Pro Wrestling
Pro Wrestling

Bret Sargeant Hart (July 2, 1957) is a Canadian writer and professional and amateur wrestler, known for his time in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), its previous incarnation, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as Bret "The Hitman" Hart. He is a member of the famous Hart wrestling family.

Early life

The eighth child of wrestling patriarch Stu Hart, Bret Hart was born in Calgary, Alberta into the Hart wrestling family. His introduction to professional wrestling came at an incredibly early age. As a child, he witnessed his father training with future wrestling stars like Billy Graham in the Dungeon, his household basement which served as possibly the most notorious training room in the world of wrestling. Before school, Hart's father, also a wrestling promoter, had him hand out fliers to local wrestling shows. In the 1998 documentary, Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, Hart reflected on his father's discipline, describing how Stu inflicted excruciating submission holds while uttering morbid words to his teenage son. The suffering endured in these sessions even left broken blood vessels in his eyes. Hart also, however, cited his father's otherwise pleasant demeanour and growing up in the professional wrestling atmosphere.

Amateur wrestling career

At high school, Hart gained experience and success in the amateur wrestling division, despite being "skin and bones," as Hart refers to his teenage physique. He won significant championships in tournaments throughout Calgary, including the 1973 Calgary City Championship. This later offered credibility to his career in professional wrestling as being "legit". Hart considered trying out the Commonwealth Games during the mid-1970s, but decided to pursue a college degree instead. He enrolled in Mount Royal College.

Professional wrestling career

Stampede Wrestling (1976–1984)

At the age of 19, Bret Hart began working for his father's Stampede Wrestling promotion in Calgary, with his father serving as his manager for a time. Hart first began helping the promotion by refereeing matches, but at one fateful event, a wrestler was unable to perform his match. This forced Stu to ask his son to stand in as a replacement, paving the way for Hart's very first match in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Before long, he became a regular contender, eventually partnering with brother Keith to win the Tag Team Championship four times. Earlier on, however, he was still unsure he wanted to make a career of professional wrestling and continually contemplated the idea.

Hart gained some of his most prominent experience with Japanese combatants and real-life trainers Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada, later praising them as his most significant teachers. Before long, Hart was amazing crowds with his high-impact matches against the Dynamite Kid. In the midst of wrestling alongside his brothers and even his ageing father, Hart made a point not to ride on the shoulders of his elder as other sons of promoters have. Hart faithfully jobbed as requested of him, taking pride in the believably of his performances. As he said himself, "no one could take a shit kicking like Bret Hart." Although he dreaded partaking in interviews and speaking in front of a crowd, Hart went on to win the promotion's top titles, including two British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championships, five International Tag Team Championships, and six North American Heavyweight Championships. Hart also wrestled the famous Tiger Mask in New Japan Pro Wrestling and remained one of Stampede's most successful performers until the promotion, along with several wrestlers, was acquired by the World Wrestling Federation in August 1984.

World Wrestling Federation (1984–1997)

Hart Foundation and early singles matches (1984–1991)

Main article: The Hart Foundation

Hart was asked to start out in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) with a cowboy gimmick but refused, citing that where he comes from "If you say you're a cowboy, you'd better be one". He instead requested to be paired with his brother-in-law Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart who was being managed by Jimmy Hart and asked to be called The Hart Foundation. He made his first televised WWF debut in August 1984, in a tag team match where he teamed with his brother-in-law, The Dynamite Kid. In 1985, he was eventually partnered up with another brother-in-law, Neidhart, to build the promotion's tag team division. Originally a heel team, they joined manager Jimmy Hart's Hart Foundation stable but soon the name stuck with the team of Bret and Anvil, due to the similar family names of both team members and their manager. At WrestleMania 2, they participated in a 20-man battle royal which was eventually won by Andre The Giant. Bret's agile, technical style—which earned him the moniker "The Excellence of Execution" (coined by Gorilla Monsoon) created an intriguing contrast with his partner Neidhart's strength and brawling skills.

Hart rose to fame in the WWF in the mid-1980s, and the Hart Foundation won the WWF Tag Team Championship twice. Their first reign started on the February 7, 1987 edition of Superstars when they defeated the British Bulldogs to win the title. They lost the title to Strike Force on the October 27 edition of Superstars. Eventually, they turned face and adopted the nickname "The Pink and Black Attack."

At SummerSlam in 1990, the Hart Foundation began their second reign by defeating Demolition members Crush and Smash in a two out of three falls match with some help from the Legion of Doom. On October 30, the Hart Foundation lost the title to The Rockers (Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels), but a few days later, President Jack Tunney returned the title to the Hart Foundation because the decision had been reversed due to a rope coming off of the turnbuckle during the match and the win was never acknowledged on television. The Hart Foundation's reign lasted from August 27, 1990 to March 24, 1991.

During his time in the Hart Foundation, Hart also competed occasionally as a solo wrestler. At WrestleMania IV, he was the last man eliminated in a Battle Royal by the eventual winner Bad News Brown. Brown also defeated Hart in a singles match at Wrestlefest 88. In May 1989 Hart won a 16-man battle royal in Hamilton, Ontario. He would also compete in singles matches with the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Curt Hennig, Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels throughout the late 80's and early 90's.

During his WWF career, Hart increasingly described himself as "The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be" (derived from the 1984 film The Natural), which he would later justify through three claims: he never injured an opponent through any fault of his own; through the entire course of his career he missed only one show (as a result of flight difficulties); and that he only once refused to lose a match—his final WWF match with long-time adversary Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series event in 1997, which culminated in the now infamous Montreal Screwjob.

