Bret Hart Profile
Born: July 2, 1957 (Bret Sergeant Hart) | Birthplace: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Billed Weight: 234 lbs
Bret Hart was the eighth child of Stu and Helen Hart in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He became an amateur wrestler in high school and won a number of tournaments, including the 1974 city championship in Calgary. Bret became collegiate champion at Mount Royal College in 1977, and his coaches and father thought him good enough to compete in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. However, Bret grew disinterested in the sport, and felt the only way to smooth the decision over with Stu was to enter professional wrestling. Just like his other brothers, Bret had started helping his father’s Stampede Wrestling promotion as a youngster, handing out fliers at school and selling programs, among other duties. He became a referee in 1976, and wrestled his first match in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1978.
While Stu had a reputation for training numerous people in the basement of “Hart House,” Bret was primarily broken in by Mr. Hito and Mr. Sakurada. When Bret got the opportunity to face them in the ring, they beat him so bad he thought he had done something wrong. He earned his stripes as a preliminary wrestler before finding form with his brother Keith, who together would win the Stampede International Tag Team Titles on four occasions. Bret became one of the top names in the territory, and worked a number of matches with Dynamite Kid, as well as feuding with Bad News Allan. Bret and Bad News contested one of the first ladder matches in mid-1983. By the end of his run, Bret had won numerous singles titles in the promotion on multiple occasions. When Stu first sold the territory to Vince McMahon in mid-1984, Bret was one of a few Stampede wrestlers signed to the World Wrestling Federation.
Bret’s first televised WWF match took place on August 29, 1984 in Maple Leaf Gardens, where he teamed with Dynamite Kid in a winning effort over Iron Mike Sharpe and Troy Alexander. The initial plan was to make him a cowboy, an idea Bret flatly rejected. Around this time, he wrestled newcomer Tom Magee, in which Vince famously predicted backstage that the bodybuilder Magee – not Bret – was a future star. Seeing his prospects dwindling already, Bret asked to be teamed with his brother-in-law and another ex-Stampede star, Jim Neidhart in the new year (1985). Manager Jimmy Hart also came into the mix, and due to the coincidence of the last names, they became “The Hart Foundation.” Bret also acquired the nickname “The Hitman,” after getting permission from boxer Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. While there did not appear to be any grand plans for the team, “The Hitman” and “The Anvil” had great chemistry despite their different wrestling styles. It was also good character building for Bret, and his promos – not always his strong suit – improved during this time. It was also here he began wearing his trademark sunglasses.
The Hart Foundation’s first real feud was against The Killer Bees (Brian Blair and Jim Brunzell), whom they battled throughout most of 1986. The year also saw some positive signs for Bret as a singles wrestler, as he was put into a short programme with Ricky Steamboat; he lost to Steamboat on March 8 in Boston Garden which Bret rated one of his all-time favourite matches. Bret and Neidhart participated in a twenty-man battle royal at Wrestlemania II; they were the final two before both were eliminated by Andre the Giant. After moving on from The Killer Bees, The Hart Foundation went after WWF Tag Team champions, The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid). They dethroned them for their first tag team championship on the February 7, 1987 edition of Superstars, and at Wrestlemania III on March 29, The Hart Foundation and Danny Davis defeated The British Bulldogs and Tito Santana, when Davis pinned Davey Boy. They held the titles until the October 27, 1987 edition of Superstars, when their reign was abruptly ended by Strike Force (Tito Santana and Rick Martel).
The Hart Foundation and Strike Force met on opposing sides at the inaugural Survivor Series pay-per-view on November 26, 1987. They eliminated Strike Force, but near the end were beaten by The Killer Bees. Bret had some other high-profile singles bouts, which included a defeat to Randy Savage on the November 28 episode of Saturday Night’s Main Event, and then lasted over twenty-five minutes in the Royal Rumble on January 24, 1988. On the February 5 edition of The Main Event, The Hart Foundation challenged Strike Force for the Tag Team titles in a losing effort.
