Jim Ross has discussed Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart’s decision to turn down an offer to appear at WrestleMania XX in 2004.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Jim Ross was asked by co-host Conrad Thompson about the reports at the time that suggested Hart had been asked back to WWE. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer had reported that Hart had been in discussions with Vince McMahon prior to the event.
“Well obviously any great promoter, and McMahon’s a great promoter would try to have Bret do something that would remotely emulate some of his previous physical triumphs in that building.”
WrestleMania XX emanated from New York’s hallowed Madison Square Garden. The same venue where ten years previous Bret Hart had headlined WrestleMania and won the WWE Championship from Yokozuna. That night is even more fondly remembered for the opening contest which saw Bret lose to his brother Owen Hart.
“His match with Owen at [WrestleMania] ten was great and you know, you gotta follow that even though it’s ten years later. But Bret had several health issues and so forth. I’m sure if Vince had his way, like any other promoter you’d want a star like Bret doing something physical. If nothing else getting a sharpshooter on somebody or punching somebody, something along those lines.”
Jim Ross then touched on the possibility of Hart being part of the Hall Of Fame ceremony that year:
“Of course Bret’s a great story-teller. He would have been a tremendous addition to the folks at the Hall of Fame. That was a very special Hall of Fame quite frankly. A hot ticket too. So I think in a perfect world [Vince McMahon] would have liked Bret to be able to do more but he just wasn’t interested. He wasn’t interested in returning that way. I don’t know what Bret’s expectations were at that point in time of his career in relation to WWE. But it obviously wasn’t to be part of the card at [WrestleMania] twenty.”
Fellow WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle recounted his belief that Hart rejected a match with Angle at WrestleMania XX.
Talking to Chris Van Vliet, Angle recalled:
“I was trying to get that done. I understood why Bret didn’t want to do it. Me being, at 51 now, and looking back. If a young Bret Hart came to me right now and said, ‘hey let’s do our dream match.’ I’d be like, ‘it’s not going to be the dream match that I’d like it to be. I probably don’t want to get in the ring.’ So I understood why Bret didn’t want to do it because he had the stroke. He had a lot of bad luck.”
“I even told him ‘listen you don’t have to bump at all. I’ll do all the bumping.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, it won’t be the Bret Hart match that I want it to be. I can’t do that.'”
Bret Hart left WWE in November 1997 after the infamous ‘Montreal Screwjob.’ Hart would eventually return to the company in 2006 to accept an induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. Hart, however, declined to appear the next night at WrestleMania 22 as is the tradition for Hall of fame inductees.
Hart returned to WWE proper in 2010. In a monumental moment on Raw, Hart would call out old rival Shawn Michaels to bury the hatchet between them once and for all. This return then led to a match between Hart and Vince McMahon at WrestleMania 26. Bret would defeat McMahon via his sharpshooter with the Hart family surrounding the ring.
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