Full of Hart
'The Excellence of Execution' looks back on a stellar career
By Rob Dannatt. Last Updated: 27/04/09 11:29am
Bret Hart talks about his WWE career
It was summer 1992. The Premiership had begun its inaugural season and 'Rhythm Is a Dancer' was No. 1 in the charts. Meanwhile, 80,000 fans were squeezed into the old Wembley Stadium to watch the lycra-clad, larger than life stars of the then World Wrestling Federation perform in the spectacle known as - SummerSlam.
"Maybe I did take it all a bit too serious. But that's what made me special and hopefully makes people remember me as someone who was passionate about what I did."
Bret Hart Quotes of the week
This was the night where, despite competing against our country's own 'British Bulldog' Davey Boy Smith - the UK truly fell in love with Bret 'The Hitman' Hart.
Bret was the model hero. Dressed in pink and black, with long jet black hair he used to come to the ring with a large smile and designer sunglasses. He fought for his fans and ensured inside and outside of the ring he appeared to be "The best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be," or so his trademark slogan went.
Bret flicked back his long - now grey hair - and took a nostalgic look to the sky as he remembered that night in Wembley. "The audience. The night itself. The match. The fact it didn't rain! I don't think it can get any better for anyone else," he said.
"They'll never have that time and period and the way wrestling was loved over here at that moment. It was just so special. I don't care what anyone says but I was more popular than Bulldog was at the time. I was really over with the people here I think more than anybody else. I could feel it and I knew that."
Now, 17 years on, Bret is still revelling in the popularity that began with that memorable match. His autobiography is receiving critical praise throughout the world and over 2,000 fans came out to get a glimpse of the Hall Of Famer at a selection of recent signings that took place throughout the UK and Ireland.
The signings have been equally memorable for the seven-time World champion, who was overwhelmed by the reception he received - despite having not wrestled for nearly 10 years. With a glint in his eye Bret explains: "I'm just amazed by how many people still consider me their hero. When you realise you had that impact on somebody it makes it very special. It makes you glad you took so much pride in what you did."
The book itself took nearly eight years to write and was aided by an audio diary Bret used to keep during his career. Bret had plenty of obstacles during that period, including the much publicised in-ring death of his brother Owen, the career ending injury he suffered at the hands of fellow wrestler Bill Goldberg and his subsequent stroke.
However he explained he never intended to rush the process: "In a lot of ways the writing was really cathartic for me. I tried to let it take its own course. I never rushed anything. I found myself putting a full day just into writing a whole page."
Family has always been at the forefront of Bret's life. He always had a special connection with his parents, especially his mother. He smiles broadly as he recalls a time when his mother was brought into his world as part of a heated storyline with Jerry Lawler.
"She was so happy and thought the whole thing was so funny," he said. "I remember it coming on TV and she was shushing my dad. And I realised she was really loving it. For my mum to be happy with anything to do with wrestling was great."
As we spoke more about families I asked whether his own sons would be following in their father's footsteps. Regretfully, Bret shook his head to indicate neither of his two boys would be likely to step in the ring.
He said: "Both my boys are big enough. I know my dad would have loved to have trained them and even Vince I'm sure would have loved to have got his hands on them. I'm sure they could do it. They're both pretty athletic. But they seem to have no interest in wrestling at all."
No interview with Bret would be complete without mentioning the infamous Montreal incident, which saw Hart lose his title to Shawn Michaels despite not tapping out. "When I think of the potential of what we could have done business wise together. It makes me quite sad," explains Bret about his former advisor.
Shawn was a key orchestrator in the events surrounding Survivor Series 1997 and in Bret's eyes, Shawn has never apologised. Bret says: "For me I don't really have much issue with it anymore. If you asked me that up until probably about a year ago I'd have probably said something different. But I've cooled off a bit now. I don't want to carry it around anymore. If he wanted to apologise I would accept it. I'd move on but I wouldn't forget it."
So would Bret induct Shawn into the WWE's Hall of Fame, as indicated by a recent request made by Shawn in WWE magazine? Bret laughs and leans back as he quips: "Maybe if he wants to make himself feel better about it he should have the guts to pick up the phone and apologise. Then we'll see after that."
As my time with The Hitman drew to a close I asked what's next? "I'd like to write a fictional book about wrestlers in the '40s and '50s," he said. "Maybe even in England. I heard some awesome stories during my times here." However he also said he'd like to turn his own book into a film.
With Mickey Rourke's film, 'The Wrestler', garnering such global success, I wondered who would play The Hitman in his own biopic. Bret reveals: "Well I remember Brad Pitt's movie company requested a copy of the book when it first came out in Canada but I never heard back from them." Bret jokes how he'd quite enjoy the idea of being portrayed by Pitt. He adds: "They could beef him up a bit, apply a bit of make-up. Give him some nice hair."
He finished with some words for his UK fans: "I'm grateful that I've had such true fans over here. After 10 years since I wrestled anybody they still appreciate me and it really makes me appreciate everything I did. Sometimes the criticism of me is that I took wrestling too serious.
"Maybe I did take it all a bit too serious. But that's what made me special and hopefully makes people remember me as someone who was passionate about what I did and what I thought wrestling was really all about."