Earlier this week, on July 2nd to be precise, Bret “The Hitman” Hart turned the big 6-0. That’s right. If you grew up as a wrestling fan of the late ’80s/early ’90s then you know Bret Hart was one of the key figures of the industry and remains highly regarded as one of the best wrestlers to ever lace a pair of boots. Born on July 2, 1957, Bret came from the Hart family. One of the most famous families in pro wrestling history, Bret developed his craft at a young age in the infamous Hart Dungeon where his father, Stu Hart, and his 87 brothers applied various stretch holds on the poor lad. My uncle Jimmy introduced me to wrestling in 1987 and I’ve been a fan ever since. I fell in love with the action and larger than life characters. I became a Bret Hart fan early on. It was evident that he was born to be a wrestler. They didn’t call him the EXCELLENCE OF EXECUTION for nothing!
Bret began his WWF career tagging with his brother-in-law, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Together they formed one of the most memorable and successful tag teams in the World Wrestling Federation. Bret’s impeccable wrestling acumen was sharply complemented by Jim’s sheer brute force. Managed by “Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart, the Hart Foundation ruled the tag scene and soon became fan favorites.
My brother and I loved Demolition, we loved the Rockers… but DAMN DID WE LOVE the Hart Foundation. I remember the highs and I remember the lows. They won the tag titles twice and we cheered. However, their shocking defeat to the Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII left a very sour taste in my mouth. I remember Jimmy Hart, who was then managing the Nasty Boys, gave his megaphone to Knobbs or Saggs, and they bloody took off Anvil’s head to win the tag titles. It was a dark day for Hart Foundation fans everywhere. The team split up after that when the WWF realized Bret’s potential as a major singles star. He went on to win the WWF Championship five times, before leaving the company after the infamous 1997 Survivor Series screwjob in Montreal.
In the wrestling business there’s a famous saying… NEVER SAY NEVER. After nearly 10 years of not being a part of the WWE in any fashion, Bret Hart was announced to headline the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. It was a huge moment in the industry and for all Bret Hart fans. This was his big homecoming. ONE NIGHT ONLY. April 1, 2006. It was one of my favorite Hall of Fame speeches ever. Tonight we relive the memories of that unforgettable evening.
BRET HART’S INDUCTION VIDEO INTRO
Alright, and now to induct Bret “The Hitman” Hart… there are some people who need no introduction. But if you don’t give this next guy one, he’ll open up a can of whup ass on y’all and I don’t want that to happen here tonight. I’d like to say a lot of nice things about this guy but… I rather be honest. He’s… [WHAT! -Audience] he is NOT a nice man [WHAT!]. As a matter of fact, [WHAT!] he is the meanest [WHAT!], he is the toughest [WHAT!] son of a bitch in the WWE… STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN!
You know, I was going through my bag in the back and…
Call it a hunch but I think the crowd wants a Steve Austin vs. Hulk Hogan dream match . The great Mean Gene Okerlund has seen and heard it all in this great business, but even he is taken aback by this rabid fan response. The crowd is absolutely LIT here in Chicago tonight.
You know it’s funny… I was uh, I was going through my bag in the back and I couldn’t find something. I lost something. I went in the back looking through my bag and uh, I found a can of WHUP ASS and it had Hulk Hogan’s name on it.
*CROWD POPS LIKE CRAZY*
It’s a good night to be up here today with all these legends and uh, it’s fun for me. And it’s a great honor and I know everybody’s been saying that but I really mean it, because I ain’t the most humble sumbitch in the world.
You got the Blackjacks over here. The black trunks, the black boots, the black vests, bad attitude. If I coulda ridden down the road with you guys, it woulda been great.
I never told Sherri this but I’ve always been in love with her. I just thought she was sexy, gorgeous and just a tremendous work — I just loved everything she did.
You were talking about the blondes a little bit earlier in the evening — I just love everything you did.
A lot of people don’t know this but I traveled up and down the road with Tony Atlas. And uh, where’s that cheapskate Mick Foley, because he traveled with us.
And everybody knows that Tony was a great bodybuilder, and he’s a great powerlifter, and a great wrestler too, but he’s also a great beer drinker.
