Thursday, March 22, 2007

Making a Legend

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.

15 comments:

Sam Ford said...

Ismael, you make a compelling argument as to why Bret's rhetoric may have tarnished his legacy more than Montreal would have in itself. Add to that an equally compelling reason, though, which was the ineptitude of WCW to capitalize on getting Hart right after Montreal and also the various political pressures there which undercut Bret's momentum.

In later years, Bret has emphasized that he does not want to be forever remembered as the screwjob vicitm, and it's quite true that he had an impressive legacy in the WWE prior to that moment, a legacy that had lasted from 1985 to 1997. In the end, WWE has been able to come together with Bret to preserve that legacy in a way that guys like Bruno Sammartino have not been willing to do because of the resentment Bruno harbors for Vince and the current state of wrestling.

Jackie Roe said...

I respect your argument, but I hardly think of Hart as someone who couldn't lose graciously and put other people over. Some of Hart's best matches were losing efforts; consider the match against the British Bulldog at Summerslam '92. Or his loss to his brother Owen at WM X. Or his loss to Michaels himself at WM XII. He expressed great pride in being able to drop the championship belt to Bob Backlund, back at Survivor Series '94. He even dropped the championship to Sycho Sid, who was lucky to even be in the same ring as Hart.

It's interesting, too, that you mention Hogan, who refused to lose to Hart because he didn't deem him a worthy successor to the title.

Sean York said...

With respect your argument is shot through with holes.

Like most of the people on here who comment on "Montreal" and Bret Hart you are incorrect to state that he wanted to leave the WWF as champion and that Survivor Series was his last title defence. Bret was under contract until early December with WWE and was actually set to work the WWF PPV after. He has always stated he didn't want to lose that nigh to Michaels but would've done so anywhere else or just vacated the title. McMahon is the one who didn't want that.

To suggest Hogan showed Warrior respect by his actions at Wrestlemania 6 is laughable. By his own admission he wasn't about to put Warrior over anymore than he had too and actually tried to steel his spotlight moments later with all that postering. Hogan admits this in his book and this is further backed up by him making Bischoff bring the Warrior back to WCW and have Hogan job him out.

Sam Ford said...

Sean, it's true that Bret had mentioned after the fact that he would have lost the title in December at the PPV, but the fact is that, in the footage shot before the "screwjob," Bret himself says that his idea would be to come out on Raw and forfeit the title and leave for WCW instead of losing it to someone.

As for your points about Hogan, there's no doubt that he made sure that, in losing to Warrior, he remained the star. I would argue in that case, though, that Hogan simply found a way to steal the thunder from Warrior despite losing, rather than his method today, where he just refuses to come back unless he can win it.

Ismael said...

I know Bret was gracious during his previous defeats, but the fact is that one selfish moment sticks out like a sore thumb. If Bret had a less controversial exit from the WWF my thoughts would be very different. When people think of Bret Hart, the first thing they most likely think of is the screwjob. I don't mean to take away from his previous accomplishments at all.

It's true that anything involving the name Ultimate Warrior is laughable, but I only gave this one example because I actually like Warrior. Of course Hogan steals the spotlight from Warrior, but not every fan analyzes every moment of wrestling. I said he respected the Warrior because not every fan knew what went on behind the scenes and Hogan's book wasn't around during the time of the match. To someone just watching the match for entertainment it appeared that a defeated champion handed his belt over to a formidable challenger and gave a congratulatory hug. What the fans perceive an event to be and what the wrestler's motivation is behind the event are two separate things.

BMN said...

Warrior-Hogan and Michaels-Hart are not actually all that similar. The former was face-face and the latter was heel-heel in America, face-heel in Canada. So the idea that Hart would be gracious in defeat to Michaels wouldn't have necessarily clicked story-wise.

I have way too many opinions on the Montreal Screwjob to post here (and these papers sitting next to me won't grade themselves!) but I will say that Vince McMahon did an excellent job of framing the situation, which seemed to hurt Hart's legacy in the long run (although his WCW contract certainly benefitted him financially). McMahon himself even admitted this in his "Off the Record" interview in 1998-- that he orchestrated the event to make it look like WCW "stealing" a WWE talent (rather than the WWE electing to let a talent go, which was really the case). This led to the "you sold out" chants that obviously hurt Bret's sense of propriety given that the fans didn't know the whole story. But it played well into what McMahon was trying to portray.

Of course, when it only worked for a few weeks, he was then able to take the resulting ill-will into his heel character. Another masterstroke.

As I said, I have more thoughts.....but these papers need tending to...

BMN

Omar said...

