Bret “Hitman” Hart (Book Review)

HITMAN: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, by Bret “The Hitman” Hart

Bret Hart’s highly praised autobiography “HITMAN: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling” was released in the United States and can now be purchased at virtually every commercial book store in the World (correct me if I’m wrong). I was fortunate enough to pick up the book in Canada when it was released here last year and I cannot recommend it enough. There is no doubt that the “Hitman” has led an extremely fascinating life worthy of being published and appreciated by the billions of his fans all over the world. From his harsh upbringing as one of twelve kids fathered by the grizzled Stu Hart to becoming a multi-time World champion to his glorious induction into the WWE Hall of Fame – it’s all covered in this epic 570 page book! There are lots of stories about Hart’s beloved brother, Owen, who died in a tragic accident in 1999 while performing a stunt on a WWE PPV. This book does not lack controversy, as Bret talked openly about his feelings for Vince McMahon and confesses to the years of infidelity which led to his divorce from wife Julie. The journey is both painful and inspiring, as the legendary Hart spills his guts on every aspect of his Hall of Fame career. I shouldn’t even have to sell you on why you should read this book, but if you haven’t done so already, go out and get it as soon as possible because I am positive that you will not regret it. Journalists from all ends of the globe have proclaimed it to be one of the best wrestling books ever written, and I would agree wholeHARTedly. In addition to your local book stores, you can also get the book online at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters.ca, or any of the other major online book dealers that you may use. Thank you, Bret, for sharing your story!

Reviewed by Brad Dykens for Online World of Wrestling.

HITMAN: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, by Bret “The Hitman” Hart

Courtesy of Alan Wojcik at www.alanwojcik.com

Pop quiz time. What do Hulk Hogan, Terry Funk, Ric Flair, Lou Thesz, Brian Pillman, Dynamite Kid, Bad News Brown, Davey Boy Smith, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, Curt Hennig, Steve Austin, Yokozuna, Big Van Vader, the Undertaker and Terrible Ted the Bear have in common? All of them have one way or another been in the life and in the ring with former WWF/WCW superstar BRET HART. Since suffering a career ending concussion followed by a near life ending stroke, Hart has lived in privacy. That was until he finished HITMAN: MY REAL LIFE IN THE CARTOON WORLD OF WRESTLING ($26.99, 549pp, Grand Central) and released it in Canada last year. Now his American fans have the chance to read what made the book a huge seller across the border.

If you watched his WWE anthology DVD or the excellently made Wrestling With Shadows documentary you know Hart is one of 12 children born to Stu & Helen Hart. Since birth he was involved in some form or fashion with the family business, Stampede Wrestling, which was written about in a wonderful book by Heath McCoy. Hart wanted more than the wrestling life so he opted for film school but fate changed that and here we are talking about his autobiography on his life in wrestling instead of a film career. What a life it was though it takes him nearly 150 pages to get to the WWF so pace yourself and enjoy tales of growing up Hart, the shows throughout the country, working for his family promotion and working in Japan, Puerto Rico and other interesting places.

Once we get to the second of four parts of the book (the book itself has 47 chapters) entitled “The Foundation” you are in the world of WWF 1980′s style. Everything you have read or heard is true: sex with ringrats, drinking with head honcho Vince McMahon ’til all hours, steroid use and drugs of all kind, non-stop across the world travel and in between wrestling matches. Saying in the the book, “I’m a survivor with a story to tell”, Hart holds nothing and I mean nothing back. He is open and honest how he met his first wife Julie (mother of his kids) yet was sleeping with nearly every woman he met (but no mention on any kind of Sunny Days.) Hart talks about his days jobbing in the WWF until a conversation with then booker George Scott about becoming a cowboy led to the forming of the Hart Foundation with his real life brother-in-law Jim Neidhart, who then took on fellow brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith & Dynamite Kid (Tom Billington) who were the popular British Bulldogs (Smith was married to Hart sister Diana, Neidhart to sister Ellie and Billington to Julie’s sister Michelle.) Hart explains the circumstances that led to a singles push against “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig (I was at MSG for their Summerslam classic), how things went from the Intercontinential championship and eventually wearing the WWF World Heavyweight title to having Hulk Hogan come along and ruin his run. Despite watching the Hart DVD and growing up a fan, I will repeat I was surprised how open and honest Hart is, certain locker rooms would lynch him for spilling the goods. The best part is the talk of the excellently created Bret-Owen Hart feud of 1994 that came full circle to the New Hart Foundation in 1997.

Like the Hart and Shawn Michaels WWE made DVD’s I am sure you want to hear about the Montreal Screwjob of 1997 and its here without censor (chapter 41 if you want to read it first.) Hart goes into details how things changed in the WWF when Hall & Nash jumped to World Championship Wrestling in May 1996 where Eric Bischoff used them and the New World Order to launch the Monday Night War. Hart gives details on his contract negotiations with both promotions and why he chose to stay with WWF and eventually regretting it. When the dust settles on the WWF, Hart goes into what should have been a great time in his career. Instead he walked into a WCW under internal seige. From here it gets dark as Hart battles for his career and loses his Owen to a tragic accident in 1999. Hart covers most of the stuff Martha Hart used in her book on Owen and he talks about the death of Owen and eventually his marriage to Julie. Thanks to a Bill Goldberg super kick and several other head shots the generation behind me will never see Hart wrestle in person ever again, but they can enjoy this book as much as I did. It is available in stores and online across America.

