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12/25/1998 12:20:45 PM

L.A. Times Review
yourself a favor and tune in

Los Angeles Times Thursday December 17, 1998
Home Edition
Sports, Page 2
Type of Material: Television Review


What: "Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows"

Where: A&E; Network

When: Sunday, 10 p.m.-midnight

There is a lot to laugh at in the world of professional wrestling.
It's not often you get to see a man with a ponytail on top of his head
being led to the ring by a 50-year-old toothless bodyguard who probably
hasn't seen his toes since 1983.

But for those of you (like my wife) who laugh at pro wrestling and
can't understand why anyone would ever spend five minutes watching it, do
yourself a favor and tune in to this program.

Bret Hart was a star in the World Wrestling Federation and had a
20-year, $20-million contract until the owner of the company, Vince
McMahon, told him to seek an offer from his competition. It seemed
McMahon could no longer afford Hart's contract. So Hart signed with the
rival World Championship Wrestling. But there was one problem. Hart was
the WWF heavyweight champion, and he didn't want to lose the belt in the
manner McMahon scripted for him.

So, for the first time in more than 15 years, a pro wrestling match
had a legitimate ending, without a scripted finish. At least it wasn't
scripted the way Hart thought it was going to be. McMahon and Hart's
opponent, Shawn Michaels, got together with the referee and effectively
stole the belt from Hart in the middle of a multimillion-dollar
pay-per-view telecast.

This documentary, which has drawn rave reviews at film festivals
around the country, tells the story of Hart's betrayal. It also gives one
good example why wrestlers get mad when you call what they do fake. In
one match shown on film, Hart is thrown from the ring as planned, but
lands incorrectly. He breaks six ribs and crushes his sternum. Scripted?
Yes. Fake injury? No.

This fascinating documentary takes you behind the curtain and gives
you a glimpse into what these men do. You might not walk away a wrestling
fan, but you will walk away impressed. And next time, you might not laugh
quite so hard.



Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times, 1998.

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