Wrestling legend Bret 'Hitman' Hart celebrated for Walk of Fame induction

‘I like to think in my own way that Hitman Hart put Calgary on the map’

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Bret “Hitman” Hart is known in the wrestling world as “The best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.” 

It’s a phrase that was uttered frequently by multiple speakers in a hometown ceremony Monday, as Calgarians got their first chance to celebrate the locally born superstar wrestler’s induction into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

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The WWE Hall of Famer and winner of 32 various championships unveiled a plaque during the celebration, which is set to be installed at the Victoria Pavilion on the Stampede grounds — the same building where he joined his wrestling legend father Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. The plaque — and induction into the Walk of Fame — is an honour that will forever commemorate his illustrious career.

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“Coming down here on Friday nights was something I did from the time I was about five years old until I was 27,” Hart said from the pavilion where a crowd of about 200 people had gathered. “In a lot of ways, it was my playground or my second home right here.”

Hart spoke at length about his Calgary upbringing, first being exposed to the wrestling world through his father’s Stampede Wrestling promotion, during which he would often hand out programs as a child. He said his dad recognized him from the start as a “different kind of performer” and knew he was destined for stardom.

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“I don’t know that I ever fully believed back in those old Stampede Wrestling days that I would be a five-time WWE World Champion and wrestle in front of crowds of 90,000 or 100,000 people; those things were unimaginable,” said Hart. “But I think my dad saw what was in the cards for me. . . Honestly, I think my dad would have been the biggest fan I ever had and he would be the happiest right now.” (His father died in 2003.)

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“When I first joined WWF, a lot of people didn’t know where Calgary was. . . I like to think in my own way that Hitman Hart put Calgary on the map.”

Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans was also on hand at the ceremony, delivering remarks on behalf of Mayor Jyoti Gondek. Pootmans noted there’s a  strong sense of “Calgary pride” that comes alongside any mention of the Hitman.

“He really put Canada on the map in the wrestling world,” said Pootmans. “Here in Calgary, Bret is recognized for more than just wrestling. Over the years, he has become more known for his generosity.”

Since exiting the ring, Hart has supported and launched multiple charitable endeavours through his namesake charity the Hart Foundation, including those that address issues he’s struggled with himself like stroke recovery and cancer.

Bret “Hitman” Hart donated $10,000 to Siksika Nation’s SN7 youth program and Water First.
Bret “Hitman” Hart donated $10,000 to Siksika Nation’s SN7 youth program and Water First. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

Alongside the plaque, each inductee into the Walk of Fame gets $10,000 to donate to charity. Hart divided the sum equally between Siksika Nation’s SN7 youth program and Water First, an organization that supports sustainable access to safe, clean water in Indigenous communities across Canada.

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“I want to thank Bret for recognizing our nation,” said Tyler White, the CEO of Siksika Health Services. “I want to thank Bret for everything that he does; I think about the values and the principles that he lives by and followed in the ring. These are some of the same values that I try to lead (with, in) our organization and our youth team: respect, honour, integrity, your word and hard work ethic.”

Hart is widely credited with changing the perception of wrestling in the ’90s, becoming a superstar with his uniquely athletic and technically savvy performances. He was the first wrestler to be inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.

“It’s nice to see that pro wrestling finally gets a little bit of credit for being a performance art, which is what it really is,” Hart remarked. “I’ve always felt that pro wrestlers have to be the world’s most believable, realistic, hardest working actors, while also being some of the most gifted and creative athletes in the world.”

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Twitter: @michaelrdrguez

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