He is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever step inside a ring. In terms of pure technical ability and ring presence, only a handful of men in wrestling history are in the same league.
Bret “The Hitman” Hart recently chatted with WrestleNewz from his Calgary home, settled onto his favorite couch with his wife and their dog.
We asked him questions provided by you, the WrestleNewz readers, and the Hitman shared his thoughts on topics spanning his wrestling career, his upbringing, Vince McMahon,his thoughts on WrestleMania 29 and much more.
Stay tuned to WrestleNewz for Part Two of the interview, coming soon!
Tyler from Los Angeles: How was your experience at WrestleMania this year?
BH: I really enjoyed it. The most fun for me was seeing a lot of the legends and the old names and faces that I’ve known for so many years — Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper and those kinds of guys. I was really quite impressed with seeing the great Bruno Sammartino and hearing his induction speech. To hear his struggle through his childhood with the Nazis — I never knew a lot of that stuff about Bruno. So I was quite touched by him. I got to run into him two or three times over that week, and he was really impressive to me.
WNZ: Did you and Bruno ever wrestle each other?
BH: I was in a battle royal with him at WrestleMania 2, and I think there may in fact have been one time — I think one of the British Bulldogs was injured, in Pittsburgh or Scranton or someplace — and Bruno filled in and tagged up with one of the Bulldogs. As far as I can recall, we had a pretty good match. I’m sure Bruno mopped the floor with us. I can say I worked with Bruno maybe two or three times in total.
WNZ: Had you been a fan of his?
BH: Bruno was a different style than what I wanted for a style, but I always respected him. He was always a class act. My dad brought him out to work for him during the Stampede many years ago — I think it was 1964, right when he won the championship. I remember they took him out to Clearwater Beach, and he wouldn’t go in the water because he said it was too cold. We just stood on the beach and talked. People were actually swimming all over the place, but he couldn’t believe it — he thought it was way too cold. But I don’t actually remember seeing him wrestle after that — I must have fallen asleep in the car — but I know he was really impressive, even though he was only in his early 20s then. That was his big break, just starting to happen. He’s one of our greats. It wouldn’t be the Hall of Fame without Bruno Sammartino.
WNZ: And what about WrestleMania itself — what did you think?
BH: I thought parts of it were really good. But parts of it I thought were, for me, very predictable. I kind of predicted things in my head and certain matches went exactly as I thought they would. But the one match I thought was outstanding was the Punk-Undertaker match. That was truly exceptional. They really had a great match — they couldn’t have done a better job with taking two different guys from two different eras and fusing them together to create the match that they got.
Marshall, Canada: I have an NWA All-Star Wrestling video in which a wrestler named Brett Hart battles Tully Blanchard, but it’s clearly not you. Were you aware of him? Who was he?
BH: That was a guy named Barry Horowitz. He stole my name for a little while. I remember I grabbed him one time when he first came to the WWF and I kind of intimidated him about stealing my name. He told me he had no choice — that they changed his name and forced him to do it. He was sometimes known as Barry Hart, and sometimes he went out as Brett Hart.
WNZ: Was it a deliberate attempt to capitalize on your name and reputation?
BH: I don’t know. It’s possible. There were definitely other Harts (not part of my family) — Gary Hart, Jimmy Hart, there was even a Bobby Hart — so it’s possible they just thought the name was suitable.
WNZ: Did your intimidation of Barry Horowitz put an end to it?
BH: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t think he ever used it again. The way he tells it, it wasn’t his idea and they made him use it anyway. He told me to take it up with David Crockett of the Charlotte wrestling promotion. I didn’t bother.
BigHeadJoe from Dallas: Who are your favorites on the current WWE roster? What about from other promotions?
BH: Right now I’m very impressed with Punk. And I’m very impressed with the one guy in The Shield — what’s his name O’Connell, O’Donnell? — Ambrose, that’s it. He’s really good. He’s got it down. He’s such a first-rate thinker on his feet when it comes to his timing, his expressions, his quickness, his deviousness. I love his deviousness! I saw him this past weekend and told him I thought he was great.
WNZ: How did he reply?
BH: Oh, I think he was pretty grateful. He’s a pretty humble guy. All those guys are really humble, swinging to get up to the top.
[Editor's note: Dean Ambrose idolized Bret Hart as a child: “(Bret) could take a beating and survive,” Ambrose told SLAM! Wrestling. “He never got tired and in the end he always outsmarted the big goons. I probably didn’t realize why at the time, but I could really relate to that.”]
Daniel Denson: What do you think needs to be done to get the tag team division to the heights it reached when you and Jim Neidhart were on top?
BH: I think what it needs is for Vince McMahon to give it half a chance. The reason there’s no tag team wrestling is that Vince McMahon just woke up one day and realized he doesn’t like tag team wrestling. So they’re just slowly but surely eliminating it. I always loved it. It’s been part of wrestling since the beginning. It’s got a different kind of psychology. Different kind of teams can tell different kinds of stories. I think there’s a lot to be said for great tag team wrestling. I just think that Vince McMahon, or someone in the corporate side of the company, has made this decision to slowly phase it out.
