A son of wrestling patriarch Stu Hart, Bret Hart was born into the Hart wrestling family. His seven brothers were either wrestlers or involved backstage with the wrestling business; his four sisters all married professional wrestlers. Three of his brothers-in-law, the Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, and Jim Neidhart, had very successful careers in the business. His youngest brother, Owen Hart, became a decorated wrestler in his own right before his death in 1999.
In terms of in-ring ability, Hart is known for his fluid technical skills and agility. Labeled "the greatest storyteller in the history of the business" by Vince McMahon, he was adept at creating tense and entertaining matches. Mean Gene Okerlund has also placed him in the top five best technical wrestlers of all time. Hart himself frequently described himself as "The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be" (derived from the 1984 film The Natural), which he justifies through three claims: He never injured an opponent through any fault of his own; through the entire course of his career he only missed two shows (both as a result of traffic and flight difficulties); and that he only once refused to lose a scripted match—his final WWF match with Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1997 (which culminated in the now infamous Montreal Screwjob). Hart was widely regarded as one of the most universally popular and gifted technical professional wrestlers of all time.
Throughout his career Hart competed in the tag team, junior heavyweight (early in his career) and heavyweight singles divisions, achieving success in all divisions. Over the course of his career in World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and World Championship Wrestling (WCW), Hart accumulated sixteen championship accolades; he was a seven-time World Heavyweight Champion (five-time WWF Champion and two-time WCW Champion), four-time United States Heavyweight Champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion and three-time World Tag Team Champion (two-time WWF World Tag Team Champion with Jim Neidhart and one-time WCW World Tag Team Champion with Bill Goldberg). He was also the winner of the first King of the Ring pay-per-view in 1993, and the 1994 Royal Rumble co-winner with Lex Luger. Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Hart would gain some of his most prominent experience with Japanese combatants Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada, later praising them as his most significant trainers. And before long, Hart was amazing crowds with his high-impact matches against the Dynamite Kid. In the midst of wrestling alongside his brothers and even his aging father, Hart made a point not to ride on the shoulders of his elder as other sons of promoters have. Hart faithfully jobbed as requested of him, taking pride in the believability of his performances. As he said himself, "no one could take a shit kicking like Bret Hart."
Although he dreaded doing interviews and speaking in front of a crowd, Hart went on to win the promotion's top titles including two British Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championships, five International Tag Team Championships, and six North American Heavyweight Championships. Hart also wrestled the famous Mitsuharu Misawa (as Tiger Mask II) in New Japan Pro Wrestling and remained one of Stampede's most successful performers until the promotion, along with several wrestlers, was acquired by the World Wrestling Federation in August 1984.
At WrestleMania II, they participated in a 20-man battle royal which was won by André the Giant. Bret's agile, technical style - which earned him the moniker "The Excellence of Execution" (coined by Gorilla Monsoon) - created an intriguing contrast with his partner Neidhart's strength and brawling skills.
Hart rose to fame in the WWF in the mid 1980s, and the Hart Foundation won the WWF Tag Team Championship twice. Their most notable feuds were with the British Bulldogs, The Fabulous Rougeaus, Strike Force, The Rockers, and Demolition. Their first reign started on the January 26, 1987 edition of Superstars when they defeated the British Bulldogs to win the titles. They went on to lose the titles to Strike Force on the October 27 edition of Superstars. Eventually, they turned face and adopted the nickname "The Pink and Black Attack."
At SummerSlam 1990, the Hart Foundation began their second reign by defeating Demolition members Crush and Smash in a two out of three falls match with some help from the Legion of Doom. On October 30, the Hart Foundation lost the titles to The Rockers (Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels) in a very controversial match. A few days later, President Jack Tunney returned the titles to the Hart Foundation because the decision had been reversed due to a rope coming off of the turnbuckle during the match and the win was never acknowledged on television. The Hart Foundation's reign lasted from August 27, 1990 to March 24, 1991.
When Hart lost the WWF Intercontinental Championship to The Mountie, he was supposedly suffering from a fever; however, this was a work to protect his character when he lost the title. In reality, Hart was booked to lose the title because his current contract was expiring. Following the loss, Roddy Piper defeated Mountie with a sleeper hold at the 1992 Royal Rumble, and Bret would later pin Piper for his second Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania VIII later that same year.
In July 1992, Hart defeated Shawn Michaels in the first ever ladder match in the World Wrestling Federation. While many remember Michaels as the main innovator of the ladder match due to his later success in those matches, it was actually Hart who introduced this match format to the WWF.
