In 1997 Bret Hart, once upon a time the McMahon family’s “world champion,” got double-crossed by Vince McMahon. In 1999 Bret’s youngest brother, Owen Hart, was killed during a stunt entrance when his harness broke and he crashed into the ring from the arena rafters. In 2002 Bret, by now retired from wrestling because of the aftereffects of a concussion in a botched skit with another promotion, had a stroke that partially paralyzed him; later that year Davey Boy Smith, the ex-husband of Bret’s sister, suffered a fatal steroid-induced heart attack.
Yet in 2007, after Chris Benoit – Hart’s fellow Western Canadian and one of his many close friends in the industry to die young – murdered his wife and child, then took his own life, Bret was on the front lines with all the rest of the industry’s deniers. Steroids had nothing to do with it, he insisted on Nancy Grace. I gently dissented in the segment that became the lead clip on my YouTube channel, http://youtube.com/WrestlingBabylon. (Our exchange came before Benoit’s post-mortem toxicology report showed he had a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 59-to-1.)
As half the world already knows, and as most of the other half should learn over the next 18 days, Bret Hart has returned to World Wrestling Entertainment for a “street fight” at WrestleMania against the wicked “Mr. McMahon.”
But, wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez reports, apparently not without first taking out something no wrestler gets directly from Vince and Linda McMahon’s WWE: an insurance policy.
According to Alvarez, the company got wind of Hart’s move just before his comeback appearance on the January 4 edition of Raw to start building his new feud with Vince. Potentially the insurer, Lloyd’s of London, could have dictated changes in the choreography of the event people will be watching on pay-per-view for the suggested retail price of $54.95. Everyone from vice president Stephanie McMahon Levesque, Vince and Linda’s daughter, on down was “really sweating” over this creative interference, Alvarez writes in the new issue of his Figure Four Weekly newsletter.
He adds: “The plan all along was to do Bret vs. Vince, and then for a few weeks there they seemed to be teasing a tag match instead. It may have been a case, and this part is speculation, that they found out about the Lloyd’s deal and had to initially change plans and go from Bret vs. Vince to Bret & Cena vs. Vince & Batista, but then a few weeks later they ‘bought out the problem’ or at least made some sort of agreement with Lloyd’s and that’s why they then backed away from the tag and went back to promoting the singles match.”
Meanwhile, a loose organization of independent wrestlers is advertising a new group health insurance plan. I don’t believe they are working through Lloyd’s of London.
I have no idea how this scenario fits into would-be Senator Linda McMahon’s stance on health-care reform. In her January appearance on Face the State, Linda said her notion of reform includes personal accountability by everyone for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.