking Michaels above him or the direction that seemingly forced him to leave. Some things were also strange and not just the absence of McMahon from the broadcast. Hart the champion in the main event wasn't scheduled for an interview building up the match. When his name was announced early in the show there were many boos from fans who knew he signed with the opposition. Once he got in the ring for the introduction, Michaels wiped his but, blew his nose and then picked his nose with the Canadian flag. He then put the flag on the ground and began humping it. Hart was immediately established as a babyface. The two began the match as a brawl all around ringside and into the stands. The crowd was so rabid that it appeared there was genuine danger they'd attack Michaels. As one point they were brawling near the entrance knocking down refs as planned, knocking down Patterson as planned and as planned Hart and McMahon had an argument almost teasing the idea of a spot later in the match where Hart would deck McMahon. Yet it was also clear that everything going on was 100% professional and the only curiosity left at that point was how good the match was going to be (it appeared to be very good) and how would they get "out" of the match (with something nobody will ever forget) But one thing was strange. Why were so many agents circling the ring and why was McMahon right there and acting so intense? About eight minutes before the show was "suppose" to end, Bruce Prichard in the "Gorilla" position (kind of the on-deck circle for the wrestlers) was screaming into his headset that we need more security at the ring, Why? The had already done the brawl in the crowd. The finish was going to be a DQ and it was still several minutes away.
The Double-Cross: Hart climbed the top rope for a double sledge on Michaels. Michaels pulled Hebner in the way and Hart crashed on him. Just as planned. Michaels for a split second looked at McMahon and put Hart in the sharpshooter, just as planned. The next split seconds were the story. Ciota listening to his headpiece for his que to run in heard the backstage director scream to Hebner it was time to get up. Hebner, listening himself, immediately got up. Ciota started screaming that he wasn't supposed to get up. Owen Hart and Smith readying their run in were equally perplexed seeing him get up. Prichard was freaking out backstage saying that wasn't supposed to happen. Bret still not realizing anything was wrong laid in the hold for only a few seconds to build up some heat before the reversal. Michaels cinched down hard on the hold and glanced at Hebner and then looked away which more than one wrestler in the promotion upon viewing the tape saw as proof he was in on it, but than fed Bret his leg for the reversal. Hebner quickly looked at the timekeeper and screamed "ring the bell." At the same moment McMahon sitting next to the timekeeper elbowed him hard and screamed "ring the fucking bell". The bell rang at about the same moment Bret grabbed the leg for the reversal and Michaels fell down on his face on the mat. Michaels music played immediately and was immediately announced as the winner and new champion. Hebner sprinted out of the ring on the other side, into the dressing room through the dressing room and into an awaiting car in the parking lot that already had the motor running and was going to take him to the hotel where he'd be rushed out of town with his ticket home instead of staying to work the two Raw tapings. Michaels and Hart both leaped to their feet looking equally mad, cursing in McMahon's direction and glaring at him. Hart spit right in McMahon's face. The cameras immediately pulled away from Hart and to Michaels. Vince screamed at Michaels to pick the fucking belt up and get the fuck out of there. Michaels still looking mad was ordered to the back by Jerry Brisco who told him to hold the belt up high and get to the back. The show abruptly went off the air about four minutes early.
The Aftermath: The officials left the ring immediately, McMahon went into his private office in the building with Patterson and a few others and locked the door behind him. Hart in the ring flipped out on the realization of what happened and began smashing the television monitors left behind until Owen, Smith and Neidhart hit the ring to calm him down. The four had an animated discussion in the ring all looking perturbed. Finally Hart thanked his fans who for the most part left with the air let out of their sails, gave the I love you sign to the fans and finger painted "WCW" to all four corners of the ring, which got a surprisingly big pop, and went back to the dressing room. He first confronted Michaels who swore that he had nothing to do with it. Michaels obviously afraid Hart would punch him out right there told Hart that he gets heat for everything that happened but this time it wasn't his fault and he was as mad as Hart about the finish. He said he didn't want to win the belt that way, was disgusted by what happened and to prove it would refuse to bring the belt out or say anything bad about Hart on Raw the next night. Hart said that Michaels could prove whether he was in on it or not by his actions on television the next night. The entire dressing room was furious at McMahon by this point. The feeling was that if Hart having worked for the company for 14 years and not missing shots due to injuries the entire time and having made McMahon millions of dollars throughout the years could get double-crossed this bad, then how could any of them trust anything he would say or do? People were saying that how could anyone trust anyone ever again and that it was an unsafe working environment.
For three years after the steroid trial and all the bad publicity McMahon had worked feverably to change his legacy in the industry as not the man who ran all the other promoters out of business not the man who marketed pro wreslllting to young children while pushing steroid freaks and the man who tried to destroy wrestling history and create his own, not his worked Harvard MBA, worked billion dollar company, a man who was so vain as to give himself a Hugh award in Madison Square Garden as "the genius who created Wrestlemania" not the man who at one time tried to monopolize every aspect of the business for himself but instead as the working man's hero, coming from humble beginnings, fighting those ruthless rich regional promotors and through nothing but guts,gusto and vision became the dominant force in this industry and taking it to a new level. And now against all odds the generous friend trying to keep all the mall regional promoters acknowledging the past history of the business, fighting against Billionaires Ted, the man who was selling all his self-made creations while wasting his stockholders money because of some alleged petty vendetta because the WWF would never be for sale, stealing his patented ideas of Monday night wrestling, was banging to there and would outlast his enemy again and outshow in the end coming out on top. Three years of a facade that was largely working to a new generation wrestling fans who saw him as their underdog hero. The man who to a generation that didn't know better created pro wrestling. Hulk Hogan and localized interviews and rose this grimy little industry from carnival tents to major non-smoking arenas and who was the friendly face in the Father Flanagan collar who every Monday night epitomized the world of pro wrestling was flushed down the commode. Even though he was so good at hiding who the old Vince McMahon was to the point only those who had deal with him for many years remembered about not letting your guard down when the pressure was on the old Vince returned. Only this time it was in a situation where those who didn't "know" him were truly "introduced" to him for the first time.
Undertaker was furious, pounding on this locked door and when he cam out to talk with him Undertaker told him in no uncertain terms that he needed to apologize to Hart. he went to Hart's dressing room where Hart had just come out of the shower. Smith answered the door and Hart said he didn't want to see him. Vince and son Shane McMahon came in with Sgt. Slaughter and Brisco anyway. Vince started to apologize saying that he had to do it because he couldn't take the chance of Hart going to WCW without giving back the belt and he couldn't let Bischoff go on television the next night and announce Hart was coming while he was still his champion and said how it would kill his business. Hart shot back that he had no problem losing the belt and told McMahon that he was going to dry off and get his clothes on and told McMahon "If you're still here I'm going to punch you out." Hart called McMahon a liar and an piece of shit and talked about having worked for him for 14 years only missing two shots the entire time and being a role model for the company and the industry and this was his payback, McMahon tried to say that in 14 years this was the first time he'd ever lied to him and Hart rattled off 15 lies over the last year alone without even thinking about it. Those in the dressing room watching were stunned listening to Hart rattle those off and McMahon not offering a comeback. Hart got dressed and twice told McMahon to get out. Hart got up and a scuffle started with them locking up like in a wrestling match, Hart breaking free and throwing a punch to the jaw that would have knocked down a rhino. One punch kayo in 40 seconds. McMahon growled like he was going to get up but he had no legs. Shane McMahon jumped on Hart's back and Smith jumped on Shane's back pulling him off. Not realizing there would be trouble Smith had already taken off his knee brace and hyperextended his knee in the process of pulling Shane off. Hart nearly broke his hand from the punch. McMahon's jaw was thought to be fractured or broken. Hart asked Vince if he was now going to screw him on all the money he owed him and a groggy Vince said "No". He told Shane and Brisco to get that "piece of shit" out of here and glaring at both of them told them if they tried anything they'd suffer the same results. In dragging McMahon out someone accidentally stepped on his ankle injuring it as well.