HITMAN: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, by Bret “The Hitman” Hart

Description: “HITMAN” PUTS HIMSELF IN THE CROSSHAIRS FOR TELL-ALL MEMOIR By Anthony Kingdom James for www.ProWrestlingPundit.blogspot.com

When I was in my early teens, growing up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, my friends Bobby and Wayne introduced me to the exciting world of professional wrestling. Soon, we were watching every minute of every match we could get our hands on. There was Jim Crockett’s NWA from the Mid-Atlantic States. Verne Gagne’s AWA from the mid-west. The hours upon hours of Japanese tapes the Wayne brought home from his job as a dish-washer in a local sushi restaurant. The three hours of Bill Watts’ incredible UWF promotion that my cousin had on tape. A new version of Stampede Wrestling was being shown across Canada on TSN. And of course, there was Vince McMahon’s WWF.

Back then, there were three wrestlers in the WWF (now WWE) that I couldn’t get enough of: The Dynamite Kid, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Bret “The Hitman” Hart. The latter two formed a tag team aptly named “The Hart Foundation”. When we wrestled on the lawn next to our apartment building, that’s exactly who Wayne and Bobby and I thought we were. Dynamite, The Anvil and The Hitman. Then, as well as now, I was shaped more like Neidhart, so that was the part I played… but man, did I want to be Bret Hart.

As the Dynamite Kid’s body succumbed to years of abuse in and out of the ring and Neidhart’s star faded, I followed along as Bret Hart’s career blossomed. From opening match “jobber” to mid-card workhorse to World Champion to icon, Hart grew in both stature and ability.

When I became a professional wrestler myself, I was still always more Anvil than Hitman but I tried to emulate Hart in small ways. When I finally had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with Hart in January 2006, he had been living in Italy for some time after remarrying. I tried to soak in every moment I could; asking him questions, listening to his stories… catching him up on NHL and CFL goings-on. And still, those few days only gave me a small window into this man who was still a personal hero to me.

Now, Bret Hart has thrown that window wide open for fans and detractors alike to get a good look at the life of the man behind “The Hitman”.

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“Life as a pro wrestler is highly addictive”, says Bret Hart in his new autobiography “Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling”.

“Once you get a taste for it, your old life fades away and disappears”, and oh, what a strange new life awaits those who join Hart and make the journey.

Hart describes a life that harkens the reader to thoughts of living within The Matrix. He paints a picture that makes life on the road as a wrestler sound vibrant, colorful and adventurous yet fraught with pitfalls and temptations. And much like Keanu Reeves’ character of Neo, Hart must learn a very special and sometimes logic-defying fighting system to survive in this surrealistic world. When Hart occasionally disconnects from that life, a life he knows isn’t quite real, it means returning home to the drabness of marital strife and the type of familial in-fighting that most people attribute to Shakespeare’s writing…. or possibly an episode of some tawdry afternoon talk show.

The 7-time World Heavyweight champion calls upon over two decades worth of audio journals he recorded during his time on the road as the foundation for writing the monstrous 500+ pages of this book. Hart chronicles his long struggle to protect the honor and integrity of his wrestling persona while admitting to a laundry list of indiscretions in his personal life and Hart’s recounting of his life as meticulous as it is scathing. On one hand, Hart praises himself repeatedly for his professionalism as a wrestler; never missing shows, never injuring opponents, never “screwing” anyone. On the other hand, he frankly admits to dabbling in steroid and narcotics use in the spring of his career and having a voracious sexual appetite. And while he doesn’t absolve himself of his sins, he at least attempts to justify the latter vice by claiming that chasing women distracted him from falling into the bottomless pit of heavy drug and alcohol abuse that swallowed up so many other wrestlers of his generation.

Part of the fun of this weighty tell-all tome is that Hart doesn’t just employ these moral yardsticks for his own behavior but rather as a set of standards that he held everyone to. Both good and bad, Hart scrutinizes the behavior and the work ethic (or lack thereof) of everyone in his life: wrestlers and employers, fans and family. No one is spared, especially those closest to him.

Hart comes off as thoughtful and well-spoken, truthful and deeply emotional. At the same time, he uses the book to offer himself up as one of many martyrs to the wrestling industry. The problem with this is most people expect our martyrs to be humble and while it might be wrong to call Hart braggadocios neither could you quite call him humble. And although a lot has been said, written and put to film about Hart’s life already, this book is a must.

Growing up as one of 12 children. Trying to measure up to his famous father’s reputation and expectations. Learning the art and science of professional wrestling. The growth of his career. The slow death of his marriage. The infamous, industry-altering “Montreal Screw-Job”. The death of his brother Owen. The accident that ended his career. His stroke and recovery. And all of the friends, enemies, parties, fights, triumphs and tragedies in between.

It’s all there and it’s all true, even the “fake” stuff. In fact, the fake stuff may be the truest of all.

“Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling” by Bret Hart is available now in Canada from Random House Publishing. Visit the publisher’s official webpage for the book at
http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780307355669

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Anthony Kingdom James is a former professional wrestler living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. James now promotes shows under the banner of The Union of Independent Professional Wrestlers. For more information, please visit UIPW’s official website at www.wrestlersunion.ca

Reviewed by Anthony Kingdom James on October 29, 2007.