I had the opportunity to interview WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart a few weeks prior to his the release of his autobiography in the United States. I reviewed the Canadian edition of the book last year and felt that it was by far the greatest wrestling book ever published. The American and Canadian releases of the book are the same.

Eric: Can you tell me about the book and how it came about?

Bret Hart: It evolved, just like everything else in my life. I never really set out to write a book like the one I did. When I first joined the WWE, the WWF back then, I didn’t think I was going to last long but I thought that for the few months I was there I’d try to keep a diary of what it was like seeing the different cities and stuff.

It was too hard to write a diary so I bought a little Dictaphone that I carried with me and I just started making little entries in it. I sort of made one rule for myself. I would never listen back to them. Just say whatever you want to and then some day when you’re old and gray to sit back and be able to hear the raw truth of what happened.

Then as my career kept going up and up, I realized that over the years I had quite a collection of tapes that I never listened to. I just kept adding on to them without ever thinking about what was in there. But, just before my brother Owen’s death, I started transcribing them and the idea started forming about writing a book based on what was on those tapes. That’s kind of how it all started.

Eric: What is it about your book that has made it get such strong positive reactions from all the critics that have read it?

Bret Hart: I think that it is the truth. I don’t think that anybody, maybe Mick Foley kind of touched on the truth in his, but he had a really different career than mine. He wrote a really detailed, honest account of what it was like living his life. In my case, I think it is the same thing. People are really curious to know what goes on in the wrestling life. A lot of times in television, movies, and books, people don’t really know what they’re writing about. In order to understand wrestling, for the most part you had to have been a wrestler to really understand the intricacies of the actual timing, working, and professionalism that it takes to be a professional wrestler on all different kinds of levels. I think that the fact that I had the details from all of the tapes and the fact that I think that I had the most interesting story of a wrestler to tell.

Eric: One of the major storylines in the book deals with the fighting within your family. Since the book came out, has it served as a bridge to bring the family together or has it pulled the family further apart?

Bret Hart: I don’t think it’s done either yet. I haven’t heard a whole lot from people in my family. I’d suspect that they didn’t necessarily agree with everything that I wrote. I think that for the most part, the family has taken heavier blows. My sister Diana, for example, wrote a much more poor account of what it was like being a Hart. I think that with my book, they might not agree with everything in there but I don’t think that you’ll get much of an argument that it is well said anyway.

Eric: What are your thought about the new generation of Harts in the business?

Bret Hart: There is a lot of talent instilled in the Harts coming up. I know that they have a lot of the same aspirations and dreams that I did. I think that my book has served as a good account of what the pitfalls ahead are and I think that they are all leery of falling into some of the same pitfalls that their parents or other wrestlers have fallen into with the drug problems and such. I think they’re all doing pretty well and they have the talent and have clear heads and a lot of potential.

Eric: Will your children get into the business?

Bret Hart: It doesn’t look like it. They don’t seem to have any desire to get into it at all. I have two boys that are both a strapping 6’4”. Big, tall, lanky boys that seem to be more inclined to do anything else but wrestle. I never encouraged them or discouraged them one way or the other. I never sensed any interest on their part.

Eric: Another major storyline in the book deals with all of your former colleagues that have passed away. What are your thought on the current Wellness Policy and what else would you like to see done?

Bret Hart: I’m a big advocate for a union in wrestling. I don’t think that wrestlers will get any type of support until they get a union. I look at every other sport, whether its lacrosse or even the rodeo, they’ve all got a union. I think that it is long, long overdue that the wrestlers have one. I think that any wrestler that says that they don’t need a union is just a sheep that doesn’t have enough brains to know that they do need a union.

I do think that the WWF, with the exception of the union which I think is a must, the Wellness Policy is a step in the right direction. How much good it does depends on how honest it is. It’s hard for me to look from the sidelines to know how good it is.