And we’d ride up and down the road… he was good but he couldn’t drink as much as Stone Cold could, I’ll tell you that much right now. But we’d drink beer until the late hours of the night, and then me and Tony would go to the gym. I’d be working chest, bench pressing about 225 for about four, five reps, and Tony would be over there bouncing 500 off his chest about 10, 15 times. IT REALLY PISSED ME OFF!
So it’s good to be here tonight. And uh, you know, I’m here to talk about a guy that I’ve always respected before I even knew him. And you know, I’ve always had a deep respect for the great workers in the business, the great technicians, and the great storytellers. And uh, Bret “The Hitman” Hart never was the biggest guy in the business. And Bret never was the flashiest guy in the business. But I always had an unbelievable chemistry in the ring with him. I knew that any time the bell rang there was a trust and there was a level of respect in there between us and just, good things always seem to happen. And I remember one time I was laying at the house on my couch and I was watching Monday Night Raw. Of all things I had a busted knee. And I’m listening to the announcing — this was back when Vince McMahon used to do the announcing — and it was Wrestlemania 13 right here in Chicago at the Rosemont. My favorite building to wrestle in… it’s just a magic environment. And I hear Vince go, “Yeah, and in a submission match it’ll be Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin!” And that was news to me, because I was watching the broadcast and I didn’t know a DAMN thing about it.
And it got me kinda hot because I’m not a submission wrestler. You probably know that from watching me; I only got about three offensive moves.
So when I showed up to Chicago that night, I remember I needed to get in shape for the match, but I had a busted knee. So I stopped drinking for about 17 days. And uh, Lanza commented on how good I looked. And I remember going to the match that night and I was thinking it was at a point in my career where I needed something big to happen. The King of the Ring had already happened, I cut a promo which kind of put me on the map, and this was kind of put up or shut up time. It was a semi-main event that night, a submission style match and I just knew that we were gonna go out there in my favorite town to work and my favorite building and completely stink the joint out. What we did was go out there and, things happened, and it was the greatest match of my career.
*Crowd claps respectfully*
I’ve had a lot of great matches after that but Jack Lanza came up to me and he said, “You’ll probably never have a match like that again.” And he kinda was right, we never really achieved anything like that again. But any time I stepped into the ring with Bret, whether it was overseas or here in the States somewhere, I’ve wrestled him a million times, and Bret was a guy that always showed up. He didn’t miss his shot, now he always showed up LATE, but he never missed his shot. So I’m proud to induct him into the Hall of Fame tonight. He’s a guy that’s always called himself the excellence of execution. He lives that, he breathes that, and he truly believes it in his heart. And that’s why he was so good. He’s the best there is, he’s the best there was, he’s the best there ever will be, he’s Bret “The Hitman” Hart!
Thank you! I just wanna say um… it’s an honor to be here and it’s an honor to be up here with so many uh great legends like everybody said. And uh… you know, nobody’s more surprised and more amazed to be here than I am. But uh, this is a big night for me.
And despite what anyone thinks, many years ago when I had my fallout with Vince McMahon at the 1997 Survivor Series and all that, I made a promise to myself THAT DAY, that if they ever asked me to do the Hall of Fame I would be here.
I wanna say that while I’ll never forget what the WWE took away from me, I also wanna say that I’ll never forget all the great things that they gave to me. And I’ve had a great great life and I’ve had a great career here. And first of all I want to thank the McMahons, especially Vince, for giving me the chance to work on his canvas.
*Fans jeer at the mention of Vince*
Every night that I went out years ago when I first started, I uh, I was just honored to be in the ring and wrestle for the WWE.
You know when I think back years and years ago, when I was about uh, well three years old I think, I was watching my first wrestling matches on TV and I was watching Killer Kowalski. And uh, I think in my family everybody just became ingrained from the very start to love this business and love the circus life. My family growing up, I mean, everybody loved wrestling and we always been grateful for all the funny adventures and stories that we’ve had through this great business.
I want everyone to know that I came here to celebrate my career, not to mourn over it. And uh, I had a fortune cookie today that said uh, “You’re welcomed at any gathering,” on my Chinese fortune cookie today.
