HITMAN HART: WRESTLING WITH SHADOWS
Okay, so before we get to the tape, for those wondering why I didn't do a Smackdown version of Wrestling Bits And Bites, well here's the skinny. This week I moved into a new apartment with my brother. It's a gorgeous 2 room affair, plenty of space, but that has nothing to do with my story. We do have cable, however I now live in Hull, Quebec as opposed to Ottawa, Ontario. Sure, 15 minutes might be the difference, but to cable viewers, it's a whole new world. I do not get Headline Sports. I do not get UPN. With 70 channels to choose from, not ONE offers me WWF Smackdown. Expect me to start putting down my thoughts on paper about Metal, or Heat, or one of those other shows The Cubs Fan watches, assuming I remember to put it on. :-)
Okay, so here's the deal about this tape. Back in 1997 Bret Hart was screwed out of the WWF Title in his final match in Montreal, Quebec. However, for the year leading up to the screwjob, Bret had cameras recording alot of what went on in his life, in order to make what was supposed to be a documentary about the year in the life of a professional wrestler. What they got was footage showing everything leading up to the moment the bell was rung and history was made forever. And for our viewing pleasure, it was released on home video, and winning all kinds of prestigeous awards. With that, let's hit the tape.
Bret introduces us to the Hitman character. The character that's the hero, because it's so hard to find heroes this day in age. Kids line up to see him when he tours. This is the kind of thing you could never buy.
Tomorrow night is the big showdown in Montreal. He's been asked to lose to Shawn Michaels but he doesn't want to. From his character's standpoint it would be committing character suicide. He feels wrestling is far more real than people believe.
Vince goes off on his famous Bret screwed Bret speech.
Let's flashback one year and see what caused this whole mess!
We're at the Calgary Stampede. Doc Hendrix introduces Bret to the fans. He's signing autographs for the fans. He talks about how huge the WWF is. He still feels it's a rush after all these years.
We look at Bret trying to cut promos. He keeps screwing up take after take.
We meet Bret's kid Blade. He's like his wife, but looks like him which makes him a bad combination apparently.
We meet the Hart Foundation. Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart, and Owen Hart. Bret calls the Bulldog the strongest guy in wrestling. Owen's a top high flying technical guy. Jim's a character apparently. We also get too many shots of Vince Russo. He's literally skulking about in the background the whole time, almost holding up a LOOK AT ME sign.
Hey, there's Brian Pillman. I'm not sure whether it was tasteful or not to ignore him as a member of the Hart Foundation.
Bret talks about Goldust's character being over the top homosexual. He says he's anything but the character he plays - Dustin's a redneck from Texas.
We look at a bunch of marks outside. God I wish I looked at wrestling the way these guys do, honest to god.
Here's a look at Vader, who's apparently a big baby who's feelings are easily hurt. He's got a degree in business and he's developing a shopping center.
Sunny is very flirtatious. To Bret she's just a good friend - NOTHING MORE. I dunno, I believe him. Sunny remembers as a kid when Bret slapped her hand on his way to the ring and how much of a rush that was.
Bret can't stand Shawn Michaels because he's a primadonna who's arrogant and full of himself.
Vince McMahon is the creative force and THE MAN behind the WWF. He was the one he turned the wrestling world to the direction it is today.
Bret feels he sends out a good message to children. He says parents can trust him to have their kids watch him on Saturday mornings because he's so wholesome.
He's only worked for Vince McMahon and his father Stu Hart. That's it. His whole career he's been trying to impress his father.
His parents had 8 guys and 4 girls. All the guys got into wrestling and all the girls married wrestlers. Helen said when Stu got into it he promised he'd be out in 2 years. 20 years later they were still doing it. She didn't want the girls marrying wrestlers or the boys doing it, but instead they became the biggest wrestling family in the world.
It's Stu's birthday! Bret tells his dad he's always wanted to be like him. It wasn't easy growing up with Stu as a father. Stu was sent to a foster home as a child, and fell in with a club of shooters. They'd stretch Stu day in and day out. Stu talks about the stretching he got and says he wanted to learn the holds and wanted to be a bully. Bret says Stu became a top shooter before too long and was the guy giving out the punishment. Stu helped Bret come up with the Sharpshooter.
