- Bret Hart, in his own words, tells SI.com about his battle with cancer, his WWE career and his new business venture.
By Bret Hart, as told to Justin Barrasso
Since retiring, there’s only been one time I actually dreamed about wrestling. In my dream, I was wrestling against Kurt Angle.
I had him clamped in a headlock. I was breathing hard and I remember telling myself: “This is only a dream, it’s not real.” But the longer I held Kurt in a headlock, I started to believe it was real. I focused on a square inch of fabric on the canvas and studied it. In my dream, I remember feeling this excitement telling myself that this was real, that I had Kurt Angle in a side headlock somewhere. Then, seconds later, I simply woke up. It was a dream. It would’ve been pretty cool for me to have that one chance to wrestle Kurt Angle one time.
I received so many letters, emails, and well-wishes from people everywhere telling me that I was in their prayers after I announced my battle with prostate cancer. I believe there is a lot of power in prayer, and I believe a lot of those prayers worked. I appreciate and remember everything that my fans have done for me. People prayed for me in my battle and I can say with great pride and gratitude that I successfully beat prostate cancer. I’m looking forward to a beautiful Christmas this year in Canada, and I will always be grateful for all the fans that supported me.
My health is really good now. On my last visit with my doctor, he told me my PSA level was zero and I’d had a one-in-ten recovery. He said I was a miracle. One of the difficult aspects of my fight with prostate cancer was the decision to go public. Prostate cancer has killed a lot of people and I like to think my coming out and talking about it would encourage other men to get checked. It’s my understanding that one out of every seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The key to beating this disease is early detection with regular PSA-level testing. All men over the age of 40 should get their PSA levels checked. All that entails is a simple blood test.
I’ve always had a really good relationship with my fans. I remember when I started working for my father how grateful I was once fans clamored around me asking for my autograph. When I got to WWE in 1984, I couldn’t believe how rude many of the babyface wrestlers were. They always spoke down about the fans and acted like signing one autograph was too draining. I’ve always been happy to put a smile on a fan’s face and the simple act of an autograph is an important way to stay relevant in wrestling. My fan base is still with me and they come out to see me wherever I go. I’ve always had a strong fan base, and I’ve still got millions of fans who look up to me. That’s directly related to the way I was brought up. My fans inspire me, and I hope I do the same for them.
I have lost so many friends in the wrestling business. We just lost Mr. Fuji. I enjoyed his friendship for a long time, but then I hadn’t seen Harry for the last fifteen years. Sadly, that’s how it is in wrestling—you’re around someone for years, then you never see them again. I look at every day as a blessing. I try to make every day count and I make it a point to live the life that a lot of my fellow wrestlers left behind.
I turn 60 next July and I’d like to think I’ve mellowed as a grandfather. I feel very connected with my three grandkids, and my oldest grandchild is six years old. She is a real joy in my life, and she’s an all-around perfect little girl.
I’m still as competitive as ever.
There is a certain reward that comes out of hard work and dedication, which is why I took so much pride in wearing the WWE championship on five different occasions. The importance of hard work was a message I learned from my parents, and that is something I worked to pass on to my kids and grandchildren. Winning is important, and you should want to win, but the main priority is to strive to be the best. You need to work, and you need to practice your hardest in order to compete. I play with my sons in a table hockey league, and it’s quite competitive. There are a lot of sore feelings when “The Hitman” is victorious. Whether it’s in sports, table hockey, or life, you need to give your best and never quit.
I still do a bit of drawing. In fact, I’ve been exploring my artistic side lately. I’ve taken up sculpting. I thought it might help the nerves in my hands. Sadly, it was just about this time last year, in November of 2015, that I had wrist surgery. Instead of helping me, the surgery cost me the use of my finger and my thumb in my right hand when the surgeon severed a nerve. It’s been devastating because I love to draw and I love to write, and I now have trouble even holding a pen or signing an autograph. I’m using my middle finger now to write, so I don’t have the same control I used to have. Doctors are still trying to figure out how to help my hand.
I still think quite a bit about my parents. I feel my parents around me all the time, everywhere I go. When you’re a kid, you always think about your parents, and I still do. I try to lead with the same example that they set. My father was a man’s man and was always respected for being a straight shooter. My dad always had an amazing sense of calm about him. Even though he’s been gone for a number of years, I still remember his advice. He would be proud of me and respect me for being every bit the fighter he was.