And later: Hebner, at the hotel and on his way out of town was confronted by one of the wrestlers who asked how he could do that to one of his best friends. Hebner claimed ignorance and swore that he knew nothing about it and was so mad about it he was going to quit. Jack Lanza likely as part of another facade was begging him not to. Patterson, Michaels and Prichard all denied any knowledge to the boys. Everyone denied it, but it was clear everyone had to know from the production truck to go of the air several minutes early, to the director to get the shot perfect of the sharpshooter where you couldn't see Bret's face not quit, to Hebner in particular to the ring announcer to get the announcement so quickly to the man handling the music to have Michaels music all cued up to the agents who were surrounding the ring knowing the possibility of something unpredictable happening. when Hart got back to his hotel room in a total daze he was furious at McMahon because he knew he was screaming at the timekeeper to ring the bell but almost recognizing it as a reality of the business that he should have known better than anyone. But when he had a tape of the finish played to him he clearly heard that it was Hebner's voice screaming "ring the bell" and at that point was personally crushed. Phone lines were ringing off the hook around wrestling land that night. People closest to the inside of the business were thinking double-cross, although the big question was whether Michaels, since he looked so pissed at the finish, was in on it.
Some more skeptical types, remembering Brian Pillman and Kevin Sullivan, thought it because of the prominence of the match and the interest, that it had to be a very well acted work. Virtually all the wrestlers back stage thought it was a double-cross, but a few not wanting to be marks were weary of fully committing to the idea. Some people who were close to inside thought it was the greatest worked finish in the history of wrestling because it got everyone talking. Others particularly people who had casual fans watching with them or those attending the show live saw how the finish to a casual fan came off looking so badly thought it was either a poorly conceived angle that was well acted by a company trying to hard to fool smart fans or maybe a double-cross. But by the morning the true story had become obvious.
November 10,1997 -- When the wrestlers fully realized what had happened, Hart turned into almost a cult hero and McMahon's image took an incredible tumble. Hart himself remarked that while he had his problems with McMahon in the late '80s that when Phil Mushnick wrote all those scathing articles about him during the 90's he defended McMahon even thought he deep down knew most of what was written about him to be true. According to two WWF wrestlers roughly 95% of the wrestlers on the company were planning on boycotting the Raw taping that night over what happened. But as the day went on the talk simmered down, Hart told those who asked him that since they had children and mortgages that they shouldn't risk breaching their contract and should go. However Owen Hart, Smith, Neidhart and Mick Foley were so upset that all flew home, missing the tapings both this night and also in Cornwall, Ont. the next night. Many were saying they could no longer work for someone who would do something like that. While rumors abound about Hart, Smith and Foley all quitting at press time it appeared none of the three truly knew their future but that hey all had a bitter taste in their mouth for the company. They weren't the only ones. Most of the wrestlers were there and with none of the Hart family around McMahon gave his side of the story. He portrayed it as if Hart had agreed to drop the title in Montreal but when he got to the building he said he was a Canadian hero and an ICON and refused to drop the title and said hart said he would give the belt to McMahon Raw the next night and refused to ever drop it. Reports were that by this time few if anyone in the dressing room believed a word of it. Most of the wrestlers by this time knew Hart was more forced out than voluntary leaving over money, although knowing he had signed a great money deal. Most of the heat was on Michaels with the belief that Michaels was younger and more in Vince's ear and there was a lot of bitterness because it wasn't a secret by this point that Michaels had told people on several occasions that he would never do a job in the territory. The show went on in Ottawa but not before Bishoff had already announced on Nitro one hour earlier in what was the same angle he's done so many times to tease and deliver the opposite that Bret hart had signed with the NWO. Bishoff opened the show with the entire NWO holding Canadian flags and badly mockingly singing "Oh Canada". WCW announcers Tony Schiavone,Mike Tenay and Larry Zbyszko talked for most of the first hour about the announcement, with Schiavone and Tenay, likely on orders from Bischoff acting stunned describing Hart as a second generation wrestler who stands for tradition. In other words positioning him as another Curt Henning or Jeff Jarrett, rather than the level of a Hulk Hogan to justify a nearly $3 million per year salary. Zybysko was the one who acted as if he didn't believe it. In the first commercial break Gene Okerlund did a 900 line tease saying how Bret Hart punched out a prominent official and he'd have the story on his hotline, which did huge business. During the hotline because of fear of legal repercussions the story wasn't told until late in the report only a sketchy version told. and McMahon's name was never mentioned. With more curiosity than anything in recent memory the WWF drew its strongest Raw rating since the early days of the Monday Night War -- a 3.39 rating and 5.16 share-largely due to curiosity stemming from the publicity, the match, and from the announcement about Hart earlier in the event on WCW and amidst all the chaos and confusion presented one of its all time worst show. Nitro did a phenomenal 4.33 rating and 6.39 share. Michaels opened the show Yes, he was carrying the belt. And what did he say about Hart? He said he beat the man in his own country with his own hold and that he ran him out of the WWF to be with all the other dinosaurs down South. And said that the few down there who weren't dinosaurs are his good friends and some day they'd kick his ass too. Those who were on the fence on the Michaels issue waiting for his interview to prove himself were give there final answer. McMahon never showed his face on camera. The fight with Hart was never acknowledged in the commentary although Michaels couldn't resist in his interview saying how hart beat up a 52-year-old man after the show. In the commentary nobody tried to bury Hart but Ross who had never used this figure before on both Sunday and Monday used the phrase 21-year veteran perhaps as subtle acknowledgement of Harts age and Lawler did bring up the $3 million per year figure as a way to encourage the mindless "You sold out: chants. It was acknowledged that it was Harts final match in the WWF although the reasons for it being the case were never even hinted at. The replay was pushed harder than ever and why not as it was the most bizarre finish in modern wrestling history complete with a commercial clearing showing Hart spitting in McMahon's face and destroying the monitors which took place after the show itself had gone off the air. The show dragged on and the efforts to push the new stars, Merro as a heel, Goldust back as a heel, Interrogator, Blackjack Bradshaw and Road Dog & Billy Gunn all came off lame. You could almost hear the crowd groan. when it was Rocky Maivia positioned as the next challenger for Steve Austin's IC title. With all the special effects the Kane gimmick still came across as a sure winner. And Ken Shamrock was thrust into the spotlight as Michael's first challenger on 12/7 after all. However there was another screw up. Shamrock's main event with Helmsley was suppose to end with Michaels interfering and then Shamrock pinning him and the ref counting to three, perhaps to take heat off Michaels rep for not doing jobs and perhaps as a way to convince Shamrock to return the favor for such an unpopular wrester on PPV. However the show went off the air with Shamrock down apparently being pinned after Michaels nailed him with the briefcase, however he kicked out just as the show went off the air. The crowd in Ottawa, largely pro-Hart, finally figured out about 15 minutes before the show was going off the air that none of the Hart Foundation was there and that Bret Hart situation was no angle. The Shamrock-Helmsley main event heat was non-consistent drowned out by adamant changes of "We Want Bret". Ross went on his hotline and did nothing but praise Hart for all his work even to the point of saying that he himself being right there never heard a submission but that the referee claimed that he heard it.
