Indepth Bret Hart Interview

Bret Hart recently conducted a very indepth interview with IGN Sports as part of a promotional work for the upcoming Legends of Wrestling Video release. Courtesy of IGN Sports, here's what The Hitman had to say in it's entirety:

IGN Sports: You're not only a character in Showdown, you provide the game's tutorial to teach wrestling fans the finer points of the sport. What are you most looking forward to about being in the game?

Bret Hart: I think what I like about the Legends of Wrestling game is that it tries to be as realistic as possible. They have a pretty good grasp of applying the reality of wrestling and turning it into a video game.

IGN Sports: Say you were going to tutor me on how to beat some of the legends using your character. How would I go about beating Hulk Hogan?

Bret Hart: If I was going to build a logical defense for myself in a match against Hulk Hogan, I think I would try to work on his legs. Take out any mobility.

IGN Sports: How about Andre The Giant?

Bret Hart: Hide under the ring. [laughs]

IGN Sports: He handled you and The Anvil in that one battle royal.

Bret Hart: It was a long way down.

IGN Sports: What about someone like Ricky Steamboat? That would be a classic match of two technicians.

Bret Hart: It sure would be. It's too bad that some of the matchups, even against The Dynamite Kid, it's too bad that a lot of these really great wrestlers aren't around anymore to keep going. It's great that the game remembers guys like myself and Steamboat, guys like this. I'd rather play a game with the old guys than a game with today's wrestlers any day. Try to relive some of the greatest matches of all time. You talk about Steamboat, the Steamboat/Savage match from Wrestlemania III was one of the greatest.

IGN Sports: Do you have a favorite match of all time that you were involved in?

Bret Hart: My favorite match of all time was probably the one with Stone Cold Steve Austin. That was actually voted the greatest WWF Wrestlemania match of all time by the WWF. I've always kind of thought that. What's funny is Steve Austin called me a few months ago. He called to tell me that that was his favorite match that he's ever had.

IGN Sports: What through your eyes makes that match stand out?

Bret Hart: Just how physical it was. In a lot of ways, we were both really in our prime back then and I think Steve was just starting to find his footing as a villain. He was really fun to work with, and at the same time, I was at the peak of my career. It was a really interesting time. That was when I had my whole Canada versus the U.S. shtick, and it was just a lot of fun.

IGN Sports: Is there one particular moment of that match that you remember the best?

Bret Hart: Quite a few, but the one that stands out the most is the ending itself. I put him in the Sharpshooter and he couldn't get out. He almost got out, he kind of kicked out and I fell over, but I tipped over, came back up and put the hold back on. It was pretty dramatic. I think in that match, it was kind of funny to see someone who was a real bull, a real bad guy, a tough guy to lose in the middle of the ring, and it was kind of heartbreaking. As much as people thought he might win, when he lost I think people felt bad for him. That's what ultimately turned him into a good guy. It was strange. I knew when he lost that they were going to get behind him even though he was the bad guy. That I would somehow become the villain out of that.

IGN Sports: Wrestling is really the only sport where the crowd determines what happens.

Bret Hart: Wrestling fans dictate policy, they really do. What direction each wrestler takes usually revolves around what the fans think of them.

IGN Sports: You had already mentioned the Steamboat/Savage match, is that your favorite match that you weren't involved in?

Bret Hart: That would be one and funny enough, I think Andre and Hogan was one of those that was such a buildup, such a hyped-up match, that it was worth watching. And a lot of people didn't like that match, but I liked it. I think Andre tried his hardest to give everyone the match of the century that it was built up to be. But when Savage fought Steamboat, that was one where even the wrestlers in the back were hyped up about for months waiting for it to happen. Randy was in his prime back then and Steamboat was in his prime. Steamboat was a great wrestler. One of the best.

IGN Sports: Did you have wrestlers that you watched as a kid that were some of your favorites that maybe you tried to emulate?

Bret Hart: Harley Race, Terry Funk, and Dory Funk. A lot of the old legends from the NWA, which was the better league in those days, and those guys were the best in the world, for real. Luckily, being the son of a wrestler, I got to grow up watching Dory Funk and Harley Race and a lot of the guys that really paved the way for guys like me. Even Nick Bockwinkle who was the AWA champion, he was an exceptional wrestler. There were better wrestlers a long time ago than there are today. They were really skillful and had a smoothness to their wrestling style.

