December 21, 1999
Dynamite-Bret-Bulldog saga analyzed
I've sat back and read countless of articles that have been posted here on SLAM regarding Bret Hart. While most have been filled with praise for the six-time World Champion, quite a few columns (and more recently at that) have been posted that question the "Excellence of Execution's" integrity. Say what you will about Bret Hart the wrestler, but when you attack Bret Hart the person, it bothers me.
Now, since SLAM is the home to Bret's weekly columns, and is an unofficial home to Hitman fans throughout the world, my guess is that with every slight towards Hart, the author must receive hundreds of emails from Hitman fans or "marks" politely disagreeing with what was written. OK, the "polite" part may be a bit of a stretch. Still, with this knowledge in mind, I rarely feel the need to respond to an attack on my favorite wrestler.
In a recent article entitled "In respect of Dynamite", Robert Joseph Yang felt he needed to criticize Bret for his unkind words regarding the Dynamite Kid's book. Robert mentioned that Bret uses his columns to "weasel" his thoughts to his fans. That's funny because I presumed that the whole purpose of Bret writing his weekly columns was to provide for his readers his thoughts and insights into his life and profession. Whenever something occurs in or to wrestling, don't some of us wonder what Hart (or other wrestlers) thinks about it? Well, that's what Bret does with his column, gives his view. Anyway, Mr. Yang went on to tell us that Hart "probably feels the book did not give him the respect he thinks he deserves." My guess is that Bret was wondering about the validity of Dynamite's story.
Personally, I would think that since he knows his former brother-in-law better than most people and was privy to some of Dynamite's stories, Bret can read through "Pure Dynamite" and say "that didn't happen" or "that's not how it happened". Granted, Hart's memory may be the one in question but, from my own observations of his columns, Bret seems to be able to remember things well. And if someone wants to claim that the Hitman is driven by his ego, then his memory should be strong if all he thinks about is himself.
And as for blasting John Molinaro, let's think twice here. First, John was providing for us his review of the book thus providing us with his opinions (much like Robert did). I see nothing wrong here. But, as for the "journalist who prints whatever you (Bret Hart/Davey Boy Smith) say, whether it's true or not" line, I think Robert was way out of line here. Mr. Molinaro interviews men like Hart and Smith because they are available and they provide some interesting stories. Unlike the reclusive Dynamite Kid who refuses to grant interviews for SLAM! Since he's met both men, I'm sure John can validate for the integrity of both men but, if they are telling lies during an interview, then the speaker is at fault not the reporter. I'm just grateful that people like John, Greg Oliver and Eric Benner are able to provide us with interviews and news on wrestling. I'm sure not all of the men they interview can provide an interesting conversation or speak as well as Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith. Although I haven't read his book nor met the man, my take on Dynamite's interview on his site was the same as John's. Tom Billington sounded bitter to this observer and took way too much credit from Davey Boy for the latter's career. Dynamite's shots at his cousin were far worse than anything Bret said about Smith.
Speaking of the Bulldog, I believe Bret has taken an unfair rap over the problems between the two former Hart Foundation members. People seem to be siding with Davey Boy on this issue and I believe that may be a bit premature. In my opinion, Bret's comparison of his brother-on-law working for the WWF and dogs happily rolling around in their own feces wasn't that harsh. Bret simply cannot understand how the Bulldog can be so thrilled to be working for a company that has lied and harmed his family, not to mention the black mark (in Bret's eyes) the WWF's new attitude has left on the sport in general. But the British Bulldog is happy. Just like those dogs.
In fact, Davey Boy's tenure with the WWF has proven Bret's point. What has been the Bulldog's legacy thus far? Well, he captured the Hardcore title, not exactly the belt a great technician can be proud of. Got thrown around the ring by Chyna (I don't care how strong she is, she's still no match for Smith). Threw a garbage can at Stephanie. Backed down from Vince. Won the European title but rarely defends it. Enlisted the Mean Street Posse as his back-up (not quite the Hart Foundation, are they?). And, finally, was beaten by Paul Wight in less than 30 seconds, a performance usually reserved for newcomers and stiffs not someone with the Bulldog's reputation and experience. And he wants to become the WWF Champion?
Aside from his wrestling performance thus far, it is the Bulldog's criticism of Bret as a family member that really irks me. According to Davey, Bret seems to have the opinion that either you're with him or you are against him and he agrees with Vince that it is the Hitman who has influenced the minds of the Hart family in regards to the lawsuit over Owen's death. If I were Martha, Bruce, Keith, Ellie, or another member of that family, I'd be a little bit upset with that idea. What it says to me is that nobody else in the Hart family can do their own thinking or form an opinion without the help of Bret. Nice. All Bret did was support the lawsuit; he didn't launch it himself.
