The SmarK Rant for the RFVideo Bret Hart Shoot Interview.
– This was done early in 2000 at Bret’s home in Calgary. For those who have asked, this and all other shoot interviews I’ve reviewed are available at www.rfvideo.com.
– Speaking of Stampede legends, myself and many other Albertans were crushed to hear about Ed Whalen’s heart attack this weekend, from which he isn’t expected to pull out of. I originally wasn’t going to do this tape until later in the week because I’ve been sick all weekend, but I figured I’d pull myself out of my stupor and do one for Ed.
– Various clips of Bret to start. It should be noted that Bret is wearing a Nickelback sweatshirt, long before they broke really huge, thus making him that much cooler. In fact, it was only when radio stations up here started jumping all over “The StateÃ¢â‚¬Â that they even got significant notice in Canada. Of course, they finally decided to come back home here in Alberta for a show in January, and they ended up selling out the Coliseum in something like a day. Of course, if certain afternoon DJs would float me a pair of tickets my pain might be lessened somewhat
– Bret started as a kid, selling programs at Stampede shows and sucking up the ambiance. He got into amateur wrestling in high school, but he ended up failing out of the academic end of things as a result. He wasn’t good enough to make a career out of the “realÃ¢â‚¬Â wrestling (“I didn’t want to become one of those burned-out Phys-Ed teachers, or whatever they do after their career is over,Ã¢â‚¬Â were his words). Stu talked him into going pro, although Bret had fears that he might hurt his Olympic eligibility by doing so.
– He was mainly used as a referee until the boys smartened him up. Like most wrestlers, it wasn’t anything he didn’t already know, but it was nice to hear it from them. He spent a little time in Texas, hanging out with his dad’s friend Dory Funk and doing jobs for Dennis Stamp, which those of you who have seen Beyond the Mat will probably know.
– He was officially trained by a pair of Japanese wrestlers that his dad was shielding from the US Immigration services by giving them jobs. They drilled into him the importance of learning to fall, and he spent the better part of three months doing so.
– He doesn’t think much of Bruce or Keith as workers. Did some early matches with Dynamite and got the shit potatoed out of him. They became friends later. The Kid relates the same story in his book.
– He did a stint in Puerto Rico because Bruce chickened out and lost a ton of weight due to illness. Came back to Calgary in ’78 and took off from there.
– Got his first ever concussion via a Tiger Mask missile dropkick. Didn’t like working the junior heavy style in general, because he felt it was sort of beneath him in terms of the style he was taught. Plus they beat the hell out of him every night over there.
– He had some great matches with Dynamite back in Stampede, including the first ever ladder match, complete with requisite suicide bump from the Kid.
– Not a fan of Bad News Allen/Brown. Thinks his psychology is all screwed up because he seems to think deep down that wrestling isn’t a work.
– Bret encouraged Owen to start in the business, as Owen was hesitant. Bret felt that Owen should get in and make his bucks while the money was still good. Martha didn’t approve.
– In ’84, Vince bought out Stampede and took Bret & Dynamite up to New York as a personal favor to Stu. Kid quit after one show, but Bret stuck it out for the money. George Scott told Bret they had “big plansÃ¢â‚¬Â for him, which was the historic first-ever lie told to Bret by the WWF. But at least the money was good for a job guy.
– Bret had a bad first match and met with Vince, who wasn’t impressed with him. Dynamite impressed the hell out of them, of course, and they spent months pursuing the Bulldogs while Bret did opening-match jobs to guys like Rene Goulet and Terry Gibbs.
– Bret hung in there until they brought in Neidhart. They wanted to repackage Bret as “CowboyÃ¢â‚¬Â Bret Hart, complete with electric cowboy hat and a real horse, but Bret hates the whole cowboy concept and country music in general. The gimmick eventually got shelved and given to Jeff Jarrett 10 years later. Bret declined the gimmick and instead pitched an idea of turning heel and teaming with Neidhart as “The Hart FoundationÃ¢â‚¬Â. A few weeks later, it suddenly became Vince’s brilliant idea and happened.
– After all those months of crappy babyface matches, Bret decided to pattern his heel act on Dynamite Kid, since he was working babyface at that point anyway. He loved the matches with the Bulldogs, but along the way they realized that they were suckers for going out there and slicing themselves all to hell in cage matches while Orndorff & JYD were getting main event money for doing 10-minute bearhugs.