IGN Sports: The Bockwinkle/Curt Hennig matches were classic.

Bret Hart: Oh yeah, I bet. Curt Hennig was one of best guys I ever wrestled. If I could've come back and wrestled one last match, I wish I could've wrestled Curt. He was my favorite guy to wrestle. We just had a really good chemistry together and he was always really safe and careful. They always talked about me being "The Excellence of Execution" but there were a few other guys who were really good at the excellence of executing wrestling moves and Curt Hennig was one of those. When he did something, he did it perfect. To be called Mr. Perfect was really fitting for him. He was a really a perfect guy to work with. Wrestling, I could only compare it to figure skaters in the sense that it takes two guys working together to really pull off a great match, bring the best out of each other. I had that with Austin, which is why I liked that match, but I had that with Curt Hennig all the time. We could go out there without any type of plan, no rehearsing, choreographing, or whatever. We could just walk out there and have the best match on the card without even talking to each other. Just make it happen on our abilities and our natural flow of brining it together in a wrestling match in a spontaneous kind of way.

IGN Sports: Were there guys in the ring that you didn't ever want to work with?

Bret Hart: Luckily I don't think too many of them are in the Legends game. [laughs] There were just a lot of guys that just weren't a good style for me. I don't know if Junkyard Dog would've been a very good matchup for me. People who were more cartoon characters in a way. I was always more about wrestling the Hennigs, Steamboats, and Savage kind of guys. Guys that could really move and guys who liked to wrestle. I didn't do so well with guys like Warrior or guys who were limited, who were just big muscle-bound guys. I don't think John Stud's best match would've been against me.

IGN Sports: But at least you could've won the bounty for slamming him.

Bret Hart: I probably wouldn't have got him up. [laughs] I was also never good with guys like The Honky Tonk Man, guys who were very light in the sense that they weren't very physical wrestlers. Honky Tonk, if he punched you as hard as he could on the back, you weren't sure if he was tapping you on the shoulder. He just wasn't very tough. If he could fight like he could talk, he would've been a tough guy, but he was just a little light for my style.

IGN Sports: You're one of the rare wrestlers who was not only in one of the greatest tag teams of all time, but you're also considered one of the elite singles wrestlers as well. What are the main differences you found in preparing for and then executing singles matches as opposed to tag team?

Bret Hart: It's a whole different thought process that goes into tag wrestling. I think what was really beneficial to me was that I could tag out and let Jim go in there, and then when I was tagged out, I could think about where I needed to take the match next. So Jim was kind of a good governor. He could hold the fort until I figured out what to do. And then we would tag in and out, so I had a lot of time to recharge my battery and jump back in there. That helped develop my whole style as a singles wrestler.

IGN Sports: So which one did you like better, singles or tag team wrestling?

Bret Hart: I think I actually like tag better. Tag was a little easier and it was a little more fun. You can really have some fun out there, especially when we were bad guys. It's fun coming up with devious ways to be up on somebody and cheat, piss all the fans off and that sort of stuff.

IGN Sports: Is it more fun to be a bad guy than a good guy all the time?

Bret Hart: Oh yeah, 100 times. If someone said, look you could come back a s a good guy or you could come back as a bad guy, if I could come back as anything I would come back as a bad guy. It's so much more fun. I'd get stressed out during the day because of the schedule, the traveling, and being stuck out at the airport. Some days you'd just be in a really crappy mood. But I remember showing up and getting ready to go in for my match and I'd go out there and just let out all of this aggression. I'd stick my finger in people's faces and cuss them out. You'd lean back and make it look like you were going to punch out a little old lady, some of that stupid sh!t that used to go on in wrestling. That was my stress relief. Go out there and piss everyone off. Make them all pay for the bad day I just had.

IGN Sports: Must've made you feel pretty good after the match.

Bret Hart: You know what, you're right. I was always pretty relaxed after. I always felt like I got a lot off my chest out there. [laughs]

IGN Sports: Everyone always talks about the Dungeon where you guys trained. There are so many rumors and myths about the place. What really went down in the Dungeon?

