Bret Hart Interviews

Bret Hart on TSN's "Off the Record" on November 7, 1997

MICHAEL LANDSBERG (Host): Off The Record, where today we go on the record, our most anticipated show ever. WWF, seen in a hundred or so countries, a billion people watch, and all of those people are interested in what Bret Hart has to say. They're not all watching today, but they're all interested in just what his decision will be. He is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. Clip: Bret Hart vs. Diesel, Survivor Series 1995

ML: Bret Hart, a lot of questions surrounding him; he is here in the studio today to answer them, that is Bret Hart in action. But the question that everybody wants to know, and we have received, I would say via e-mail, maybe a thousand e-mails, faxes all the time, calls I'm getting all day, "Ask him, is he going WCW?" What's the word?

BRET HART: Well, I'll tell you exactly what situation I'm in right now. I've given my thirty day notice to the WWF, and right now I'm under contractual review with both the WCW and the WWF. I'm leaning strongly towards going...one way...

ML: Which way would that be?

BH: Well, it wouldn't be the wisest thing for me even to suggest, even though I'm kind of ready to speak about it, but at the same time, I'm advised not to yet. So I can't really...I'd like to really come more clean on it than I can, you know, than I have, but I have to do this thing by the book, kind of thing.

ML: And the book means legal reasons, is that it?

BH: Legal reasons, I have to be careful what I say. But, you know, I think that...I would like to make something very clear, that this is not a money issue. You know, there's a lot of people that are totally misconstruing that detail in it. They think I'm possibly squeezing people for money, or trying to put pressure on, to make...which certainly wouldn't...what's wrong with that? You know, but that isn't the case. I'm not looking for more money, so much as I'm looking for respect. I'm not greedy for money, I'm greedy for respect, and I feel that, you know I'm in a situation, I think, with the WWF right now where some of the things that...some of the direction...we've reached kind of a crisis or we've reached professional differences as to what direction that the wrestling shows are taking. You know, I'm not saying I'm always right, but I feel that some of the content of the shows goes against my belief in what wrestling should be, and can be.

ML: Well, you have been one of the few people in your sport that have actually spoken out. You write a article in Calgary. You have actually criticized your sport. I want to talk about those criticisms, but I want to talk first of all about respect. Is it a factor that, in the last four pay-per-views, that you have not been in the final bout, you have gone second-last? You were the champion; clearly, normally, the champion goes last.

BH: Yeah, I think it's a pretty big insult. I don't mind taking a back seat once in a while, or on certain...but I think it would be fair to say it kind of ruffled my feathers to be on four pay-per-views and to be...play a secondary role, if that, maybe a third-rate role, which I don't think is fair to me, and I don't think it's fair to my fans. And that's really what...whatever decision I'm going to make here has a huge...the whole decision is based on what's good for my fans. I have enough pride in what I do to...I really could quit tomorrow morning and be happy and go home and be really proud with everything I ever did. I still believe that I have lots of good matches left. I think that if you look back on, say, for example, these last four pay-per-views, and most...you know, some of my matches that I've had in the last three or four months...especially the ones with the Undertaker, have been excellent matches. I mean, I look at my work, and I go, there's nothing wrong with my abilities here. There's nothing wrong with...it's different if I was failing as a product, or, you know, that I wasn't as exciting to watch as I was a year ago. But that's, at least from my opinion, is not the case. I think that the match I had in England, for example, with the Undertaker was, I mean, it was such an excellent match. And to my knowledge, I don't think we're even on the cover of the box of the videotape. To give you an idea, I wasn't even on the poster for the show itself. Things like that don't sit very well with me. But, you know, things like that can change too. I've reached a...so many times in my career...I've been with the WWF 15 years, and we've, you know, had all kinds of situations where we didn't see eye-to-eye, say. But they've worked themselves out, and...who knows? I don't know. ML: Is it not just about being number two, but about who you're number two to? Bret laughs. Show clip of Bret Hart beating up Shawn Michaels in the ring.

