I don’t remember believing that Santa was a real, physical being, but I remember pretending to.
I can’t recall if I ever actually believed wrestling was purely sport, but I can recall defending it as if I thought it was.
I am a true believer in believing for fun.
1998/1999 was a great time to be a wrestling fan; the Monday Night Wars were still being battled out and WCW had just started to lose ground, but it wasn’t a great time for suspension of disbelief.
The A&E Network scrooged my outgrown-actual-belief-but-still-play-along-to-get-in-the-spirit-self-humbuggery by airing two back-to-back documentaries that destroyed my boundries of make belief: The Unreal Story Of Professional Wrestling and Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows.
I adored them. I reveled in the destruction of wrestling’s fourth wall like a Berliner about to be reunited with a beloved neighbor.
Having some of the “tricks of the trade” exposed didn’t make me appreciate wrestling any less, it was like discovering a secret passageway to a whole, new, unexplored wing of respect in La Casa De Wrestlin’.
What a relief it was to answer, “Ya know it’s just a show, right?”, with, “Yeeeah, no sh__, Basil Of Baker Street.”
I was already a Bret “The Hitman” Hart fan, but that personal, sympathy-grabbing documentary, Wrestling With Shadows, transformed him from a mythical hero, in my mind, to a human hero fighting to achieve mythical feats, despite his vulnerability.
Unfortunately, the human vulnerability that endeared him to me caused him a lot of displeasure and dissatisfaction. I watched on, with hope-crushing compassion, as his in-ring career ended in pain, suffering, and sadness.
Orson Welles once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”
Well, Orson, much love and respect, my friend, but I am compelled to retort: the same can be said of tragedy.
And this story ain’t done, yet, Rosebud.
As a freshman, flesh-showing, for-entertainment, prizefighter, I had all but forgotten my fondness for “The Excellence Of Execution”. He had a little-too-traditional of a flavor for my eclectic study-diet.
It wasn’t until his autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, came out, and I read it, that I reopened my interest-bearing account at the Bank Of Bret. I deposited 592 pages of my time, and withdrew a vault-full of inspiration.
I went to YouTube Tavern and began binging on Bret matches. At first, I thought I had built up too much of tolerance to World Of Sport Whiskey, Lucha Libre Liquor, and Strong Style Shine to get drunk off of plain ol’ Bret Beer, but, as I kept pounding down Bretskis, I started to get emotional and reminiscent, I started to ‘member my first buzz, back in middle school.
By the time the jukebox of related videos played that classic tune “Owen vs Bret” by Mania Ten, I was Bretsky Bent, and, well, bound. Bound to uncover a new space to explore.
By being initiated into The Brotherhood of the Squared Circle, I was now rediscovering one of my favorite matches with exoteric eyes. Looking for deeper meaning within the movements, I found them in breathtaking abundance.
Golly gee willikers, Bretman! This match seemed to be existing on two planes of consciousness: a superficial show of shadows for shallow understanding, wherein the least knowledgeable viewer could appreciate it’s greatness on mere face-value, and a deep showing from which wrestling’s true form could be understood, wherein the enlightened, wise viewer could appreciate it’s greatness as sheer invaluable art.
I pondered, “Were other Bret matches so dually textured?”
Ah. How interesting.
As a child-fan, it was like I was tied up in a dungeon, facing a wall, watching the shadow of wrestling being projected on the wall from the window behind me. I thought the shadow was wrestling, until Bret released me from the dungeon of Kayfabe with a wall shattering documentary film and I could appreciate wrestling in a truer form.
As a childlike-wrestler, my eyes were still adjusting to the bright sunlight of wrestling-with-reason, and I couldn’t really make out what I was seeing, until I found some pink and black shade under the learning tree of the Hitman, and, as my vision cleared, I got a pure vision of wrestling in it’s essance.
Bret Hart has been known to refer to himself as, “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
Well, who are we to doubt El Sicario?
Thank you, Bret, so much.