– Bret tended to hang around with Muraco & Orton and Piper backstage. Everyone liked Hogan because he made them all millions and all they had to do was build up a monster heel for him every once in a while. Bret thought that the basic premise behind the Hogan business Ã¢â‚¬â€œ build up a big fat heel, run the house shows for two months, move onto the next big heel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ was brilliant and Hogan deserved every bit of the money. There wasn’t any political backbiting as long as the cash was rolling in. Funny how that seems to be a constant, isn’t it?
– Only worked two matches with Ricky Steamboat Ã¢â‚¬â€œ once in Boston to set up Wrestlemania 2, which got cancelled at the last minute and switched to Hercules Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and again in Washington, a match that Steamboat requested to make it up to Bret. Steamboat basically went out and busted his ass to make Bret look like the superstar of the next century in that second match.
– Onto winning the tag titles, as Dynamite refused to job the belts to Sheik & Volkoff and demanded that the Harts get it. This leads into the story of how Vince saw the pink tights for the first time and nearly fell out of his chair in delight.
– Bret’s next singles “pushÃ¢â‚¬Â (and lie by the WWF) came in 1988, as Vince had “big plansÃ¢â‚¬Â for him and then he immediately found himself putting Bad News over every night before getting stuck back in the tag team ranks again.
– The WWF really had no idea what to do with him from 88-90, as he bounced between meaningless feuds and the occasional singles push with no direction. Finally Demolition offered to put them over for the titles, and Bret thought they might be going somewhere again. But a month later, Vince called them into the office and fired Neidhart, once again claiming that there were “big plansÃ¢â‚¬Â afoot and that Bret would be working with all the top guys this time. Bret was wary, but needed the big break.
– Onto the phantom title switch, as a pissed off Neidhart hit the top turnbuckle so hard that it broke and the referee panicked. They all ended up blowing their spots so badly that Bret begged Vince to bury the match and let them do another shot. Instead, he decided to do exactly what Bret DIDN’T want Ã¢â‚¬â€œ retain Neidhart, give the belts back to the Harts and delay the push for another 6 months. This time, Bret said he’d hold Vince to it.
– Bret goes into a little story about getting “report cardsÃ¢â‚¬Â from Vince all the time on his progress as a wrestler, learning all the little things he needed to move up the ranks all the time. For instance, Vince wanted him to learn heel psychology, so he devised the entire Hart-Savage match on SNME where Bret worked on Savage’s injured foot for 15 minutes. Bret was unsure how to do that, but Vince replied “You’re the great worker, you figure it out.Ã¢â‚¬Â Bret took that as a huge compliment and stepped up to the challenge.
– He liked the Nasties and didn’t mind dropping the titles to them at all.
– The night after Wrestlemania VII, they were ready to stick him in a program with Hennig, but Bret immediately got suspicious after the Bad News farce in 88 and wanted to know where the feud was going. They said that they didn’t know, so he politely declined until they DID know where things were going. That ended up being 6 months later at Summerslam 91, when Hennig wanted to put Bret over in what he thought might be his last match. Bret was a little disappointed in the match quality, but still considered it great.
– Moving on Jacques Rougeau, who Bret liked working with because of the insane heat. Doesn’t think much of him as a worker, though.
– The Piper switch made Bret a little suspicious because he thought they might end up putting the belt on someone else, but he got it back in the end. Working with Piper was great. Blood was a major no-no at that point (Flair got fined for blading at WM8, for instance), but Bret lied and told them it was hardway during their match, and they were none the wiser.
– Onto Bulldog and Summerslam 92. Vince wanted to put the title onto Shawn, so Bret offered two alternatives to get there in a different sort of way: Either transition the belt via Bulldog in a babyface match (if the show was to be held in England) or do a straight switch to Shawn in Bret’s wacky new “ladder matchÃ¢â‚¬Â (if the show was to be held in Washington, as was the original idea). Vince asked for a demonstration match, which is the one that aired on Prime Time Wrestling in the summer of ’92 and is on the Smack Ã¢â‚¬ËœEm Whack Ã¢â‚¬ËœEm tape, and then promptly stole the idea as his own and turned it into “Shawn’s matchÃ¢â‚¬Â.
– Bulldog showed up at Wembley blown up and completely out of shape, but Bret was determined to have a ***** match by sheer force of willpower, because he had promised Vince an epic match for the ages. Bret basically wrestled himself for 20 minutes before Davey was ready to kick it into high gear, and this match is one of the few times where Bret got busted by the agents for calling spots on camera, which is a HUGE no-no in wrestling.
