A legend, a skilled wrestler, a fan favourite for the majority of his career, and most importantly, a proud Canadian. These phrases, in my mind, best describe Bret “Hitman” Hart. At the conclusion of an enjoyable Raw telecast, held in Calgary, on May 27, 2013, World Wrestling Entertainment held a “Bret Hart Appreciation Night.” Canadian fans saw the event live on the Score television network, while American viewers had to download the WWE APP to view the celebration live. Not fair to American diehards.

Loud and boisterous fans were welcomed to the celebration. A video tribute was shown that documented Bret’s wrestling career and his legendary family. After the tribute, the host of the event, Jerry Lawler, introduced Bret, who received a well-deserved standing ovation from those in attendance. Once Bret entered, Lawler read a proclamation from the city of Calgary declaring May 27, 2013 as “Bret Hart Day,” which was met with screams as well as applause.

With grace and poise, Bret took the microphone, and expressed his gratitude and that he was grateful for the moment. He mentioned feeling the presence of some of his family members like his father Stu, his brother, Owen (which was met with a loud “Owen, Owen” chant from the crowd) and his brother-in-law, the “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith. He discussed some of his favourite matches and moments throughout his wrestling career. Afterwards, Lawler invited some guests to say a few words. Among those who spoke was Chris Jericho.

He began by saying that it was an honor to stand next to Bret, and while they never wrestled, Chris said that he always played the match in his head for many years. He mentioned that he came to Canada to be a wrestler like his two heroes –Bret and Owen. Again, that was met with loud applause.

Chris then related an incident which took place at Stu Hart’s birthday celebration in the 1990’s. He was young, but pitched an idea to Bret regarding a finishing move to be used by Hart, against Davey Boy Smith. Jericho demonstrated the move on another former wrestler, Sean Waltman (or X-PAC, as some fans may remember him by). During the Hart-Smith match, the move was used, and Jericho stated that it was a classy gesture that the move was used during the match.

The next guest had some great matches with Bret, but will always be remembered as playing a major role in the now infamous “Montreal Screwjob”, at the 1997 Survivor Series. When Shawn Michaels entered the arena, he was greeted by a small amount of boos. Shawn acknowledged the fans` reaction to him, by saying that he “was expecting a lot worse”. He thanked the crowd for the rather positive response. He mentioned that he was honored to have been Bret’s rival – stating that every hero needs an enemy, and he was honored to be Hart’s Lex Luthor (he was referencing Superman’s rival in the comic book series.) After congratulating Bret on a tremendous career, the two former rivals embraced.

The final speaker was the owner of the WWE, Vince McMahon. He was another key person involved in the “Montreal Screwjob.” As he walked to the ring, he was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos. Bret and Vince shook hands. Vince started by saying that Stampede Wrestling (which was owned by Bret’s father) was one of the great regional wrestling promotions ever, then added that Hart developed into a great wrestler in the WWE. He won every championship in the company, which drew a wonderful response from the spectators.

Vince praised Bret’s in ring ability. Based on his wrestling skills, he truly earned the moniker of “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.” Bret admitted that he owed everything to Vince and the WWE. He continued by saying that he appreciated all the comments from those who spoke. He thanked his family, and all those who attended this special event, or watched it at home. He ended by saying that he is proud to be from Calgary and from Canada.

With Bret’s theme music filling the arena speakers, and the crowd giving him a standing ovation, the entire WWE roster came to the stage to salute the legend, and Natalya (who is Bret’s niece) and Tyson Kidd (who was the final graduate of the “Hart Dungeon” – which was where the Hart Family went to train with the hope of becoming professional wrestlers), entered the ring to embrace Bret, to end a superb and well deserved ceremony.

Those who were able to view this special segment saw some emotional moments, along with genuine and heartfelt speeches from those who knew and worked with Hart over the years. I thought the WWE did a fantastic job in putting this together to honor Bret in his hometown. I also loved how the entire roster put aside their “differences” and “rivalries” to support, recognize and appreciate Bret.

However, I find that something as special as this should have been televised internationally, since Bret has fans across the globe. Despite that, it was a joy to watch a legend like Bret being honored, and Bret, thank you for the great memories. It was a pleasure watching you display your incredible talents.

Azeem Kayum

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