Review for Bret Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition DVD with bonus 2nd disc: The Life & Death of Owen Hart
To many it is just a place in Canada, but to wrestling fans when you say that word there is only one thing that comes to mind...
Bret Hart: Wrestling with Shadows tells the behind the scenes story of one of the WWE's biggest stars and his fall from grace. After proving himself as one of the best since his debut 1984 he had gone on to dominate as a world champion and main eventer. But times were changing. It was the era of the anti-hero, the Stone Cold and the DX generation. It was a time when there were no good and bad guys, just a lot of blurring of the shades. This caused a problem for Bret Hart who to Canada was a national hero and was the very definition of a good guy.
The documentary looks at Bret's career in the WWE up to 1997 and also the dealings with WCW and his contract issues with Vince McMahon. What transpires, is a fascinating documentary about someone being doublecrossed. After turning down an offer from WCW, Bret signed with WWE for a multi year contract which later Vince told him that he could not honour. Because of this, Bret signed with WCW.
The problem was Bret was the WWE Champion and Vince wanted him to lose the belt to Shawn Michaels, a man Bret detested. It was also booked to be at the Survivor Series, held in Montreal. Bret outright refused and over the days agreed with Vince that this would not happen.
But it did.
Bret was screwed by Vince, calling for the bell and awarded the belt to Shawn Michaels. What follows is a fascinating look at a conspiracy. At that time it was unclear who knew (we now know who did and that makes it all the more fascinating) and Bret's reaction and how it is captured is wonderful.
The documentary is a wonderful look at a business that most people consider to be fake, yet to the people involved it is all too real.
The set comes with a second documentary The Life and Death of Owen Hart. This is a previously unreleased film (only just under an hour) and looks at the life of Bret's younger brother Owen and his death in 1999. I'd be lying if I said that this documentary was as good as the first, it's not for a variety of reasons, mainly to do with the dated footage, the time spent on the subject and the overall feeling when you watch. Unlike the Bret story where you can at least understand (but may not agree) what Vince McMahon did, at the end of the day he was still walking into a multi-million dollar WCW contract. This documentary has no happy ending.
Owen Hart was a reluctant wrestler, but being a member of the infamous wrestling Hart family he had no choice. The documentary saw how he excelled at it and despite leaving the business a number of times he kept being lured back (mainly by the secure money it offered). Sadly, it was this that led to his death, at Over the Edge 1999 in May while performing a stunt in which he was to lower himself from the rafters an accident happened resulting in Owen plunging to the ground and to his death.
The documentary does not go much into detail of the what and why or how this happened, mainly because no one really knows. The footage of Vince McMahon being questioned depicts him as a heartless man who didn't care that someone had died, which everyone denies is the case. Owen's wife is obviously upset by the whole matter, as are everyone and I think the problem with it is that it does feel a little one-sided. Anyone who has read or heard any interviews with the likes of bookers Vince Russo or Pat Patterson will see how much they loved Owen and that if he had not wanted to do the stunt... BAM gone! Instead, the documentary makes it seem like he was forced up there.
Both documentaries have their plus points and if you are a fan of the Harts, especially Bret and Owen then these are great additions to any collection. However, be warned that after watching them you may feel a little bit disillusioned by the wrestling business.