November 11, 1997 -- The Calgary Sun ran an article about the double-cross reporting that Hart's leaving for WCW was actually requested by the WWF due to the WWF claiming financial hardship.
And Where Does It Go From Here: It's hard to make sense out of all
that happened. While Hart's contract with the WWF was much higher than
anyone else's to dismiss him as being paid above marked value is raising a
potential valuable point. What is the Canadian wrestling market worth? Far more than
$1.5 million per year. At the Calgary Stampede PPV show alone the marked
was worth about $400,000 on PPV and another $200,000 in live gate, granted
those are Canadian money and he was being paid in American money but you get the
drift. While WWF has lost its foothold in the United States to WCW it owned
Canada. WCW with TBS getting moved from premium cable to basic cable
nationwide and with TSN picking up Nitro every week was how the tired time
getting strong television exposure in the country. NO matter what be did or
didn't mean elsewhere and there is no denying he was a major draw in the
United States and probably more so in Europe, Germany in particular, he was
the wrestling star in Canada. Beating him to the opportunities will mean
from a Canadian standpoint every bit as much as Hulk Hogan joining with WCW and
we've all seen what the long term effects of that turned out to be. It's
hard to reclaim fan reaction. Fans are more loyal these days to brand names than
ever before more than to wrestlers themselves. When in a similar situation
only he didn't get into the ring and was fired before "not" doing
the job, Ric Flair came out of a situation with Jim Herd in 1991 recognized by more
fans as the real world champion the WCW belt became largely meaningless,
Flair went to WWF and did big business in what was never called unification
matches but many thought of them as such against Hulk Hogan. For nearly two
years before Flair retired as the cult hero the small crowds attending WCW
matches never stopped the "We Want Flair" chants There are
multitude here and if anything times being different mean more people than ever will be aware
of it. making similar chants perhaps more likely. But a lot of the newer fans
also for the most park have less respect for the wrestlers as people and
more as animals to perform stunts to mesmerize them. Like in other sports have
more loyalties to the "home team" than its players who come and go
for the bigger buck. And while everyone will put their different spin on what
happened and like with Hogan and Bruno and nearly every other wrestler of
the WWF beforehand, Bret Hart failed one of the things he wanted most out of
his career and that was to walk away from the company without the bitterness
and with many good memories. Both Bret Hart and Vince McMahon wanted their
legacies to be tied together and represented all that can be good about pro
wrestling. But the fact it is no matter how great the match with Smith at
Wembley Stadium or at at the In Your House in Hershey were or the
Wrestlemania match and SummerSlam matches with Owen were or the SummerSlam
match with Hennig or the Survivor Series match with Michaels or any of the
rest his legacy and Vince McMahon legacy will forever be tied together in
wrestling history. The defining moment of both a Hall of Fame wrestler and
the man who for a decade was the prominent promoter in the industry will be
the moment that the world realized right in front of their eyes with no
apologies and with no turning back to rewrite history just how truly
deceitful to the core this business can be and just how much 14 years of
being one of the great performers in the history of the industry truly
meant on the inside to the company that benefited from it. Only the future can
determine whether this was a definite moment in the hallmark of business
when it comes to pro wrestling. Did McMahon really hand over the keys to Canada
to WCW? Will fans really hate McMahon four weeks later when Michaels headlines
a PPV show with a four star match? Will Hart be a huge success keeping WCW at
it current level or even taking them to a higher level by having main
events on PPV shows that can live up to the quality or the preliminary matches? Or
are his best years really behind him and McMahon will have the last laugh
as how much Bishoff paid for him? How long will Hart remail a cult hero to
wrestlers for doing what none of them had the guts to do? Will McMahon file
criminal charges for assault and will someday and stranger things have
happened although in this case it would be hard today to believe it is
possible will the two get back together in a few years for a final
BRUNO SAMMARTINO STILL LEGENDARY OUTSIDE RING
(Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Thursday, October 29, 1998)
By Cristina Rouvalis
He has a massive neck, rockhard biceps and meaty, menacing hands. A nimble bear of a man, he looks like he could have played for a Pittsburgh Steelers team in the '70s. When he jogs seven miles around his neighborhood, people recognize him right away. "Hey, Bruno," some man will inevitably call out. "May I ask you a personal question?" "I'm 63," Bruno Sammartino will reply before even hearing the question. The man is stunned. How did Bruno know that he was about to ask him his age? Because it's the same question Bruno hears everywhere he goes -- on cruise ships, in the supermarket, in restaurants. That's the thing about being a living legend. You are a signpost in people's youth, a measure of all those years that zoomed by. Bruno doesn't mind being the friendly neighborhood wrestling god and divulging his age again and again. He's goodnatured that way. People tell him he looks great for his age, which he does from all those long runs and three-hour workouts with weights. On the other hand, fans figure that if they were just kids when they watched Bruno body-slam and bear hug his opponents, then the champ must be ancient by now. "They don't realize that if they were 20, I might have been 23. ... They think I must be 85. They remember me from 100 years ago," he says, shrugging and smiling faintly. It was really just 20 and 30 years ago when Bruno was always selling out Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the fans would shower him with chants of "Bruno, Bruno" the minute he stepped out in his tights and boots. He was the ultimate good guy doing amazing feats, such as picking up the 620-pound Haystacks Calhoun and dumping him so hard that the center of the ring caved in. Or doing push-ups with two men on his back. His life couldn't be more different now. He lives tranquilly in the Pittsburgh suburbs with his wife of 39 years, Carol, and dotes over his tiny grandson, Anthony Bruno Sammartino. He loves to listen to opera, eat his wife's low-fat feasts of pasta and fish, and travel back to the Old Country with her. Bruno has stayed away from pro wrestling for years except to lambaste what it has become -"an X-rated obscene sleaze show," in his words. Okay, pro wrestling wasn't all pure in his time, but Bruno said many matches were real, and tough guys really wrestled as athletes. Today, he says, it has degenerated into a joke.
