Interview with Bret Hart
Bret Hart is an honest man. You ask the gentleman a question, he will give a truthful answer. On Saturday, June 3rd, I had the opportunity to speak in length with the former WWF and WCW champion on a wide variety of topics.
Steve Gerweck: What is your current health status/situation?
Bret Hart: As of right now, I’m not allowed to physically wrestle at all. I can not wrestle for at least another six months.
SG: I had heard that July was your targeted return?
BH: That was to be a time when I would re-evaluate my situation. My concussion is much more severe than anyone thought.
SG: When you competed in January, did that further injury you?
BH: I suffered the injury on December 19th at Starrcade, and wrestled for three weeks afterwards. I should have received better advice.
SG: Was this your first concussion?
BH: I believe that my doctors said at the time that I’ve had seven concussions, seven minor ones. When I saw the doctor, I had trouble explaining to him what had happened. My train of thought was very bad, I couldn’t remember what I was talking about. I don’t know if it got worse or not, but it never got better.
SG: Did WCW really cut your pay in half?
BH: Yeah, they cut my pay in half.
SG: Did WCW cut Goldberg’s pay? Even though he hurt you in the ring, and his injury was not wrestling related?
BH: No, not that I know of.
SG: What is your position on Goldberg?
BH: I like Billy. It was a pay-per-view, and I know there was no intention. I just hope it gets better.
SG: How long is your current contract?
BH: I have three years left.
SG: This isn’t the original deal you signed?
BH: No, I renewed my contract right before Owen died.
SG: Did WCW ask your permission to allow Sting to drop from the rafters once again?
BH: Yeah, Sting asked me. The reason I didn’t have a problem with it was because Sting was actually taught; he took three weeks of specific training for that. He said he was comfortable doing it, but if you have a problem with me doing it, than I won’t do it, and I appreciated that. I said no as long as you feel safe and sure of it, I don’t have a problem with it. I did have a problem with the idea of them doing it in Kansas City. I did pull Sting aside, it was my brother’s birthday (Slamboree was May 7th, which would have been Owen’s thirty-fifth birthday) on that day, and would have been in really bad taste.
SG: Were you asked to be in Kansas City for the PPV?
BH: The WCW did call me Sunday morning demanding that I be there, asking where I was. I was not planning on going there.
I asked Bret when and where he learned of his brother Owen’s death. Bret relieved that he was on a plane headed to Los Angeles. He was scheduled to make an appearance on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Bret recalled that he had what could be described as a premonition. He felt something was wrong, but he could not reach his parents, as the line was busy. Hart remembers a friend first informing him that Owen had died at a pay-per-view in Edmonton, and that Owen’s wife Martha and their two children were in attendance.
SG: You had a meeting with Vince McMahon in Calgary shortly after Owen’s Death.
BH: Yeah, he begged me to meet him. I met him at this park bench that I had sat at for two years thinking about why he screwed me. I had talked to Martha’s lawyers, and was told, whatever I do, don’t talk about the incident. I just asked him if he knew anything more than what the papers were reporting, and he said no. I asked him why the show continued and was told there would have been a riot if the show had stopped. I asked him why he screwed me, and he said it was the biggest mistake he ever made and that he regretted it everyday, and wanted me to end my career in the WWF.
SG: A few months after Owen’s death, you gave a speech on Nitro about your future being uncertain. What ultimately brought you back to the ring?
BH: Well, I guess what I was hoping for, and I don’t know if I got it or not, I wanted to come back and maybe somehow change wrestling. I thought I could make a difference in ideology. Maybe return it to the old kind of wrestling, more traditional. I talked to Eric Bischoff, and I didn’t want to wrestle in a good guy versus bad guy situation at all Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬¦ at least not for the first three or four months. I didn’t want to end my career on a tragedy. I think people will respect and probably forever be grateful for that whole match with Beniot in Kansas City. It was very emotional.
SG: The night before the 1997 Survivor Series in Montreal, you worked a house show in Detroit. With Vince desperate to get the title off you, could a comprise have been that you would drop the title on that show?
BH: No, for two reasons. One, I wanted to leave Canada with my head up, and secondly I was told, and just had this confirmed that Vince McMahon, had Shawn Michaels tell him that he never ever would let me beat him in a match. I had told Shawn about a month before I left the company, when I was still the champion, that I had no problem putting you [him] over. I was really taken back by his response which was, I really appreciate that, but I want you to know that I won’t do the same for you. Vince said that I have this idea for you to drop the title in Montreal, and then you win it back at the next pay-per-view in the States, and I was like, why would I do that?
SG: When you returned backstage at the Molson Centre in Montreal, McMahon had locked himself in his office. Did you think you would have an encounter with McMahon later that night?
BH: No. The Undertaker, as I remember it, went down and actually got Vince out of his office and ordered him to get his ass in the dressing room. I was in the shower when Rick Rude told me that Vince was standing in the dressing room. I told him (Rude) to just tell McMahon to go. I told Vince that if he didn’t leave by the time I was finished dressing, that I would knock him out.
SG: Do you know for sure if Shawn Michaels was in on the double cross?
BH: Yeah, I know for sure.
SG: When Hulk Hogan left the WWF in 1993, he put over Yokozuna and not you, is this correct? Do you still have tension with Hogan over it?
