Bruce is about to book me as an opening match jobber in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan…
Greetings and salutations, its your friendly neighborhood Cucch coming around your way for another soon to be critically derided book review. So before we begin the festivities, let me say a few quick things about what is going on in the land of milk and honey that is my life.
I mentioned during one of my last reviews that I was unceremoniously bounced on my ass (laid off) from my last job, after four months of high performance. Trust me on this: I make pizzas far better than I write, rest assured. But for all the lament I may have had, things have actually been going quite well. I found a new job in short order, at what is more or less a biker bar. Fun stuff. Position is still tentative, but I have the inside track. I am also, finally, getting my car back on the road. Now, most of my readers here don’t have to hear the recovering yadda yadda yada bullshit, but, in just another instance where my reckless behavior spiked my life into the ground like a Rob Gronkowski touchdown celebration, I had two DUI’s 12 years ago….both within 9 months of eachother, both right after I turned 21, both right after 9/11. I have been too much of a mess for much of the last decade to do anything about it, so I have been not driving, very much living the bus and train lifestyle. Once I lost my job, my old man, the one person firmly in my corner, decided enough was enough, it was time for a change. My mom passed away 5 years ago, so we still have her car sitting in the driveway, the plan all along being for me to get it all fixed up and get it on the road…that was step 2 in my plan back to respectability, step 1 being get a full time job. Step 3 is get back to school. Well, with step one being yanked from me, my old man took it upon himself to basically pay for me to get step two remedied. Basically, I have to have my car outfitted with what is called an “Ignition Interlock.” Basically, its a breathalyzer for the car…think of the car of the club rat Steve Carell tries to hook up with in “40 Year Old Virgin.” That’s what I am looking at. I more or less have all that set now. Add in the potential of a new job, well, things be looking up, yo.
But what am I thinking? You clicked here for a sub par book review, and GODDAMN MAN, I am fixing to deliver that right here, right now. You want sub par? I am going to 1997 Masters Tiger Woods the shit out of this one. It is a proper time to review this book for me, as here in Massachusetts, the weather is sub zero with over a foot of snow. Not unlike Calgary this time of year. So let us take a look at Bruce Hart’s memoir, “Straight From the Hart.”
I have never made any bones that I am a huge Bret Hart fan. The man was, and remains, my favorite wrestler of all time. That said, I have never had much access to Stampede Wrestling. Much of the material you find online is either incomplete or joined in progress. Having also just read Heath McCoy’s unbelievable tome on the history of Stampede, I can sort of gather why, but that’s another review for another day. So if I show any sort of knowledge gaps here, you will know why. Bruce Hart has always struck me as this conniving mama’s boy who pushed himself beyond all bounds of sanity to the detriment of his pop’s company, but also a booker who was far ahead of his time. Indeed, Bruce strikes me as a walking contradiction. In reading his book, I was hoping to be swayed in one direction or the other. That is not the case.
Bruce Hart is a bitter, bitter man, so it would seem. His bitterness seethes through in his book, as much as he tries to prevent it. He makes his younger brother, Bret, look totally secure, well adjusted and carefree. Much of Bruce’s tome is a strategic breaking down of his baby bro’s foibles, insecurities and shortcomings. It starts innocuously, as Bruce gives a fairly decent breakdown of the history of Stampede wrestling. These chapters are generally in adherence with what most consider the true history of the territory. The Stomper. Abdullah. Dave Ruhl. It is all there, and Bruce bullshits nothing, giving a fairly accurate depiction of what his father created and fostered. It is when Bruce himself becomes a professional grappler for his dad’s life’s work that the cracks begin to show. Welcome, everybody, to the Bruce Hart show.
The story begins that brothers Keith and Bret are booking the promotion into the ground, after Archie Gouldie’s heyday, promoting nothing but good, solid wrestling with a bunch of gimmick blowoff matches. Chain matches, cage matches, matches that generally include maximum bloodshed. Finally, against his better judgment, Stu appoints Bruce as his booker, right after Bret takes an overseas tour, and BAM, Bruce finds the magic potion and makes Stampede a dynamic promotion. To be fair, he did, just in more far out ways than his brothers. Bruce is the ultimate babyface in this act. His greatest claim to fame is discovering a young British lad named Tommy Billington. The Dynamite Kid turned Stampede on its head, and Bruce, to his credit, was the man who unearthed him. But where Bruce is quick to deride his brothers for featuring either great technical wrestling or more hardcore means…he himself just uses a formula of the two. He happened to come across a transcendent talent that has become canonized in wrestling lore. Dynamite was magic. Mix him with grapplers such as Dave Schultz, his brother Bret and others…well, it became a magical period for Stampede wrestling. Everyone was riding high, and these portions of the book are quite entertaining. Well, besides Bruce just ripping the shit out of Bret every chance he can. But I digress.