Bret says you should never hurt anyone when wrestling, and never get hurt. However, you should go at it full contact. Wrestling's an art. Hurting yourself or someone else isn't an art. We take a look at Bret's punches and kicks, and he says he does it full force but in a way so it doesn't leave marks. He says people don't tell him he's a great actor, but tell him he's a phony.
As a child the family was teased alot. Alison Hart says the kids called her Hart the Fart and she hated that. Bret says they were teased most about wrestling and that the sport was phony. His sisters were often crying. Ellie says everyone was teased. Georgia promised the kids her brothers were gonna go after them. Ellie says a big guy was calling out Bret. Bret psyched himself up enough to believe he could take the guy out. He walked through the gates and a teacher wished him luck. He beat the crap out of the guy, and the kids hoisted him on their shoulders. When he won the title, all the wrestlers came out and did it for him as well which was the same feeling. Diana Hart loved that moment because it was the moment the hero prevailed.
As soon as you walk into the Hart household you could hear the screams out of the basement. Kids would walk into the house and promise to take him to school. Keith Hart says Stu would almost salivate at the idea of an eager young guy. Diana remembers Owen recording one guy who was crying the whole time. They play the tape. Stu's saying "have some discipline" and you hear alot of skin slapping and the guy screaming his lungs out.
We take a look at some guy coming over to Stu's house. He's a total redneck almost a non-believer of Stu's ability. The next shot is Stu stretching the hell out of the guy and the guy screaming. His friend looks on and the guy can't feel his arms anymore. Stu's mumbling about the moves the whole time. It's almost comical to watch an 82 year old man taking that 20 year old kid to school. He talks about the tongue ready to burst and eyes turning red. Stu's never seen a guy who's eyes wouldn't turn red from his moves. The guy's back in moves again as Stu points out the lips turning blue.
Bret remembers his dad squeezing him so hard his eyes turned red and you'd go to school with red eyes. He reached the top of the moment a number of times - which is begging for your life. His dad would tell him he's breathed his last breath. Then he'd get up and leave. Bret was scared of his father as a kid. He looks back now and has alot of respect for his father, because he was under the pressure of raising 12 kids and it's how he was raised. Bret's not like that, he'd prefer to have a rubber man in an electric chair than a real person. (He has one.)
Bret never wanted to be a wrestler. He was going into film. Stu wanted him to go to the Olympics. His dad asked him to wrestle for Stampede, and all of the sudden he was a pro wrestler. Not long after that, he met Vince when he bought out his father.
Stu's reading a magazine that says Bret's the most famous Albertan in the world.
Bret's been working for Vince for 14 years and expected to end his career there. Ted Turner recently came forward with a HUGE sum of money however and is asking him to jump. Turner offered him 9 million over 3 years. Vince offered a 20 year contract for a lot less. Vince was the king of wrestling until Turner got into it. Bret sees it as 2 giants fighting over him. His contract is up, and he can do whatever. He wants to make money and figures the jump would be the obvious move. However, Vince gave him the chance to be the best in the world, and that weighs in heavy. We take a look at Bret's speech about what he wants to do from RAW - and he announces he's WWF forever.
Quick look at Bret's appearance on The Simpsons.
Bret was torn between doing the right thing for the family and being loyal. He feels his relationship with Vince was a father / son relationship. He said it's easy to jump when the ratings are down, but loyalty is important.
He was in awe of Vince and intimidated by him when he first met him. Here's a shot backstage of Vince talking to Bret's kids. Bret tells his kids to go harrass the Headbangers. Man, what kind of father tells his kids to hang out with the Headbangers???
After going over things with Vince for a match, he goes to find Pat Patterson for match directions. We take a look at scenes from IYH: Canadian Stampede where they go over match directions with Patterson backstage. Sure enough, everything plays out EXACTLY as they went over it, deviating very little from the script. Amazing how the little details add so much to a match, isn't it?
