“Wrestling With Shadows,” A Look Into The End of Bret Hart’s Run in the WWF

Paul Jay’s Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows is a 1998 documentary film which follows then-World Wrestling Federation Champion and superstar Bret “Hitman” Hart during his final year in the WWF, starting from his WWF Championship victory over The Undertaker at SummerSlam to his last match with the company versus “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels at the Survivor Series on November 9, 1997.  This documentary is lauded and infamous for its access and rare look behind-the-scenes of the professional wrestling industry, including Hart discussing with The Undertaker and Pat Patterson about the course of their SummerSlam match, Triple H being accused by Bret’s wife, Julie, of his involvement in the “Montreal Screwjob” incident, and outside-of-the-ring endeavors of Vader, who had just acquired his real estate license and career plans after wrestling.  Wrestling with Shadows also takes a rare look at the life of the extensive, wrestling-oriented Hart family and household.

As Bret Hart’s contract was about to come up in March 1996, he was torn between two companies, World Wrestling Federation (WWF) — which Bret considered his home and it’s owner, Vince McMahon as a father-figure — and the competition, Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling (WCW) during the “Monday Night Wars” ratings era. Bret was disillusioned by the WWF’s new creative approach through its “WWF Attitude” marketing brand, which relied on sex, extreme violence, and focus on anti-heroes rather than typical good guys. WCW, on the other hand, was a company with a more wholesome approach to the professional wrestling product and was willing to pay him a great deal to “jump ship” as well as give him a fresh start. Hart chooses to remain loyal and stayed with the WWF and signed a twenty-year deal with the company, despite the fact that WWF’s Raw Is War was losing to WCW’s Monday Nitro in the ratings.  However, McMahon retracted the contract deal (due to financial reasons), and encouraged Hart join WCW and take WCW President Eric Bischoff’s offer. Conflict and tensions begin to rise as Hart, the reigning WWF Champion, was unwilling to lose the the title (especially to real-life rival Shawn Michaels) in his home country of Canada. These events would eventually lead to one of the most infamous events in professional wrestling known as the Montreal Screwjob.

Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows is currently available on DVD in some stores and online, on-demand via Netflix and on Amazon Instant Video.

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