ML: You know, if it was somebody else, maybe it would be more acceptable. But, I mean, your dispute, your arguments, your dislike for Shawn Michaels is out there because you have put it out there. Is that a factor with you, that just keeps sticking in your finger and really bugging you?

BH: I would say it's a big...it bugs me. He bugs me. A lot of the stuff surrounding him bugs me. But, on the list of all the things, that's like the last one. Like, I personally think that Shawn Michaels is a great athlete. He's an incredible performer in the ring. Personally I liked the way he was a year ago rather than where he is now. I don't know the guy enough to say that I trust him very much. I find him very unreliable with his integrity.

ML: Bret, but you know, as you preface it, and you say, "Well, I respect him," obviously you do. I mean, you can't not respect his athleticism. Anyone...I mean, you're a fan of wrestling, and the sport. But, you did have, what we're told, is a legitimate fistfight with him in the locker room. This was not hype, this was the real thing. Is that correct?

BH: Kind of...we had a scuffle. We had a scritch-fight.

ML: Well, but what you would call a scuffle and what I would call a scuffle might be two entirely different things.

BH: Probably closer to what you would think is a scritch-fight. But it wasn't really much, it was a lot of...hands in there to stop it from amounting to as much as it...it was kind of...it could have been a whole-scale, a full-scale brawl, but it wasn't.

ML: I think it's important for us to deal with a broad issue here, and that is that you are a performer, and I'm asking you serious questions, and you answer them in a serious way. But there is a tendency for the viewer to not necessarily accept what you say at face value, because you are, part of the time, an actor, where you go out to hype a fight, where you say things to generate interest in your fight. And I think it's important for you, to be taken seriously in an interview like this, is to say hey, that's different.

BH: Yeah, I think if people understand me across Canada, and anywhere else, and I think they do, I'm almost criticized for it. I take an incredible amount of pride in what I do. I've been...you know, wrestling is often scoffed at as a form of entertainment sometimes, or it used to be. I believe it came way up, and I was very proud in the direction, which has a lot to do with where I am right now today. Wrestling was cleaned up, and it became something families could watch, and you could...your grandfather could go, and your grandson could go, and you could be any nationality, you could be black or white or yellow or brown, it doesn't matter...the whole family could go down and watch wrestling, and it became very...I think, I always have thought it was a great release, and I've watched wrestling and been a part of wrestling since I was in diapers, and I love what I do, and I take such pride in it, and I believe that it's such and art form to do it, and to do it right, and to do it well. I've wrestled for 21 years, and one of my best boasts that I can make about it is that I've never hurt anybody in 21 years, really, and...it's an art form to do it and to do it right, but at the same time, there's a lot of little codes and inner side...inner workings to wrestling where there's...first of all, you have to trust the guy you're wrestling with. There has to be a trust. You can't wrestle somebody you don't trust because we have no insurance or anything. You could...if somebody drops you on your head and breaks your neck on purpose, you're out of a job, and maybe out of more than that. You have to trust, whether you like the guy or not, there's sort of a trust between any wrestler anywhere. The real animosities and personal hatreds that can brew in a profession like wrestling, you have to usually set those things aside, and I've found over, several times over this past year, and I suppose I'm guilty of being fairly...you know, saying some stinging comments to Shawn Michaels on TV, but everything I said was to the Shawn Michaels character, and I think everything I said was reasonably up front and reasonably...something anyone, that he could live with. I mean, it's not my fault he posed for Playgirl magazine and I made a big dig about it, for example. I mean, I think that was fair. But I think that Shawn has several times gone across and said things that just really hit a raw nerve to the point that it's unprofessional, and that's kind of where we're at.