Ultimate survivor Bruno Sammartino is the ultimate survivor -- no, really. He didn't survive the kind of childhood traumas that actors always complain about -- a distant father, say, or being an unpopular teen-ager. Bruno survived the German SS troops invading his hometown of Pizzoferrato, Italy, during World War II. His mother, Emilia, grabbed Bruno, his brother and sister and headed to the hills to a hideout in a mountain called Valla Rocca. For 14 months they hid there, shivering and hungry. His mother would keep them alive by sneaking down the mountain and snatching food from the basement of her house, while the German officers slept upstairs. Bruno also survived coming to America as an 80-somethingpound immigrant kid who couldn't speak English and got beat up all the time. He survived an outrageous wrestling match with an orangutan, as well as a broken neck after Stan Hansen picked him up and dropped him on his head. He survived fame and relative fortune, making $100,000 in 1964 along with Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. These storied details of the Bruno legend is why he is so popular when he appears occasionally on a Pittsburgh TV talk show. "Bruno just lights up the lines," said host John McIntire. "It's phenomenal. People will call and say things like, 'I remember when you took on Killer Kowalski in 1968 and flipped him over.' They know the most arcane, dusty details." He also attracts crowds of 700 when he makes guest appearances some weekends at P.C. Richard, an appliance and computer store chain in New York and New Jersey. (He never, ever sells his autograph at shows.) Most of the time, though, he is out of the limelight, being the happy homebody in his nice stone house with the big lawn -- something he was never able to do when he was wrestling and on the road six or seven times a week, year-round. His days are filled with little rituals. Like his morning run or lifting weights. He works out on a "universal" machine and also does bicep curls with 40-pound weights, letting out bursts of breath from tightened facial muscles. This is no slouch workout, but in his prime, he would do bicep curls with 100pound weights and bench press 565 pounds. "At this stage of the game I am not looking for muscle mass," he says. He had to give away his Olympic free weight set last year after a bad car accident. His silver Mercedes is his lucky car because he survived. He has other assorted aches and pains from his career. His mangled ears are prone to infection. His arms have so many chipped bones and torn ligaments that he can't lift them all the way. "It is a little embarrassing. I can't tie my tie. My wife helps me when I go out." Over the years, he's had to modify both his workouts and his diet. Bruno, who is almost 6 feet tall and slimmed down to 215 from 270 in his early wrestling days, eats low-fat food now. He can no longer gobble 24 lamb chops or four pounds of steak at one sitting. Or eat breakfasts of 12 eggs, a loaf of bread, a whole box of cereal and two quarts of milk. A new man He is a family man, making up for lost time. He likes to say that he is dating his wife, Carol, a soft-spoken woman who couldn't bear to watch her husband wrestle. Every Saturday night, they have a standing date, dinner out. They listen to opera, especially the legend Franco Corelli. But they never go to the movies. A man who spent decades body-slamming and hurling opponents can't stomach the profanities in movies. Bruno is old-school that way. "To this day, my dad has never heard me swear," said Darryl Sammartino, a 30-yearold Allegheny County probation parole officer. He says his father was strict, but didn't try any wrestling moves on him. "My dad never touched us -ever." The only drawback to growing up as Bruno's son, he says, was when he wrestled at Slippery Rock University. Other guys would sometimes test and taunt him with, "You think you are tough because of your dad." His fraternal twin, Danny, is a local hairdresser. He and his wife, Michelle, are parents to Bruno's pride-and-joy, Anthony, age 2. "He is starting to talk real good," Bruno gushes. "Oh God, I just love him to death. He is just a great little guy." But there is one fracture in this happy family portrait. Bruno no longer has contact with his oldest son, David, the only one to follow him into professional wrestling. He said he strongly urged his son to go to college, but he didn't. Although Bruno retired in 1981, he says he climbed back in the ring in 1985 to help David's career. The promoter for WWF came up with the idea of the father-son tag team. Bruno said he didn't want to return to the ring as a middle-aged man with injuries, but his son asked him to. "I put on the tights. I am 49, 50 years old. You don't know how disgusted I am. Finally, I said, 'I will never put on the tights again. I have had injuries and I am old.' "When I refused to put on the tights again, my son never forgave me. He hasn't spoken to me since. I resented that he didn't understand." His son has quit wrestling and is living in Atlanta. "To be perfectly honest, I don't know what he is doing," Bruno said. "That's the sad part about it. We have such a close family and to have this situation happen." David Sammartino, 38, said he hadn't seen or talked to his father in nine years. "It was a series of things -- personal. It's very tragic." His estranged son said, "He's my dad. I loved him. He was a big inspiration to me. He was the best there ever was." Not the same Bruno is grimacing over what he sees on the TV screen on a Monday night. He is watching World Wrestling Federation matches, something he never does. Bruno doesn't get cable, so he is critiquing it at the request of a reporter at his son Danny's house, where his Worldwide Wrestling Federation championship belt is framed above the mantel. WCW comes on first to the explosion of fireworks. "Oh my God. Look at this fireworks and all this garbage," he says, shaking his head. "It looks like the Fourth of July." A man in neon green is fighting a man wearing jeans. Bruno shakes his head at a wrestler in denim. "It's almost like a rebellious kind of thing. It's almost like the weirdos in the ring look like the ones in the audience." He points to some wrestlers and says "steroids." The old champ is disgusted at what wrestling has become. But was pro wrestling ever real? Isn't real pro wrestling an oxymoron? "If I were to tell you that my day was all pure wrestling, I wouldn't be honest with you. Because there were crooked promoters. There were a lot of guys that knew that they couldn't even compete with other guys. But to suggest that every match was like that wouldn't be true. There were a lot of tough guys who were tremendous wrestlers." It was a good life for Bruno, being the tough good guy. He loved wrestling and appreciated the fans. But he doesn't miss the limelight at all. "Listen, when I was real young, I thought I was made out of steel. I didn't think anything could hurt me, I was so powerful. But as time goes on, you find out you are not made of steel. "Do I miss it? Absolutely not. It was a job in every sense of the word." Thursday, August 20, 1998 Two fans start wrestling newsletter Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti friends plan to make their mark in rough-and-tumble profession By Santiago Esparza / The Detroit News ANN ARBOR -- Jeff Westfall and Jason Smola do not wear masks and tights, but hope to make their mark on professional wrestling. Westfall, 20, of Ann Arbor, and Smola, an 18-year-old Ypsilanti resident, ran The Dean's List, a hugely successful Internet magazine on professional wrestling. Westfall and Smola recently shelved The Dean's List to publish the weekly Wrestling Newsletter, the only publication of its kind in the state and one of a handful in the nation. The pair hope to join one of the major wrestling companies -- the World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling -- eventually as junior executives. "I'll be doing this for the rest of my life," Smola said. "We love wrestling." Westfall was offered a job at World Champion Wrestling, but turned it down because he promised his mother he'd graduate from Eastern Michigan University. Smola and Westfall are busy formatting a one-hour wrestling show they hope to debut on a fledgling Southfield radio station that's expected to go on the air this fall. The show will feature interviews, gossip, and debates. Professional wrestling is a multibillion-dollar industry. For example, Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman was paid $250,000 to make an appearance on a World Champion Wrestling show during the NBA playoffs. Hulk Hogan, arguably the best-known wrestler ever, pulls down millions of dollars annually in salary and endorsements. Martin Angel, manager of Comix Oasis in Greektown, said he recently started carrying Westfall and Smola's $2 newsletter and sells out every week. "Wrestling is huge right now," said Angel, who regularly surfs the Internet for wrestling rumors and gossip. "It gets huge (TV) ratings and even beat out some Monday Night Football games last year." For information on the new newsletter, call (734) 480-7878.
