Bret Hart talks Attitude Era, "WWE '13"
With the release of THQ’s “WWE ’13,” it seems as though the entire WWE Universe is feeling a bit nostalgic these days. First and foremost on everyone’s mind? The Attitude Era! In this WWE.com exclusive interview, WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart opens up about his thoughts on that historic time in WWE and how “WWE ’13” captures the essence of The Attitude Era.
WWE.COM: What was the moment that told you a new era was dawning in WWE?
BRET HART: I’ve always thought the course WWE was taking started really to change drastically in the ’92-’93-’94 period. It changed from being wrestling cartoon characters to it being about the wrestling itself. It was about the wrestling now. It was about guys like Shawn Michaels, myself and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — the guys that were on their way, and all of us had a different sort of vision as to what it was about. It wasn’t about having 24-inch arms — it wasn’t so much about being real-life cartoon characters as it was about being great wrestlers.
I felt there was a real surge in that time period and The Attitude Era is really a product of that. The rest of us started to become more confident in our roles as great wrestlers rather than cartoon characters. When I look at Austin in particular, he and I had such a great intensity to our matches and to the interviews — the same goes for Shawn Michaels and, for that matter, Undertaker. We all did real interviews, and we really amped it up. It wasn’t just talk: We backed it up with great matches and I think that’s what I remember about The Attitude Era. It was the final layer to that whole transformation — wrestling as the centerpiece of the show, as opposed to cartoon characters.
WWE.COM: What do you think are the lasting effects of The Attitude Era on WWE today?
BRET HART: Well, just about everybody I know talks about that being the last great era of wrestling. For me as a fan, I loved all the stuff Austin did with me and with Vince McMahon. Austin has such a great character that I really enjoyed following his career even after mine was over. I enjoyed all the stuff he did after I left the company.
Even when I was with him in 1997, I thought the stuff I did with Austin was as good as it gets — the match we had at WrestleMania 13, all the promos we did, the Street Fight Match. There was this conviction we both had to make it real, to make everyone really feel that these were real — kind of like what the UFC projects today. We were doing a better job of doing it back then.
WWE.COM: Speaking of “Stone Cold,” is he the definitive Attitude Era Superstar in your opinion?
BRET HART: I can’t think of anyone more fitting than Steve.
WWE.COM: Is there an Attitude Era Superstar you didn’t have a match with who you would want to face in the ring?
BRET HART: If I could go back in time, I would have loved to have done more with Triple H. He blossomed into a bigger star after I left.
I regret, looking back now, that we didn’t have more matches, or better matches or at least one pay-per-view match where we could have really showed our best stuff — or at least, I did. He’s a guy that he and I had some situation together, and I think it worked well on Monday Night Raw, but we never really had the chance to show what we could really do.
WWE.COM: And the reverse of that question: What current Superstar would have fit well in The Attitude Era?
BRET HART: You know, funny enough, I can’t help but look back on my career back then, and sort of how I was struggling with trying to be a hero around the world and keep my fan base. I do really love what John Cena goes through today with his fan base and the fans in general; the boo chants that he gets and all that kind of stuff.
But I can’t help but think there would have been some great Attitude stuff for Bret “Hit Man” Hart as the American-bashing bad guy if I was to have found myself somehow face to face with John Cena. I think we could have had some great matches together. I wish I could pull on the tights now and go out there and compete in some matches against Cena.
I don’t know if a Bret Hart as a fan favorite against John Cena has much appeal to me, or to the fans, but Bret Hart the villain against John Cena really does get my blood pumping.
WWE.COM: What were your feelings about the ratings war between WWE and WCW?
BRET HART: Well, the first time it actually happened, I was still with the company but I had taken time off after wrestling Shawn Michaels in the Iron Man Match. It was only about a month later that they [WCW] started winning in the ratings.
To be honest, I remember being in disbelief and being flabbergasted because I would watch the two shows, and I would watch the two hours of Nitro only to shake my head and go, “I don’t know how anyone could watch that in contrast to what Steve Austin’s doing on the other channel, what I’m doing on the other channel, what Shawn Michaels is doing on the other channel, what Undertaker’s doing.”
I know we had a much better show, better stars and better production. Everything was sort of smarter and better on Raw.
But you know, I guess it was the novelty of Nitro people were drawn to. The whole Nitro thing had a mystique about it with Eric Bischoff, and The nWo was a brilliant idea — that may have been the only idea they had, but they built everything around that idea. For a wrestling fan, I guess it was a pretty exciting era with The nWo and who was in on that and who wasn’t.
It was an interesting time from the standpoint of trust — wrestlers didn’t know what was going to happen next, and who to trust.
I’ll be honest — going back to the question — I don’t know how WCW was winning in the ratings. I never saw any comparison between the two shows, or between the quality of the two shows. The wrestling was just better in WWE.
WWE.COM: With the release of “WWE ’13,” can you talk about how video games have changed since the first one you appeared in?
BRET HART: The games have gotten progressively better every year since they started coming out, and the thing about wrestling today is you can actually play these games and build your match much like the way wrestlers do with the psychology behind them.
In “WWE ’13,” you can actually incorporate that into the game. If you want to punish a guy’s back or his leg, you can do that kind of stuff. You can do almost any move. There’s a lot of legitimate ring psychology wrestling fans and novices can apply to the game. I think that just adds to the realism of the game. Every time you play these games, they get more and more real.
Sometimes that’s more fun than watching wrestling — playing the game, doing your own stuff. I find that’s the beauty of video games — everything’s getting more lifelike and THQ tries to improve on it every year.
WWE.COM: Since The Attitude Era is such a huge part of “WWE ’13,” is there anything specific you feel THQ does to capture the essence of that time?
BRET HART: I think they capture the whole emotion [of the time]. There was a lot of energy in The Attitude Era, where a lot of the great wrestlers that are in “WWE ’13” were in their prime. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and even myself. I know for a fact I had the best matches of my career in 1997, so I think that’s what you look for in the game — to bring back that whole nostalgia of what that era was and how we were all firm believers in our own directions and destiny.
It was uncharted waters back then, and we were all really stepping up. I think you look at all of us, from Shawn, Triple H, Undertaker — we all progressed starting from that period.
Something happened in 1997 that changed the whole industry at least for the next five, six or seven years. It wasn’t about the 24-inch arms and the cartoon characters anymore. It was about the wrestling and what we were doing in the ring, physically.
Relive all The Attitude Era action by playing as Bret “Hit Man” Hart in “WWE ’13,” on shelves now! And be on the lookout for Bret Hart’s upcoming DVD!