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Bret Hart

NICKNAME: The Hitman
6'0, 234 pounds
HOMETOWN: Calgary, Alberta
BORN: July 2, 1957

 Bret Hart grew up surrounded by wrestling. Whether it was his father, the legendary wrestler and trainer Stu Hart, the infamous Dungeon, the Stampede Wrestling organization, an amateur wrestling background at Ernest Manning High School in Calgary or his large family of wrestling brothers, Bret was surrounded by the wrestling business at every turn.

 And he has been involved in the family business of professional wrestling since hawking programs for his father's events at the age of six. But when he left high school, Bret almost left the wrestling business behind as well, enrolling in Mount Royal College, taking a broadcast course and dreaming of becoming a director.

 However, Bret could not deny his destiny in the ring and soon returned to wrestling, training with his legendary father, as well as the many legendary figures that passed through Calgary and through the Dungeon.

 Once in the ring in Calgary, Hart met with outstanding success. He would hold all three of Stampede's recognized titles. In addition to being a two-time British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Champion and a five-time co-holder of the International Tagteam title, Hart would reign as Stampede's top champion, holding the North American Heavyweight Championship six times. Hart also travelled to Japan, wrestling the legendary Tiger Mask for New Japan Pro Wrestling.

 When father Stu sold the Stampede Promotion to Vince McMahon in August 1984, Bret was one of the major stars to be signed by the WWF. Initially, Hart was used on the lower card, especially in Canada at venues such as Maple Leaf Gardens. Soon, however, Hart was teamed with brother-in-law Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart and the pair, managed by Jimmy Hart, would become known as the Hart Foundation.

 Shy during promos, Hart took to wearing sunglasses, the same sunglasses that would later become his trademark. After boxer Thomas "Hitman" Hearns lost to Sugar Ray Leonard, Hart took Hearn's nickname and Bret "the Hitman" Hart was born.

 The Hart Foundation would quickly rise up the ranks as one of the top teams in the WWF, and would make their first appearance on pay-per-view as part of the Wrestlers/Football Players Battle Royale at Wrestlemania II. Hart was the last man eliminated by eventual winner, Andre the Giant.

 Battle royales aside, the Hart Foundation had their sights set on the British Bulldogs and the WWF Tagteam titles. In January 1987, the Hart Foundation received a televised tagteam title match against the Bulldogs. With the Dynamite Kid suffering an injury just a month before, the WWF was looking to switch the straps, and the Harts were the ones who were on the receiving end of that switch.

 With controversial referee Danny Davis instrumental to the Hart Foundation defeating the British Bulldogs, Davis was soon a part of Jimmy Hart's stable, and the Foundation teamed with Davis against the Bulldogs and Tito Santana at Wrestlemania III. The Hart Foundation would spend the summer of 1987 defending the titles against the Bulldogs, the Can-Am Connection, the Killer Bees and the Rougeaus. However, in the fall of 1987, the Hart Foundation would fall to Strike Force (Santana and Rick Martel) and their first run as WWF Tagteam Champions would come to an end.

 For the rest of 1987 and much of 1988, the Hart Foundation would attempt to regain the WWF Tagteam titles from Strike Force. However, after an altercation with Bad News Brown during the Wrestlemania IV Battle Royale, Bret would start to hear the cheers of the crowd and turned face, with Neidhart siding with him against manager Jimmy Hart. This led to a brief singles push for Hart but soon the Hart Foundation would be fueding with the Jimmy Hart-led Rougeaus.

 After defeating the Bolsheviks in short order at Wrestlemania VI, the Hart Foundation once again challenged for the WWF Tagteam Champions and, with some help from Legion of Doom, defeated Demolition for their second reign as WWF Tagteam Champions. The Hart Foundation would remain as Tag Champions until they were dethroned by the Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII.

 After the Hart Foundation lost the Tagteam titles, Bret began to be pushed in single's competition. At SummerSlam '91, Hart defeated Curt Hennig to become the Intercontinental Champion. He would hold the title until two days before the 1992 Royal Rumble when he lost the belt to The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau). The title quickly switched hands with "Rowdy" Roddy Piper beating the Mountie and he and Bret met at Wrestlemania VIII, with Bret coming out on top.

 Bret's second reign as I-C champ would come to an end at SummerSlam '92 when he lost to brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith in front of 78000 fans at Wembley Stadium in England.

 Bret would return to Canada (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to be exact) and defeated Ric Flair at a house show to become the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. Hart would battle Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon, among others, before losing the title to Yokozuna at Wrestlemania IX. Following the title loss, Hart would rebound to win the 1993 King of the Ring. Following the victory, Hart was attacked by Jerry "the King" Lawler, starting a feud between the two men.

 That year at the Survivor Series, problems arose between Bret and his brother Owen. Although things were seemingly patched up, Owen turned on Bret after a loss to the Quebecers at the 1994 Royal Rumble. Bret and Owen would become locked in a "family fued" that would last throughout much of 1994.

 In the midst of his feud with Owen, Bret co-won the Royal Rumble (with Lex Luger) and received a WWF title shot at Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X. With Roddy Piper as the special referee, Hart pinned Yokozuna to once again become the WWF Champion. But his feud with Owen continued and the two men met in a steel cage at SummerSlam 1994.

 Hart's second reign as champion came to an end at the 1994 Survivor Series when Owen convinced his mother, Helen Hart to throw in the towel during a match against Bob Backlund. Bret would get the victory over Backlund at Wrestlemania XI, and then would fued with several mid-carders, including Hakushi and Isaac Yankum (Glenn Jacobs aka Kane) for 1995 before defeating Diesel (Kevin Nash) for a third WWF Championship at the 1995 Survivor Series.

