Vince praised me for my dedication. Then he said, "I've done everything I could think of, put the Tag belts on you, and the Intercontinental belt, and I finally reached the point where I don't know what else to do with you."
I wondered if this cold-hearted son of a bitch was actually firing me the very same day he was supposed to be flying my dad up to be in my corner! I envisioned trying to explain all this to Stu. The blood going to my heart began to churn thick as mud, when suddenly Vince broke into that goofy grin and said, "So that's why I've decided to put the World belt on you tonight!"
Dead silence. I simply did not grasp what he'd just said.
"Hell, aren't you going to smile or something?" He laughed that famous Vince McMahon yuk-yuk-yuk. I promised him I wouldn't let him down.
While there are numerous books on the market about Calgary's famed Hart Dungeon, this one in particular isn't at all what I expected.
I imagined there would be some details on the beyond-dysfunctional Hart family, a few chapters on Bret's rise to fame, a ton on the Montreal screwjob, and a bit on his crappy WCW run, all wrapped together in the package of bitterness we've come to expect from The Excellence of Execution.
Thankfully, that isn't this book at all.
Bret had the foresight to record his entire career on audio tape, giving the reader an excellent recollection of his life. Instead of "I went here and wrestled this guy", you get the details of what happened backstage, who was injured and the feelings after the match.
Accordingly, this really isn't a light read. At more than 550 pages, you get a healthy amount of detail, and unlike Ric Flair's biography, none of the story feels rushed.
The book also comes across as brutally honest. Bret doesn't hold back on drug use, numerous affairs and the darker side of professional wrestling. Yet, unlike so many of these stories where the wrestler passes the blame on to someone else, The Hitman realizes he's ultimately responsible for his own actions.
This isn't to say that Hart doesn't lash out at anyone over the course of this story. Ric Flair, Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, The British Bulldogs, Shawn Michaels, Triple H and others all get theirs, but often not before he points out the positives in these competitors. Michaels, surprisingly, is given a ton of praise for his ability and even his friendship early on.
Then there's Vince McMahon. As much as you'd think this book would be one huge burial of the man, the Montreal screwjob isn't as prominent in the story as one might think. Granted, it's not something you can exactly dance around, given whose book it is, but you truly don't read about how it unfolded until later on in the story. And even then -- he writes about their eventual reconcilliation, which goes beyond what we've seen publicly (eg a picture of them uneasily shaking hands in the WWE studios).
This isn't a book about some guy getting screwed, it's about Bret's relationships with his parents and siblings, his wife and children, his co-workers, that kind of thing. Oh, and quite a few references to Dave Meltzer, too.
One qualm I have is how Bret constantly points out when a wrestler is black, even if that has nothing to do with the anecdote. If it was just a description, that would be one thing, but it seems far too repetitive for just that.
Overall rating: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. Okay, maybe half a notch below that, because it isn't yet one of my absolute favorites, but how can one NOT rank Bret's book this way (lousy stupid Canadian Bulldog Ratings System)? Besides, I wouldn't want to screw the poor guy. The last person who did never heard the end of it.