Solo success (1991–1992)

Following a loss to The Nasty Boys at WrestleMania VII, the Foundation split and Hart went on to pursue a singles career. He won his first WWF Intercontinental Championship by defeating Mr. Perfect with the Sharpshooter at SummerSlam in 1991. Hart was then placed in a feud with the Mountie. This feud came about when the Mountie's manager, Jimmy Hart, threw water on Hart. Then, the Mountie proceeded to shock Hart with a cattle prod. Following the loss, Roddy Piper defeated Mountie with a sleeper hold at the 1992 Royal Rumble, and Bret would later pin Piper for his second Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania VIII later that year.

Rise to main event status (1992–1993)

Hart dropped the Intercontinental Championship to his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, in the main event of SummerSlam in 1992 held before over 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium. It was his first main event pay-per-view match, and he subsequently maintained main event status, being pushed as a contender to the WWF Championship. He won the WWF Championship from Ric Flair at Saskatchewan Place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on October 12 of that year, in a match not originally broadcast on WWF television — the match was instead available on a Coliseum Video release. Hart dislocated one of the fingers on his right hand during the match and popped it back in himself so it would not affect the rest of the match.

Hart defended the title against contenders such as Papa Shango, and former champion Ric Flair before losing the title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX after Mr. Fuji threw salt into his eyes, enabling Yokozuna to pin Hart. Mr. Fuji then challenged Hulk Hogan, who had come out to help Hart, to compete for the title; Hogan then won his fifth WWF Championship from Yokozuna after causing Mr. Fuji into accidentally throwing salt into Yokozuna's eyes before pinning him. Shortly after, however, Hart won the first pay-per-view King of the Ring tournament in 1993, defeating Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow (prior King of the Ring tournaments were just house show events). After being crowned as the King of the Ring, Hart was attacked by announcer Jerry "The King" Lawler. Lawler claimed he was the rightful King and began a barrage against Hart and his family. The feud culminated in a match between the two at SummerSlam in 1993, where Hart originally won the match by submission, via the Sharpshooter. Hart, however, would not let go of the hold and the decision was reversed to a Lawler victory by disqualification. According to Hart, the original plan for SummerSlam was to pit WWF Champion Hulk Hogan against Hart in a passing of the torch. Hart also claimed that promotional photos were even taken of the two playing tug of war with the belt before the plans were dropped. Instead, Hogan dropped the belt to Yokozuna in his last WWF appearance at the King of the Ring PPV, which inspired some genuine animosity between the two as Hart felt that Hogan didn't respect him enough to drop the belt and put Bret over as the leader of the "new WWF Generation." Bret Hart and his brother Owen would also feud with Lawler during 1993 in the United States Wrestling Association (USWA), with Lawler notably defeating Owen for the USWA Championship.

Family problems (1993–1994)

It was at this point that Bret Hart entered into a feud with his younger brother, Owen Hart. The storyline involved Owen becoming jealous of Bret. It began at Survivor Series, when the Harts (Bret, Owen, Bruce, and Keith) took on Shawn Michaels (a last-minute substitution for Lawler) and his knights. All of the brothers survived the match except for Owen, the only Hart family member eliminated. Owen blamed Bret for his elimination and in the weeks ahead, blamed Bret for holding him back. Owen demanded a one-on-one match with Bret, which Bret refused to accept. In the storyline, Bret, along with his parents, worked over the Christmas holidays to reunite the family and to settle their rivalry.

At the Royal Rumble in January, Bret and Owen took on The Quebecers for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Referee Tim White stopped the match after he considered Bret unable to continue after he sustained a kayfabe knee injury during the match. After the match, Owen berated his brother for costing him a title opportunity and attacked the injured knee, setting the feud between the two. Later on, Hart managed to participate and win the 1994 Royal Rumble match amid controversy. Hart and Lex Luger were the final two participants and the two were eliminated over the top rope at the same time. Therefore, both men were named co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble match and received title shots at WrestleMania X. Luger won the chance to face Yokozuna first, with Hart having to wrestle his brother Owen, who still demanded a match, before receiving his title shot. Owen won the match. Hart lost his match against Owen but went on to defeat Yokozuna for his second WWF Championship.

Hart continued to feud with his brother Owen while he also started feuding with Diesel. Hart's friend and former tag team partner Jim Neidhart returned to the WWF and reunited with Hart. At King of the Ring, Hart defended the WWF Championship against Diesel. When Hart was winning the match, Shawn Michaels interfered on Diesel's behalf. Diesel appeared close to victory after he delivered a Jackknife Powerbomb yet before he could pin Hart, Neidhart interfered. Diesel won by disqualification but Hart retained his title. Neidhart left when Diesel and Michaels attacked Hart following the match. Neidhart's motivation was made clear when he helped Owen win the tournament that night, so that he could receive a title shot against his brother. At SummerSlam, Hart successfully retained the WWF Championship against Owen in a Steel Cage match. This match would get a 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer.

Hart eventually lost his WWF Championship at Survivor Series in a submission match against Bob Backlund where the manager of either competitor (Davey Boy Smith for Hart, Owen for Backlund) would have to 'throw in the towel' for the wrestler they were representing. When Hart was in Backlund's Crossface Chickenwing and Davey Boy was kayfabe knocked out, Owen persuaded his mother Helen to throw in the towel for Hart, giving Backlund the championship victory. Bret's feud with Backlund would continue at WrestleMania XI where he would defeat Backlund in another submission match.

