Bret Hart autobiography - My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (Part Two): Hart's relationship with Hulk Hogan sours, a physical confrontation with Shane McMahon, and the downfall of Dynamite Kid
This is the second part of a four-part review of Bret Hart's "My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling." The first part can also be found in the Book Review section.
Section two of the autobiography is dubbed "The Hart Foundation," but it covers his early days in the WWF, the formation of the legendary tag team, to the duo's split, his Intercontinental Title reign, and his first run as WWF Champion.
Hart works in stories about his home life and growing family. Although Bret got his wish of having two boys and two girls, his marriage to wife Julie always seemed to be on the rocks. He continued to discuss her mood swings and his repeated infidelity. It was clearly frustrating for Hart to experience so many professional highs and personal lows.
The story on his extended family hadn't changed. Bret's father Stu's Calgary Stampede promotion was eventually bought out by Vince McMahon. His mother Helen was delighted to be out of the wrestling business, but brother Bruce messed with the deal by trying to secretly launch a new version of the Calgary Stampede promotion through a partner who eventually aced him out.
Stu's retirement didn't last long, though, as McMahon didn't honor their deal. Vince eventually even encouraged Hart to launch Calgary Stampede again because he had no intention of running WWF shows in Western Canada because previous attempts led to disappointing turnouts.
Bret's recollection of life behind the scenes in the WWF were fascinating. Hart struggled to catch a break early in his run and credits booker George Scott for being patient and putting up with his early questions and complaints. Hart eventually formed the Hart Foundation with Jim Neidhart and Jimmy Hart, and the duo worked with old Calgary buddies and brothers-in-law The British Bulldogs.
The secondary story of "Dynamite Kid" Tom Billington's rise and fall played out with shocking stories about Bret's brother-in-law threatening to kill his wife and children, as well as Bret and his family. It concluded with Bret confronting Dynamite, who was parked down the road from Bret's home where his wife and petrified children were staying. A short time after the confrontation, Billington's wife bought him a one way ticket back to England and told him not to return. Hart also visited Billington in England and was saddened by what became of his bitter ex-brother-in-law.
Readers might be surprised to know that Hart's early relationship with Shawn Michaels was cordial. Bret had many positive things to say about young HBK and recalled Michaels putting over his work several times. Hart was even excited when The Rockers were hired and eventually rehired by the WWF following an early termination for behavioral issues. By the end of the section, the relationship started to take a gradual turn for the worse.
Bret never had a great relationship with Vince McMahon. He respected Vince and was grateful for the opportunities he was given during this section of his WWF run, but he also felt that Vince lied to him and countless other wrestlers regarding creative plans. Some wrestlers handled that better than others, and Hart recalls listening as Nailz attacked Vince inside his office. Nailz then called the police and claimed Vince sexually harassed him, but charges were eventually dropped.
Although Vince lied to Bret many times, Hart still respected him and felt sympathy for him during the steroid trial. Hart and Vince grew closer as Bret's career blossomed, but it was obvious that Hart never fully trusted Vince. Like most wrestlers, Hart seemed desperate to please his boss, yet he was conscious of not coming across like the kiss ass that so many others were.
Hart revealed that he nearly left the WWF when he received a contract offer from Ric Flair, who was booking WCW at the time. Unfortunately, Flair had to pull the offer because his boss Jim Herd didn't grant him the authority to make contract offers. When the new deal was presented, it was for less money and Hart turned it down. He was also upset that word of his talks with WCW leaked and blamed loose lips in their office for the word spreading.
Flair came up again when he joined the WWF and brought the WCW Title belt with him. Bret liked Flair on a personal level and was amazed by his ability to party all night and show no signs of it in the ring, but he didn't feel Flair lived up the hype as a worker. Hart questioned the praise that the newsletters and "marks" gave Flair, yet he contradicts himself by citing these same sources when they put over his work.
Hart felt Flair sabotaged some of their matches and relied on the same spots too many times. Hart eventually had to put his foot down with Flair by telling him that he was the champion and they were going to go with his match plans. He also told a story about a time when Vince and a group of wrestlers partied in Flair's hotel room. Flair was late to his own party and the wrestlers took turns pissing all over his bed.
Hart continued to be open about the struggles of Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith. He stated that the duo smoked crack all night before Davey boarded a flight for England for their infamous SummerSlam match at Wembley Stadium. Davey was coming off an injury layoff and spent more time partying than training. Hart claims he carried Davey through the match and recalled Smith forgetting all their plans moments after entering the ring.
"When I got back to the dressing room most of the boys had already left on the bus, but the ones who'd seen the match seemed blown away," Hart recalled. "I understood the art of losing and the power of sympathy. I knew that in the weeks to come, it would be me who was over; over more than (Ultimate) Warrior, (Randy) Savage, Flair, even Davey. All of them had been excellently executed!"
Hart had plenty of respect for Hulk Hogan during his early run with the WWF. He recognized that Hogan was the reason guys were making so much money and he went out of his way to present Hogan with a drawing when it appeared Hogan's days with the company were finished.
The Hogan and Hart relationship changed dramatically when Hulk eventually returned and Hart was wearing the WWF Title. Hart couldn't wait to see Hogan again and assumed he would be proud of everything he had accomplished, but Hogan blew him off with a simple nod and wouldn't even look him in the eye when they met up again.
The situation heated up dramatically when Hogan's perceived politicking led to him taking Bret's title belt at WrestleMania that year. Hart dropped the title to Yokozuna and then Hogan beat Yoko for the belt a few minutes later in an unadvertised match. Hogan told Bret that he would return the favor someday, but when the time came for Hogan to face Bret at SummerSlam, McMahon told Bret that Hogan didn't want to work with him because he didn't feel Bret was in his league.
Hogan denied this allegation when confronted by Hart in a room filled with his cronies. "On behalf of myself, my family, and most of the boys in the dressing room, you can go f--- yourself," Hart told Hogan. "I got the story directly from Vince. Terry, you haven't said ten words to me since you got back almost four months ago."
Although Hart didn't acknowledge it, this seemed to be a turning point for Bret, as he gained more confidence and spoke up for himself more often. He also seemed to become more aware of the politics and began to see himself as a locker room leader along with Undertaker.
There are some awesome stories about life behind the scenes in the old WWF, including the time he had a physical confrontation with Shane McMahon, who had "goosed" Bret's wife. He also stood up to Vince in a meeting and asked for more time off. He found out the hard way that his colleagues who had been bitching in the locker room didn't really have his back when the boss was around, as only two wrestlers raised their hands when Bret asked if anyone else was frustrated by the insane schedule.
The second part of the book is a fascinating read for anyone who was watching the WWF during that era. The first two sections of the book may not contain as much humor as the Mick Foley trilogy, but Hart had a longer history with the company and was able to shed light on many issues that Foley wasn't around for. The first section was a very good read and the second section is absolutely terrific and a must read for wrestling fans.
Looking ahead, the third part of the book focusses on his issues with The Kliq, the company's struggles through the Ultimate Warrior vs. Papa Shango era, and the infamous Montreal incident.
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