Bret’s rule-breaking days ended shortly after Wrestlemania IV on March 27. “The Hitman” made it to the end of a battle royal along with Bad News Brown (formerly Allan). Bad News pretended to side with Bret and raised his arm, content to be a co-winner, before he blindsided Bret and threw him out. To the delight of the crowd, Bret smashed Bad News’ trophy. Not long after, The Hart Foundation dumped Jimmy Hart as their manager, and challenged Demolition (Ax and Smash) for the Tag Team Titles. They got their shot at the first Summerslam pay-per-view on August 29, only to be thwarted by Jimmy Hart, who handed his megaphone to Ax to knock out Bret. On the October 29 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, The Hart Foundation got a rematch with Demolition but this time lost due to interference from The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond), who then signed on with Jimmy Hart. The feud culminated in The Hart Foundation and Jim Duggan defeating The Fabulous Rougeaus and Dino Bravo at the Royal Rumble on January 15, 1989 in a two-out-of-three-falls match.
When the team was briefly separated in the autumn of 1989, Bret had his first singles matches with Mr. Perfect, and also his first one-on-one encounter with the man who would be his future rival, Shawn Michaels. Back together, The Hart Foundation worked a series of matches with The Rockers (Michaels and Marty Jannetty), before challenging Demolition again for the Tag Team Titles at Summerslam on August 27 in a two-out-of-three-falls match. Demolition now had a third member Crush, who teamed with Smash for the title defense. It got down to one fall apiece when Ax tried to interfere, which brought out the newly signed Legion of Doom (Hawk and Animal). The distraction enabled The Hart Foundation to beat Crush in the deciding fall and become Tag Team champions a second time.
The Hart Foundation renewed their series of bouts with The Rockers, including a match on October 30, 1990, which was never aired on television and featured a phantom title change. During the match, the top rope snapped, and The Rockers managed to win the titles, but using the excuse of the broken rope, the belts went back to The Hart Foundation. On November 21, Bret’s brother Dean died at the age of 36 from kidney disease; the next day, Bret participated in the Survivor Series. Bret dedicated the match to Dean, and Rowdy Roddy Piper discussed it at length on commentary (Hart was the last man eliminated in the match after a fine exchange with Ted Dibiase). Bret and Anvil held the Tag Team Titles until March 24, 1991, when they lost to Jimmy Hart’s Nasty Boys at Wrestlemania VII. The decision was then made to amicably break up the team and allow Bret to embark on a singles career.
As a dedicated singles star, it did not take him long to taste success, when he defeated Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Title at Summerslam on August 26, 1991. He held the title until January 17, 1992, when he surprisingly lost to The Mountie (Jacques Rougeau) at a house show. When Roddy Piper defeated The Mountie at the Royal Rumble, Bret challenged Piper for Wrestlemania VIII on April 5. In the lead-up, Bret and Piper watched each other’s backs, with neither man appreciating the help, and a fight almost broke out as the two were interviewed together by Gene Okerlund. In a hard-fought, see-sawing battle, Bret defeated Piper to become a two-time Intercontinental champion.
Hart held the Intercontinental Title until Summerslam on August 29, 1992, in front of a sold-out crowd at London’s Wembley Stadium. Facing his brother-in-law and local hero The British Bulldog (Davey Boy Smith), Bret lost in a highly emotional match which featured some involvement from Bulldog’s wife – and Bret’s sister – Diana, who watched, concerned, among the eighty-thousand plus fans. Davey Boy came into the match not in the right frame of mind, and Bret had to guide him throughout the bout, which “The Hitman” would later rate his favourite match. Moving onto the World Title, he fittingly defeated Ric Flair in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on October 12, 1992. Bret successfully defended against a now-heel Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series on November 25, and in the new year, got by Razor Ramon at the 1993 Royal Rumble. Much like his time as Intercontinental champion, Bret faced all comers and was regarded as being a ‘fighting champion.’