Various rivalries and Hart Foundation reunion (1995–1997)

Bret would then go after Diesel's WWF Championship in 1995. After their match at the Royal Rumble was continually marred by outside interference, Bret won his third WWF Championship at Survivor Series in a No DQ match against Diesel. After Hart's real life rival Shawn Michaels won the 1996 Royal Rumble, a 60-minute Iron Man match was set up between the two at WrestleMania XII. The wrestler with the most decisions during the 60 minutes would win the match and the WWF Championship. With less than a minute left on the clock and the score still 0–0, Michaels jumped from the middle rope; his legs were caught by Hart, and Hart locked in his Sharpshooter. However, Michaels did not submit in the last 30 seconds so the match ended in a tie. President Gorilla Monsoon ruled that the match would continue in sudden death overtime. Michaels hit a superkick to win the gold.

After WrestleMania, Hart took a hiatus from television. Hart would consider offers of employment from both WCW and the WWF, but would ultimately re-sign with the WWF. Over the summer, Steve Austin, who was fresh from winning the 1996 King of the Ring, continually taunted Bret and challenged him to come back and have a match. After eight-month hiatus from television, Bret returned and defeated Austin at Survivor Series. The feud continued at the Royal Rumble, when Hart tossed Austin out of the ring, only for Austin (unbeknownst to the referees) to climb back into the ring and win the Rumble. In order to deal with this controversy, a Fatal Four-Way between Austin and the participants he eliminated after reentering the ring was set up for In Your House 13: Final Four, with the winner becoming the number one contender. After current champion Shawn Michaels relinquished the belt, though, the match officially became one for the WWF Championship. Hart defeated Austin, Vader, and The Undertaker in the Fatal Four-Way. However, Austin made sure Hart's reign was short-lived, costing him a match against Sycho Sid the next night on Raw. The two had a Steel cage match shortly before WrestleMania 13 (Hart's twelfth consecutive and final WrestleMania until WrestleMania 26), which saw Austin actually attempt to help Hart win, in order to make their match at WrestleMania 13 a title match. Concurrently, The Undertaker, who had a scheduled match with Sid at WrestleMania, attempted to help Sid win. Sid ultimately retained, leading to a pure grudge match for Hart and Austin.

At WrestleMania 13, Hart and Austin had their rematch in a Submission match that would later get a 5-star rating from Dave Meltzer. In the end, Hart locked the Sharpshooter on a bloody Austin, who refused to give up. In fact, Austin never quit, but passed out from the blood loss and pain. Ken Shamrock, the special guest referee, awarded Hart the match, after which he continued to assault Austin. This turned Austin face, and Hart became a heel. The original plan for WrestleMania 13 was a Hart versus Michaels championship rematch in which Michaels was slated to drop the belt to Hart. However, Michaels injured his knee two weeks after the Royal Rumble. Rumors immediately began flying that Shawn did not want to drop the belt to Bret. Hart actually came out during the main event at WrestleMania 13 and challenged Michaels to step in the ring and stated (in a shoot promo) that Michaels has a "p***y foot injury." McMahon, commentating at ringside alongside Michaels, immediately got up from his seat and tried to keep Michaels calm. Hart would face Austin in a no-disqualification street fight on Raw, in which Austin injured the now-heel Hart's ankle with a steel chair. The match ended with Austin refusing to release Hart from his own finishing move, the Sharpshooter. Austin continued to beat Hart while on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. They would meet once again at In Your House 14: Revenge of the 'Taker: this marked the first and only time a match between the two would be a pay-per-view main event. Austin had Hart locked in the Sharpshooter in the middle of the ring when The British Bulldog interfered on Hart's behalf, resulting in disqualification and giving Austin his only victory over Hart.

In the ensuing weeks, Bret "The Hitman" Hart denounced American fans, because of their negative reaction to him in the recent weeks in contrast to his continued popularity through the rest of the world, and reunited with brother Owen and brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart. The family members formed a new Hart Foundation with Brian Pillman; this incarnation was an anti-American stable which was popular within Canada and Europe. During an angle in which it appeared that the Hart Foundation had vandalized the locker room of the African American stable, the Nation of Domination (in the storyline, DX framed the Hart Foundation). As kayfabe retaliation, during a promo with DX, Hart called both Triple H and Shawn Michaels "homos". After leaving the WWF, Hart apologized for the angles and said that he had been pressured into going through with them. He said, "I am not in any shape or form a racist. And I don't believe it is anything to kid around about. I also want to apologize for any remarks I made about gay people. It was a stupid mistake on my part." Hart's reluctance to use such references was cited on Wrestling with Shadows, where he points out that while Shawn Michaels wanted Bret to use these insults against him to further their on-screen rivalry, Bret was extremely reluctant to do so.

Hart captured his fifth WWF Championship at SummerSlam after spitting in Special Guest Referee Shawn Michaels' face; Michaels swung a steel chair in retaliation, which accidentally struck the Undertaker and allowed Hart to get the pin. Hart made a notable appearance in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in September 1997, defeating Terry Funk.

Montreal Screwjob and departure (1997)

Main article: Montreal Screwjob

Around this time, Hart's on-air rivalry with "announcer" Vince McMahon also escalated. A heated ringside altercation between the two led many fans to dislike McMahon, who at the time was being exposed as owner of the WWF more and more frequently on-air. Although Hart was signed to a 20-year contract back in 1996, the WWF was in a rough financial position by late 1997 and could not afford the contract. Although Hart was arguably the biggest wrestler in the world during the mid-1990s, McMahon also felt that the value of his character was beginning to wane, but wished for Hart to remain with the WWF and discuss the contract and the character's future. Nonetheless, McMahon gave Hart his blessing to talk to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) about possibly taking a second look at their original offer to him. Hart subsequently signed a three-year contract with WCW. His final match with the WWF would be a title match against his real life rival Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series in Montreal. Hart did not want to end his WWF career with a loss to Michaels in his home country; McMahon agreed to Hart's idea of forfeiting the championship the next night on Raw or losing it a few weeks later.

