Published on February 6th, 2016 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
BRET HART: Revealed! A Tell-All on Man Who Wore Black and Pink
For many, Bret Hart is what got people into professional wrestling. During a time when big, cartoonish men like Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage were forced to step aside due to steroid scandals, smaller men like Hart, Curt Hennig and Shawn Michaels were stepping to the forefront with Bret leading the charge. Bret revolutionized the industry in the early 1990’s by bringing high quality, athletic in-ring performance to the fore, and has cultivated a legacy as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
This installment is a mix of stories from Bret with quotes from his peers, dedicated to ‘The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be.’
“In all honesty, I don’t know that I was the greatest wrestler of all-time.
I tip my hat to a lot of the great wrestlers. Dynamite Kid…I would never say that I was better than him. I think that pound-for-pound, he was the greatest wrestler of all-time. [But] I also think that I was more professional than he was and I had more longevity than he did.
Curt Hennig was also a wrestler that I would never say I was better than. He was a great wrestler. There are a lot of great wrestlers. Although, I don’t know that anybody did it as safely or as smoothly as I did.
I never hurt one wrestler in my career that I know of. I never saw a wrestler that couldn’t work the next day on account of working with me. That in and of itself is such a statement. I don’t know of any other wrestler that had a schedule like mine that can say the same thing.”
‘STONE COLD’ STEVE AUSTIN:
“Man, working with Bret Hart was some of the most fun matches I’ve ever had in my life. There was Chicago and WrestleMania 13, over in South Africa, in Germany…and Bret had a pretty good stronghold over in Germany.
I loved working with Bret. I’ve got a lot of respect for Bret as a person and everything he did as a pro wrestler.
Hell, I remember one time we were working a show somewhere and Bret was in the main event. He got a flat tire on his Lincoln Towncar and I changed his tire while he was in the ring working.
Every day you work with Bret, you could learn something. We had 100 percent trust in each other and 100 percent respect for each other. He’s a badass guy, and every night was a good night with Hart. That’s the damn truth.
I wish him all the best. I love that guy. I got so much respect for him. He truly is one of the best ever — an absolute artist in the ring. I hold him in very high regard, and he’s a very dear friend.”
BRET HART on how The Hart Foundation settled on pink as their color
“If you remember back then we used to have the blue tights with a black stripe, or maroon with a silver stripe.
[WWF] had a lady back then that used to make all the wrestling gear and we used to call her and say, ‘We need a new color…’
She kept saying, ‘I don’t really have anything…all I got left is a hot pink.’
I went back to Jim saying, ‘All she’s got is a hot pink…’
He said, ‘Nah…we’ll never wear pink.’
We kept waiting. I called her again about a month later and still all she had was this hot pink…
Me and Jim went into catering for Saturday Night Main Event, Vince McMahon was there in line at the buffet table.
We strolled in with these hot pink tights on.
I remember Vince did like a double-take, he just about fell over. He said, ‘Stop everything! Don’t move…’ He walked around me and Jim about three times. We were starting to think we were about to get fired.
Vince circled around again and said, ‘Whatever you do…DON’T change that color. The Hart Foundation’s been missing one thing since they got here…it’s color,’ he said, ‘That’s your color.’
“The toughest opponent [I’ve had] on more of a wrestling format I think was Bret Hart. He was always a real challenge for me in the ring and he actually brought something out of me that a lot of people never got to see because of what my character was. They actually got to see that I could wrestle and that I could wrestle against somebody who did wrestle. Some of my favorite matches are with him because you’ve got this big brawler, power guy against this cunning wrestler. To this day I think my matches were Bret were some of the best.”
“A young Bret Hart was as good as they got.
In the WWF, I never wrestled Bret because in the time I was there, he was in a tag team with Neidhart, exclusively a tag team and no singles. To me, Bret was a wrestler’s wrestler. He came by that naturally because of his father. I have nothing but admiration for the whole Hart family.”
BRET HART on violence in wrestling
“Wrestling doesn’t have to be overly violent. You don’t have to have wrestlers hit wrestlers over the head with chairs.
