Bret Hart, WWE All Stars And What Wrestling Can Learn From Video Games

It's not everyday that you get the chance to speak to one of your childhood heroes, but that happened to me - today - as I got the chance to interview the one and only Bret 'The Hitman' Hart. We spoke about wrestling history, dream matches, and how WWE stars can learn from video games.

Generally, I sleep well. I hit the hay at around 11.30 and I’m snoozing within seconds. Last night was a different story – I literally tossed and turned all night - because I knew, at 9am the next morning, I would be interviewing one of my childhood heroes, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart.

“I have a phone interview with Bret Hart lined up exclusively for you,” read the text message. My reply was adorned with numerous expletives, followed by the word ‘YES’. In caps. I had interviewed plenty of wrestlers before - The Big Show, Bobby Lashley, Mr Kennedy – but none really bore the weight of wrestling history in quite the same way Bret Hart does. The best there is, the best there was... the best there ever will be.

For the first time ever in an interview, I was nervous. A little overwhelmed. I was also conflicted. Bret Hart has been involved in so many of the major wrestling events of the last 20 years, yet Kotaku’s focus is video games. Could I somehow conduct an interview that combined my love of wrestling with my love of wrestling video games?

I gave it my best shot.

“I think for the most part the WWE do a great job of paying attention to the history of wrestling,” claimed Hart, after I asked if he thought the WWE paid enough attention to wrestling’s past - in the way WWE All Stars does. “They regularly bring back the older guys like myself, or Jerry Lawler, for storylines. And I think that’s great. I think that’s a good way of getting younger audiences to remember the history. And the great thing is these things usually get a reaction from the audience.”

Bret Hart himself recently made a comeback, timed around last year’s Wrestlemania, but regardless of whether or not he is involved in wrestling on a week to week basis, he still maintains relationships with plenty of wrestlers on the road, as an advisor and – sometimes – critic.

“I stay in contact with a lot of the younger guys,” claims Bret. “They’ll sometimes give me a call to get feedback on their matches, and I’m always really happy to go through the things I thought they did well, and a few of the things I think they can improve upon. Especially with the resurgence of Harts in wrestling at the moment, we’ve had a lot of great success recently and I’m really proud to see that.”

The great thing about WWE All Stars is its brazen commitment to nostalgia. Wrestling is built on dream matches – Hogan vs The Rock, Ric Flair vs Shawn Michaels. In the game Bret Hart could potentially face off against half the present WWE roster, but are there any dream matches he himself would like to participate it?

“I would really like to see maybe a heel version of myself, like from 1997, go up against the John Cena of today,” says Hart. “I really like Cena, I have a lot of respect for him and what he does. And just once I would’ve also loved to wrestle Rey Mysterio. I think the things he does in the ring are incredible, reminds me of the stuff the Dynamite Kid used to do, or Tiger Mask.”

We reminded Bret that Kurt Angle has, time and time again, claimed that Bret Hart would be his dream opponent.

“Kurt Angle is obviously another one,” begins Hart, “I’d love to have a proper 'catch as catch can' wrestling match against Angle, a really competitive match. I’m also a big fan of Randy Orton – I think he’s as good as I ever was in my prime.”

What about wrestlers from his era? Guys he never got the chance to tangle with.

“One of my regrets is that I never got to have a feud with Macho Man Randy Savage,” claims Hart. “I think he’s probably one of the best wrestlers I ever saw – I know a lot of guys have claimed that Randy was quite methodical about his matches, but he always seemed really relaxed and calm to me. He was a great professional. And Jake Roberts – he’s another one. I never wrestled him believe it or not.”

We wonder if he had any dream matches he would like to see - matches that didn’t involve him.

“I’m the same as you guys,” claims Bret, “when I was younger I used to sit and try and imagine all these dream matches and how they would play out.

“You know, I really think Austin versus Hogan is one that I would like to have seen,” he continues, “one that I think all wrestling fans would like to see. The great thing about WWE All Stars is that you can put these matches together and kind of play them out. I’m not sure if these guys are in the game from the top of my head, but I’d really love to have seen Davey Boy Smith [The British Bulldog]wrestle against his son.”

