Bret Hart is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. No-one’s disputing that, but it must be acknowledged that he seems to be cursed.
That was no more evident than on the 10th September 2012 on Monday Night Raw. On what should’ve been a triumphant return to Montreal in a WWE ring for the first time in 15 years and a night where the events of Survivor Series 1997 should’ve been buried once and for all, it just wasn’t meant to be. On that very night, even Bret Hart was put in the shade by an event that no-one could have foreseen. Jerry Lawler, WWE’s iconic announcer (who’s been the voice of Raw for almost 20 years), suffered a massive heart attack and had to be resuscitated in the arena. Thankfully Lawler has fully recovered and returned to commentary since, but that incident was just another example of the massive series of hugely unfortunate events which seem to haunt Bret Hart.
Bret prides himself on being a guy who never hurt anyone in the ring to the extent where they couldn’t continue working. Not to mention the fact that he prided himself on the ability to be able to get a good match out of anyone he was put in the ring with. The cruel irony is that Bret’s career was ended by a guy who wasn’t a great worker by any stretch of the imagination and who injured multiple guys in his career: Bill Goldberg. Bret suffered a kick to the head which cracked his skull and left him unable to wrestle.
After Bret was forced to retire, which should have been a comfortable slumber for a man who is very possibly the embodiment of the phrase “living legend,” he suffered a massive stroke on June 24th, 2002 while he was riding his bike to the gym. On the one day that he chose to risk riding without a helmet, he happened to crash and bumped his head. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back after the injuries he sustained from Goldberg’s stiff kick. The stroke resulted in Bret suffering complete paralysis on his left side, it impaired his ability to speak and also left him with psychological problems which affect him to this day. Five years (June 2007), the anniversary of Bret’s stroke marked the weekend which nearly killed the professional wrestling industry as we know it.
On 23rd May 1999, Bret’s younger brother (and a man held in the highest esteem by everyone who seemed to know him) Owen Hart died in a tragic accident at the “Over the Edge” PPV. Owen died in an accident which was reported to parody Sting’s WCW entrance where he used to descend to the ring on a high wire. Bret took four months off wrestling while mourning his brother, which just goes to show you how good their relationship was. Owen was the closest sibling that Bret had in his family. The term “family feud” doesn’t come close to describing the Hart family politics that Bret paints a vivid picture of in his much lauded autobiography “Hitman”.
At this point, I can almost hear you thinking “This has been an insanely depressing column”. Yes. It has. But here’s the bottom line. Despite all these trials and tribulations, the man keeps getting up. After his brother’s tragic death which left his nephew and niece without a father; after the series of events mentioned in this article, Bret Hart has risen each and every time to meet the challenges that have been presented to him. Those challenges would have destroyed lesser men, but not Bret Hart.
As children, we all have heroes in the ring. Very few can show the same heroism in their personal lives and inspire us in the same way they do in the ring, but Bret Hart is a man who does.