Of course, let's forget Davey Boy's own agenda here and how his stories have changed. Vince McMahon NEVER would have signed the Bulldog if he was under the impression that the British native was supporting the Hart Family lawsuit against his company. Davey knows that too and, with the WCW's lack of serious interest, he really had his options limited if he wanted to sign a lucrative deal. Personally, I don't blame him because he has to do what he feels is best for his family. However, let's not forget this motive. It helps Vince as well since he has at least two members of Owen's own family who don't blame him for the accident like they should. No, I don't think Vince wanted it too happen but he is still ultimately responsible.
Davey Boy's stories also seem to have a fresh spin. He originally indicated that he injured his knee during the Bret-Vince dressing room brawl following the infamous Survivor Series screw job when Vince kicked him while Smith was breaking the combatants up. Now, he has said that Bret was the one who kicked him. Which was it? At the end of 1997, an interview with the Bulldog was conducted where Davey spoke about his disgust with the WWF's product and McMahon in particular. Now, he says he was only supporting Bret and is excited to be working for Vince and the WWF. How convenient! Oh, and I seriously doubt Bret ever threatened to run over his sister and the Bulldog if he saw them.
Sure Davey is bitter with the way the WCW fired him but who's to know if Bret did in fact speak to Eric Bischoff at the time to plead with him to keep his brother-in-law. Likely, Hart did not have the influence or sway with the WCW as he had with the WWF in order to prevent Davey from being released. At the time, Bret was not happy with the direction of his own career either and Bischoff was influenced more by the likes of Hogan, Nash and Page. (I bet Bret didn't get the "Creative control over my character during the last 30 days" clause he had in the WWF.) Besides, WCW were well within their legal rights to terminate Smith's contract, how unfair that may seem. Both the WWF and WCW have been guilty of such ruthless acts in the past but the wrestlers have no union to protect them (like Jesse Ventura tried to form).
Years ago when they were supposed to make an appearance together for a card in Japan, the Dynamite Kid was upset when Davey Boy left for the WWF without telling his partner and cousin beforehand. This is leaves an impression that Smith was looking out for his own interests without being honest about his intentions. Who's to say that he isn't doing the same thing now? (Oh, and I see the irony of using the Dynamite Kid as a source here when I questioned him earlier. However, I never said that the Kid was wrong or lying. I just questioned whose memory was more accurate - his or Bret's.)
I don't know whom, if anyone, is to blame for the problems I've mentioned. Bret disagreed with the Dynamite Kid's book and with Davey Boy's career move; Dynamite and Davey don't like what Bret wrote about them; and the British Bulldogs don't like each other. Still, to simply throw all the blame on the Hitman is unfair. I tend to believe Bret because I've always looked up to him as a hero and he's never given me reason to question his integrity.
It's easy for all of us to mention how bitter Bret has been since he left the WWF and, more so, since the death of Owen. All of us can say that the Hitman simply needs to get over everything. The difference is that we look at Bret's life as outsiders, be it as fans, columnists, or something in between. We don't live Bret's life, he does. It wasn't our younger brother who fell to his death. We were not the one lied to by his employer, whom he trusted after 15 years of loyal service. We weren't disgraced in public. As much as this affected any of us, imagine what it was like to be the man himself.
I'm not saying that Bret is right or that he's wrong in his relationships with his two brother-in-laws or with his recent actions in general. However, I do believe that he deserves a benefit of doubt when his character is questioned. I have always found Bret Hart to be the most honest wrestler I've watched or listened to because he speaks from the heart. What you see is what you get. And this is seen through his columns. At the moment, due to the lawsuit filed against the WWF, Bret has been advised not to discuss what happened with Owen's harness on that painful night. In the same breath, he is not speaking about McMahon or the Bulldog but, when he can, the world will finally be able to hear Bret's side of the story that may not paint such a flattering picture of his brother-in-law and/or his former boss. Wait until then to decide who is telling the truth and who is out for themselves.
You may call me a Hitman mark but I believe that term isn't appropriate. I consider myself to be a fan of Bret's, nothing more, nothing less. And as a fan, I will support Bret through it all unless he gives me reason not to. Just like Robert Yang is doing with the Dynamite Kid.
That's what fans do.
Brian Hayes lives in Burlington, Ontario, and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He's written for SLAM! Wrestling before, including: