‘My career was everything to me.’
Those were the first words said by Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart on what would become an evening of honesty and even some real emotion as he recalled the run up to his WWE return; that being the Hall of Fame induction in 2006.
And that was the subject of this evening’s show (Bret’s WWE return and beyond) of what has been a several night tour of the UK for Hart, London being the final stop which was all well presented and put together by Inside the Ropes.
Just an hour or so before the audience like myself had the opportunity to meet Bret; although brief I did manage to tell him how much it meant for him to come over to the UK and the fact I don’t think professional wrestling got any better after him. He was softly spoken and truly thankful like he always has been for the fans.
‘That mean’s a lot,’ he said and of course he continued on with signing autographs and meeting the large turn out of fans.
For those not so in the know about the history of professional wrestling; I watched it religiously while growing up and even into my early twenties along with my brother who got us tickets to this event. The performance side of wrestling and the spectacle is what always attracted me to it, this is probably why I eventually joined a drama club and performed in shows. Wrestling is a performance art; it’s story telling and most punters who know me on here will know where I stand when it comes to stories.
Bret Hart is arguably one of the greatest ever, the 90’s was mostly a good decade for the Hitman while he became more and more popular. He won championships and was a staple to the industry and the then WWF. He really was (and still is) a Canadian hero who also inspired the rest of the world. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on what side you stand Bret’s career hasn’t been without controversy, of course the 1997 Survivor Series ‘screw job’ comes to mind (google it if you haven’t heard of it) – possibly the most fascinating piece of wrestling politics in it’s whole history. His rivalry on and off screen with Shawn Michaels cannot be ignored. Hart has also been through a lot more, he lost his own brother Owen, a fellow wrestler who tragically died during an event in 1998.
At the near end of the decade Bret who then wrestled for rival outfit WCW was forced to retire eventually due to a rather stiff kick to the head by Bill Goldberg; a person he referenced with the upmost contempt and now I have heard the real story, I don’t blame him. Not only did this kick cause a severe concussion; it took him a year to recover but it also led to a life changing stroke some years later. Goldberg apologised via the phone 8 months later.
We can all agree Bret Hart has been through a lot of misfortune; he lost a lot including the majority of a 16 million dollar contract he had with WCW after he got injured. His final payout via Lloyds of London – who he also regards with contempt, 1.6 Million and this included the a stipulation that he could never wrestle again.
His departure from the WWF in 97 wasn’t a good one. He’ll be the first to admit that he was angry and mad for a long time.
‘It doesn’t help to carry around a lot of grief,’ he says when tackling the subject of what he’s been through.
There were a few moments when Hart had to stop, for a man who has been though so much and probably hardened by it he still manages to get emotional and this is when everything really sunk in to me. A lot of folks over the years have said he’s just a bitter former wrestler, he isn’t and he’s so damn proud of the career he’s had.
Bret even was determined not to be erased from Wrestling history and why should he? His family; the Hart’s are a famous wrestling family from Calgary; they deserve to be recognised. Vince McMahon of WWE, or the enemy back then called Bret whilst he was still in the hospital post stroke. They began to mend fences and Bret knew he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame which is what the subject of the phone call.
The evening continued with a plethora of eye opening accounts of his return to the WWE and even his long awaited return to their flagship show Raw in 2010. This was indeed another emotional recollection but he had to do it, he had to bury the past and he did. Of course Bret went on to have a ‘match’ at Wrestlemania after seeing Donald Trump throw down with McMahon; of course Lloyds of London began a lawsuit but they did the match anyway even with Bret not able to take bumps.
After all these years Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart is still able to fill an auditorium just by telling his stories and they were worth every word. Even though he’s older he’s prouder than ever of what he has achieved and you can tell that by how emotional he got – something I never thought I would see, he let us in. You can still argue to this day that Bret is the excellence of execution, he admitted he never hurt anyone in the ring, so my belief sways towards him being just that!
This was my first Inside the Ropes show; I’m definitely going to be looking out for future shows especially if they were like this one!