Bret mentions how even the best wrestlers have accidents. Bret says he worries about getting hurt. He relays the story of his broken sternum to his son. (Oh, you haven't heard this one?) Bret was wrestling Dino Bravo in Toronto. He hit the guardrail and broke all his ribs and his sternum. He didn't know if he'd punctured his lung because he couldn't breathe. The fans didn't take him seriously and didn't know he was injured. Bret couldn't speak so Dino Bravo stomped on him. Eventually he got counted out, and spent 7 weeks on the shelf. He would have spent more time healing but he needed the cash.
Another concern of Bret's when he was signing his WWF contract was his feeling the WCW wouldn't know what to do with the Hitman character. (REALLY!?!) For 10 years he's been the hero. The key to being a good guy is to have a great bad guy to work with. Mankind is one of his favorites. Mick says he uses a part of his personality that isn't very nice. HHH is a snob, and is a character who fans cannot love. HHH loves getting booed out of the building.
Bret's been noticing a change. Steve Austin's supposed to be a bad guy, but suddenly he's getting cheered. Vince noticed the way the crowds were reacting to Austin so he turned him face. McMahon asked Bret to turn heel. Bret didn't want to, but realized fans were bored with the hero character. They changed their roles at the match at Wrestlemania XIII. Bret says if they can cheer a guy like Austin, then he can't accept the fans anymore. And in all honesty, he really doesn't understand the fans side at all.
Bret won't go over the top evil, so he won't alienate his true fans. He's in the ring getting his ass kicked and the fans are cheering Austin. Bret's saying to himself "what a bunch of cold hearted people". Bret feels his character is in the right - the fans are in the wrong. Bret explained his feelings to the fans. He totally trashes American wrestling fans. Bret's feeling is he's making American fans out to be the bad guys. We take a look at Canada, where he's getting cheered like mad.
Let's introduce new fans to Del Wilkes AKA The Patriot. He's a character that was brought in briefly to feud with Bret. The Patriot is basically an over the top masked pro American.
Bret Hart says that Pittsburgh was the place to plug the enema in the States. Bret says later it was a mistake to say that on live television. Maybe Washington.
Let's take a look at some marks outside again. They say Canada started the war, therefore American fans hate him. One fan brought a Canadian flag, and was called names and feels the fans are over the top. He feels Bret's fans turned against him, and not vice versa. They interview a drunk fan who's almost toppling over saying Canada's a bunch of whiners, where US fought for their country. Here's an out of shape piece of white trash. Dear god, could this tape be filled with any more stereotypical fans? This one says she's been inspired by Bret to go to school, because he has family values.
Bret says he meets fans who ask him to change back. He feels bad when he meets them and hopes when he does go back to face eventually they forgive him. We're going into SummerSlam with Hart vs. Undertaker. Bret's worried about losing his heat to Shawn Michaels in this match, because Michaels is going heel. Bret wins the title for the 5th time in this matchup. One thing I've noticed about Bret, is the amount of time he spends by himself in the locker room. Now, I'm not sure how other wrestlers react to that kind of thing, it just seems a little odd, that's all.
Bret feels like a guy in the prison yard who's a lifer. He says he's got the warden in his back pocket, and has the nicest cell. But he wants to see if he can get out and stay out. He compares his life to The Shawshank Redemption.
Bret feels Julie's put up with alot, and doesn't know how she's handled it for so long. Julie's been waiting since Bret was 25 years old for him to hang them up. Julie's had enough of the wrestling buisiness and feels it's time to be normal.
DeGeneration X clips are played. Shawn attacks Bret's age and Canada. HHH chimes in with a dick joke. Bret doesn't understand the sexuality of the WWF. He feels they've become smut TV.
2 months before the Survivor Series match with Shawn, Vince announces he wants out of the 20 year contract. He can't afford the contract any longer. Julie doesn't believe any of it.
Vince says he was sorry when he signed Bret to the 20 year deal. He feels Bret used his leverage with Turner to get a better deal.
Bret and Julie talk about the problem. The WCW wants Bret Hart. Bret is still waiting for Vince to talk him into staying. Bret realizes he's in trouble character wise in the WWF. He can't be a great good guy or bad guy because of the way the heel turn went. Bret feels Vince sabotaged his career. Bret faxed his resignation to the WWF.