Bret’s first run as WWF champion came to an end at Wrestlemania IX on April 4, 1993, when he was defeated by Yokozuna. He was on his way to taking down the 568-pound challenger when Yokozuna’s manager Mr. Fuji threw salt in his eyes as he had the Sharpshooter applied. Moving on quickly, “The Hitman” won the King of the Ring tournament in June, where in one night he defeated Razor Ramon, Mr. Perfect and Bam Bam Bigelow. During the coronation ceremony, he was confronted and attacked by a jealous Jerry “The King” Lawler, who proclaimed himself the only real king in the WWF. This was the start of a long feud between the two, with Lawler regularly making derogatory comments about Bret and the Hart family in his other role as colour commentator. (Lawler continued to make anti-Hitman remarks even after their feud had officially ended). The rivalry even extended to Lawler’s United States Wrestling Association in Memphis – where Lawler was still a popular fan favourite – as Bret, Owen and Vince McMahon traveled down as the invading heels (none of which was acknowledged on WWF television).
At Summerslam on August 30, 1993, Bret was set to face Lawler, who claimed to have been injured in a car accident on the way to the arena. Bret faced Lawler’s chosen replacement Doink, and when Lawler caused the disqualification to reveal he was not hurt at all, he was ordered to fight Bret by President Gorilla Monsoon. Bret locked in the Sharpshooter for the submission and got the win, but when he refused to release the hold, the referee reversed the decision. The seeds were then planted for one of the finest rivalries of all time between Bret and his younger brother, Owen. On the November 20, 1993 edition of Superstars, Bret got a rematch with WWF champion Yokozuna and was close to winning the title when Owen accidentally caused Bret to be disqualified.
At the Survivor Series on November 24, the Hart Family (Bret, Owen, Keith and Bruce) were assembled to face Jerry Lawler and his Knights. Shawn Michaels substituted for Lawler as the captain of the team when Lawler ran into some legal troubles, and the Harts made short work of their opponents. However, right before Michaels walked out of the match, Owen was pinned when he hit the ropes and inadvertently knocked Bret off the apron into the steel guardrail. Keith and Bruce went to Bret and as Owen looked down from inside the ring, he was rolled up and pinned. As the Harts celebrated after the count-out of Michaels, Owen came back to the ring and angrily confronted Bret. Owen challenged Bret on several occasions and was turned down every time. Over the Christmas holidays, it was announced that Bret – with the rest of his family – had sorted the issues with Owen, and they decided to team together and go after the Tag Team Titles.
At the Royal Rumble on January 22, 1994, they faced the Tag Team champions, The Quebecers (Jacques and Pierre). Bret injured his knee during the match but continued to battle on; when Bret collapsed trying to apply the Sharpshooter on Pierre, referee Tim White called for the bell and The Quebecers retained. Owen was incensed at Bret for not tagging out, and kicked Bret’s injured knee. Despite this, Bret was involved in the Royal Rumble match and became a co-winner with Lex Luger when both went over the top rope at the same time. At Wrestlemania X, it was decided both Bret and Luger would go after the WWF Title; Luger won a coin toss and earned the right to face Yokozuna first, but was disqualified by special referee, Mr. Perfect. To make things fair, Bret also had to wrestle a match prior to the title bout, and that was against his brother Owen in the opening bout. To the shock of the fans, Owen pulled off the win with a victory roll. Later in the main event, Bret shook off the loss and faced Yokozuna (with Roddy Piper as special referee). To the joy of everyone except Owen, Bret beat Yokozuna for the WWF Title.
The stakes in Bret’s feud with Owen were raised when Jim Neidhart returned to the company (after having been fired in 1992), and caused Bret to be disqualified in his title defense against Diesel at King of the Ring on June 19, 1994. Neidhart then helped Owen beat Razor Ramon in the final of the King of the Ring tournament. “The Anvil” later explained he had helped Bret retain so Owen could beat him, and their next big pay-per-view match took place at Summerslam on August 29 in a steel cage. The entire Hart family sat at ringside – including another returned brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith – and when Bret won the match, Neidhart threw him back into the cage to double-team him with Owen, and locked the door. The assault continued until Davey Boy was able to make it inside the cage and chase off the antagonists.
