What do you see when you picture your childhood hero? A lot of kids idolize their favorite superheroes, like Batman or Superman. Others look up to their favorite sports athletes, like Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Not me though. My childhood hero was a combination of both, a superstar athlete, and as close as you can get to a real-life superhero, Bret “The Hitman” Hart. Some people might laugh at the notion of having a professional wrestler be your hero, but others will get exactly where I’m coming from. As a child, I still hadn’t been let in on the secret that professional wrestling was “fake,” so Bret was the end all be all for me. He didn’t wear a cape or a sports jersey. He dressed in tights, wore shiny shades, and a leather jacket. He wasn’t the most charismatic performer ever. He was always more substance than flair, but he was my hero. My hero in pink.
Most of us associate the color pink with compassion, nurturing, and love. Whether it’s right or not, most of us also associate the color pink with women and girls. As kids, many boys are conditioned to reject the color pink and lean more towards red or blue. I was just like every other boy. I was always partial more towards blue, and I honestly thought pink was a girl’s color. I saw it as soft and weak. I thought any boy that wore pink was trying to be “girly.” Then, in 1993, I got my first glimpse at “The Hitman.” He didn’t subscribe to the narrative of pink being a “soft” or “feminine” color. As a matter of fact, Bret preached that “Real men wore Pink.” The “Excellence of Execution” blew my mind as a kid. He was hands down the best wrestler on the planet, he was intelligent, and most of all, he was tough as nails. Nothing about Bret Hart implied any sort of softness or weakness, and he wore an abundance of pink gear. He had pink on his tights, pink on his boots, and even his shades were pink! Yet he was the coolest thing a young me had ever seen.
The first time I saw Bret Hart was at WrestleMania IX, where he defended the WWF Championship against Yokozuna. Hart would come up short on that day, and lose the title, but that didn’t really matter to me. I knew the moment I saw him wrestle that he was gonna be my favorite. What I didn’t know just how long I’d have to wait to see him perform again. Considering that I was only 4 years old at the time of WrestleMania IX, I wasn’t really in control of what I watched on t.v.. For the next 4 years or so, I barely caught a glimpse of my new idol. Then finally, in 1997, someone turned on a TV at a family gathering and sent me down a road that I’ve never really strayed from since. Without knowing it, I began watching WrestleMania 13, and the rest is history. Every wrestling fan has their favorite WrestleMania. For me, that will always be WrestleMania 13. WrestleMania IX will always be special to me too since it was the first one I ever watched, but 13 is the one that made me into the huge wrestling nerd I am today. I sat there in awe as some of the most iconic names in wrestling history clashed against each other on pro wrestling’s biggest stage. Owen Hart and The British Bulldog vs. Mankind and Vader for the Tag Team Championships, L.O.D., and Ahmed Johnson vs. The Nation of Domination in a Chicago Street Fight, and Psycho Sid vs. The Undertaker for the WWF Championship. Every single match had me glued to the screen, but one match blew them all out of the water. One match left an impression on me that still hasn’t faded. That match, in my humble opinion, is the best match to ever take place at a WrestleMania. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret “The Hitman” Hart, in a Submission Match. Understand that I was only 7 years old at the time, and yet, I still knew I was watching something special. Something that I knew I’d remember for the rest of my life. Bret Hart won the match, and on top of that, he and Stone Cold executed to most famous double turn in wrestling history. Bret walked into WrestleMania as the top babyface in wrestling and walked out as a hated heel. Even though I didn’t fully understand what I had just seen, in hindsight, I’m glad I got to watch it as it aired live. It’s one of my favorite moments in wrestling history.
From WrestleMania 13 forward I became obsessed with both pro wrestling and Bret Hart. On my 8th birthday, my parents took Me to ToysRUs and told me I was allowed to get a few toys, I ran straight for the wrestling section. I had been given wrestling toys before, but this would be the first time I would get to pick my very own action figures and take them out of the box myself. I looked through all the figures and picked out a few guys. Mankind, Psycho Sid, Vader, and then finally, sitting right there waiting for me to find him was my very first Bret Hart action figure. I went home a happy camper and started putting on my own WWF events at home with my new toys. I liked them all, but Bret was obviously my favorite. I liked that action figure so much, that when I would do poorly in school, or get in trouble at home, my parents would take him away as a punishment. It was cruel and unusual, but it always got the message across and straightened me out. Sadly, the real Bret Hart was about to be taken away from millions of WWF fans all across the world, including me.
November 9, 1997, the day one of the greatest wrestlers ever got “screwed” in his home country by a company he helped keep alive. I remember the build up the match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at the 1997 Survivor Series vividly. It was a huge part of my childhood. I remember knowing Bret and Shawn were bitter rivals, it had been more than implied on WWF programming. I remember not liking Shawn because he was Bret’s competition. What I remember most though, was watching Shawn Michaels deliver a SuperKick to an injured Bret Hart and knocking back into his wheelchair. It made me want to see Bret get his revenge. The two men really did hate each other, and it showed on screen. After months of build up, the big match finally arrived. What a lot of fans, including myself, didn’t know was that we were about to witness Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s final WWF match ever. Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross us all a small clue right before the match when he said, “This match was a long journey in itself. Took 18 months to get it done, and the smart money is that you will never, ever, see it again.” As an adult, I love the entire spectrum of pro wrestling, but as a kid, I was a die-hard WWF fan. What happened next would test my loyalty to both Bret Hart and the WWF. By the end of the match, my hero would be gone…