Few professional wrestlers are more loved or revered than Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. His time in the ring made many children fans and his outspoken nature out of it has entertained those who grew up watching him.
However, few professional wrestlers have had the sheer misfortune where their health is concerned with Bret’s list of ills including severe concussion, prostate cancer and of course his infamous stroke.
After being forced to retire from professional wrestling following a severe concussion caused by a rouge kick from Bill Goldberg at WCW Starrcade 1999, Hart suffered a debilitating stroke in 2002 following a bicycle accident.
Hitting a pothole in the road, Hart was said to have been pitched over the handles of his vehicle and landed on the back of his head which brought on the stroke. He suffered complete paralysis down his left hand side but has since made a full recovery.
His stroke was the subject of episode twenty seven of Confessions Of The Hitman as Bret Hart spoke at length about the incident and the impact that it has had on his life since.
“Hands down, the most challenging battle I ever had; that’s for sure. I’ve talked a lot about my stroke over the years. As difficult as it was, I’ve always been really proud of how I recovered through it. I willed myself to not really give up, and I think it’s a little bit like, I wrote in my book that it was kind of time to be the hero I was pretending to be in [pro] wrestling. I did not give up. I kept pushing the envelope the whole time.”
Bret’s somewhat rapid recovery was nothing short of awe inspiring as his legions of fans worldwide celebrated their idol’s recovery. However, as Hart stated during his webseries, his recovery was never guaranteed:
“So it’s like, ‘okay, I had a stroke. When do I get out of here? Like, what do I got to do? What’s the plan. And you find out pretty quick that there is no plan. You cross your fingers and pray that that day you have a good recovery. And I remember that day I really wanted to recover, I was going to go down fighting.
It’s like if somebody cut your whole body in half with a saw, and the left side is completely dead and the right side is alive. Like, I couldn’t lift my finger or hand, I couldn’t blink my eye. It was wide open. I could close it to sleep. And I’ve always had trouble smiling now, on my left side. Certain muscles didn’t come back.”
While Bret’s enmity with Bill Goldberg has been well documented with ‘The Excellence of Execution’ speaking out in recent weeks at how dangerous the former WCW World Heavyweight Champion was inside the ring, he still cites that one kick as a main factor in what happened:
“I always felt they were . Like, when Bill Goldberg kicked me in the head, I saw stars. I saw a million stars, and I know a lot of people who have seen stars like I did. You know exactly what I’m talking about when you really get rocked. You see stars, a million silver particles in your head flying around in both eyes. When Bill Goldberg kicked me, I could see stars. Then, when I had my stroke, lying on the grass 100 feet from The Pumphouse Theatre on the Bow River there, on the bike path, I remember lying on the grass and I could see just out of my left eye, not the right one. The right eye was fine, but the left eye, it was the same thing. It was a million stars in my left eye, and I remember going, ‘the concussion.'”
Thankfully though, the story of Bret Hart has a happy ending. After everything he’s been through, the tragedies he’s had to endure, arguably the best technical wrestler to ever lace-up a pair of boots stated that he was healthy and happy:
“I’d say I’m about 90%. I think I’d say 90% pretty much. As you get older – like, I remember a few years ago, I did a 300-pound bench-press at the gym. I remember, I went from a guy who couldn’t lift anything; I couldn’t lift a pencil. I remember telling myself, ‘one day, 300 lbs. If I can do 300 lbs. again, that’s as high as I’d ever want to go.’ And I did that a long time ago, like three or four years after my stroke. Five years, I could bench-press. It wasn’t the prettiest bench-press you ever watched, but I’ve always pushed myself and tried to challenge myself to make that left side work, and earn it.”
There are few stories more inspiring in professional wrestling than that of Bret Hart. Everything he has overcome and dealt with place him among the toughest and most respected men in the history of the industry.
‘The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be.’ It turns out that it isn’t just a nickname after all.
Credit for the interview: Confessions Of The Hitman
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.