After Bret defeated the returning Bob Backlund on Superstars and extended his hand in friendship, Backlund snapped and put Bret in his chicken-wing hold. At the Survivor Series on November 23, Bret defended the title against Backlund in a submission match, that could only end when their respective corner-man literally threw in the towel. Owen stood in Backlund’s corner, while Bret chose Davey Boy, and Stu and Helen were watching from their ringside seats. Backlund got Bret in the chicken-wing, and when he refused to give up, Owen became deeply concerned. With Davey Boy knocked out, Owen pleaded with Helen to throw in the towel for Bret. Despite the protests of Stu, Helen obliged, and Owen erupted with glee at the handing of the WWF Title to Backlund.
During this time, Bret began taking on acting work, in particular for the television series, “The Lonesome Dove,” and took a backseat to the WWF Title. Diesel now became the main focus, and defeated Backlund in only eight seconds for the title, just a few days after Survivor Series. Bret and Diesel wrestled to the time-limit at the 1995 Royal Rumble, and then went on to extract revenge on Backlund at Wrestlemania XI in an “I Quit” match (with Rowdy Roddy Piper as guest referee). At the first In Your House pay-per-view on May 14, 1995, Bret ended Hakushi’s undefeated streak, and lost to Lawler later after interference from Hakushi. Bret went a long way to settling his long feud with Lawler by defeating him in a “Kiss My Foot” match at King of the Ring on June 25, before ending another feud – much briefer – with Jean-Pierre Lafitte, who had made a habit of stealing “The Hitman’s” property, including his trademark shades and leather jacket. Before too long, Hart was back in the main event picture, when he pinned Diesel to become a three-time WWF champion at the Survivor Series on November 19, 1995. Bret retained the title against a now-heel British Bulldog at In Your House 5 on December 17, and held on in two separate matches against The Undertaker on pay-per-view, both bouts marred by Diesel’s interference. Bret defeated Diesel in their steel cage match at In Your House 6 after The Undertaker tore through the ring and dragged Diesel underneath, before finally dropping the gold to Shawn Michaels in an hour-long “Iron Man” match at Wrestlemania XII on March 31, 1996.
Hart took a hiatus after the title loss, during which time he weighed up his future. World Championship Wrestling made a huge offer of nine million dollars for three years; the WWF countered with an unprecedented twenty year contract. Bret decided to stay with the WWF, and returned to action on the WWF’s tour of South Africa on September 8, 1996, where he defeated The British Bulldog. During Bret’s time away, a new superstar had emerged in the form of “Stonecold” Steve Austin. Austin taunted “The Hitman” at every opportunity and begged him to come back and face him. Bret battled Austin at the Survivor Series on November 17, and defeated him to earn a shot at the WWF championship. Bret had done some taunting of his own during his time-off, criticising the title run of Shawn Michaels in his Calgary Sun newspaper column. The heat did not lower, especially when Michaels inadvertently cost Bret the title at In Your House 12 against champion, Sycho Sid. More frustration followed when a referee error cost him the Royal Rumble on January 19, 1997. As the officials were distracted by the antics of Mankind, Bret eliminated Austin, who then came back in and threw out Bret. (Austin went on to eliminate Vader and The Undertaker to win the match).
The following night on RAW, Bret quit the company, but was then put in a Fatal Four-Way at In Your House 13 on February 16, 1997 (with Vader, Austin and The Undertaker) to determine a number-one contender to the WWF championship. The match was quickly turned into a title match when Shawn Michaels forfeited the belt through injury on RAW (having just won it from Sid at the Royal Rumble). Bret won to claim his fourth WWF Championship, only to lose the following night on RAW to Sid after botched interference from Austin (who had wanted to fight Hart for the title). In a heated moment not seen until the dawning of the “Attitude” era, Bret shoved Vince McMahon and produced an expletive-laden promo after more interference from Austin as well as The Undertaker cost Bret the title in a steel cage rematch with Sid shortly before Wrestlemania XIII.
