During Bret’s 13 years exodus from the WWE, there were many teases about his return in some capacity, but it never happened.
On Pay-Per-View nights, my friend Gordy and I had many conversations about THIS being the perfect angle for The Hitman to return…but he never did…time and time again we were left disappointed.
Then news started to filter about Hart dealing with the WWE again. Over the years DVDs and merchandise were released with Bret’s involvement…but still no on screen appearance.
In 2006, Bret got the much deserved call into the Hall of Fame…it was an epic night for the fans to see Bret get inducted, but Bret left straight afterwards and never made the traditional on stage performance at the following night’s WrestleMania.
Bret again disappeared.
Then…out of nowhere, an angle started up on RAW in December 2009…
WWE were running with a series of “Guest hosts” for RAW…from celebrities to former WWE stars. Vince McMahon teased that Bret Hart would be the one guy who would never guest host.
In a promo with Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels spoke the prophetic words of – “If you bring Bret Hart back, – good things will happen.”
Then January 4th 2010, Bret The Hitman Hart returned to the WWE. When his signature music hit…and the Hitman walked out after 13 years…I was in tears.
Bret buried the hatchet with longtime enemy Shawn Michaels…I was in tears.
Bret got involved in several storylines leading up to a matchup at Wrestlemania XXVI where Bret was given retribution against Vince McMahon. A good feeling for life long fans. With Hart family members at ringside (and the member of those we lost)…I was in tears.
The WWE played out further storylines with Bret as GM of RAW and eventually being taken out by the Rising youngsters including South Africa’s own Justin Gabriel – NEXUS. Bret was written off tv.
Nobody knew if that was it for Bret’s triumphant return, for months it seemed like it could be.
Then Bret was brought back for Summerslam in 2010, but used minimally. There was a Hitman tribute show on RAW a few weeks later, but by the end of 2010, the Hitman stepped away with his short term contract seemingly done.
Internet reports suggested Bret was done with the WWE.
Earlier this year, I found out the WWE would be returning to South Africa for a series of shows…of course this would involve the current roster of Superstars.
It was officially announced.
Meanwhile, in May 2011, during a PPV match between Hall of Famer, and long time friend/rival Jerry The King Lawler and Michael Cole, the Hitman stunningly made another return to WWE TV, and also appeared the next night on RAW.
I heard mumblings that Bret would be joining the Smackdown tour to South Africa in July! Surely it was just another in the long list of rumours that I’d heard about Hitman in my life.
I went straight to the source and tweeted @BretHart asking if this was true…and he replied IT WAS!
After last seeing the Hitman 15 years ago, I was going to get another chance to see my idol live…Meeting Bret was always a bucket list item for me, and suddenly there was a tiny window of opportunity to achieve this.
My personal struggle with the world over the last decade has been well documented, but the one thing that always kept me going was that I was a dreamer. I believed in the impossible, in beating the odds. However being a 33 year old single guy who still has dreams, and heroes is a weird juxtaposition in this day and age.
For the last few months in particular I had lost faith in the world. I had convinced myself that nothing good exists anymore, and that dreaming only leads to disappointment.
A few months ago, I posted a question on Facebook asking which three people you would love to invite to dinner. Some people went with the usual dead celebs, rocks stars, Nelson Mandela etc. My answer was – Leona Lewis, Johnny Depp and Bret The Hitman Hart.
I was determined to do what it takes to meet The Hitman this time around. Heck, I NEEDED this!
I organized tickets through a good soul, and knew I would see the Hitman in some capacity at the show at least, but I needed that handshake with the Hitman, I needed one conversation with him.
Being in the industry I’m in any knowing the people I know, I had a lot of contacts. Many of them casually promised they’d organize me a meet and great, or back stage passes, etc etc. All those sort of things people randomly say. As the Johannesburg dates grew closer and the Superstars arrived, those promises amounted to nothing.
I knew time was running short and if this was going to happen I needed a) a bit of luck and b) to do it myself.
The promoters had not organized any signings, so that was out.
Then it dawned on me to simply check the wwe.com website for “superstar appearances”…I did and slowly read
Cape Town – Justin Gabriel and Sin Cara signing at a toy store.
Durban – The Big Show signing at a toy store.
Johannesburg……Bret The Hitman Hart signing at a toy store.
…..wait a second…
BRET THE HITMAN HART WOULD BE SIGNING IN JOHANNESBURG!!!!!!!
Out of all the superstars that could possibly appear at the Johannesburg signing it was the one person I wanted…the Gods of Fate were either smiling upon me…or teasing the hell outta me.