WNZ: Will it bounce back, the way things often do in wrestling?
BH: Only if some really great teams come along out of nowhere and pull it back together. Basically tag teams would have to start drawing money again — like a Road Warriors-type team. Something special, something unique. And I don’t know how many guys there are that want to go out and try that — two guys together going for it. The times are different now. Every dog is out there fighting for himself. Usually it’s two singles guys, and lord knows why they’ve been thrown together. If you’re lucky, you can find a good partner and a good reason why you’re a team. That happened with me and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. We fit together because Jim was a big powerhouse who could still move, but I was really quick and could do a lot of the moves that Jim needed me to do. We mixed and matched together and made for a great combination. Same with the Rockers, same with the Bulldogs — they made a great combination. Certain elements work together. The Road Warriors and Demolition had that. There were some really good teams. To not have any of them around any more, it’s too bad.
Marshall from Canada: There’s a fan-recorded clip on YouTube of a match between you and Jim Neidhart from a Madison Square Garden house show, with Danny Davis as ref. How many times did you wrestle Jim, and what was the chemistry like between you as opponents?
BH: I can remember having a couple of matches with Jim. None of them would be classics by any means. But nothing could top the match that we had in Germany in, probably, 1981, when we were both younger and, uh, scrappier. We had a spirited contest out there (laughs). I kicked him with the toe of my boot in his belly and he groaned at me to “take it eeeeeaasy!” He had a funny look on his face when he said that.
WNZ: Did he give you a receipt for that kick — any payback?
BH: No, he was just flabbergasted that I hit him so hard! (Laughs). I had been off for a while at that point, so I probably was a little stiff with him.
WNZ: You two didn’t have the same chemistry as opponents as you did as partners?
BH: Well, I think we did OK. I don’t think we had any bad matches. We had some funny situations when they pitted us against each other in tag teams. They put me and my brother Keith against Hercules Ayala and Big Jim. We kind of worked more heelish on Big Jim and Big Hercules because we didn’t want to turn them heel. It was real important to keep them babyface at the time. We had this match where Jim was the babyface and I was kind of the bad guy. I think it was a pretty good match, but my brother Keith thought we went over the top with the heel stuff and kind of flipped out when we came back to the dressing room. He was all scared that his fans were going to treat him like a heel forever! I told him I thought it was perfect — Jim and Hercules came across as total babyfaces! I think I’ve got a tape of it somewhere in my old Stampede archives. I should find it — it’s pretty funny.
Colin from Canada: Have you seen the joke meme that has been circulating the internet lately? It started with a photo that shows you looking quite unimpressed by the “Rock Bottom” that The Rock gave John Cena on Raw — looking as if you would rate the move a four out of ten. Lots of variations of the 4/10 joke have come out since.
BH: I haven’t seen it, but it might be closer to the truth than people think. I don’t know if my look was on purpose. Sometimes I make funny expressions on my own that make me laugh. When there are people snapping pictures from every angle, it’s hard to know how you’ll look. But personally, I thought when he did the big move on (Cena), he kind of flubbed it up. He didn’t do it very well. It was like a four out of 10! They seemed to trip with their toes. They didn’t really get positioned right at all. They kind of tripped over each other. It’s hard to say who tripped over who, but I thought somebody flubbed it. Maybe Rock flubbed it. Yeah, I would say four out of 10. Four may be generous!
WNZ: That’s the trouble with live TV — no retakes, right?
BH: Yeah, but that’s why I was the Excellence of Execution — I never screwed up on TV. Not very often, anyway.
Terry from Washington: You seem to do a lot of charity work nowadays. What motivates you to do that?
BH: It’s something that my father always did in his own limited ways. It’s something that was part of my mother’s and father’s upbringing of me. I think I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and I’m grateful to give back in any way I can most of the time. March of Dimes in particular, because of my close personal connections to stroke and stroke recovery, I have always been touched by them. I felt like I had to do something after the kind of care I received from so many good people who helped me through the recovery of my stroke — I had really good people around me. I got out of the wheelchair, which was my biggest concern, and I had a lot of people help me do that. I’ve been blessed with so much, and quite proud of the recovery I got.
I have made a 90 percent recovery — maybe even a little better than that. I still get a little bit of weakness on my left side. My chicken wing muscles — those little muscles that lift things up — for some reason a couple of those little muscles never came back at all. And I think a little bit of my smile on the left side didn’t completely come back either. But on a sunny, warm good day, I feel almost 100 percent. I just had knee replacement surgery a few weeks ago, so I’m still doing physio and doing my recovery work for that. Today I did physio, and now I’m chilling out with my wife and my dog with the news on the background. It’s a good day for me. Life is good.
Stay tuned to WrestleNewz for Part 2 of the interview!