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Hart Foundation coming to town

December 6, 2012
By Michael Boytim ( , The Altoona Mirror

Jimmy Hart has served as a professional wrestling manager to Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and the Honky Tonk Man.

Just don't ask him to take care of their bar bill.

"Bret's dad used to call me Cousin Jimmy when we'd go to Calgary for a show," said Jimmy Hart, who despite having the same last name, is not related to the wrestler. "When we'd check into a hotel, there would be Owen Hart, Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Hart all staying in different rooms so it caused some confusion.

"I don't even drink, but sometimes I'd go to check out and I'd have a $45 bar bill. I'd tell them, I don't drink, ask anyone around here. We'd get it straightened out, but a lot of times one of those guys tried to put their bill on my room."

Jimmy, Bret and Neidhart will all be in Altoona Friday when Big Time Wrestling makes a stop at the Jaffa Shrine. Fans can meet and greet with the wrestlers starting at 6 p.m. and the matches will start at 8.

It won't be the trio's first trip to Altoona.

"When I worked for the WWE, we were up there so many times when I managed Hulk Hogan, the Honky Tonk Man or the Hart Foundation," Hart said. "Back then, we'd do Hershey, Harrisburg and Altoona on a lap. It was a lot of fun."

Hart managed just about everyone during his run in World Wrestling Entertainment, including Hall of Famer Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, who will also be making an appearance with BTW on Friday.

Hart gained popularity though his flashy jackets he wore to the ring and his megaphone that he was either screaming into or hitting people with.

"Back in our era, [Vince McMahon] let me do our jackets how I wanted," Jimmy Hart said. "We didn't have scripted interviews, and he brought me the megaphone back from Japan. He's always been so great to me and helped my career."

Though the majority of Hart's time in the WWE came decades ago, he remains a popular figure.

"It's like the audience has stayed with us forever with all the DVDs the WWE releases," Hart said. "The toys and the action figures never go away. I was in Allentown a few weeks ago, and 12-year old kids are coming up to me with my action figure. Kids see us on YouTube, and it has gotten so big that it's kept us alive."

Many of those DVDs feature Hart allied with the Hart Foundation, two-time WWE tag team champions.

"When I managed the Hart Foundation, we didn't realize the impact we had on the wrestling world back then," Hart said. "We were just so young and here we were in Madison Square Garden. The fans have always been so wonderful to us. Bret was always the girls' favorite, Neidhart was the wild and crazy guy, and I was always the Mouth of the South who everyone hated at the time."

The Hart Foundation eventually split up, and Bret Hart went on to one of the most successful singles careers in the industry, becoming a multiple-time world champion in both WWE and World Championship Wrestling.

Though he experienced success in the ring, he's had plenty of tragedy outside it. His younger brother, Owen, died at a WWE pay-per-view event in 1999 when a stunt went wrong. In 2002, his brother-in-law, who was known as the British Bulldog, also passed away at the age of 39.

"[Bret's] family is kind of like the Kennedy's," Jimmy Hart said. "But because his daddy was a wrestler and had the school in Calgary, you learn to deal with stuff and just keep going. Bret has dealt with a lot of tragedy, but the fans have always been so great with him and meant a lot to him."

It's those fans that keep Bret in the business, despite the fact he retired from full-time ring activity in 2000 after a severe concussion.

"Bret spends a lot of time doing meet and greets and charity events," Big Time Wrestling co-owner Steve Perkins said. "He loves talking to fans about their favorite moments and reliving them with people."

Tickets start as low as $15 and can be purchased at Hooters in Altoona or the Altoona Spine and Injury Center in the Walmart Plaza.

"I think it will be a great crowd," Jimmy Hart said. "Every time I have worked with Big Time Wrestling, they've always gone all-out. They do it the right way, and it should be a great show."

Several attempts to reach Bret Hart to be included in this story were made, but no calls were returned to the Mirror by press time.

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