Back in the 90s when I was wrestling they didn’t have chairs. There was always a big red flag if there was blood in a match and often blood was either a rarity or accidental if a few wrestlers collided.
It was never saturated with the gore that maybe it was back in the 70s and 80s of American wrestling. If you look back at the period I was champion in the 90s – from 92 to 97- it was drug-free. Steroid testing and drug testing was as real as it is right now. The violence was pretty much cut off. I can remember situations in wrestling back in the 90s where they said you cannot use a chair, you absolutely cannot hit anyone with a chair.
I think it was Undertaker where we had a whole series of suspense built around the chair, but we never hit anyone with the chair.
I remember Vince saying if we can use the chair but not actually hit anyone with it it would be great. We didn’t need all the violence and gore. We knew we had a child audience back then. We didn’t want to lose that. I was a fairly outspoken critic of the direction wrestling went after with the sleeze and the girls. I know they made a ton of money through that direction but it was a more wholesome era when I was champion.”
“It was a great pleasure to work with Bret, when I first tried getting into the wrestling business I called lots of promoters and Bret’s father Stu was the first promoter I rang, Bret and I had some great matches together.
That’s when I turned into a bad guy and I didn’t ever think I would do that during my career but there were a lot of changes with society and a lot of the good guys in the WWF at the time were lying, cheating and swearing. So I thought, let me be the bad guy by being good…”
BRET HART and LEX LUGER on tying for the win in the 1994 Royal Rumble by exiting the ring at the same time. Just how confident were they of hitting the floor together as planned?
“It was critical to the storyline leading into Wrestlemania X that our feet touched the ground at the exact same second, even when watched on instant replay and in slow motion by fans around the world…”
“What was going through my head? Number one: that we could pull it off. Number two: that I could go over the top rope, backward, while holding on to him and that I didn’t crack my skull open in the process. My arms are wrapped around him [so I couldn’t use them to protect myself]. It’s not the most comfortable feeling. I was concerned for my safety…”
“After a flurry of punches, Lex picked me up with his back to the ropes and attempted to dump me out. Lex controlled how we went over, and it was a testament to his skill and professionalism that it came off so well.”
‘MR PERFECT’ CURT HENNIG:
“I’d have to say out of all of my matches my best would have to be with Bret Hart.
Pretty much the same chemistry, same age almost, same background…I went into that match when I lost the Intercontinental belt to him I was already done for two months – my back was so bad I couldn’t even hardly drink my third beer (laughs)… but I went out and did it. So I have a good thing with Bret Hart forever.”
SEAN ‘X-PAC’ WALTMAN:
“I had a fucking [great] match with Bret Hart that people still talk about to this day. Even though I lost, he put me over. He actually went out on a limb and kind of turned heel just to get me over. I got all my shit in and we had probably a 35-minute match cut down to 25 for TV. At the end, he raised my hand and hugged me. It was like, shit man, that boosted my stock and put me straight to the top.”
BRET HART on wrestling in Japan
“The language barrier sort of complicates things.
The whole trip over there was complications since nobody spoke English and I didn’t speak Japanese. But funnily enough, the wrestlers could call things in Japanese or they could call them in English — like ‘dropkick’ and ‘clothesline.’ They knew the English terminology for most of the moves they do. So it was pretty easy to communicate with them.
But the crowd in Japan was very difficult.
They would watch wrestling as if they were studying opera or something. They would sit on their hands — nobody would clap or cheer. Every once in a while there was an ‘Oooh…’ or ‘Ahhh…’, but they generally don’t clap until it’s over.
So we would build all these things, setting up higher and higher, and you don’t get much reaction from the crowd unless you really work for it. If you really do work for it, you can get them to blow the roof off the place.
Japanese audiences are great audiences, but they’re just really hard to win over. You really have to know how to pull their strings…”
“Bret had that methodical psychology of, ‘I’m the wrestler. It’s David and Goliath. I need to get Goliath off his feet. I’m going to do it methodically. I’m going to go toe-to-toe with him if I have to.’
And Jim Ross was always the best because he was always telling that story of, ‘Bret Hart, when he gets the big man off his feet, he’s got the advantage. But when Diesel is vertical, Bret Hart’s in trouble!’
