Bret Hart: “I Think I Changed The Style Of Wrestling”

Bret Hart recently conducted an interview ESPN’s video game section that you can read HERE.  It’s a great interview with Bret discussing quite a bit, from him and Neidhart doing their finisher on Vince McMahon at a bar to Hulk Hogan and other top stars not passing the torch to him to his program with Shawn Michaels.  The following are a few excerpts from the interview:

ESPN: Speaking of Wrestlemania, are you still upset that Hulk Hogan never gave you a main event match at the big show?

Bret Hart: I just thought that somebody preempted my run. For somebody like Hulk Hogan, when he was on his run, nobody preempted it. Everyone was happy to make him. But when I needed some of the bigger guys to make me, especially some of the bigger names like Jake Roberts or Ultimate Warrior or Hogan, when it came to passing the torch down and doing me a favor&I had always been loyal, working my ass off on their undercards and I was always respectful of those guys and paid my dues, but I always felt short changed by some of those guys who didn’t do anything to help me. And that was a critical time in the business. The wrestling business back then was kind of like the stock market right now. There were some tough times business-wise, and everyone was fearful of the future, especially after they implemented the drug testing. But they handed me the ball, and back then I was only six feet tall, I wasn’t a giant, I didn’t have 24-inch arms, and I wasn’t a good interview. Then all of a sudden I found myself carrying the torch at a tough time and trying my hardest.

If you look at wrestling when I started to get my big break back in 1992, I changed wrestling from the cartoons of Hulk Hogan and Iron Sheik and the matches with the leg drop and the hand behind the ear and the playing to the crowd. They were just cartoon characters if you ask me. Hogan had the same match every night for years and so did Warrior. They didn’t tell great stories, to be honest. I went out there and had those matches with Piper and Perfect and the match with Davey at Wembley. I went out there and tried to have great matches all the time, and it wasn’t about Bret Hart, it was about these matches. I think I changed the style of wrestling, and even today, there’s not another Hulk Hogan out there, it’s guys like Edge, and it’s all about work rate. When you see Bret Hart versus Steve Austin, it just seemed so much more real than Hulk Hogan versus Sgt. Slaughter. All of the storylines started to be more realistic and the belt started to mean more. I made the belt seem like the world to me and to my fans. I kind of pat myself on the back today and think that I did more good for professional wrestling than people realize.

ESPN: Your matches with Shawn Michaels are legendary in the sport, both for what happened in the ring and out. Did the hatred you guys had for one another fuel even more competitive matches?

Bret Hart: I think it did for us, but I also think Vince orchestrated a lot of the tensions between us. I think a lot of the tension was good for the matches, but for me, I was always a professional and I prided myself on my professionalism in and out of the ring. Shawn, I think of him today pretty much how I did back then, and a lot of the resentment and jealousy from Shawn were just things that he kept inside. I would go out and tell Shawn how I was about to go out and in my interview I was going to talk about him posing for Playgirl or I’m going to rag on him being a role model. He’d smile and tell me to say whatever I wanted, and it was like we were pals. But then I’d go out and say all that stuff, and when I came back into the dressing room, it was like he was going to burst into tears. It wasn’t like I was saying all this stuff and he didn’t know about it. I cleared it all with him before.

Unfortunately for Shawn, he kind of got worked into a shoot. I was just trying to sell tickets and make money with him. I told him where I was going with all of it. I always thought the way to go with me and Shawn was for him to tough out that storm, to keep defending himself, then eventually he would beat me and prove himself and everyone would appreciate him trying to win my confidence. But he got worked into it where he started taking everything personal, then he started getting personal with me for real. We’d shake hands and agree not to go there anymore, but then the next week, he was at it again. It’s a shame to see what it turned into because if you look at how I wrestled Steve Austin back then, we looked like we hated each other and that we were going to kill each other if we ever stepped into the same ring, but we were best of friends. Shawn and I could’ve had the same thing. I was telling him how we would sell tickets if people believed we hated each other, and it was going that way, and we probably would still be selling tickets today if they’d gone that route. But Vince was setting me up for the fall.