Hitman: My Real Life In The Cartoon World Of Wrestling

Paperback | May 27, 2008

byBret Hart

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In his own words, Bret Hart’s honest, perceptive, startling account of his life in and out of the pro wrestling ring.

The sixth-born son of the pro wrestling dynasty founded by Stu Hart and his elegant wife, Helen, Bret Hart is a Canadian icon. As a teenager, he could have been an amateur wrestling Olympic contender, but instead he turned to the family business, climbing into the ring for his dad’s western circuit, Stampede Wrestling. From his early twenties until he retired at 43, Hart kept an audio diary, recording stories of the wrestling life, the relentless travel, the practical jokes, the sex and drugs, and the real rivalries (as opposed to the staged ones). The result is an intimate, no-holds-barred account that will keep readers, not just wrestling fans, riveted.

Hart achieved superstardom in pink tights, and won multiple wrestling belts in multiple territories, for both the WWF (now the WWE) and WCW. But he also paid the price in betrayals (most famously by Vince McMahon, a man he had served loyally); in tragic deaths, including the loss of his brother Owen, who died when a stunt went terribly wrong; and in his own massive stroke, most likely resulting from a concussion he received in the ring, and from which, with the spirit of a true champion, he has battled back.

Widely considered by his peers as one of the business’s best technicians and workers, Hart describes pro wrestling as part dancing, part acting, and part dangerous physical pursuit. He is proud that in all his years in the ring he never seriously hurt a single wrestler, yet did his utmost to deliver to his fans an experience as credible as it was exciting. He also records the incredible toll the business takes on its workhorses: he estimates that twenty or more of the wrestlers he was regularly matched with have died young, weakened by their own coping mechanisms, namely drugs, alcohol, and steroids. That toll included his own brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith. No one has ever written about wrestling like Bret Hart. No one has ever lived a life like Bret Hart’s.

For as long as I can remember, my world was filled with liars and bullshitters, losers and pretenders, but I also saw the good side of pro wrestling. To me there is something bordering on beautiful about a brotherhood of big tough men who pretended to hurt one another for a living instead of actually doing it. Any idiot can hurt someone.
—from Hitman



From the Hardcover edition.

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From the Publisher

In his own words, Bret Hart’s honest, perceptive, startling account of his life in and out of the pro wrestling ring.The sixth-born son of the pro wrestling dynasty founded by Stu Hart and his elegant wife, Helen, Bret Hart is a Canadian icon. As a teenager, he could have been an amateur wrestling Olympic contender, but instead he turn...

Though Bret Hart is now retired from wrestling, he is recognized around the world as one of pro wrestling’s all time greats. In 2006 he was inducted into both the WWE Hall of Fame and the Geroge Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. His appeal also transcends pro wrestling; Hart was voted one of the top fifty Canadians ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:624 pages, 9 × 6.05 × 1.4 inPublished:May 27, 2008Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307355675

ISBN - 13:9780307355676

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Customer Reviews of Hitman: My Real Life In The Cartoon World Of Wrestling

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it I loved the hitman and I love this book! #plumreviews
Date published: 2016-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing book such a great story and tremendous detail! this is a great ready even for if you're not a fan of his
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the best there is This book is a great read for any wrestling fan. Bret kept a recorded journal of his life on the road so he was able to go back and give great details of life on the road. He is very open and honest about a lot of things in this book. Definitely a page turner
Date published: 2015-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hitman Another inspiring read .
Date published: 2013-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic This book is not what you think it is about. Full of adventure and excitement of a young man finding his place in life and in his family.
Date published: 2010-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Masterpiece! I really can’t say enough great things about this book, it is truly a fascinating and superb read for any wrestling fan, and the detail that Hart gives would be ok for non-wrestling fans as well. Unlike most wrestling books, Hart did not release his through the WWE, which loves to censor out anything that makes them or Vince McMahon look bad, and we get a true honest reflection on what it is like to work with McMahon, as well as a candid inside look behind the scenes of the wrestling world. Hart gives an honest report on everything, including himself, talking about his many dealings with different drugs, to the almost unreal amount of times he cheated on his wife; this is a raw, honest look into the man’s life. Hart mentioned that he kept a tape record with him when he was on the road so he could one day remember his life, and that really helped with this book, because he gives detailed reports on every aspect of his career, not missing a single thing; this is a very in-depth book that covers all. My only complaints are with Hart’s ego sometimes getting in the way when talking about how great some of his matches were, as well as Hart not being able to see the big picture sometimes when something didn’t go as he wanted but still ended up being amazing anyways. Also, his attacks on Shawn Michaels are sometimes a bit much and his quote at the end of the book about Shawn and Hunter is just outrageous and not at all necessary. However, I am just nitpicking of course, because it is rare for a wrestling book to have so much detailed information, and to go so in-depth with its coverage of the subject it is talking about. This book is highly recommended to not only Bret Hart fans but fans of wrestling in general.
Date published: 2010-02-24

