on 11 May 2015
Should you peak behind the curtain? Should you let daylight in upon magic? Ask yourself these questions before reading Bret Hart's autobiography, because it will make you revise the nostalgic version of the World Wrestling Federation you grew up with. Remember they say you should never meet your heroes, you'll only be disappointed? Well, plenty of books will give you an insider's view of the strange world of pro wrestling, but few books will tarnish your opinion of several WWF superstars from the 1990s like this one will. Performers who refuse to let someone go over on them is one thing, but those who refuse to talk to young, terminally ill fans is quite another.
Bret certainly has a lot to say, the book weighs in at a hefty 553 pages, but the level of detail on events which occur over the 40 year span of the book make for an engrossing, page turning narrative, telling the story of the Hart brothers from kids wrestling in the Dungeon at Hart house to a family dominating WWF storylines for several years. Often, Bret points out that he was the real brains behind a lot of the Federations best spots, including the WrestleMania X ladder match, giving the ideas to McMahon to excitedly "scribble down in his little black book". This makes sense as Bret cut his teeth not only as a performer but also a booker in his father's Stampede Wrestling organisation. Wrestling is in the very blood he so often spilled in the name of entertainment.
Whilst Bret will refer starkly to the painkiller and steroid abuse he witnessed along the way, much is made of his own Achilles heel, beautiful women. Bret talks candidly of the breakdown of his marriages and of one night stands as his "addiction". It's a story littered with further tragedy; the sad cases of the Dynamite Kid, the British Bulldog and Brian Pillman (amongst far too many others) are talked about at length, and of course there is the need to recount the heart breaking story of Owen, which is made all the more unbearable because the book chronicles his entire life as Bret's younger brother, from birth to untimely death. The family-tearing aftermath of this tragedy make for the most bleakly honest, painful portion of his memoirs.
The final fifth of the of the book details Bret's career-ending concussion, suffered at the hands of an amateur Bill Goldberg, and his subsequent stroke following a bike accident. The Hitman's slow, patient recovery from these events absolutely reinforce his strength of character, whilst at the same time taking Bret is some very dark directions, especially as he finds himself at the centre of a family at war.
When the WWF became more about entertainment than actual wrestling, Bret found himself a man out of time. A lonely professional wrestler amongst the popular professional idiots, diametrically apposed to the unsavoury actions of DX and the Clique. The epitome of this being the shoot/worked feud with Shawn Michaels, a man who cared little for Bret's technical wrestling heritage and was leading the Federation into an ever filthier, adult-orientated spectacle. Michaels also refuses to do "the decent thing" and drop the title to Bret, alleging a knee injury which forced him to "give up" the title, and his smile, instead. Accusations swing back and fourth and, inevitably, the argument gets personal and causes a very real punch up in the locker room.
As you would expect, the very worst digs are reserved for McMahon and Michaels, and the double cross at Survivor Series '97 is recounted with a forensic attention to detail, at this point the book moves away from the anecdotes and locker room whispers, concentrating instead like a laser beam on the rights and wrongs of that one night. A moment, Bret claims, which "will haunt Shawn for the rest of his career". Prior to that, his relationship with McMahon borders on the paternal at times, and there are certainly similarities to Bret's real father, Stu, which can be drawn. Before Montreal, Bret speaks continually of his loyalty to the WWF family, and his desire to carry the company as a legitimate figure head. But that was not Vince's plan, he believed he'd done all he could with Bret, as he did with Hogan, and was happy that Ted Turner was trying to poach him. The one thing that he could not allow to happen, though, was for Bret to leave whilst still the reigning WWF Champion.
The Mr McMahon character would ride Monday Night Raw back to the ratings top spot on the coat tales of the Montreal Screwjob, blending reality with fiction in a way even pro wrestling hadn't seen before, and his company would degenerate further and further, yet rise in popularity. Bret found himself out on a limb with a group of aging superstars at "the black hole of booking" in WCW. His brief and ultimately unhappy period there make for a sad footnote to his wrestling legacy. Before belts began to swap hands like sweets, his five WWF World Heavyweight titles were seen as quite the achievement, tying only with Hulk Hogan.