I want to go back to when I was a little kid. I remember going to the wrestling matches for the very first time, and I’d be riding in the car down to the wrestling matches with my brothers, and right from the very start I can remember I’d be riding in the car and my dad would pull up to the hotel and uh, I remember when I was real young they picked up the midgets.
And uh, I remember I thought “Cool, finally I got some wrestlers that I can play around with,” you know. And it was uh, I remember Sky Low Low and Little Beaver and that whole bunch, they just all get in the backseat.
My dad had a big stretch limo with four different rows of seats, just enough for all us Hart kids and uh, he let the midgets climb in there and they get in the back and I can remember I thought, “Great.” And I remember trying to headlock them and stuff like that.
And if you ever uh, if you knew midget wrestlers you know that you don’t want to be headlocking them — they don’t appreciate that too much.
But anyway, wrestling’s always been part of my life. I can remember my first experiences with wrestling. I was about uh, 10, 12 years old and I’d go down to the basement, and my dad had all these huge wrestlers. And I remember you were kind of safe when you were about that age — 12 you’re OK you know — you could sit down there and as long as you didn’t say anything. And it was pretty interesting to watch my dad put these guys into all these holds and they’d be screaming for their lives down there. I think my mom sometimes, I don’t know what she thought, I think she sometimes phoned the police. She was worried someone’s getting killed down there.
My dad was an amazing character and I want to say first that… I owe everything I am today to my dad. And uh, the man I always longed to be was the one I first thought my father was. He was a one of a kind guy in this business. And I can remember when I first got in, I always introduced myself around the dressing room as Bret Hart, Stu Hart’s kid, and this was always my passage to safety. Everybody I know who really understood him and got to know him loved him. He was everything that was good about the wrestling business. I know he’d be really proud of me standing here today.
*Crowd applauds respectfully*
I uh… got all kinds of funny stories and memories. I’ll try to not go too long here. It would only be right for me to tell a few funny stories about my brother, Owen.
My brother Owen was uh… he was a hilarious guy.
*Crowd chants O-WEN! O-WEN! O-WEN!*
I remember being on the road getting a call from somebody telling me that someone from delivery service was giving me a free pizza. I think I already eaten… but they would sell me on it. It was free and bringing it up and it’s on the house. And I was like OK. And the next thing you know I would be arguing with the guy about how he wanted me to pick my toppings — what kind of toppings I wanted. And it was like OK. So I started going through the toppings and then he starts pushing more toppings on you. Then finally he tells you after all that he’s going to charge you for the toppings. And you go through this charade… anyway, that was Owen.
*Crowd laughs and cheers*
One time we were checking into a hotel in Dayton, Ohio. All the wrestlers were walking in and uh, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan [HOOOOO! -Crowd] was there with his wife, and he went to his room.
We were all standing around the front desk signing in. Duggan phoned down and asked the guy at the front desk, “Where’s the gym?” The guy puts his hand over the phone and he goes, “Anyone know where the gym is?”
And Owen goes, you know, “Give it to me.” So he hands the phone over to Owen and Owen gets on the phone and of course, Jim, Hacksaw just thinks it’s somebody at the front desk. Anyway, Owen tells Hacksaw, “Why don’t you look it up yourself, YOU LAZY BASTARD.”
So Hacksaw got all worked up and Owen tells him, “If you wanna do something about it, come down here and I’ll kick your ass.”
Hacksaw couldn’t believe it. So then Hacksaw, you know, he’s getting dressed to come down to the lobby to straighten out this front desk guy. And I remember Owen just hands the phone back to him and the guy goes, “Don’t do this to me!“
Owen goes, “Don’t worry, just tell him it’s me… Jim Powers.”
*Crowd erupts in laughter*
Hacksaw comes down to the lobby and the guy goes, “Hey, it wasn’t me! It was Jim Powers.”
*Crowd erupts again*
I remember that night in the dressing room, Hacksaw came up to Jim Powers and uh… well, that was funny anyway.
If you knew Owen, I’m sure he pulled a joke on you somewhere.
