I’ve always been a big fan of older territories. One of the first things I did when I really became a fan was go back into the history books a bit and try to learn what I could about the territories before Vince McMahon began systematically destroying them and well one of the biggest territories going was the Stampede promotion. So when Bruce Hart who could probably be called the greatest booker in the history of the Stampede promotion wrote his autobiography I thought it would be a great piece to review for “The Eye Gouge”. Now you all remember how this works. The more gouges you get the more it means this book wasn’t worth the time with 5 being the absolute worst score you can get. So let’s get into the review.
As I said I was a big fan of the territories. What I also should add is I am a big fan of Bret and Owen Hart so whenever a Hart family member or an associate writes a book it always piques my interest and so did this book. Bruce has always been known in the wrestling business as somewhat of an angry individual who felt like he never got his due in the wrestling business and I felt that translated into the book. Of course we got his introduction into the wrestling business. Pretty much from the beginning of that stage you always sort of got the impression that Bruce may have thought he was better than he really was as he sort of took jabs at the fact that he was used as a jobber early on in his career in Stampede and wasn’t given the push that he thought he deserved. I always find it funny when I read a book where a guy mentions how he doesn’t have an ego and he is all about business but then goes on a rant about a push which contradicts what he said about having an ego and Bruce does that as well as anyone when it comes to his in ring career. I have to say having seen many Stampede shows that while Bruce wasn’t the worse worker I don’t think he was the great worker that he saw himself as and booking was definitely his strong point.
Of course he goes into booking much in the same way as his wrestling career as he describes his Billy Martinesque tenure as Stampede booker as one in which he was constantly succeeding and having the rug pulled out from him by others only to be called back to save the promotion. In that regard I will say that while he was the best booker in my opinion of that promotion he was still very hit and miss as a booker and is probably a bigger success in his head than he was on paper. Although I will say that he had one hell of an eye for talent being the person responsible for bringing both The Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith into the Stampede promotion. Speaking of which I found his account of discovering the soon to be British Bulldogs very interesting. For one thing he mentions seeing them both together in England. For those who have read the Dynamite Kid’s biography (“Simply Dynamite” maybe I’ll go back and reread and review that here one day) Dynamite mentions not even really knowing Davey that much and makes it seem as if Davey started training for a career in wrestling after he was already in Stampede. In Bruce’s account he mentions seeing them together as he was approached to look at both of them but Dynamite was the one that was in his eyes ready to come back to the promotion. He also goes onto mention Dynamites unexplainable hatred for his cousin and how when he originally approached him about bringing Davey into the promotion Dynamite threatened to quit and only accepted when he was expecting to be out of the promotion himself which again are not the same as the accounts in Dynamite’s book.
Of course the real big thing in the book is the repeated shots at Bret Hart. I have to say after reading this book and Diana Hart’s book (“Under the Mat” another book I may have to reread and review here one day) I came to the conclusion that Bret Hart is a real jerk. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying I believe everything I have read in either book but just the fact that we are talking about two of his siblings who don’t even really get along with each other but if there is one thing that can be agreed upon is that they both are not enamored with him just says a lot about Bret if you ask me. Mind you I am saying this and Bret Hart is one of my most favorite wrestlers and someone who was more than respectful when I interviewed him for Wrestleview over a year ago. Bruce paints Bret in this book as a jealous, backstabbing person who sort of marked out for himself at times and thought he was better than he really was. He goes onto list several times where he felt like he was close to getting a job with the WWE and Bret ruined it for him. In some accounts you feel bad for him such as when he was forced to go back home from a scheduled meeting with Vince due to a family emergency and Bret not taking up for him and others you just wonder if all he really does is care about himself such as when he was angry over not getting the Wrestlemania X angle that would go to Owen Hart. Bruce felt that should have been his angle since Owen already had a job in WWE and he didn’t. If you listen to Bruce he couldn’t make a living in wrestling all because of Bret Hart and well I thought that was the biggest crock of self serving BS ever just because as influential as Bret may have been in WWE I don’t think Vince McMahon is going to lose making money with someone if he can and well WWE wasn’t the only company during this time period either. If Bruce was half as talented as he thought he was he wouldn’t have been forced out of the business and would probably still be in it today. There was one story that sort of sums up his feelings on Bret that involves Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith following Bret into WCW in which Bruce claims that Bret had promised them all this money that they were both shortchanged on as soon as they were given their release knowing that they burned there bridge in WWE and when confronted on not getting what they were promised by Bret from Eric Bischoff, Bret responding with something along the lines of “You should’ve negotiated better”. Basically Bret who screamed louder than anyone for his family members to leave WWE and follow him to WCW wasn’t as good with those guys as they were to him and went James Storm on them with his “Sorry about your damn luck” attitude.
Of course he goes into other things such as his wife’s affair with Davey Boy Smith who he is surprisingly somewhat protective of in the book and his close relationship with his deceased brother Owen Hart. I really wanted him to answer some of the allegations that Diana made in her book such as the fact that he was involved with his wife while she was underage but he didn’t. Instead he chose to focus on the fact that Diana and Davey had a crazy relationship and the conflict that existed between Diana and his wife. Bruce goes into other things such as his feelings on how both Bret and Vince could have handled Montreal and what he pitched for the Bret vs. Vince match at last year’s Wrestlemania that was shot down by Bret. At the end of the book he closes things off with a letter to Vince McMahon who throughout the book he blames for the decline in the wrestling industry due to killing the territories instead of realizing that whether it was Vince or someone else the territories were doomed to die and while Vince McMahon changed the industry he also modernized and it can be argued saved it.
All in all it wasn’t the best book in the world but wasn’t the worst either but I would say if you’re a real big Bret Hart fan you are not going to want to read it. At the end of the day I say it was thumbs in the middle and gave it 2 and a half gouges out of five and well that’s it, until the next review I am out.