By Mike Mooneyham

Feb. 19, 2006

They like to say anything can happen in World Wrestling Entertainment.

It certainly did last week when the company made the announcement that Bret Hart had agreed to participate in this year’s WWE Hall of Fame ceremony April 1 in Chicago.

Hart, who in the past had refused to have anything to do with the Vince McMahon-run company, softened his stance last year when he agreed to take part in a DVD project with WWE. The move, said Hart, was motivated more to protect his legacy than to work with a company he had sharply criticized.

Then again, the Canadian legend had every reason to be upset with the way his career played out in WWE. He was the victim of a double-cross at the 1997 Survivor Series, experienced the pain of losing his youngest brother to a WWE stunt gone awry, and watched his family split into warring factions as a result of a political tug of war. It was reported last month that there was an outside chance Hart might finally agree to make his first official WWE appearance in more than eight years. Up until recently, though, he had categorically stated that he had no interest in participating in Wrestlemania or being part of a WWE storyline. Sources say Hart began wavering the past couple of weeks after being personally asked by McMahon to reconsider his stance.

Bret Hart

Bret Hart

“It took a lot of diplomacy,” Hart told Canada’s SLAM Wrestling Web site last week. “But I think we just softened. Vince McMahon called me up when I had my stroke in 2002, and I think that was a big step towards where we are now. I always appreciated the fact that he called me, and that softened a lot of the bad feelings between us.”

Hart reportedly is doing the show for free, with WWE taking care of transportation and lodging for the Hitman and his wife.

While the Hall of Fame ceremony is held the evening before Mania, it is considered part of the extravaganza, and those inducted typically make an appearance at the pay-per-view the following night.

Shawn Michaels, Hart’s arch-nemesis, recently stated that he’d gladly skip the Hall of Fame ceremony if that would motivate Hart to show up.

“He ought to come back and end his career on a different note,” said Michaels. “I would want him to close his career differently. So if took me not going to the banquet to make that happen, I’m fine with that.”

Michaels added that he has repeatedly apologized for his part at the infamous Survivor Series.

The fact that both are likely to be in the same building for the Hall of Fame ceremony presents a unique opportunity for both men to bury the hatchet once and for all. It also would provide an ideal forum for Michaels to make one final public apology for Hart and the world to hear.

One thing is for certain. Hart’s involvement in the weekend’s festivities will give the mega-event a much-needed boost in interest and at least add the missing dimension to the Michaels-McMahon match. While there’s little chance that Hart would go back on his word and actually take part in the bout, like they say, anything can happen in World Wrestling Entertainment.

– Bret Hart isn’t the only big name to be inducted into this year’s WWE Hall of Fame. Eddie Guerrero also is expected to be inducted posthumously, as well as “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes.

– A slight clarification on an item that appeared in this space last week on the Ricky Morton Invitational to be held Feb. 26 in Tulsa, Okla. The show’s promoter says Terry Funk and Harley Race, who were reported to have been listed for the event have not been completely confirmed.

Morton was released from a Tennessee jail Wednesday after serving four months for non-payment of child support, and promptly returned to the ring that same night. Morton lost to Shane Matthews in Evansville, Ind., when Matthews pinned him with his feet on the ropes for the win.

Morton also was scheduled to appear Thursday night in Alcoa, Tenn.., against Tracy Smothers, and Friday and Saturday nights in Shelby, N.C., and Pickens, respectively, teaming with Robert Gibson against Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey.

– Widow Vickie and nephew Chavo will be at ringside for tonight’s No Way Out match between Rey Mysterio and Randy Orton. It’s just the latest chapter in the continuing exploitation of fallen star Eddie Guerrero. “It’s hard to hear what has to be said from Randy,” Mysterio told the Baltimore Sun last week, in regard to disparaging storyline comments made by Orton. “Eddie Guerrero had such an impact on the fans, on the company, on the (wrestlers). He was loved by everybody. But I think the most important thing is that his wife has a lot of say in this. If she’s comfortable with all this being done, she knew Eddie very well, and I think Eddie would want this to continue as long as it could. I think he’s up in heaven and he’s enjoying every single moment.”

– WWE cut a company hall of famer last week with the release of Cowboy Bob Orton Jr.

Orton was used on television last year as the manager of his son, Randy Orton, but had not appeared on television since the Armageddon pay-per-view two months ago.

Also recently released were The Heart Throbs (Antonio Thomas and John Roselli) in the wake of an embarrassing appearance on WWE’s “Byte This” Internet broadcast.

– Jackie Pallo, a household name in British culture as one of the first wrestling stars to hit it big on television, passed away Feb. 11 at the age of 80.

Pallo, who fought before the Big Daddy/Giant Haystacks era in Great Britain, died at his home in Ramsgate, Kent, after battling with cancer.

The pony-tailed wrestler, whose nemesis in the ring was Irishman Mick McManus, was known by his fans as “Mr TV.”

Describing his father’s battle with cancer, son Jackie Jr., who took part in tag-team matches with Pallo, said he had been “a bombastic character right to the end.”

– Mike Durham, who wrestled as Johnny Grunge and teamed with the late Rocco Rock (Ted Petty) as Public Enemy, died early Thursday in Atlanta.

A preliminary diagnosis linked his death with complications from sleep apnea.

Durham, who was 39, and Petty were the first major stars created by ECW and became the promotion’s top act in the mid-’90s. Known for their hardcore style that made tables a common fixture in ECW, Durham and Petty held the ECW tag-team belts four times.

Public Enemy held the WCW tag-team title after moving on to WCW in 1996. But their stint there, as well as WWE which they jumped to in 1999, never achieved the level of success they had attained in ECW.

Petty passed away Sept. 21, 2002, from a heart attack at the age of 49.

Grunge had appeared on Hardcore Homecoming shows last year to pay tribute to his late partner and others who had passed away.

– Ron Dobratz, a pioneer in the wrestling newsletter field whose Wrestling Digest was one of the top publications in the ’70s, passed away Feb. 11 from lung cancer.

– Carolina Wrestling Association will hold its “March Madness” show March 4 at Southern Methodist College gymnasium in Orangeburg. The show will feature Buff Bagwell vs. CWA heavyweight champ Cali Cassanova. Others on the bill include Juggalo Johnny Blaze, The Widow Maker, Johnny Flex, Team Y2X, Rufio Rush, Malachi and Chris Chance. Floor seat tickets are $10 and general admission $8. Doors and concession stand opens at 6 p.m. Bell time is at 7:30 p.m.

– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the No Way Out pay-per-view at 8 p.m. tonight. Cover charge is $7.