Transcript of The Broken Skull Sessions With Bret Hart! This special is now available on-demand on the WWE Network.
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Description: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin gets inside the head of The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be. WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart gives a blow-by-blow account of The Montreal Screwjob and breaks down his classic matches with The Texas Rattlesnake in an incredibly revealing and candid interview.”
Steve Austin: Hey, everybody. My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Welcome to The Broken Skull Sessions. My guest today is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. My guest today is the one and only, Bret The Hitman Hart. How are you, man?
Bret Hart: Good to see you, Steve. I’m really good.
Steve Austin: But we’ve always got along. Do you remember meeting for the first time?
Bret Hart: You know, this is a true story, too, that people don’t know. I was going to Vince all the time and trying to bring new guys in. And I remember talking about you. I think you had just signed with ECW. And I said why didn’t you guys grab Steve Austin? He was free, he was available. I said you’re looking for new guys all the time. I said he’s one of the best guys down there and they just let him go at WCW. I said I didn’t know why you didn’t grab him. I talked to Vince about it. And I remember the next week you were sitting in the dressing room.
Steve Austin: Yeah, I remember you telling me, you said I saw you coming before you did. And I want to get into this in a little bit because you were always hands-on with you career, very hands-on with your booking and your storylines. And I have done several of these broken skull sessions and we kinda go all over the place. And sometimes it’s chronological. But with you, it’s kind of like our WrestleMania 13 match, which I want to talk about. But we jumpstarted that match, you know. You came to the ring and I tackled you.
The Montreal Screw Job
Steve Austin: I’ve got some highlights for you, but I’d like to jumpstart this session with you because I remember many years ago, it was Montreal, The Montreal Screw Job. And I just want to jump right into it because, to me, it was just a pivotal moment obviously for you. It was a big moment for the entire wrestling industry. And I remember being there. I don’t remember who I worked with, I just remember watching that match over and over again before I talked with you. And it just blew me away what happened that night. And I remember I fired a call down to you a night or two later, whenever things kind of settle down because I was still in shock. Mick Foley quit. You know, the locker room was in disarray and nobody knew what the hell was going on. But I never got a chance to sit across the table from you and talk to you about your mindset, about where you were and how that went down. How did that all lined up? Why did that all happen?
Bret Hart: It was a lot of dishonesty going on back then with the company. I think Vince was not going to honor my contract that he signed with me. He was trying to find ways out of it. And told me, he goes we can’t meet your contract anymore. In fact, he was going to help me negotiate my contract with WCW. And I remember, Vince, I was pretty close with Vince and like in a fatherly kind of way. It was a period there I actually had my lawyer. I talked to my lawyer about it. He goes it’s not a good idea to do it that way. I said Vince will negotiate for me with Bischoff and work. He goes, let’s not go near that. But the real story, what happened is that it was in San Jose. It was you, me and Triple H and a bunch of guys in a triple threat match. And Shawn was the referee. And I found out that day that we were wrestling in Montreal for the Survivor Series. And Shawn came up to shake my hand, which me and Shawn had a little fisticuff a few months before that.
And he came into the dressing room to thank me for the match, which is sort of customary. We shook hands and I said, hey, Shawn, I just found out today we are wrestling in Montreal. I just want you to know i’m always going to be a professional in the ring and you don’t need to worry about like me going off the rails or doing something to you or trying to hurt your or anything like that. Because we had some friction. I have no problem putting you over, I have no problem dropping the title to you or doing anything you want. And the big problem between me and Shawn started right there. And he said, I appreciate that, but I just want you to know that i’m not willing to do the same thing for you. And then he turned around and walked out of the dressing room. I don’t know anybody that would every say that to somebody that’s offered to put them over.
And to me, I reached out with, you know, like a peace sign. So then it was the very next day, I saw Vince and I think it was Tulsa, Oklahoma for Monday Night Raw. And he tells me that they are likely going to switch the belt and all that stuff. But didn’t know whether I was going to stay in the company or leave the company. He also told me I could leave any way I wanted. And plus it was in my contract that I had creative control over the last 60 days because in WWE they tend to screw you just before you leave all the time and try to bring your value down. So I was kind of leery to that. So when Vince asked me about dropping the belt to Shawn, I said I can’t do it. I said I can’t do that for somebody that’s not willing to do the same thing for me.
