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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Bret "Hitman" Hart Responds to Ric Flair's Book
July 13, 2004 -- by Bret Hart


I'm sure that if wrestling fans will give some thought to what I've written here, you'll find it to be more accurate and far more interesting than Ric Flair's book.

I don't know if I'm more infuriated or disappointed by the derogatory things he wrote, not just about me, but about other hard working members of the wrestling fraternity, like Randy Savage and Mick Foley. I wasn't going to comment because I didn't want to promote Flair's book for him, but as has become usual in wrestling the truth is getting rewritten again and I'm one of the few guys who is trying to preserve an accurate chronicle of the wrestling of our era.

It bears mentioning that if I didn't have some measure of respect for Flair his comments wouldn't have phased me one way or the other. Sadly, the way he has jumped to erroneous conclusions and put them out there for the public as the truth has eroded whatever respect I had for him. Everybody has a right to their opinion, but in my view a valid opinion should be backed up by facts.

Yes, I did make some unflattering comments about Flair and Hogan back in the early 90's. I then rethought what I'd said and in the interest of doing business with them, for the greater good of the business, I made a sincere effort to apologize to both of them, publicly and privately. They each shook my hand and told me not to worry about it and that it wasn't an issue, but when I got to WCW I was never given any kind of a chance and whether either one or both of them was behind it I'll probably never know, other than hearsay.

Now, years later, Hogan and Flair have both spoken inaccurately about me and have tried to debunk and minimize my contributions to a business that I was born into and have devoted my life to with deep passion and dedication.

Wrestling wasn't just a job for me, it was the only way of life I knew long before either Hogan or Flair laced up a pair of boots and took their first wrestling lesson to see what it was like.

Never, in all my life, have I ever been so infuriated by ridiculous statements made about me. Perhaps they were purposely designed to get my response and sell more books, who knows. Who cares? Flair talks about how I could be the president of my own fan club. All I can say is, he's one to talk!

Self promotion was an intricate key to any wrestler making it in the business. He convinced a legion of fans that he was the best in the business - and there's nothing wrong with that. He even convinced himself. But his peers, the guys who worked with him night after night, know better. How could any fan know what kind of a worker Ric Flair really is without actually working with him?

Flair says that I believed my own press and convinced myself that I'm the best there is. When I boast about being the best there is, it is because of three reasons. The first and most important is that I never injured any wrestler in any way despite my physical style. This is something in which I take a lot of pride and I don't know of anyone, who worked a schedule on par with mine for as long as I did, who can truthfully make that same claim. The second reason is that in the fourteenyears I was with the WWF, often wrestling three hundred times per year, I missed but one match - and that was due to a canceled flight. Again, I don't think there is anyone who worked that schedule who can truthfully make that claim. Everyone on the road worked hard but I was proud to be counted among the handful of guys with an exceptionally dedicated work ethic. The third reason is that throughout my career I never once refused to put over a fellow wrestler - except at Survivor Series '97.

In a conversation that I had with Shawn Michaels three weeks before Montreal, when I was champion, I told him that despite our differences, I wanted him to know that he was safe working with me in the ring and that I had no problem whatsoever putting him over. Shawn's exact words to me were, "I appreciate that, but I want you to know that I'm not willing to do the same thing for you." This was just plain unprofessional. Putting him over would have condoned his disrespect, not just for me but for the honor of old school ways. Vince told me that I could leave any way I liked, not to mention the fact that I had contractual creative control for my last thirty days. The idea for him to beat me in Canada was solely conceived to ruin me as a commodity in my home country where WCW had big plans for me. Not to mention that when Shawn Michaels mocked fornicating with the Canadian flag in the middle of the ring it went beyond being personal to me, my fans, and my country!