– Shortly after this, Vince lost confidence in Flair for reasons that Bret didn’t know or particularly care about, and one morning before a TV taping in Saskatoon they sprung the idea on him of making him the champ. Bret, in retrospect, thinks that had it happened even a day after they planned it out, the political vultures would have had enough time to shoot it down and he never would have gotten it. Ric apologized for the relatively low quality of the matches they had. Bret didn’t like Ric’s here-and-there-and-everywhere psychology, but thinks he’s still a hell of a worker.
– They gloss over the end of 92 and early 93, as Bret talks about what a lump Scott Hall used to be around then. Thinks he’s an okay worker now.
– Onto Bret’s little “disagreementÃ¢â‚¬Â with Hogan, as Vince played them both off each other and fed them various bits of tainted info about what they supposedly said behind each others’ backs. Bret was steamed that Yoko got the big money position as a result of Hogan’s selfish attitude, but he made the most out of the Lawler feud because he’s just that kind of guy.
– He was happy with the King of the Ring matches, but Lawler stiffed the shit out of him with the sceptre shot. Then again at Summerslam with the crutches, so Bret beat the hell out of him in retaliation and then really cranked on the Sharpshooter afterwards. Lawler crawled back to the dressing room in pain and just thought that “that was how the Hart boys workedÃ¢â‚¬Â. Bret and Lawler made up later and had some really fun matches at house shows.
– Shortly after the Lawler feud got played out, they came to him with the idea of a family feud with Bruce. Owen was going to be used as cannon fodder for the heel Bruce, and he would then retire and become a fireman. Think on that one for a minute. Bret immediately vetoed the storyline because Bruce sucks and would probably kill the heat. Owen asked for the slot instead as one last chance to save his career. Bret agreed to help him keep his job, as long as they did an angle much later where they made up. Matches were bad to start, and finally they chucked the entire plan 5 days before Wrestlemania X and started over again. The key was to keep Owen a heel by having him cheat like nuts and generally be an irritating little shit, because otherwise he’d end up getting babyface heat for getting beat up by his big brother.
– Onto Backlund next, as Bret thought they were literally ribbing him when they suggested dropping the title to him. After some matches with him, however, he came around and was completely happy to do the job. Of course, after making him look like a million bucks, Diesel got to squash him in 8 seconds. Bret thought that Nash could have made the WWF some serious money had they held off for 6 months instead of blowing their load in that one match, so to speak.
– Bret takes credit for Nash’s improvement between 1994 and 95, and it’s hard to argue with that. He did everything in his power to make Nash into a megaface at Rumble 95. Bret contrasts that with Diesel’s match against Shawn at Wrestlemania 11, where Shawn went out and did the opposite of what Owen was trying at WMX, and turned himself face as a result, thus killing Diesel’s babyface appeal dead. And indeed, Diesel was essentially the #2 babyface in the promotion from that point until his heel turn, behind Shawn.
– Bret goes over the whole period where he was fighting Hakushi and Jean LaFitte all the time, and back to Nash again. Bret pitched the idea of going through a table at Survivor Series and then winning on a fluke, and Vince shot the idea down before pitching it right back at Bret and Nash days later, once again as his own brilliant idea. One twist: Bret pitched the idea with the intent of returning the favor to Nash at Wrestlemania, but Vince turned it into Bret jobbing to Shawn there instead. Bret felt really bad for Nash at that point, feeling that Nash’s own friends had basically stabbed him in the back and sabotaged his drawing power in the WWF.
– Bret feels that Shawn and the Clique masterminded the Bret -> Backlund -> Diesel switches in 1994, as part of their ongoing campaign to sabotage anything near the main event that wasn’t in their interest.
– Bret had no problems dropping the title to Shawn, but he DID have a problem with being treated like a lame duck in the months leading up to Wrestlemania, doing jobs for Diesel & Undertaker every night while Shawn got 3 months off for a worked injury.
– Bret specifically thinks that the way the Iron Man match was set up, it was designed to cut him off at the knees as the top guy. Shawn’s ego problem really started at this point, as he began plotting out how he’d do programs with all the Clique members until Vince overruled him. Bret thinks Shawn had problems seperating what was right for Shawn from what was right for business, and he points out the drop in ratings following Shawn’s title win as support. Bret thinks Shawn sandbagged him throughout the match (didn’t cooperate with slams), but here I have to disagree somewhat, because Bret spent the first 30 minutes no-selling all of Shawn’s state-of-the-art submission stuff.
– The backstage “feudÃ¢â‚¬Â at that point was all a work. Shawn had a lot of heat with the boys, though.
– Bret took time off for acting, and Carl DeMarco went behind his back to negotiate a deal with WCW for his own benefit. Bret didn’t want to seem like a jerk, so he threw a ludicrously huge number at Bischoff out of curiosity, and Bischoff immediately (and to Bret’s shock) came back with a contract ready to go. Bret wanted to stay with the WWF, and got the infamous 20-year deal out of Vince, complete with creative control.