It was more of an honor thing, like someone not having respect for me and then someone wanting me to respect him. That was the line. When I talked to Vince, I told him that night in Tulsa, he asked me about dropping the belt. I said I can’t do it and I said this is why. And I told him why. It just happened like maybe the night before or two nights before and he couldn’t believe it. He almost fell off his chair or pretended to. Then said, I want you to tell me the same story in front of Shawn. He went to go get Shawn. As it turned out, he couldn’t find Shawn. It was about two hours later we end in up Vince’s office in the building there. I remember sitting there and it’s like we’re going to ask Shawn about this together. I was waiting for Vince to lead into it. And Vince started off right away with, Shawn, we’re going to put the belt on you. And I was like, I didn’t agree to that. I stood up and said, look, i’m not agreeing to anything. I’ll wait to see what’s happening with me and you in relation to my contract.
From that point on, I didn’t see Shawn until Montreal. Basically, Vince was going to break my contract and basically encourage me to sign with WCW. I remember I called Vince even the night before I signed. I said I don’t want to go. I’m happy with the contract i’ve got. I’m not asking for more money or anything else, but I just want to know what you have in mind for me over the next year. Like where am I going? And he basically laid out to me in short form that I was going to do jobs for the next year for Shawn. I was going to lose to Shawn in every conceivable kind of match you can think of. I remember the way he laid it out to me, that’s pretty much telling me I should get the heck out of here. The writing was on the wall. Obviously i’m on the other side now, so I signed with WCW and Vince called me the next day and gave me a very friendly call, like we’re all buddy-buddy and everything. Which to me was sad because I never ever wanted to go anywhere else. I was never a trouble maker or a guy that wasn’t business.
Steve Austin: But the punches, the sell, just the sense of urgency or the sense of not knowing what was going to happen, it was a badass match. Putting in the time. And then, all of a sudden, you get in the ring. And then everything turned south. Sharpshooter, you go over belly down. And he starts doing that classic hand signal that he uses and they start ringing the bell. And Vince is there, ring the bell and the match is over and then Shawn is the champion after taking it from you. Shawn says he wasn’t part of it. Clearly, he was. There you are. You spit the loogie right in Vince’s eye, you know. And then Brisco is escorting him out of there. He goes, get the F out of here. And they are walking, fast walking down that aisle. And then it’s like you are painting WCW up in the air because you’re going now. What are you thinking at that point?
Bret Hart: I’m thinking, you piece of shit. You know, I felt so betrayed. I really worked so hard for Vince and gave him so much. I never complained about anything. 14 years, 300 days a year and never complained about anything.
Relationship With Vince McMahon
Steve Austin: But all these years later, man, I have still held on to some of the things that I got involved in. I’m really bad about holding a grudge. Where are you and Vince now? It’s been many years — when you take as you take the business serious and you are second generation and you have been in it longer than I have, i’m kind of in that same trench with you as far as the realism and everything that goes with it. What’s your relationship with Vince now?
Bret Hart: We have a good relationship. I’m not sure. I can’t speak for him, like how it affects him whether there’s real forgiveness. I think there is. Although I’ll never probably ever get over what happened to me. As far as our relationship today, there is part of me that forgives Vince because I loved what I did for the company. I’m so proud of my career. I’m proud of my matches. I couldn’t have wished for more when I got in the business.
Steve Austin: You know, before the screw job happened, you were the first guy to every lay hands on Vince McMahon. I’ll never forget the promo and it came out of the blue. I was in the back, I didn’t know what was going on. And you were out there just raising a ruckus. Frustrated isn’t the god damn word for it. That whole promo, when you pushed him on his ass in the ring and that altercation between you and Vince, when you got physical with him, everybody in that god damn dressing room knows i’m the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be, it was a shoot. Did you realize at that time or do you realize now you were basically the guy that was creating the Mr. McMahon character?
