NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest Q&A Series: Bret Hart

I’ve been looking at Confessions of the Hitman recently, but this is a DVD from Highspots that I don’t think has ever really received any coverage. This was recorded in the summer of 2005, with Bret mostly recovered from his stroke and making appearances again but not fully back on good terms with WWE.

I’ll actually start with the bonus footage first, which precedes the Q&A session. First of all, Bob Caudle, fully grey and with his hair cut short so that the comb-over is gone, comes out and introduces Bobby Heenan, who acts as master of ceremonies to introduce the others. Bobby was still in reasonably good health after his cancer bout and could talk still but with a little difficulty, but still cutting jokes left and right.

Bobby brings out Tony Atlas, as muscular but dim as ever. Next, Ken Patera, who still has the look of a psychopath about him. Bobby’s neighbour from down the street comes out next, Dick Slater, in a Hawaiian shirt and with a plaster on his face from a shaving cut. One of Bobby’s closest friends, Baron Von Raschke, comes out to a glowing introduction from Bobby. Jimmy Snuka follows with jet black hair, straight out of the bottle, and says something as rambling and cryptic as ever. Greg Valentine comes out next, looking as he had for twenty years. Finally, Bobby brings out Bret Hart, who talks of his admiration for everyone else on the dais, building to a touching tribute to Bobby for what he’d gone through.

Now, to the Q&A, hosted by Mark Nulty. Bret, who had a war of words with the Nature Boy at the time, immediately comments that he’s finding out Charlotte ISN’T Flair Country. Bret clarifies that he welcomes any question, but doesn’t want to dwell on the same subjects.

First question: Is he going to be at Summerslam that night? Nope, not tonight, not next year, or any year. Obviously his tune changed a bit over time.

What does he think of Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan using his name to get their feud over? Neither of them are friends of his and obviously can’t get over on their own without bringing him into it.

Where did the Hitman name come from? When he first became part of the Hart Foundation he was being pushed to pick a nickname like Neidhart and Jimmy Hart did, so when he read that Hitman Hearns had temporarily retired he took that nickname.

How does he feel about Shawn and Razor stealing his thunder by taking the ladder match as their own when he was one of the first ones to have that kind of match? “They didn’t steal my thunder, but they stole my match. It was grand theft.” Bret wishes he could’ve had some ladder matches in the WWF himself beyond the tryout match he had with Shawn ahead of Summerslam ’92 (if it had been in Washington instead of London it would’ve been Shawn beating Bret in a ladder match for the IC belt). Bret made Vince promise not to use the match, but he did anyway. Bret credits the original Dan Kroffat (not Phil Lafon) with inventing the match. Bret thinks his match with Owen at WMX is better than the ladder match the same night because it was more pure. History obviously remembers it differently.

Who does Bret think is the best right now? In WWE, he likes Benoit, Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, and thought Brock Lesnar was great before he left (obviously before he returned). Outside “the WWE”, Bret thinks highly of AJ Styles. He wishes there were some bigger, tougher, more rugged wrestlers than smaller guys and high flyers, hence why he liked Brock. He also talks about how Harry Smith has great things ahead of him and calls him a future world champion (not quite).

What’s Bruce Hart up to these days? “He’s like Calgary’s version of Terry Funk. He’s retired, but not for too long. I believe he’s still wrestling… He probably shouldn’t be.”

What are the highlights of his career in different places? It took him a while to find his feet in the WWF because guys like the Spoiler were giving him nothing, so he needed to turn heel and become part of a tag team to get his approval from others. In Japan, he had some great matches with Tiger Mask. He picked up different things in England, Germany, New Zealand and Puerto Rico too, which gave him a lot before he got to the WWF. He thinks American wrestlers had the best psychology, including the Funks, Dory especially. Dory influenced Bret, Ted Dibiase, Terry Taylor, and many others. Bret was a big part of picking up the pace of wrestling, but not rushing it, which today isn’t adhered to.

Next, a Hitman mark with the shades and jacket talks about how he’s his hero, then mentions taking a sign about Bret Hart to a house show and how Triple H disrespected it. Why does he think some guys, like the Fink and Lance Storm, are respectful of him, while Triple H (and Shawn) isn’t? Bret’s happy with where he is, but would’ve loved to have been booking and training and been an agent in WWE, so he thinks it’s a shame. It wasn’t a storyline to him with what happened. He talks about squashing the Screwed DVD and working with them on the better DVD. “I think they accepted that they were a bunch of lousy bastards about it, and I accept that they were. As for Hunter Helmsley… he’s just a phoney, lying, piece of shit.” He wouldn’t have done what they did and he’s not the one who can’t get over it given how much they bring it up.

This transitions into how friendly and fake Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan were in WCW. He went there to work and they paid him but did fuck all with him while those two put the knives in. Eric Bischoff claimed that he’d lost his passion, which he disputes, saying he never had a single good idea of what to do with him.

If WWE were to have a legends event, would he attend? He won’t rule out anything that would spite the fans. He’s happy with his relationship as it is right now with WWE. He doesn’t blame Vince as much as he does Shawn and Hunter. He knew Vince was ruthless, so he expected it out of him, but there’s supposed to be trust between the wrestlers. He wouldn’t have done to them what they did to him.

