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Hitman Hart: Wrestler says “No MMA!”

Wrestler says “No MMA!”

Hitman: A pacifist at Hart

Bret "Hitman" Hart likes to waltz, not beat brains out

Montreal’s answer to the UFC, TKO, presents it latest, greatest mixed martial arts battle at the Bell Centre on Friday, Dec. 14. While always a good time, TKO bouts can have a tendency to feel brutish for those who know the sport best through watching international pay-per-view matches. The international bouts tend to be more polished. If you’re an international-calibre fighter, chances are you have the experience to avoid injuries better, and the physical fitness to withstand them when they do occur. In the TKO octagon, I’ve seen fighters, so green they shouldn’t even have been there, get bloody from the first punch in the fight.

But that’s in the past, and every edition gets better. Since their move into the Bell Centre over a year ago, TKO have upped the bar and consistently presented the best from around the country in well-arbitrated matches. Their newest superstar – after Georges St-Pierre – is ex-hockey defenceman Steve Bossé, who this time will confront other star-powered heavyweight Icho Larenas. With each opponent weighing in at over 200 pounds, this will be a fight of the behemoths, and something to see.

But not according to Bret "Hitman" Hart. I sat down with the retired pro wrestling world champ while he toured his recently released biography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, and it was a highlight of my life. The Hart family changed the face of wrestling not only here in their native Canada (they’re from Calgary), but in the entire world, while Hitman was definitely considered the best of his generation. His career in pro wrestling spanned two decades (300 days a year), and was so filled with drama, you couldn’t find a better read. Hitman keeps readers on the edge of their toes, jam-packed as it is with locker-room scandals and ringside betrayals. Other than the famous Montreal Screwjob, there are stories of drug addiction and stunt deaths as well as great camaraderie between the bunch of pumped-up men who lived through these trials and tribulations together in their weird make-believe world.

"I do like ultimate fighting," Hitman told me. "I enjoy watching it, but whenever I watch it I cringe when I see them really hurt each other. You know that they’re going to really hurt each other, and I have a lot of respect for the seriousness of it. A lot of the audience we used to have in pro wresting has moved over to ultimate fighting now, because they get that real fix of violence and blood that they used to get from wrestling. But when I watch what I used to do, let’s say my match with Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13, where he’s bleeding – to me there’s something more beautiful about that match. The people who used to watch us, they watched that fight and they were happy. They got that violent fix, and we had a real battle. That was the entertainment that they needed to let their aggressions out for when they go to work the next day. Now they get that fix from ultimate fighting, but the difference is that what I did with Steve Austen was a beautiful waltz of two wrestlers pretending to hurt each other. Despite the blood and everything, it was a beautiful match – and ‘nobody was hurt in the making of that movie’ sort of thing [laughs].

"In ultimate fighting, when you see these guys really punching faces, and drilling guys until the ref usually stops it, I think, always a couple seconds too late, that’s an incredible amount of brain damage being done. And at what cost? Do you really want to pay money for this? It’s like dog fighting. Do you really feel good about yourself supporting someone getting their brains punched out? I mean, I’m guilty, I love watching it, I’m riveted and I have deep regard for it. But when I watch it I always have a pang. I wish wrestling was like it used to be so we wouldn’t need to have this kind of entertainment."

Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
By Bret "Hitman" Hart (Random House Canada), 573 pp

TKO31: Ultimatum
At the Bell Centre, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.

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  • by Pedro Eggers - December 9, 2007, 4:56 pm

    Greek tragedies are the only frame of reference one is inclined to conjure up when looking back at the life of Bret “Hitman” Hart and that ain’t hype. After a long and hard climb to the top of a profession most people consider a joke it all went sour in and out of the ring in the short span of a few years. Death. Betrayal. Career ending injury. Divorce. Family feud. Stroke. By the way, those are just the highlights of the lows he’s endured. Love the man if you can, hate him if you must, think what you will of the business that he takes so much pride in but don’t deny that he’s lived a singular life worthy of a read. Wrestling is fake but the bumps are sometimes all too real.

  • by Aaron Phillips - December 10, 2007, 5:11 pm

    “And at what cost? Do you really want to pay money for this? It’s like dog fighting. Do you really feel good about yourself supporting someone getting their brains punched out?”

    At what cost, mma?

    How about, at what cost, pro wrestling? How about the lives of a few of your family members, Bret? Isn’t that cost higher than a few blows to the head?

    Of all people Bret should know that the cost of professional wrestling is far higher than that of MMA. Noone ever fell to their deaths competing in an MMA fight. In fact, there has been one death in regulated MMA ever, maybe two depending how you parse words. There have been at least that many die in Hart’s family alone.

    I know it may be unfair to count deaths outside the pro wrestling ring but we all know how destructive the Pro Wrestling lifestyle is in comparison to training and competing in legitmate martial arts.

    Randy Couture will still be alive decades from now when all of today’s young pro wrestling stars have died of painkiller overdoses. I would bet on it.

  • by Veikko Pilvi - December 11, 2007, 5:36 am

    I admit that I wasn’t able to follow wrestling during Bret’s golden years because they just didn’t air anything in Finland. I remember something from the 80′s and then in 2001 or something like that I got back into watching wrestling. What I wanted to say is that watching wrestling or MMA isn’t mutually exclusive. Mainstream wrestling isn’t worth following but indies like Ring of Honor are keeping me entertained. But I can still enjoy MMA and now more than ever as there seem to be decent cards popping up all the time.
    I don’t think those couple of stronger punches before ref stoppage do more damage than the hundreds of punches thrown in a boxing match with gloves that are designed to shake your brain around. I guess only time will tell if MMA fighters have long term effects from fighting (not from any enhancements).
    I hope there was a point somewhere in there :)

  • by Martin Rioux - December 14, 2007, 11:59 am

    The title really says it all. Bret Hart was one of the best wrestlers in the world. When he started wrestling for the WWE in the late 80′s nobody thought that this guy would become a legend in pro wrestling. Then in 1992 he got his big break and became World champion for the first time and since then, his legend never stop growing. By 1997, his luck change, first he got betrayed by his boss and long time friend Vince McMahon then 2 years later is younger brother died, follow by a career ending injury that force him to retired after all that he got divorce and finally got a stroke. But even with all that bad luck, Bret is still an inspiration to us all just by to way he overcame all of these obstacles and i’m sure that is story is worth reading. People always things of wrestling has fake but if you look closely, you will find out how real wrestling is just by reading Bret Hart’s story.

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