The documentary "Wrestling with Shadows" brings up an interesting dilemma that wrestlers face later in their career. As wrestlers get older and their accomplishments begin to mount, they grow concerned with their legacy. Younger wrestlers add to the conflict as they gain popularity each week and a larger fanbase. Ultimately, wrestlers strive to preserve their character and desire to be immortal.
Although Hart started his career as a heel in the Hart Foundation, he soon adopted the face role. His sound technical skills in the ring made him known as "The Excellence of Execution". After winning the WWF championship on multiple occasions, Bret's place as a champion was sealed. At this point Bret did believe himself to be the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.
Hart portrayed his character as a hero who followed the rules and always did the right thing. He obviously knew how to wrestle, which he prided himself on, and he considered himself to be a role model for young children. Before every match Hart can even be seen giving his glasses to a child near the ring. When Stone Cold Steve Austin and DX gained popularity, Bret felt this as a personal attack towards his good guy character and that wrestling fans were turning their backs on him. Wth little distinction between bret the wrestler and Bret the person, it was only natural for him to feel worried about his future in the WWF.
After 14 years, Bret Hart was faced with the end of his career in the WWF. Bret was faced with one last title defense against Shawn Michaels where he was supposed to drop the champioship belt to him. Bret did not appreciate this request by McMahon. I'm sure Hart had hard feelings towards Michaels from their 60 minute iron match at Wrestlemania XII. The match went to a sudden death and resulted in Michaels winning the championship from Bret. As a final passing of the torch, Hart would have to be beaten once more by Michaels. This didn't sit too well with Hart. He wanted to go out on top and leave with his head held high. Hart wanted to preserve the charcter he protrayed as a champion. By leaving the WWF as a champion, Hart felt that he would be able to finish his career as a legend.
Bret Hart did not realize that legends are made not only from their moments of victory, but from their defeat as well. The way in which a wrestler can handle defeat and show praise for another wrestler says a lot about their character. In Wrestlemania VI, Hulk Hogan loses the championship title to the Ultimate Warrior. Instead of crying about it, Hogan showed great humility and congratulated Warrior. This moment, as well as countless others, shows what makes Hogan such a legend. I think Bret Hart could have capitalized on a defeat during the Survivor Series where he got screwed. He could've showed the wrestling world what kind of a champion he truly was and gained immortality through this. Instead the event will always be immortalized as the screwjob and Bret will always portray himself as the victim.
Wrestlers have to remember that the business existed before their arrival and will more than likely exist after their departure. Wrestlers must, therefore, let their actions in the ring speak as loud or louder than their words. Wrestling fans will always remember and appreciate great performances. If the primary goal of the wrestler is to entertain, they will more than likey recieve praise from the fans. In the case of Bret Hart, I think he let the politics of the WWF get in the way of his purpose to entertain. He took on a very selfish approach to wrestling and lost sight of his role as a wrestler. His indistinction between his character and his real life was a main cause for his fear of defeat. If Bret had just been the bigger person, he would be recognized for much more than a scewjob.