Bret Hart autobiography - My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling (Part Four): A new start in WCW, the death of Owen Hart, a meeting with Vince McMahon, and whether he can forgive and forget everyone associated with the Montreal screwjob
Dec 11, 2008 - 3:13 PM
By Jason Powell
This is the fourth and final part of a review of Bret Hart's "My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling." The first three parts can also be found in the Book Review section.
The final section of Bret Hart's autobiography is downright depressing. Hart understandably felt betrayed by Vince McMahon, who he viewed as a father figure despite all their issues over the years. Hart passed on the opportunity to jump to WCW for huge money months before the infamous Survivor Series show, and he was heartbroken when Vince gave the nudge to reopen negotiations with Eric Bischoff again.
Although Hart went to WCW with good intentions, it's clear from reading his recollections of his time with the company that he lost his passion for the business in Montreal. Hart had good things to say about Bischoff, but he breezes through his run with the company, which left this reader with the impression that his heart was no longer in it by this point.
I believe Bret had every intention of making it work in WCW. I think he wanted to help the company succeed and stick it to his former employer at the same time, but he put his career in the hands of the WCW creative forces and the results were not pretty. Hart objected to some storylines, but he also went along with many creative decisions that he didn't care for just to avoid rocking the boat.
If Bret wasn't already disillusioned with the wrestling business, the death of his brother Owen Hart sealed the deal. Bret felt a tremendous amount of guilt for Owen's death because he felt like his brother never would have performed the Blue Blazer stunt had he still been in WWE to nix the creative decision.
Owen's death brought great turmoil to the already strained relationship between Bret and his siblings. Bret wanted to do whatever he could for Owen's widow Martha, but he describes his sisters Ellie and Diana as using Owen's death to cozy up to Vince McMahon in hopes of getting their husbands Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith jobs.
Bret alleges that Ellie and Diana found a copy of the case file that Martha's lawyers had built and faxed it to Vince's attorney. Although Bret had another falling out with Davey Boy over his actions after Owen died, he respected Neidhart for not commenting publicly on the case, which is the only thing Martha asked of the family. Martha eventually settled out of court and Hart reports that she received $18 million from WWE.
After Owen's death, Bret eventually met with Vince McMahon in a Calgary park. Vince offered to do whatever he could for Bret and even invited him to return to WWE. Bret informed him that he'd re-signed with WCW for two years, and asked for access to his video and photo library. Bret claims Vince agreed on the spot, but his attorneys later stated that McMahon didn't remember that coming up in their conversation.
Vince later had negative things to say about his meeting with Hart when he was interviewed on the Canadian talk show "Off the Record." "It was like looking into the eyes of a skeleton," McMahon stated. "It seemed like he wasn't human. It was a very weird experience." Cold words from McMahon, although I must say that Bret's concern over his video library and legacy in the wake of what happened to his brother did strike me as odd.
Bret's WCW career took a strange twist when Vince Russo was hired to head up creative. Russo was a writer for WWE when Owen died, but Hart said he felt no ill will toward him. "It was Russo who'd come up with the idea for the Blue Blazer to descend from the rafters in Kansas City." Bret wrote. "...It's punishment enough that Russo has to live with the knowledge of his role in Owen's death."
Although Hart had no problem working with Russo, he was not a fan of his creative work. Hart tells comical stories about Russo's constant twists, turns, and storyline swerves. Hart eventually made it clear to Russo that he didn't want to take part in any silly stunts outside the ring. Russo assured him that wouldn't be a problem only to ask him later the same night to drive a monster truck over a fully stocked Cadillac.
Hart went into great detail about the concussion he suffered when he was kicked in the head by Goldberg. Bret has taken a few shots at Goldberg over the years, but he went easy on him in the book by chalking up the injury to inexperience and Goldberg not knowing his own strength.
The final section also covered Hart's life after wrestling and the horrible stroke he suffered. His assistant lined up a security team to guard the door because he didn't want to be bothered by family members, especially after Bruce tried to bring a television camera crew with him to the hospital. Bret had issues with most of his siblings and his own mother chalked it up to their jealous of his success.
Bret also wrote about the death of his parents as the book closed. He wrote some truly touching words about losing his mother and father - first Helen and later Stu Hart. He defended his father against critics who say he was sadistic by labeling him as someone who simply tried to teach humility. It seemed like a bit of a reach given some of the previous stories he shared regarding the pleasure Stu derived from stretching anyone he could until they screamed for mercy. At the same time, it's admirable that Bret defends his father, and it's not my place question how Hart remembers his father.
As the book comes to an end, Bret is forgiving of Vince McMahon, but the same can't be said for Shawn Michaels and Triple H. "I'll never forgive Shawn or Hunter for killing the business that so many of us gave our lives for," Hart writes.
It's a shame that Bret can't completely move on from Montreal even though he claims that he has. I spoke to someone in the industry last night who has worked closely with Bret, Michaels, and Hunter and considers all three friends. This person shared my belief that Shawn and Bret could put their issues to rest if they just met behind closed doors and talked.
Shawn's religious conversion changed him dramatically according to so many people that I truly believe he would be apologetic if given the chance. I'd love to see it happen and I think it would be therapeutic for Hart to finally, truly close the door on Montreal.
Unfortunately, Hart still clings to the belief that Shawn and Hunter ruined the wrestling business. At one point, Hart wrote that most male fans wouldn't cheer Michaels because he danced around like a Chippendale dancer, and he chastised DX for many of their controversial on-air skits. Bret is probably too old school or just too stubborn to acknowledge how successful some of the DX on-air antics were, and I couldn't help but wonder how many old school wrestlers that he idolized looked down on him with similar pettiness for having long hair and wearing a pink outfit in the ring.
Sadly, I don't know if Vince McMahon feels remorse over his actions. I stand by my belief that Vince had every right to protect his title belt if he truly feared that Bret was going to take it to WCW with him much like Ric Flair brought the WCW Title belt to the WWF. However, I've spoken with several people close to the situation who don't believe Hart had any intention of doing so.
I spoke to a trusted source the other day who stated that Vince doesn't even remember all the details regarding the Montreal screwjob. The incident came up during a creative session once when Vince was trying to lure Bret back for a match with him at WrestleMania. Vince struggled to remember how everything went down and needed others to refresh his memory. It is sad to think that the event that haunted Hart for so long is just a distant memory for the man who orchestrated it. For what it's worth, when Vince realized he couldn't talk Bret into returning for the match, he ended up wrestling Michaels instead.
Overall, Bret's book is a true treasure. There's so much more to this book than the Survivor Series and I give it my highest recommendation. It's hard to say how it stacks up against Mick Foley's first two books, but it deserves to be mentioned in the same breath. If Bret's book isn't the best wrestling book of all time then it's definitely near the top of the list. Much like Bret considered so many of his matches, his book is a five star classic.