Bret appears on Off The Record a week from the Survivor Series. Bret uses the show to attack the direction of the WWF, saying the sex isn't what it's about. Vince's response of Good Guys vs. Bad Guys is played. Some of the big guys in the dirt sheet biz talk about the direction with Michael Lansberg and say it would be possible to avoid the sexuality and the racism but Vince doesn't want to.
Vince leaks out just before the show that Bret's leaving for the cash and he sold out. Needless to say Bret's becoming more and more disenchanted with the WWF in general.
The guys, (Hart Foundation and Honky Tonk Man) are in a limo. Bret is REALLY upset with some of the stuff that's going on on television. The homosexual inuendoes, and the comment about Stu walking around Calgary dead have really gotten to him. Bret feels he has to win the blowoff match in Montreal. Vince is not letting Bret win this match. He does not want Bret showing up with the belt on WCW TV. Julie warns Bret something might happen. Bret says he's not worried about the ref, because he trusts Earl and Earl swore on his kids he wouldn't screw him.
Stu doesn't understand why Vince would let him go after his hard work. Stu's opinion's about as old school as it gets. How can you NOT love a guy with feelings like that? Stu says if you lose your respect, you have nothing left.
It's the day of the show. Bret's signing autographs and seems to honestly care about these fans. You can sorta see it in his eyes.
We hit the clips from the top of the show.
Bret talks about how hard the past few weeks have been. Sunny says she didn't know he was leaving until Friday. Funny, she's telling Julie. Weird seeing them talk. Everyone's being sweet to her backstage. Mick throws Bret's kids around like beachballs. Sunny chases Blade around. You know, is there any reason we don't EVER hear about his other kids? I've heard of one other, named Beans or something like that, but honestly, he apparently has 5 but we never see them.
Blade says it's like losing a family. He doesn't understand why his dad is leaving. That's okay, neither does your dad.
Bret has a meeting with Vince and wears a wire. Vince says Turner's the one who's come between them. Bret wants to forfeit the title on RAW. Vince agrees to make the match a DQ.
The match gets underway. Shawn humps the flag before the match to make sure the fans don't boo Bret in his final match in Canada. We hear a backstage conversation where Bret says that Shawn puts him in the Sharpshooter, he reverses and then the guys run down and it's a DQ. Shawn puts Bret in the sharpshooter, and he hears Vince call for the bell.
Bret climbs to his feet and spits in Vince's face. The Hart Foundation tries to calm Bret down but Bret is too pissed off to listen to reason and smashes TV monitors.
Bret heads backstage looking for Vince. However "the piece of shit locked himself in his office". Bret and Shawn talk in the lockerroom. Shawn swears he knew nothing. Vince comes in and Bret asks they turn the camera off.
Meanwhile, Julie's in the hall giving HHH crap. She says someday God is going to strike him down. She says they're gonna go back to the hotel and laugh about it, but what goes around comes around. Owen walks Julie away from the boys.
So we cut back to Bret. Bret says he drilled him as hard as he could. Vince meanwhile is staggering down the hall with Shane.
Bret believes punching Vince just once was the right thing to do, but says it's a Stu Hart judgement call.
Vince McMahon has a blackeye conducting an interview. (Sorry, I don't know what the interview is cut from) He's sorry that Bret ended a 14 year relationship because he got greedy. Bret compares his treatment to that of a circus animal, where he got a slug in his head and dumped out back.
Bret watches RAW a few weeks later when DX brought out the midget. He handles it about as well as anyone could by grinning a sad grin at his wife.
It's a fitting end to the Hitman character says Bret. He never sold out.
Sure, the story might be one sided, but with the footage provided, there really was only one direction to go. Vince has since been given the chance to tell his story. This provides a look at perhaps the most historical moment in sports entertainment as it marked the official change from old school to new school. Even if you've heard about all you can stomach about the screwjob, GET THIS TAPE!!! The parts that don't focus on the screwjob focus on Bret's life and it's quite an interesting journey. This along with only one other tape that isn't a show has gotten ***** from me. Of course, I haven't reviewed that one yet. But I will. ;-)