Where do you begin when reviewing a book that is almost 600 pages? If you would have told me that I wouldn’t be able to put down a 600-page wrestling book, I would have told you that you were crazy. However, Bret Hart’s wrestling autobiography was a pleasant exception.
Whether you a fan of Bret Hart’s or not, it will be impossible not to like this book. Bret began keeping a diary via tape recorder in the 1980s of all of his travels in pro wrestling. These recordings led to what is probably the most thorough book about anyone’s career in pro wrestling that I have ever read.
The book begins with some interesting anecdotes about growing up as one of twelve children in the Hart household. Hart talks a bit about the struggles of growing up as the son of a local wrestling legend. Hart quickly had a target put on him from every kid in school who wanted to prove that wrestling was fake.
Hart’s tales about his early years are just as interesting, maybe more than his WWE and WCW days. I love the days of territory wrestling, and Hart traveled all over the world in his rookie years. Hart becomes very human when he describes the emotions of being a young kid in love, and traveling away from his girlfriend every weekend. This is something anyone that has traveled for pro wrestling can relate too.
A great deal of the book discusses his dysfunctional relationship with his first wife. I have to admit that personally, my opinion of Hart changed quite a bit when reading the book. Hart openly confesses his many marital affairs while on the road. Hart also openly confesses his drug use, while minimal compared to most of his peers. At the same time, I can respect his honesty and honor his bravery for risking his great reputation by putting these vices in print.
There is another constant theme in the book. The Dynamite Kid is truly one of the biggest pieces of garbage to ever lace up the boots. There are dozens of stories of Dynamite and none of them are good. It is almost sad poetic justice when Bret and his friends visit Dynamite later in life. By this time Dynamite is broke, living in an English ghetto, alone, and sad. The stories of Dynamite only reinforce what Matthew Randazzo writes in Chokehold in regards to Chris Benoit’s admiration for this piece of garbage.
The book also paints an interesting picture of Vince McMahon. Bret’s first run-in with Vince was Vince nixing Bret off a Madison Square Garden show in his younger days because he wasn’t a big enough name. However, the book also tells a story of a father-son bond that develops over the years with Vince. By the end of the book I almost do feel that Vince may feel bad about how things went with Bret early on.
The book can be very inspirational in a lot of ways. Bret wasn’t someone that walked into the WWF and given the world. Bret is a guy that literally worked his ass off for many years before given his shot at the top. Bret is also a guy that takes a lot of pride, almost to a fault in his abilities. Some may say that Bret is a mark for himself, but I now think that Bret is just a mark for the business. As Shane Douglas once told me, “The biggest marks are the wrestlers themselves.”
The story within the story is Bret’s family. Bret is quite open and honest with his family struggles. It is almost remarkable how successful Bret turned out, with such a deceitful family who tried sabotaging Bret the second he found success in his father’s territory. It is a shame that there is no happy ending here when it comes to Bret and his family.
For all of Bret’s faults in his marital life, I found Bret to be a very caring man. Bret took care of his friends and loved ones best he can. Bret is constantly looking after brother-in-laws Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid, and Jim Neidhart. It is also quite obvious how much he loved Owen and how much he still hurts and feels guilty for not being there.
There is a story that Bret tells of meeting a dying boy in a hospital. The chance meeting came when Bret was having his own problems. Bret writes about going back to visit the boy every day in the hospital. As someone that has been critical of Bret in the past, it is hard not to like and respect anyone that has the heart (no pun intended) that Bret has.
For wrestling fans, there is a ton of great stuff about his runs in the WWE and WCW. Bret chronicles his relationship throughout the book with Shawn Michaels. Bret also talks about his rocky relationship with Hulk Hogan. Bret goes in detail about finishes, botched moves, and a ton of gossip if you are into that kind of stuff.
Bret’s tales about his run in WCW are both fascinating and comical. It is obvious that while Bret couldn’t have done things different, he wished he could have. It almost seems that Bret is laughing himself as he recounts the boneheaded decisions WCW made with him. Bret has a great story about a booking meeting with Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Kevin Nash that just makes you (and him) scratch his head. It is amazing Bret just never up and left.
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