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XP PSP s01e16: Jeff Jarrett, president/founder of Global Force Wrestling

December 30, 2014 Leave a comment

UntitledIt’s not everyday that you get to interview a legend from the world of pro wrestling. Have a listen episode 16 of the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast, as I talk with Jeff Jarrett, president of Global Force Wrestling, former WWE Intercontinental Champion, WCW Heavyweight Champion, NWA Heavyweight Champion, founder of TNA Wrestling, among other billings — we discuss GFW, their promotion of NJPW’s Jan 4th PPV event, “Wrestle Kingdom 9”, his wrestling career, WWE, Vince McMahon, concussions and guitar head shots, Jeff’s Christian faith, No Mercy 1999, Bash at the Beach 2000, David Arquette as WCW Champion, and more.
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Hockey Talkie: Hodgson Hype, DiPietro’s Judgement Deficiency, Collapsing Thrashers, Franzen, Ovie, and TSN’s WWF Playbook Move.

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

For the Canucks’ sake, Cody Hodgson better turn out to be the second coming of Crosby, like Vancouver media would have you believe. He seems like a good kid, and a really good player, but the more that Sportsnet West jams him down all our throats, they more I start to undeservingly hate him by default. Just let him season a little, or at least get the birdcage off before the greatness assessments start flying; that’s all I’m asking.

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He'd played 20 games already, he was due for a rest.

So after years of unplanned injuries, New York Islanders’ goaltender, Rick DiPietro, voluntarily pursued one the other night when he squared up with Pittsburgh’s Brent Johnson; where he found himself a broken face, twisted knee, and another visit from the Injury Fairy. You would think that someone that’s clearly so fragile would try to avoid blatant threats against his health; especially with the dark cloud of trying to live up to his first-overall draft selection and his lengthy/exorbitant contract hanging over his reputation, and contending against his minimal activations, frequent and lengthy IR stints, and overall average performance. I’d say Islanders’ GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang are almost ready to one-punch him too.

A thought on goalie fights… as even casual fans seem to love them, why can’t NHL goalies that fight just sit in the box for 5 minutes to serve their penalty like everyone else? There’s no real reason why teams couldn’t just put their backups in until the penalties expire; both would be coincidental penalties, giving the goaltenders opportunity to reset after they are released. I’m sure the reason it’s frowned on is all to do with something along the lines of “not encouraging that kind of behaviour” or another hypocritical cliché.

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Another Atlanta Thrashers’ player collapses during a game? As much as I wouldn’t want to, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a Performance Enhancing Drug scandal in Atlanta in the future, especially now that it has happened to two players on the same team.  Had their been two seperate instances involving unrelated players, this might fly under the radar, but it’s hard not to wander towards suspicions after this revelation.  These are the most elite athletes in the world; you don’t just collapse for no reason while doing something your body has been trained to do for its entire existence.  With Freddy Meyer now experiencing a similar mid-game fainting episode to that of Ondrej Pavelec’s invisible banana peel slip earlier in the season, I’m going to go ahead and speculate with nothing beyond my own opinion that these guys are putting something into their bodies that is causing their systems to operate in an unnatural way – and is causing unnatural reactions. Regardless of whether my suspicion turns out to be true or not, it’s always dangerous to put things into your body that alter the normal operations of your heart or your brain; and if we can look to MLB for any indication of what drug scandals can do to your sport, I hope I am completely off-base, for the players’ and the NHL’s sake.

that's messed up.

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I really think Detroit’s “Mule”, Johan Franzen could be the best player in the NHL if he could be consistent. 5 goals in one game? A 4-goal game in the playoffs last year after being benched by Mike Babcock the night prior? Who else do you know that scores in bunches like that? He’s got a well-known streaky dominance, but an equally well-known follow-up of extreme average-ness for extended periods of time.  After the 5 goal game, Detroit was shut out by Columbus the next night, and Johan missed at least one wide open net.

