Bret Hart Opens Up About Getting Passed His Bitterness With WWE, His Relationship With Vince McMahon
On episode 30 of Confessions Of The Hitman, two-time WWE Hall Of Famer Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart opened up about ongoing relationship with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. During the show, Hart also discussed the source of his self-described ‘bitterness’, McMahon trying to lift Hart’s spirits following his stroke, and the Chris Benoit tragedy.
On the subject of Hart’s relationship with McMahon, ‘The Excellence Of Execution’ claimed that he has reached an understanding where the two do not bring up anything “dodgy” from the past. Hart, who recently shared his thoughts on The Montreal Screwjob, went on to say that he remains proud of how he conducted himself upon his WWE departure, but McMahon and fellow WWE Hall Of Famer Shawn Michaels cannot say the same.
“I think me and Vince have reached an understanding where we don’t bring up a lot of old, dodgy stuff, and we kind of buried the hatchet,” Hart revealed. “And Shawn Michaels and everyone else, like, I think in the end, I’m still proud of the way I handled myself through the whole Screwjob period. But in all honesty, I think they’re not proud of their conduct; I don’t think. I think they kind of realized now that that was kind of a dumb way to go, and unprofessional way to go, and it caused way more problems than they ever imagined, even though they made money off of the whole concept of what happened. Me and Vince, I think it goes back a number of years – we kind of buried the hatchet.”
According to Hart, a lot of his hostility towards McMahon was fearing he was going to be erased from the annals of professional wrestling history and fans would not have the opportunity see all the incredible matches he had in WWE.
“A lot of my hard feelings toward Vince were tied in around my history and everything I gave to him – all the great matches I gave him – and I assumed when I knocked him out in the dressing room in Montreal, that all of that would be lost to me,” Hart admitted. “Nobody would see those tapes anymore or those matches and my history would be erased to a certain degree, and that really bothered me because I worked so hard and really gave so much in my matches. And I think it shows today when people look back on my career how much it would have bothered me to have most of those great matches that people still talk about erased from their memory, and nobody is going to see them anymore and nobody talks about them anymore. To me, that was priceless. Like, it meant everything.”
During the show, Hart acknowledged that he was bitter about The Screwjob and his brother Owen’s untimely passing, but in retrospect, ‘The Hitman’ does not think McMahon had very much to do with the accident.
“I was pretty bitter towards Vince, especially after The Screwjob, and I didn’t like a lot of what happened with my brother Owen’s horrible accident. But I do believe in retrospect, when we look back, that Vince had probably very little to do with what happened to Owen. Like, he barely even knew what was going on there. I think that kind of proved itself to be true, so I didn’t hold a lot of grudges toward Vince for what happened to Owen, but I did hold some grudges over what happened in Montreal with just how much he misled me and betrayed me in the end with so many lies, really.” Hart added, “and again, I don’t think he is proud of his conduct through that.”
Apparently, McMahon called Hart in the hospital only three days after falling victim to stroke. Hart indicated that McMahon offered up an emotional pep talk that meant a lot to ‘The Hitman’.
“[McMahon] called me up in the hospital, and I remember I was very stunned that he called me in the hospital. Maybe it was Day 3 of my stroke and I was in pretty rough shape still. I could hardly talk and I couldn’t sit up or anything. I was pretty frail, and when you have a stroke, you’re pretty messed up. But he gave me a very heartfelt pep talk. ‘You’re a fighter. You’re going to beat this. You’re going to show everyone you’re going to get through this.'” Hart said, “it really meant a lot to me.”
Hart recalled that he accepted the offer of being inducted into the WWE HOF immediately when McMahon pitched the idea. In Hart’s view, he always wanted to be in the WWE Hall Of Fame because he believes he earned the accolade with the work he put in contributing to some of the finest pro wrestling ever recorded.
