And Another Thing: The Affair With The Harts 

Posted by Hyatte on 05.29.2001 

Most of the Hart family just attended their first Raw show in a long time. They were given front row seats and a full, formal introduction by Howard Finkle. 

Most of the Hart family just attended their first Raw show in a long time. They were given front row seats and a full, formal introduction by Howard Finkle. Upon his introduction, Stu Hart was helped up out of his seat and pumped his fist to those in attendance. The crowd cheered loudly, Jim Ross was thrilled that they were there, and announced that the WWF was "so happy" that they could've been there. Bruce Hart obviously was, judging from the smile that never left his face.

The show, nor the announcers, addressed the problems between the Harts and the WWF over the last two years. The death of Owen Hart and the "screwing" of Bret. In fact, the only mention of anything having to do with Bret was the King Of the Ring classic flashback where Bret was attacked by Jerry Lawler. Who says the WWF have lost their sense of humor?

The show itself featured a "homage" of sorts to Stu's style of hard nose grappling. The matches were heavy on actual wrestling, and light on gimmicked silliness. Hometown hero Lance Storm popped in briefly to waffle Perry Saturn with a Superkick before tearing out of there and into an awaiting Limousine with a cheering Shane McMahon. Vince McMahon allowed his past to embarrass him when Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit showed cuts from the 80's where Vince sang and danced in a cheesy Vegas style setting. In fact, Jericho and Benoit were featured prominently all night long, Benoit defeating Rhyno in a brutal match and Jericho getting pounded by the Big Show before squeaking out a tough win. If both men won, Vince McMahon would decide who got a main event title match against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin that night. McMahon selected Benoit, then later teased to William Regal that there was a "big surprise" in store for tonight.

Benoit got his match with Austin. In a rare moment, both men made their ring entrances before Howard Finkle properly introduced them. Finkle also made it a point to announce that WWF Head Referee Earl Hebner was officiating the match. The idea was to create a level of "specialness" to this match, and also to foreshadow the ending.

Of course, Vince McMahon stayed at ringside.

The match, long by Raw standards, ended when Vince McMahon called for the bell just as Steve Austin had put Benoit in the "Crippler Crossface", his own move. Clearly, Benoit did not tap out yet. McMahon just wanted the match to end and the title around Austin's waist. Of course, it was a re-enactment of the famous "Screwjob in Montreal" where McMahon ordered the match to end before Bret Hart submitted or tapped out to the "Sharpshooter" that Shawn Michaels had put on him. The move that many have called the absolute most disgusting stunt Vince McMahon had ever pulled. Back then, it was real life. During this match, it was a work.

The problem is, it was a work done right in front of the Hart family. In front of Stu Hart himself.

And then, all hell broke loose:

It was disgusting. It was disgusting that members of the Hart family allowed themselves to be put in that position, and it's more disgusting that Vince McMahon would put them in that position.

Bob Ryder

To me, the fact is that a few of Stu's kids have legitimate issues with the WWF. Bret felt he was screwed. Martha Hart felt the WWF was responsible for her husband's death. How Stu Hart could be a party to the show is beyond me. Even worse was the pathetic visual of his son and daughter, mugging for the TV cameras, as they hoisted their obviously ailing father up. To me, it was one of the most embarrassing scenes I have ever witnessed in wrestling. It was just really, really sad.

Dave Scherer

Shame on you, Vince. It was bad enough that you felt the need to re-live the Survivor Series fiasco yet again, but doing so in front of Bret Hart's family members was twisted. After everything the family has been through, why couldn't you do the right thing? Shame on you, Bruce Hart. How could you allow your aging father to be used as a pawn by your own brother's arch-enemy? I don't know if you were paid to appear at ringside, or if you thought it would help your new Stampede promotion. Either way, I consider your involvement in last night's show to be just as, if not more, despicable than McMahon's. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Stu Hart is capable of thinking for himself and truly wanted to appear at last night's show. In that case, shame on you, Stu, for allowing yourself to be used. I hope the crowd popping for you was worth it.

