Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Bret Hart
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Released: 11/09

The Good
It has been said that you really have to be a Bret Hart fan to enjoy his matches, his commentary and his legacy. This book in its great detail, accuracy and honesty is one that someone whose not a fan of Bret Hart could enjoy. It seems as though most any pro-wrestling fan could find something to enjoy in this book. There is the story of the Harts, the early years on the road, the up-and-down years in the WWF, the WCW debacle and Bret Hart's post-career struggles. Normally the “growing up” section in a pro-wrestling book is hit-or-miss, but this is unique. The saga of the Hart family from the lean years in which the kids grew up and the wildness of being a wrestling family to the mind-boggling tragedy and harsh splits make for good reading. More casual fans will certainly be satisfied with the time given to the WWF and WCW years, in which Bret Hart's legacy was established (and perhaps severely tainted). It could be argued however that what sets this book apart is the attention given to some rarely detailed places. Bret Hart's accounts of wrestling in Puerto Rico, Britain and Japan are fantastic as he has great tales to tell and actually talks about the people. Fans with a deeper knowledge can appreciate these parts, while casual fans should not be bored with them. It is nice to read a book by someone who could really name-drop, but he chooses to acknowledge some of the forgotten names of the past. There is definitely good voice to this autobiography and since Bret Hart was never really the most charismatic promo, the format of a book work best for him. His shoot interviews and such are interesting, but referring to his notes and expert editing helps create a uniquely excellent product. This is certainly a must-read for any pro-wrestling fan.

The Bad
When Bret Hart first began talking about publishing his autobiography, he spoke of an extensive trilogy. This seemed like a publisher's nightmare and unsurprisingly it did not come to fruition. It is unfortunate because Hart's detailed notes of the past make for an autobiography that is exceptional. This boiled down version (over 500 pages no less) is great, but it makes one think about the possibilities that could've been. As for the problems with the actual book that was released, Bret Hart could perhaps come across as a bitter old-timer with a warped view of the past. Oddly this was his gripe with the Dynamite Kid's book. The Montreal Screwjob, the death of Owen Hart, the fallout with Vince McMahon and the sudden ending of his career all come across as one would expect with Hart's long held perspective being detailed and supported more articulately than in previous interviews. Depending on your perspective, Bret Hart could come across as bitter as he has for years. If you agree with Hart on all these accounts, then that is probably not an issue. What may color your view of Bret Hart are his many infidelities and attempts to justify them. While many autobiographies probably dodge this issue, Bret Hart goes into great detail about his major vice on the road. Like Jerry Lawler, it makes him seem like a braggart at times, but unlike Lawler he does not seem as pathetic about clinging to that past of sexual conquests. He seems brutally honest about that part of his life and shares stories of drugs, booze and steroids that apply not only to him, but his friends, family and co-workers.

The Rating: *****

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