Powered by LiquidWeb Search all of OO for news, columnists, and articles about your favorites!
News  -/-  Recaps  -/-  Columns  -/-  Features  -/-  Reference  -/-  Archives  -/-  Interact  -/-  Site Info

Donate to Online Onslaught!
     Daily Onslaught
     Obtuse Angle
     RAW Satire
     The Broad

     Inside the Ropes
     OOld Tyme
         Rasslin' Revue
     Title Wave
Crashing the

     Smarky Awards
     Big in Japan
     Guest Columnists
     2 Out of 3 Falls
     Devil's Due
     The Ring
     The Little Things
SK Rants
The Mac Files
     Sq'd Circle Jerk
     RAW vs. SD!:
         Brand Battle
     Cheap Heat 
     Year in Review
     Monday Wars
     Road to WM 

     Title Histories
     Real Names
     PPV Results
     Smart Glossary
     Message Boards
     Live Chat 
     OO History

If you attend a live show, or have any other news for us, just send an e-mail to this address!  We'd also love to hear from you if you've got suggestions or complaints about the site...  let us have it!

Insecurity Measures
July 16, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com


This column was originally going to contain a full analysis of the literary feud between Bret "Hitman" Hart and Ric Flair. I had all of my points and observations ready to go - quote by venomous quote. Line by scathing line.

Then this morning, it hit me. While my opinion is certainly no less applicable than any other shmoe on this or any other web site, I'm about the ONLY person who hasn't chimed in yet with an exhaustive rant on the Hart-Flair situation. And that's OK, because it's a pretty fascinating story. For the wrong reasons, perhaps. But fascinating nonetheless. People are sinking their teeth into it. Why not keep it in the spotlight?

Keeping that in mind, my subject is still Hart-Flair, but my approach is different. The line-by-line dissection has been done at least 10 times in the past four days, so I'll spare you my thoughts on every little comment Flair and Hart have made. Instead, I'll give a brief and broad, bottom-line opinion on the matter and move on to a side of this debate that I don't think people have really stopped to consider yet: the psychological side.

As in "Why are our most esteemed wrestling legends going all tenth grade on us?"

To state it very broadly from a fan's perspective, it's a shame to see each man - Bret moreso than Flair - going out of their way to tarnish each other's legend, where neither guy could possibly benefit from it. It comes across as mean-spirited and pointless. Ric Flair does nothing for himself in dragging Bret down, because he's a legend regardless. Likewise for Bret. That said, both men have traveled so extensively through the business that you can't deny them the right to their opinions, even if those opinions sound completely insane. For Flair's side, I have no issues with his comments about Bret Hart beyond the cheap shot about him exploiting Owen Hart's death to satisfy a personal vendetta with Vince McMahon. Considering Bret's reaction to such criticism in the past, his livid response was both justified and totally expected on that charge. The rest of it was just amateurish retaliation for what was otherwise a pretty mild criticism by Flair.

All in all, I highly doubt either man is as bad a person as the other makes him out to be. Undoubtedly, both are better wrestlers than the other claims. I don't think either of them are wise to take the argument any further, and I think Bret Hart overreacted big time (again, except for the Owen comment, which deserved every bit of venom Bret shot back).

Now to the bigger issue. Why are our legends turning into bickering schoolchildren before our very eyes? Could it be that the supremely confident Ric Flair and Bret Hart, umpteen-time world champions with fans all over the world, are doubting their own worth?

There's an old saying that it's lonely at the top. At the level of Bret Hart or Ric Flair, I suppose it's very common to gaurd yourself against career sabotage. You bust your ass to become not just a champion, but one of the best champions ever. Countless guys try to bring you down from your apex, sometimes through sabotage or politics. Everyone in the business wants what Ric Flair and Bret Hart had ... and to an extent, what they still have. Worldwide reknown and respect. A household name. Money. Every guy in the locker room for three decades has been in the business precisely to achieve what the Hitman and the Nature Boy have, but 95 percent of them won't... there just isn't enough room for them all to be big stars. And when I reference the locker rooms, I don't just mean the Harley Races, Hulk Hogans and the Randy Savages of the world. I mean EVERYBODY, bar none. The Randy Mulkeys. The Marty Jannettys. The Koko B. Wares. The Sid Viciouses. EVERYONE in the business wanted to be what Ric Flair and Bret Hart are or have been, and Hart and Flair know it.

