Whether he wants to admit it or not, Bret Hart needed Shawn Michaels. And whether or not Shawn believes it, he needed Bret just as much. The intense distrust, the backstabbing and the flat out hatred they had for each other is well chronicled in wrestling history. Books and documentaries have been published on the subject. And now, it's all over.
The fact that Bret came back for one last Wrestlemania moment says a lot about him as a person. It says that he has finally reached a point in his life where he can look back fondly on his time in the WWF without having his unceremonious exit ruin it. That's a good thing. He's an old man now and the last thing he needs to be doing is clinging to how Vince McMahon did him wrong. For a fifty-something year old stroke victim he looked just fine last Sunday, not doing a whole lot of actual wrestling but simply beating McMahon with a steel chair for what seemed like an hour. We all knew he physically couldn't do much, and while the whole "HART FAMILY AS LUMBERJACKS" stipulation was kind of lame and confusing, the fact that the match ended with Vince tapping out to the Sharpshooter made it worth it. In fact, given the fact that Bret's glory hogging brother Bruce and legitimately insane brother Smith were involved in the match and managed to not ruin it or get the WWE sued by someone is a minor miracle. Was it a technical marvel? No, but as a means to bringing closure to a decade old wound that Bret has refused to let heal, it more than sufficed. I'm not going to question Bret's loyalty to his dead brother Owen by again working for the man who was responsible for his death. That's a matter only Bret can address. But I will say that if Owen was the loving, caring man that everyone who knew him says he was, the last thing he'd want is for his brother to keep carrying around emotional baggage. I choose to believe that Owen would want Bret to be happy and for him to finally close the door on his feud with Vince.
In wrestling it is nearly impossible to believe a wrestler when they say they're retired simply because most wrestlers are con men. Their business is more or less one gigantic con, with the audience (for the most part) being in on it. Wrestlers retire and un-retire all the time. It's simply a symptom of being a professional liar. Yet somehow, for reasons I am not sure of, I believe Shawn Michaels when he says he's done wrestling. He's about to turn 45 and has done pretty much everything one can do in his chosen profession. By all accounts he's managed his money well, so the paycheck just isn't an enticement for him anymore. He seems content with what he's accomplished, and now is the perfect time for him to walk off into the sunset and spend time with his wife and kids. And while he's already retired once before, this time it feels different. The first time he walked away from the sport it was due to a back injury. His career was taken from him. He was an angry man with drug problems and had nothing to fill his life outside of his career. Without wrestling he had nothing. He was nothing. This time around he has his family. Whether or not you choose to believe that he's really a different person now than he was in '98 is up to you. I choose to believe he is a different person and that this time the retirement will stick.
It really is appropriate that Shawn and Bret had their last matches on the same show. They both brought out the best in each other. I'm glad to see that they're at a point now where they can at the very least be cordial with each other. I was always afraid of Bret becoming a bitter old man, like Bruno Sammartino. The last thing I want to see is a 60 year old Bret raving out on a shoot interview with some indy promoter. This is how it needed to end. The time was right and the execution was right. Two legends who rose to prominence together putting the finishing touches on their careers together. I couldn't have written it any better myself.