I remember Ric Flair and Bobby Heenan coming up to me in the dressing room in Nashville on May 6, 1989. I was in the Hart Foundation at the time and Flair told me he was honored to shake my hand. I had never seen him work. Being on the WWF road schedule made it nearly impossible to catch any wrestling matches on TV because we were almost always working or traveling when wrestling was on. From what little I did see of the NWA my impression was that their TV show at that time was poorly produced and made the wrestlers come off as second rate. Despite that, I'd been lead to believe, like everyone else, that Ric Flair was the best in the business. I always wondered, if he was the best why wasn't he in the big league WWF? His popularity at that time was largely concentrated in the deep south. I appreciated his compliment and hoped I might have the chance to work with this legend some day.

About a year later Flair was head booker at WCW and he made me an offer to come work there for money good enough that I had to seriously consider it. As it turned out, Flair was unable to back up his offer and the deal fell through when he nervously reneged. I lost respect for him and his word and smartly chose to stay put in the WWF instead.

Eventually, Flair showed up in the WWF with the WCW belt and I was somewhat surprised when he shamelessly crapped all over the history of the territory that made him by not giving them their belt back. To this day I don't know what would make him hurt his fellow wrestlers and their struggling company like that. I admit I don't know all the facts on this so I won't comment any further about it, and Ric should have done the same with me.

Flair was trumpeted into the WWF with great fan fare and at last, one night in New Haven, I was thrilled to defend the IC belt against this great legend in an unscheduled dark match that was taped for Coliseum video. I knew more about ring psychology and real wrestling at the ripe age of nine than Ric Flair knew in his entire lifetime yet out of respect I let him lead the match. Ric suggested a finish that called for me to do a flying cross body where he would subsequently catch me and stagger backwards with the two of us toppling over the top rope only to be counted out for the finish. It was a simple but risky move that I'd done countless times before with lesser wrestlers but at the end of the match when I dove into Flair he stood too far from the ropes, mistimed it , and he simply didn't have the strength to catch me so we fell down in an embarrassing heap. Ric suddenly came up with a new make shift finish that, not surprisingly, benefited him and not me. It absolutely stunk but these things sometimes tend to happen when two wrestlers work together for the very first time.

Although the match had been taped and can still be seen today I wasn't going to make any kind of a big deal about it, but back in the dressing room I was annoyed to hear Flair painting out to everybody that somehow I had messed up the finish, implying that I was still a young up and comer. If you understand wrestling, you know that all I could do was dive into his arms and the rest was up to him. He proved to me, right then, that he was full of it and was no legend at all.

Ric was an old fox that took such liberties every time he thought he could get away with it. You'll find nary a wrestler that would describe me, Savage or Foley as back stabbers or sneaky liberty takers, but with Flair you better take a number!

I remember Flair worked with Randy Savage who, like me, was lead to believe the same crap about how great Flair was when they had a Saturday Night's Main Event TV match in Hershey on September 1, 1992. He somehow became WWF champion and Vince McMahon carefully constructed an elaborate storyline for this very important match. I was standing right next to Vince watching the match live on a backstage monitor when Vince blew his stack as he watched Ric do absolutely nothing he told him to do. Ric has never been able to do anything but his one routine match, which consists of cartoon high spots borrowed from Jackie Fargo and midget wrestlers, along with an assortment of tired old ripped off Buddy Rogers high spots. My dad always called Flair a "routine man" - because he did the exact same routine every night, every where, and was forever stuck with it. An angry Vince met Flair as he came through the curtain and he furiously ordered both Flair and an exasperated Randy to march right back out and redo the entire match the way he'd told them to do it!

Even then, as I remember it, Flair was still unable to impress Vince. Personally, I would have been shamed with embarrassment to ever put the promotion, myself, or my opponent through such a farce! I recall telling Randy that I thought Flair was 'thirty minutes of non stop non psychology' and Randy shook his head and laughed along with me at how true it was.

I can tell you first hand that Ric Flair was not a great worker at all. Yes, he did hilarious interviews but, to my taste, I never thought a world champion was supposed to be hilariously amusing. Granted, Flair was entertaining to watch - and there's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, much like Hogan, Flair's magnetism and charisma distracted from and offset his limited ability in the ring. The single greatest contribution that Flair ever gave to pro wrestling was the wooo from his silly chops. First off, chops hurt - and in my opinion they look like crap.