GRAPPLING WITH A NEW IMAGE
(USA TODAY, Thursday, August 6, 1998)
By Ann Oldenburg
This is serious business, Joke Man -- Hollywood Hulk Hogan to Jay Leno I feel sorry for Hulk. I hate picking on an old man. -- Leno to Hogan A grown man is on all fours barking like a dog. A woman in a string bikini sticks both fists in the air and mouths the fword. Kids hold up big sponge hands with the middle finger extended. Sorry if this offends you, but this is the new world of professional wrestling. This new world is built on the '90s concept of 'Attitude.' Like Jerry Springer's or Howard Stern's shows, it's pushing the envelope. Confrontational themes. Salacious scenes. Bad and badder guys pounding each other. What used to be a makebelieve sport with Bruno Sammartino tackling opponents in black tights is now high-stakes entertainment with plotted story lines and complex character development. Vying for 6 million viewers just on Monday nights, ad spending that has tripled over the last two years and at least $650 million in merchandising are two giants: the World Wrestling Federation owned and run by Vince McMahon and airing on the USA Network, and World Championship Wrestling, owned by Ted Turner, run by a former wrestling announcer named Eric Bischoff and airing on Turner's TNT and TBS. The two factions are in a wrestling match of their own -WCW against the WWF -- for ratings in the biggest battle on cable TV right now. Saturday night, WCW takes its show more mainstream when Jay Leno steps into the ring with Hollywood Hulk Hogan in a live, pay-per-view match from Sturgis, S.D. "Everybody knows Jay Leno, but nobody has seen him like this," promises Bischoff. "It's the same old Hulk Hogan situation," counters McMahon, whose next pay-per-view is Aug. 30. "Every time Hogan is on the air, we clobber them. It's a tired, old situation." The rivalry is strong. And it goes way, way back. Terry Bollea wrestled his first match in 1977, then went on to define the genre in the '80s as Hulk Hogan. He played a good guy; crowds cheered him as he walloped Andre the Giant and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Now, at 44, he's back, he's added "Hollywood" to his name, and he's now a villain. But Wednesday he admitted that he considers retirement. "I've thought about it," he says. His back hurts every time he does one of those body slams onto the mat -- even if they are choreographed. "I'm glad you didn't say fake. Fake means we don't get hurt, which is so far from the truth!" He could use a new set of knees. And he wouldn't mind putting on a suit the next time he makes a TV appearance. He'd also like to focus on his movie career. His 13th film, "Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain," came out in April, and he'd like to do another. But, "My wife doesn't want me to quit, my kids don't want me to quit, the promoters don't want me to quit, the fans don't want me to quit and the IRS really doesn't want me to quit," he says. Besides, "I love what I'm doing." If you thought he was big in '80s, he's even bigger now, carrying the weight of Turner's WCW on his 24-inch biceps, and holding the biggest contract of any wrestler around: $5 million a year. It was Hogan who was pivotal in building WCW into a viable competitor about a year ago when Turner decided to put his "WCW Monday Nitro Live on TNT" wrestling show, purposely positioning it up against the "WWF's Raw is War." Since this TV season began, the two have been close in the ratings, according to Nielsen Media Research, although the WWF has generally beaten Turner's WCW. "I've always had pressure," says Hogan. "But I can keep up with the younger guys. I have an instinct for this. You have to listen to the crowd. You can be pulling on a guy's wrist, and realize maybe you should bite it. It's an art form." In many ways, it looks the same old rassling. Guys still stamp the canvas to make noise while pummeling each other. They still talk trash. But now, all involved actually come right out and admit the play's the thing. "My character is a bluecollar type thing," says Stone Cold Steve Austin, the biggest star of the WWF right now. "I gotta go out there and be unimpressed by authority. They tell me I can't do something, I go ahead and do it. I've got a feud going with my boss. I'm not sending out a message that you should beat your boss up, although every now and then someone would like to beat the boss up. It's kinda like a soap opera. We have our story lines and those are constantly being created and new lines thrown in." He says he doesn't memorize written lines. It's more a discussion with higher-ups of what his character should be. His archrival, (Bill) Goldberg, says there are no lines for him, either. He often isn't told whom he's fighting until an hour or two before a match. His skyrocket to wrestling fame was not a calculated plot, he says. "To be totally honest, it's just me. A lot of people say I have charisma, a good feel for the camera. But all I need to know is where the camera is and my whole thing is force equals mass times acceleration. Nobody can tell it to you; you have to feel it on your own." Except that the outcomes are planned in advance. Even Hogan teased about the upcoming Leno match: "I'm going to make him look real bad, but good guys usually come out on top, don't they? And Jay's a good guy." "If you print that kind of stuff, it ruins it," says Bischoff, 43, who'll be in the ring as part of a tag team Saturday. He won't give details of the workings of WCW's Atlanta operation. "People like to forget it's pretend." McMahon, 53, who also gets in the ring, is more than willing to lay it on the line. "We were the first to say this is not a sport, this is sports entertainment." He says the show "should be looked upon as a live-action adventure soap opera." He even has four writers at the WWF's Stamford, Conn., headquarters, much like any TV show would have. "What good is someone who might be a fan favorite, unless he has some flaws? When they have flaws, it expands the characterization and makes them more interesting." And Hogan says when the sport came clean about not being a sport, the fan base grew. "Families started buying tickets ... and bought the dolls, the posters, the Nintendo games..." "A lot of people are embarrassed, but I'm not," says wrestling fan Kieran Culkin, 15, an actor, and the brother of Macaulay. "All my friends are into it. You walk around the street with a wrestling attitude, people don't know the hell you're doing." But kids know exactly what's going on. They can tell you who The Rock is and why Sting isn't only the rock 'n' roll guy you remember. Because fans are not just male adults 18-34 anymore, criticism has been leveled at the scene. Those sponge hands. The language. "It's the worst example you can set for youth," says WCW's Goldberg. "The business has evolved, you can't deny that. But our show is a family show." The WWF philosophy is a little more defensive. "If you really take a look, the show has no more violence of aggressiveness than any prime-time series you have on the air," says Bonnie Hammer, senior vice president of the USA Network. "Any of the cop shows -- look at "NYPD Blue" -- they're far more violent. Yeah, there's some sexual innuendo. It's fun, though; it's humor. Am I going to have my 4-year-old watch it? No. But my husband grew up watching it, and he wound up in Harvard Divinity School." Turner and rival go to mat behind the scenes Fighting in the ring for TV viewers is one thing, but the real rivalry in professional wrestling right now comes down to two men -- Ted Turner and Vince McMahon. At least that's how McMahon sees it. Vince McMahon took over the World Wrestling Federation from his father in 1982. It was truly the only game in town, and in those early '80s days, McMahon used to provide wrestling shows for Turner. Then, says McMahon, Turner decided he wanted a bigger piece of the company. McMahon, a third-generation owner of the business, said no. They parted company, with attorneys involved. Next thing McMahon recalls is that Turner called up saying, "Vince, I'm in the rassling business." And Vince replied, "Fine, Ted, I'm in the entertainment business." As McMahon says, Turner "opened his checkbook and bought off all our top talent. Then he put it on his superior vehicles (TNT and TBS). When Ted Turner decides to come after someone, he copies them, and the other thing is does is, he tries to hurt his opponent, not help himself." To this day, says McMahon, "Ted and I do NOT get along." They keep tabs on each other, though. McMahon will be watching to see how the WWC's Road Wild show goes on Saturday. No doubt Turner will be aware of the WWF's big "SummerSlam" pay-per-view on Aug. 30 from New York's Madison Square Garden. As McMahon says, "It really is David and Goliath." He says Turner is Goliath, the billionaire owner of all sorts of media outlets, and McMahon is David, small independent producer. "And David is very healthy and vibrant." Turner? He had no comment.
