Bret Hart
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Buy *Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling* by Bret Hart online

Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling
Bret Hart
Grand Central Publishing
592 pages
October 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Bret Hart is not just a professional wrestler. It seems he is a professional writer as well, since this book claims no ghost-writer, no special assistance. Bret Hart is that rare animal, perhaps – the man who outgrew pro wrestling before it killed him.

Not that it didn’t kill many, many others. One of the most famous and horrifying deaths in the “sport” was that of Bret’s brother Owen, who was slammed to death after a rapid ride on a wire meant to float him into the ring but which instead hurled his helpless body onto the hard surface of the ring like so much garbage, smashing his chest and leaving him bleeding and slowly, agonizingly expiring. Since all this happened in the minutes before a match was to air on TV, it had to be incorporated into a sick fantasy, to be woven into yet another “cartoon” that would in the final analysis bring glory to and keep trouble from the door of the Puppet Master of American pro wrestling, Vince McMahon.

Bret Hart does not try to forgive McMahon for the circus-like way he manipulated his brother’s posthumous image. He has equal contempt for some members of his own family who played neatly into McMahon’s game, settling on Owen’s life for an undisclosed amount of cash, leaving McMahon free to crush other men's spirits and use up other men's bodies in the name of entertainment. Nowhere is the eponymous cartoon world more starkly revealed than in the death of Owen Hart.

Bret’s long and fascinating insider’s view of the rough, drug-ridden, quasi-criminal subculture contrasts what wrestling fans see and believe with what goes on behind the scenes. Born into a wrestling family, Bret and his siblings were arguably brutalized from earliest childhood as they watched their menacing dad, Stu, teach youngsters how to tear each other apart in a ring of torture he had devised in the family basement. Against his better judgment, and tamping down his own dreams of a legitimate career in filmmaking, Bret joined the old man and his siblings on the road as a monster-for-hire, performing deeds of sado-masochism first for Stu and then for everyone’s surrogate daddy, Vince McMahon. Promoting the Harts, McMahon's underhanded tactics and all-out determination to dominate ultimately drove small-time promoters like Bret’s father out of the game entirely.

Bret was schooled in the art of cutting himself, faking every move, living it up and trying to live it down in the savage schedule of bus and plane travel almost without a break, year after painful year. Of course, drugs were a part of it – drugs to stay awake, to alleviate pain, to promote extra excitement, to pump up the body to an acceptable musculature. Year by year, even as he triumphed and gained the fame every wrestler longs for, Bret watched young men and women die of unknown causes - but he and his co-workers knew the cause. It was the business.

Hart’s book is filled with real-life stories of his rivalries and respect for the greats of the industry – the monolithic Andre the Giant; the outrageous, like-him-or-hate-him Nature Boy Rick Flair; the genuinely athletic entertainers like Ray Misterio and midget Cowboy Lang. Interwoven with the facts are the lies and fantasies of the “story line” that could affect who married whom, who got the championship belt, who gave up his or her all to the company – “all” meaning lives, fortunes, and honor. So caught up in this web of plots and counter-plots was Hart that he found himself withholding the truth about the business from his own family. He worked when he was publically humiliated, he worked when he was grieving, and he even worked after he suffered a stroke.

But no more. Bret “The Hitman” Hart is hitting back in this no-holds-barred bio. It has a cinematic edge, and one hopes that perhaps the wrestler-turned-writer may yet live out his adolescent dream: to produce a big-screen version of his epic life story.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Barbara Bamberger Scott, 2009

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