Then that evil Vince McMahon came along, and fucked up everything.
That is not to say that is an invalid sentiment shared by Bruce…Vince, by making wrestling national, made it into the shit show we watch every Monday at this time. Watered down, boring, shitty workers, for the most part. Bruce relates that the biggest screwjob was Vince doing Stu and not living up to the deal they originally agreed to for western Canada, while conveniently forgetting to mention his whole role in the process. It is here where the book becomes a theater of the absurd.
According to Bruce, from 85-89, he really wanted no part of reviving his dad’s promotion…even though all good historical study of Stampede suggests otherwise. That said, once Vince reneged on the initial agreement with Stu, Bruce found himself at the helm of the new Stampede promotion that we found in the late 80’s. These chapters find that Bruce is once again the hottest babyface in the world, along with new cohort and trainee Brian Pillman. The Pillman chapters are curious, because from all intelligence I have read, Bruce just wanted to attach himself to an up and coming star, Pillman being it, yet Bruce says he totally carried the Bad Company vehicle. In any case, Bad Company WAS a big boost to Stampede. But two huge WWF stars were about to send it crashing to the mat in early 1989: The British Bulldogs.
For fans of Bruce and, moreover, The Bulldogs, the animosity between the performers is well understood. Dynamite and Bruce hated everyone, especially eachother, and Davey…well, we’ll get to Davey Boy later. The last gasp of the real Stampede wrestling was supposed to be the Davey-Dynamite blowoff, but it never happened. For one, Dynamite was on his last legs as a performer, as back injuries and drug issues had sapped him of his once legendary abilities. Secondly, an auto accident almost ended Davey Boy’s career (BTW…Bruce maintains he is the man who came up with the Davey Boy moniker…one of the more understated, humble assertions he makes in the book in the guise of total humility), right around the time Owen Hart was marrying his sweetheart, Martha Patterson. Bruce was the best man for Owen at that affair, and it should be mentioned that, like every Hart’s book seems to do, that Bruce was Owen’s closest sibling. It remains mind numbing to me how many of the Hart’s were the closest to Owen…its almost a running gag. From Bret to Diana to Bruce…they all had Owen’s ear. It either speaks to the man Owen was, or to the degenerates the rest of his family are and remain. It is truly tragic reading these rags, how all of the Hart’s were closest to Owen. I guess it speaks to the measure of the man, and the degeneracy of the family.
But here is where the book really starts to go off the rails. Bruce relays all of his experiences with brother Bret in the WWF. He maintains that it was Owen who secured all of his chances with WWF. Never Bret. In 1993, when Owen, still very low on the totem pole, and Bruce, still nowhere on said totem pole, appeared at SummerSlam 93 in Bret’s dual matches with Doink and Jerry Lawler, it was, as Bruce says, Bruce who made the biggest impression, according to, his memory, Dave Meltzer. Funny, as a fan of the time, all I remember Bruce for was getting Doink’s water bucket getting thrown all over his oh so butch western wear. Owen, under contract and no doubt telling Matt Borne that hit me with that wet shit, I will rib you to the ends of the earth, is mentioned as an innocent bystander. Thus begins Bruce’s smear campaign against Bret. Bruce was the big name who came out of Survivor Series 93. He was the big name to come out of Canadian Stampede 1997. He mentions that he outshone Bret, yet forgets to include he stiffed the shit out of soon to be number one draw in the history of wrestling, Steve Austin. Not one mention there. His assessment of the Montreal Screwjob, while sort of laughable, is interesting, but it comes off as more sour grapes than it does reasonable explanation. Which is a fine way to describe this shit show of a book.
Along the way, we get the whole Davey Boy-Andrea story. Bruce is far more forgiving to Davey, the man who stole his wife, than he is to his brother Bret, who seemingly did nothing but try to help him. Typical Hart Family nonsense. By the end of the story, Bruce has more or less forgiven his ex for her transgressions, gives her money she and he don’t have…and gets royally fucked in the long run. Bruce never touched drugs in his life save but for once, but he fell victim to an ultimate drug hustle. Takes one to know one. Davey died a couple of days later.
So what do I say? Bruce Hart’s book is filled with so many false truths and blatant bullshit that no man in his right mind would recommend it. Yet it does show some merit, some truth, and infinite enjoyability. Think of if as a spectacular car crash that you cannot keep your eyes off of. Think Kim Kardashian. I hated reading it, yet simultaneously loved it. Sometimes, it is fun calling other people on their bullshit.