The obvious flaw in any autobiography, even those which claim to be straight down the line, is that they are really only one way conversations: The subjects opportunity to explain and excuse themselves without repost, and this can be quite intoxicating to someone with an axe to grind. Bret paints himself as perhaps the only decent team player within a locker room otherwise bulging with greedy and substance abusing athletes, and he's got dirt on all of them, having kept an audio diary for most of his career. Bret talks about his "real life" in the "cartoon world of pro wrestling", but the tales are anything but "cartoon-like", ranging from a viscous assault on a Police officer, to a story involving someone defecating on a hotel dinner, annoyed merely by a discrepancy in merchandise sales. The skeletons of his immediate and extended family are candidly dragged out of their cupboards too.
Whether Bret is a reliable narrator to his own life story or not is something only he will know for sure; he'll be aware of any stories which may have painted him as less of a wrestling paragon that didn't make the book. Yet, what is as inescapable as the Sharpshooter is that Bret put everything on the line for the WWF time and time again, often wrestling with injures, making stiff opponents look great, putting many others over, forever away from his family, and when he decided to call time on his 14 year stint in the WWF the very least McMahon should have done was to trust him to be professional right to the very end. If he had, a lot of tragedy and heart-ache may very well have been averted.
on 5 March 2012
I just missed Brets career in WWE as I got really into it just after the screwjob. I bought this book out of general interest to hear his side of the story as I only ever really seen fleeting glimpses or titbits from Vince, Shawn and the WWE.
I glad I did buy it as it is a fantastic account of the trails and tribulations of a professional wrestler and the sheer commitment they have to have to the industry they represent.
I do think that Bret comes across very egotistical in the book however and he never seems to be able to accept blame for things he has done (the constat lax attitude to his infedelities for example).
However I do understand the hype about the guy he was an unbelievable talented dude and the book is a really sensational and in depth look to an otherwise secretive world of the behind the scenes of professional wrestling.
As he recounts Owens death it would provoke emotion from the hardest of man, and he did change my opinion of HBK a bit, such as his account of when he dropped the title to him at Mania after the Iron Man match and Shawn telling him to get the **** out of the ring.
After a while it did seem as if he was whining alot and he really did not pull any punches about putting down some of the biggest names in the business (Flair and Hogan to name a few). But there is no doubt that the latter years of his career were hard and he came through alot in a short space of time (screwjob, owens death, career ending injury, stroke, divorce). All in all its one helluva story.
Any wrestling fan or even fan of biographies I would recommend this book to. Its a fantastic read. In my opinion he might not be, but this book definately is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be when it comes to wrestling biographies.
I read Shawn Michaels straight afterwards and it didn't even come close Harts.
on 25 April 2009
This book by far is the best wrestling autobiography I have ever read.
From Hart's childhood, straight through to his forced retirement through injury and then a heartbreaking, ongoing recovery from a stroke, this book has it all.
Throughout the book, Hart also relives the many friends and his brother Owen who lost their lives in the spotlight of fame.
I couldn't put it down once I started reading it.
I have read biographies by Edge, Hogan, Shawn Michaels, Batista and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but not one really touched on the real, dirty, gritty and sometimes cruel, wrestling world that Bret Hart exposes in equal humour or sadness.
Buy this book and it will not disappoint....
on 3 July 2009
This has gotta be the best autobiography I have read for a very long time!!!!
I was a massive WWF fan back in the day, went to Summerslam '92 when Hart fought the Bulldog and loved everything that was wrestling. Haven't really been into it for ages but picked this book up for a bit of a nostalgia trip...I'm glad I did!!
There is so much included in this book every page is as exciting as the last..from the infamous Hart Dungeon, to the Stampede days, through to WWF and WCW. Bret Hart seems to try and give an honest account of everything he encountered, what he went through, the endless ego's he had to deal with, the best wrestlers he ever worked with, and watching endless wrestlers lose their lives to drugs, injuries etc.
What comes across in this book is how much of his life (both ups and downs) he has put into this book. I really enjoyed being reminded about some things that I'd forgotten and also learning new things (Davey Boy Smith was a crackhead!!). I didn't realise how much he was respected (Ok I only have his word to go by, but I think he is pretty honest) by other wrestlers and how much he had to work as he wasn't naturally pumped or used steroids, like the Warrior or Hogan.
All in all, I would definately recommend this book to any wrestling fans, whether you used to like it or whether you are still an avid fan its well worth your hard earned!!