BOXING BOSS TAKES ON PRO WRESTLING
(Daily Oklahoman, Sunday, May 17, 1998)
By David Zizzo
It was a professional wrestling reversal Psycho would be proud of. Pro wrestling, with all those pile drivers and body slams, is real. Well, it's real enough. At least it's dangerous, or potentially dangerous. This is what the Oklahoma state director of boxing argued recently. No, pro wrestling is all fake. It's staged. It's rehearsed. It's harmless entertainment. This is what the wrestlers -- or entertainers -- argued. The whole thing had to do with a wrestling match that didn't happen last month. Boxing regulators shut down the scheduled match because promoters didn't get licenses and permits. Regulators want to regulate wrestling -- and collect fees. They say the law says wrestling comes under the boxing commission's authority. Administrative hearing officer Jeff Lee said he would issue a ruling in about a week. Lee spent the day watching video of Psycho, Bonecrusher and the Rock & Roll Cowboy tossing each other around and listening to participants debate mud wrestling and Shakespeare in the park. Mark Collum, attorney for boxing officials, also grilled wrestling promoters over gate receipts and the organization's claim it benefits charities and makes no profit. Wrestlers affiliated with Upright Oklahoma Inc., doing business as Powerzone Wrestling, say pro wrestling shouldn't be regulated because it's not a sport. Roger Coil, attorney for Power zone, said pro wrestling is like a fight in a Shakespeare performance. "They don't regulate 'Hamlet,"' he said. Coil asked state Boxing Director Jim Gasso why boxing officials don't regulate female mud wrestling or midget wrestling. "You know, I'm going to have to start regulating mud wrestling, midget wrestling, too," Gasso said. Coil asked Gasso if pro wrestling is real. Gasso said, "It's both. It's fake and it's real." Gasso said the outcome is fake but the moves are real wrestling moves performed by real athletes. Coil noted the wrestlers had "gelatinous beer bellies. They don't look like any athletes I've ever seen," he said. "Just because a guy has a beer belly doesn't mean he's not in shape," Gasso said. Opponents at the hearing argued over language in the state law saying the boxing director had authority over sports in which blows are struck that a reasonable per son would think could inflict harm. Tom Jones, who teaches pro wrestling, was asked if pro wrestling blows are dangerous. "Couldn't break an egg," he said. Charlie Polk, a former member of the state Boxing Advisory Committee and an official with Upright, was asked if pro wrestling involves body contact. "No more than dancing," he said. Jones said that before matches, he discusses planned outcomes of the evening's events with performers. "I will sit down and talk to them and say there's got to be winners and losers," he said. In his career, he has played both good-guy and bad-guy roles. Wrestler Jim Compton said pro wrestling is always about good and evil. "Eventually, good triumphs over evil," he said. "It's basically like a soap opera." Gasso argued the boxing law is intended to protect spectators and wrestlers. Opponents asked: From what? "These guys are huge," Gasso said. "They could fall down and hurt themselves, and also the fans." (Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)
PRO WRESTLING: NASH ENJOYS ESCAPISM OF CAREER
(Detroit News, January 24, 1997)
By Ted Kulfan
>Friday, January 24, 1997 > Pro wrestling: Nash enjoys escapism of career
Professional wrestling appeals to Kevin Nash for the same reason the fans enjoy it. "Where else can you piledrive a chief executive officer through a desk and get away with it," Nash said. "It's an escape. It's what every person would love to do once." Nash does it for a living. Nash, a Trenton native and a former high school basketball star at Southgate Aquinas, has reached the height of popularity in his seven-year pro wrestling career. "People who've seen me wrestle lately say I've come into my own," said Nash, who is 6-foot-11, 300-pounds. "That's easy when you're being yourself. There's so much emotion involved in what we're doing. When you enter the arena these days, the place is at a fever pitch. It's electric." Nash was known as Diesel when he was a World Wrestling Federation champion. He moved to World Championship Wrestling in June, and formed the New World Order with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall and other WWF exiles. Nash and his tag-team partner, Hall, will wrestle the Steiner Brothers of Bay City during the NWO's "Souled Out" pay-per-view Saturday night. Ron Gulyas, who coached Nash at Aquinas, said he isn't surprised by Nash's success. "The kid was very coachable, eager to learn, and had a great work ethic," Gulyas said. "He wanted to be successful, and he's become that. If you can call yourself a world champion, I don't care what endeavor it is, you've accomplished quite a bit." What pleases Gulyas the most is Nash's attempt to give back to the community. Nash has donated various items to be auctioned off at Aquinas fund-raisers. Nash also has a group of friends and former teammates at Aquinas with whom he keeps in touch. "That's the important thing," Gulyas said. "He hasn't forgotten the community. That doesn't surprise me. He's the type of guy that if you stopped him in the street, he'd talk with you for hours." "I love Detroit," Nash said. "It's a great wrestling town. I still have family there. I just hope we get back up there soon." Nash isn't surprised by the NWO's popularity with fans, despite its bad-boy image. "Society has changed," Nash said. "There's a sense of darkness nowadays, and people don't necessarily go with the fair-haired guys. The way we came in and didn't adhere to the rules and regulations attracted us to a lot of fans." Nash's infatuation with wrestling dates to high school. "I was a fan growing up," Nash said. "My buddies and I would go down to Cobo and watch The Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Pampero Firpo. I was a fan, but I didn't think about becoming a pro wrestler until much later." Nash earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Tennessee, where he played three years. He went to Spain to play professional basketball in the early 1980s and spent four years in Europe before returning to Detroit, where he worked as a bouncer at local nightclubs. It was after Nash moved to Atlanta, where he was bouncing at a popular club, that he was noticed by WCW wrestlers. Nash worked out at The Power Plant, a popular Atlanta wrestling school, and become hooked. "It was destiny," he said. "I should have known I was going to be a wrestler. It fits my personality." One of Nash's main objectives when he steps into the ring is to get a response from fans. He lets the fans decide the debate whether pro wrestling is theater or sports. "I want to get the fans involved and create emotion," Nash said. "If I can make (the fan) forget about life for the 15 or 20 minutes I'm in the ring, I've done my job." On the question of whether pro wrestling is real, Nash said: "You can't fake a clothesline, or dropkick, or shoulder block going at full speed. There is pain involved. I've had the injuries to prove it." Nash signed a 40-month contract with WCW for about $900,000. The money, and luxury of less wrestling and travel, appealed to him. Nash was on the road approximately 300 days per year in the WWF. Nash said he's away from his Phoenix home about half the time now. And that suits him just fine. He and his wife, Tamara, have a seven-month-old son, Tristen, who is 32-inches long and weighs 30 pounds. "The guy's a little monster," Nash said. "He's huge."