ML: We'll talk about what those are. Just to recap where we are, we asked Bret Hart what his plans are. He says he is not yet ready to announce it because of a legal situation. He says it's about respect, and I think, and this is clearly me just reading into it, I think you get the feeling that he's probably going to jump, and there are a lot of issues as to why he will do it, and we will talk about those when Off The Record with the Hitman returns. Stay with us. footage of Shawn commenting of the Nation of Domination's vandalized dressing room SHAWN MICHAELS (voice over): I knew Bret Hart was a lot of things, but I didn't know he was a racist, and you've seen it. You saw what he did to the Nation's locker room. Pure racism running rampant here in the World Wrestling Federation...

ML: That's Shawn Michaels, and you were talking before the break about lack of respect, about crossing the boundaries, and about personal indictments, and doing stuff away from the ring. Is that one of the reasons why you're not a happy man?

BH: Yeah, there's things that have been said or suggested on TV that I don't think are fair to even deal with, you know, they're just not...like the race part, I mean, I don't even blame Shawn for that. That's obviously a promotional direction, and that's a poor concept. I think that racial tension is something to be very, very careful with, when you start messing around with racial things, and...that I don't like. But that's sort of an obvious one. Shawn, for example, said something a few weeks ago on TV which I didn't even see, because, I'll be honest, I don't watch the show. I haven't watched it for about five weeks. I turned it off.

ML: Because you're upset by it? Because you don't like what you're seeing?

BH: Well, I got where I realized that..

. ML: He called you the Grand Wizard, right?

BH: Yeah.

ML: So what you're saying is that all is...most of it is fair, and you understand as well as anyone, and you've been in it all your life, about the game, about hyping, about creating interest, but you're saying that he's overstepped the boundary?

BH: Well, I'll give you an example. He said on TV a couple of weeks ago that, I didn't hear it, but I know my brother Owen saw it and was very offended by it, and I don't know, my father was offended by it. He said something about my dad was brain-dead, and was dead, and was...something very strongly referring to my father being dead, and that doesn't sit well with me. You know, I don't mind if someone pokes fun at my dad. Jerry Lawler's made a living the last two or three years saying comments about my mom and dad, but he's always fairly humourous about it, and actually...I used to get offended at some of the things he used to say about my mother, Jerry Lawler, for example, until I realized that my mother thought they were humourous, and then it was kind of OK with me. But I do know that...and this is already, this is after Shawn has been, you know, we've already had our scuffle, we've reached the point where there's such an intense amount of animosity, and it's kind of cooled down to the point, like, OK, can these guys deal with themselves in a professional way, and it was sort of made very clear that, let's leave the families out of it, and it's like not even a week later, or two weeks later, it's like, your dad's dead. You know, it's just stuff like that, just...

ML: Personal stuff. But, you know, the racial stuff. Clearly, there's an element to the WWF now, that has been built into that. You know, the Puerto Rican gangs, you know, the Nation...

BH: Well, actually, the sexual... clip of Los Boricuas

ML: But, I'm talking about, as we look at, you know, one of the areas where it exists, but, you know, if I'm thinking back to the history of WWF, I mean, there's tons of examples. I mean, the WWF has brilliantly sized up society and said, where are the real stereotypes that exist within society, where are the rivalries, and they've built on them. I mean, that's where the sport has been built on.

BH: Yeah, I think that's fair to say, and it's true. But I think there's also something that's not understood, is that when you...people take wrestling very, very serious, and when you sort of tap into the vein of racial problems, and especially in my case, it's bad enough that I've alienated all the Americans across the continent, but it's another thing to single out, now, say, the black people across the country, who probably, for all...you know, they probably take wrestling very seriously, a lot of them do, and the last thing I need to do is to go into these buildings and have, let's say, five, six, seven thousand screaming black fans trying to tip my car over and smash my windows and beaning me with quarters and hocking goobers on me and stuff like that. There's a whole...like, I'm the one who has to live with this brilliant scenario that someone in a suit and tie thought up in Stamford, Connecticut, and I have a problem with that, because it actually affects my reputation, it affects my health and welfare, and it was never discussed with me, for one thing, and I have a problem with that.

