It would be an understatement to say that Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s 1999 was an emotional rollercoaster of a year since it was anything but that. Bret’s booking with the Atlanta-based organization, which he joined after signing with WCW in late 1997 and making his first appearance at that year’s Starrcade, was subpar from the moment he joined the company. Then, on May 23, 1999, during the WWF’s Over The Edge pay-per-view event, Bret’s younger brother Owen tragically passed away during a botched stunt for his entrance as the Blue Blazer character. This terrible event has been the subject of a great deal of writing over the years, and it was even discussed as part of the second season of the series Dark Side of the Ring on VICE (read our recap of that episode here). In the aftermath of this, Bret would take some time off from his duties with WCW in order to focus on his family and deal with the ramifications. After the demise of his brother, Bret would give serious thought to the possibility of returning to the wrestling ring at some point.
On the episode of Nitro that aired on July 5, 1999, Bret would make a surprise appearance and deliver an emotional message to the audience about Owen’s passing.
“I’ve been told I got all the time I want, so I’m gonna try not to rush myself. First of all, on behalf of my whole family and everybody back in Calgary, we want to thank all the wrestling fans around the world who have sent their love and support and condolences. It’s meant a lot to myself. It’s meant a lot to my family and it was very, very much appreciated. The WCW has been really kind to me in the last few weeks and they’ve allowed me to take all the time I want to collect myself. I wanted to say a few words about my brother Owen. He wasn’t just your average wrestler. He was a wonderful human being. So many wrestling fans watch him on TV every day but they never really got close to him sometimes but then again there’s a lot of fans that did get to know and a lot of the wrestlers got to know him. I don’t think there’s anybody that could say a bad thing about him anywhere. He was my closest brother, we never had an argument. We never raised our voices with each other once, we were friends. We were close from the time he was in diapers and I take a lot of, I take a lot of uh, pride in knowing how well he turned out. Eric Bischoff talked to me and he asked me if I’d come back on July 5th and at least come and explain how I felt about things and I thought maybe I’d be ready to talk about things when I got here. But the truth is that I’m really having a hard time deciding on what I want to do with my career and probably my life. I’ve lived for wrestling and my family has lived for wrestling and we’ve died for wrestling. And I’m at a funny little crossroads where I look at wrestling, pro wrestling and I go ‘I don’t know what else there’s left for me to do anymore in wrestling. Maybe it’s time for me to move on and accomplish something else in another field or do something else.’ I think of Wayne Gretzky and I think of Elway and I, ya know I think of all these guys that are retiring in 1999. And when I think of those people they all, when they got to hang it up, they’re all so happy. And I look at myself and it sucks. I tell myself on one hand that its not fair for me to end my career on a tragedy, on a bad note. Nobody wants to prove more in wrestling than I do, I’ve given my whole life to it. But the truth is, I just don’t know. I really don’t know, I swear to god I do not know. I’ve always tried to give you my best. I’m happy in spite of everything that happened with the way my career and life turned out. But I’m gonna take some time and I’m gonna think about everything and put everything into perspective. But if I never get the chance to ever say it again, I just want to thank all the fans, everywhere, that I ever had, that I still have. I wouldn’t be anything without the wrestling fans. You’ve been with me from the very start. And if this is the last chance that I ever get a chance to talk to all the wrestling fans all around the world, thank you very very much. I wanna thank all the wrestlers in the dressing room. All the wrestlers in dressing rooms all around the world. It was a pleasure to work with each and every one of you. I hope I wasn’t too stiff. And that’s about it, thank you very much.”
Bret would not be seen on WCW TV once more until the beginning of Monday Nitro on September 6, 1999. On that day, he would cut a promo challenging Hulk Hogan to a bout, and this would be the first time Bret would be seen on WCW TV. Sadly, just a few days later, Eric Bischoff would be dismissed from his responsibilities as the head of WCW. Because of this, Vince Russo would eventually be appointed as the new leader of WCW, which was a decision that Bret would not support owing to Russo’s connection to Owen’s untimely passing.
According to what Bret said in his autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, he still had the desire to compete in at least one more outstanding match before retiring. Full Story
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