I would agree that Bret Hart may have been too caught up in his character. He seemed to his character's role in the wrestling program more seriously than his role as a performer for the WWE. It seemed like he truly thought he was the best there was. The fact of the matter was, however, that he was there primarily to entertain. His persona in the ring undoubtedly sought victory. But he should've recognized that, as a professional performer, the goals of his character and his own goals should be distinct.

Throughout Wrestling with Shadows Hart portrays himself as a victim of the WWE machine. The truth is, as a veteran of wrestling, particularly of the WWE, he should've realized that his exit from the WWE would have to unfold like that of the many wrestlers before him.

Anonymous said...

hey loser!!!! whether u post this or not. get this.. you MUST have never watched wrestling prior to 2002 coz ur so called arguments are shit.. i mean. firstly, do u know what is a contract????NO!!!, coz if u did then u would know that for a contract to be binding upon the parties to the contract, both the parties have to agree in the same sense. its called consensus ad idem in latin.. and that means that bret and vinniemac agreed on the terms in the same sense. and the blame if any lies ALL on mcmahon since the bargaining power in the matter of these contracts is always with the promoter. nonethelss loser, he left coz vinnie mac wanted him to leave as he couldnt afford him.. NOONE has ever said that bret left.. NO NO NO!!! he was ASKED to leave-a fact agreed to by vince!!!!!!!!!!!!!.. (which again shows that ur a lier by spreading rumours). so bret leaves on VINCE's insistence and then VINCE promises him the belt coz BRET wants to exercise creative control which was ABSOLUTELY AGREED to by VINCE(alrady been thru this earlier jackass.. even u can comprehend this much lets hope) and then vince broke every promise in the book. as for hogan..hey loser.. hogan won the title THREE TIMES after that.. and shawn didnt drop the belt to bret too.. and instead told him to get the f**k out of the ring in wrestlemania 12. enough said.. go write a real blog entry now.

Sam Ford said...

Interesting that a year has gone by between those two comments. Mr./Ms. Anonymous, I don't know if any of the students who posted on this blog still visit regularly, but nevertheless thanks for visiting and for your insights.

Anonymous said...

hey retard(sam ford) its supposed to be ON THE INTERNET.. if u got a problem with people posting comments then block them. and if u aint the owner then swallow something to keep ur mouth shut. 'a year has gone by',.. yeah a year has gone by.. great observation ..lol!

Sam Ford said...

Sam Ford said...
Interesting that a year has gone by between those two comments. Mr./Ms. Anonymous, I don't know if any of the students who posted on this blog still visit regularly, but nevertheless thanks for visiting and for your insights.

Anonymous said, "hey retard(sam ford) its supposed to be ON THE INTERNET.."

And it is.

"if u got a problem with people posting comments then block them."

But I don't.

"and if u aint the owner then swallow something to keep ur mouth shut. 'a year has gone by',.. yeah a year has gone by.. great observation ..lol!"

Guess you don't find it as interesting as I did, but our class ended a year ago, and a year to the day had passed since the last comment on this post, so I was just surprised, since people don't comment here as often anymore...I just wanted to warn you that the author of the original post might not respond because the class is over now, but thanks for sticking around for this awesome...dispute?

Anonymous said...

your class ended a year ago and yet here you are still on this page keeping it alive...lol. yeah. and why is it on the net now when you are done with it. hmmm. probably means that you want the comments.. but then again you are too confused to get that

Sam Ford said...

Well, it sends me an e-mail anytime someone has left a post to this blog, and we're leaving it up because it's now part of OpenCourseWare, so that people who weren't in the actual class can see the syllabus and go through the blog and the various students' posts.

I very much want people to still comment; I'm not confused about that. All I meant from the beginning is that the student who wrote this post probably won't respond since he's no longer in the class. You directed your comments at the author of the post, and I just wanted to explain to you that the author himself probably wouldn't respond.

Otherwise, I'm happy to talk wrestling; it's one of the reasons I still have the blog up and comments active.

Anonymous said...

lol. yeah real smart. from admitting that its not relevant anymore you go to admit that its watched by the newer classes. the very fact that you and not the guy who wrote the blog entry reply everytime means thats its meant to be commented upon but then again you said it wasn't when you made the irrelevant observation that a year has gone by since the last one. now are ya over your retardation

Sam Ford said...

No, there aren't new classes, but OpenCourseWare invites people from outside MIT to come in and see the class that took place. I figured why not leave comments active, as people come back through the blog, even though students are no longer posting.

I never said that you were no longer supposed to comment here. I just thought it was funny that no one who came to this page left a comment for a full calendar year and then, almost to the hour of when Omar had posted a comment that exact day the year before, a new comment was left...

In fact, other threads also get comments from time to time, but they're generally more about wrestling than the commenting process. Never realized that my little aside about a year having passed would have elicited such controversy...