Bret Hart once considered Vince McMahon a father figure, today he is ashamed to have placed him on such a pedestal.
One of the more outspoken performers, Hart, addressed the recent allegations made by Janel Grant, while speaking to Abraham Josephine Riesman for a Slate.
I always had a respect for him,” Hart said. “Now it’s tainted. I’m embarrassed that I thought so highly of him.
Hart, like many, was disgusted reading the allegations from Grant in her 67-page lawsuit levied against McMahon, John Laurinaitis, and WWE with the belief that others were aware of the abuse she sustained while in the company.
In the piece, Hart sounds deeply regretful for the benefit of the doubt reserved for McMahon, specifically regarding the allegations of rape by Rita Chatterton in 1992 against McMahon.
Hart stated he refused to believe the claims and dismissed Chatterton but feels differently today and approached her at a recent convention to apologize for doubting her.
I apologized from the bottom of my heart,” Hart recalled, “and I said, ‘I believe that what happened to you, happened to you. And I apologize. I was wrong.’
Chatterton settled with McMahon last year for an undisclosed amount.
The WWE Hall of Famer has had one of the most complicated relationships with McMahon going back to the ‘80s.
In 1984, McMahon forged a deal with Stu Hart to buy the rights to his territory with $1 million to be paid over the next decade in installments. McMahon would inherit the television slots from Hart and cut Stu into a percentage of the live gates when the WWF ran the former Stampede towns.
This deal was rescinded a year later with McMahon going back on the agreement with his belief that Bruce Hart was involved with a potential start-up and violated his interpretation of the “no compete”, this led to Stampede Wrestling’s relaunch in the fall of 1985.
Hart stayed loyal to McMahon and became the company’s top star in 1992 when he unseated Ric Flair for the WWF championship – his first of five before his unceremonious exit in November 1997.
After signing a twenty-year contract with the World Wrestling Federation in October 1996, Hart was informed less than one year in, that McMahon could not afford him and encouraged Hart to explore talks with WCW. Hart’s contract contained a unique “reasonable creative control clause” where Hart would need to sign off on his handling for the final thirty days of the deal – an amazing detail given the term of the contract and the likelihood of such a clause playing any factor when signed.
This led to the Survivor Series match with Shawn Michaels and Hart being double-crossed.
In May 1999, Hart’s younger brother Owen died tragically after falling from the rafters of Kemper Arena in Kansas City during the ‘Over the Edge’ event. A lawsuit was filed by Hart’s widow, Martha, with Bret among the plaintiffs attached to the case.
A settlement was reached in 2000 but the case caused irreparable harm among members of the Hart family, which played out in the public sphere.
Hart was extremely outspoken regarding McMahon throughout the years, but the ice was thawed after Hart’s stroke in 2002 when McMahon reached out.
The two sides worked together in 2005 for a special DVD project on Hart’s career, which had its drama behind it. The company was prepared to release “Screwed: The Bret Hart Story” – a burial piece on the ex-communicated star and when Hart gained wind of the project, the sides came to the table and put out the classier version.
Hart was inducted into the company’s Hall of Fame the next year in Chicago but refused to attend the next evening’s WrestleMania event and lead the roll call of inductees in front of the fans.
Hart randomly popped up on WWE television in 2007 in a pre-taped message, cutting a promo on McMahon during a ‘Vince McMahon Appreciation Night’ edition of Raw, which culminated in his storyline death.
Hart fully embraced the company and the Survivor Series fallout when he agreed to work an angle based on the incident in 2010 to set up a match between the two at that year’s WrestleMania in Glendale, Arizona.
Over the past fourteen years, he has maintained a relationship with the company on various projects including an A&E Biography episode and sporadic appearances on its programming.
Hart left no wiggle room for reconciliation with McMahon over these latest allegations, telling Reisman that he lacks any respect for the man and could not even bring himself to reciprocate a handshake if McMahon offered one.
I think, despite all of the issues I ever had with Vince, I know, deep down, I always respected him; but now, knowing what kind of a weirdo he became, I have absolutely zero respect for him.