Hart went on to defend the title against contenders such as Papa Shango, Shawn Michaels, and Razor Ramon before losing the title to Yokozuna at WrestleMania IX after interference from Mr. Fuji. Mr. Fuji then challenged Hulk Hogan, who had come out to help Bret Hart, to compete for the title; Hogan then won his fifth WWF Championship from Yokozuna. Shortly after, however, Hart won the first pay-per-view King of the Ring tournament in 1993, defeating Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect, and Bam Bam Bigelow (prior King of the Ring tournaments were just house show events). After being crowned as the King of the Ring, Hart was attacked by announcer Jerry "The King" Lawler. Lawler claimed he was the rightful King and began a barrage against Hart and his family. The feud culminated in a match between the two at SummerSlam 1993, where Hart originally won the match by submission, via the Sharpshooter. Hart, however, would not let go of the hold and the decision was reversed to a Lawler victory by disqualification.
As noted by Hart himself, the original plan for SummerSlam was to pit WWF Champion Hulk Hogan against Hart in a colossal passing of the torch. Promotional photos were even taken of the two playing tug of war with the belt before the plans were dropped. Instead, Hogan lost to Yokozuna before leaving the WWF, with Hart reclaiming the title much later.
It was at this point that Bret Hart entered into a feud with his younger brother, Owen Hart. For the family-friendly WWF of the early 1990s, a brother-versus-brother feud was edgy and the fans responded well to it. The storyline involved Owen becoming jealous of Bret. It began at Survivor Series 1993, when the Harts (Bret, Owen, Bruce, and Keith) took on Shawn Michaels (a last-minute substitution for Lawler) and his knights. All of the brothers survived the match except for Owen, the only Hart family member eliminated. Owen blamed Bret for his elimination and in the weeks ahead, blamed Bret for holding him back. Owen demanded a one-on-one match with Bret, which Bret refused to do. In the storyline, Bret, along with his parents, worked over the Christmas holidays to reunite the family and to settle their rivalry.
At Royal Rumble 1994, Bret and Owen took on The Quebecers for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The referee Tim White stopped the match after he considered Bret unable to continue after he sustained a kayfabe knee injury during the match. After the match, Owen berated his brother for costing him a title opportunity and attacked the injured knee, setting the feud between the two. Later on, Hart managed to participate and win the 1994 Royal Rumble match but with controversy. Hart and Lex Luger were the final two participants and the two were eliminated over the top rope at the same time. Therefore, both men were named co-winners of the 1994 Royal Rumble match and received title shots at WrestleMania X.
Lex Luger won the chance to face Yokozuna first, with Bret having to wrestle his brother Owen, who still demanded a match, before receiving his title shot. Bret lost his match against Owen but went on to defeat Yokozuna for his second WWF Championship.
Bret continued to feud with his brother Owen while he also started feuding with Diesel. Bret's friend and former tag team partner Jim Neidhart returned to WWF and reunited with Bret. At King of the Ring 1994, Bret defended the WWF Championship against Diesel. When Bret was winning the match, Shawn Michaels interfered on Diesel's behalf. Diesel appeared close to victory after he delivered a Jackknife Powerbomb yet before he could pin Bret, Neidhart interfered. Diesel won by disqualification but Hart retained his title. Neidhart turned on Hart after leaving when Diesel and Michaels attacked Hart following the match. At SummerSlam 1994, Bret defended the WWF Championship against Owen in a steel cage match. Bret successfully retained the title.
Hart eventually lost his WWF Championship at Survivor Series 1994 in a submission match against Bob Backlund where the manager of either competitor (Davey Boy Smith for Bret, Owen Hart for Backlund) would have to 'throw in the towel' for the wrestler they were representing. When Bret was in Backlund's Crossface Chickenwing and Davey Boy was (kayfabe) knocked out, Owen persuaded his mother Helen to throw in the towel for Bret, therefore giving Backlund the championship victory. Bret's feud with Backlund would continue at WrestleMania XI where he would defeat Backlund in another submission match.
Hart would take a break from wrestling during 1996. Over the summer, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who was fresh from winning the 1996 King of the Ring, would continually taunt Bret and challenge him to come back and have a match. After an eight-month absence, Bret would face Austin at Survivor Series 1996. Hart would reverse Austin's Million Dollar Dream submission into a roll-up for a victory. This would be the first match between the two in a feud between the old-school 'baby face' (Hart) and the new school anti-hero (Austin).
