If the rumors are to be believed – and often in wrestling, these rumors have the knack for playing themselves out – then we’re in store for at least one more match from living legend Bret “Hitman” Hart. Color me and every Pink n’ Black Attack fan excited, but I can’t help but wonder if his rumored Wrestlemania 26 opponent will lead to a letdown of sorts. According to reports at Wrestlezone.com, the Montreal Screwjob will finally be laid to rest in a match featuring the 52-year-old Hart and 64-year-old CEO of WWE, Vince McMahon.
On the surface, the storyline couldn’t make more sense. WWE is pushing a rematch between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker this year, and why wouldn’t they? If they even come close to recreating their magic from last year’s big show, then it’ll all be worth it to fans and the subsequent PPV buyrate. Since HBK has a full dance card, I guess it makes sense that the main perpetrator of the most controversial shoot in the history of wrestling would stand in for a real wrestler like Michaels. Vince McMahon, the man who called for the bell when Hart was in his own finishing hold in native Canada. Vince McMahon, the man who defiantly claimed that “Bret screwed Bret.” Vince McMahon, the man that kept Over the Edge 1999 on the air after Bret’s brother Owen fell to his death before a mid-card match. It’s almost like they were waiting twelve and a half years for this matchup to transpire. I won’t dare go down that conspiracy theory trail.
[adinserter name=”366 left”]It’s a storybook matchup that comes just when TNA seems to be picking up some steam. The match in headline form is beautiful business, but does it really work for real wrestling fans? Do wrestling fans want to see Bret Hart’s last match a street fight against a sexagenarian? The street fight certainly gives Bret the room to be rusty in terms of ring command, I get that. It’s what made the Hogan/McMahon match at Wrestlemania 19 halfway bearable. It’s what helped Shawn Michaels carry his match against McMahon at Wrestlemania 22. The format makes sense for aging stars who might not otherwise be able to carry a match.
But I’m not satisfied with that scenario. If Ricky Steamboat can have the two or three great matches he did this past year, I’m convinced that Bret could offer the same effort. I know he wouldn’t come back to wrestle if he didn’t think he could do it as well as he could when he retired. He looks to be in great shape, despite the slight drop in his face from the stroke he suffered in 2002. All I know is that he’s playing the safe route by getting into a TV-PG brawl in the penultimate match at Wrestlemania 26, and by doing so, he’s letting a certain sector of fans down. The kids who cheer for John Cena didn’t follow wrestling in 1997 (nor were many of them alive, for that matter), so this doesn’t mean as much to the WWE Universe writ large as it does to the older wrestling fans.
My crackpot idea involves Bret Hart taking on Triple H with McMahon in his corner. Creative could take the next few months, let Shawn break away from DX as he prepares to face Taker, let Triple H slowly become a torch-bearer for the “Bret screwed Bret” line of thought, and have his father-in-law set up the match between the two. This way, Bret could still get his hands on Vince at some point as a huge payoff, but fans would also see a match between two storied ring generals. Say what you will about Triple H, but on his best day he can still put on as good a match as anyone. It certainly beats the pants off the rumored WWE Title match between Triple H and champion Sheamus.
[adinserter name=”366 right”]Maybe Sheamus will drop the title to Orton at the Rumble and we won’t have to worry about that.
Anyway, all I’m saying is that giving us a high-concept/low-payoff match like a brawl between McMahon and Hart is no better than giving The Outsiders another chance at tag team glory in TNA. It’s no different than Scott Steiner still having a job. It’s no different than Hulk Hogan feuding with Mick Foley and Jeff Jarrett. It’s no different than the Nasty Boys starting a feud with the Dudleys.
WWE needs to differentiate itself in this crucial period by putting on great matches with great talent, not putting two guys with a combined age of over 100 in the ring. It’s what the competition does and it’s bad business. The rumored card is obviously just that, a rumor. There is still ample opportunity for the card to change, but I have a feeling that Hart vs. McMahon is a lock to happen and that it will be a serviceable send-off to Bret Hart – which isn’t good enough for me. Hopefully the truth won’t disappoint as much as the rumor does.
John E. Warren is the Creator and Editor-in-Chief of gaming blog Balamb Garden Party. When John isn’t furious about wrestling, he’s usually furious about video games or the Dallas Cowboys.
Read more about Bret Hart in his autobiography – Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.