Bret Hart autobiography - My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (Part Three): The Montreal Screwjob, working with Steve Austin, and forming a new Hart Foundation
This is the third part of a four-part review of Bret Hart's "My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling." The first two parts can also be found in the Book Review section.
The third section of Bret Hart's features the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in Hart's WWE career. Yes, the peak of the section focusses on the infamous Survivor Series screwjob, but Bret covers a lot of territory leading up to Montreal and it's a fascinating read even if you're truly burned out on the screwjob story after all these years.
Hart enjoyed his feud with his brother Owen Hart and was pleased that his youngest sibling was finally getting the push he deserved. Bret bonded with Owen off camera during their feud while his relationship with many of his other brothers and sisters continued to fall apart.
Bret describes Owen as the ultimate family man who would run down the steps to greet his wife and children whenever they arrived back in Calgary following their WWE travels. Owen was a prankster, but he wasn't the partying type, so Bret seemed to really enjoy the rare occasions when Owen would let loose and have a few drinks.
Although Bret had issues with most of the other Hart children, a repeating theme throughout the book is his attempts to get his Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, and even his brother Bruce Hart hired by WWE. Inevitably, WWE would bring back Smith and Neidhart, but they wouldn't last long in most cases due to their issues outside the ring. Meanwhile, Bruce always managed to rub someone the wrong way and was never hired full-time.
The relationship between Bret and Shawn Michaels also took a turn for the worse throughout this section. Hart recalls putting HBK over at WrestleMania XII in grand fashion in their Iron Man match, but young Shawn wasn't so grateful. "Tell him to get the f--- out of the ring," Hart recalls Michaels telling referee Earl Hebner. "This is my moment."
Bret was stunned by Shawn's comments. He recalled feeling "uneasy" the next night when Michaels deliver his first promo as champion. "He praised me, closing the page on my chapter, trying to sweep me out of the minds of the fans," Hart wrote.
Bret recalled Steve Austin pulling him aside at a house show to inform him that Michaels and Triple H had been making a fuss over him being late for shows. Austin said they also told him that Hart had refused to put him over at a show in Toronto. Hart told Austin that was not true and accused them of trying to start problems behind his back.
Pat Patterson approached Hart and said that Vince McMahon wanted him to put over Hunter "just to show the boys." Bret wasn't crazy about the idea. "I don't mind one bit, Pat, but when the boys you are talking about happen to be only Shawn and Hunter, it does bother me," Hart responded. He ended up doing the job as he was asked.
Hart was reluctant to turn full fledged heel after playing the hard working babyface, but he was pleased by the way Vince turned him in the United States and allowed him to be a hero everywhere else. "As long as it's done smartly and I have my hands on the controls of what I say and do, I'm in," Hart told McMahon regarding the turn.
Of course, this led to the big double turn of Bret and Austin at WrestleMania XIII. Bret has nothing but positive things to say about working with Austin. He also revealed that Austin told him the day of the match that he'd never bladed, so Bret ended up blading Austin. They weren't supposed to blade at the time, yet Bret managed to cut Austin inches away from McMahon without the boss knowing. This happened on more than one occasion and it made me wonder how many times Vince played dumb because he realized that adding color helped certain matches despite his policy against blading.
Bret felt that turning heel would help ease the tension between him and Michaels because Shawn would need him to help get over as a babyface champion. Wrong. The tension grew more intense and Michaels unloaded on Bret by burying him during promos. One of Shawn's rants included the infamous "Sunny days" line, which was Shawn's way of insinuating that Bret was having an affair with Sunny (a/k/a Tammy Sytch). Hart denies having an affair. Oddly enough, he confesses to having countless affairs with women he met on the road, but he never confessed to sleeping with Sunny or any other woman in wrestling.
One of the last great highlights of Hart's WWE career was the great July In Your House pay-per-view event where The Hart Foundation faction (Bret, Owen, Neidhart, Davey, and Brian Pillman) defeated Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and the Legion of Doom in a 10-man tag in front of the hometown Calgary crowd.
Although Bret describes this as a great event for him and his family, Bruce once again tried to take center stage by brawling at ringside, which distracted the fans from Owen pinning Austin to end the match. Bruce was also hot at Austin for hitting him with a couple of stiff shots, so at one point during the match he punched Austin as hard as he could and bruised his kidneys.
It was only four months later when the infamous Survivor Series screwjob took place. Most people know the details, so I won't waste time recapping all the events that took place. I must admit that I have been a believer that Vince had every right to protect his title if he believed there was a chance that Bret could take it to WCW with him. After reading Bret's side of the story, I now question whether Vince had any reason to truly fear that Hart would pull such a stunt.
Did Bret take himself too seriously? Absolutely. He acknowledges only briefly that he was accused of taking himself too seriously, but he does admit that fans treating like a hero was almost addictive.
More than anything, I believe Vince got caught up in hanging out with the cool kids Shawn and Hunter. He may have had some concern over Hart leaving with the belt, but I don't believe the screwjob would have taken place had Vince put his foot down and played a legitimate mediator between Bret and Shawn. Rather, I think he enjoyed acting as the puppet master by playing them against one another, and he ultimately sided with the bad boys who made him feel young and cool.
Ultimately, Vince's screwjob decision was great for WWE business. Sadly, though, Hart was never the same. Having already read the fourth section of his book, it's obvious that Hart's passion for the pro wrestling business died that day.
I can't really do the third section of the book justice with this brief recap. The first section of the book was an interesting read. The second section was fascinating and informative. The third section of the book is even more amazing and an absolute must read. I can't recommend the book strongly enough. If you're a fan of wrestling history, then I think you owe it to yourself to read Bret's version of the Montreal screwjob, not to mention everything else that was taking place behind the scenes in WWE during that era.
In the fourth and final section of the book, Hart discusses his move to WCW, the death of his brother Owen and the family turmoil it caused, the death of his parents, and his own health issues. Check back in the days ahead for the review of the final section, along with my final thoughts on book and how it compares to some of the top wrestling books.
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