Initial Publication Date: May 10, 2007
Click on any of the smaller photos to
was April 20, 2007. The second day of the prestigious 42nd
annual CAC Wrestlers Reunion/Convention at the Riviera Hotel and
Casino, Las Vegas was well underway. Literally hundreds of
professional wrestling’s greatest living legends were in
attendance. There was an abundance of wrestling stars whose
careers had peaked all the way from the 1950s through the 1990s.
The majority of them looked as though they could easily step into
the familiar squared circle and teach the current “superstars” a
thing or two. In fact, at least a dozen of the “old-timers” do just
that; they train wrestlers. Several present-day wrestling stars
were there, as were a handful of promising young wrestlers who are
destined to become future legends. Add in a limited number of
wrestling fans, a lot of reporters, a considerable amount of
international press and a great degree of excitement. Those are the
ingredients that produced what most people felt was the best annual
CAC wrestling extravaganza to date.
The culmination of the event would be the major awards dinner on the
following night, April 21. This year, however, something had been
added – a special Friday night dinner event saluting many of
Canada’s outstanding professional wrestlers. Although many of
wrestling’s major stars were there, the main event of the evening
seemed to be Bret “The Hitman” Hart. I know most of the famous Hart
family members (often referred to as “The First Family of
Wrestling”), but this was my first opportunity to speak with Bret.
At least four hundred of us were sitting at our respective tables,
having dinner before the “bonus event” was scheduled to begin. My
friend and “official” photographer was sitting next to me. “Look at
that,” she said. “Bret Hart has been mobbed since the moment he
came in. He’s been signing autographs and posing for pictures for
at least twenty minutes. He hasn’t even had a chance to sit down,
much less eat.” “That’s okay,” I said. “He’s a gentleman. There
are only a few people standing around him now. He’ll have a chance
to sit down and eat soon.” “Good,” my friend said with a smile.
“But not until after he takes a few pictures with me,” I added.
“Let’s go.” I noticed some reluctance on my friend’s face. I
smiled. “You wouldn’t want to deprive Bret Hart of the opportunity
to have his picture taken with the original Mr. Wonderful, would
brother, Ross, greeted me as I approached. I shook Bret’s hand. “I
know you haven’t had a chance to sit down since you came in,” I
said, “but are you willing to have a couple more photos taken before
you eat?” Bret, of course, was more than willing. He was tired.
He had flown in from a great distance to make this event and he had
gotten very little sleep, but sleep deprivation couldn’t keep the
smile from his face. “You’re in a room of wrestling legends,” I
said to Bret Hart. “And yet, you are the center of attention. You
are a legend amongst legends.” I paused before I continued. “Do
you know how loved you are?” Bret’s smile broadened as he
acknowledged my question with a nod. There was sadness in his eyes,
even as his mouth was smiling. Bret was one of the best
professional wrestlers of all time. He was, after all, in his own
words, “The best there is, the best there was, and the best there
ever will be.” Many people in our business believe that expression
to be only a slight exaggeration. Bret is a relatively young man.
He should still be wrestling and setting all-time attendance records
at arenas all over the world. Unfortunately, Bret sustained a
career-ending injury at the hands of a person many refer to as “one
of wrestling’s worst.” The injury left Bret with a condition called
“concussion syndrome.” Bret doesn’t dare get back into the ring.
With concussion syndrome, one wrong move could literally kill him.
It was important that I reminded him how much he was loved. That
may be, at least in part, why he attended the major yearly awards
dinner the next evening, waiting to leave until after I had received
my award and given my acceptance speech – even though he was
sleep-deprived and had a 6:00 a.m. flight the next morning.
Saturday was a day or networking, reminiscing, and interviews for
most of us who were to receive awards that night. It was a very
full day. In the early afternoon, I made my way to a wrestling
seminar. Some of the more experienced pros were teaching newer
wrestlers about the business. I arrived during the lunch break, but
was able to say hello to several of the instructors including a
couple of wrestling promoters. I was asked if I would like to take
the microphone after lunch and address the group. I agreed, and
came back an hour or so later. Promoter/trainer Roland Alexander
introduced me. There were several people on the panel sitting
behind tables, facing the audience. There were several microphones,
both fixed and wireless. Roland handed me a wireless mic. I left
the panel and stood in front of the table, closer to the audience.
I love wireless mics. They provide great freedom for the speakers
using them. I was able to move and really relate to individual
audience members. I knew that the panel wanted to cover a lot of
ground, and I knew they had to do it quickly, since the big awards
dinner ballroom doors would open at 6:00 p.m. that night. I looked
at Roland. “Let me know when you want the microphone back.” An
hour and ten minutes later, I wrapped my speech, thanked the panel
members and the audience, shook hands with many of the attendees,
I headed back to my room. It was time to change into my tuxedo and
get ready for the main event of the evening – the main event of the
year for the CAC organization and all who were in attendance. My
friend and “official” photographer, Bobbie Thompson met me on the
way out. “I got some great pictures,” she said. “So, how about
your ‘standing O’? Pretty cool, huh?” “What’s a ‘standing O’?” I
asked, somewhat distracted. “Your standing ovation,” she said
matter-of-factly. I stared at her. “You didn’t know you got a
standing ovation when you spoke?” she asked. I had no idea. She
showed me the digital photos she had taken. I smiled. Standing
ovations are wonderful. I knew I had inspired, motivated, educated,
and moved many in the audience, but a “standing O” was equivalent to
an added bonus award.
It was 6:00 p.m.. The ballroom was open. I smiled as we entered.
The press and the dozens of cameras had the feel of being on the red
carpet at a world premiere Hollywood movie event. Actually, I’ve
been on the red carpet at several world premiere movie events, and,
quite honestly, this felt much better. It was more exciting and it
was very special. I noticed signs on all of the entrances:
“Absolutely no photographs or autographs until after the ceremony.”
I looked to a couple of my friends and smiled. “On behalf of Bret
Hart,” I said, “we thank you!”
dinner would be served at 7:00 p.m., so we had an hour to network
with our peers. I was so proud when the realization hit: “My peers
are the greatest stars the world of professional wrestling has ever
known.” What an amazing realization, and what a unique and
wonderful event was just about to commence. I will take you there
next week. Until then, keep those e-mails coming.