Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mr Tanner

About 4 years before the Montreal screw job and about 4 years after I stopped watching rasslin', there was an encounter that has stood the test of time in the pro wrestling world. Role model and fan favorite Bret "The Hitman" Hart was to settle his fued at Wrestlemania (the Super Bowl of Wrestling) against hated villain "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. This was no ordinary match, there was not only a special referee, legendary Ken Shamrock (who i was lucky enough to spend some time with a few years back when I was still in radio, very nice guy, he even did a promo for my radio show), but there was a stipulation; it was an "I Quit" match where you had to "give up" to lose the bout.

As the heel "Stone Cold" made his way to the ring, sneering at and jerking away from the the crowd, even tearing up a poster that a fan brought that was not complimentary, there was no hint at the significance of the match on the history of pro wrestling, and I dare even say entertainment as a whole. "The Hitman" entered the ring to the high fives of the adoring audience, and even gave his sunglasses away to a child who was in awe of seeing his hero, live, right in front of him. Even though Jerry "The King" Lawler, Jim Ross, and Vince McMahon, the announcers, praised "The Hitman," there seemed to be a bit of discomfort as to the hero's state of mind.

The first part of the match included a lengthy fight through the huge crowd, with a stop for concessions, of course... but as the match entered the ring, "good guy" Bret Hart started to work on Steve Austins already injured knee...

As "The Hitman" continues to work on "Stone Cold's" already injured leg, even applying a figure four leglock around the ringpost and attempting to use a "steel" chair to destroy Austin's knee, the crowd started to appreciate Steve Austin's determination in the face of adversity, and started to dislike Bret Hart's disregarding of rules about fair play and honor in favor of absolute victory.

When "Stone Cold" took the chair away from "The Hitman" and beat the living daylights out of him, the fans did something unexpected; they cheered.

It was almost like he deserved the beating for what he had done. The crowd, who had traditionally hated the use of objects such as a "steel" chair in a fair fight, were going crazy as "Stone Cold" exacted revenge on "babyface" Bret Hart with the illegal object. The fans were starting to understand who can talk the talk and who can walk the walk.

And all of a sudden the "heel" wasn't very heelish... he did what he said he would do all along, after all... the "babyface" decided to abandon the higher ground in pursuit of the glory of victory. He even raked his opponents eyes to get the upper hand. The heel did what he said and made no bones about it... the fans may not have agreed with him 100% but they respected him because he had honor...

And there it was... the "rulebreaker" holding on to his honor and manhood... the "fan favorite" doing whatever it took to "win," regardless of what he lost to do so. And when the "heel" raked the eyes of the "babyface," the crowd cheered the cheating this time because karma is always karma... no matter who it happens to.

And then there was the pyrrhic victory... and the audience looked on in stunned silence as the victor went far beyond the spoils of war in the aftermath.

And the observers could do but one thing when it was over... they chanted and gave a standing ovation to the guy who lost... the guy who did nothing short of what he said and kept his honor intact, while the "popular" guy sacrificed everything he had so he could "win."

It is not often a parable is told in pro wrestling... but seriously, when was the last time you cheered when someone you didnt like made you respect them, or someone you liked made you disrespect them?



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