A further player assessment; for a one time “best hockey player in the world” candidate, Alex Ovechkin’s…. kiiiiiiinda average at hockey now. Well, among the top 30 players in the world that is.  Even with an injured Crosby, Ovie’s still 8th in NHL scoring, and 15 pts off first place overall.  His hardest shot round at the Skills Competition was nothing short of comical; broken stick, unregistering radar, and swimming through tripped over TV cables and all. I wonder how rattled CCM was that Ovie blew up his CCM stick and then borrowed an Easton stick to finish the shootout? Luckily for CCM, the Easton blast was nothing spectacular. Still, having your poster boy tote someone else’s product in a globally viewed performance review couldn’t possibly be an option written into the product endorsement contract.

Also on the All-Star Game, I never understood why the NHL’s “All-Star” level goalies get so bad at stopping pucks in that showdown. I get that the defence and physicality is limited, while the offensive output is maximized, but isn’t that scenario the goalies’ show-off time too?

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I find TSN’s stealing signing of rival sports channel’s broadcasters (Darren Dreger, Steve Kouleas) like the WWF stealing underutilized WCW talent in the 90’s. To be fair, Sportsnet did pick up TSN patriarch Jim Van Horne at one point in time too, so it’s not like it’s a one-way street. Interesting talent joust. Sports channels are possibly the most entertaining they have ever been nowadays. Viewers win.

Wrestling With Shadows No More: Why Bret Hart is Back With WWE.

March 23, 2010 4 comments

 

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 was incredible to first see Bret “bury the hatchet” with long time, documented real-life enemy, Michael Hickenbottom, aka Shawn Michaels.  Of that encounter, Bret said,

“ 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.

My Encounters With the Hitman / Bret Hart Comes Full Circle.

December 30, 2009 4 comments

Hell has frozen over, and the swine have flown to Mexico for the winter.

The term “Never Say Never” has, well, never, been more appropriate.  Bret Hart is coming back to WWE TV. 

We all had childhood heroes, and Bret “Hitman” Hart happened to be one of mine.  Though I would find out much later in life through his 2007 autobiography, “Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling”, that he cheated on his wife a lot and dabbled in steroids; I looked up to the guy, or at least his on-screen persona, for most of my adolescence.  The “Hitman” character was a great role model (as far as wrestlers go); always standing up for what was right, never backing down from a challenge, the pursuit of excellence, teamwork, national pride, and all sorts of other BS that plenty of parents have a difficult time instilling in their children.  He even took a verbal stand against the sexual content appearing in WWE programs, knowing full well how many children tune into the show.

Though I saw him perform on TV plenty of times, I only ever got to see him wrestle live once at a non-televised “house-show” in Vancouver’s Agridome when I was in 7th grade.  We had seats pretty far back, but when I heard his entrance music start, I rushed up to the ringside barrier and was quite surprised how easily I got right to the front.  He was the WWF Champion at the time, so when he was coming around high-fiving all the fans around the ring, he had the title belt draped over his shoulder.  I remember as he drew closer to me that I was going to have to make a split-second decision over whether to slap his hand or touch the belt.  Citing in my elementary school educated mind that the belt had been with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant, and other legends, I elected to touch the belt.  As Bret moved onto the next fans beside me, I sort of remember getting a bewildered look from him.  Immediately, I knew I had made the wrong decision, and I’ve regretted it ever since. 

I encountered Bret again at the Molson Indy Vancouver in 1998 or 1999.  I can’t nail down the date for certain, but I remember I was still in school, and he was signing 8×10” glossy’s of him posing with the WCW US Title belt, which he held in both of those years.  My dad had gotten tickets to the race nearly annually through work.  While in the hotel, I caught on the news that Bret was at the event signing autographs, and starting the race, or something celebrity-ish.  After quite literally racing down to the track (pun) from the hotel with family in tow (actually, I couldn’t drive yet, so they were effectively towing me), I got to the end of the dwindling autograph line.  The security guard told me that he had already been signing overtime and was about to leave.  I tried my best to be a good, well-behaved fan for as long as I could, but it was to no avail.  My hero eluded me.