The feud continued at the Royal Rumble, when Hart tossed Austin out of the ring, only for Austin (unbeknownst to the referees) to climb back into the ring, and go on to win the Rumble. In order to deal with this controversy, a Fatal Four-Way between Austin and the participants he eliminated after re-entering the ring was set up for the February In Your House PPV, with the winner becoming the number one contender. After current champion Shawn Michaels relinquished the belt, though, the match officially became for the WWF Championship.
Hart defeated Austin, Vader, and The Undertaker in the Fatal Four-Way to become a 4-time WWF champion at In Your House: Final Four. However, Austin made sure Hart's reign was short-lived, costing him a match against Sycho Sid the next night on Raw. The two would have a steel cage match shortly before WrestleMania 13 (Hart's twelfth consecutive and final WrestleMania), which saw Austin actually attempt to help Hart win, in order to make their match at WrestleMania 13 a title match. Concurrently, The Undertaker, who had a scheduled match with Sid at WrestleMania, attempted to help Sid win. Sid ultimately retained, leading to a pure grudge match for Hart and Austin.
At WrestleMania 13, Hart and Austin had their rematch, in what some consider one of the greatest matchs in WrestleMania history. This match, which was a Submission match, featured incredible brawling and mat wrestling from two extremely skilled technical wrestlers. In the end, Hart locked the Sharpshooter on a bloody Austin, who refused to give up. In fact, Austin never quit, but passed out from the blood loss/pain. Ken Shamrock, the special guest referee, awarded Hart the match, after which he continued to assault Austin. This turned Austin face, and Hart became a heel. This was Hart's favorite match with Austin and to date is Hart's last WrestleMania appearance. According to Austin himself, this match helped Austin become a main event star and a legend in his own right. The original plan for WrestleMania 13 was a Hart vs. Michaels championship rematch in which Michaels was slated to drop the belt to Hart, a return for Bret having lost to Michaels the year prior. However, Michaels injured his knee two weeks after the 1997 Royal Rumble. The injury resulted in Shawn dropping the title with the infamous "Lost My Smile" speech. Rumors immediately began flying that Shawn did not want to drop the belt to Bret. Hart actually came out during the main event at WrestleMania 13 and challenged Michaels to step in the ring and stated (in a shoot promo) that Michaels had a "pussy foot injury." McMahon, commentating at ringside alongside Michaels, immediately got up from his seat and tried to keep Michaels calm.
Despite their on-camera differences, Hart and Austin always got along, and continue to have respect for one another, a fact illustrated when Austin inducted Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame the evening prior to WrestleMania 22.
Around this time, Hart's on-air rivalry with "announcer" Vince McMahon also escalated. A heated ringside altercation between the two led many fans to dislike McMahon, who at the time was being exposed as owner of the WWF more and more frequently on-air. Although Hart had signed a 20 year contract, Vince McMahon had asked him to talk to WCW about possibly taking a second look at their original offer to him, as the WWF was in a rough financial position at the time and could not afford the contract. Hart's final match with the WWF would come in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. Hart did not want to end his career with a loss to Shawn Michaels in his home country; Vince agreed to Bret's idea of forfeiting the championship the next night on RAW or losing it a few weeks later. Although Hart stated to Vince McMahon he would not take the WWF Championship with him to WCW TV (and despite insistence from then-WCW President Eric Bischoff (according to Hart's DVD biography) that Hart would join WCW with a "clean slate"), McMahon was still concerned; this led to him breaking his word in what eventually came to be known as the Montreal Screwjob, one of the most controversial moments in recent wrestling history. Even though he did not submit to the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell as if he had, on orders of Vince McMahon. This resulted in Hart "losing" the WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels. The night ended with Hart spitting in Vince's face, destroying television equipment, and punching Vince in the eye backstage in front of Jack Brisco, Pat Patterson and Vince's son Shane. Also backstage Bret confronted Shawn Michaels about his involment. Michaels lied to Bret and said he knew nothing of the incident; however, years later Michaels admitted that he did know of the incident at least twenty-four hours in advance.
Bret also stated on a recent shoot interview that after the Montreal incident, Vince Russo called Bret Hart about Bret trying to get Owen out of his contract with WWF and come join Bret in WCW. Bret listened to Russo and explained that he was still going to try to get Owen out of his contract to come to WCW with him; a few minutes afterwards, Vince McMahon called Bret and told him he would sue him if he tried to get Owen out and continued to talk to Owen about his contract. Hart believed McMahon was on the phone the whole time with Russo/Bret and Bret says Vince Russo denies that claim to this day, and that it was just a coincidence that McMahon called a couple minutes after.