Bret Hart hasn’t had the chance to play All-Stars yet, but he has a level of respect for the way in which games integrate the performance aspect of wrestling. We ask him if he thinks the outlandish nature of games has affected wrestling as performance – do fans used to constant spots, and high flying antics in games expect increasingly dangerous matches from wrestlers?

Surprisingly, Hart flips the question on its head.

Yeah maybe,” he reflects, “but I also think that video games are influencing wrestling in more positive ways. The last time I had the chance to play games, I was really impressed with just how accurately they represent wrestling matches – I remember playing and thinking, ‘yeah, that’s how I would lead into certain moves’ and stuff like that.

“In a lot of ways wrestling is more like figure skating, and I think that, in a way, wrestlers can actually practice and learn how to plan and block a match. I think that has the potential to help new wrestlers learn how to tell a story in a match and get the psychology right.”

After over two decades of playing games that thought had never once occurred to me, the fact that it’s possible for prospective wrestlers to play games and get a feel for how drama works in a wrestling environment.

But then I suddenly remembered, playing No Mercy with my younger brother, I would refuse to go for the pin until after I had hit my special move cleanly. Even at a young age video games were teaching me how a match should function, how it should work. Surely among the wrestlers in the WWE today there will be performers who were influenced in the same way?

Bret then mentions how he’d love to visit Australia some day. Almost desperately I volunteer my services as an impromptu tour guide. “I’ll keep it mind,” he says, laughing. We say our goodbyes, and for a second I think about pinching myself. Bret Hart... my mum used to fancy you.

Later, around lunchtime, I see Bret Hart posting on twitter: “Did interviews earlier today 4 the WWE All-Stars game,” he wrote. “Haven't played it yet. Still mastering this game.”

For a second I was reminded of that scene from Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, where Mickey Rourke’s character – a broken man - is stuck in a trailer playing the old NES game he starred in decades ago, with a kid who’d much rather be playing Call of Duty – the archetypal wrestler clutching desperately to an imagined past.

It strikes me that, despite preferring to play an aging video game over its modern equivalent, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart is nothing like Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson – not even in the slightest. In many ways he’s the polar opposite – an entertainer comfortable with his legacy, confident enough to help and encourage the newest generation of wrestlers.

Bret – I’m not a wrestler. I write things. And because of that I now get the chance to say the words I was too embarrassed to say on the phone: I’m a huge fan of your work; it was an honour and pleasure to speak to you.

And I still have a pair of your shiny pink sunglasses.


Comments

    Nice interview. Although his memory is playing tricks on him -- Bret was in Australia with the WWA promotion at one point.

    Then again, he may prefer to forget that.

      Visiting Australia and passing through on tour or for promotions are two different things a lot of the time.
      Still, when he makes it over here, Mark, we'll be expecting you to verse him in WWE All Stars.

    Nice work, Mark.

      It must be bad when your co-workers come and congratulate your work...over the internet :P
      Nah, just kidding. It was a great article. I didn't know that wrestling matches had drama and told stories, but then again I've never seen a wrestling match before (except for the Chuloopa vs. Mark Serrels match/mess :P ) I've never even seen a wrestling video game being played, let alone played one either...so my knowledge on wrestling and who Bret Hart is is very limited

    You've done some good things on the classification issue, amazing features and interviews with other people... but this is my favourite article on Kotaku.

    Probably because I can relate and know exactly how you feel!

    Good article Mark. I remember not going for the pin in No Mercy til I had hit the Peoples Elbow and the Rock Bottom clean!

    I was always an Ultimate Warrior fan, but good to see some old school class!

    Used to love the Hart brothers back in the old wwf era. Along with Austin, the rock, undertaker, hogan and the incredibly flamboyant Golddust, it was one of my favourite past time coming home from school watching them all do their stuff. Pity Owen Hart died though and most of them have retired.