Extra Content

Read from the Book

PrefaceIt seemed like an eternity until the pastor called me to the podium. I rose slowly from my seat, away from the insulation of loved ­ones–­Julie, our four kids, my friend Marcy and Olympic wrestling champion Daniel Igali. I felt them all take a deep breath as I made my way to the ­aisle.My father’s funeral service was held on October 23, 2003, at the biggest church in Calgary, yet it overflowed with an eclectic throng of thousands who came to pay their respects to the legendary Stu Hart, ­old-­time pro wrestling promoter ­extraordinaire.I moved slowly, a silent prayer resounding in my head, “Please, God, help me make it through.” I am an experienced public speaker, but my confidence had been shattered by a major ­stroke.It hadn’t been that long since I’d been trapped in a wheelchair, paralyzed on the left side, unsure whether I’d ever walk again. Since then I’d been having emotional meltdowns triggered by the most unlikely things; this is common among stroke victims. I didn’t know how I was going to deliver a eulogy worthy of my father and not break down. It was also hard for me to walk tall when I felt so many eyes measuring the difference between what I was ­now–­my body stiff, the chiselled edges softened–­to what I’d been.But when I walked past the pew where my brothers and sisters ­sat–­my limp more noticeable than I wanted–­I sensed, perhaps for the first time in our lives, that they were all behind me, even those with whom I’d had differences. Do it for Dad, Bret. Do it for all of us. Do us proud. There’d been twelve Hart kids, and now there were ten. Our beloved mother, Helen, had died just two years earlier. We’d all been through so much, travelled such a long, long road.This wasn’t just the end of my father’s life, this was something deeper, and I think we all felt it. So many times over so many years I truly thought this godforsaken business was dead to me, but this was the day pro wrestling died for me–­for good.In the front pew sat Vince McMahon, billionaire promoter of the WWE (once the WWF), who’d made a failed attempt to steal my dignity, my career and my reputation. Beside him sat Carlo DeMarco, my old friend turned loyal McMahon lieutenant. They were doing their best to look dignified, but I knew–­and they knew I knew–­that McMahon’s presence at Stu Hart’s funeral was more about image than anything else. It only made me more determined to climb the steps with my head held high. You don’t matter to me any more, Vince. I survived you, and everything else too. I had thought it was wrestling’s darkest hour when I’d had my heart cut out in the middle of the ring by that son of a bitch. Then the Grim Reaper of wrestling took my youngest brother, Owen, and that was the blackest day.Keep walking, I told myself, for Davey, Pillman, Curt, Rick, Liz . . . so many of us are gone, so young, and directly on account of the wrestling life. Hell, even Hawk. People told me he had wept like a baby when he heard Stu had died of pneumonia at eighty­three . . . and then Hawk died that very night. One more for the list. And surely not the last.I reached into my breast pocket and took out my notes, carefully unfolding them on the slippery, polished surface of the oak podium. I surveyed the crowd, my gaze stopping at the young apprentices, Chris Benoit, Edge and Storm, who looked back at me with respectful anticipation. Next I glanced at a company of stalwart ring veterans–The Cuban, Leo, Hito, even Bad ­News–­all more ruminative and melancholy than I’d ever seen them. I read it in their faces, the unspoken truth that burying a man like Stu Hart was truly the end of what we had lived ­for–­and too many had died for.And then the sight of old Killer Kowalski, in his good suit, transported me back four decades, to before Owen was even born.I am a survivor with a story to tell. There’s never been an accurate account of the history of pro wrestling. All the public knows is what is packaged and sold to them by the industry. Since I’m no longer in the business, I’m in a decent position to tell the truth, without fear of recrimination. With this book, which is based on the audio diary I kept through all my years in wrestling, starting in my early twenties, I want to put you in my shoes so you can experience what pro wrestling was like in my era, through my eyes. It’s not my intention to take needless jabs at those who made the journey with me, but I’ll pull no punches either. Not here.Wrestling was never my