I remember in the beginning of my career I had a chance to uh… I got called and they said they needed me to take the Dynamite Kid’s place. He was going to wrestle in Madison Square Garden against the great Tatsumi Fujinami from Japan. Anyway, Dynamite Kid couldn’t get across the border and I was called up at the last minute.
I remember I got to the building — this was such a big thing for me… I was only about 20, 21 — and I remember I was walking through the lobby getting ready for that big walk over to Madison Square Garden and I kept thinking to myself, “One day I get to tell my kids that I wrestled in Madison Square Garden.”
*Crowd claps respectfully*
Anyway, they met me, the Japanese guys that brought me in for this. They stopped me in the lobby and they said, “We have to take you off the card. You don’t have a big enough name to wrestle in Madison Square Garden.” And I remember that in the beginning of my career…
When I first got to the WWE in 1984, I was fortunate and lucky enough to be a part of this new surge in wrestling thanks to Hulk Hogan, Vince and the whole team of wrestlers that took wrestling to a whole new level.
Back in those days wrestling was pretty tough. I worked 304 days my first year and I think I worked pretty much close to that for the next six years that I was in the WWE. Double shots. It was a tough life. But I want to say I would never have made it through those years if it hadn’t been for my tag team partner, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.
*Crowd pops for The Anvil*
Jim Neidhart was you know, he was just the greatest character. I got a little pug over in Italy right now that I keep just because I think he reminds me of Jim. He’s got those sad puppy dog eyes you know, and he always wants you to have one more round.
I got so many funny memories and stories of Jim Neidhart, but I’ll just tell one. I remember Owen had just flown in; I think he was getting a new start with WWE back in 1991, maybe. We just did one night in Texas — I worked with a guy named Skinner. Anyway, all the wrestlers were kind of celebrating and I took Owen to a strip bar in San Antonio…
*Some fans scream YEEEEAAAAH!!*
Owen wasn’t really prone to those kind of places but I managed to talk him into it because it was a big night for him. He was starting back in WWE and he’d flown in from Germany. And it was a crazy night, that night in Texas, I’ll tell you that much. We were all drinking in the bar and everyone’s kind of talking and stuff…
And Vince had a few soda pops somewhere else. He was primed and ready that night. I bet Sergeant Slaughter remembers this — he was driving, thank God.
But anyway, I remember just kind of hanging out in the bar with Owen. And Hulk, you know, he could always stir up shit, you know.
He was stirring up the Legion of Doom. Hulk got them all worked up. And I remember Hawk and Animal were talking about how they were going to do their finisher on Vince.
*Crowd erupts in laughter*
And I remember watching it and I’m thinking, “No way. They’re not gonna do it. Nobody would do their finisher on Vince.”
And um, next thing I know I see Hawk saying he’s not kidding and Animal’s kind of going along with it. Quite a few of the wrestlers were starting to mark out over this, and see if it’s gonna actually happen.
Anyway, next I see Animal come up behind Vince. And like I said, Vince was already in a pretty good state of mind. So Animal came up from behind and he hoisted Vince up. I look and there’s Hawk right there on the little table with the poles.
And uh, I’m waiting. I’m watching. I’m thinking, “Here it is… they’re gonna take Vince’s head off.”
Hawk came off the table with a little powder puff clothesline and I remember Hulk, Beefcake and everybody kind of caught Vince and set him down. I think they even gave a little golf clap.
And I remember I had a beer in my hand. I think I had a shot of Jack Daniels. And I can see Jim pulling on his beard. He goes…
*Crowd laughs and cheers loudly*
I remember thinking, “I better get the hell out of here.” I couldn’t set my drinks down fast enough. I told Owen, “Listen, I gotta get out of here RIGHT NOW.” Next thing you know, Jim’s got Vince up in the bear hug position…
I remember Hulk looking at me like, “So… what’s gonna happen here?”
Jim Neidhart… I remember so many funny stories about him. I can’t resist telling this one. Whenever we stayed at a hotel we would always forget to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the doorknob. We’d be lying there in bed and I can hear the maid fumbling with the key to come into the room. I’d be sound asleep and I remember just sort of hearing Jim pull the whole blanket off, and just be lying there like a big old starfish.
