In the end, it doesn’t really matter if pro wrestling is fake or not. Because, as is made clear from Bret “Hitman” Hart’s autobiography, the athleticism required to execute wrestling’s pre-scripted entertainment is real – as are the pills, alcohol, cocaine, sex, and steroids that are used to dull the pain from the torn ligaments, broken limbs, concussions, and bruised ribs – not to mention life on the road.
One of 12 children of Calgary’s legendary Hart wrestling family, Bret was reluctant at first to give wrestling a try, but was soon seduced by the mythos, the glamour, and the work. Trained in father Stu’s famous basement “dungeon,” Hart soon outgrew the family business and moved on to the more lucrative World Wrestling Federation (WWF) circuit, with its evil-genius marketer and chief, Vince McMahon. Very quickly, Hart became huge overseas, selling out arenas from Berlin to Tokyo.
When billionaire broadcaster Ted Turner started up his fledgling World Championship Wrestling circuit and raided the WWF’s talent, Hart became a pawn in the race for ratings. The massive amounts of money turned the business hardcore and sleazy, with increasingly crazy stunts and storylines that bordered on softcore porn.
Hart lived through the death of his brother, Owen, in a ghastly 1999 wrestling accident; a few months later, his own career was effectively ended by a severe concussion resulting from a kick to the head in the ring.
Hart is candid about the steroids and the trashed hotel rooms, as well as his own frequent infidelities. He rationalizes the womanizing as a way of keeping away from the real trouble: drugs.
This book is by definition one man’s perspective, and Hart rarely paints himself in an overly negative light, but as a storyteller on the rise and fall of pro wrestling, he’s a natural. Maybe not the best there is, was, or ever will be, but he’s close.