About a month after Survivor Series, Hart joined World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the WWF's main competitor. He made his debut on WCW Monday Nitro on December 15, 1997 when it was announced by WCW Chairman of the Board J.J. Dillon that Bret would be the special guest referee for the match between Eric Bischoff and Larry Zbyszko at Starrcade 1997. Bret was involved in the Sting versus Hulk Hogan match at Starrcade 1997, stepping in toward its conclusion as impromptu referee. He attacked referee Nick Patrick, accusing him of making a fast count and shouting he would not let "it happen again" (a reference to the Montreal Screwjob). During Eric Bischoff's period in control of the company, the goodwill towards Hart generated by the Montreal Screwjob resulted in him being pushed as a face, defeating Ric Flair in his first WCW match at Souled Out 1998.. At Uncensored, Hart defeated Curt Hennig in a match.
On the July 20 edition of Nitro a no-disqualification title match was setup and Hart defeated Diamond Dallas Page for the vacant WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. . Though still not officially a member of the NWO, his support among the faction was shown this match. As right towards the start of the match The Giant Paul Wight came out to the ring and choke slammed Page to the canvas. Hart locked in the sharpshooter on a completely knocked out Page. A few days later, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to fellow WWF alumni Lex Luger. Hart regained the title from Luger, the next night on Thunder. At Fall Brawl, Hart and several other wrestlers lost to Diamond Dallas Page in a WarGames match. On the October 26 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to Diamond Dallas Page. The two had a rematch at World War 3 for the title which Hart lost. Hart regained the title from Page on the November 30 edition of Nitro in a No Disqualification match with help from nWo member The Giant.
On the February 8 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to family friend Roddy Piper. On a March 1999 edition of Nitro, Bret lamented about "what WCW had not done" to him. Hart, in street clothes, then called out superstar Bill Goldberg and verbally coerced Goldberg into tackling him. Hart was wearing a metal breastplate under his Toronto Maple Leafs sweater, which resulted in Goldberg being knocked out. Hart then counted his own pinfall over Goldberg's unconscious body, although there was no match taking place, and left. The incident caused Hart to leave WCW for a short time. When Bret was about ready to return to WCW, his brother Owen Hart died in an accident during a WWF PPV. As a result Bret took time off from WCW to be with his family.
On the November 8 edition of Nitro, Hart lost the United States Heavyweight Championship to Scott Hall in a ladder match which also involved Sid Vicious and Goldberg. Hart went on to win this tournament by defeating Perry Saturn, Billy Kidman, Sting, and Chris Benoit to win the vacant WCW World Heavyweight Championship. His tournament matches with Sting and Benoit occurred at Mayhem held in Hart's native Canada.
He later participated in an nWo reformation with Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Creative Control. On December 7, Hart and Goldberg won the WCW World Tag Team Championship from Creative Control but lost the titles to The Outsiders on the December 13 edition of Nitro. At Starrcade, Hart defended his WCW World Heavyweight Championship against Goldberg. During the match, Hart was struck with a mule kick to the head, resulting in a severe concussion. Hart later speculated that he may have suffered up to three additional concussions within matches over the course of that day along with the days immediately following Starrcade, having been unaware of the severity of his injuries. As a part of this, Hart placed Goldberg on the post in a figure-four leg lock which ended with Hart hitting his head on the concrete floor when Goldberg failed to receive the move correctly. The sum total of those injuries left Hart with post-concussion syndrome, and ultimately forced his retirement from professional wrestling. Hart wrote a Calgary Sun column in which he said that Goldberg "had a tendency to injure everyone he worked with. As part of his DVD documentary, Hart expressed regret that "someone as good-hearted as Bill Goldberg" was responsible for hurting him.
Hart vacated the title on the December 20 edition of Nitro as a result of the injury he sustained, but later that same night, Hart defeated Goldberg in a rematch for his second WCW World Heavyweight Championship. Overall, Hart was 3-0 against Goldberg, who was noted for his undefeated streak.
Hart never lost either WCW Heavyweight Championship he held, but forfeited them instead. The second vacated title came about in January 2000 when he was forced to withdraw from the main event of WCW's Souled Out. He wrestled his last matches in both the WWF and WCW as the World Heavyweight Champion of each respective promotion.
On October 25, 2000, Hart was released from his contract with WCW due to Hart's "ongoing incapacity." He would officially declare his retirement shortly afterwards.
