Bret Hart autobiography: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (Part One)
My plan was to make it through Bret Hart's autobiography before the book was released in the United States this week. Unfortunately, I'm about 300 pages shy of my goal. As such, I've decided to break it into sections and then I'll wrap it up with a full fledged book review once I finish.
Hart breaks the book into four parts. The first 154-page section is labeled "Stampede Days." Although he spends plenty of time discussing his days working for his father's Stampede Wrestling promotion, he also dedicates several pages to his childhood and what it was like growing up in Hart House with his parents Stu and Helen, and his 11 siblings.
There were several ups and downs in the Hart household. Although Stu had several good runs with his promotion, there were also some tough times. Hart recalls wearing secondhand shorts to school during the harsh Calgary winter, and remembers his mother begging Stu to get out o the wrestling business on numerous occasions.
Bret also details some of the issues he had with his siblings. In one shocking confession, he recalls his older brothers urinating in his and another younger brother's mouths. He also recalls being scared to death of The Stomper, Abdullah The Butcher, and some of the other wrestlers his dad faced in the ring until he got older and was smartened up by his older brothers. Of course, Bret went on to work with these performers later in his own career.
There are no punches pulled when it comes to the way he feels some of his siblings took advantage of his father as they got involved in the family business. He tells several stories about Bruce Hart defying his father's wishes by booking himself as the star of the promotion and defying his father's most basic booking requests. He's also open about his relationship with his father and the way the Stu would resort to violence while disciplining his male children. He also recalls hearing the screams of wrestlers who entered the infamous Dungeon to train with his sadistic father.
Bret breezes through his own pro wrestling training and then goes into great detail about his early years in the business when he worked primarily for the Stampede promotion. He shares some great stories about cramming into a van with over a dozen other wrestlers and two midget wrestles while making long distance road trips throughout the territory.
There are plenty of stories about Hart's relationship with Dynamite Kid (a/k/a Tom Billington). "Anyone watching me and Dynamite wrestle for the three weeks leading up to our Boxing Day match in December 1978 would have had plenty of reasons to think it was real," Hart writes.
"Under the guise of 'working,' Tom stiffed me over and over, until I just did the same back to him," he continued. "One minute he'd smash me right in the face or kick me as hard as he could or simply throw me with complete disregard, just as suddenly he'd be working again, calling spots and taking bumps for me."
Hart goes on to discuss how they became friends and eventually brothers in law. There are plenty of stories about Dynamite's vicious streak, and a secondary story develops as Bret, in telling his own story, provides a firsthand look at Dynamite's rise and tragic fall.
Hart also covers his trips outside the Stampede promotion to Japan and Puerto Rico, and shares stories about some of the get rich quick shows that his older brother Smith booked in foreign countries that always resulted in Stu losing a small fortune.
The early days of Hart's relationship with his ex-wife Julie are also detailed. Bret open about his own martial infidelity and blames a lot of their problems on Julie's mood swings, yet also concedes that his travel schedule played a big part in their issues.
Bret shares plenty of stories about the wrestlers he worked with during his early years. He claims Jake Roberts worked a knee injury while carrying the top title in Stampede because Stu always paid this injured crew. Bad News Allen is also portrayed as an interesting character who didn't like to give his opponent's much in the ring and threatened to kill anyone else who struck his head.
There were times during the first section that I caught myself feeling like Hart shared more information than I cared to read about the Stampede promotion and some of its wrestlers. That being said, I also thought about what my take would be if Hart had been sharing stories about the promotion I grew up watching, and I concluded that I would have been disappointed had he glossed over that era of his career and jumped into his run with the World Wrestling Federation.
The first section of the book is a good read even if you didn't grow up on Stampede wrestling. It's very informative and well written, but I must admit that I was anxious for him to start writing about his WWF days. Part Two is dubbed "The Hart Foundation." It covers Hart's move to the WWF, Owen Hart breaking into the industry, and Bret's initial dealings with Vince McMahon.
I'm about 80 pages into the second section it's such a good read that I had to force myself to put the book down late last night. I'll recap the second section in the days head.
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