Former WWE Champion and current WWE Hall of Famer, Bret “The Hitman” Hart sat down with SI and had a lengthy interview that covered a large variety of topics. He delivered his awesome “State of the WWE” address:
“Seth Rollins is one of the hardest working wrestlers I’ve ever seen,” said Hart. He’s one of those rare guys in the industry today who is an innovator and a guy who creates new ideas, moves, and psychology.I know I got really excited about wrestling again after watching CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, but now neither one of those guys is around, and Seth Rollins is going to carry the company. His timing is impeccable and he does a lot of challenging, creative, complex stuff.”
Then he dropped a sad but maybe realistic bomb.
“Daniel Bryan is finished,” said Hart. “He’ll never wrestle again. I don’t think he knows it yet. I feel terrible about Daniel Bryan. For all intents and purposes, he had the exact same thing happen to him that happened to me after Bill Goldberg kicked me in the head [ending Hart’s career]. One day, you learn it’s over. Doctors tell you that you can’t wrestle and you’ll never wrestle again. I lost millions of dollars because of that. I pray that it’s not the same for Daniel Bryan.”
Bryan’s attempted comeback included many of the same dangerous maneuvers that were part of his repertoire before the neck injury. He was advised to change his fan friendly style but he didn’t do so.
“I saw him in a lot of his matches after he came back from the injury, and he was taking suplexes on the back of his head, powerbombs, and other really dangerous moves,” said Hart. “I know he wanted to test it out, but I think he may have pushed himself too hard. He’s like Dynamite Kid in the sense that they’re both tough and neither wanted to admit that injuries got the best of them. He’s finished forever, but I don’t think he’s even realized that. He’s probably thinking, ‘Maybe it will get better in a few months,’ but unfortunately, I don’t think it will.”
Bryan’s absence is noticed by the WWE Universe, but Hart believes that eventually Reigns will emerge as a WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
“It was so manufactured that it hurt someone who was naturally getting over on his own,” said Hart. “As soon as the company decided they were going to make him the star, people started to sour on him. Roman Reigns is a really good wrestler and he’ll find his path. He turned the corner at WrestleMania when the fans accepted him on his own merit just ‘cause he had a great match. But, in the creation of Roman Reigns, he seems to now be a lot like Triple H’s character. Long hair, indestructible, no facials, he’s always angry, and there’s no softness in his eyes, so it’s very hard to get sympathy. All of that was poorly thought out. There are ways to achieve all those things with dramatic logic in the match, but they missed a lot of that with him. The company said, ‘We’re going to get this guy so over that no one will be able to compare to him.’ In the end, no one liked him. They just need sometimes that there is a logic that goes to wrestling and people like to see.”
Hart knew that the WWE was in a bind going into Wrestlemania 31, and he realized they had to shift a few things around much like last year.
“I can see the problem,” he said. “They had Daniel Bryan who, because of his injury, was basically going to comeback and repeat the exact same storyline that he did the last year, and Vince didn’t want to do that again. So they took a sharp turn and said they were going to get Reigns over. It’s easy to say now they should have done different things to help establish Roman Reigns as a babyface character, but my thinking in all this is that they tend to get a little too pig-headed in their thinking – ‘We’ll do this, this, and that’s all there is to it.’ The fans are too smart for that. When Reigns got that endorsement from Rock, they tried so hard to have people love him,” said Hart. “It was a really tough time for Roman Reigns, but I don’t think it was his fault. The booking wasn’t thought out enough.”
Bret loved the way the WWE handled the main event at Mania.
“The way that the end of WrestleMania was booked, especially the final main event, was brilliant,” he said. “The WrestleMania finish was a Vince McMahon finish. Vince really put his head on straight, thought about it, and came up with the perfect way to get Roman Reigns over and keep everyone guessing. I thought the pay-per-view, despite the poor buildup for Roman Reigns, achieved the goal in getting Reigns accepted.”
Hart commends the younger generation on their athleticism and how they perform today.
“I know Seth Rollins is a CrossFit guy,” said Hart. “I just think back to my days, and I don’t how I could have done CrossFit training and then wrestled that night. I tip my hat to a lot of the young wrestlers, there are a lot of great ones out there. If you watch punches, kicks, and moves where there is contact, Cody Rhodes is one of the best. I watch a lot of wrestlers in WWE throw the phoniest, worst punches – WWE tries to cut camera at the last second. In my day, wrestling had to look pretty real. Cody Rhodes’ punches are right in there, his kicks are right in there, and you never see Cody Rhodes talking in the ring. You see a lot of wrestlers – who aren’t good professionals – talking and calling spots in the ring. They’re oblivious to the fact that all the fans can see them calling a high spot to the guy. There is an art to wrestling and there is a need to do it right. Cody Rhodes exemplifies all the right things. Second generation wrestlers almost naturally bond together, but I had a lot of respect for Dustin before he even got to WWE,” said Hart. “When he first left, I remember having a long talk with him in his hotel room about coming back one day when he could be a new face and see if the WWE could use him right. It’s the same discussion I had with my brother Owen.”
Runnels came back to the WWE and had a great run with his brother as the two became great tag team champions.
“I have so much respect for Dustin,” he said. “I said to him a few months ago, ‘You’re the hardest working guy in the business.’ He was never a guy who cut corners. Goldust was a far better wrestler and far bigger star that he ever got a chance to prove. He made that gimmick work. And Cody Rhodes has done the best he can with what he’s got. He tried to make Stardust work to share a little history with his brother that they can one day look back on. It would have made much more sense to let them have their moment,” Hart said. “It’s not very often you can build into a storyline that for real. Cody and Dustin are great workers and could have done the same thing Owen and I did [at WrestleMania X]. They’ve probably wrestled with each other their whole lives, and thinking about wrestling concepts and ideas, so to have that storyline yet not give them the big stage is a big question mark. There are a lot of people in the creative department of WWE who haven’t got a clue about the history and what’s really important or even what the wrestlers will look back on one day as cherished moments. Not putting Dustin and Cody together and letting them have that moment is something that was lost. Creative sometimes overthinks things. I find more and more that WWE, sadly, doesn’t listen to the fans. Instead it’s more like, ‘This is our way or no way. We’re going to push this idea down your throat, whether you like it or not, until you love it.’ I think they need to refrain from that and give the fans what they want. That’s always been Vince’s motto, and I think it works a lot better.”