Jason Powell

Those were just the opening salvos. More are undoubtedly coming. Plus, I'm sure there are lots and lots of message board posts that are calling for the head of Vince McMahon on a silver platter served with an apple in his mouth and Canadian bacon on the side. How dare McMahon do this. In Canada. In front of the Harts!. How dare he cheerfully wallow in his own slimy past! Has the man no shame? Does the man have a soul?

Man, shut up.

What did McMahon do exactly? Do you think this was one more petty little attack on the Hart legacy? Do you think that before the show he rubbed his hands together and cackle, "Oh I get to screw with the Harts one more time! Nyahahahahahaa!"

Man, grow up.

Look at the big picture for once. Wrestling is a business, the business of getting people to pay money to see good guys beat up bad guys. The Harts know this. The Harts have lived by this simple, basic philosophy for decades. The Harts have dedicated their lives to training people to be heroes and villains and to perform for paying customers night after night.

After the bell rang and Austin was allowed to keep the title, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, two Canadian Wrestlers who have trained under Stu Hart's guidance, attacked Austin and McMahon. Jericho put Austin in "The Walls of Jericho" while Benoit, everyone's favorite wrestler, placed McMahon in the Crossface and leaned back hard. In front of Canada and in front of the Harts.

So, in short, McMahon and Austin had used history to get themselves some serious "Heel heat" while Jericho and Benoit enacted some revenge in front of their countrymen and the people who trained them. Think that got them some serious "Face heat"? Of course it did.

Don’t you think the Harts know this? Of course the do.

Later, the Harts went backstage where they shook hands with Vince McMahon and his family. They took pictures then got to all sit around and discuss business, share stories, and try to mend some broken bridges. The Harts have re-started their Stampede Wrestling company and could sure use some WWF promotion, and maybe star power, to help get it going. McMahon wanted to give the folks in Calgary a real show to talk about. This show sold out in less than eight minutes, according to Jim Ross. How long do you think it'll take for the next show to sell out?

In fact, Dave Scherer reports that the original plan was to have Stu Hart knock out McMahon. Unfortunately, Stu is up there in years and has grappled with one too many students. He was too frail. But, doesn't that fact tell you that the harts knew what the game plan was going to be beforehand? Do you think this was a surprise to them? Of course not.

So instead, Jericho and Benoit got to give out some payback. They are now the top two Faces in the company and the people of Calgary got to see Vince McMahon be embarrassed and put in the most painful move in the business. It was a great show. That's all anyone in the business wants. To put on a great show. Don't you think the Harts know that?

What happened to Owen Hart was a tragedy, but it was also an accident. No one physically shoved him off that rafter. Don't you think the Harts know that?

What happened to Bret Hart was unfortunate, but Bret is not completely without guilt here. Remember, this all stemmed from Bret not willing to put over Shawn Michaels in front of his fellow countrymen. Yes, Vince forced him to leave the WWF, but in reality, it was only because Bret was very vocal about the new direction the WWF was taking at the time and McMahon knew he would fight with them every step of the way with their decisions. If Bret said, "Vince, I love this new 'adult attitude' you are trying, what can I do to sell it?" Most likely, he would still be there today. Don't you think the Harts know that?

This might very well be Vince McMahon rubbing the Harts' faces in it one last time, but then, why bring them backstage after? Why have a big meeting with them and discuss helping out Stampede wrestling? Do any of you truly think Vince McMahon is "evil"? Of course he isn't. Don't you think the Harts know that?

It was a great show. Vince McMahon tried to pull a big heel stunt and, although successful, paid for it courtesy of Chris Benoit. People went home happy. They went home eager for the next time the WWF comes to Calgary. That's how the business of wrestling is conducted.

Don't you think the Stu and Bruce Hart know that? 

Of course they do. 

I doubt the smile ever left Bruce's face.

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