Bret “The Hitman” Hart came to Cardiff…

This trip needs some book ending for me before I start…

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My brother, friend and I made the decision to go to the 2013 Royal Rumble, it was our first time to a big WWE PPV (other than Summerslam 1992), so we decided to ‘do it’ we bought ringside tickets (4th row), tickets to Monday Night Raw and one of the talks available at the fan access show on the Saturday before the Royal Rumble. We chose ‘The Montreal Screw Job’ talk over the DX and Monday night war talks. The talk was great, Michael Cole introduced/compared and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler was the ‘mediator’ sat between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, making it light heard and enjoyable. Once the talk was finished we were invited to a signing session, the first group of wrestlers to arrive included The Big Show, Wade Barrett, Antonio Cesaro, Hornswoggle and a few others, but we were all waiting for the chance to meet Bret, Shawn and The King.

When they arrived, queues were rapidly formed for a chance to get something signed by them. 2 queues formed, one to our left where you met Shawn Michaels and then The King immediately after and another to our right with Bret Hart. I said we should get Shawn and The King out of the way first, it made sense, little did we know by the time we had queued Bret Hart had become entrenched in TV interviews and had stopped signing, once his interviews were finished, he left…leaving all of us with 2 out of 3 signatures on our tickets. Which was more than a little annoying. I realise I’m 32 and something like this shouldn’t bother me, but those guys were all of our childhood heroes…So…

When I heard that The Hitman was coming to Cardiff for a talk and meet and greet, I (and safe to say 2 other people I knew) were going to be there. Standard ticket was £30 and VIP (including meet and greet) was £45. I would have paid £30 to get my ticket signed, so £15 for a talk with Bret Hart was a bonus!

The event was hosted by PSI Events, who are developing a great reputation for putting on talks with wrestlers past and present, this show was no exception.

The talk started at just after 7pm, as scheduled, PSI’s host (I can’t remember his name or find it online) welcomed Bret to the stage to rapturous applause from the sold out audience. This was a die hard audience of his fans, I’m pretty sure he could have farted onto a microphone for 20 minutes and still received rapturous applause!

The talk started with a short interview/chat between the host and Bret, this was fairly light hearted and acted as an introduction to the evening more than anything else. It was the last but one stop on the tour and it was clear that host and guest clearly had become friendly over the previous dates.

After about half and hour, with a few stories being told, the host opened to the audience for questions, the host would pick and audience member, they would ask a question and Bret would answer the question, usually moving off point as he told a related story.

The audience led nature of the show was a both a blessing and hinderance, in an odd way, I’m sure many people in the room, who are die hard fans of The Hitman, almost groaned as the first question about the infamous, and extremely well documented, Montreal Screw Job came up, yet some how it was still great to hear Bret talk about it. I’m sure there were people who had heard/read the stories about some of the ribs pulled by the boys on the road, but it was still a real pleasure to hear Bret wax lyric and reminisce about the times he had in pro wrestling.

One of the stranger things about the show was the odd extreme of Bret’s answers to the questions, the first few questions were about extremely personal things, Montreal, death of too many friends, having a stroke and his brothers unfortunate death. There were times when Bret had to pause, clearly being moved to the verge of tears by talking about the sadness he has had to deal with. It was strange to watch the, what started out as lively audience be humbled to silence as a hero poured his heart out for us…

After, I think the fourth question, I found myself raising my hand to ask a question, I had no question in mind, I simply wanted to say, “Can you tell us something that would make you smile.” Luckily, the next question was

“Can you tell us about some of the best ribs from the road.”

Honestly, I think there was an audible sigh of relief in the room.

This lead to stories of Curt Hennig (Mr. Perfect), pooping in places he shouldn’t, his brother Owen’s wicked sense of humour, and times with the British Bulldogs, although this had the same odd ting of sadness to it when you realised that most of the people he was talking about are no longer with us.

Other questions lead to stories about time spent in his father’s Stampede Wrestling, time in WCW, the state of wrestling presently, his match with Vince McMahanon at Wrestlemania 26, Wrestlemania 13 against Steve Austin, who he would wrestle again if he could, Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Stadium…during this story, the host paused proceedings to tell us that Davey Boy Smith’s daughter, Georgia was in the audience, which raised a few smiles.

It is fair to say the talk was a mix of clearly conflicting emotions on Bret’s part. At times empathy and sadness filled the room and 3 minutes later, smiles and laughter, it was a strange experience, and one I found hard work at times. I honestly would have preferred to hear more of the happy stories and not leaned towards the darker side to his life story, but it was an open floor for questions and The Hitman answered everything, and all credit to him for toughing it out.

My only complaint about this section of the, is more aimed at wrestlers in general, as more biographies, DVDs, interviews and podcasts surface, I wish they could get their stories straight. I listen to Steve Austin’s podcast regularly and its fair to say his version of Wrestlemania 13 is a little different to Bret’s…lets not even get started on the work of fiction that is Hulk Hogan’s book.

I don’t think me recanting the stories would ever do it justice, thankfully if you want to know more about Bret’s life outside the ring, he has a book, is a podcast regular and there are countless DVD’s available, some for less the £5, that are all worth your time.

After a short break, Bret took place centre stage again for the meet and greet. It was at the point we realised that the VIP tickets weren’t exactly exclusive (according to one of the event organisers 200 of the 300 tickets sold were VIPs) and our choice of seating position meant we had a bit of a wait on our hands.

We were sat 2 rows (of the 10-15) from the back, we were going to be among the last 30 people called up to get our items signed. Again, credit to PSI, we were entitled to have 2 items signed, which could be anything we wanted or purchase something from the merch available and get a photograph taken with Bret which would be made available online after the event.

Plenty of people had replica title belts, DVD cases…one girl even had Bret sign her leg, to which she explained, somewhat loudly, “I’m getting this tattooed on tomorrow!”

After the first few people had gone up to get their items signed, we noticed quite how long they were allowed to have with Bret, we had a sharp realisation that we were in for a long night, it was 9.30pm already and, as I mentioned we were not at the front of the queue! We became a little worried that Bret would spend too much time with the people at the beginning of the queue and those of us near the end would be rushed through.

Again, all credit to PSI and Bret himself, no one was rushed through and he spent just as much time with the first people as he did with the rest. For Bret, after a 2 hour talk and nearly 3 hours of signing, this was impressive. This softened the blow of leaving the venue at 12.15am!

DSC_0741My brother got his classic WWF Bret Hart figure and his Summerslam 1992 tshirt signed, my friend and myself both got our Royal Rumble tickets signed and we bought a pair of Bret Hart glasses each and had them signed. Bret was friendly, and asked us if we were going to go to Wrestlemania, to be held in New Orleans, this year, a few laughs and drinking and ladies of low moral values were exchanged…it was a pleasure to finally meet him and shake his hand. There was a 10 year old kid inside me that will never forget that moment, to be frank there is a 32 year old nerd who is never going to forget it either.

I think we were the only people to go up as a group and have our photo taken as a group.

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This story started together in January 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona and ended together in March 2014 on a wet night in a hotel in Cardiff.

01. April 2014 by Michael Partridge
Categories: Personal, Photography, Reviews | Leave a comment

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