This if course was no guarantee I would even get close to him , I had been to many wrestler signings in the past, and they were mostly disasters.
Marc Mero & Sable – 4 hours in the baking hot sun…no photographs allowed.
Mark Henry – no photos allowed
Rikishi – just say hi and walk on.
JBL and Ivory – this was actually decent, I spoke to JBL for a bit.
Rey Mysterio and Kidman – just walk past and bump knuckles. No autographs or pictures.
I found out about the signing on Friday morning, and it was on Saturday. For the next 24 hours I felt sick to my stomach about everything that could go wrong. I tried to find someone to come with me, but nobody was interested. Story of my life right there.
On Friday night I looked at all my Hitman merchandise and wondered what should I attempt to get signed? Then as I looked at his autobiography it make perfect sense to that that. It was his story, which formed part of my story.
On Saturday I woke up later than I would of liked, and raced through to the shopping centre he was scheduled to appear at. It was a far drive, far enough to allow my mind to get the better of me. Should I turn around and not risk this turning into a bad experience? I don’t think I could handle that. Is the dream better than the reality?
I arrived, got parking, headed to the men’s room to dispose of my energy drink. And made my way to find the “spot”.
With relative ease I found the queue and it looked fairly short…good start!
Then however I noticed everyone in the queue had a “wwe ticket”. I asked what these were for and got told you have to have one to meet The Hitman. However to get a ticket you had to spend R200 at the store sponsoring the signing!
This was not advertised anywhere, and I happen to be someone who NEVER carries money.
I was heartbroken (excuse the pun), and immediately felt defeated. Then…in my George McFly moment, I raised my head up and with great confidence I went to the store and explained some of my story to them. The manager either feeling sympathy or fearing my beard organized me two tickets to go stand in the queue.
As I stood in line I began to wonder what exact I would say to Bret if I did in fact get to speak to him.
Do I tell him about that Battle Royal with Bad News Brown that made me a fan?
Do I quote his line I use almost daily? “Settle Down Anvil, settle down”
Do I tell him how he helped me through tragedy?
Do I ask him how he’s enjoying SA?
Do I just say “sup hitman”?
I thought I’d distract myself by taking some photos….
Which would have been a good idea if my digital camera hadn’t suddenly and inexplicably stopped working!
Panic set in…what was I going to go? The cameras on my phones were fine for close ups, but they would never be good enough for a pic with The Hitman!
They then allowed to queue to move forward right up to the desk where Hitman would be signing. As I looked at the queue I saw a few die-hard fans who were educated about the Hitman, but the crowd was mostly youngsters who were probably born 15 years ago. I knew I was the biggest fan there and smiled to myself thinking this was all just for me and Bret.
I asked the couple in front of me if they could taken a pic of me and Bret if possible and send it to me. They said sure.
Then a dear friend of mine happened to be in the centre and came and joined me. Oh great, nothing like a beautiful woman to see you at your geekiest as you try and justify why you are there. But she was awesome, and even decided to join me to meet him! As we shuffled through the hundred camera phones we tried to find something that would be the best.
The lady on the PA system announced that Bret Hart had arrived, and told us a few rules. No ticket no sign – check
Only one item allowed to be signed – check
You can take photos but can’t go behind the table – awkward but check.
Then, they pumped up some random hard rock music and out came Bret “The Hitman” Hart!!!!
He was wearing the black leather jacket and the sunglasses!!!!!
He got a warm reception. And took his place at the table…
I began to shake from what can only be described as a hybrid of excited and utter fear.
The line moved quickly and before I knew it, it was our turn. I let my friend go first, and took a picture of them with her phone, I felt almost blind though, so I don’t even know how her pic came out!
I saw the couple who was in front of me walk off, so much for them taking a picure and sending it to me!
As I walked up to Bret, 25 years of memories came flashing into my brain, and as I handed over my book in my shaky voice I said to him “Hitman, after 25 years I’ve thought what I would say to you if I ever met you, *he looked up at me*, and all I can think of is….thank you.”
He half smiled and said, “Well thank you for buying my book I appreciate it”
He then asked my name and signed the book to me. I asked for a photo and he extended his hand and shook mine.
At that exact moment my friend got the digital camera working and took the perfect picture of us.
I said thank you and enjoy the rest of the tour.
I didn’t look back, and simply walked off and got onto cloud number 9.
There are so few perfect moments left in life (especially mine). But this was the single greatest day of my life, and it took a series of events to perfectly align for it to happen.
For Bret it was just another of his millions of fans he’s met over the decades, and he won’t think about it for another second.
For me it was everything I needed it to be to believe in dreams again, and remind myself that there is a destiny out there waiting for me.