Bret Hart: No, I didn’t realize it at the time. It was such a crazy time. It’s funny, you talk about all that swearing. The truth is, they told me to — Pat was there and they came in and said, say whatever you want. I remember they said, you just go off. Don’t worry because we’re going to bleep it on the TV. It will only be for the house show. The people in the building heard me swearing and all that stuff. Saying that stuff was not acceptable even then. I hope they are bleeping this. I threw it all out there. They were going, what were you doing? You were live and all that. You guys told me to do that. They were kind of like, okay, we did. It’s not your fault. That’s why I never got in the trouble for that. I didn’t realize any more than anyone else that I was building Vince to become Mr. McMahon.
Going To WCW
Steve Austin: I didn’t either. In essence, you were kind of setting the table for Stone Cold versus. Mr. McMahon. And, you know, you would go off to WCW. The Monday Night Wars would ensue. And they didn’t know what the hell to do with you. And yeah, it was money. But you’re a worker’s worker. And you belong on top of the card and in the mix, but they weren’t ready for you.
Bret Hart: You know who told me that before I ever went? You. I remember you talking to me and you said they didn’t know what the hell they are doing down there. Guys that had been there including Kevin Nash and different guys that had been there before said don’t ever go there. They are the dumbest idiots in the world. I kind of knew that before I went. But I mean they really proved that to me that they were the stupidest people that could ever run a wrestling business. There was so much talent that I could have worked with, Booker T, Hogan. I should have worked with Hogan right away. I should have had Hulk Hogan in a Sharpshooter and done some big numbers with him and then it was red hot. I went into WCW. I had more heat. I had wrestled you at WrestleMania 13. I had beat Undertaker at SummerSlam. I knocked Vince out. I didn’t really lose to Shawn. I had so much heat. And they just didn’t know what the hell to do with me. Eric Bischoff didn’t know shit.
Steve Austin: If you look back in the WCW days to tie it all up, I mean disappointing? Something to do? Opportunity squandered?
Bret Hart: The opportunity was squandered. Same thing I could hear your voice in my head and different wrestlers that had been there, all the wrestlers saying it’s the most screwed up and disorganized and it’s chaos. They didn’t know anything. I never had a plan. I never ever knew. Sometimes they would fly me all the way in. I’d sit in the dressing room all day. At 5:00, they’d go you’re off. I said you flew me down here first class. I rented a Lincoln Continental and staying at a first class hotel for nothing. It would count as a day. It got where it was hard to care.
I remember having a conversation with Goldust, I think he had left Vince and gone to WCW. He talked about how much he loved the business. I was so sour after (the screw job) I was like what’s to love anymore? Just go out there and take your money and sit in the dressing room. It’s not what it used to be. I admired him. He almost got a little teary. He said I still love this business and I want to go out there and deliver every night. That’s how I used to be. But WCW can kill any spirit that you’ve got.
The Bret Hart Character
Steve Austin: As a babyface, what made people love the hitman? Or as a heel, what made people hate or despise the hitman?
Bret Hart: I think what they liked about me was that — I think I was just the right formula at the right time. Like I was such a contrast between me and Hulk Hogan. Hulk was the 6’6, you know, whatever he is. He can do a bear hug and a bodyslam, clothesline, and a leg drop. That was about it. I was always the guy that, I loved to tell stories. Even in Stampede Wrestling, I was working with Dynamite Kid and different guys and told great stories that came across as real. Like I remember a lot of situations and wrestling matches that people thought — like I can remember Adrian Street was a wrestler working for my dad in those days. He came up to me after I had a ladder match with Dynamite Kid. He said that is the greatest match I have ever seen in my life and I’ve watched wrestling for years. He loved that much. But I always brought out these very dramatic, I would say beautiful endings to my matches. I always had a believable style of wrestling. I think the way I worked made people believe that maybe there’s something real in some of these matches. Like it wasn’t all planned out.
Steve Austin: I like that. To me, you exemplified grit and determination and realism. And you could be in the throes of a match and look like you were dead dog tired, but you’re completely fresh because you’re a roar warrior. You had the ability to look dead dog tired and then fire back. And everything was always precise, but you had that uncanny ability just to look like you were in a real fight. That’s what I always appreciated about your matches.