dream, and all too often it was my nightmare. Yet ingrained in me from birth was the instinct to defend it like a religion. For as long as I can remember, my world has been filled with liars and bullshitters, losers and con men. But I’ve also seen the good side of pro wrestling. To me there is something beautiful about a brotherhood of big, tough men who only pretend to hurt one another for a living instead of actually doing it. I came to appreciate that there is an art to it. In contrast to my father, who loved to proudly tell people who the real tough guys, or shooters, of his generation were, I can just as proudly tell you who the great workers, or pretenders, of my generation were. Unlike so many wrestlers with their various made­up names and adopted personae, I was authentic, born Bret Hart into a wrestling world I couldn’t escape. I can’t say life’s been easy, but I can say it’s been interesting.I’ve always thought of myself as a quiet, easygoing kind of guy, and I believe I was well respected by most of my peers. Some have labelled me as arrogant, and others say I lacked charisma. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best talker or mic man in the business, but I more than made up for it with my technical proficiency in the ring. I don’t think anyone can rightly dispute that I was a wrestler who put the art first and gave everything I had to the business–­and to the fans.I’ve always been grateful to have been a world champion who actually did travel the world. People from all walks of life, from New York to Nuremberg, from Calgary to Kyoto, have told me that I inspired them in some way and that I represented everything that was decent about pro wrestling, the way it used to be, when there was still honour in it. It seems like all the world loves an honest battler.I worked hard to bring out the best in my opponents. I gratefully acknowledge the hundreds of wrestlers I worked with in thousands of matches over twenty­three years, and am proud that I never injured another wrestler to the point that he couldn’t work the next day. Regrettably, I can’t say the same about some of those who worked with me. I took it as a challenge to have a good match with anybody. I respected both the green­horn jobbers, whose role it was to lose or put me over, and the old-timers, the big tough men of wrestling who allowed me the honour of standing over them with my hand raised. I refused to lose to a fellow wrestler only once in my career, and that was because he refused to do the same for me and others.The public record is filled with false impressions of me from those who think they know me. Sadly, that includes some members of my own family. My youth wasn’t as loving and sweet as the fable that’s been perpetuated in wrestling lore. I’ve been hurt and betrayed by some of my brothers and sisters, yet I don’t feel I ever let them down. Some of them sometimes behave as though they begrudge what I’ve achieved, even though I’ve paid my dues in ways they can’t even imagine. The truth is, my family knows very little about me.It wasn’t easy growing up the eighth of twelve kids, with seven brothers and four sisters. As a child I was drawn to my sweet mother and intimidated by my gruff father. Stu had a temper so fierce that some would consider his corporal punishment child abuse. Too many times I limped around bruised and battered, my eyeballs red and ruptured because of his discipline. On more than a few occasions I thought I was going to die before he was done with me. Often, as I was on the verge of blacking out from some choke hold of Stu’s, he’d huff, “You’ve breathed your last breath.”My father was two different people. At an early age I began to call one of them Stu, and I was terrified of him. Dad was the father I loved. When I was little I used to think Stu overlooked the bad behaviour of his favourite kids and ignored the goodness in the kids who didn’t matter as much to him. Looking back I can see that he was hardest on the ones he thought had the most potential. He instilled in me a tenacious drive to succeed by implanting in me his own strong fear of failure. For most of my youth, he teetered on the brink of bankruptcy while I feared becoming the first Hart kid to fail a grade in school. My empathy with his fear connected us.Like my father, I developed at least a couple of alter egos. At home I kept to myself and generally did whatever my older brothers told me to do; it was just easier that way. At my father’s wrestling shows every Friday