It was one of, if not the most, difficult moments for any Canadian wrestling fan from a wrestling perspective. It wasn’t as devastating as a career-ending injury or as grim and morbid as a death. In fact, all it was, quite simply, was how a match didn’t follow its own script. It was the day wrestling was real.
The script called for Bret Hart to win that night, but since his contract was up and he was heading to WCW, Vince McMahon pulled a fast one. It was a moment of pure evil from the WWE owner and it caused one of my heroes Bret Hart, and therefore myself, great pain. You see, for the most part up until then, wrestlers were cartoonish. They were caricatures; a dentist, a garbage man, a clown even an undertaker. But that moment smashed all those childish visions out of our heads harder and faster than a Jake the Snake DDT. Bret Hart was furious that night, spitting and eventually breaking his hand as he punched McMahon. This was real anger, real violence while the rest of us were stunned and could not fathom what had just transpired. How could McMahon do this we wondered? Wrestling fans grew up that night to the fact that business was more important than loyalty. It was a painful realization that there was no coming back from. We knew the wrestling landscape had changed, but it would take years to know by just how much.
Brett the hitman an hart before and after age pic.twitter.com/p5ix2pP7XV
— Joelucky12 (@joelucky1208) October 26, 2015
Bret Hart was never the same after that match as that was the first of several setbacks that turned my hero into a bitter shell of a man that he once was. WCW did not know how to utilize him properly nor could they with all of the back stage politics. There was the tragic death of his brother Owen Hart who fell to his death in a WWE ring from a failed stunt. Finally, a career-ending kick to the head from Goldberg and a stroke shortly after signaled the end of the “best there was, the best there is and the best there ever will be.” The real life feud with the WWE finally ended a few years ago and it seems that he is at peace with WWE once again. The only other person to have a negative fallout from that night was, of all people, referee Earl Hebner. He could not step into any wrestling ring in Canada without hearing the “You screwed Bret!” chants that just kept getting louder and louder. It got bad enough that McMahon stopped sending Hebner to Canada as the chanting crowd took away from the match in the ring.
Apart from the bad that happened that night, there was also some good. Vince McMahon and WWE went on to win the Monday Night Wars over WCW. There were a number of reasons as to why, but two of the main ones will always remain the rise of Degeneration-X and the feud between McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Degeneration-X which was fronted by Triple H and Hart’s opponent that fateful night Sean Michaels, grew into one of the top factions in wrestling history. Their antics were comical and struck a chord with even those outside the wrestling world drawing in larger & larger crowds. McMahon took the hatred from what he did to Hart used that to his advantage. He understood better than anyone that the weird thing about wrestling is that people hating you drums up just as much business (if not more) than people loving you. So the story line of the angry employee, fantastically portrayed by Stone Cold Steve Austin, vs the evil boss, Vincent Kennedy McMahon was created and stands to this day as the greatest one vs one feud of all time.
This trip down memory lane didn’t come about randomly. I chose this topic as the WWE is invading Toronto this weekend on a scale we’ve never experienced before. It starts off Saturday with NXT Takeover Toronto. This is the smallest of the three current WWE brands, but to many (myself among them) the freshest and most exciting of them all. Most of these wrestlers have recently come up from the independent ranks including personal favourite Johnny Gargano (aka Johnny Wrestling) who I have seen through local promoters SMASH wrestling many times. Follow that up Sunday with WWE Survivor Series which sees Goldberg in a wrestling match for the first time in years. Then on Monday we have WWE Raw which will provide in my estimation the 3rd sellout of the weekend and you can see how much of an invasion this truly is. On top of that are smaller attractions like former announcer Good ol’ JR having a story telling/Q&A session while Canadian wrestler Chris Jericho is doing his podcast Talk is Jericho with fellow Canadian Kevin Owens the current Universal Champion as his guest. I told you, when WWE invades a city, it takes over… everything.
It has been a long time coming too as this will be the very first major Pay Per View in Toronto since Wrestlemania 18 in 2002. That was when we cheered for Hulk Hogan and we booed The Rock. The last time WWE made a Pay Per View appearance in Toronto was Unforgiven in 2006, when John Cena was on the rise of establishing himself as the “face of the WWE” along with Toronto’s own Hall of Famer, Edge. Finally, it isn’t the fact that this is the 30th Survivor Series of all time that makes it so significant. It is the fact that this is the first Survivor Series in Canada since Montreal when… (sigh) never mind.
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