That's some heavy psychological pressure on a champion. You bet your ass there were people trying to bring them down by sinister means. Wrestling's an unscrupulous business by all accounts. That means that for decades, Flair and Hart observed sabotage, dishonesty, political struggles, and other stuff we likely will never know about. Through it all, they maintained a public face of respectability. They had to. Regardless of what others were trying to do to them behind the scenes, they represented the NWA, or WCW, or WWE. They were 'The Man.' They had to take the high road for the good of themselves and their business. The few times they didn't (such as Bret criticizing Flair and Hogan in the early 1990s or Flair taking his conflict with WCW public), you can probably imagine, were nothing compared to what was actually going on.

Until Montreal, fan response to Bret Hart was almost universally positive. After Montreal - and it's incredibly obvious that Bret Hart hasn't completely gotten over the whole incident - things changed. There was a pretty vocal contingent of fans who felt Bret Hart wasn't justified in his own actions. Even the scores of people who faulted Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels and others seemed to have a lower opinion of Bret, too, in the aftermath. And the more Bret defended himself, the further he buried people's respect for him. People continued to hold his wrestling ability in high regard, but as far as Bret Hart THE MAN went, people were getting sick of hearing him talk.

And don't think for a second it didn't bother Bret Hart that his exit to WCW and Vince's "screwing" of him actually helped turned the tide for the WWF becoming massively popular again. In Bret's mind, he took the high road, stood up for himself, got stabbed in the back and watched as wrestling fans flocked to his backstabber's promotion in droves while calling him a whiner. For perhaps the first time in his career, "The Hitman" may have begun to doubt himself.

(And with that, I've surpassed my quota for discussing the Montreal Screwjob for calendar year 2004. See you in '05!)

For Ric Flair's part, he admits that he battles with self doubt issues frequently. That's a sobering reminder of just how much of the Ric Flair we've seen on TV for decades is a character. Even as a world champion with creative control and scores of paying fans, Flair sometimes doubted himself. When WCW (via Eric Bischoff) began jerking Flair around and pushing him to the sidelines in the late 1990s, Flair readily admits that played games with his head, and made the proud veteran doubt his own worth. I guess you could take his participation in some very lame angles (like having a heart attack in the ring) as confirmation that Flair was taking the "shut up and cooperate" approach to WCW booking him as an aging joke. Or maybe "The Nature Boy" was actually starting to believe it himself?

There's a psychological side to all of the things Ric Flair and Bret Hart are saying to (and about) one another. In the back of their minds, they're trying to maintain their own legacies. Bret's convinced that he needs to keep defending himself in order to save his reputation, while the opposite is probably more true. If Bret Hart had buttoned his lip through a lot of this, the fans would have no reason to call him bitter, or delusional, or amateurish. But they'd still have reason to call him a hard-working, respectable professional. If Bret Hart really believes in himself, why does he bother answering every little potshot with a venomous dissertation? Why doesn't he continue to take the high road?

As for Ric Flair, he's got a very clearly defined idea of what constitutes right and wrong, good wrestling and bad wrestling. Some would call it an old school mentality, which in some ways it is. Flair also made an effort to be completely open in his book. Therefore, some of his honest (but not necessarily correct or PC) views about his peers came out in print. There's less guesswork with Flair. He essentially admits that he's been suspicious of certain guys over the years trying to sabotage him, and admits to doubting himself.

I tend to think this bitterness between wrestling legends has less to do with either being a bad person, or an overrated wrestler. It's not even about the other guy, to them. It's about themselves. Everyone else is just an antagonist trying to spoil their own ride through life.

The big battle here isn't in print. It's going on inside the heads of the Hitman and the Nature Boy.


SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




All contents are Copyright 1995-2014 by OOWrestling.com.  All rights reserved.
This website is not affiliated with WWE or any other professional wrestling organization.  Privacy Statement.