BH: That’s what I heard. Hogan and I have talked since that time and he said that was a twisted version of the truth. Hogan wanted to do a title match with me, but told me that Yokozuna was going to get the title and they wanted a Hogan-Hart babyface match, and Hogan didn’t want to do it if no title was involved, of course, that’s Hogan’s version. It still doesn’t change the fact that he didn’t put me over. In my experience with the WWF, which goes thirteen years back, was that there was always a lot of tension between the top guys, and a lot of that came directly from Vince, and he thought it made a better product. Right now, if anything, I actually have a pretty regard for him (Hogan).
SG: Vince Russo is a disciple of crash television and prefers to get women involved as much as possible. Knowing that he is in charge now, might this distance you from WCW?
BH: I know, and I not happy about it. That’s a really hard question to answer. On the one hand, I want the ratings to improve but on the other hand, if I wanted to see strippers I would go to a strip club.
SG: “Wrestling With Shadows” is a extraordinary documentary. I have heard that Vince McMahon did everything in his power to block the release of the film, is this true?
BH: First, they tried to buy the documentary and shelf it. And then there’s the part where Vince McMahon is sorta staggering up the hall. (Moments after Bret punched McMahon in the face, leaving him with a black eye). They did everything they could to get that taken out. Vince just absolutely hates to look like a weak person.
SG: When you signed your original WCW contract, did you have any idea how you would make your debut and what storylines you would be involved in?
BH: No, they said they wouldn’t spend this kind of money if they didn’t have huge, huge plans for me. They promised me that if I thought I was a big star working for Vince, I would be ten times bigger in WCW.
SG: Lance Storm is one wrestler (among others) that came out and stated that he believes the Montreal episode was a total work. How do you respond to that?
BH: The sad thing about it is that it should have been (a work).
SG: Are you still friends with referee Earl Hebner?
BH: No, I’m not friends with any of them. At the same time, I don’t carry around a lot of anger. Earl Hebner is really just a victim. I don’t blame Shawn as much as I used to.
SG: I noticed Vince Russo in the “Wrestling With Shadows” documentary. What is your opinion of him?
BH: When I was in the WWF, Vince Russo was strictly the editor of the magazine (WWF magazine). He was often the guy that would come up with interviews for the guys, tell them what they should say. I didn’t pay much attention to him one way or another. I didn’t have any problems with him, in fact, he would be on the cover of the magazine from time to time.
SG: Is there anything to the rumor that Owen returned to being the Blue Blazer because he was punished for not doing a love triangle with Debra and Jeff Jarrett?
BH: Yeah, I think so. I talked to Martha, and I know they asked him to let Goldust stick his hand down his pants. They (the WWF) were pushing Owen all the time to play along with stuff he just wasn’t comfortable with, which is why they wanted to punish him. He was supposed to win the title (Intercontinental title) in that match (at Over the Edge), and that’s how they sweetened him into going along.
SG: I guess for some wrestlers the titles still mean something?
BH: I guess, they ought to. In Owen’s case he could come home and pride himself on the family side, and when I came back I was still Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
SG: Did Owen what his WWF release following the Montreal episode?
BH: Yeah he did.
SG: Why do you think McMahon released the British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart, but not Owen?
BH: I think it was a way to F (language) with me, knowing that Owen was locked in for I think was another three and a half more years. It left him (McMahon) with all his options. That was the topic of the last conversation I had with Vince prior to me leaving for WCW. I told him that if he had any integrity, let him go. He threatened me with a lawsuit if I tampered in Owen’s business. I told Owen that I couldn’t get involved in your stuff. I saw Owen around Christmas time (1997) and he was kinda down. I asked him what was the matter and he thought I was mad at him. I told him not to let the business come between us.
SG: In fact, the WWF is focusing more on the wrestling product, and sort of phasing out some of the “sleazy” aspects of their product.
BH: I believe it. The one thing about the WWF is that they are not stupid, they are very clever.
SG: Is there anything WCW can do to catch the WWF?
BH: I don’t know. All I can say about WCW is that its like a football team being run by people that have never played football. They have had wrestlers, with the exception of Dusty Rhodes, that never drew a dime in wresting making decisions. Most of the guys that were telling me what to do couldn’t lace up my shoes. I’ve always offered suggestions and ideas, and they consistentlyÃƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬¦
SG: Fall on deaf ears.
SG: Who wrote your WWF theme?
BH: Jimmy Hart.
Bret feels that Owen was given the Blue Blazer gimmick again to punish him for refusing to do an Owen-Jarrett-Debra love triangle.
Bret believes it was unconscionable on the WWF’s part to expect workers to continue wrestling after Owen’s tragic fall.
Bret relieved to me that the angle where Goldberg speared Bret, but Hart was wearing a metal plate was his idea, and that it nearly got nixed before it aired. In fact he told me, “they (WCW) did everything possible to not allow that to air.” Bret told me that the idea was changed to Hogan running in after the failed spear, and high “fiving” Hart. Bischoff would only change it back to the original scenario if Hogan approved it, which fortunately he did. (Another prime example of Hogan’s full creative control).
I concluded the interview by asking Hart if there was anything left for him to accomplish in the wrestling business. He indicated that he would like to be a leader in the attempt to bring a union to pro wrestling. He believes that if the Rock, Steve Austin, and Goldberg became vocal in the creation of a union, the industry would have a chance to unionize.
I want to take this opportunity to thank Bret “The Hitman” Hart for his time, his honesty, and his integrity. Bret has given his body and mind to the business that he grew up in, only to have the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling show little or no respect in return. Hart is a class act, and in this era of glorying anti-authority figures and behavior, Bret is still a positive role model. It has been often stated that the wrestling business is cold and harsh, yet after talking with Hart, I realize that there are still genuine good guys left in this industry.