Would Bret have been agreeable to dropping the belt the same night to a substitute instead of Shawn? Yes. He and Shawn had their “cat-fight” a few months prior with Bret on his bad knee swinging Shawn by his head until his hair came out. When the match was booked, things were friendlier, but Shawn said he wasn’t willing to do business with him when Bret said he was. That turned him off doing the job to him. He would’ve done the job for the Brooklyn Brawler at a goofy deal they had at MSG, but not Shawn. Nothing about Canada or money, but disrespect.

On the Canada thing, he got voted as the 39th greatest Canadian of all time, which he sees a tremendous honour, and the voters said it was because he stood up to Vince. He had to protect his own stock.

When Bret and his siblings were growing up, and wrestlers were being trained around them, were there any age limits on training and how old was he when he started training? Not really. The Dungeon was just a small room, no bigger than a wrestling ring with a mat on the floor. As a kid, he’d see guys down there “bowling around”, which was fun to watch. The closest he got to jostling with anyone was when the midgets came to town. He’d stick guys like Sky Low Low in a headlock and get pinched on the knee for his trouble. He’d wrestle with his brothers before showers on Sunday evening.

Referring to Sting’s bemusement that Bret was never properly pushed in WCW, what does Bret think was the reason for that? He doesn’t know and never knew. Bischoff was always nice and kind to him, but he thinks that Eric and the booking committee, like Kevin Sullivan and Hogan and Flair, didn’t have a clue what to do and undermined him. Eric was too easily led by the others.

Can he name three guys he never had a chance to wrestle that he would’ve wanted to and also state why? He would’ve liked to have worked properly with Hogan in WCW, because he would’ve given him his best match. Tatsumi Fujinami was one of the best wrestlers to put on a pair of boots. He worked with him one time in Japan and was excited about it, but it was an outdoor show and a bad crowd, so Fujinami didn’t want to bother too much, so it wasn’t much of a match. Buddy Rogers would’ve been a dream match, as he heard he was great without seeing much of him. He also names Jake Roberts too (“Jake was Jake, but he was a great wrestler”). He also recalls his minor matches with Ricky Steamboat and how he wishes they could’ve wrestled more. Their famous match they started ice cold and got red hot. They had an even better match the next night, but it wasn’t film. Also Mil Mascaras, Jack Brisco, anyone who was an NWA champion up to a certain point.

His favourite and least favourite matches? Mr. Perfect. He also goes back to the previous question and mentions Rick Rude. Back to favourite matches, Davey Boy at Wembley. He feels his best match with him was in Regina for his dad. Dynamite Kid, who he feels was the best wrestler ever. He likes the iron man match with Shawn, which was more of a contest than a great dance. It was designed to get Shawn over, not Bret, so it wasn’t a fun day at the office. He was booked overseas against big guys where he couldn’t have long matches or get prepared for an hour, but he got as much training in while Shawn was off running up and down stadium steps and doing upside down push-ups with a personal trainer. He also calls out the lesser known King of the Ring and In Your House matches with Hennig and Davey Boy respectively. The match with Diesel where he regained the belt was great. He wishes he’d had better matches with Flair.

Worst match – not worst ever, just on PPV, but the I quit match with Backlund was awful and doomed from the start. No pinfalls, severely limited, Roddy running around being daft. 1995 was not a good year for him, but he still managed to pull out good matches with Hakushi and Isaac Yankem and Pierre that many wouldn’t have been able to. Plus they were different matches, which Hulk and Flair wouldn’t have been able to have had.

What does he think of Vince Russo and does Steve Lombardi know how close he was to being world champ? To the latter, probably not, and to the former, he has no problem with him personally, but he doesn’t know what he was ever doing booking and was just a glorified fan. Similarly, he couldn’t ever stomach taking direction from Terry Taylor in WCW, because they weren’t on the same level. Vince went from magazine writer to interview assistant to booking team member to “wrestling expert”. The only person he thinks had a clue in WCW was Dusty Rhodes, who nobody listened to. Bischoff went from announcer to president in record time with no explanation. Say what you want about Vince McMahon, but he was a genius and the best.

Would he ever accept an invitation into the WWE Hall of Fame? He’s debated it with himself. At one point he was 100% against ever taking a penny from WWE, even if he was broke, homeless and toothless, but he’s eased on accepting that reward because he think he’s earned it and he thinks it would be spiting his fans if he didn’t.

What does he think about Hulk not passing the torch to him or anyone? He was never one of the boys and nobody could trust him. When the steroid-dependent wrestlers like Hulk were ousted, Bret (who had done steroids in the past but didn’t need them) was pushed to the top when Vince lost faith with Ric Flair and Randy Savage. It brought on an era where the wrestling was so much better in the ring. Other Stampede wrestlers like Dyno, Davey Boy, Benoit and Owen were responsible for changing wrestling in the WWF from the eighties onward.

In closing, Nulty thanks him for everything he’s done in and for wrestling and compliments him on surviving a Q&A in Flair Country (“Yeah, I’m finding out people down here hate him more than I do!”).

Conclusion: You kinda need a timeline of when Bret did and didn’t like certain people like Hogan, Flair, Shawn and Triple H and when he was willing to forgive guys like Vince, Bischoff and others, but Bret’s never not honest or deep with his answers, never afraid to speak his mind. A few good zingers in at Terry Taylor (“Red Rooster!”) and Bruce Hart, some tributes to guys like Dory Funk, Jake Roberts, Rick Rude and Curt Hennig, although I would’ve loved to have heard him speak more on guys like Dusty Rhodes.