Bret Hart: It's kind of a little dingy old room with a dirty mat. If you walked into it, it didn't look like much or seem like much, but I can tell you, what made the room was the presence and knowledge of knowing what men had suffered on that mat. You had wrestlers from the 50's and 60's and 70's all the way up who paid their first dues there, made their first cries of help in the wrestling business from that room. I think my dad even had Andre The Giant down there. There were holes in the ceiling from guys being picked up and body slammed, legs or heads hitting the ceiling. There were cracks in the wall from people being driven into them. These were 250, 300-pound men charging at each other like rhinos, bashing each other into the wall and cracking the wood. There was a lot of hand-to-hand combat down there, not unlike an Ultimate Fight. There were some pretty serious football players and some pretty tough wrestlers who would go full-on down there, fighting for their life. The ones who survived that stuff, learned pro wrestling after that. They had to go through the ringer with Stu who was like a giant tarantula.

IGN Sports: What was the most pain you ever experienced down in the dungeon?

Bret Hart: Just a few times with my dad where he'd be demonstrating stuff on you and he'd forget where he was. He'd think he was at the 1940 Olympics that he didn't make. Sometimes he'd forget what he was doing, and he could be pretty punishing down there. He took all of that stuff really serious.

IGN Sports: Who are some of the other guys who trained down there?

Bret Hart: Benoit, Pillman, Neidhart, The Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff, Billy Graham, Abdullah The Butcher, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith. Especially even before, there were a lot of guys from the 50's and 60's, a lot of the wrestlers from the 60's especially who have long been forgotten, all started out with my dad.

IGN Sports: Where did you first learn the Sharpshooter?

Bret Hart: I learned it in Japan. It was more of a Japanese move that I learned when I first got in the business, but it was a move I didn't do for a long time. It's been around for a long time, but I was doing it before Sting was doing it.

IGN Sports: Did you come up with the Hitman name and persona or did someone give that to you?

Bret Hart: No, I came up with that on my own. I came up with my look, colors, my whole style. No one ever created anything for me.

IGN Sports: Everyone wanted to be in the front row when you came down to try to get the glasses. What was the secret of how you picked the person to give the glasses to?

Bret Hart: When you're in the ring, you can't see much. Even with the glasses, your vision is obscured, especially when it's hot and you start sweating. You constantly have to wipe off your forehead just to see where you're going. But I would just look for the youngest kid who had a smile on his face. That's what I was looking for. I always tried to scan for kids who were mentally challenged or were in a wheel chair, I looked for them first. If I couldn't find them, then I would just look for a little kid. The tough times would be when I wrestled in places where there weren't any kids and I had to give the glasses to a grown man. You feel kind of silly putting them on some grown man's head, but there were times I had to do that. [laughs] I think it happened to me in Germany where there were only 40-year-old guys down there and I had to jump down and put the glasses on this guy's head. They were all happy and jumping around and it was just as important to them as it was to a little kid.

IGN Sports: Seems like an awkward moment to say the least.

Bret Hart: There were also a few times where I would give the glasses to some kid then I would get back into the ring and look back and there would be a fight. It was like a mob frenzy and people would be trying to rip the glasses off of this poor kid. It made me feel sorry that I gave them to him.

IGN Sports: As you look around the arena, there are so many signs. Did you have a favorite sign someone made for you?

Bret Hart: I did have one. It was one of the last signs I ever remember from WCW. I don't know the exact wording but it was one of those that said: Parking...$20, WCW tickets...$30, Watching Bret Hart Wrestle...Priceless. It was off that ad that was popular at the time, but I really appreciated it. I always had trouble being proud of how they were using me in WCW. It was hard for me to be interested in what they were doing, and what they were doing with me was pretty pathetic.

IGN Sports: Do you regret going to WCW?

Bret Hart: Yeah, I do. I think in hindsight if I knew everything that was going to happen, I probably would've stayed. It's a sad thing to say, though, because even if I stayed, I think they would've screwed me anyway. If that whole thing with me and Vince never happened, that whole fallout, how I punched him and all that stuff, if I just rode off to WCW or I never left in the first place, but who knows. I think if I stayed, I was one of those characters that was good for so long, I think they would've tried to turn me into a sleazeball eventually, and if I tried to resist that, there would've been a problem. I think Vince wouldn't have had the best intentions with me if I had stayed, so I probably did the right thing by going. It's one of those things I'll never know the answer to. I always think if I stayed, a lot of things would've been different. I don't think my brother Owen would've done that stupid stunt if I had been there.