A memorable ‘double-turn’ took place at Wrestlemania XIII on March 23, 1997, after the submission match between Bret and Austin. In the lead-up to the bout, Austin had been getting cheered – despite being a heel – while Bret was getting booed by some sections of the fans for his regular complaining. With Austin’s face a bloody mess, Austin refused to give up to the Sharpshooter, and passed out. Special referee Ken Shamrock called for the bell and awarded Hart the match. Bret then laid a few extra stomps into an unconscious “Rattlesnake” to complete the turn. Later in the night, Bret confronted both The Undertaker and WWF champion Sycho Sid about a future title shot, and warned guest commentator Shawn Michaels not to interfere. Instead, Bret got involved and cost Sid the belt.
Now looking for allies, Bret managed to heal the wounds with his brother Owen and brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith. Bret ran in on a match between Owen and Bulldog on RAW, tag team partners now having a falling-out. After a tense stand-off and pushing and shoving, Bret spoke to Owen and Bulldog about how the American fans had no family values and had enjoyed watching their family fight for years. Bret said he needed their help, and after some persuading, Owen and Bulldog came around in what would be the beginnings of a new Hart Foundation. Later in the night, Bret challenged for Rocky Maivia’s Intercontinental championship and got himself disqualified when he refused to release the figure-four around the ring post; he only let go when Austin attacked him. Bret and Austin faced each other again at In Your House 14 on April 20 to determine the number one contender to the WWF championship; Bret was disqualified after interference from The British Bulldog. The following night on RAW, Austin injured Bret’s ankle with a steel chair during their street fight, and continued to assault Bret as he was being loaded into an ambulance. The Hart Foundation were further bolstered when Jim Neidhart returned on the April 28 RAW, and “Loose Cannon” Brian Pillman joined soon after.
A unique situation developed as The Hart Foundation became white-hot heels in the United States, but were still beloved by Canadian and European fans. At the Canadian Stampede pay-per-view in Calgary on July 6, The Hart Foundation battled Stonecold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust and the Legion of Doom in a ten-man tag team main event. In front of a highly parochial crowd, The Hart Foundation won the night when Owen rolled up Austin. (During the match, Austin got into a scuffle with Hart family members at ringside when he attempted to go after Stu). A large gathering of the Hart family celebrated in the ring, a far cry from the scenes they received back in the United States. At Summerslam on August 3, Bret challenged The Undertaker for the WWF Championship, and claimed that if he lost, he would not wrestle in the United States again. Shawn Michaels was made the referee and after being spat on by Bret, swung a chair that accidentally hit The Undertaker. Michaels grudgingly made the three count to hand Bret his fifth WWF Title.
During the course of 1996-1997, the WWF was seriously challenged by WCW. Getting behind in the ratings and losing more and more ground weekly, the WWF embarked on what would be termed the “Attitude” era. Michaels was put into the forefront of this new and controversial direction along with DX stablemates Triple H, Chyna and Rick Rude, which Bret was not shy about disapproving of, both in character and in his Calgary Sun column. Then, Vince McMahon announced to Bret he could no longer afford to honour their promised twenty year deal, and that he should contact WCW. Despite his reluctance, Bret managed to sign for the earlier offer of nine million dollars for three years, and would finish up with the WWF at Survivor Series on November 9, 1997, in Montreal, Canada.
The plan was for Bret to drop the WWF Title to Michaels at Survivor Series, but Hart was not happy. His main issue seemed to be that he did not want to lose his last match in Canada. There were also issues with Michaels behind-the-scenes, including scraps backstage in which Hart had torn a handful of hair out of Shawn’s head. Bret discussed a finish with Vince that involved Shawn going for the Sharpshooter, which would then be reversed by Bret. DX would run out, followed by The Hart Foundation and the result would be a mass brawl. Hart then promised to hand over the title on RAW and leave with his head held high. The conversation – including Vince seemingly approving of the idea – were picked up on a hidden microphone Bret had borrowed from documentary-makers who had been following Bret for a number of months prior. However, Shawn did not approve.