    Great interview!
    And I totally understand the tossing and turning the night before :)

    and still i say; pics of you in an on-the-phone sharpshooter please!

    *is envious* Memory lane moment. Much more powerful than nostalgia goggles.

    Nice work mate and thanks Bret!

    Great interview, but, you didn't mention anything about Owen? The better hart brother! COME ON!

      Owen heart can't play guitar anymore. Not since the automobile accident.

    Hart wrestled Savage on several occassions.

      One on one or part of a tag team? I can't remember any single matches they had. I think Bret mentioned they wrestled at a survivor series or something.

        http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x332gr_randy-savage-vs-bret-hart_sport

        Found this floating around, its Bret Hart vs Macho Man in WCW

    He wrestled Savage on a Saturday Nights Main Event in November 1987, it was on the best of SNME DVD that was released a few years back.

    Nice work on the interview Mr Serrels, my hat is tipped :)

    The guy who says he hates metal music yet loves hip hop music is also a big wrestling fan?

    Wow. Serrels, you do some great articles but way to be a big proponent of the two of the biggest industries of fake, no-talent, anything-to-make-money crap.

      Hmm. Not sure what to make of this comment. Just because I enjoy something you don't?

      Respect personal taste.

        "Now I’ll be perfectly honest – I hate Metal music with a passion."

        "Also – it’s probably because I’m mostly ignorant of the genre."

        Hi, Pot, meet my friend, Kettle.

          Exactly - I accepted that I knew nothing about it, then invited people to suggest music I could check out.

            That was AFTER people arced up and questioned why you hated metal. Dude, it's quite clear it was a peace-keeping gesture.

              And what's wrong with that? Back down - you're in the wrong here. Clearly. I didn't say Metal was crap, just that I personally, since music taste is subjective, did not like it. I didn't make some over reaching statement on the quality of everything in a genre.

                I'm fairly certain that saying "I hate Metal music with a passion" followed by admitting you know nothing about the genre is a perfect definition of an "over-reaching statement".

                  What about that is over reaching? It's a statement about my personal taste.

                  "I hate metal music"

                  "two of the biggest industries of fake, no-talent, anything-to-make-money crap."

                  If you were to say "I hate wrestling" or "I hate hip hop" I wouldn't have given a rat's arse, because that's your personal taste.

                  Are you honestly not seeing the difference here?

      Chill out Raven, we all say that we hate music certain music genres. Every single one of us.

      Also, ironically, all modern music genres consist of people that are only interested in making money. Including metal.

      Anything you see on TV, hear on the radio, or whatever...it's all designed to make money.

    Good job Raven. Way to show us the difference between trolling and having a discussion about something you disagree with someone else on.

    Just thought I'd post a comment my brother sent me last night. Made me laugh.

    "Just read THEE interview. Amazin. And for the record. You never held off from the pin on no mercy cos I showed 'no mercy' on you, and booked you a room at the smackdown hotel. F-A-C-T"

      I love that hotel, a free breakfast buffet of PAIN with a side of SUFFERING

      Also, this is what I see Raven typing
      http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/ek/#by=sp

    Mark - we are obviously are of the same mind:

    "I’m a huge fan of your work; it was an honour and pleasure to speak to you."

    Almost word for word what I said to Bret when I met him on the WWA tour a few years back. The man is a total gentleman.

    Mark, I'm so jealous because you got to speak with The Hitman. lol

    All jokes aside, such a fantastic article. I would've felt the same way too if I met a childhood hero of mine- like Bret Hart. =)

    All Japan: King's Soul(PSOne)

    King of Colosseum 1(PS2)

    Those two games properly build matches. Check out videos on youtube.

    Nice interview - the game looks good too. Reminds me of the old school style from the arcade back in the say. I think it was superstars. Bret Hart is a legend. Would like to see him get back in the ring for one last proper match tho!

    I know this article is nearly a month old .... but please 'Quote that Raven nevermore'

    Johnny Polo FTW

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