IGN Sports: How clean of a punch did you get on Vince after he screwed you?

Bret Hart: I got one punch and I'd say if you ever saw the punch where Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson, it was a little better than that. When we had our little moment, I dropped my right hand down to my right foot and drove it straight up and hit him with an uppercut that lifted him about six inches off the ground. A lot of people think I punched him in the eye, but the truth is I punched him in the jaw, right underneath the chin. The black eye that he had, that was a black eye he got from a punch in the jaw. That will give you an idea how hard I hit him. That's why he rolled his ankle. He was actually lifted off of the ground and when he came down he rolled his ankle. Plus I broke two bones in my hand...all of which was worth it. I would never change that. That punch was worth everything. Punch the promoter, they should add that in the video game. Me trying to find him after the match, searching all of the back rooms.

IGN Sports: Watching that match just seemed so surreal.

Bret Hart: Even now, it's all really surreal to me. It's hard to believe I really did all that. My whole career feels very surreal, filled with these treasured little moments. The thing about it, I had a really good career. I have really great memories from most of the guys I worked with, most of the matches I had. I'm very grateful for all of the great memories, the friends, the fans, all the support everyone has given me. As the years go by, I feel bad that I couldn't have left the WWF on a better note than what I did. That's just the way it is I guess.

IGN Sports: What do you want the fans to remember most about The Hitman?

Bret Hart: In contrast to Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan and even Andre The Giant, I was a guy who had a lot of versatility. I hope they can get some of that excitement down in the game. I was a guy who could wrestle anybody. I could wrestle the small guys, I could wrestle the big guys. Some of my best matchups were against big guys like Kevin Nash or Sid or even Vader, and all of my matches were different. I didn't wrestle Vader the way I wrestled Yokozuna and I didn't wrestle Yokozuna the way I wrestled King Kong Bundy. Every match I had was a different match. When you watch Ric Flair, he does the exact same moves in every match no matter who he's wrestling. Hulk Hogan is the same way. He's got the hand behind the ear, he hulks up, and it's the same match. I think that's the difference. I tried to tell a different story every time I went out there.

My biggest boast, people think of me as being egotistical or full of himself about how great I thought I was, and a lot of that was built into my persona as a villain, but the truth is, I really think I am "The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be." I've never seen a wrestler that I thought was a better wrestler when it came to the whole package. I always bring up my safety record. There's no wrestler today who had the schedule I had. I wrestled 14 years in the WWF, close to 300 days a year, and I never injured one wrestler ever. No wrestler that I ever worked with my entire career missed work the next day on account of an injury as a result of anything I ever did. If anything, that's an amazing testament to my skill as a wrestler. I think I was a very physical, aggressive wrestler who was pretty ballsy, took a lot of chances, but I never took any chances with anyone's life or their family or their career. It's too bad that I had to retire because of someone else injuring me. But what I want people to remember is that I was a real pro when it came to health and welfare for my fellow wrestlers. In my 14 years in the WWF, I never injured anyone and I was never injured, which is unbelievable. You figure that seven or eight of those years I was in Main Event caliber matches, whether I was the Tag Team Champion, Intercontinental Champion, or World Champion. I never missed one title match, ever. If I was advertised in a championship match, wherever I was advertised, I was there. I never missed a show. I think the fans appreciate it, but the promoters, the wrestling companies, they forget. The wrestlers who walk that extra mile, the guys who work tired and sore and injured. I think of all the times I taped my knee when I did hurt and went out there and did the whole thing anyway. You think that someday they'll appreciate all of that stuff. That's the sad thing about the WWF. When it came time to appreciate all of the things I had done, they showed me their gratitude by screwing me in front of my home country and trying to ruin me as much as much as they could. That's why I've never gone back. You never forget.

Thank you for posting!

great interview

I think this interview shows that Bret has a great mind for the business and continues to have a real passion for it. It never ceases to amaze me how guys who had mediocre careers (Terry Taylor, Johnny Ace) transition into positions of power, when someone who was a 'real world' success in the business could contribute so much more.

