This is very much a book of two halves with a big decline midway through.
The first half covers both the Stampede promotion and Hart’s own career and is a definite thumbs up. While Hart is almost always portraying himself in a positive light, there’s some good insights into the establishment and operations of the territory and the unusual world of dealing with pro wrestlers and their egos.
It all goes off a cliff when the book gets to the end of the territory in 1989 with a couple of obvious problems that set the scene for the second half. First, Hart covers the July 4th crash that ended Jason the Terrible’s career and notes that on the morning before setting out, somebody referred to the July 4th curse because of incidents on the date with three crashes involving Adrian Adonis, Brutus Beefcake and Joey Marella. That must have been quite the eerie moment considering the latter two wouldn’t happen until 1990 and 1994 respectively.
Then in the space of just three pages we go from:
“The [Dynamite vs Davey Boy] feud became a hot ticket in Stampede Wrestling, drawing huge gates all over the territory. Suddenly things appeared to be in good shape again — the best, in fact, since our breakout summer of 1987.”
“…most people will tell you [Dynamite and Davey]’s return to the territory in 1989 was one of the main reasons why Stampede Wrestling went out of business… by 1989 [Dynamite] was like a rusty, dull blade who could no longer ‘cut it’ and because of that the promotion had gone down.”
From this point on the book is more about Bret’s success and the subsequent disintegration of family unity in the wake of Montreal and Owen’s death. As with most Hart family accounts of the period, the bitterness means it’s simply sad to read whatever your views of the situations.
In this latter half, the book also develops a similar problem to that of Adnan Al-Kaissey’s autobiography where there are so many claims that either seem dubious or are demonstratively incorrect about public events that it brings into question the entire account. Once you’ve read Bruce’s account of how at Survivor Series the Hart Family was originally scheduled to face Jerry Lawler, Terry Funk, Shawn Michaels and Doink, or how Chris Benoit was the reigning WWF champion in 2001, it’s hard to put much weight behind his claims that he suggested the Sharpshooter as Bret’s finisher or that Bret called the Governer-General of Canada’s office the night after Stu appeared on Raw and demanded that his Order of Canada honour be rescinded.
Long term Bret followers will at least be amused to see Bruce sharing some of his linguistic quirks including “the WCW” and “my brother, Owen”, which certainly backs up his account of ghostwriting Bret’s weekly Calgary Sun column.
The unreliable narrator element certainly makes you revisit your understanding of the first half of the book, but for those with an interest in the territorial era, this is still worth a look as a counterpart to Heath McCoy’s Pain and Passion.