Photos by Kevin Stenhouse of Bret Hart. Bret Hart inspired this Issue's feature 'From the Heart | Sage Advice from 40 inspiring Canadians.'
The Best There Is, The Best There
Was And The Best There Will Ever Be!
For our From the Hart Issue – we are proud to feature Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart who is a Canadian legend and best known for his world-wide wrestling championship successes. He inspired our spread done by Kevin Stenhouse Photography for, Sage Advice From The Heart. We first met Mr. Hart at the Field of Dreams event back in the summer of 2017, courtesy of Angie Shilliday.
Bret "the Hitman" Hart is a living legend. As a member of the first Canadian family of pro wrestling, he was raised and trained in Calgary’s infamous family ‘Dungeon’ by his late father, Stu Hart. Bret started his career earning numerous amateur wrestling awards before turning to Olympic style wrestling’s more theatrical counterpart. History and his peers record him as the most technically proficient pro wrestler of his era, while fans say he’s the best wrestler there ever was. What Bret is really most proud of is that he never actually injured a single opponent! It’s the ultimate irony then that Bret Hart’s wrestling career was abruptly ended by an errant kick to the head during a pay-per-view match that caused a severe concussion – followed by a major stroke. The Hitman battled back from this one-two punch and explored a different kind of ‘live theatre’ starring in Aladdin The Magical Family Musical. He’s also been acting in numerous sitcoms, adventure series, and dramas like Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years, in which he received a Gemini nomination. In the fall of 2004, Bret was voted one of the top 50 Canadians of all time on CBC’s Greatest Canadian. As an author, Bret devoted seven years to writing his critically acclaimed autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling which became a #1 bestseller in the US, UK, and Canada.
Bret Hart still has his cool signature shoulder-length hair and a kind demeanor. He’s our well known and much loved Canadian international wrestling icon. Wherever you go he’s a ringside and household name – from Calgary to Calcutta, from Montreal to Moscow, and all points in between.
But here’s what many fans and people don’t know about Bret Hart – he is the consummate storyteller. For over twenty years, while he was pinning his opponents to the mat, he also was making short films about wrestling and the men he fought. And his secret dream? To be a movie director. Those days of mini-movie making have long passed for Bret. In fact, over the years the tables have been turned as people are making films about him. In Vancouver, filmmaker Fulvio Cecere and his producing partners Darren Antola and David Wilkins, have been on a four year journey in-terviewing wrestlers, promoters, historians and ring announcers revealing what these wrestlers have lived through going from territory to territory for the 350 Days documentary. Angela White, Calgary's own was the Pro-duction Assistant for Bret's segment. Cecere says; “Bret is one of the most famous pro wrestlers alive. He was a world champion and universally loved by all the fans. He was one of the most skilled and hardest working wrestlers. No wrestling documentary would be complete without Bret.”
You can understand Bret’s love for film making. He says wrestling is like acting – acting with your body, a kind of performance art. “I told some really good stories using my body in the ring. It’s an interesting process to tell a story through wrestling. There’s a form of expression that is so unique that comes from being in the ring. It’s like being on stage.”
Today, as movies and wrestling have become high energy entertainment theatre, Bret says he still likes ‘the old school of film making’ where directors like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola have great characters playing out great stories.
One of Bret’s most memorable matches – what he calls a great story – happened ten years ago in Chicago at WrestleMania 13 against ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. As an experiment, he created a story-line for the fight where the two wrestlers were locked in a bitter battle and change places. Bret’s idea was to have the good guy become the bad guy and bad guy become the good guy, like a protagonist in a movie.” The way they fought, the moves and tricks they used forced the audience cheer for either the hero or the villain. As Bret recalls, “I started as the hero – ‘Hitman Hart’ and ‘Stone Cold Steve’ came out as the villain. Forty minutes later I stumbled out of the ring as the villain, hated by all, and Stone Cold turned into the hero and was cheered by everyone. It was one helluva night and hasn’t really been repeated since.”
After a career of multiple broken bones, torn muscles, fused wrists, two knee replacements, fingers that don’t work, concussions, and a debilitating stroke, Bret is as enthusiastic as ever about his accomplishments. “I paid a high price for what I did. And, to be honest, I still feel bad when people say wrestling is all fake. My doctors will tell you differently. Having had treated all my injuries.
His wrestling career, with all the ups and downs and five championship belts has taught Bret some important life lessons. “I think whatever it is you choose to do in life, whether it's being a dental hygienist, firefighter or taxi driver, you need to reach for the top. Have no limitations and most important, make sure it’s something you love and are passionate about.” Today, Bret’s focus is on helping others. He wants to make the world a better place and so he generously gives his time to organizations like Stroke Awareness and Rehabilitation, the Calgary Prostate Centre and the Terry Fox Run, with his wife Stephanie Washington-Hart. The Hitman still has two small secret desires… to make cartoons and a hit movie of course!