I know that a lot of the wrestlers that they cut themselves free of a long time are the ones that are dying from pain problems, drug problems, alcohol problems, and depression. There are a lot of things that you have to take into account with these wrestlers today. They create these stars and then they just cut them adrift whenever they don’t need them. Then they just kind of float out there with nowhere to go and they get discouraged and depressed. I’ve seen so many of them that have died that really it is from depression and having the life of a wrestler. You used to be a star and now you’re working at a Denny’s or something.

A lot of wrestlers, once they get cut, they really don’t have anything to fall back on. No one really educates these wrestler on how to handle their money, how to save their money, how to survive in the world after wrestling. None of them are rarely ever encouraged to be a part of the promotion, evolve into moving into the office. That is starting to happen more and more now.

But, I think they’re trying now. I know that they’ve reached out to a lot of wrestlers that have these drug problems. I think that they are doing everything they can do. The WWF and all of these wrestling organizations and the wrestlers, are all in agreement that too many wrestlers have died. I think there is a sincere effort to stop that from happening anymore. Luckily, it seems that for the past five or six months there hasn’t been another death in wrestling from the drug problems. I do know that there are still quite a few wrestlers out there that have serious drug issues.

Eric: Do you still follow the sport and if so what are your thought about the current WWE and TNA products?

Bret Hart: I try to follow them but I am a little discouraged by the lack of thought that goes into the wrestling. I find that the wrestlers of today have little or no psychology. I think that a lot of wrestlers should read my book and know that there is a gift to telling a story and a real art to telling that story without hurting somebody physically. Wrestling is an art in that it is supposed to pretend to be very violent. It is a very physical job but it should never be a job where you very seriously harm one another.

I like to think that there is a huge difference between WWE and UFC for example where it is so much more extreme. I don’t know that it makes much sense for these wrestlers to be hurting themselves the way they are with chairs and such when there is no protection or coverage to protect the wrestlers from really hurting themselves.

I’ve wrestled 23 years and I never hurt one wrestler in my career that I know of. I never saw a wrestler that couldn’t work the next day on account of working with me. That in and of itself is such a statement. I don’t know of any other wrestler that had a schedule like mine that can say the same thing.

I don’t think that a lot of the wrestlers today necessarily put safety and protecting the wrestler as a priority. Everything is about the shock value of what the next move is instead of telling a story. It’s hard to sort of understand what psychology in wrestling is and understanding the interpretation of what over the years different holds do. How to work somebody’s leg or be working a different bodypart and building a logical theory of how and why you’re trying to win a match. What your assets are, what your weaknesses are all part of the character. It seems to me that all the wrestlers are wrestling the same and that all the matches look the same. It is just a poorly choreographed soap opera now compared to what it used to be.

I long for the days when the titles used to mean something. It seems to me that there are so many different titles in wrestling that none of them now mean anything. I kind of miss the way it used to be.

Eric: You have always claimed to be the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. Who do you think is the second-best wrestler in history?

Bret Hart: In all honesty, I don’t know that I was the greatest wrestler of all-time. I tip my hat to a lot of the great wrestlers. Dynamite Kid, who I wrote about considerably in my book, I would never say that I was better than him. I think that pound-for-pound, he was the greatest wrestler of all-time. I also think that I was more professional than he was and I had more longevity than he did. Curt Hennig was also a wrestler that I would never say that I was better than he was. He was a great wrestler. There are a lot of great wrestlers. Although, I don’t know that anybody did it as safely or as smoothly as I did.

Eric: Is there anything else you would like to let my readers know?

Bret Hart: Just that I did my best to be as honest as I could about my career. I hope that everyone appreciates the honesty in my book. I know that some people have been surprised by the level of the honesty in my book and others have been taken aback by it and now see me in a different light. I think that for the most part there are a lot of people that appreciated the honesty in my book and for once they wanted to hear an honest account of what wrestling is all about. I think that I’ve done that. I hope that not only fans, but wrestlers, will read my book and maybe understand what is missing in wrestling today.