Although Hart stated to McMahon he would not take the WWF Championship with him to WCW TV (and despite insistence from then WCW President Eric Bischoff, according to Hart's DVD biography, that Hart would join WCW with a "clean slate"), McMahon was still concerned; this led to him breaking his word in what eventually came to be known as the Montreal Screwjob. Even though Hart did not submit to the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell as if he had, on McMahon's orders. This resulted in Hart "losing" the WWF Championship to Michaels. The night ended with an irate Hart spitting in McMahon's face, destroying television equipment, and punching McMahon backstage in front of Gerald Brisco, Pat Patterson, and McMahon's son Shane. Hart also confronted Michaels backstage about the match finish. Many behind-the-scenes events leading up to the Montreal Screwjob were filmed for the documentary Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, released in 1998.

World Championship Wrestling (1997–2000)

Early WCW run (1997–1998)

A day after the Survivor Series pay-per-view, Eric Bischoff, while with the New World Order (nWo), announced that Hart was going to be coming to World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and joining the nWo. About a month after Survivor Series, Hart joined WCW, the WWF's main competitor. He made his debut on WCW Monday Nitro on December 15, 1997 when it was announced by WCW Chairman of the Board J.J. Dillon that Hart would be the special guest referee for the match between Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko at Starrcade. Bret was involved in the Sting versus Hulk Hogan match at Starrcade, stepping in toward its conclusion as impromptu referee. He attacked referee Nick Patrick, accusing him of making a fast count and shouting he would not let "it happen again" (a reference to the Montreal Screwjob). During Bischoff's period in control of the company, the goodwill towards Hart generated by the Montreal Screwjob resulted in his being pushed as a face; he defeated Ric Flair in his first WCW match at Souled Out in 1998, and beat Curt Hennig at Uncensored.

Heel turn (1998–1999)

WCW President Eric Bischoff confessed on TSN's Off The Record in March 1998 that he wasn't entirely sure how to creatively use Hart, but that he had future plans for a feud between Hart and Hulk Hogan, which would make "a tremendous amount of money" (the feud never materialised—they instead had one televised match on WCW Monday Nitro which ended in a no-contest). In April 1998, Hart turned heel in a Nitro main event involving Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, unofficially joining the nWo. He defeated Savage in singles action at Slamboree, thanks to assistance from Hogan, and then again in a tag team match with Hogan at The Great American Bash in which Savage was partnered with Roddy Piper.

At Bash at the Beach, Hart competed in his first championship match in WCW as he faced Booker T for Booker's WCW World Television Championship. He was disqualified after hitting Booker with a steel chair. Hart was then booked to win WCW's second-most prestigious title, the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. Although Hart would later become a two-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion, some saw WCW's failure to push Hart as a contender to the title for another year — despite previously being one of the WWF's top stars and having signed an estimated $3 million a year contract with WCW — as a mistake.

On the July 20 edition of Nitro, Hart defeated Diamond Dallas Page for the vacant WCW United States Heavyweight Championship, his first championship in WCW. Hart would go on to hold the titke four times during his tenure with WCW—the most reigns in the company's history. Though still not officially a member of the nWo, the faction did support him in the match, as The Giant came out to the ring and chokeslammed Page. A few days later, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to fellow WWF alumnus Lex Luger. Hart regained the title from Luger, the next night on Thunder. At Fall Brawl, Hart and several other wrestlers lost to Diamond Dallas Page in a WarGames match. During the fall of 1998 Hart also had an intense feud with Sting which ended at Halloween Havoc with Hart controversially defending the title and (kayfabe) injuring Sting. On the October 26 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to Diamond Dallas Page. The two had a rematch at World War 3 for the title which Hart lost. Hart regained the title from Page on the November 30 edition of Nitro in a No Disqualification match with help from nWo member The Giant.

On the February 8 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to family friend Roddy Piper. On the March 29, 1999 edition of Nitro held at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, Hart appeared in street clothes and called out Bill Goldberg, claiming he could beat him in five minutes and verbally coercing Goldberg into tackling him. Hart was wearing a metal breastplate under his Toronto Maple Leafs sweater, which resulted in Goldberg being knocked out. Hart then counted his own pinfall over Goldberg's unconscious body, announced over the mic "Hey WCW, Bischoff, I quit!", and left the ring, arising speculation on whether Hart was actually leaving the company. Following the incident, Hart took a hiatus from WCW television. In May 1999, prior to his return, his brother Owen Hart died in an accident during a WWF pay-per-view. As a result, Hart did not return to television, and took a further four months off from WCW to be with his family.

World Heavyweight Champion, nWo and departure (1999–2000)

Hart returned to wrestling on the September 13, 1999 edition of Nitro in a match with Hulk Hogan against Sting and Lex Luger. On the October 4, 1999 edition of Nitro he wrestled in a tribute match for Owen against Chris Benoit — this match took place in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, where Owen had died months earlier. Around this same time, the WWF's top writer Vince Russo "jumped ship" to join WCW. Russo instigated an angle which involved a controversy over a series of World Heavyweight Championship matches between Sting, Hogan, and Goldberg at Halloween Havoc, ultimately leading to the title being declared vacant. A tournament then took place over several episodes of Nitro. Hart's first round match came against Goldberg the night after Halloween Havoc, with the match being a tournament match for a berth in the next round, as well as being a match for the United States Championship that Goldberg had won the night before. Thanks to outside interference, Hart was able to defeat Goldberg, handing him his second official WCW loss, and won the U.S. Championship for the fourth time.

On the November 8 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to Scott Hall in a ladder match which also involved Sid Vicious and Goldberg. Hart went on to win the WCW World Heavyweight Championship tournament by defeating Perry Saturn, Billy Kidman, Sting, and Chris Benoit at WCW Mayhem, held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, giving him his first of two reigns in WCW and his sixth world title overall.

