Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling describes in great detail the life of one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, as written by himself. Bret Hart paints a vivid picture of living at the legendary Hart house: what it was like to grow up poor in a huge family whose financial fortune was slowly sinking due to an unprofitable wrestling promotion that daddy Stu Hart wouldn’t close. Having tough old Stu as a father and many older brothers hardened Bret, but for some reason it didn’t embitter him. As his brothers and sisters backstabbed him and each other many times, Bret remained considerate and helpful when he could.
As a child of the 80s, my favorite parts of the books were Bret’s descriptions of the fledgling WWF and it’s subsequent monopoly over the pro wrestling business. Although his version of events seem a little bit one-sided, Bret reports many instances of being the nice guy while other wrestlers manipulated, cajoled and strong-armed their way to fame and riches. I couldn’t help but feel Bret was naïve until the very end in his dealings with Vince McMahon, owner of the WWF/WWE. In his writing, it comes through that he knew McMahon was sneaky but let Vince walk all over him anyway.
Despite his attempts at objectivity, it’s pretty clear from his first mention of him that Bret wasn’t too fond of Shawn Michaels. I’m no fan of Michaels myself, but I could understand how he could negatively interpret some actions that Bret took against him, both in the ring and out. Bret took great umbrage at the direction pro wrestling was going and the people that were blocking him from having a better career, but from my perspective, it seemed like an old horse being angry at the road for having cars on it. Wrestling was changing and at the time, Bret didn’t see that he didn’t fit very well into what wrestling was morphing into: a more risque, even sleazy, harder and more dangerous form of entertainment.
I’m sure many wrestling fans would be interested in picking up this book for Bret’s side of the infamous “Montreal Screwjob,” the event at which McMahon promised to allow Bret to keep the World Championship, but then ended the match abruptly to make it seem as if Bret had succumbed to a submission hold by Shawn Michaels (Bret’s own Sharpshooter hold, in fact). Although it was disappointing to read about how Bret was forced out of the WWF unceremoniously instead of graciously, it wasn’t this part of the book that struck me emotionally. For me, it was the end of Bret’s career at rival promotion WCW and the aftermath that were very difficult to get through.
Bret’s career ended because of a kick from an inexperienced wrestler that caused a concussion. Bret ignored the concussion, letting it get worse until a doctor told him he would end up worse that Muhammad Ali if he didn’t stop wrestling immediately. The last part of the book is devoted to a description of Bret’s stroke and recovery. It’s heart-wrenching read, as it usually is when reading about a strong hero weakened by injury or old age.
For a wrestler/professional athlete, Bret is a very capable writer. Some of his descriptions of his matches get repetitive after a while and he refers to too many matches as “the best match [he] ever had.” He does a good job describing most typical wrestling terms, though there were a few that were not explained that I had to look up online. For the most part, Bret’s view of himself is very even-handed: he points out his own faults and shortcomings, but revels in his successes. All in all, Hitman is an interesting and engaging read for wrestling fans, and especially for fans of the wrestler many consider to be the Best There Is, the Best There Was and the Best There Ever Will Be.
No related posts.