Few professional wrestlers’ careers have been as highly-documented as that of Bret Hart. Not only did the seven-time World heavyweight champion bare all in his highly-acclaimed autobiography My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling back in 2007, but the WWE Hall of Famer’s career has also been celebrated in a number of DVD boxsets over the past decade, as well as, of course, in Paul Jay’s excellent documentaryWrestling With Shadows.
With all of this material already out there in the public domain, you would have thought that the wrestling community’s interest in the Hitman would have waned by now: it has, after all, been almost fifteen years since a severe concussion forced the ‘Excellence of Excellence’ to hang up the boots once and for all (his very brief WWE in-ring return in 2010 notwithstanding).
But all of these years on from the Hitman’s early retirement from the grap game, there is still an unquenchable thirst to learn more about his life, and about Calgary’s famous Hart family that either spawned or helped shape the careers of some of the industry’s biggest names, including Owen Hart, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, Brian Pillman, The Dynamite Kid, Jim Neidhart, Lance Storm and Chris Jericho.
It is that thirst that is bound to make Julie Hart’s new autobiography, Hart Strings, another must-read for any wrestling historians with a keen interest in the Harts.
Penned by the ex-wife of Bret and mother of the couple’s four children, Hart Strings is now available to order from Tightrope Books and is a candid and, at times, frankly shocking account of life on ‘the other side of the curtain’. It’s the side of life that we, as wrestling fans, maybe don’t pay enough consideration to: while we watch these ‘superstars’, these larger-than-life athletes, travel the length and breadth of the globe, putting their bodies on the lines under the brightest of spotlights for our escapist entertainment, it’s easy to forget the families back home who can go for weeks or months without the physical presence of their spouse or father.
Such is the case with Hart Strings, a book that removes the high-gloss veneer from the polished world of sports entertainment and looks candidly at the author’s volatile relationship with her ex-husband; a man that was a role model to millions of young fans, including yours truly.
Starting off with Julie’s difficult childhood – the author recounts her time as a teenage runaway and her spell in a detention centre, and later details difficulties with drugs – the book soon progresses into her early romance and relationship with Bret, a relationship that was mirrored, in some ways, by her sister Michelle’s marriage to Tom ‘The Dynamite Kid’ Billington.
When I recently interviewed Julie for a Mirror.co.uk exclusive interview, she said that the book was, in part inspired by Bret’s 2007 tome:
“It was shocking to read about this person, a person I had been close to for so long, who I trusted. It was like reading about a complete stranger. All my worst fears sort of just materialised into reality”.
This sense of betrayal is evident in the book, as Julie recounts, in detail, her feelings of hurt at the hands of her husband, not only at various points of their marriage and during difficult times, but also in the years following his retirement and 2002 stroke.
Attention is also, unsurprisingly, paid to the Montreal Screwjob, the infamous incident from November 1997 in which Julie was intimately involved in, as fans of Wrestling With Shadows will recall:
“I’m not sure if Bret’s legacy would be remembered differently [without the film], or the obsession with Montreal would be any less prevalent, but it is this kind of go-to source for that time period in wrestling. It’s unique.” – Read the full interview at Mirror.co.uk.
To say more would be to reveal some of the book’s key moments, but suffice to say that it will make difficult reading for fans of the ‘best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be’, regardless of the shocks that the Hitman already served up about his personal misdemeanours in his own candid autobiography.
Hart Strings, at its heart, is a tale of survival. It is the story of a woman who battled through a difficult childhood, married a man that would go on to become one of Canada’s most famous faces, raised four children as part of a passionate but fraught relationship, and is now in the process of healing from the end of that same relationship.
As a companion piece to the Hitman’s own book, it certainly is interesting to read the other side of the tale – but make no mistake, this is a book about Julie‘s life, not Bret’s. While wrestling fans will find personal references to Vince McMahon, the Montreal incident and, of course, the Hart family of interest, this is by no means a wrestling memoir – indeed, large swathes of the Hitman’s illustrious career, including his time at the top of the World Wrestling Federation, are barely mentioned, and when done so it is only in passing to form the backdrop of other tales of the pair’s relationship.
But that should come as no surprise – for the Hitman himself covered his own career is unquestionably the most detailed memoir in wrestling history. This is a tale of life away from the big arenas and the bright lights, and it’s certainly compelling reading in its own right.
Hart Strings: My Life with Bret and the Hart Family is distributed through IPG Books in the USA and is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo and other bookstores. It can be ordered directly from the publisher’s website. Follow Julie Hart on Twitter @hartfaith.