Right in between those encounters is where an event took place that makes this pending return to WWE TV so incredible.  The whole series of events is documented in a 1998 film called Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, a movie that accidentally uncovered the most dynamic real-life drama in the history of the wrestling business.  Around 1997, Bret’s contract was set to expire.  He resigned a 20 year deal with the then WWF to secure him in the company, and away from competitor WCW that had taken Hogan, Savage, and many other past-prime wrestlers and edged them out of the ratings war with.  Later in the year, McMahon informed Bret that the company was in “financial peril” and he wasn’t going to be able to make good on the contract.  Vince helped Bret negotiate a deal with WCW to commence at the expiry of his current contract at the conclusion of 1997.  There was concern on McMahon’s side that Bret, the then world champion, would bring the title belt to WCW TV and exploit it the way Alundra Blayze did when she took the WWF Women’s title to WCW and threw it in a garbage can during a live broadcast in 1995.  As Bret was given “reasonable creative control” of his character for the remainder of his contract, he and Vince worked out an “amicable” finish to his WWF run (Bret wore a “wire” in a backstage meeting), which would have him drop the belt gracefully on Monday Night Raw, the night after Survivor Series 1997; as he was having issues losing to his storyline and real-life nemesis, Shawn Michaels (yes, actually real fist-fights off-camera) in Canada as Bret’s character was currently a overtly Pro-

A moment of infamy.

Canadian one.  The Survivor Series match went down and concluded with an entirely different finish than was discussed; Shawn “beat” Bret after the referee said he submitted (he didn’t) and Vince himself ordered the bell rung.  After the match, Bret spit in Vince’s face, and destroyed a bunch of monitors and TV equipment.  A further backstage confrontation between Bret and Vince turned into McMahon walking out of Bret’s locker room with a black eye, woozy from being knocked out, and limping from a sprained ankle.  Needless to say, Bret hadn’t just left the company on friendly terms. 

In the last 12 years, Bret has still remained in the WWE realm.  The very next night after SS ’97, Shawn brought out a little person dressed as Bret to further humiliate him, and gloat about his title win.  A few years later, Shawn “apologized” on-camera for his part in the “Montreal Screwjob”; though he didn’t really say he was sorry.  Bret smelled a rat and declined his apology on his website.  Bret’s brother Owen died in 1999 while performing a ring entrance stunt that went wrong; Bret and his family sued the WWE, and seemingly further divided the already strained relationship. 

In 2005, Bret and WWE jointly produced a DVD collection chronicling Bret’s

A relationship on the mend.

 wrestling career.  It was a large success, and some would say that this partnership paved the way for Bret’s WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2006, where Bret appeared live, and gave a speech.  He declined to appear in front of the live audience the next night at Wrestlemania, citing that he wasn’t comfortable with it.  Interestingly, he stipulated that he didn’t want Shawn anywhere near the event or he would walk out.  Michaels obliged, and there was no incident.  This year, WWE teased a Hitman appearance at a Calgary event; they played his entrance music and introduced him, but the Canadian crowd was greeted by “American Hero” Sgt. Slaughter waving “Old Glory” instead.  And this brings us to the latest incident, where after Raw guest host Dennis Miller teased Bret’s return again, amongst internet rumors of Bret signing an on-camera contract, McMahon himself (with the aid of Michaels) announced that Bret will return to WWE as Raw’s guest host next week.  With his contractual obligations speculatively lasting until Wrestlemania, a Bret/Vince/Shawn storyline seems unavoidable.

So now I’m emotionally torn.  I’m thrilled that my former hero is returning to TV, but I’m concerned about the motives behind the comeback.  Bret suffered a career-ending concussion while in WCW, and a stroke while in retirement; so the odds of him actually involving himself physically are ultra slim.  He made a lot of money over his career, and I doubt he’s hurting for a payday.  So what’s the motivation?  He could be in it to help out his relatives of The Hart Dynasty.  But after all the years of sticking to his guns, and saying he’d never forget what happened to him or do business with WWE again, here he is.  Bret has been criticized for years about not being able to “move on” or “let it go”; is this maybe just simply the way to bring closure to a legendary, but expired, issue?  Has he finally been able to forgive and forget?  Should his fans do the same as well?

To those who follow wrestling, it’s no secret that Hulk Hogan is making his debut for TNA Wrestling on the same night; so clearly Bret’s return is in hopes of thwarting a ratings shift.  But contrary to the last few years of haphazardly tuning in to WWE due to uninteresting storylines and over-played feuds, I’m going to be absolutely glued to my TV come Monday.

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