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From the heart: The Hitman speaks “Off the Record” about Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair

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The Excellence of Communication: Bret and HBK bury the hatchet.

Radio host Michael Landsberg of “Off the Record” conducted a candid interview with Bret Hart, questioning his decision to return to WWE after pointedly declaring 10 years ago on the same program that he would “never” again work with Vince McMahon. Hart cites “fun” and “adventure” as the main reasons for his return.

“I didn’t go back because I had to have it or needed it,” he tells Landsberg. “I don’t have the schedule that the wrestlers have and just to have a bit part on the show. Hopefully, I’ll make some money, but it was never really about the money. Even when I talked to him [Vince McMahon], we didn’t bicker about what I was going to be paid. It was more what they would do with me and how we could make it fun. It was a big negative thinking about it for 13 years and being angry about what happened, and trying to take something negative and turn it into a positive.”

These comments reflect a sharp contrast to Bret’s feelings not long after brother Owen’s death, which he now accepts as “as an accident.”

Hart went on to say that he truly has mended fences with Shawn Michaels and maintains that what took place in the ring Jan. 4 on RAW was quite real-at least to him. (Interesting that Jerry Jarrett, who worked with HBK and the Hitman in the Former Fed in the mid-’90s, wrote on Jan. 5 that the fans may not realize just how real that segment was.)

“I think I took the first step and I think that meant something to him,” Hart says. “I honestly think they [McMahon and Michaels] had so much shame and guilt that they didn’t want to take that step. I think when I met Shawn that day and when I basically forgave him in the ring in front of everybody, it was far more real than people think it was. I know everything in wrestling seems like it’s all rehearsed or put on [in a funny moment, Landsberg intejects, “It is!”‘] but with Shawn that day, it was very sincere in the way we were talking to each other. The truth is that once I took all that weight off Shawn’s back, he’s been a better person to me, anyways, and we’ve kind of picked up where we left off and we’re like old friends, which is kind of strange.”

Hart didn’t speak so glowingly of Ric Flair and the Nature Boy’s return to the ring in TNA. (And if you saw Flair flopping around and bleeding like a stuck pig Monday night in the days following his assault at the manicured hands of his wife, Jackie Beems, it’s easy to understand Hart’s stance.)

“Ric Flair, I feel sorry for him. You were talking about wrestlers saying, ‘When is enough, enough? When do they ever give up and go home to their families and their real lives?’ Ric is one of those guys who’s a little ahead of me, but I remember a time knowing that I had to get out of wrestling and go home to my kids before they were grown up and gone or and that I had no family live. I think wrestlers make this decision-and I’m sure Hogan is the same and different guys-where they decide they have to go home to their families or stay in the wrestling business and that becomes their family. Flair stayed in the wrestling business, forgot about his family, his family moved on and left him; the only thing Ric Flair knows is the dressing room, the airports, the bar after, and drinking.”

His comments regarding Flair aren’t surprising since the two have had a stormy relationship that goes back to the “16-time” World champion’s first run in the WWF, with Hart suspecting that Flair purposely sabotaged some of their matches, including the Hitman’s first WWF title win in Saskatoon. The two have bickered back and forth for years, questioning the other’s greatness and, ironically enough, accusing each other of being too routine in their matches. (They both have a point in that regard.) Most of the boys have trouble adjusting to life off the road and out of the spotlight when their wrestling careers end. For years, they shared a love/hate relationship with the lifestyle as they traveled around the world entertaining strangers while their families sat home waiting for their fathers and husbands to return. Admittedly, Flair is, by all accounts, among the worst addicts to the biz; however, I would think Hart could him a little slack since he admits that the primary factor behind his WWE return was boredom. (Incidentally, as WWE prepared Flair’s elaborate exit nearly two years ago, several in the company voiced their concern over how Slick Ric would handle life at home-clearly, not well.) Although Hart’s affairs and vagabond lifestyle cost him his marriage in the end, given the chance, there’s no question the Hitman would do it all over again if he could.

For more excerpts from the interview, check out James Caldwell’s piece at the Torch, or listen to the audio at the Off the Record podcast site.

Forget about HBK-join the KFR “Klique”

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