The Hit Man: Ten years later - Part Two
After the Hit Man's controversy-stained departure, things changed drastically in the realm of sports-entertainment. DX flourished, a rival Rattlesnake rose to stardom and the Attitude Era carried WWE into the next millennium where things continued to transform.
"The thing I learned about the wrestling profession," Bret explained, "is that it morphs all the time and turns itself to different things. [WWE] has gone through some significant changes in the last 10 or 15 years that are hard to ignore. Wrestling has become a fast-paced entertainment."
From the WWE brand extension to countless fresh faces, WWE is certainly a much different place than it was when Hart last stepped through the curtains.
"The Superstars are all as hard working now as they were [when I was competing in WWE]," he said, before specifically addressing several of Raw and SmackDown's top champions.
"I have a lot of respect for Batista and John Cena; they have a lot of charisma and I like the emotion they bring. Also, I always thought Rey Mysterio was underrated and never got the credit that he deserves. [Rey's] not only just a great wrestler, but he may be one of the greatest of all time."
According to the Hit Man, these talented and hugely popular WWE Superstars have the tools necessary to take sports-entertainment to new heights. In fact, such men could very well follow in his carefully executed footsteps in many respects -- perhaps even directly into the WWE Hall of Fame alongside Hart, who was inducted last year.
For the first time since Montreal, Bret appeared on WWE television at the 2006 Hall of Fame Ceremony as one of the esteemed inductees who reached a career pinnacle that every sports-entertainer dreams of achieving. In his address, Bret relived some of his most cherished moments in WWE and also imparted a great deal of ring-tested wisdom. As he explained that evening, in addition to the pride he took in joining the biggest names in wrestling history, the primary impetus behind the Hit Man's decision to (temporarily) bury the rusted hatchet with the Chairman and attend the ceremony was the fans.
After his stroke in 2002, the Excellence of Execution was permanently removed from in-ring competition of any kind, nullifying any chances of him ever performing in front of WWE fans again. Though he cannot fulfill the hopes of many by returning to the squared-circle, Bret is intent on making impact in the pages of his autobiography -- an account of his life and career, seven years in-the-making.
"I have a lot of high hopes that people will enjoy the book," Hart said, referring to his recently published My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.
"I hope it fills the void for wrestling fans that have a bit of a longing for the way things used to be and who like to reminisce of old memories."
A decade after our fans witnessed the fall of one of sports-entertainment's greatest marvels, Bret "Hit Man" Hart's legacy maintains a steady stream of blood flow in its intangible veins. Though he's regretful that he doesn't have a more participatory role in sports-entertainment today, 10 years after the controversy, the multiple time WWE titleholder looks back and holds his head high, proud of his triumphs and a career's worth of accomplishments.
"I have no regrets about anything I did," vowed the Excellence of Execution. "I felt I had an obligation to protect what I built, and do right by the fans who supported me through all those years.
"If I had to do it all over again," he added, "I'd do exactly the same thing."
Be sure to read Part One of this rare interview with the Hit Man, available on WWE.com.
And, also check out the hypothetical spin on Hart's final WWE moment in WWE.com's What if ... the Montreal Screwjob was reversed?