On December 7, Hart and Goldberg won the WCW World Tag Team Championship from Creative Control (making Hart a double champion), but lost the titles to The Outsiders on the December 13 edition of Nitro. At Starrcade, Hart defended his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Goldberg. During the match, Hart was struck with a mule kick to the head, resulting in a severe concussion. Hart later speculated that he may have suffered up to three additional concussions within matches over the course of that day along with the days immediately following Starrcade, having been unaware of the severity of his injuries. As a part of this, Hart placed Goldberg on the post in a Figure-four leglock which ended with Hart hitting his head on the concrete floor when Goldberg failed to receive the move correctly. The sum total of those injuries left Hart with post-concussion syndrome and ultimately forced his retirement from professional wrestling. Hart wrote a Calgary Sun column in which he said that Goldberg "had a tendency to injure everyone he worked with." As part of his DVD documentary, Hart expressed regret that "someone as good-hearted as Bill Goldberg" was responsible for hurting him.

Hart vacated the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on the December 20 edition of Nitro as a result of controversies surrounding his Starrcade match, offering Goldberg a rematch for the title that evening. During the match, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash came to the ring looking to attack Goldberg with baseball bats. Hart convinced them to stop, then in a swerve hit Goldberg with one of the bats. The three continued to beat down Goldberg and were eventually joined by Jeff Jarrett. As a result, not only did Hart regain the championship, the nWo was reformed. Overall, Hart was 3-1 against Goldberg, who was noted for his undefeated streak. He defended the WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Terry Funk and Kevin Nash in January 2000, before vacating the title in late January 2000 when he was forced to withdraw from the main event of WCW's Souled Out due to his injuries. Hart never lost either WCW World Heavyweight Championship he held, but forfeited them instead. Hart continued to make appearances on WCW television, generally cutting promos, although he did compete in the 41-man battle royal on the May 3, 2000 edition of Thunder to determine the number one contender for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, which was won by Ric Flair. His final WCW appearance occurred on the September 6, 2000 edition of Thunder, in a promo where he confronted Bill Goldberg on the injury he sustained nine months prior. Hart and WCW mutually agreed on a release from his three-year WCW contract in October 2000, two months prior to its conclusion, and Hart announced his retirement soon afterward.

Post-retirement appearances (2001-2009)

In late 2001, Bret Hart made appearances as the on-screen commissioner of World Wrestling All-Stars (WWA). In his first major appearance since recovering from his stroke, Bret Hart traveled to Australia to appear at another WWA event in May 2003.

On May 9, 2007, it was announced that Hart would make his first appearance for a professional wrestling event since the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame. Hart signed autographs at "The Legends of Wrestling" show at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. On June 11, 2007, Hart made his first appearance on Raw since October 27, 1997 when he appeared in a pre-taped interview voicing his opinions on Vince McMahon as part of "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night." During the months of October and November 2008, Bret went on tour with American Wrestling Rampage promotions, touring many places throughout the UK and Ireland, posing for photographs and signing autographs before the show. On the weekend of July 11, 2009, Bret made an appearance at One Pro Wrestling in Sheffield, England, where he held a Q&A, and then entered the ring to address the fans at the show. On September 27, 2009, Hart appeared in New York City's Manhattan Center to sign autographs during a Ring of Honor event. He spoke to the crowd, reminiscing about some of his more memorable matches in New York. He said that if he ever does return to the ring, "he'll make sure it happens in New York."

World Wrestling Entertainment

Return and feud with Vince McMahon (2009–2010)

Hart re-signed with WWE in late December 2009. On December 28, after weeks of controversy surrounding Hart and his presence in World Wrestling Entertainment, Chairman Vince McMahon announced that Hart would be special guest host on the January 4 episode of Raw. Hart made his first live appearance on Raw in over 12 years by hosting the program. There, he thanked the fans for their continued support, jokingly teased announcer Jerry Lawler about their long running 1990s feud, and confronted Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon regarding the Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series in 1997. Hart and Michaels were able to agree on a truce, shaking hands and hugging. While many cast doubts on the sincerity of their reconciliation, both men have confirmed that it was indeed genuine and not part of storyline. It also appeared that he had buried the hatchet with Vince later in the night, until Vince subsequently kicked Bret in the crotch (this was in fact part of a storyline, as Bret and Vince have been on speaking terms since 2005).

During different encounters the following month, Hart and McMahon would reproduce similar events that occurred in the Montreal Screwjob: McMahon spitting in Hart's face (as Hart did to McMahon), and Hart destroying parts of the technical equipment that goes into producing Raw (as he did to the Survivor Series equipment). On the February 15 episode of Raw, Hart made a farewell from WWE, but as he left to go inside his limousine, another vehicle reversed into the door of his limo and injured his left leg. On the March 1 episode of Raw, Mr. McMahon, who would take advantage of Hart's condition, challenged Hart to a match at WrestleMania XXVI; Hart accepted. The match was later changed to a No Holds Barred Match as Hart revealed (with help from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, the special guest host that night) the staging of his injury. Hart, along with his family, inducted his father Stu Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame, a controversial decision that aggravated Hart and McMahon's rivalry in 2010. At WrestleMania, McMahon attempted to buy Hart's family into turning against him; however, they turned against McMahon instead and helped Hart defeat McMahon.