– Austin literally begged him to come back and stop Shawn’s backstage bullshit, which is one of the main factors in his return. However, right out of chute at Survivor Series 96 Vince & JR started dogging on Bret during the commentary. Bret went to Vince and told him to break the deal if he wasn’t gonna be happy with it, but Vince apologized.
– Bret says that indeed Shawn WAS asked to do the job for him at Wrestlemania 13, and in fact he already had the finish planned out and approved by both Vince & Shawn: Shawn would go for the superkick to finish, but Bret would catch his foot (which would be a gimmicked boot) and break the ankle (complete with snapping sound under the ring), thus forcing Shawn to tap out and take two months off to heal. Shawn would return at Summerslam and Bret would then put him over clean and they’d make up and start teaming. Vince promised Bret he would get the title at Wrestlemania, and Bret thinks Vince played Shawn like a fiddle, which was easy because Shawn was on so many pills at the time.
– Bret denies saying anything about Shawn’s family, and says Shawn gave him full approval on all the gay cracks.
– Bret thinks Shawn’s injury was largely faked, as did most of the locker room. Shawn got pissed at all the speculation and THAT’S how the feud started, not remarks about anyone’s family. Bret thinks Shawn’s numerous drug problems were a big factor in his behavior at the time. He apologized numerous times, but Shawn hit him with the Sunny Days comment out of nowhere one day and everyone turned on Shawn as a result. Bret personally feels there’s more evidence of a homosexual relationship between Shawn & Vince than an affair between Bret & Sunny. JR apologized on Shawn’s behalf for the remark, but by that point Bret wasn’t believing hardly anything from the WWF office’s mouths. He was getting more worried about Shawn’s deteriorating health by the day and was just wondering whether it would be Shawn or Pillman whose lifestyle got them first. As it turned out, Shawn’s forced retirement cured him of his hard-living problems and probably saved his life. That last bit is my opinion, not Bret’s.
– Onto King of the Ring, as Shawn & Bret were scheduled to have a match and Bret was terrified that Shawn wouldn’t be able to protect Bret’s knee while he was so doped up. This led to the fight, which was schoolyard BS all the way. Vince took Bret’s side at the time, but Bret thinks they were just setting up the trap for him.
– He thinks Shawn & HHH were both unquestionably in on the Montreal deal. If he had to do it all again, he’d probably get more shots in on Vince while he had the chance.
– Onto WCW, as Bret never had a clue what he was doing there. He likes Eric, but thinks he got burned out too fast. Bret could never establish his character when he turned heel or face every two weeks. Bret doesn’t think much of the Usual Gang of Booking Idiots. Likes Russo as a person, but just doesn’t think he has the grasp of what wrestling is.
– The Goldberg story: He pitched the idea for the spear and the steel plate in Toronto and everyone loved it. Bret was going to get on a big winning streak to lead up to him challenging Goldberg and they were going to do a big six-month program so Bret could teach Goldberg how to work. However, plans changed daily and Bret was jobbed out in the weeks leading up to the show. Then, two hours before the show, Eric came to Bret and asked him to turn heel on the Toronto crowd. Bret refused for obvious reasons, so Jericho got that “honorÃ¢â‚¬Â. Then Eric wanted to switch the angle to Hogan coming out and shaking Bret’s hand, only to turn on him. Eric said that Hogan would have to veto the angle personally in order to kill it, so Bret went to him and got Hogan’s “permissionÃ¢â‚¬Â to do the angle he originally pitched weeks before, without Hogan.
– And before we can get any deeper into the stupidity that was WCW, the source tape breaks up completely and they go to Bret’s Off the Record interview from mid-2000, plus the classic match section. Since the interview was cut short, there’s TONS of stuff in the match section, and it’ll need a separate review to cover it all properly. So look for that later on.
The Bottom Line:
Probably my favorite of the RF Shoots that I’ve seen, as Bret has an encyclopedic memory of his career and delivers all the stories with credibility and believability. Contrast with Shawn’s self-serving (and often self-contradictory) interview and judge for yourself who would make a better witness if it was a trial. Bret also has a basic and profound understanding for the business that a lot of workers lack. Shawn knew how to make Shawn look good, but when he and his buddies got the ear of Vince, business tanked. To put it another way: Vince was willing to make Bret head booker of the WWF before things fell apart. Shawn, who left on good terms, is lucky to even get on TV anymore.
Make your own judgments.