Bret “The Hitman” Hart on hockey and the current landscape of pro wrestling
“The Hitman” goes one on one with DGS to discuss all things pro wrestling, from his career to what he thinks about the product today
When you think of professional wrestling, Bret “The Hitman” Hart is someone that immediately pops into any fans head. “The Excellence of Execution” was the epitome of a rare breed of wrestlers; the total package (not to get confused with Lex Luger). A true workhorse for the then WWF, Bret wrestled all over the world, wowing audiences with his unique set of skills and ability to successfully tell a story in the ring.
In the latter part of his career, he’s had a few misfortunes. After the infamous Montreal Screwjob came the death of his brother Owen. From a kick by Goldeberg that ended his career, to a stroke a few years later, to even enduring treatments for cancer, Bret is a warrior in and out of the ring. His legacy will always be remembered as someone who persevered and showed night in and night out that no matter what, he gave it his all for his family and the business.
Fun fact: Bret Hart is a pretty big hockey fan. So much so that he became one of the founders of the Calgary Hitmen, a junior hockey team in his hometown of Calgary. Before the Syracuse Crunch‘s game against the Hershey Bears last Friday, Double G Sports was able to sit down and talk to the five-time WWF Champion, one-time Royal Rumble and two-time King of the Ring winner. We talked about a variety of things, from how one of his favorite places to wrestle was at the Nassau Coliseum, to wild weather thanks to chinook winds. When discussing the current state of pro wrestling, Bret Hart didn’t pull any punches.
Double G Sports: How often would you go to a hockey game as a wrestler?
Bret Hart: About once or twice a year. I didn’t really have any connections for Flames tickets. Back then, my status didn’t equate for the luxury that some get today.
DGS: Can hockey players thrive in a pro wrestling atmosphere, especially given their tolerance to pain and their training regiment. What about the other way around?
BH: I don’t believe there is a true connection. Two totally different worlds. Hockey players have trainers helping them out 24/7. Compared to a pro wrestling doctor, those guys are some of the best out there.
DGS: What do you think of the current landscape of pro wrestling?
BH: The wrestlers today are some of the hardest working athletes I’ve seen, and the best that wrestling has ever had. They are all constantly raising the bar. However, I strongly encourage any wrestler today, even the best ones, to watch wrestling from the 90’s and stay true to the art of the sport. Pro wrestling is about not getting hurt. When you are hurting guys for real, you are doing it wrong, and there are a lot of wrestlers who can learn from that today.
What I miss is the art of selling on a consistent basis. There’s way too much rushing and not enough time selling the match. There seems to be a lot of pressure on these guys to put on ten star matches every night when that’s not even humanly possible.
DGS: Do you believe the schedule and wrestling life is tougher compared to when you were in the ring?
BH: Compared to a majority of wrestlers today, my schedule was absolutely brutal. I looked back at my log book recently. Around 1991 I went from Halifax, Nova Scotia to New Mexico. After that I was in Arizona and then the day after I was in Florida. They also have the luxury of personal buses. A key difference was that the ring was much harder in the 90’s. I paid the price for the rings I wrestled in, while several wrestlers today pay a price for what goes on in the ring. There is a thin line between recklessness and great wrestling, and there is definitely a mix of both.
“The Hitman” made a point that the rings were harder, especially in WCW where it was shorter in length compared to most. Speaking to Syracuse.com before the Crunch game, Bret mentioned how he is still hurting from his days in the ring.
“I loved my career, I loved what I did. I got to be a professional superstar, super hero every day. I’ve been through a lot (with injuries). I think if I had to turn back the hands of time, I might have taken it a little easier.”
Regarding moves done in the ring: Harley Race made you ask yourself if you would do any of the moves in the ring in a street fight. Compare it to football players and how they handle getting hit, or the moves they take. I’ve had real fights outside the ring, and it’s a very different world. That’s how I look at wrestling; there needs to be a sense of realism. I’m a huge fan of the product today, there are a lot of good things about it. I just miss great wrestling, and I just don’t see it that often as there could be.
DGS: Which wrestlers today remind you of, well, you?
- Sami Zayn – He might be one of the best sellers in wrestling today. His body language and the way he tells a story with his mannerisms are absolutely perfect.
- Kevin Owens – He does a few high flying moves, but when he works, he is one of the safest wrestlers you could ever meet. He is one of the best professionals out there. Kevin Owens can literally do anything.
- AJ Styles – One of the best all-around athletes today. He was actually great, maybe even better, before his run in WWE.
- Harry Smith (Davey Boy Smith/The British Bulldog’s son) – He’s as good as any wrestler out there. Harry’s currently wrestling for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and his work has been great to follow. In my opinion, he’s too good of a wrestler not to be in WWE. The same could be said for Drew McIntyre the first time around.
Seth Rollins – He’s fun to watch, a great athlete, but he isn’t safe. That’s my biggest issue with him. Past injuries have shown some key mistakes in his game. If he can change part of his craft he can have the full package. I really hope anything I have said over the years has helped him.
On backstage help: We had Chief Jay Strongbow and Pat Patterson help out by critiquing our matches. Any advice they could give was good, and we listened. It always made a difference. Even the best wrestlers can find a way to improve their work all the time. In my opinion, you have to have been in the ring to really help. I believe there needs to be better generals outside the ring to keep things in line. It’s like when Goldberg kicked me in the head. There is great talent in and out of the ring, but every now and then there needs to be someone who had “it” to show these guys the ropes.
There are pretty well-taught workers today, and new guys are always coming up. If you’re going to have great wrestlers, have great, old wrestlers tell them what to do.
DGS: The toughest opponent to put a Sharpshooter on? Easiest?
BH: Yokozuna was the toughest. If I did put it on him, Jimmy Hart would be the easiest.
First wife: I came up with the idea of the Reverse Sharpshooter v. Curt Hennig at SummerSlam 1991. At about 4 a.m. before I left for a trip, I had the thought in my head. I woke my wife up and told her my idea. To see if I can do it, I half tried, no pain involved, and just like that it was a smooth transition. She was a great sport about it.
DGS: Any interest in joining WWE in the future in any capacity? Coach, creative, etc.
BH: It would have to be a limited schedule. I’m not much for the road life. I’d love to be involved in wrestling somehow, I just have my kids and my life outside of the sport to worry about.
DGS: The Hart family legacy continue’s to live on, from Natalya to Harry Smith. What does the name Hart, and those associated with it, mean to you?
BH: The name Hart basically stands for wrestling integrity. My dad had a lot of respect for the business and got it right back for how he dealt with the talent. After myself and my brothers came along, we contributed in any way that we could. Gorilla Monsoon had so much respect for me because of my dad, and still did after seeing my work. The same thing filters down to Harry, Natalya and Tyson Kidd, who all work extremely hard. I tried to stand up to everything that is right for wrestling. That is what my family has always done.
DGS: After everything you’ve been through and been a part of, how would you like fans to remember Bret “The Hitman” Hart?
BH: I would just like for the fans to remember me, period. I hope they remember me as someone who worked really hard, someone who tried to bring out the best, realistic match possible. To make a match as entertaining and as safe as possible. In 23 years, on my account, I never seriously injured any of my opponents. I consider myself someone who tried to look out for the best interest of my opponent and the fans.
Most importantly, I hope the fans will continue to remember Bret Hart as “The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be.”