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11/16/1998 8:34:20 PM

Calgary Sun says...
"It is less a story about revealing the secrets behind professional wrestling than it is about humanizing the folks who earn their paycheques in and around the squared circle"
by: RYAN PYETTE

"If you don't have respect, you don't have very much left."

-- Stu Hart, to his son Bret 'Hitman' Hart

These days, few people take stands. The handful who do, we call 'heroes.'

For many, Calgarian Bret 'Hitman' Hart, the five-time World Wrestling Federation champion, the self-proclaimed 'best there was, best there is, and best there ever will be' who now works for Ted Turner's WCW/nWo wrestling
company, was a hero.

A guy who stood up for what he believed in, a guy who battled for respect, a guy who put his faith in family values. Most of all, Hart was a guy who tailored his wrestling character 'The Hitman' to fit with these values.

But then, the wrestling world changed.

Fans started cheering for the bad guys who didn't care about anything, guys who disrespected everyone, guys who would chokeslam their mothers if the dollar signs added up.

As World Wrestling Federation star Rocky 'The Rock' Maivia said a few months ago: "Now, fans would rather cheer for Lex Luthor than Superman."

Paul Jay, a Canadian film-maker, sought to find out why -- how the line between good and evil became blurred. For more than a year, Hart allowed Jay
and his film crew behind the scenes into the world of professional wrestling, his family and his personal life.

As filming went on, Hart began feuding with his employer, WWF owner Vince McMahon, who decided to push the moral envelope of wrestling into Jerry Springer territory. Sex and bad language became weekly staples, available and
even marketed to children.

And 'The Hitman' character was quickly being murdered in the new quest for more outrageous spectacles.

What originally began as a profile of Hart and his family turned ugly when McMahon began to transform hero Hart into a hated villain. The resulting drama created Hart's defection to the WWF rival and the telling of the story is an eye opener into the big-money world of pro wrestling.

"Some people think I take wrestling too serious," said Hart.

"But when I see the WWF selling dolls in toy stores to kids and presenting an adult-oriented product, well, I don't go for that stuff. It's wrong."

The ultimate disrespect to Hart came in his final WWF match last year at Montreal's Molson Centre.

It was agreed Hart would not be disgraced in his home country by losing the belt to Shawn 'The Heartbreak Kid' Michaels, then leader of the nasty
'Degeneration-X' crew.

McMahon reneged on his promise and double-crossed 'The Hitman' in what Hart felt was a huge stab in the back.

The drama of the battle between the wrestler fighting for rights and respect against the corporate owner became the the cornerstone for Jay's film.

The result is an hour-and-a-half long documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows.

"I'm proud of the film, and I think it brings honour and respect to the wrestling business," said Hart.

"People should know, though, that the documentary is over a year old, my life has changed quite a bit, and that stuff with Vince McMahon, it's like
peeling off an old scab.

"But I've got to say my piece, no matter how much Vince wants to deny that. And I feel that this film is very honest. It's one slice of my life."

It is less a story about revealing the secrets behind professional wrestling than it is about humanizing the folks who earn their paycheques in
and around the squared circle.
Bret Hart is a man. He is a father, a brother, a son. The film underscores this reality.

"Wrestling's a morality play," said Jay.

"And those blurred lines of good and evil show up in the corporate world of
business and how they pertain to one man who believes in heroes and a right way of doing things.

"Who's right? Who's wrong? Everybody has an opinion."

Jay's film offers everyone the chance to provide an answer.

"It's not just for wrestling fans -- it's like saying you have to be a
boxing fan to watch Raging Bull," said Jay. "It's just a good story. Kind of
Shakespearian. And Bret Hart is Hamlet-like in his search for truth and
respect."

Hart admits he was concerned about the reaction from the wrestling community and his family.

"Hulk Hogan called me and told me he watched it three straight times," said
Hart.

"He said it was brutally honest, that wrestling needed this. Ric Flair called, too, and said he really enjoyed it.

"In my family, only my brother Owen has seen it, and he loved it. He agreed that it kinda portrays my father Stu as a tough, old guy, but that's what he is.

"I'm worried what he thinks about it, and what my family thinks."

Hart shouldn't worry.

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