“I said I’d definitely be interested in going into the Hall Of Fame because I earned it, and I always wanted to be remembered for what I contributed,” Hart boasted. “And I didn’t just contribute some matches and have a so-so career; I believe I contributed some of the greatest pro wrestling matches ever documented. And I’m extremely proud – I always have been – of my career and the fans I had in WWE in my whole history there. So one of [McMahon’s] first steps was to induct me into the Hall Of Fame, and I said, ‘that would mean a lot to me, but I would also like to see’ – we had always talked about doing a DVD set, an anthology is what he said it was going to be, three DVD volumes, he told me. He’s always telling me, ‘that’s one for the anthology,’ whenever I’d have a match. He’d go, ‘that one’s going in the [anthology].'”
In addition to being offered a WWE Hall Of Fame induction, Hart was also offered an anthology of his greatest matches.
“I talked to [McMahon] that day in the hospital about that, and he said, ‘whatever you want. Don’t even worry about that. Anytime you want to do that, we’ll do it.’ And so, that meant a lot to me. That softened a lot of the hate and bitterness I had.” Hart continued, “I found myself trying to find a way to forgive him, and I started to.”
Although the WWE Hall Of Fame induction and the promise of an anthology helped move Hart passed his bitterness, ‘The Hitman’ took issue with McMahon wanting to call the collection of matches ‘Screwed’. Hart said McMahon backtracked immediately and said they would do whatever he wanted to do.
“He did call me up a few years before that and wanted to do a DVD set about my career, and he was laughing when he told me, he goes, ‘we’re going to call it Screwed!'” Hart said, “and I remember I didn’t even laugh on the phone. I remember it really pissed me off. It was like, is all this stuff just a joke to him? And I told him; I got pretty heated with him. I said, ‘you told me when I had my stroke that we were going to do something really good with my career, like a whole big set. And now you’re talking about you’re going to exploit what happened to me and make money off screwing me, cheating me, and lying to me?’
“And I said, ‘I would never go anywhere near a DVD called Screwed.’ And I said, ‘but you promised me a dignified, proper DVD set that would encapsulate my entire career.’ And you know what? He turned right around on the phone and said, ‘we’ll do whatever you want, whatever way you want it, just the way you want it. You can be a producer. You can direct it. You can call all the shots. If you don’t want something in or if you don’t want to talk about something, you’re in charge.’ And that was a big door opening. That meant a lot to me and it still does. That was the beginning of the thaw.”
With respect to the Chris Benoit murder/suicide, Hart still disagrees with people who blame the tragedy on professional wrestling. ‘The Best There Is, Was, And Ever Will Be’ stated that Benoit was a ticking time bomb and his explosion had nothing to do with professional wrestling.
“It was really when Chris Benoit’s horrible tragedy happened, there was a lot of talk that it was steroids that was the cause of the deaths and all these kinds of things that they were talking about,” Hart recalled. “And it was like– I just thought it was unfair to try to take what happened with Chris Benoit and apply it to all the [pro] wrestlers, and I said so. There was a lot of wrestlers that were speaking out. I think wrestlers that had grudges or an axe to grind with WWE and Vince and were coming forward, and I had been on that side of the fence too. I had a pretty big axe when The Screwjob happened, and even when my brother, Owen, passed, I was pretty bitter. But I felt that it wasn’t fair. I think what happened with Chris, and I still believe it was one of those time bomb situations where someone just went off. And as bad as it was, it certainly shouldn’t be a reflection on wrestlers in general. I don’t know many wrestlers– there aren’t many stories about wrestlers in that kind of mode where they’re actually killers.”
Following Hart’s defense of professional wrestling, McMahon called him up to thank him personally for standing up for the genre.
“So I had gone on various news media shows and kind of defended wrestling, and said it wasn’t fair to paint all wrestlers with the same brush, kind of thing,” Hart said. “And apparently Vince really liked my comments, and I said them for truthful reasons, not to try and win him over or anything. But he called me up and thanked me for defending wrestling a little bit, and it was such a black time for the industry.”
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