And then you see the maid come in. I mean, we went through this quite a few times. It was standard Hart Foundation. You hear them scream and run out of the room as fast as they could. Over a period of time I think we could do it in stereo, you know. Anyway, I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.
*Laughter and applause*
There’s a lot of wrestlers I wanna take the time to thank. In my early days, I’ll never forget Cowboy Bob Orton, Roddy Piper, Don Muraco, Mr. Fuji, Iron Sheik and so many others that uh, every night, they were my family. And uh, I love those guys. I had some uh… *Fan interjects, “ONE MORE MATCH!“*
“ONE MORE MATCH!
ONE MORE MATCH!
ONE MORE MATCH!”
I wish. I wish I could have one more match. I wanna take the time to uh, think about and remember some of my great matches and great experiences I had. I’ll never forget the matches I had with Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig.
He was uh, he was just the greatest guy to work with every night. I never looked at working with him as work. It was a night off. He was just the greatest guy to work with every night. He was just so much fun and he was so safe and so careful. And I miss him.
I remember wrestling Curt Hennig in Anchorage, Alaska. It was sold out and I remember it was a big crowd. Andre was working in those days with Warrior, and they were going about 25 seconds every night.
So they needed some extra time, you know, for someone to do the work out there. I was working with Curt that night, and I don’t think I ever had a bad match with him, but I remember that night we uh, we just had such a beautiful match that I’ll never forget it.
Another guy I wanna tell you a story about is Earthquake.
Earthquake, you’re in my prayers.
Wherever you are out there I hope you’re doing OK.
I remember we were flying from Columbus up to Seattle or something, and we had about a six in the morning flight. I remember we got delayed for hours and everyone was sleeping on the floor near the gate. It took hours and hours. And everyone was really tired and really cranky. We finally got off and we’re in the air on our way to Seattle. Poor Earthquake, he was in the very last seat in the airplane. You know, he was a big guy so he was against the wall sleeping with his head down. I remember going to the back of the plane to use the bathroom, but someone was already in there. And uh, Jimmy Hart was across from Earthquake, and I was talking to Jimmy.
Anyway, this little black kid came up and he was about four or five years old. He wanted my autograph and I remember I signed it for him, and then he asked Jimmy to sign it. And then he looked over at Earthquake and he goes, “Should I wake this guy up?”
Jimmy Hart goes, “Yeah go ahead.” I say, “Yeah, he’s a pussycat.” But Earthquake had a long day, you know, he had about enough. I remember this kid pulling on his coat like “Hey hey!”
And I remember Earthquake just looked up, and his eyes were like red holes. He yelled at the little kid and told him to GET OUT. So then he put his head back down…
… and he just leaned back and I couldn’t believe it, he just slapped Earthquake as hard as he could right on the forehead.
*Laughter and gasps ensue*
And I remember Earthquake, good thing he had a seat belt on, he tried to explode out of that seat. And I remember Jimmy Hart was trying to find a place to hide and I remember I kept praying whoever’s in the bathroom better come out, you know.
Anyway, as you can tell I had a life filled with all kinds of characters, and great stories and memories… and uh…
*Fan shouts, THANK YOU BRET!*
I wanna say that everything I did and accomplished in wrestling I did it for my kids. Everyday, you know, you get up and it’s not the easiest thing in the world to go out there all the time and entertain everyone else’s kids. It seemed like birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Easter, you’re just always entertaining somebody else’s kids, and you’re always packing your bags. Your kids pay the ultimate sacrifice. I just want them to know that everything I did, I did it for them.
I remember a few months before “THE SCREWJOB” …
*Fans boo vehemently*
I uh, I was trying to put my youngest son, Blade, to bed. It was in the summer time. I ordered him to go to bed and he went up. I remember he got really mad, and he’s got a pretty bad temper anyway.
He was slamming doors and making quite a fuss. I remember finally putting him in his room. I went back downstairs and I was sitting in my kitchen. Like half an hour later, all of a sudden I see Blade come down. And he’s got on Shawn’s t-shirt.
And he’s got the Shawn glove and he’s looking at me like this and he’s opening his hand.