In the early stages of the bout, Vince uncharacteristically came to ringside. When Shawn went for the Sharpshooter, Vince immediately instructed referee Earl Hebner to call for the bell. Bret was confused and in the process of reversing the hold, as he thought was the start of their planned finish. Shawn acted surprised and then angry before departing; Bret soon realised what had happened, and spat directly in Vince’s eye. The Montreal crowd vented their disgust, and only cheered when “The Hitman” took out his frustrations on television equipment, before writing in the air with his finger the letters “WCW.” Backstage, Bret questioned Shawn, who denied any knowledge. Vince met with Bret in the locker room with his son Shane, Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco and invited Bret to hit him; Bret obliged. (Only years later would Jim Cornette – then part of the WWF booking team – admit that he came up with the finish as a ‘hypothetical’ if Bret refused to drop the title conventionally – but did not actually think Vince would go ahead with it). From that point on, the incident would be termed the “Montreal Screwjob.”
Under this dark cloud, Bret made his first appearance in WCW on the December 15, 1997 edition of Nitro. He was immediately courted by Eric Bischoff and the New World Order, and Bischoff was confident Bret would make all the difference at Starrcade on December 28, where Bischoff was taking on Larry Zybyszko over control of the Monday Nitro programme. Hart was made special guest referee, but ruled the match in favour of Zybyszko. Later in the main event, Bret came to the ring to restart the World Title match between Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Sting, claiming Nick Patrick made a ‘fast count.’ Inserting himself as the referee for this match as well, he awarded the title to Sting after making Hogan submit.
Bret and Ric Flair looked to start a rivalry which ended after just one match, on January 24, 1998 at Souled Out, which Bret won. Despite all the signs that “The Hitman” would continue to side with WCW, he did a U-turn and helped Hogan defeat Randy Savage for the WCW World Title on the April 20 Nitro. While Bret maintained he was not a member of the nWo, he agreed to be an “associate.” At Bash at the Beach on July 12, he lost by disqualification to Television champion, Booker T. Not long after on the July 20 Nitro, he won his first WCW championship when he beat Diamond Dallas Page for the vacant United States Title. He helped Chris Benoit get by Booker T in the penultimate match of their “best of seven series” and tried to get him to join the nWo. Benoit refused both the win and the offer to join. Bret repeatedly beat on Benoit with a steel chair during their match on Nitro until Dean Malenko made the save.
Bret held the United States Title only until the August 10 Nitro when he lost to Lex Luger, but regained it in their rematch on the following edition of Thunder. He appeared to turn his back on the nWo when he challenged Hogan to a match on the September 28, 1998 Nitro, but allowed Sting to substitute for him due to a knee injury. Sting was on his way to beating Hogan when he applied his Scorpion Deathlock, but Bret gave him a DDT to cause the disqualification. The two then entered into a rivalry, with Bret complaining that Sting had stolen his finishing hold. Bret teamed with Hogan against Sting and The Warrior on the October 12 Nitro (again ending in a disqualification), before “The Hitman” put “The Stinger” on the shelf at Halloween Havoc on October 25 when he beat him with his own baseball bat.
The next night on Nitro, Hart lost the US Title to Diamond Dallas Page, as well as the rematch at World War III. On the November 30 Nitro, Bret succeeded in beating Page (with the help of The Giant), before finally dropping it to Rowdy Roddy Piper on the February 8, 1999 Nitro. One of the real highlights of Bret’s WCW run came on the March 29, 1999 Nitro in Toronto, Canada. Hart cut a shoot-style promo on Hogan and Flair, and then challenged Goldberg to come to the ring. Goldberg obliged and immediately hit Bret with the spear, which surprisingly laid out both men. After a time, Bret removed his Toronto Maple Leafs NHL jersey to reveal a metal plate strapped to his midsection. He then quit the company and exited through the crowd.