United States Champion and Raw General Manager (2010)

On the Raw episode after WrestleMania, Hart was about to announce his farewell from WWE until Unified WWE Tag Team Champions ShoMiz taunted Hart. This led Hart to request a match between the champions and The Hart Dynasty (David Hart Smith and Tyson Kidd), a stable stemmed from the Hart family. Ultimately, the Dynasty would win a championship match that culminated in them winning the championship on April 26. Hart would manage in the Dynasty's corners while they battled with the Miz and Show in various matches, which eventually led to The Miz losing a match that guaranteed a WWE United States Championship match to a Hart family member against him. Instead of choosing a member of the Dynasty, The Miz chose Bret; with the help of the Dynasty, Hart would defeat The Miz to win his record-tying fifth United States Championship on May 17 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

On the May 24 edition of Raw, Hart was named the new General manager of Raw. He set up qualifying matches for Fatal 4-Way Pay-per-view, but one of which involving the injured Batista and Randy Orton. Batista refused to take part and quit the WWE. He vacated the United States title, which was later won by R-Truth, and once again retired from the ring to fulfill his duties as General Manager. The next week, he was confronted by Vince McMahon who congratulated Hart on becoming General Manager but warned him that he would have to make tough decisions in the future. Hart retaliated by declaring a Viewer's Choice episode of Raw. The week after the Viewer's Choice episode, he confronted the NXT rookies who demanded WWE contracts. Hart denied their requests and fired NXT Season 1 winner Wade Barrett. At the end of the night, the NXT rookies attacked Hart and demanded for contracts giving Hart until the Fatal 4-Way pay per view for his answer. Hart legitimately did not appear at the pay-per-view or the following night's Raw as advertised. On Raw, Vince McMahon scolded Hart for failing to appear at the pay-per-view, and to hire extra security to prevent the "chaos" caused by the NXT rookies, relieving him of his duties as General Manager. Hart's profile was subsequently removed from the Raw roster on Some speculated that Hart had left the company, with the most commonly reported explanation being that Lloyd's of London, with whom he has an insurance settlement following his career ending injury in WCW, were unhappy with the level of physicality involved in his WWE appearances.

Feud with The Nexus (2010)

After a five-week absence from WWE programming, Hart returned to Raw on July 19, where it was announced by John Cena that he, The Great Khali, R-Truth, Edge, Chris Jericho, John Morrison, and Hart would face the NXT rookies, now known as The Nexus, at SummerSlam. The following week, Hart teamed with John Cena to wrestle SummerSlam teammates Edge and Chris Jericho to a no contest. In the SummerSlam main event, Hart's first pay-per-view headlining match since Starrcade 1999, he was disqualified for using a steel chair on Skip Sheffield. However, his team went on to win the match. On the August 16 edition of Raw, Bret Hart introduced the new tag team title belts to the champions, The Hart Dynasty. Later on in the night during the Nexus vs. Raw challenge, Hart was scheduled to face Justin Gabriel, but was unable to compete after the anonymous GM, citing his disdain for Hart, removed him from the match and replaced him with Randy Orton. On August 30 Hart appeared on the 900th episode of Raw and was booked in a match against The Undertaker by the anonymous GM. The match, however, would never take place as The Undertaker was assaulted by the Nexus and Kane. On September 25, 2010, WWE hosted a tribute event to Hart in Madison Square Garden, where he and the Hart Dynasty defeated Nexus members Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel and Michael Tarver in a six-man tag team match, when Gabriel submitted to Hart's Sharpshooter. At Raw on October 18, 2010, Hart made an appearance in his hometown of Calgary, working as the special enforcer in the main event dark match between Randy Orton, Sheamus and Wade Barrett and, after the match, saved Orton from a Nexus beatdown and locked Heath Slater in a Sharpshooter. In November 2010, Hart's WWE contract had expired.

Sporadic appearances

Hart appeared on's Legends of Wrestling: Rivalries on March 23, 2011, discussing the greatest professional wrestling rivalries of all time with other prominent industry figures. On the April 25, 2011 edition of Tough Enough, the contestants focused on developing their agility. Hart, who was described in his introduction by host Steve Austin as the personification of "courage, technique and agility", motivated the contestants by giving a talk on the attributes required to be successful in WWE. On May 22 at Over the Limit, Hart's long-running 1990s rival, Jerry Lawler, defeated Michael Cole in a Kiss My Foot match. Harking back to Hart's victory over Lawler in a Kiss My Foot Match at the 1995 King of the Ring, Hart came to the ring after the match and, along with Jim Ross and Eve Torres, forced Michael Cole back into the ring so he could kiss Lawler's foot, as agreed in the pre-match stipulation; Hart placed Cole in the Sharpshooter to accomplish this. Hart and Lawler then embraced, laying past animosities to rest. The following night on Raw, Hart refereed the main event, which saw John Cena and Rey Mysterio defeat R-Truth and CM Punk with Hart's assistance. On the August 23, 2011 tapings of the August 26, 2011 edition of SmackDown, Hart served as guest General Manager. Hart announced that Mark Henry would get a shot at Randy Orton's World Heavyweight Championship the following week, but he was forced to give Christian a title shot instead, after Christian invoked his rematch clause. Hart, however, used his authority to add a steel cage stipulation to the match. Hart also guest refereed a Street Fight between Randy Orton and Christian in a Dark Match. After the match, Christian squared off with Bret, who applied the sharpshooter on Christian.

On September 12, 2011 Hart appeared on Raw and was placed in a tag team match with John Cena against Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez which he won after putting Rodriguez into a Sharpshooter. Later that week on Smackdown, which was filmed in Toronto, he took part in a post-show tribute for one of his biggest fans (who also was forced to retire early, due to injuries), Edge.

Hart appeared on Raw 1000 on July 23, 2012 as the guest ring announcer for the Intercontinental Championship match between then champion Christian and The Miz.

