Monday, August 17, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Hart's submission signals a change
Let me start off by saying - I am a Hitman supporter. I have been a fan of Bret's since he was a fifty buck jobber tasting mat more often than he was tasting victory. So it is no easy task for me to admit this - I'm disappointed. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart was one of those few wrestlers who could still say that he had never surrendered inside the squared circle, but this past Monday on WCW's Nitro 'The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be' folded like a cheap tent. Hoisted high on Lex Luger's impressive shoulders and strapped into the Torture Rack, Bret Hart cried the word I never thought would fall from his battle scarred lips - "Uncle".
I'm sure I could make a valid case that Bret is proving he is the consummate company man, always doing what is best for the job first, not what is good for the Hitman. But I don't want to do that. As childish as that may sound, it's true. I want to go back in time and make Hart's brass knuckles level Luger. Why? Because even before he was THE MAN at WWF, he was known as the best technical wrestler for a reason - Bret Hart could ALWAYS outwit and out-wrestle his opponents if he was physically outmatched. He had the skills and expertise to work around the obstacles. So don't tell me he lost because he wasn't ready for Lex's surprise match. Anyone else remember The Undertaker's first appearance? Bret Hart saw the phenom coming down the aisle at Survivor Series, then dominating the ring, he saw Koko B. Ware deep fried, but did Bret job to the newbie? No, he used his technical skills, his experience, played a little possum, and was able to withstand the onslaught. And that was with the outstanding new wrestler in DiBiase's stable. Bret has been watching Lex wrestle for years. Lex didn't suddenly pull out some brand spanking new, wrapper still on it, surprise move, so Bret should have been ready for the 'Total Package'.
So what is it I'm trying to say? That I went through a box of tissues at the end of Nitro? That I cheered like a madman after Thunder, when Bret knocked Luger out cold and won the title back? No, nothing like that. It is just that for the last two or three years the wrestling world has been talking about the New Generation of wrestlers, and how the old guard could no longer handle the J-O-B. And I, being an old softy, always thought there were a few more years left in our old favorites. I think everyone, Hart lovers and Hart haters alike, heard the same sound I did when Bret Hart submitted - "swoosh". That was the sound of the world moving on and leaving my favorites behind to be replaced by the likes of Jericho, The Edge, D-Pac, and Raven. Can they carry the load? I think so, but I also don't think it will be the same.
Don't get me wrong - I always knew that the end was coming for Hogan, Hart, Savage, Michaels, Vader and the rest of the gang, but I had always thought the transition would begin with the retirement of Hulk. That would have set the stage for all of us, it would have rung the bell on the veterans, and let us know that they were being called out to pasture. I just didn't think it would come this quickly, or on the back of Lex 'The Total Package" Luger, another old guard. I suppose I had hoped a young'un would steal away the limelight (Shawn Michaels was giving a valiant effort to be that young'un, but, too many of us remember Shawn from wayyyyyyyyy back. As young as he is, Michaels is still a part of that old guard), and that new bright light would be the beacon that made the transition easier for all of us to say good-bye to the old gang and welcome in the new blood.
And...Hey, can anyone else smell that? I think I'll go see what The Rock is cooking (hopefully not Venis schnitzel) and take solace in the fact that it was the Torture Rack that turned the tides of time, and not the Cross Faced Chicken Wing.
Jean-Guy Landriault is from Ottawa and can be emailed at email@example.com