Wrestling With Shadows No More: Why Bret Hart is Back With WWE.
If you’ve been watching WWE’s Monday Night Raw at all since January of this year, you’re probably fully aware that my boyhood hero, Bret “Hitman” Hart is back working for Vince McMahon. Bret made an absolutely stunning return that made my nostalgic emotions struggle to keep composed, and kept my neck hair standing on end. Though he looked like the weathered and beaten down war-horse Vince would later describe him as during the in-ring promo, it’d never been better to see Bret. Regarding his re-introduction to the WWE audience, Bret mentioned, “”It’s hard to begin describing what a surrealistic feeling it was to walk out on the ramp to “Hitman” chants and my music pounding in my head.” After 12 years of Bret standing by his actions, and standing against what WWE had done to him, Bret had mended the wounds. As justified as he was, and would have been in carrying that bitterness around for the rest of his life, it really felt like Bret had done the right thing; forgiven his trespassers, and made an attempt to make a positive out of probably one of the largest negatives in history. Inadvertently, it seemed like peace and closure to a tumultuous life chapter was on the horizon.
“ It’s worth mentioning that although I did see Shawn earlier in the afternoon in the cafeteria, our in-ring face-off was unrehearsed and heartfelt on both sides and I can finally say that Shawn and I have finally made peace in what has been a long, draining, and sometimes pointless war of personalities…I finally found some closure.”
In the world of kayfabe and storylines, it’s pretty difficult to really know what’s going on for sure; even the writers don’t even know. This one seems legit though.
Beyond the personal reasons, many still speculate the “real” reasons for Bret’s return. Some thought Vince McMahon feared Hulk Hogan’s arrival in rival wrestling company TNA as a ratings threat ala the Monday Night Wars with WCW in the 90’s, and bringing Bret back was Vince’s neutralizer to secure winning ratings. Bret disagrees. In fact, Bret himself has said he approached WWE about the comeback 3 years ago. It is fishy that WWE became interested at the time of the Hogan situation though, despite McMahon’s repeated denial that TNA is any sort of threat or competition for WWE. Hulk Hogan himself commented on Bret’s return, saying,
“I’m so happy to see Bret Hart come in to go against me because he hated the business. He was bitter. He hated Vince. And you’ve got to move on. Positively. I’m so happy to see Bret – and I’ve talked to some of Bret’s family members and he’s excited about coming. He’s excited about coming to RAW. I love Bret Hart to death. I’m excited for Bret to come back. And guess what? I already won again. Because Vince McMahon is now showing that he’s worried about Hulk Hogan going head to head.”
Hogan clearly feels that Bret’s return is suspiciously motivated. Hulk has been known to make some debated claims though; hard to say if he actually talked to any of the Hart’s like he’s claimed. And also, Bret and Hulk haven’t exactly been the best of friends either over the years.
TNA’s Eric Bischoff also commented on Bret’s return, saying,
“As expected, WWE is reacting to the competition by bringing in Bret Hart. I am happy for Bret. Hopefully, by going back to work for Vince and the WWE, Bret will be able to put a painful and personally traumatic part of his life behind him. I have always liked Bret as a person and respected him as a professional. It was disappointing to me when I would read or hear comments that Bret would make, that reflected the bitterness he has been carrying around with him for so long. Bret has an opportunity now to write the last chapter of his book in a way that will allow fans to remember him in a more positive way. I wish the best for Bret.”
There are also those who have speculated that Bret’s return is simply motivated financially. Bret has been receiving disability insurance money since after his career-ending concussion, and subsequent stroke. A wrestling match couldn’t possibly be encouraged by an insurance company forking out money to someone wrestling a match when they’re supposedly not physically capable of doing it. Either there’s a loophole in that deal, or WWE has bought out the policy entirely; who’s to say? Bret has said, “I’m not opposed to making a little money . . . but I still don’t need to do it.”
Other motivations include the pending induction of Bret’s father, Stu, into the WWE Hall of Fame, a Hart Family DVD being released, and the promotion and elevation of Bret’s family members, DH Smith, Natalya, and Tyson Kidd; aka The Hart Dynasty. However, The Hart Dynasty appears on Smackdown rather than Raw, and hasn’t been featured once during Bret’s segments, with the exception of an off-camera segment after Bret’s return night. So much for that theory.
A common theme of Bret’s return rationale seems to be that he’s just simply been bored, and that he was looking to have some fun, as I heard him say in TV interviews on Off The Record, and The Hour. I hope Bret’s been enjoying it, because much of it has been hard to watch. Surely it’s all part of a lead up to the Wrestlemania Street Fight between Bret and Vince, but I don’t know if Bret’s really needed to have Vince spit in his face (like Bret did to Vince after Survivor Series ’97), and generally embarrassed in a few other seemingly unnecessary ways. Former WWF, WCW, and current TNA writer, Vince Russo said,
“All that is coming across is how egotistical McMahon is – and it’s a travesty for Bret to come back and be treated the way he’s treated. There’s a way to do an angle and do it with class and a respectful manner to not do some of things to Bret.” Russo also says, “ that just reeks the ego of Vince McMahon” and that’s one of the reasons he (Russo) left the company.
It has been fun to see Bret “beat up” Vince once, and blast him in the face with a cast though. Bret’s always claimed to be the safest wrestler of all-time – never hurting any of his opponents. Ever the consummate professional, it may be tough for Bret to not let a few rights “slip” their way into Vince’s jaw for real, just for old times’ sake.
So whatever the motivation, I’m glad to see Bret back. It’s the right thing to do, and I’m looking forward to riding the nostalgia wave as far as the tide takes it. Now could someone please inform Bret that those aviator sunglasses he keeps coming out wearing look brutal, and that he needs to wear his old sweet wrap-around sunglasses? Also, don’t expect to see Bret donning the pink and black tights of old; he’s vetoed those as well.