For Flair to demean Randy Savage and Mick Foley is outrageous! In my opinion, as someone who has worked with all three of them (and everybody else from that era too) Ric Flair couldn't even lace up Randy and Mick's boots! They were both hard workers and exciting innovators who at least made every possible effort to put on some kind of a different show from night to night. Either one of them could call a great match any time they wanted. So what if Randy wanted to put in an even greater effort by designing a great match in excessive detail? That is a quality, not a flaw, and Flair is too lost in time to grasp it.

Sure Flair could call a match, the exact same one over and over, talking and telegraphing every move! I can also say that Ric was a blatant expose every time he cut himself. "Hey look, Ric Flair's blading! ..." Some great pro! If old time shooters like Ed Strangler Lewis or Frank Gotch were to look down from the heavens I'm sure they'd be more impressed with Randy and Mick's realism and psychology than Flair's phony chops and upside-down flips into the corner, where amazingly he somehow landed right on his feet! - only to jog down to the next corner - where he climbed right up and - even more amazingly - took ten or fifteen seconds to maneuver his opponent's hands carefully onto his chest so he could take a phony beal back into the ring!

If done on rare occasions, such silly routines, because they are highly amusing and entertaining, often go undetected for how ridiculously phony they are.

But this pathetic routine was performed every time Flair went blank, and let me tell you, he went blank all the time!

As for Ric's criticism of how my comeback was repetitive, all I can say is that I felt that, logically speaking, why wouldn't I break into my patented arsenal of best moves before going into my finish? I did, in fact, change it up from time to time, but I also recognized that most fans completely understood what I was doing. It made as much sense as doing the same finishing move every night, except my finish was a series of moves. The fact that Ric took exception to this is a simple example of his inability to fully understand ring psychology.

The day after I wrestled Davey at Wembley at Summerslam '92 in front of 86,000 fans I flew to Baltimore. They were playing a tape of the show in the hotel bar and I was watching a tape in my room when there was a knock at my door and low and behold both Randy and Flair stood there beaming. They each shook my hand and I remember Flair excitedly grinning and praising me saying, "Brother, that was the greatest match I've ever seen. The greatest!"

For Ric Flair to say that I wasn't a draw is just plain ridiculous. I'm very sure that I sold enough tickets throughout my career. Who is he kidding? Everyone knows that most of the time WCW wrestlers worked in front of empty chairs in empty arenas. All one has to do is watch Flair's DVD to see the empty seats and the exact same match with every opponent, whatever their shape or size. After Vince made him redo his SNME match his days were numbered in the WWF because he clearly wasn't what he was cracked up to be.

Six weeks later Flair was told to lose the belt to me in Saskatoon on October 12, 1992. As I understood it, Flair declined putting me over on TV, despite the fact that he himself had just told me that Wembley was the best match he'd ever seen ! Let alone that I was the biggest draw the WWF had in Europe and all the foreign markets, consistently main eventing in front of, not sold out buildings, but entirely sold out tours! And I had a very strong following in North America too. The WWF was reeling from sex and steroid scandals at that time and I was seen as a safe bet to carry the belt, in large part, because I worked hard and I kept my nose clean. When I won the title in Saskatoon that night I came back to the dressing room with a dislocated finger and a rolled ankle, both as a result of Ric failing to tell me what he was doing in the ring. (I generally never got hurt.)