WRESTLING FAN PRODUCES TV SHOW
(Detroit News, January 23, 1997)
By Madison J. Gray
Thursday, January 23, 12997rts: Wrestling fan produces TV show for those who follow local acts
As far as Darrin Hill is concerned, when you see athletes like Sting, Lex Lugar and Hulk Hogan grind each other into the canvas, it's real. So real, in fact, that he's decided to produce a show for the followers of local and national wrestling federations. Once a month, Hill produces and hosts Inside Slam, a Detroit-based cable access show that highlights local wrestling events and features local and national athletes who are not employed by the World Wrestling Federation or World Championship Wrestling. The show is shown one Saturday a month on Comcast Cable channel 67, and six suburban cable companies feature it weekly. Now in its fifth year, the show has gained a small following among fans and promoters. Hill keeps track of the number of viewers through a hotline that is set up for his show. On average, he said, he gets between 70 and 100 calls each week. Although not a wrestler himself, Hill has been a wrestling fan since watching Luche Libre on the former Spanish International Network (now Univision) while a college student in Miami. "It was (spoken) in Spanish, but (my brother and I) would improvise in English, and it dawned on me there were never any African Americans to do play-by-play or color for any of the major wrestling shows," said Hill, 32. He and his stepbrother, Tony Jackson, fashioned Inside Slam after the SIN program, which was aimed at fans of local and national wrestling acts. "When I first started, I had a lot of people who helped me out," Hill said. "They helped me as far as if I needed help with a studio shoot and location shots until the show got rolling." Comcast Cablevision provides free public access time and television facilities; Hill has to provide the tapes and camcorder. He makes little if any money off of the show through promoters; but, a love of wrestling is what keeps the Highland Park resident going back into the studio. "I'm enjoying it now because a month ago, I was considering dumping it," Hill said. "But I gave myself a two-year window and said if I wasn't getting paid, I'd stop." Opportunities like exclusive match broadcasts and celebrity interviews breathe new life into Hill's goal of aligning himself with the movers and shakers of modern professional wrestling. "If I could get picked up to do a show on commercial television, it would be great," Hill said. Darnell Garrison's G 'n F Productions help Hill produce his show on location. Garrison said that because of Hill's resolve, the show has earned respect among fans and promoters. "I've seen other (local) shows done, but this one has a larger wrestling following," Garrison said. "Everywhere you go, the fans know the show, they know Darrin. "It's a little bit different than the larger shows because the fans of these shows are loyal to the federations, and they have a bit more real feel to them," Garrison said. However successful, Hill said he has no plans to expand the show into other areas because of his experience here. "I'd like to keep it wrestling because other shows try to branch out, but I figure why try to branch out into boxing and martial arts when I'm more familiar with wrestling."
The General awards the best, worst of '98
By JOHN PATTON -- Miami Herald
Thursday, January 7, 1999
Well, 1998 has come to a close, and it will be remembered most as the biggest year profitwise in wrestling history, as well as a time when bald became beautiful.
In it, we saw the powerful resurgence of a once-floundering World Wrestling Federation, the continuance of the mega-spending (and mega-earning) of World Championship Wrestling, and the further movement of Extreme Championship Wrestling into the arena of pay -per-view.
But, those are issues for the top-25 stories of the year (by now, I guess No. 1 will be pretty obvious). This is to honor those who deserve kudos and pies in the faces.
The envelopes please:
1. Steve Austin- This is a complete no-brainer. "Stone Cold" has become the 1990s icon that Hulk Hogan was in the '80s. From his bird-shooting irreverence to his cursing irreverence, Austin's character is an anti-hero that is viewed by millions in heroic terms. No one touched him dollar-wise in merchandising, and he is the main reason the WWF is now at the top of the wrestling rating's charts.
2. Goldberg- Never before has a rookie ever come close to having the impact this believable tough-guy did. His presence made sure the Austin machine didn't bowl over WCW.
3. Mick Foley- Never the foil, always the folly, Foley made Mankind into a cult hero. And who will ever forget his work in Hell in the Cell?
1. Mick Foley- With the various twists and turns he was allowed to make with Mankind, Foley was finally allowed to show the creative gifts that make that character (without question) the funniest in wrestling history.
2. Steve Austin- His rantings in Mike Tyson's face on Raw in the spring marked the initial rise of a superstar that has been able to show everything from a `don't mess with me' persona to one that can also show vulnerability (thus allowing opponents to also get over).
3 (tie). Bret Hart and The Rock- Hart was able to overcome a bad initial push to become WCW's most consistently strong heel. The Rock has blossomed with a character that has been equally adept as a heel and a babyface, and he's improved tremendously in the ring, working with guys like Mankind and Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
5. Chris Jericho- If it weren't for Mick Foley, the Lionhearted Loverboy would have been the year's funniest. His trip to Washington DC to discuss the "conspiracy" against him in WCW was classic. Also, him reading the list of his 1004 holds was utterly hysterical.
1. Ric Flair returns to WCW- Straight from the "Nature Boy's" mouth: "That was the greatest night of my wrestling career. To know how much you are appreciated by the people you've put your body on the line for the better part of three decades. I've never felt anything like that."
Even those of us that only saw it on TV felt the emotion in the Greenville that night.
2. Goldberg pins Hollywood Hogan to win the WCW strap on the July 6 Nitro from the Georgia Dome: Again, the crowd response to the (somewhat) hometown boy taking the torch from Hogan that night was extremely powerful, even on television.
"That was the greatest moment of my athletic career," said the former NFL and All-Southeastern Conference defensive tackle.
3 (tie). Austin's meeting with Mike Tyson and Flair beating Eric Bischoff for "control" of WCW in the year's final Nitro. Both of these events were important for reasons we've already seen and reasons we'll see unfold in the next couple of months.
Austin deserves particular credit here for manufacturing the bile and venom necessary to make that angle work. Flair deserves credit for deflecting his own emotion to his fans, so that they could feel a part of the entire not-so-worked storyline.
Eric Bischoff also should receive some praise for playing the role of jerk to the fans well, even if he doesn't necessarily feel he was entirely wrong in the way the real-life situation went down.
5. The return of The Warrior- Put the man down (many do), but Jim Hellwig was clever and didn't have a one of us clicking over to Raw as he gave his 22-minute speech to Hogan (who was also good in his role). Even though the fans in Hartford knew he was coming, not a one of them was disappointed.
1. Tajiri's flip splash from the ring and over the turnbuckle and post onto his opponent on the last ECW show of 1998 was actually amazing enough to edge out...
2. Rob Van Dam's flip-splash onto Bam Bam Bigelow in the match "Mr. Monday Night" took the ECW TV title. I still mark out a bit when I see that amazing display of athleticism and guts.
1. Booker T- In my eyes, this will be the year a wrestler formerly known as just a tag-team performer took the first step toward being one of wrestling's top-5 stars of the early part of the next century. It's unfortunate a knee injury put him on the shelf for a few months late in the year.
2. Kidman- Given the time and proper opponents, Kidman became an integral part of Nitro's best matches of the second-half of 1998.
3. The Rock- Took the negative heat from being overpushed early and turned it into a positive. As previously mentioned, he also began learning how to work a good match, too.
4. Mark Henry- Along with The Rock, this guy has the best facial expressions in wrestling, and I still laugh every time I hear him introduced as "Sexual Chocolate." So clumsy when he first began, he was taken off TV for a year until he got better. Now, he's begun to be a better in-ring worker and is somewhat nimble for a man his size.