The sudden departure was so he could take time off for groin surgery, but while he was recovering, the Hart family and the entire wrestling world was rocked by the news that Owen Hart – who had remained in the WWF after the departure of Bret, Davey and Anvil – had tragically died after a stunt went wrong on May 23 on live pay-per-view. Bret returned on September 13, 1999, when he teamed with Hogan against Sting and Luger on Nitro. After a number of controversial finishes involving the World Heavyweight Title, the belt was vacated, and a thirty-two man tournament was set up, with the finals to take place at the Mayhem pay-per-view on November 21 in Toronto. In the meantime, Bret defeated Chris Benoit in a tribute to Owen on the October 4 Nitro in Kansas City – site of the tragedy – with Harley Race as guest ring announcer. He won his fourth – and subsequently final – United States Title after defeating Goldberg the night after Halloween Havoc on October 25, after interference from Scott Hall. He in turn dropped the title to Hall in a ladder match (also involving Goldberg and Sid Vicious) on the November 8 Nitro, but went on to win the vacant WCW World Title by defeating Benoit in the final at Mayhem, and then co-held the Tag Team titles with Goldberg on December 7. They would hold the Tag Titles only until December 13, when they lost to Hall and Nash.
During the course of his successful World Title defense against Goldberg at Starrcade on December 19, Bret was kicked in the head and suffered a concussion. As a direct result, he relinquished the title on December 20 and turned heel on Goldberg during their match on Nitro along with Hall and Jeff Jarrett. In an odd situation, Bret was awarded the title again from this match when Piper came out and covered Goldberg to protect him from further assault (which was even counted by the referee!). Bret became a member of a new and subsequently short-lived version of the nWo, and his final match was against Kevin Nash for the title on the January 10, 2000 Nitro. All championships were then vacated by the new heads of creative, Vince Russo and Eric Bischoff. He was released from his contract on October 20, 2000, and retired.
Bret agreed to be the on-air commissioner for World Wrestling All-stars in 2001, before suffering a stoke in 2002. He came back on the company’s May 25, 2003 pay-per-view in Auckland, New Zealand to speak to the fans in an emotional segment. Despite there still being bitterness towards the now-World Wrestling Entertainment, Hart agreed to be involved in their DVD, “The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be.” In 2006, another major step in the healing process took place when he agreed to be put into the WWE Hall of Fame, where he was inducted by “Stonecold” Steve Austin. Bret signed a contract on December 28, 2009 and was the guest host for the January 4, 2010 RAW. Bret buried the hatchet with Shawn when they shook hands and hugged in the ring, but when he tried to do the same with Vince, McMahon low-blowed him. On the February 8 RAW, Bret issued a challenge – through John Cena – for a match with Vince at Wrestlemania XXVI. Vince agreed, then changed his mind after being attacked by Bret. The following week on RAW, Bret bade farewell to the fans and was then the victim of a car accident, which injured his leg.
On the March 1 RAW, Vince held a “Bret Hart Appreciation Night,” but instead used it as a forum to challenge Bret. Still injured and on crutches, “The Hitman” accepted, and two weeks later on RAW, guest host “Stonecold” Steve Austin signed the match. Bret asked that it be a “no disqualification” bout, which Vince agreed to, at which point Bret revealed that his leg was perfectly fine, and the ‘accident’ had been a ruse set up by Bret and Cena. Bruce Hart was made special referee, and before the opening bell, Vince claimed he had paid off the entire Hart family, including The Hart Dynasty (Tyson Kidd, Natalya and David Smith). Instead, the Harts aligned with Bret and each took turns beating on Vince until Bret ended the match with the Sharpshooter. (The match was set up this way since Bret was not allowed to take any bumps under the terms of his insurance policy).
Bret continued to work with The Hart Dynasty, and even defeated The Miz for the WWE United States Title on the May 17 RAW in Toronto. On May 24, he was made a short-lived general manager of RAW and vacated the US Title. On the June 14 RAW, he was attacked by NXT rookies after he fired Wade Barrett, and the following week he himself was stood down as general manager by McMahon. Bret returned five weeks later and worked some more pay-per-view matches until his contract expired in November 2010. Bret made some more sporadic appearances from 2011 on-wards, and on April 6, 2019, he accepted a second WWE Hall of Fame induction for The Hart Foundation tag team, with Neidhart’s post-humous award being accepted by his daughter, Natalya. (Jim passed away on August 13, 2018).
Hart made a surprise appearance at All Elite Wrestling’s first pay-per-view (Double or Nothing) on May 25, 2019, to unveil the AEW World Title belt.