Ever since his retirement from the sport, Bret Hart has been labeled as the crotchety old man of professional wrestling. While not quite as harmful as a racist Clint Eastwood screaming at kids to get off his lawn and leave his Gran Torino alone, Hart’s criticisms about the wrestling industry over the past decade haven’t been said without a bit of venom on his part.
Whether it’s about the current state of wrestling or certain wrestlers in particular, The Hitman always has an opinion and more often than not, that opinion receives criticism from even his most diehard supporters. While Bret Hart will always have the respect of the fans who acknowledge the hard work and dedication he gave the business for years, many of his comments have been hard to defend due to his unapologetic bluntness. Nevermind the fact that a lot of what Hart says comes off as ludicrous or overreacting according to some. The big problem some people have is that it seems he rarely has something positive to say to balance out with his several negative rants.
The Hitman’s remarks have been more miss than hit with fans, but that doesn’t stop Hart from dishing out his disdain. The fact that Hart continues to this day to headline the front page of dirt sheets for saying something controversial tells us that he must not regret a single word he’s said. However, one glance at his career gives us a glimpse at what Bret Hart probably does regret doing.
15. Calling Out Seth Rollins
Bret Hart has been vocal against Seth Rollins ever since “The Man” legitimately broke John Cena‘s nose with a knee to the face during a July 27th, 2015 edition of Monday Night Raw. It didn’t help that around 2 months later at WWE’s Night of Champions pay-per-view, Rollins would powerbomb ring veteran, Sting, into the turnbuckles in a move that would cost The Icon his career. Sting’s head whiplashed against the turnbuckles in a way that caused Sting to briefly collapse during his match with Rollins. Sting would sustain a severe neck injury that would immediately put his career to a screeching halt. All of this attributed to Hart calling Rollins “reckless” every chance he gets. Hart has even gone as far as saying he would never forgive Rollins for retiring Sting.
Most fans disagree and see these moments as freak accidents more than anything else. Some say that Hart is just overreacting. If Hart cares that he seems to have lost fans due to his comments, there’s a chance that he might regret calling out Rollins.
14. Appearing on MadTV
It’s nice to see someone with such a serious reputation like Bret Hart step out of their shell for the sake of comedy, but not when the payoff is so horrendous.
In 1999, Hart appeared in a skit where he attacked cast member, Will Sasso, for trying to “humiliate” him the last time he was on the show. This kind of “off the script” moment in the vein of the Montreal Screwjob may have been cheesy, but it was all in good fun. The fun ended when WCW decided it would be a good idea to put Hart in a match with Sasso on an episode of Nitro some time later.
The match was essentially Hart clobbering Sasso for 5 minutes in a segment that ran 5 minutes too long and lacked the sense of humor that brought the match to fruition to begin with. It was clear that WCW wanted to turn that sketch into some media buzz, but it was even clearer that WCW didn’t know how to capitalize on that buzz. As another WCW segment that wasted the time and talent of everyone involved, Bret Hart was better off not doing the skit at all.
13. Not Going to WCW Sooner Than He Did
Many decisions in life come with double edged swords. This is one of them.
On one hand, Bret Hart obviously wouldn’t have wanted to go to WCW at any time before 1997 (as we’ll learn later, Hart didn’t want to go to WCW in 1997 to begin with). On the other hand, if Bret Hart did decide to go to WCW sometime in the 80’s or early 90’s, he would’ve avoided the petty drama that led to him leaving WWF in 1997. Surely, those kind of what-if scenarios must’ve crossed Bret’s mind at least a few times.
According to Bret’s book, he was offered to join WCW in 1989 (offered a $200,000 deal from Ric Flair, who had no authority to make that type of offer and the real boss of WCW, Jim Herd, shut the whole thing down when he got wind of it) and 1992 (Bret simply declined). He was even offered a WCW contract in 1996; 1 year before the Screwjob. Hart said he’d only sign if he had “the exact same contract as Hulk Hogan, plus one penny”. Imagine how different wrestling history would be if Hart accepted any of those deals.
12. Returning to WWE in 2016
While only for a one night only appearance at WWE Payback alongside his niece, Natalya, for her Womens Championship match against Charlotte (with her dad, Ric Flair, in her corner), Bret was awfully snide about having to show up.
In the weeks leading to the show, Hart admitted on his podcast that he had “no desire to be there [or] on TV” following his wrist surgery and would only go because his niece wanted him to. Hart was especially sour to arrive the day of the show and find out the match would end with a Montreal Screwjob recreation. If you’re Bret Hart, you’ve got to be sick of getting called in to do so many variations of that angle. That has to be the bane of his existence. Hart called the Payback angle “lame…pretty flat and unoriginal…kind of been done a lot”. Before stepping into the ring, Hart told Vince backstage that if the angle had to happen, then him and his niece needed to end the segment by locking the Flairs in simultaneous Sharpshooters. Which made the angle better, but not worthwhile. Especially not for Bret.