ML: You have tried to influence the direction of the WWF, and one of the rumours is that Marlena and Sable were...that they were developing a lesbian relationship, and that that would be played out. And the word is that you were the guy who stepped in and said whoa, that's going too far. clip of Marlena and Sable from 1996

BH: That's not...I didn't hear anything about it. I never heard anything.

ML: So that's not true...I'm giving you too much credit? That you stepped in and said, "Whoa! Wait a second here!"?

BH: Yeah, but if I had known about it, I certainly would have thought that it wasn't...I wouldn't recommend that for...you know, maybe what the problem here is that, and I've talked to Vince McMahon about it, and his opinion is that RAW is a late-night viewing, adult-themed show, and that the shows on the weekend are much more tamer. And the problem I have is that I find that most kids still watch RAW one way or the other, and they still see it, and...

ML: I think that that's true of television. You can't hide it from people. You can't hide behind, "Well, we're putting it on later, and they can't watch it," because, especially kids, they're the ones who know how to program the VCRs, it's the adults who don't. Your good friend, Brian Pillman, a tragic story, we'll talk about him. You've had some very interesting comments about that, when Off The Record returns with the Hitman, Bret Hart. clip of Brian Pillman

ML: Yours is a sport, like every other sport, that knows tragedy...the Von Erichs, and lately, your good friend, Brian Pillman. You were writing in the Calgary newspaper and you had a quote that I had to read out, that I thought was very interesting. That's Brian Pillman there. You quoted from "Hotel California," the Eagles song: "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." How does that apply to Brian Pillman and his death?

BH: Well, I think he loved the business so much, you know, and I think that, you know, in a lot of ways that maybe, you know...he had a horrible wreck. I think that Brian fought a lot of uphill battles, and he had a horrible accident a couple of years ago. His ankle was fused. They almost took it off. In some ways, maybe they should have, but he got where he could...you know, he wanted to still wrestle...and he couldn't do much; he couldn't be the "Flyin' Brian" that he wanted to be, and I think...and I'm sure that he was in a lot of pain, and I think that he got where he got hooked, or addicted to painkillers, in order to sort of...to go through, you know, what we do for a living. It was very hard on him, and I think everyone knew it was hard on him, and I think the failure for a lot of guys to recognize how bad things were with Brian was the fact that he had a real strong ability to...one day, he'd be real up and kinda back with it, and you'd go, all right, that's Brian, and the next day you'd see him, and he's like, it would be...you'd be worried about him again, then he'd be up again, and then he'd be down again, and it's been like that for such a long time that I really left it when no one really knew when to intervene, and I think the last time I ever saw Brian, he looked like a million bucks. I mean, he looked so good, he looked so...that was the day he passed away. And whatever happened after the show was just on one of those up-and-down rides that he's always been on.

ML: You say you didn't know when to intervene, because he was up, and because he was down. Didn't you regret the fact that...it sounds to me like he was a friend of yours...

BH: Yeah, I do regret it.

ML: ...that you didn't intervene. What could you have done?

BH: I don't know what I could have done. I think...I think some of us, I think actually Davey and Owen were extremely close to Brian, and my brother Bruce was maybe the closest of us all. We all were pretty...you know, I don't think it would be unfair to say he was very close to being family, and, you know, we just...I think we could have joined together, worked together and sort of help him out more...we certainly would have, but I just...it was kind of a thing where you just thought he was always in control, but...you know, it's sort of an ugly business sometimes. People always go, does wrestling...does it hurt? It hurts a lot, and there's a lot of wrestlers, I think, that are, you know, they take a lot of painkillers and stuff to do this stuff every day. It's like being a stuntman.

ML: You know what the problem is, Bret? That in your sport, it is very difficult to get sympathy, because the viewer doesn't know when you're hurting, because part of it is an act. You're down, you're unconscious, they you're up and you're fighting again. So when something legitimate happens, you don't get any sympathy, because we don't know. So give us an idea about, where does the pain exist, and how tough and grueling is it to be a professional wrestler?