On the September 10 episode of Raw, Hart interviewed John Cena during which CM Punk interrupted. When Punk tried to punch him, Hart countered the attack and punched him right on the face, forcing him to roll out of the ring. He closed the show celebrating with Cena. However, the closing was overshadowed by Jerry Lawler's (legitimate) on-air heart attack, from which he would eventually recover. Bret Hart then made an appearance at the 2013 Royal Rumble, in a segment with Alberto Del Rio and Ricardo Rodriguez. His latest appearance was on the March 25 edition of Raw alongside other Legends, as they interviewed The Rock and John Cena.

Outside the ring


In 2004, Hart was chosen as one of the Greatest Canadians, coming in at number thirty-nine. He was also the advocate for Don Cherry during the televised portion of the competition. Hart said he would be done with professional wrestling following his U.S. book tour. He believed his wrestling career would be complete after saying good-bye to his American fans on various book signing tours to promote its release in the States. Hart was content saying good-bye to wrestling through his book and not working for a promotion after spending seven years on the project. "I'd be happy being remembered for really brilliant storytelling in my matches, not for some last chance to snap up some money," Hart said. "I respectfully understand my light in wrestling is fading. I can live with that." Hart said he nearly gave up on the project while trying to fight with the illnesses he faced after suffering a stroke in 2002. However, Hart wanted to bring closure on his wrestling career. "A lot of times, I thought about giving up because it was hard reliving some of these events. But I couldn't say goodbye to my wrestling character until I finished."

On the February 16, 2006, episode of Raw, it was announced that Hart would be a 2006 inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. Hart had also been approached by Vince McMahon for a potential match between the two at WrestleMania 22 but declined the offer. On April 1, 2006, Hart was inducted by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He thanked every wrestler he worked with (even thanking Vince McMahon) and said he's "in a good place in life." Despite Hart's claims around the time of WrestleMania 22, the idea of a match between Hart and McMahon was revived in 2010 following Bret's guest appearance on the January 4th edition of Raw. On March 1, 2010, it was confirmed that Hart and McMahon would have their match at WrestleMania XXVI.

On July 15, 2006, Bret Hart was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, at the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa. The induction took place in an immensely crowded and humid display room showcasing one of Hart's ring entrance jackets. The honor is only awarded to those with both a professional and amateur wrestling background, making Hart one of the youngest inductees. During his acceptance, Hart compared this induction to his place in the WWE Hall of Fame, saying "This is a much bigger honor for me."

In June 2008, Hart returned to the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame ceremony, this time to induct his father Stu Hart. At the induction ceremony in Waterloo, Iowa, he ridiculed Slam Wrestling editor Greg Oliver, calling him a "charlatan" and his books on wrestling "fiction" to the standing ovation of some wrestlers in attendance. At the end of the speech, Hart said "Either you go or I go." After Oliver refused to leave, Hart walked out of the ceremony with other wrestlers to scattered applause.

Since Hart's retirement, WWE chairman Vince McMahon has described him as the greatest technical wrestler and storyteller in the history of the business, and several noted professional wrestlers have named him as one of their favorite opponents.


Bret Hart wrote a weekly column for the Calgary Sun from June 1991 until October 2004.

On [[October 16]], 2007, Hart's autobiography titled Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, was released in Canada by Random House Canada, and released in fall 2008 in the United States by Grand Central Publishing, with a U.S. book signing tour. Hart began writing the book in July 1999 with Marcy Engelstein, his longtime close friend and business associate. They did not complete the book until eight years later in September 2007 due to Hart suffering his stroke in 2002, among numerous other tragedies that occurred during the writing. Hart's chronicle is based on an audio diary that he kept for all of his years on the road in professional wrestling.


From 1995 to 1996 Hart appeared in the Lonesome Dove television series as Luther Root. He has made numerous televised appearances since, including a guest spot on The Simpsons in 1997 (as himself, in "The Old Man and the Lisa") and a stint playing The Genie in a theatrical production of Aladdin in 2004, a role which he reprised in the Canadian Touring production of Aladdin in late 2006. Hart also appeared in episodes of the Honey I Shrunk The Kids TV series (along with his brother), The Adventures of Sinbad, ' Big Sound, and The Immortal. Hart is also the voice of the Hooded Fang in Jacob Two-Two (TV series)

Hart also guest starred on the sketch comedy series MADtv in 1997 where he acted as enforcer at a fan's house, appearing with his WWF Championship belt. Hart later appeared again on MADtv in 1999 and 2000 in an angle with actor Will Sasso in which the two feuded on the set of MADtv and in World Championship Wrestling; this culminated in a grudge match on WCW Monday Nitro, where Hart decisively defeated Sasso.


Hart was the subject of 1998 documentary, Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows, which chronicles the events leading up to his transition from WWF to WCW.

In mid-2005, WWE announced the release of a three-disc DVD originally named Screwed: The Bret Hart Story, with the title a reference to the Montreal Screwjob. After he was approached about appearing in the DVD, Hart visited WWE Headquarters on August 3, 2005 and met with Vince McMahon. Hart filmed over seven hours of interview footage for the DVD, which was renamed Bret "Hit Man" Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. The DVD includes a compendium of Hart's favorite matches, including a match against his brother Owen held in White Plains, New York and his first match with Ricky Steamboat. Before the DVD's release, the WWE released a special magazine covering Hart's career. The collection was released on November 15, 2005.

On April 6, 2010, the WWE released Hart & Soul: The Hart Family Anthology, which is a 3 DVD set featuring a documentary on the Hart wrestling family as well as 12 matches. It is unique in that it also features previously unseen home movies from the Harts as well as candid interviews from surviving family members.