Bret Hart: I think like going back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about the best wrestlers were wrestling fans first. I was a big fan. I loved wrestling. And I always thought my matches, I pretended in my head that i’m sitting in the front row watching myself. And this is the kind of match I would want to watch Bret Hart have. And what would I do to make that little kid that I was pop. That’s what I always tried to do. I was entertaining. I would always perform for myself. Like this is for me to watch. Like i’m sitting in the front row and i’m going to watch this match. I always wanted to just have the best stories, you know.
People use the term classic matches all the time. This guy had a classic and that guy had a classic and these guys had classics. You don’t just declare yourself having classic matches. A classic match is one that people talk about over and over again for years. Like I do appearances and stuff like that. I have people talk to me about the Roddy Piper match, talk to me about the Bulldog match. They talk about our match. They talk about Undertaker at SummerSlam and they talk about me and Owen at WrestleMania 10. They are all classics, like these classic matches. That’s all I wanted to do was give Vince a library of classics.
Survivor Series 1996
Steve Austin: A semi-classic would have been our match at Survivor Series in 1996. You were coming back from a cleanup on your knee. And there’s a stare down right before the match. And this was in Madison Square Garden. And you could have picked anybody on the card because you are Bret The Hitman Hart. And you’ve got a lot of say. But for some reason, you picked my ass. I never forget I came into the territory. I might have still been The Ring Master or I might have been Stone Cold. We were working down at The Houston Summit and we had a pretty good house and I was working with Shawn. And I worked with Shawn and you saw my match. It went pretty much, you had a damned good match. You said, hey, man, I’ll work with you any time. I said thank you very much because that’s a hell of a compliment.
Bret Hart: I remember that. There were Texas towns. There’s like four of five towns that we all performed in and you worked with Shawn every night. I had a lot of respect for your work when you came in. So I was kind of, in my mind, I already knew eventually I would like to work with you. And I was hoping that they have would use you right. I couldn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t because they needed some fresh faces at that time. But I knew I could do great stuff with you.
Steve Austin: And we would go on to start this match. Back in the day, you know, this is 96 and everything is kind of changed as the generations have gone on. Work styles have changed and everything has sped up. Alright, here we go. Two gunfighters right there in the middle of the ring, Madison Square Garden. This is great. Fixing to give you the double birds. And it looks like i’m talking shit to you, basically i’m telling you what i’m about to do and we are kind of joking with each other. Dude, that was heavy duty in the garden to disrespect a guy like you. Here’s a little bit of action from the match. It was just a great bout. You are coming back from getting your knee cleaned up. I’m on fire, gaining a lot of traction as Stone Cold. I think i’m going to suplex you. No, it doesn’t go so well. There I am in the middle of the ring, about to come off of the elbow.
Bret Hart: I wasn’t the most agile coming off the top. I had been off for six months. I got pretty tired in the middle of the match. We worked hard. I hadn’t seen that match in a long time. I give it four stars.
Steve Austin: It wasn’t the best match in the world, but it was really solid. And we had a great conversation at your place in Calgary as we set that match up. We’d go on to do Royal Rumble 97, when your music hits, i’m like, oh shit. Things would come out of that one and set a lot of other matches in place. But I wanted to talk to you about a match that will go down as one of the all-time classics in the business of professional wrestling. And a match that, you know, would be a double turn where the tides are starting to shift. I guess Vince got in your ear and said, hey, we’d like to turn you heel, but keep you baby in some of the foreign countries, but keep you a heel in the United States. Was that his concept or your concept.
Bret Hart: That was his concept. Vince called me kind out of the blue and said i’m going to talk you into turning heel. I said I don’t want to turn heal because a big part of my paycheck was my royalty check. I was the highest seller I believe at the time in the company with merchandise and all that stuff. Especially overseas, like in England and Europe and Indiana and all those things.
Steve Austin: Germany was crazy. You remember David Hasselhoff in Germany? That’s a compliment. For somebody to be super over there.
Bret Hart: That was true, I was really over in Germany and over in a lot of the markets and I was over in America too. Vince talked and goes give me five minutes and i’ll talk you into it. And the next day he drove up to I think it was either Springfield, Mass or New Haven or somewhere. He drove up from Connecticut and we met. And I remember he had a list of five guys that I could work with as a babyface and he had a a list of five guys I could work with as a heel. As a heel, there was lots of guys, I could work with you.
