Posted on 25 March 2010.
By Gordon Holmes
Special to Canadian of the Week
From Alberta’s Hart Family to Quebec’s Rougeau Brothers to Ontario’s Edge and Christian, the tradition of Canadian wrestling is full of larger-than-life personalities and unforgettable matches. We’ve been counting down to Wrestlemania XXVI by taking a look at the Great White North’s finest contributions to the squared circle.
Editor’s Note: The “Modern Era” is defined as the period of wrestling that exists from
SummerSlam 1988 to the present day. Why 1988? Because that’s when I started watching wrestling. I know, I’m lame.
10. Andrew “Test” Martin
9. John “Earthquake” Tenta
8. Lance Storm
6. Chris Benoit
5: Trish Stratus
4. Owen Hart
2. Chris Jericho
1: Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart
Weight: 234 lbs.
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Greatest Match: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin – Wrestlemania 13 – Submission Match
“If wrestling is so real, then why don’t they post the results in the Sports section of the newspaper?” – Gordon W. Holmes Jr.
That’s the comment my dad liked to hit me with whenever I brought up wrestling as a kid. You see, my dad hates wrestling. With a capital “H,” underlined, and italicized the man hates wrestling. He hates the hype, he hates the costumes, but most of all he hates the fakeness.
Quick Question: Why do wrestlers get slapped with the “fake” label but the Harlem Globetrotters don’t? Why should Fred “Curly” Neal be more respected than Bruno Sammartino?
But in the late ’80s when the then-WWF would roll into St. Louis, my dad would do what all dads who’ve ever taken their kids to Miley Cyrus concerts have done; he scored a few tickets, paid a ridiculous parking fee, and was bored for a few hours just to make his kid smile.
It was on one of those trips that I first saw Bret Hart wrestle in person. Don’t get me wrong: I was there to see Hulk Hogan ram the Big Boss Man’s head into a steel cage and “Macho Man” Randy Savage defend his WWF Title in a street fight against Bad News Brown, but I was also very excited to see Bret.
Quick Aside: My neighbor was convinced that Bad News Brown was going to bring a gun to the street fight because “Everything was legal.” Being a kid is great.
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Next to the Hulkster, Bret Hart was my favorite wrestler. This makes no sense because I was too young to appreciate technical wrestling and he was really only little more than one half of a mid-card tag team at that point.
But I do know this: When I’d wrestle my friends in my basement (then known as the Gordon’s Basement Wrestling Federation or GBWF), I went by the moniker Gordon “The Hitman” Holmes.
Legal Notice: Kids, don’t wrestle in your basement.
That’s why I never buy the knock that Bret didn’t have charisma. He obviously had something about him that drew a dumb kid like me in. Whether it was the contrast of his laid-back coolness in an organization of angry muscleheads or something else, he obviously had a lot of people hooked.
Now, odds are if you know anything about wrestling the first time you saw that Canadianoftheweek.com was doing a ranking of Canadian wrestlers you had Bret Hart pegged as the number one pick. And, the list of reasons why Bret deserves this lofty position were already discussed during last week’s Chris Jericho post.
However, if you’re new to this, I’ll lay them out for you…
- Bret was a five-time WWE champion back when that was an impressive accomplishment.
- Bret helped usher in the era of smaller, more technically sound wrestlers.
- While he may hate to acknowledge this, Bret was a big part of getting the freakishly successful “Attitude” era off the ground.
- Bret had amazing matches with a wide variety of talent. I chose Hart/Austin from Wrestlemania 13 as his greatest match, but could have easily been talked into Bret vs. Owen Hart from Wrestlemania X, Bret vs. Shawn Michaels from Wrestlemania XII, Bret vs. Davey Boy Smith from Summerslam ’92, or even Bret vs. Austin from Survivor Series ’96.
- Bret’s popularity (especially outside of the U.S.) was at or near the top of the heap during the ’90s.
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So, that being said, let me lay out one more.
It was about halfway through his match with the Honky Tonk Man that night that Bret Hart was whipped chest-first into the turnbuckles. Now, if you’re any kind of wrestling fan, you know that’s how Bret tended to take his corner bumps. It’s swift, violent, and very impressive.
Even my father thought so.
I’ll never forget the look on his face as he watched Bret crumple into a ball on the mat. As the referee checked on Bret, my dad even said, “Is he OK?”
When the Honky Tonk Man eventually pushed the ref aside and started kicking Bret in the chest my dad realized he’d been had. It was all part of the show. My dad laughed, feeling kind of silly for buying into it.
To me that was one of the best facets of Bret’s work, it was always kind of real with him. Be it his crisp moves or the way he’d sell weird things like a finger, you’d always buy it.
Even the way he won the World Title from Ric Flair supports this statement. Bret’s first reign started after a shocking win over the champion in a throwaway show that never aired on television. If wrestling were real that’d happen all the time. There’s no way a champion could dominate a top challenger 25 times out of 25 attempts on a wrestling tour.
So yeah, Bret getting my dad to believe (even if it was only for a second) didn’t make it into the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s Sports page, but it was certainly news to me.
Oddly enough, the paper didn’t even cover the news that Bad News Brown had shot “Macho Man” Randy Savage to death en route to winning the WWE Title. Or so I would lead my neighbor to believe…
Gordon Holmes is the wrestling correspondent for Comcast.net’s SlamCast wrestling coverage and the “Survivor” correspondent for Fancast.com. He was also trained to take a beating by WWE Hall of Famer Afa “The Wild Samoan” Anoa’i. You can follow Gordon on Twitter at twitter.com/gordonholmes.