5. Super Nova- When he was able to leave a lot of the comedy behind (which has was also very good at), Nova soon began showing superb in-ring skills. He may not belong on a most improved list because he likely had it in him all along, but he couldn't go unnoticed.
Line of the Year
1. "There are many things The Rock is, but 'sucks' isn't one of them." - Rocky Maivia to fans.
2. "I've got balls the size of grapefruits, and Sunday night you're going to be spitting out seeds." -Vince McMahon to Austin.
3. "Ladies and gentlemen..." the Road Dogg at arenas across the country.
4. Jericho's constant missteps when saying the names of Tony Schiavone, Mean Gene, Prince Iaukea, etc...
*Mankind had too many lines to pinpoint just one.
1. Vince McMahon- Got stale at times, but still made for one of the most creative dictator roles I've seen. As his "Corporation" expands, so should his character, and that will be fun to watch.
2. Bret Hart- Ironic, this top two, huh?
3. Raven- Those "Raven sucks" chants are pretty damn loud at arenas.
4. Chris Jericho- Fans loved to boo this guy, and not for the same reasons they loved to boo Brian Adams.
1. Steve Austin
4. Ric Flair
5. The Rock
Breakout (in the mainstream) of the Year
1. Steve Austin
2. Sable- I've got two words for ya: left, right
Flop of the Year
1. Hogan-Warrior II. This was seven years too late.
Jump of the Year
1. Sean Waltman to the WWF. Well, he didn't necessarily jump, but from the moment he returned to Raw until now, the ratings war hasn't been the same.
2. Bam Bam Bigelow to WCW. He was given a strong push to begin, despite a checkered past with new WCW booker Kevin Nash.
3. Jeff Jarrett to the WWF. Titan has botched this up big-time, but it still gave the WWF the look of a company that could raid, instead of one that could just be raided.
*Since he wasn't a part of WCW TV in 1998, it is impossible to yet tell the importance of The Sandman's move (or those of Chastity and Mikey Whipwreck).
Tag Team of the Year
1. Rob Van Dam & Sabu- Sure, they blow spots, but they work well together, give outstanding effort and always put on a show.
2. The New Age Outlaws- Particularly entertaining on the mike, these guys (especially Billy Gunn) also have their share of in-ring talent.
Tasteless Angle of the Year
1 (tie). The Austin crucifixion and Flair's "heart attack." Beyond words...
1. Vader- The WWF brought him in to be their biggest monster heel. A few short years later, he was jobbed out and released from his contract.
2. Hollywood Hogan- He was still a megastar when the year began.
3. Sting- WCW botched his title run big-time.
4. Ahmed Johnson- To paraphrase the Chi Lites "Have you seen him?"
5. Faarooq- The Rock took his damn role.
*Scott Hall and Sunny deserve some mention for this list, but appear to be righting themselves now.
Gimmick of the Year
1. Head- This silly prop took ECW by storm, and changed booking plans completely for a few months.
1. The Disciple- Does anyone disagree with this pick?
Bump of the Year
1 (tie). Mankind off the top of the cell and Mankind through the cell at King of the Ring. Unless you've actually had a tooth drive up through your upper lip and into your nostril, how can you say one insane fall topped the other?
Announcer of the Year
1. Jim Ross- In a league of his own. Get well soon, JR.
Match of the Year
1. Booker T-Chris Benoit match six in the best-of-seven was showed why Chris Benoit is the world's best and why Booker T is the world's most improved.
2. Juventud Guerrera-Kidman when Juvy won back the Cruiserweight strap had some of the best false finishes of the year.
3. Bam Bam Bigelow-Rob Van Dam. This match legitimized Bam Bam as possibly
the best big-man worker ever, and showed RVD (when he wants to) can work an
outstanding match with someone of any size.
LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT
Recently, a letter to the editor of USA Today appeared from Mr. Paul Fuller of Satellite Beach, Florida. Mr. Fuller said that wrestling has gone beyond ridiculous. Mr. Fuller was also criticized by WWF president, Vince McMahon, in a rebuttal. Here is the president of WCW, Eric Bischoff's response:
Rest assured...Mr. McMahon knows that YOU DO "GET IT"! That's his biggest fear right now. The fact that not only are viewers beginning to "get it" but advertisers will as well.
You see, Mr. McMahon found out that he didn't have the ability to compete in this industry without resorting to the type of programming that can only be compared to an "R" rated freak show. He decided that if he was going to survive he would have to change his brand and his strategy and copy that of Jerry Springer and Howard Stern. That is his right as the owner of WWF and the rights of the USA network to air it.
The hypocrisy in his position, and the reason for his fear, is that he is dependent on advertising and licensing of his product to children. Just take a look at the advertising in his programs. Look at the kind of advertising that you see in Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. Then ask yourself, or better yet, the executives of those chains, if they "get it".
The WWF uses their programming on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays to deliver ratings commitments to their advertisers as well as promote their licensing and merchandising. If Mr. McMahon were sincere in his position he would not accept advertising that targets children.
That will never happen. He is dependent on children. He just hopes no one "gets it"... and you did!
Champion Date Won From Who Location Length of Reign
Hollywood Hogan 1/4/99 Nash Atlanta, GA
Kevin Nash 12/27/98 Goldberg Washington, DC 8 days
Bill Goldberg 7/6/98 Hogan Atlanta, GA 5 months, 21 days
Hulk Hogan 4/20/98 Savage Colorado Springs, CO 2 months, 17 days
Randy Savage 4/19/98 Sting Denver, CO 1 day
Sting 2/22/98 Hogan San Francisco, CA 1 month, 28 days
Sting 12/28/97 Hogan Washington, DC 1 day
Hulk Hogan 8/09/97 Luger Sturgis, SD 4 months, 19 days
Lex Luger 8/04/97 Hogan Auburn Hills, MI 5 days
Hulk Hogan 8/10/96 Giant Sturgis, SD 11 months, 25 days
The Giant 4/22/96 Flair Albany, GA 3 months, 19 days
Ric Flair 2/11/96 Savage St. Petersburg, FL 2 months, 11 days
Randy Savage 1/22/96 Flair Las Vegas, NV 20 days
Ric Flair 12/27/95 Savage Nashville, TN 25 days
Randy Savage 11/26/95 60-man battle royal Norfolk, VA 1 month, 1 day
Hulk Hogan 7/17/94 Flair Orlando, FL 9 months, 22 days
Ric Flair 12/27/93 Vader Charlotte, NC 6 months, 20 days
Big Van Vader 3/17/93 Sting Dublin, Ireland 9 months, 10 days
Sting 3/11/93 Vader London, England 6 days
Big Van Vader 12/30/92 Ron Simmons Baltimore, MD 3 months, 12 days
Ron Simmons 8/2/92 Vader Baltimore, MD 4 months, 28 days
Big Van Vader 7/12/92 Sting Albany, GA 20 days
Sting 2/29/92 Luger Milwaukee, WI 5 months, 13 days
Lex Luger 7/14/91 Barry Windham Baltimore,MD 7 months, 15 days
Ric Flair 1/11/91 Sting East Rutherford, NJ 5 months, 19 days
Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Bill Goldberg, Randy Savage, Sting, Lex Luger, The
Giant, Ric Flair, Vader, Ron Simmons---WCW world champions
sept 21 1997
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