Steve Austin: So you got the list and got talked into turning heel. When did you know WrestleMania 13 was going to happen? Because when I found out about the match, I had busted my left knee and I was sitting on the couch in San Antonio. And I found out, hey, we’re in a Submission Match in the semi main, Bret Hart versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. I was like, what the fuck? I said a submission match? I’m not even a submission wrestler. I didn’t know any holds. I was mad as a hornet. I was happy to be working with you, but I was like this catches me completely out. It’s not my forte.
Bret Hart: I was the same. When we worked at Survivor Series and even though we had stuff going on, I saw like our next match was being SummerSlam, like quite a ways away. Like a rematch between me and you. We had lots of time to get to that. I was told in August when I met with Jim Ross that it was me and Shawn at WrestleMania 13. When Shawn came up with the, you know, he was going to retire because of his knee and I still don’t know what that was, whether it was like a legit injury, I assume it was. But it just seemed so made up at the time, I’ll say that. I didn’t really buy it.
Now I remember Vince saying, it was too obvious between me and Shawn, so we’re not going to go with that. It’s going to be Sid and Undertaker for the belt, which is the money spot. So they told me it’s going to be you and me. I thought it was too soon. We just wrestled at Survivor Series. I wasn’t very enthusiastic either about working with you, not that I didn’t cause I loved working with you, but I thought it was too premature. So when we showed up in Chicago, you were the only guy that came up to me and said I know that you are turning heel tomorrow. And we talked about that for a little bit. And then when we worked out our match, I remember just thinking about it like a school fight.
Steve Austin: We went to the finish room with Vince. It was you, me and Vince. All of a sudden, Vince says, all right, you guys are going to have the match that you lay out, whatever you do. In the end, you’re going to pass out in the Sharpshooter. All right, i’m working with a high profile guy in a crazy spot in WrestleMania. I say cool. You and me go to the ring. I saunter back in. Double check with Vince. Said, hey, man, are you sure this is going to work? He goes, oh god damn Steve. Oh, yeah, it will work. I go right back out to the ring. You and me are sitting on the damn apron. I said, dude, what do you want to do? You go, hey, if you are going to pass out in the Sharpshooter, you need to be busted open. At that time, there was a no busted open policy. I said you think? You go, yeah and I can help out if you need it. I said all right. So we go out there.
Bret Hart: I remember just talking to you about it. Like we talked — remember how we worked that match out? We just talked it through like real logical. I beat you at Survivor Series. You were going to be pretty mad. And the way everything was building, you had a ton of heat. Got to the Rumble when you screwed me over and threw me out. It was building really nicely, even though I was sort of, like I said I wasn’t expecting to work with you at WrestleMania so quick. But I remember we sat out there and we kind of pieced together a very logical match. The only thing I remember getting permission to do was that they gave you and permission to fight in crowd. Shamrock was going to basically be our bodyguard to protect us if a fan jumped in or anything like that.
I remember that being like the only thing we kind of had that would make the match a little different. And I remember you saying that submissions weren’t your specialty. I said, all I have is the Sharpshooter or the figure four leg lock. Submission matches are tough because you’ve got no false finishes. You’ve got no one, two, kickout and that’s critical to a match. Submission matches, I had one with Bob Backlund at WrestleMania 11 I think. It was the worst match I ever had in my career, no offense to Bob Backlund. Submission matches are hard. Yea, they suck. So when they put me in, I said you’re making it — we could have a great match, but by putting us in a submission match, this is going to make it harder for us to get reactions. I remember I was kind of struggling with the idea of having a submission match. Like what are we going to do?
And I think the best thing that we did do is we went to that psychology of, I see this like a school fight. I’m like the old standby guy, maybe the quarterback of the football team and the girls kind of like me and stuff. And you’re like the new guy at the school and you’re a badass. And it’s like everyone can see the fight happening before it ever happen until, all of a sudden, you are outside of the school grounds and you are like this fight is on. And that’s how I pictured the match. I remember kind of in my head, this should be like a street fight, like a school fight. Like it should be really — I think the match you and I had at WrestleMania 13, to me emulates any good UFC fight where you see it and you go this is real. Like he just broke that guy’s arm. There are things that we did in that match that were so real.
Checkout Episode 196 of The Hoots Podcast
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