I still put him to bed. I remember telling Shawn that story. But uh, you know, when I think back to those days of the Hart Foundation… with um, Brian Pillman…
*MASSIVE POP for Pillman*
Jim Neidhart, The British Bulldog, Owen…
Those were the happiest days of my life.
And I uh, I always look back on those days with a real deep fondness.
And I was lucky — I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the great fans I’ve got all around the world. If I could give any advice to all the young wrestlers out there: never forsake your fans. Never forget them. Because if he’s a fan of yours, you’ll want to hold on to them for as long as they’ll take ya.
I wanna say that I was a real world’s champion. I traveled around the world, and uh, I was really proud to be a world champion. I wrestled in India, Israel, South Africa, the Philippines. I wrestled in so many places. And Germany, I wanna say a special thank you to all the fans I had in Germany. I remember they knocked down the barricades just to come up and give me a big hug before my match, or after my match. It was a beautiful experience that I’ll never forget. They were probably the most loyal and devoted fans I ever had. Canada, you know… I was always a Canadian first. I never ever forgot where I came from.
People always say why would you wear pink? Pink was a very special color for me. If you mix a little red and white together, you get pink. Sometimes I thought maybe I should have had a better color throughout my career. Maybe black and gold or something would have been a little nicer. But you know, there was something very neutral about pink as a color. I always said it took a real man to wear pink. Pink can be whatever you want it to be. And I uh, I love the color pink.
I’m getting ready to close but I wanna say that uh… to the wrestlers… you need to pace yourselves for the long haul. And it’s not so much about hurting one another. It’s about respecting the art.
I wrestled for 23 years, and it’s not easy to go out there every night and describe yourself as the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. But I wrestled 23 years and I never once injured one wrestler ever. That I know of, anyway. And I was a pretty physical wrestler. And the whole business is about trust and respect. And there’s a deep meaning behind the words, “Doing the honors.”
I wanna thank every wrestler that I ever worked with anywhere around the world. And in closing, um, I want to thank my wife in Italy. When I had my stroke a couple years ago, I remember I got emails and letters from fans all around the world saying they were praying for me. And they must have been praying good because I was lucky and fortunate enough to have been blessed with a great recovery. And I’m standing here today.
If I didn’t have the recovery that I had, then I would never have met the sweet angel that saved me over in Italy. She’s over in Italy now with my pug and I just wanna say hi to her. Cinzia, thank you for being my angel.
And uh, I wanna thank everybody for all the great memories. Wembley Stadium, all my fans in England…
That was my favorite match that I ever had, and I’m happy to tell you that. And I wouldn’t change that minute, that moment for anything.
I guess I’m gonna wrap up here but I just wanna say that uh, to all the wrestlers and everyone around the world, if I could give only one message to them it would be this. “The best chance you have if you want to rise to the top is to give yourself up the loneliness. Fear nothing, and work hard. One thing you’ll discover is that life is based less than you think on what you’ve learned and much more than you think on what you have inside you right from the very beginning.”
And I’m happy to say that uh, you don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’m good, I’m happy to be alive, I’m glad to be here. And I thank each of you for coming out here tonight. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
The pink and black attack.
The excellence of execution.
The best there is.
The best there was.
The best there ever will be.
Whatever you want to call Bret, he was a wrestler for the ages. His Hall of Fame speech still gives me goosebumps to this very day. Although I was never in the wrestling business, there is a strange nostalgic bond I have with these crazy larger than life characters. Even though they don’t know me, I feel like I somehow know them. They almost feel like distant uncles you only see every other Christmas. I guess that’s why I still follow wrestling today. Not as religiously as I once did, mind you, but I’ll always follow the product and be a fan for life. Always looking for that chance to jump out of my chair and mark out like I’m five years old again watching Hulkamania reign supreme. The WWF (now WWE) has given me many fond memories over the years. Whether you like or dislike pro wrestling, there exists a special brotherhood and fraternity within wrestling circles. You see it clear as day through Bret’s stories. Every week these guys and gals go on the road, traveling thousands of miles, sacrificing their bodies, their families and more. To all the wrestlers out there, and especially to Bret “The Hitman” Hart, thank you for everything. Through all the ups and downs I will forever be a fan.