Friday, July 10, 2009

Bret Hart's Book: Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
Bret Hart played the hero for much of his professional wrestling career.

He was born in a family full of wrestlers, the son of the legendary Stu Hart. He went on to become a big star, but then faced a fall that few could have predicted.

His family fell apart. His brother Owen fell to his death in a ridiculous and needless stunt. He lost friends and co-workers left and right, and he suffered a stroke after his career ended.

That story is all here, presented with honesty and detail. I have read a number of wrestling books, including autobiographies of Mick Foley, Ric Flair and Tom Billington. Hart's book is far and away the best.

Foley's was just as interesting, but this book had a far different tone. God bless Mick Foley, but his book was filled with comedy. Just like with the movies, comedy rarely wins the top prize.

Hart has some funny stories, but for the most part, this was a story of pain, triumph and tragedy. There were some very enjoyable parts -- his start in Stampede Wrestling and the characters that occupied the territory was interesting if only because it's a period that rarely gets talked about.

His start in the WWF and his climb from jobber to tag wrestler to mid-carder to star was fun to read, with a number of backstage stories. Who would have guessed The Barbarian and Warlord were nice guys?

Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and of course, Vince McMahon don't come off so well. Undertaker, Steve Austin, Harley Race, Rick Rude and Curt Hennig do.

Of course, if certain parts are enjoyable, the section on Owen's death is tough. Bret's book makes it clear his large family (Stu and Bret's mother Helen had 12 kids) always had some issues. But Owen's death essentially split the family.

Bret's continuing pain over the accident is still apparent, and you really feel for him. But he is more honest than most, at one point wondering why he -- someone with so many flaws still is around while a great human being like Owen is gone.

It's this candor that makes the book a must-read for even casual wrestling fans. I'm not sure someone who hates wrestling and has always hated wrestling will get all of it.

But for current and former fans, you have to read this.



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