I worked with Flair every night for a while after that and I finally went to Vince totally exasperated and told him that I thought that Ric was intentionally sabotaging my matches every night since I'd won the belt. To be honest, Ric always worked hard but nothing he did in the ring ever made sense. Just when he'd masterfully worked my leg he'd suddenly grab a headlock and call a long series of running high spots! Just when we had the crowd ready to burst he'd call some lame spot that would kill all the heat we'd built up and I forever found myself shaking my head at how we'd have to build it up all over again. Most of what Ric called made him look like a world beater and in some matches I'd blast him with fifteen or twenty terrific looking working punches only to see him never go down but then finally wobble and take one of his pathetic and comedic face bumps. Sometimes he'd do his upside-down flip into the corner two or three times in a row and in one match, only days after I won the title, he called for a small package out of a figure four and pinned himself without even giving me a comeback! When I finally went to Vince he scolded me and told me that I was his champion and from here on in to take charge of my matches - and that Flair wasn't as good as he was cracked up to be! I was trying to respect Ric at the time but since he was heading back to WCW I had no choice but to take control. Ric apologized to me saying he was having problems at home but today he's telling some bullshit story about Charles Barkley and the Ultimate Warrior.

A few months later, when I found out I'd be having a one hour marathon match at the Boston Garden with Ric, I came up with a brilliant storyline that I ran by Vince, who loved it. When I ran it by Flair in the dressing room the night of the show he immediately interrupted me and began telling me what we were going to do instead. I finally had to cut him off and sadly dress him down in front of several wrestlers saying, "Ric, I'm the champion and this is how it's going to go." He dropped his jaw, turned red, and took his seat, saying, "You're the champ." He never, ever got over it either.

Scott Hall was there and often told this story to other wrestlers for years. Sadly, old Ric still managed to mess up the timing for every fall, in what I could only see as intentional. At the time I was furious to read in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter how Ric Flair carried me for the full sixty minutes!

Ric Flair never carried me, ever! Years later I spoke with Meltzer about it and we cleared the air when after hearing my perspective on it he agreed that he didn't have all the facts and told me that he'd never seen the Boson match, which was reported to him by a fan who was there. If anything, Flair was not only notorious for sucking up to the office but generally took liberties with his opponents who had been convinced that he was going to make them. If you watch Flair's matches you'll see that he usually made himself at the expense of his opponents , something I was famous for not doing.

Enough about this so called great worker. He was a three dressed up as a nine who left his opponents second guessing their own abilities after working with him.

For shame that Ric Flair should take pot shots at Terry Funk, Mick Foley, Savage, me or anyone else. But none of this is what infuriates me the most.

For Flair to denounce me for my role in the infamous Survivor Series in Montreal, all I can say is that he wasn't there and he ignores much of the truth when it comes to the facts. The most complete and accurate written account of the whole Montreal debacle, for anyone who is interested, is available at brethart.com - written by Dave Meltzer. I stand proud with my head held high for the way I handled myself and the position I took for the business and my fellow wrestlers that fateful day. I find solace in remembering two truly great champions, Harley Race and Dory Funk, who did call me up to tell me they were proud of me for how I handled myself in Montreal.

That's all the endorsement I'll ever need! That's all I need to say about it. Far above and beyond anything else Flair said, it is his comment about how I exploited my loving brother Owen's death that is unforgivable.

Frankly, this is such a low class blow that it is even beneath him! If he wants to take pot shots at me as a wrestler that's bad enough, but it is reprehensible that he would judge me for the way I handled myself in the aftermath of my brother's death. All I can say is that I stood by Owen's widow through a fierce and bitter time, never once failing her or their children. I did what I think Owen would have wanted me to do and I answer to Owen's memory not to Ric Flair. For him to say that I fueled the law suit because of Montreal is ridiculous and disgusting.

I think it's fair to say one had to walk in my shoes to fully comprehend the situation and when I put my story into words in a book about wrestling that is worth reading only then can anyone appreciate all that I lost and all that I gave during such a difficult time. For this asshole to blindly poke me in the eye would be like me declaring that Flair showed great cowardice when he let Bobby Shane die in that tragic plane crash back in '75 !

Foley , Savage and Bret Hart have been doing just fine outside of the world of wrestling. What else has Ric Flair got? I'd like to punch Ric Flair right in the nose - but I'd probably have to kick somebody in the ass to do it! In the infamous words of Dick Cheney, go f**k yourself Ric and be glad that someone like me doesn't shove your head squarely up your ass someday.

by Bret Hart..


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