 Hart would tangle with Shawn Michaels once again, this time at Wrestlemania XII and in an Iron Man Match for the WWF Championship. The 60 minute time limit would expire with no falls recorded. Although Bret assumed he had retained the title with the draw, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon declared that there would be a sudden death overtime. Michaels pinned Hart and won the title.

 Bret took a sabbatical after Wrestlemania XII and there were rumours that he was on the verge of signing with WCW. Instead, he returned to find a changed WWF. The era of Attitude had arrived, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was one of the top stars and had his sights set on Bret. The two met at the 1996 Survivor Series with Bret getting the victory.

 But Austin and Bret would continue to feud. At the 1997 Royal Rumble, Hart seemingly was on the verge of victory when Austin reentered the ring and eliminated Bret to win the Rumble. Austin would also cause Bret to lose the WWF Championship to Sid, one day after Hart won a Fatal Fourway for the Championship in February 1997.

 Bitter about losing the title to Sid due to Austin's interference, Hart began to turn rulebreaker. At Wrestlemania XIII, Hart faced Austin in a "Submission Match" (with special referee Ken Shamrock) and won when Austin passed out due to blood loss. The next night on Raw, Hart turned his back on the WWF fans and began to form a new Hart Foundation, reuniting with his brother, Owen, as well as Davey Boy Smith, Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman. Bret would lead the Hart Foundation into battle against the likes of Austin, the Legion of Doom, Goldust and the Patriot.

 A victory over the Undertaker at SummerSlam '97 would net Bret another WWF Championship. However, in a bizarre turn of events, Hart got some help from Shawn Michaels who served as special referee. Michaels went to hit Bret with a chair but missed and hit the Undertaker instead. After a feud with 'Taker, Michaels would challenge Bret for the championship. And while these two men met as fellow faces at Wrestlemania XII, they would meet as fellow heels at the Survivor Series.

 The Survivor Series...in Montreal...would change everything. Rumours had been rampant for weeks prior that Bret was leaving the WWF, as Vince McMahon had let Bret out of his contract due to financial reasons. Most fans expected Bret to lose the title to Michaels but with McMahon unsure that Bret wouldn't leave the WWF with the title belt in hand, took matters into his own hands. When Michaels locked Hart into a sharpshooter, McMahon ordered Earl Hebner to end the match and award Michaels the title. The incident became known as "the Montreal Screwjob".

 Upset, Hart spit at McMahon, destroyed several monitors and punched McMahon in the dressing room. Hart's time in the WWF was finished. Bret Hart was headed to World Championship Wrestling.

 Hart appeared at Starrcade '97, as a special referee in the Eric Bischoff/Larry Zbysko match and later, came down to make the count as Sting defeated Hulk Hogan in the main event.

 After battling Ric Flair, Hart turned his attention toward the NWO, after an attack by Brian Adams. He would fued with Curt Hennig and Rick Rude, only to side with Hulk Hogan and the NWO against Randy Savage and Roddy Piper  On July 20, 1998, Hart defeated Diamond Dallas Page for the United States Champship. He would lose the belt to Lex Luger in September, only to regain it three days later. Although Page would defeat Bret for the U.S. belt in October, a month later, Bret would regain the championship.

 After the death of his brother, Owen, during a WWF event, Hart's anger towards Vince McMahon increases. However, Bret turns to the ring to pay tribute to his brother, wrestling Chris Benoit in a classic match dedicated to Owen at the Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO, on October 4th, 1999. Hart defeated Benoit with the sharpshooter.

 On November 21st, 1999, Bret Hart would defeat Goldberg at Toronto to win the WCW World Championship. At Starrcade '99, Hart retained the title against Goldberg but during the match he suffered a concussion that would eventually lead to his retirement from wrestling. Hart would join the NWO the next night on Nitro but was soon forced out of wrestling due to the concussion. He would return in August 2000 and turned on Goldberg but by October he had received his termination from WCW. On October 27th, 2000, Hart announced his retirement.

 On June 24th, 2002, Hart suffered a stroke while riding his bike around Calgary.

 In May 2003, Hart would make an appearance with the World Wrestling All-Stars as a special commissioner during their Australian tour. While Bret has turned down several offers to appear at WWE events (including Wrestlemanias XVIII and XX), there are rumours that he and Vince McMahon have talked on several occasions.

 In addition to his work with the Calgary Hitmen, Bret has also done a fair bit of acting. Already one of the stars of the now-cancelled "Lonesome Dove" program and done a guest spot on "the Simpsons", Hart has also lent his voice to the animated series "Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang" and will play the Genie of the Lamp in the Elgin Theatre's production of Aladdin the Magical Family Musical in December 2004.

 In the fall of 2004, Bret was named one of the "50 Greatest Canadians" by the CBC, and is not hard to see why. Bret Hart's legacy in the ring is one of legends and Hart has certainly earned his place in the annals of wrestling history, not only in Canada but worldwide.

RELATED LINKS
  • Stories about Bret Hart
  • Archive of Bret Hart's Calgary Sun columns
  • SLAM! Wrestling Exclusive: The Bret Hart Interview, Nov. 26, 1997
  • SLAM! Wrestling Exclusive: The Bret Hart Live Chat Transcript, Nov. 6, 1998
  • SLAM! Wrestling Exclusive: The Bret Hart Photo Gallery