Hitman by Bret Hart / Have A Nice Day by Mick Foley (Review)

Books on Wrestling are harder to come by than almost any other sport or entertainment It’s no surprise when the results are predetermined. Wrestler’s careers are at the whims of the bookers and not athletic ability. Stories of the underdogs, the undefeated champions, youthful rookies and tough legends are manufactured. That’s why Wrestling books fall into two categories, either history of the sport/promotion or a tell all biography which the highly regarded Hitman and Have A Nice Day are.

Bret Hart and Mick Foley are two very different wrestlers. One is considered amongst the best wrestlers of all time the other is most fondly remembered for being thrown off a 30ft cell only to be thrown through the roof of it moments later. Two different Wrestlers. Two different books.

Mick Foley boasts that he didn’t use a ghostwriter like all the other wrestling biographies. It shows especially in the early parts that documents his childhood; the comedy songs he wrote and the home video he made that was used later by the WWE as part of the Dude Love character. Foley spends an inordinate amount of time on describing every single frame. It was obvious he had sat down in front of the tape and wrote it all thinking that we’d find it as hilarious as he did. His clear enthusiasm for the tape doesn’t make too many pages on the subject riveting. It’s only more grating.

The parts that Foley does well are his progression from his time driving his car 5–6hrs at a time to Dominic DeNucci’s wrestling school while in college all the way to the WWE vis WCW, ECW, Japan (where he wrestled Terry Funk in a barbed-wire rope, barbed-wire and C4 board, time-bomb death match. Yes really.) and tours put on by African Prince’s. These moments are far more interesting as we get to see how small the wrestling world is and the ups, downs and sacrifices that wrestler’s go through before hitting the big time. That insane Japanese match with Terry Funk only netted Foley $300 and a body ravaged with barbed wire and burns from the C4. There are some unsavoury moments such as when Foley feels the need to reassert his manhood in a crude manner after telling us that he didn’t want to hold a fellow wrestler’s hand on a tour in Nigeria where men holding hands was a sign of friendship. It’s a contrast to the cuddly character he presents today.

The most interesting aspect of his WWE career is creating his Mankind gimmick and splitting his personality into Dude Love and a revived Cactus Jack. The infamous Hell in a Cell is talked about but even after only a year or two after the match when he was writing the book it’s obviously that Foley is fed up talking about it. The book rushes to his title win over The Rock which doesn’t get a great amount of attention. It’s one of the disadvantages of writing a biography in the middle of your career. Bret Hart waited until it was all over and the result is rather different.

Bret Hart had the foresight to record his experiences on tape over the course of his career. The result is a much more coherent and rich narrative that is meticulous in its detail. Along with being part of the (in)famous Hart wrestling family, Bret Hart’s rise to the top coincided with the changes from regional territories to a WWE monopoly and the Monday Night Wars, which allows Bret to have a much wider scope. And of course he was a victim of one of wrestling’s most notorious matches in the Montreal Screwjob, and his brother Owen Hart died during a daring entrance into the ring.

With the luxury of the tapes he recorded and time to reflect on his career Bret Hart is unflinchingly honest. He cheated on his wife on many multiple occasions and took steroids when the pressure was from top was overwhelming to become the literal big man. He doesn’t apologise or make excuses for his behaviour but simply says how it is, and thats how you know you can trust in Bret. He’s not trying to hide behind anything or play a game. It’s laid bare.

Bret lets us into the secrets of the business. How shows are created and booked, the brutal schedule he had not just with WWE but in his early days in the family business of Stampede Wrestling, criss-crossing across Canada snow or no to put on shows to audiences of several hundreds, the steroid abuse by him and others, who were good workers, who were terrible, how and when he bladed, cocaine benders and nights of debauchery. And that not even getting to the Montreal Screwjob.

These days Bret Hart is seen as a bitter veteran who thinks wrestling should be a certain way, and there’s a certain truth to it. But after reading Hitman it’s not hard to see why. Bret treated Vince as a father figure then betrayed him. Owen died in Vince’s ring and it tore the Hart family apart with lines drawn in trenches. Despite knowing it’s coming reading about Owen’d death is heartbreaking. Over the course of the book we see Owen go from the scrappy youngest kid to one of the few wrestlers in the business who was universally accepted. With Owen’s death comes Bret despair with wrestling, which despite being the family business, he fell into.

Two different wrestlers, two different books. But both had their own voice that reflected their authors. The meanderings of Foley and the honesty Bret Hart. Fans of Foley will get more enjoyment out of Have a Nice Day but Hitman could be recommended to anyone even if they have little interest in wrestling. His inside story of personal tragedy against a backdrop of the evolution of wrestling from the bingo halls to the mainstream is genuine and heartfelt. It’s human in an industry made of supermen.

Originally published at www.woodcock.xyz.