Bret Hart shares a story.
As the WWF was ushering in the infamous 'Attitude Era', many wrestlers underwent changes as seen by the meteoric rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the rise of Triple H, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and former 5-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion Bret "The Hitman" Hart switching over from being one of the most beloved stars in the company to a bad guy.
Bret Hart was not too fond of having to turn heel and he stated just that during a recent interview with Sky Sports and while explaining why he had an issue with switching sides, he recalled a conversation he had with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and Vince was trying to convince Bret that the heel turn was the right way to go and Bret was reluctant to agree because he never wanted to be the bad guy.
"I think it's hard to differentiate between your wrestling character and your real character - you kind of end up being both," he said. "I've always been my wrestling character in and out of the ring and in and out of the dressing room, and I was always really respected in the dressing room by the other wrestlers. I very much worried about losing my fan base when they wanted to turn me heel. I remember that Vince McMahon laughed and joked on the phone when he called me to tell me, and I said, 'I don't want to turn heel, I don't want to be a bad guy'. I really took pride in being a worldwide hero, much the same as John Cena today. But much the same as John Cena today, the wrestling audience was wanting something different. They wanted somebody new. So it was like, 'Do I change styles to stay alive'?"
Bret added by saying that Vince convinced him of the change rather quickly because Hart was dreading the idea of wrestling the late former 3-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader for the next year as a babyface.
"Vince said, 'Give me five minutes and I'll talk you into it', and I said 'No thank you, I'm not interested', but he talked me into it pretty fast because my option as a good guy was that I was going to wrestle Vader for the next year. That was going to be brutal, and I was thinking 'Anything but Vader'." Hart said. "So the heel turn was a difficult choice to make, and I remember Vince stressed to me - and I wonder whether that was the beginning of them trying to tear me down - that you are going to be a hero everywhere else except the United States. I don't know if they were totally honest. I remember when we wrestled that pay-per-view in '97 in Birmingham that they were clearly trying to turn me heel or trying to turn the audience against me on the mic and commentary, and that was Vince and Jim Ross and guys like that."
Bret Hart has also been involved in a war of words with his brother Owen's widow Martha Hart. To catch up on the latest from that situation, click here.