11. Studying Filmmaking
Looking at the endless number of Hart relatives who have entered the wrestling business, one would think that anyone with the Hart name is contractually obligated to join the business. Surprisingly, that isn’t the case. Just ask Bret Hart, who almost never became a wrestler.
While he did take part in amateur wrestling as a teenager, Bret for a time had no desire to springboard it into a career. He revealed in his WWE documentary that amateur wrestling was too unrewarding to commit to at the time. Between the injuries and the stress of sticking to a weight class, Hart would rather study filmmaking in college. However, Bret didn’t want to disappoint his dad and opted to become a professional wrestler; which he finally committed to full time once his grades waned and filmmaking interests deteriorated.
10. His 2010 WWE Return
Bret Hart likely regrets less the fact that he returned to WWE and more the way he was booked upon his return.
Returning to WWE 13 years after the Montreal Screwjob did a lot of good for Hart. It gave Bret a chance to finally bury the hatchet between himself and Shawn Michaels both on and off camera–Bret already settled his grudge with Vince following Bret’s stroke in 2002; Vince was one of the first people to check in on Bret the day it happened–and it gave fans the chance to finally see Bret get some on-screen comeuppance against the villainous Mr. McMahon character. What fans weren’t thrilled about was that it took 3 months for that comeuppance to take place. Even less than favorably reviewed was their long WrestleMania 26 match. The WWE Universe would’ve been satisfied with just seeing Bret punch Vince to the ground and lock in the Sharpshooter. No one wanted a full blown angle out of it, yet alone an 11-minute Mania match. Ironically enough, better plans would’ve been in store for Bret if he returned 8 years earlier.
9. Turning Down a WrestleMania Appearance
In 2002, the WWE reached out to Bret Hart to appear at that year’s WrestleMania, which took place in Hart’s country of Canada. The plan would’ve called for Hart to show up at the Skydome unannounced while Vince McMahon was in the ring and Hart would’ve punched Vince out in front of over 68,000 fans. One would think that asking Hart to return just under 5 years after The Montreal Screwjob was a bad idea to begin with, but Bret Hart seriously considered it. He went as far as agreeing to fly into WWE HQ in order to meet with Vince in his office. Hart would cancel the appointment following a phone call with then-WWE exec and former friend of Hart’s, Carl Demarco, that grew ugly and stirred up angry memories of his past with WWE. This only prolonged Bret Hart’s plans to make peace with anyone behind the scenes so, in retrospect, perhaps Hart wishes he took that deal after all.
8. His 1996 Hiatus
Everyone remembers Bret Hart’s iconic 60-minute Iron Man match with Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 12. What some people may forget is that Bret Hart took a long absence from WWF shortly after the event.
Due to the exhaustive schedule of a WWF Superstar–especially one who carried the company as their top face for the last year–Bret Hart needed a break and he got it all the way until October of that year. In his break time, he rested and dabbled a curious hand in the acting world.
Taking into consideration that Hart’s rival, Shawn Michaels, would soar into superstardom as WWF Champion in Hart’s absence, maybe Bret Hart wishes he stuck around a bit to stall HBK’s momentum. While Michaels was main eventing consecutive pay-per-views, Hart was playing a cowboy on the show, Lonesome Dove. This wouldn’t be the last time Hart would take part in an unlikely acting performance.
7. Playing a Genie in Aladdin
Many people don’t remember–or never even knew–that Bret Hart participated in a live musical rendition of Aladdin in 2004 where he played The Genie. Bret Hart would probably like to keep it that way.
While most of Bret Hart’s acting work in the past never blew audiences away and his charisma during wrestling promos weren’t exactly his strong suits, it must have come as a shock to see him try and flex his acting chops on-stage as Aladdin’s usually vibrant Genie. The production ran from 2004 until 2006 and the only evidence of its existence are rare promotional images and adverts on YouTube. While reviews weren’t harsh on The Hitman’s performance and most praised it as competent at best, it’s hard for wrestling fans to deny just how out of place Hart looks in this silly family production. Even when the musical climaxes with The Genie wrestling evil wizard Abanazar in an actual ring. Hart is never quick to talk about this stint with the musical. Whether that’s because he’s embarrassed of it is up for debate, but it wouldn’t be a shock if that was the case.
6. Dissing Ultimate Warrior Right After His Death
This is one of the few times Bret Hart has apologized for one of his comments. And with good reason.
Like Hart, Ultimate Warrior‘s checkered past with WWE made fans doubt that we would ever see him back inside of a WWE ring. To the surprise of just about everyone, Warrior managed to bury the hatchet with Vince McMahon just in time for a 2014 Hall of Fame induction. However, not everyone was quick to leave Warrior’s past in the past. Not only was it reported that Hart did not stand or even clap at the end of Warrior’s HoF induction speech, but not even 24 hours after Warrior’s death a few days later, Hart criticized Warrior on his steroid use in a radio interview. He also noted that Warrior looked “frail” in person and “less indestructible” than he used to.