The Harts, as a family, have pulled up our socks and are forging ahead. My nephew, Harry Smith, had to go through a lot when his father, the Bulldog, died. Harry’s had a great career in Japan and he had a good career in WWE. He’s a talented professional wrestler who has a lot of experience and accomplishment under his belt. His father would be very proud of him, just like the family is proud of Natalya Neidhart. Rest assured that the Hart Foundation is still strong.
Whenever I discuss my family, I inevitably think of my brother Owen. People still love hearing Owen stories. Owen had an amazing sense of humor, and people miss that about him more than anything, but I miss his kindness. He was masterful at pulling pranks on people. Jokes are all about timing, and Owen had impeccable timing and the delivery was always top notch. He’d always find a way to reel you in, but his pranks really were always harmless and damn funny. Sometimes, you remember something Owen did and you’d burst out laughing. If anything, he was always amusing, like the way he could disguise his voice. Owen was the master of the straight face. His smile would never give anything away, but when he got you, his blue eyes would always tell the truth.
Owen inspired me, but our relationship extended far deeper than the ring. By the time I was wrestling, Owen was still a kid in high school. Owen got into the professional ranks pretty quickly, and I did everything I could to help him, but we never really had the same style. He inspired me even more outside the ring. I loved how Owen was with the fans. Owen was always a good man and a devoted parent.
Although I don’t often discuss this, my mind sometimes drifts throughout the day and I think back to my days as the “Hitman.” I do think about matches and moments. Sometimes they’re just random but Curt Hennig comes out a lot. I’ll never forget how smooth and safe Curt was in the ring, and that was every night. He was a real pro in every match. Curt would put his body on the line for yours, even if it meant hurting himself. I often think about Owen and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Both of them made me laugh a lot and I have great moments that only true friends could share, and the same goes for Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid, which goes back to our old Stampede Wrestling days.
I often run into wrestlers at comic conventions or wrestling events, and it could be Tito Santana or Demolition, and I’m just flooded with memories. It’s always nice to see one of your old mates, especially the ones who I knew from further back. I still get the chance to see a friend like Steve Austin more frequently, or even a guy like Bill Goldberg from time-to-time in different places, but I rarely see Jim Powers or Paul Roma. I miss wrestlers from every part of my past and the moment when we see each other, a million memories spill out.
More recently, I have had the pleasure of joining the expansion into Canadian Funding with Paul Pitcher, who has had over four years of day-to-day funding success within First Down Funding. I’m currently commissioner within SharpShooter Funding and my son Dallas heads up the Sales of Funding Operations as Vice President of Sales.
I love Sharpshooter Funding, and it’s because it is a group that is looking out for the little guy. If you’re having trouble getting financing or starting your business, Sharpshooter Funding reaches out and tries to help. I’m happy to support in any way I can, and it’s so great to see young entrepreneurs get the help they deserve. Sharpshooter Funding has done a lot of wonderful work for many great Canadian business owners, and they are the real deal. Actually, last week, Dec. 6, marks the first year anniversary of SharpShooter Funding, and I am proud to be involved with a great Canadian company. Being involved with SharpShooter Funding has been fun, which has also connected me with some of the top NFL stars and even hip-hop artist Cam’ron. Paul puts together a great program for Canadian business owners, and I am confident the growth will continue.
As for what is next in my life, I always have hope that I can take my book—My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling—to television or movies, though nothing is in the works quite yet. I am also working earnestly on my second book. That might take another two, three, or four more years, but I’ve got some great material. These last few years have been pretty interesting. My first book ended not soon after Owen died and I suffered my stroke. That’s almost ten years ago, and I have some stories I want to share about my WrestleMania match with Vince McMahon in Phoenix, as well as my cancer fight. Some interesting reading awaits, and that’s my biggest priority.
Until then, I’ll be sitting back, living my life, and loving every bit of it. I am going to spend time with my kids and grandkids and my lovely wife, and I am going to see my fans as much as possible just to remind them I’ll always be grateful that I have a little place in their hearts.