night, I played Joe Cool, popular with the girls and on top of the world–­all part of the show. At school I was shy, but the fights were real. All the Hart kids were bullied for wearing hand-me-downs, and I was always scrapping to defend the family honour. The wrestling fans on Friday nights had no idea that I often attended school wearing shorts in the winter because that’s all I had, or that I got my first pair of new runners when I was fourteen.Later on in life I was one guy on the road, another at home and yet another in the ring. Which one is truly me? They all are.PART ONESTAMPEDE DAYS1HART BOYMy earliest memory of wrestling goes back to 1960, when I was three years old. There were nine Hart kids then, and we were huddled in the kitchen on a Friday night, watching my dad’s TV show on a flickering black-and-white screen. My mom, pregnant with Ross–­it seemed like she was always pregnant then–­held my baby sister Alison in her arms. Though back then she never liked to watch wrestling, she, too, was riveted to the TV as Sam Manecker, the wrestling announcer, repeated frantically, “Kowalski has broken Tex McKenzie’s neck! He’s broken his neck!” My eyes popped out of my head and my mouth hung open. I was watching my very first wrestling angle.Tex was a handsome, dark-haired cowboy. I loved cowboys, and I was wearing my Roy Rogers holster and six-shooters at that very moment. Killer Kowalski was an agile, baldheaded brute with an angry scowl on his face. Just as I was wondering what kind of man calls himself Killer, Kowalski climbed to the top of the corner ring post and leaped off, high and hard, driving his knee into Tex’s neck. Now Tex lay there quivering, his cowboy boots shaking and kicking.We watched the ambulance attendants load Tex tenderly onto a stretcher, sliding him out and under the bottom rope. Manecker said Tex might be paralyzed. I asked my ten-year-old brother Bruce, my most reliable source of information, what that meant. Bruce stared hard at the television. “It means he’ll never, ever walk again.”Suddenly Killer was back up on top of the turnbuckle, and he jumped off and landed on Tex, knocking him off the stretcher and onto the floor. The audience screamed, and the stretcher-bearers ran for cover. I was terrified. Kowalski really was a damn killer!It didn’t occur to me to wonder why Smith, my oldest brother, who was twelve at the time, had such a big grin on his face. He remarked on how well Tex was selling it. From what I could tell, poor Tex wasn’t selling anything. And I couldn’t understand why my tender-hearted mom seemed more concerned about how well the match came across on TV than whether Tex would ever walk again. Only much later did I realize that she was happy my dad’s TV show was back on the air; they could catch up on the bills again.That night the Hart brothers stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, talking about the match. Even though it was all so frightening, it was very exciting too! I was relieved to hear my older brother Dean say that my dad was not only the toughest, greatest wrestler of them all, but that he could tie that Killer Kowalski up into knots any time he wanted. Our dad was utterly invincible.I shared a bed with Bruce, who looked after me most of the time back then. When he got up early every morning to milk Daphne the cow, I’d sit on the warm radiator and watch him from the big picture window of the boys’ room, walking down past the front of the house in his blue-checkered flannel jacket, swinging the milk pail. In the distance, I could see the sprawling city of Calgary glinting in the early-morning light and the Bow River winding through the valley. I knew even at that young age that way out there past those lights was New York City, where our mom came from. New York City was where our mom met Stu.My dad was born in Saskatoon in 1915 and grew up in Edmonton in extreme poverty. He managed to lift himself up out of poverty through his drive to succeed and his athletic ability. He spent a lot of time hanging around the YMCA in Edmonton and got into amateur wrestling and football. He was a kicker and defensive tackle with the Edmonton Eskimos in the late thirties. But what he really excelled at was wrestling.From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

“Bret Hart is the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.”
—Ric Flair

“Bret Hart still makes me believe that wrestling is good.”
—Hulk Hogan

“A legend!”
—The Rock


From the Hardcover edition.