Which, fair enough, Warrior’s steroid use wasn’t exactly a secret, but to bring this up so soon after the man’s passing seemed in poor taste. The WWE Universe agreed as Hart drew the ire of several fans until he apologized the next day. At least Hart had the decency to recognize his mistake quickly and apologize. Class act.
5. Giving Vince/HBK His Ladder Match Idea
While not the originator of the match concept, Bret Hart has claimed numerous times that he brought it to WWE.
According to Hart, he approached Vince McMahon with the idea after seeing the match play out in Calgary, but Vince was skeptical of the potential of such a match. So he told Bret that he’ll let him and an opponent of his choosing duke it out with ladders for a straight-to-video match as a sort of test run. Bret Hart chose Shawn Michaels; who was good friends with Hart at the time. As we know, time would change that drastically.
Two years later, Shawn Michaels would bring the concept to WrestleMania X; this time against Razor Ramon. When WWE brings up the innovators of the ladder match, Bret Hart’s name never comes up and understandably, Hart has been unabashedly sour about it saying both Vince and Shawn stole his idea. He seems so scorn about it that he probably wishes he never walked in The Chairman’s office with the idea to begin with.
4. Leaving WWF in 1997
If not for the fact that the factors that eventually led to Bret Hart’s WWF departure were big enough to regret on their own, this one would be higher.
There were countless factors that led to Bret Hart’s decision to finally jump ship from WCW to WWF. Bret Hart didn’t like the fact Vince’s company was shifting from family-oriented programming to the Attitude Era. His feud with Shawn Michaels was getting more and more personal with each passing week. He was unhappy with the direction of his character. You name it. It’s all valid reasons for Hart to leave, but despite the disdain he felt at the time, he never wanted to leave. It was Vince McMahon who persuaded him to continue negotiations with WCW since his plans for an edgier WWF didn’t include Hart. The two even maintained a good relationship right until the Montreal incident.
Despite Hart finally accepting a deal with WCW, he still didn’t want to leave WWF. He felt forced out more than anything and has admitted that one of his biggest regrets was leaving. The fact that Bret Hart continues to appear occasionally on WWE TV to this day is a testament to how high of esteem Hart holds WWE and how much he loves the company.
3. Jobbing to HBK at Wrestlemania 12
Little known fact: Shawn Michaels is a bit of an asshole. Or at least he was in 1996 when he had a reputation for being difficult to work with. That said, why on Earth would Bret Hart agree to drop the WWF Championship at WrestleMania to him?
Hart did the job because, originally, the plan was for Michaels to return the favor at the following year’s WrestleMania. Only he didn’t. Plans changed when the following year, with mere months before Mania, Michaels “lost his smile” when he vacated the title with a sudden knee “injury”. Keep in mind that only weeks later, while still on the injured list, Michaels did a backflip on live television. Also keep in mind that shortly after their Iron Man match at Mania, Michaels thanked Hart for doing the job for him because he definitely wouldn’t have done the same for Bret Hart.
2. Not Jobbing to HBK in Montreal
Over a year after WrestleMania, the bad blood between The Hitman and The Heartbreak Kid was at an all time high.
These two were going to war with each other on and off camera. When they weren’t mat wrestling, they were having backstage fights. Between this and his disapproval of WWF moving towards a more adult-oriented “attitude”, Hart was ready to pack his bags for WCW. Except Vince McMahon wasn’t going to let his WWF Champion walk on WCW TV with his title, but Bret refused to drop it to Michaels in his home-country of Canada. Vince had two options: don’t book Hart to lose to Michaels at Survivor Series 1997, or screw Bret. Anyone with the slightest wrestling knowledge knows exactly what Vince did.
The Montreal Screwjob is easily the most infamous moment in wrestling history. Due to the chaotic domino effect that this moment caused, Hart probably wishes that he just agreed to lay down that night. As much as he hated Shawn Michaels at the time, Hart couldn’t possibly look back on the Screwjob as anything more than a messy situation that could’ve been avoided if he simply did the favors on his way out.
1. Going to WCW
Going to WCW tarnished Bret Hart’s legacy more than anything the Montreal Screwjob has done to it.
As soon as Hart joined their roster, it was clear that WCW had no idea what to do with him and only wanted him so that they could snag another major star away from WWF. Under Vince Russo’s booking, the Hitman was treated as though there was a letter “S” in front of his nickname. His time there played out like a “worst of” album where each track sounded worse every week. From his debuting as a referee to his involvement in the Starrcade 1997 main event debacle to the many Montreal ripoff angles that WCW tried with Hart, it was backstage politics and overbooking that made Hart’s run far from excellent. It all culminated, unfortunately, when Hart suffered a concussion via a thrust kick by Goldberg–a man who Hart would’ve never faced had he went anywhere but WCW–at Starrcade 1999. He would retire from his injuries shortly after.
The Montreal Screwjob may have arguably defined The Hitman’s career, but WCW is what ruined that same career.