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December 7, 1998 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Brian Hildebrand tribute show, WCW contracts ending

Pro wrestling is a world filled with a lot of negativity, from the deception, these days often more prevalent behind the scenes than in front, the backstabbing and the jealousy. But on 11/29 in Knoxville, World Championship Wrestling put it all behind to honor someone to whom most fans would see as a very insignificant part of the profession. By the response of his peers, it was made evident he was anything but.

WCW's unannounced ceremonies for referee Brian Hildebrand, 36, a lifelong wrestling fan who became one of the most universally well-liked people in the profession, facing the toughest fight of his life in his second battle with stomach cancer, reeked of genuine emotion. To paraphrase what Ric Flair said in what may be someday an immortal line, it wasn't a great wrestling show, it was real. Just like Hildebrand was and is a credit to his profession, what WCW did was very much a credit to the profession as well. The highlight was no doubt when Flair came out, as a surprise guest at the house show, and presented Hildebrand with a replica of the WCW world heavyweight championship belt and said that Hildebrand, not Ric Flair or Hulk Hogan, was really "The Man."

The show was headlined by a match made partially because it was the match Hildebrand himself wanted to see, Chris Benoit & Dean Malenko vs. Eddie Guerrero & Chris Jericho. Even though it was a house show, which these days to many wrestlers means avoid more than a few bumps if at all possible, the four men worked as hard if not harder than if it was a PPV match more for the audience of one than the other 4,344 fans in the building. The finish saw a referee bump, which led to Hildebrand jumping out of his ringside chair and calling for the bell as Benoit had Jericho in the crossface. At that point Hildebrand took off his shirt and was wearing a Four Horseman t-shirt underneath it.

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