Bret Hart left the WWE after the 1997 Survivor Series event ended in controversy leaving years of dream matches with wrestlers like Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho, who would arrive after his exit, to the theater of the mind.
Speaking with Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp, Bret Hart discussed the hypothetical matchups that could have occurred had he been able to stay on his 20-year contract with WWE that would have eventually seen him transition into a career behind the scenes.
"I was gonna work in some facet of the office. I was actually under, if my memory serves me right, I think was gonna take Pat Patterson’s job and work with the matches," Bret recalled. "I don’t know that would have been ideal for me. Just because of the work involved. It was probably something that, at the time, who knows what I’m going to do? I know that I still believe I had a lot of contributions to be made to the company and I would have been an asset to them over the years for ideas and just logic and things like that. It didn’t happen. I think that was more their loss than mine. I think once all the bad blood happened with the screwjob and all that kind of stuff, it was what they lost, I think, was immeasurable."
Bret continued, "You’ll never know what I would have brought to the WWE after 1997. But, I had so many good years left. I always think whatever happened with me and Vince and how stupid all that was and how unnecessary all that was, Shawn’s behavior and the whole reason all that happened was so stupid, really. If you look at all the matches that didn’t happen. Like, all the matches I didn’t have with Steve Austin after WrestleMania 13. All the matches I didn’t have with Undertaker. Matches I didn’t have with Shawn and for that matter, Triple H, and all the different storylines that could have played out of our so-called rivalries."
One superstar that saw a tremendous rise not long after Bret Hart left the company was The Rock. Although Bret was able to wrestle a young Rocky Maivia on an episode of Monday Night Raw in 1997, wrestling fans would never see an actual rivalry between the two legends.
Bret Hart feels that in hindsight, he should have stayed with WWE and would even call Vince McMahon petty, saying that he screwed him out of a 20-year contract to spend more money on Mike Tyson’s appearances in 1998.
"Yeah, even Rock. There was some great wrestlers that were coming up. What they did to me was not necessary. I should have stayed there," said Bret. "Vince did what he did out of petty reasons. They screwed me out of a twenty-year contract. They spent more money on Mike Tyson the next year, paying him for fifteen minutes of refereeing, as opposed to what they would have paid me for twenty years of work. I’ll never understand the reasoning or the logic of what they did or how anyone can justify, and, I think, the loss of what they would have gained. All the different guys that would have benefited from working and teaching and passing on what I knew to the next generation. All that was lost."
Bret Hart even discussed the hypothetical benefits for his family had he stayed with WWE. Hart would say that he feels his brother Owen's tragic death at Over The Edge 1999 would have never occurred had he stayed with WWE and would also suggest that his sons may have become pro wrestlers if not for the incident in Montreal.
"Even I think, for what it’s worth, probably my two sons would have probably become wrestlers and probably would have been good wrestlers. I know that they both really turned it off after that and never went in that direction anymore. I think if things had been different with my career and WWE, they would have gladly ended up moving into that end of the business and becoming wrestlers. So many things changed. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I always believed that my brother Owen’s accident would have never happened if I had been there. So, there’s a lot of things that unfortunately happened."
Bret Hart also comes from an era of wrestling where unfortunately he saw many friends and family members struggle with addiction including his brother-in-law, Davey Boy Smith. Speaking about his brother-in-law's addiction, Bret would commend longtime rival Shawn Michaels for overcoming his addiction and becoming a story of success rather than another tragic statistic.
"Davey had his issues and his drug problems. It’s hard to say whether he would have overcome those. I think Davey, if you know anything about that kind of drug addiction, people can’t control it. Some people have an ability to overcome it and there’s a lot of guys, like Test is a good example. You go to rehab and you got it under control and a week later you’re back on. You don’t have the control to stop yourself from getting back on that cycle of drugs again.
"There’s a lot of guys that have the ability to get off and it’s a credit to Shawn Michaels, really, that he survived, that he’s alive today. He was one of the guys, and he’d probably be the first one to tell you, I’m sure he has, that he had a really bad problem. There’s a few wrestlers from those days that had serious drug problems that overcame them and are alive today that and are living prosperous and happy lives. It just shows you that if nothing is impossible, maybe, it would be nice to think that Davey would have been like one of them. But, unfortunately, he’s not with us."
You can see our full interview with Bret Hart at the top of the page. To hear more from Bret Hart, you can subscribe to his website and hear Confessions of the Hitman. He also has appeared on Corner Gas Animated on CTV Comedy in a cameo role.