I continue to believe Bret could be a phenomenal asset on the creative side...IF/WHEN the day ever comes that he's able to put the past behind him and move on with his life. Vince has made is clear that the door is open, but it requires two hands to make a handshake.

That would be sweet.

I've just realized that my favorite all time wrestlers have been mostly Canadian.

Does this mean I hate America?

Does Bret have a school??? He would be a great teacher. Think of the talent he'd turn out.

I understand Goldberg's kick gave Bret a concussion, One big one on top of several I'm assuming, but what exactly is wrong with Bret's health? Many a pro-quarterback has recieved several concussions and went on to productive post football career..

BK, yeah I knew about his condition. I was just thinking he might have started one before his stroke.

According to the Bret Hart shoot interview I saw, the kick from Goldberg didn't just concuss him. It ripped open a muscle in his neck, permanently fucking it up.

I never saw that kick, anyone have video of it?

Bret's had an EXTREMELY difficult past few years since the Montreal incident in 1997. He's sufered through the deaths of his brother, his father, his brother in law, and other close friends in the business. On top of that he's been through a divorce, was in a near fatal motorcycle accident and suffered a stroke.

For a period of time he was actually paralyzed, but through therapy battled through it.

Here's an article he wrote about his recovery:

"Last June, when I had my stroke, I never quite understood that it was nearly fatal. I've only recently realized that. Now I count my blessings that not only am I alive but that I've actually recovered enough to enjoy life.

I remember a nurse who stopped in my room at night to puff my pillow when the entire left side of my body was completely paralyzed and I lay there struggling to comprehend what had happened to me. She told me, "You must find the good in all this. It happened for a reason. Now is your time to show your greatness by overcoming all of this -- and you will, Bret Hart, you will!" I've not forgotten her kind words and I think of her often.

I spent last summer in a wheelchair dismissing so many things from my life, unsure if I'd ever be able to do them again -- or if I'd even feel like doing them. For my entire adult life, I'd been a professional athlete striving for perfection. Now, I couldn't even smile or wink. Even my acting ambitions were dashed and the thought of simply posing for a picture made me want to hide my head in the ground. There was no guarantee I'd ever get any of it back.

A resolve built up in me, slow but steady, to rise up from the wheelchair! I set goals for myself ... to move my hand, my arm, to stand, to walk ... to ride my bike again (with a damn helmet this time and forever after!), to drive my car ... And I did! The best part of my recovery came in the first six months.

Now approaching the one-year anniversary of my stroke, I look back and I cannot believe the things I pushed myself to do. At the same time, there were things I declined doing, such as many offers for various appearances. I just didn't feel much like the Hitman. I always thought the last image fans have of you is the one that remains -- and I didn't like this visual one bit.

A lot went into rebuilding my super-hero-sized confidence. Just in the past few months, being treated like one of the boys by Tie Domi and the Toronto Maple Leafs certainly went a long way. Encouraging words from Muhammad Ali couldn't help but sink in. I went to the New Orleans Jazz festival with my close friend Aaron Neville and he introduced me to none other than Bob Dylan. A few days later, I accompanied Aaron to the funeral of blues great Earl King. I saw musicians dressed in black, carrying open black umbrellas, parade through the streets of New Orleans playing soulfully. It made me reflect on so many of my wrestling friends who have lately gone. At that moment, it dawned on me how lucky I was to even be alive -- let alone out and about making more memories.

Next thing you know, I was riding a bike along the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia. A year ago, I would not have thought it possible in my wildest dreams. A wrestling promoter asked me if I'd like to come over and sign some autographs -- and maybe say a few words from the ring. Like being in some hazy time warp, I found myself hanging out with some of my old wrestler pals -- and it was good!

But, the big question on my mind was if I was ready to get in the ring and say a few words? It may not sound like much to you but to me, it was huge. Just walking to the ring -- climbing through the ropes -- that alone was a very big thing. I was worried my limp would be noticeable. What would people think of The Hitman? What if I got so choked up that I couldn't talk? Strokes do that to you, they make you wear your emotions on your sleeve sometimes -- and usually at the worst times!