Hart appeared on many talk shows (Larry King Live, Nancy Grace, Hannity & Colmes, On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren, etc.) discussing the Chris Benoit double murder and suicide. Hart is shown putting his finishing hold, the Sharpshooter, on Chris Benoit in the opening credits of Malcolm in the Middle.

In 2010, The Fight Network produced a documentary entitled 'Bret Hart - Survival of the Hitman' produced by John Pollock, Jorge Barbosa and Wai Ting chronicling the rise of Hart, his split with the WWE in 1997 and his road back to the company in January 2010. The documentary features interviews with Bret, members of the family, Carl DeMarco, former sports agent Gord Kirke, producer of 'Wrestling with Shadows' Paul Jay and more.

Personal life

Hart lent his nickname to the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League; he was a founder and part-owner.


Main article: Hart wrestling family

Hart married Julie Smadu (born March 25, 1960) on July 8, 1982. Bret and Julie have four children: Jade Michelle Hart (born March 31, 1983); Dallas Jeffery Hart (born August 11, 1984); Alexandra Sabina Hart (born May 17, 1988), nicknamed "Beans"; and Blade Colton Hart (born June 5, 1990). The four hearts located on the right thigh of his tights symbolize his children, as do the four dots following his signature. Bret and Julie separated in May 1998 and they eventually divorced on June 24, 2002 just hours before Bret suffered his stroke. Hart married an Italian woman named Cinzia Rota in 2004, but they divorced in 2007 after failing to agree on where they should live. He married Stephanie Washington in 2010. Through his daughters Jade and Alexandra, Hart has a granddaughter, Kyra Beans (born June 2010) and a grandson, Grayson Knight Cassidy (born June 20, 2015 at 1:25 am).

His seven brothers were either wrestlers or involved backstage with the wrestling business; his four sisters all married professional wrestlers. Two of his brothers-in-law, Davey Boy Smith, and Jim Neidhart had successful careers in the business. His youngest brother Owen Hart had become a decorated wrestler in his own right before his death in 1999, caused in a real-life accident at the WWF pay-per-view Over the Edge.

Fellow pro wrestler Roddy Piper claimed in his autobiography to be a cousin of Hart. Hart has also stated that Piper was the only wrestler to visit him in the hospital after his stroke.

Health problems

On June 24, 2002, Bret Hart suffered a stroke after hitting his head in a bicycle accident. The Calgary Herald reported that Hart hit a pothole, flew over the handlebars of the bike, and landed on the back of his head. Hart suffered total paralysis on his left side, which required months of physical therapy. Hart has since recovered much of his mobility and is in good health, although he suffers from an emotional imbalance and other lasting effects common to stroke survivors. Hart wrote in detail about his stroke in his autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life In The Cartoon World of Wrestling. Hart later became a spokesperson for March of Dimes Canada's Stroke Recovery Canada program. While recovering from his stroke Hart would train three days a week at B.J's Gym in Calgary, which was owned by his brother-in-law B.J. Annis.

On February 1, 2016, Hart revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer via Facebook post.

Feud with Ric Flair

In October 1993, Bret Hart gave a radio interview in which he said Ric Flair "sucks", and described his workplace, WCW, as "minor league". In his autobiography, Flair criticizes Hart for exploiting the death of his brother, Owen Hart, and the controversy surrounding the Montreal Screwjob. Flair also claimed in his autobiography that, despite Hart's popularity in Canada, he was not a formidable money-making draw in the United States, a claim which Hart dismissed as "plain ridiculous" in a column written for the Calgary Sun. Hart claimed that he drew greater revenue than Flair, citing his headlining performances on consistently sold-out tours throughout his WWF career, while Flair wrestled to allegedly near-empty arenas. He also criticized Flair on what he perceived as insults to fellow wrestlers Mick Foley and Randy Savage. Hart did acknowledge a decline in the WWF's popularity during the mid-1990s, but he, and others, felt that this was largely attributed to the WWF's well-publicised sex and steroid scandals, as well as WCW's acquisition of former top WWE stars.

In contrast to Flair's claims, prominent industry historian Dave Meltzer said there was "no denying" Hart's major drawing power in the US. WWE owner Vince McMahon asserted that whichever company hired Hart could "have built the entire franchise around [him]," and described him as an "extraordinary star." McMahon added that it was "fortunate for me, in terms of my company," that his chief competitor, WCW, did not utilize Hart to his full potential. WCW described Hart as "an incredible international draw, attracting standing room only crowds in every corner of the globe." Professional wrestling magazine Power Slam has spoken to Hart's drawing power, placing him number 7 in "The 10 Best U.S.-Style All-Rounders", a list that considered drawing ability, along with workrate and promo skills. Hart also took aim at Flair in his autobiography, criticizing his in-ring talents and what Hart perceived as Flair's unsubtle Blading.

Flair and Hart have since reconciled and are now friends.

In wrestling

  • Nicknames
    • "The Cowboy"
    • "The Heartthrob"
    • "The Hitman"
    • "The Excellence of Execution"
    • "The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be"
    • "The Pink and Black Attack" (while teaming with Jim Neidhart)
  • Entrance music
    • "Hart Beat" by Jimmy Hart and J.J. Maguire (WWF; 1988–1994)
    • "Hart Attack" by Jim Johnston, Jimmy Hart, and J.J Maguire (WWF; 1994–1997)
    • "Hitman in the House" (WCW; 1997–1999)
    • "Hitman Theme" by Keith Scott (WCW; 1999–2000)
    • "Rockhouse" by Jimmy Hart and H. Helm (WCW; used while a part of the nWo 2000; 1999–2000)
    • "Return of the Hitman" by Jim Johnston (WWE)

Championships and accomplishments

1Hart co-won the Royal Rumble with Lex Luger after both simultaneously eliminated each other.

See also

External links

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