BH: I don't know of any wrestler that I can think of, you know...I think, really, when you watch wrestling, you go, "I wonder if that hurt." If that looked like it hurt, I'm sure it did, you know, and almost always does. We get used to dealing with a lot of pain, you know, and we're often criticized - way too much we're criticized - for, "Oh, he missed him by this much," or, "That didn't look like it hurt at all." You know, those are small minorities, those are...a very small percentage of a wrestling match. I've been clobbered the last year. It's been a brutal year for me. I don't know of any 40-year-old guy out there that's my age that could even dream of being picked up and dropped and kicked and stomped like I've been the past year.

ML: But you know, it sounds like you want people to understand, and it bothers you that they don't understand, the pain that you go through, but you have to understand to us, that you do so much incredible acting, and that's not sucking up to you, but that's what hurts you, because you can't tell what's real!

BH: One of my biggest beefs with what I do is that we don't get credit for being great athletes, we don't get credit for being great actors, we get considered...we're somewhere in there with circus animals and roller derby and stuff, you know. We are extremely skilled actors, if that's what you want to call it, because wrestling is really just a ring with a stage. It's a canvas, that there's no props, there's no background, there's no music to speak of, other that your entrance. You have a referee...and I'll just take, for example, the match I had with the British Bulldog in Wembley Stadium with 82,000 people. I think that was the greatest documented wrestling match in the history of the profession, because you can see the realism, you can see the intensity, you can see the drama unfold for between the...which is the kiss of death in this business, two good guys wrestling each other. You can see such intensity that it becomes so real, it became more real than, it's like...you know, I'm sure, it's as real as anything Robert DeNiro ever did.

ML: Sure, sure. And I think the context that you put it in, people would appreciate it, because you called yourself an actor, and an athlete, and historically, in your sport...

BH: I have no lines.

ML: ...people haven't called themselves actors.

BH: We don't have lines. We're actors without lines. We're actors with...

ML: Right, absolutely. OK, we'll take a break, we'll talk more with Bret Hart when we return on Off The Record. QUIRKY FACT: Bret Hart's maternal grandfather represented the United States in the 1912 Olympic Games. e-mail message on screen

ML: We're getting about a hundred of these an hour. Talking with Bret Hart, here's an example of one: Bret, I beg you, please re-sign with the WWF. Don't sell out to the WCW even for $2.5 million a year. I want to call you a "sell-out", but you haven't left yet, so please don't. --Mark Pollesel, Gloucester, Ont. another e-mail message on screen

ML: That's a reflection of the tone of what we're saying. Canadians saying, "Please stay." Please tell the Hitman, that we his loyal Canadian fans deeply regret his decision to go to WCW. I hope you continue being the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. --K. Ghosh

ML: That's got to be an emotional decision, because you promised a year ago, your fans, you said, "I'm WWF for life."

BH: Yeah, well, you know, there's a lot more to that story than they realize. But I hope...I just hope, whatever, my fans that say they love me, that they'll love me for whatever decision I make and wherever I go.

ML: Well, they're going to love you, and wherever you're going the next couple of days, is typically busy for you. Tonight...SkyDome in Toronto?

BH: Yeah, SkyDome in Toronto. I wrestle in Detroit tomorrow. But Sunday's the big one, Survivor Series...Shawn Michaels...

ML: And that's in Montreal?

BH: Montreal. And then Monday Night RAW, Ottawa. And so it's a chance for me to get the old Canadian flags out again.

ML: And Monday Night RAW will be seen live on TSN. Bret Hart, enjoyed it.

BH: Absolute pleasure.

ML: Bret Hart, the Hitman. Not the definitive word, but it looks like he's going the other way. Thanks for joining us.

Bret Hart Website Links

Bret Hart Official Website
Tara's Hitman Page
Bret Hart Slam Wrestling

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