We just had that easy psychology to tell that real, simple David and Goliath story. And Bret was stiff. Bret worked stiff. His shit looked good. He worked snug. And you know what? I wouldn’t let another 5 foot 11 guy in this business give me a backbreaker, but I did him because it worked. I never had a bad one with [Bret].”
GOLDBERG and BRET HART comment on the kick that ended the Hitman’s career
“I fired him into the ropes and as he reversed me, I heard him call, ‘Watch the kick!’
I had no idea what kind of a kick he meant and there wasn’t much room coming off the ropes…his right foot flew just under my right hand, WHAAAAM!
I felt like someone chopped me with a hockey stick, an agonizing blow that sent me crashing to the mat where I lay holding my neck just behind my right ear at the base of my skull.
I was thinking, I’ve got to get up for the finish…but I can’t remember what it is…
People with concussions are the last ones to figure out how badly hurt they are.
I was more responsible than anyone for downplaying my condition to myself and everyone else.
I let myself go on believing that the problem was a sore neck…I drifted through every day in a pale-faced, sweaty, head-pounding stupor, pacified to the point of numbness by the four Advils I took every three hours.
I sat in Dr Meeuwisse’s office in Calgary. He noticed that I was slurring my words.
‘I can feel a hole in the back of your neck the size of a quarter…’
He felt around the back of my skull. ‘This part here feels like hamburger…I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but your career is probably over…'”
“Every time I think about Bret Hart, I feel remorseful about the kick. Though Bret and I are very good friends and he doesn’t hold it against me…’til the day I die I’m gonna feel bad about it. And there’s nothing I can do to take it back…”
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Bill. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and what happened…it was just part of the job. I do wish he had been a little bit more careful, but we’ve always been friends through the years…”
BRET HART on what he would’ve liked his last to have been
“If I hadn’t gotten injured, it would have been fun to go back and end my career with a big blow-off match with Steve Austin or Shawn Michaels or The Undertaker.
If I could have found the place in my heart to forgive Shawn Michaels back then, it might have been fun to come back to wrestle Shawn Michaels in a ladder match. It’s kind of the match he ripped off from me anyway! We could have built something around that. I think we were good enough friends that we could have done something good with that.
I have a pretty good friendship with Shawn now. We get along — I think we’re both glad that we made peace with what happened. We were both drawn into the bad blood with all that screwjob stuff. I think we’re both glad we’ve moved on from that.”
BRET HART on waging his latest and most fearsome fight, prostate cancer
“In the past few years, I’ve spent more than enough time paying the price for all those years trying to be the best there ever was as a professional wrestler. I executed excellently and my proudest claim was that I never seriously hurt or injured another wrestler in my 23-year career. I’ve paid a price for all that “fake” wrestling.
I’ve had a great lifelong dance and I’m a survivor of many hard battles. I now face my toughest battle. With hesitation and fear, I openly declare myself in my fight against prostate cancer.
My fans have always looked upon me as a hero and I’ve always done my best to live up to that in and out of the ring.
I will wage my fearsome fight against cancer with one shield and one sword carrying my determination and my fury for life.
I beat the odds when I suffered my stroke in 2002, but it is now yet again, that I … stand unafraid and face the tough road ahead of me, I will march toward this destiny with his spirit chanting in my ear.
I make a solemn vow to all of those that once believed in me, the dead and the living, that I will wage my fearsome fight against cancer with one shield and one sword carrying my determination and my fury for life, emboldened by all the love that’s kept me going this long already.
I refuse to lose, I will never give in or give up, and I will win this battle or die trying.”
SOURCE: wikipedia, prowrestling.com (interviewed by Eric Cohen), nodq.com, Opie Radio, The Score, wrestlenewz.com, wrestling101.com, Slam! sports, Calgary Expo (Mike Morrison), Calgary Sun, OffsetTV, pro wrestling radio, f4wonline, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin’s podcast, ‘Hitman: My Real Life In The Cartoon World Of Wrestling’, @brethitmanhart on instagram
Some quotes used in this article compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page