Hart is a spokesperson for March of Dimes Canada's Stroke Recovery Canada program.
In mid-2005, WWE announced the release of a three disc DVD originally named Screwed: The Bret Hart Story, with the title a reference to the Montreal Screwjob. After he was approached about appearing in the DVD, Hart visited WWE Headquarters on August 3, 2005 and met with Vince McMahon. Hart filmed over seven hours of interview footage for the DVD, which was renamed Bret "Hit Man" Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. The DVD includes a compendium of Hart's favorite matches, including a match against his brother Owen held in White Plains, New York and his first match with Ricky Steamboat. Before the DVD's release, the WWE released a special magazine covering Hart's career. The collection was released on November 15, 2005.
Hart appeared on the November 16, 2005, WWE Byte This! webcast, marking his first live WWE appearance since November 9, 1997.
On April 1, 2006, Hart was inducted by his old in-ring rival, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. He thanked every wrestler he worked with (even thanking Vince McMahon) and said he's "in a good place in life." He also told some humorous stories he had with other wrestlers during his career in the WWF - most notably with his late brother, Owen, and brother-in-law Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. Vince McMahon and his son Shane did not attend the ceremony, and Shawn Michaels left the ceremony before Hart's induction to avoid making a scene. Hart did not appear the next day at WrestleMania 22 with the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame Inductees at the Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, saying that he did not feel "comfortable with the situation."
On July 15, 2006, Bret Hart was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, at the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa. The induction took place in an immensely crowded and humid display room showcasing one of Hart's ring entrance jackets. The honor is only awarded to those with both a professional and amateur wrestling background, making Hart one of the youngest inductees. During his acceptance, Hart compared this induction to his place in the WWE Hall of Fame, saying "This is a much bigger honor for me."
On May 9, 2007, it was announced that Hart would make his first appearance for a professional wrestling event since the 2006 WWE Hall of Fame. Hart signed autographs at "The Legends of Wrestling" show at the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. On June 11, 2007, Hart made his first appearance on RAW since October 27, 1997 when he appeared in a pretaped interview voicing his opinions on Vince McMahon as part of "Mr. McMahon Appreciation Night."
On June 24, 2007, Bret Hart made his first appearance since the infamous Montreal Screwjob at Unison Bar & Billiard in Montreal, Quebec. During this appearance, he signed autographs and spent the night with over 1,000 fans. An emotional Hart was clearly overwhelmed with the crowd's reaction as he also mentioned that he would turn 50 in a few days; the crowd then sang "Happy Birthday".
On October 16, 2007, Hart's second autobiography titled Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, was released in Canada by Random House Canada. It is slated for a fall, 2008 release in the United States by Grand Central Publishing, with a U.S. book signing tour. Upon its release Hart's book hit number one on the Canadian Globe & Mail bestseller list and remained in the top ten for four months. Hart's Canadian book signing tour is considered by those in the publishing industry to be one of the most successful book tours ever in Canada; the key organizers were Scott Sellers of Random House Canada and Marcy Engelstein, long time friend and business associate of Hart.
Hart began writing the book in July 1999 with Marcy Engelstein. They didn't complete the book until eight years later in September 2007 due to Hart suffering his stroke in 2002, among numerous other tragedies that occurred during the writing. At an invitation-only launch party at McNally Robinson in Calgary on October 17, 2007 an emotional Hart acknowledged the completion of the book as one of the biggest milestones of his life and lamented that his parents were not alive to share the moment. He graciously acknowledged Anne Collins of Random House Canada as his editor.
Hart's chronicle is based on an audio diary that he kept for all of his years on the road in professional wrestling.
Hart also guest starred on the sketch comedy series MADtv in 1997 where he acted as enforcer at a fan's house, appearing with his WWF Championship belt. It was heavily rumored at the time that Hart was interested in pursuing acting on a full-time basis and was willing to leave wrestling to do so. Hart later appeared again on MADtv in 1999 and 2000 in an angle with actor Will Sasso in which the two feuded on the set of MADtv and in World Championship Wrestling; this culminated in a grudge match on WCW Monday Nitro, where Hart decisively defeated Sasso.
The four hearts located on the right thigh of his tights symbolize his four children, as do the four dots following his signature.
On September 15, 2004, Hart married an Italian woman named Cinzia Rota in Calgary. However, by the publishing of his book Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret and Cinzia divorced.
Hart continues to be featured as an unlockable Legend in many newer WWE video games.