Chinlock.com Editor’s Note: Here is another incredible piece, originally written by Jan Murphy, and published in the Kingston Whig Standard on 05/22/2010. Chinlock.com is proud to present an interview with WWE Hall of Famer, and multi-time World Heavyweight Champion Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart!
He is the self-proclaimed Excellence of Execution.
He comes from a long line of professional wrestlers groomed for life inside the squared circle in a wrestling school in his parents’ home, known as the Dungeon.
He has held 32 championships in various wrestling organizations.
In 2004, he was voted one of the top 50 Canadians of all time on CBC’sGreatest Canadian.
He is arguably one of the top 5 pro wrestlers of all time, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy (Macho Man) Savage, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker and others.
He is Bret (The Hitman) Hart.
In wrestling circles, he is a living legend.
During a recent telephone interview, he was equal parts humble, honest and extremely well spoken.
Hart is easily the most famous of the Calgary-based Hart family, a family as synonymous with wrestling as a family that goes by the last name of McMahon.
Bret’s father, Stu Hart, is famous not only for being a former wrestler, but for his wrestling school that produced the likes of Bret, his late brother Owen, Jim (The Anvil) Neidhart, the late Chris Benoit, the late British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and so many others.
During the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s, Bret Hart dominated what was then known as the World Wrestling Federation, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment. There, he captured pretty much every honour possible, several times over in many cases.
His departure to rival World Championship Wrestling, however, was a bitter one.
Bret came to Montreal in November 1997 as the world champion. He was to defend to the title against another star, Shawn Michaels.
Unbeknownst to Hart, owner McMahon, fearing Hart would leave for the competition with the WWE title, double-crossed the champion, leading to a departure known in wrestling circles as the Montreal Screwjob.
Hart left the company the next day. Months later, his brother Owen was killed tragically in a failed stunt.
In the months and years that followed, Bret suffered a series of career-ending concussions, suffered a stroke following a motorcycle accident and lost his brother- in-law, Davey Boy Smith, and his parents to death.
Hart recently returned to the WWE, where he has been re-establishing his place as one of the WWE’s all-time greats and where he has been helping his niece and nephew get their wrestling careers off the ground.
For Bret Hart, it was simply time for him to come back to where he belongs.
“You do a lot of soul searching when you have a lot of time,” Hart said.
“In the end, I felt that people might have taken me as someone who is bitter about how everything ended up and not a happy person … this thing that happened in a wrestling match in Montreal so many years caused all of these different things to happen … the dynamics of everything that unfolded after that, including Owen,” he said, referring to his brother’s death in May 1998.
“Eventually, you get to a point in time — after I had my stroke and everything — where you just really start looking at everything.
“Generally my whole time there was a great ride. In the end, I was more grateful for everything I got than the bad problems that we had at the end.
“I never really could ever forgive those things, and I still don’t. I just thought it was time to kind of chop the chains off and set myself free of that, set Shawn Michaels free of it, forgive it and move on.
“I think in the end, it’s better for my soul, I think, to say goodbye to it and make peace with it. For everything I am, Bret (The Hitman) Hart and the whole character that I’ve been able to live the life of all these years … I owe all of that to Vince McMahon giving me the chance to be that person.”
McMahon has always had love for Bret Hart, often referring to Hart as one of the greats, the kind of talent you could build a company around.
“I always thought that in real life, when you take kids and look at them all playing with their wrestlings figures … Vince McMahon is just doing that for real,” Bret said. “He’s got his favourite toys. I was his favourite toy for quite a while. I think he only had a few favourite toys.”
The death of Hart’s brother, however, was an unnecessary tragedy, according to Bret.
Owen plummeted to his death from high above the ring when the cable from which he was being lowered into the ring malfunctioned.
Hart has often said that had he been with WWE at the time, Owen’s death would have been avoided.
“He would always come to me with everything he did and ask me about it and get my opinion on it first,” Bret said. “As soon as he heard it, he would walk straight in a direct line right to me and ask me what I thought of it … often what he should do.
“If I had been there, he would have for sure come up to me and asked me about it and I think that would have been the last we heard of it. To me, it was something that didn’t need to be done and certainly not something you want to risk your life trying to do.
“I think those words in Owen’s head would have stopped him from ever even thinking about doing it.”
Even today, Bret struggles to understand why his little brother would take such a chance.
“Owen was such a non-risk taker,” Bret reveals. “He really didn’t take risks. It still baffles me to this day how he ended up even going along with that whole thing. He didn’t seem to have any problem doing it.”
The entire Hart family struggled with Owen’s loss, particularly Bret’s parents.
“It was like a concussion they never came out of,” Bret said. “It set them both back and really took the flame out of their hearts. It really wiped my parents out emotionally. Neither one of them ever recovered after Owen’s death, especially my father. He really faded fast from one day to the next. It really took its toll on both of them.”
The Harts had 12 children, but Owen was pretty special, according to his big brother.
“There was always a bit of a dog-eat-dog or survival of the fittest in a certain way in the family,” he said. “There was always a pecking order. At the same time, Owen, being the baby of the family, was always loved by everybody. I think he had an interesting kind of perspective of the whole family because, being that young, he got to see everybody and watch everybody. He kind of learned from everyone’s mistakes, which in some ways made him the most perfect Hart of all.”
Owen died during the heyday of the WWE’s attitude era, a time when the company followed an edgier business model.
Bret’s return coincides with a new stance by the company, a new, more family-oriented parental guidance era.
Bret was asked if there was any connection between the company’s new approach and his return after more than a dozen years.
“It wasn’t a conscious thing,” Bret said. “The truth is, because of my niece and nephew, I’ve found myself watching the show for the last couple of years now,” he added, saying he also liked to keep tabs on his friends in the business.
But make no mistake, Bret is well aware that injuries have left him a shadow of his former self, at least physically.
“On account of my stroke and concussion issues, I can’t really consider physically going back to wrestling like I did, but I certainly can go back and have some fun and maybe heal up some wounds and do something good for my niece and nephew.”
Bret admitted that his return to the WWE was on a show-by-show basis. He expected it would end with his match with McMahon at WrestleMania in March. He has since appeared in the ring long enough to capture the United States championship, much to the delight of the Canadian crowd in Toronto.
While Bret admits he has no idea what the future holds for him in the WWE, he’s had a blast so far.
“Getting to be Bret (The) Hitman Hart every Monday for a couple of months was good for me. It was a lot of fun.”
For now, Bret plans to see where things go — and to spend time figuring out grandfather-hood, which he just entered into for the first time.
Bret’s daughter, Jade, recently gave birth to a baby girl, named Kyra Beans.
Grandpa Hart had this to say about the newest addition to the Hart clan.
“It’s good for the heart, I know that,” he said. “It’s a beautiful baby.
“When you look at it and see it, it makes you just appreciate just how everything works.”
It was suggested to Hart that his granddaughter may one day become the fourth generation of the Hart family to grace the squared circle. He conceded that you just never know, before adding: “She looks more like a dancer than a wrestler.”