Smith Hart, the eldest brother of the infamous Hart clan, recently spoke with Raj Giri (@RajGiri_303) of WrestlingINC.com about his time in the business, his family, the Montreal screwjob, WWF buying Stampede and much more. Here is the full interview, in its entirety.
WrestlingINC.com: You started wrestling back in the 70's in Stampede, was that where you got your start?
Hart: Yeah, exactly. I started wrestling professionally maybe in 1971 or 1972. I thought I was actually a bona-fide wrestler and in 1973 when I went to Japan, I realized how much I didn't know and how a lot of what I learned in the pro ring could be improved upon in Japan. It was great training, absolutely great training. I didn't realize I had 6 months of intensive training there. I knew my parents wanted me home for Christmas, but I was so improved by then that I was looking so much better than a lot of guys who were working on the top of the card. But I wasn't as big or well built or as seasoned as those guys. I worked out in the gym, but I wasn't a body builder or a weight lifter. I had a damn good physique and good genetics, but I was really a lazy bastard, I didn't really like to work out. I had more brains for promotion and angles and spotting talent and making the most out of situations and wrestlers than I did for getting in there.
WrestlingINC.com: How long did you keep wrestling for?
Hart: I wrestled professionally for 18 years. Sometimes I would have a little lay off or I would be in a moody spell and didn't want to wrestle in Calgary, but I'd pick it up again. I traveled a lot around the world in the process.
WrestlingINC.com: What was your relationship like with your brothers?
Hart: Keith was my dad's pet, Bruce was my mother's pet, I was nobody's pet. I was raised by my grandparents and never really bonded with my mother or my dad, I kind of feared my dad… you can call it respect or fear that I didn't lock horns with him too much. I was raised by my grandparents because my parents had a bad car accident and couldn't get back to New York -- they were in Montana and had to stay there to fight this lawsuit for two years -- and I was with my grandparents. At first it was only for a short time, but then they [parents] couldn't pick me up and it just got longer and longer. My mother's father was an Olympic track star that broke the world record in 1912 and he had 5 daughters and no sons, so I was like the son they never had and always wanted. I had a great time there, but when I got to Calgary, Bruce and Keith were born there and I had never seen them before and I was like a stranger. I was the odd man out.
WrestlingINC.com: When WWF bought Stampede wrestling in 1984, what were your thoughts on that sale and did you think it was a good idea at the time?
Hart: At the time I thought it was a great idea, but when you say sale, the deal never happened. Vince [McMahon] Sr. made the deal with my parents in Japan and then he died not long after and Vince [McMahon] Jr. didn't honor the deal, so there was no deal. Vince Jr. shrugged his big, broad padded shoulders and said, "Well, you can start promoting again."
WrestlingINC.com: Right, so I guess WWE didn't technically sell Stampede back to your family, they just never completed the sell?
Hart: That's right, we had some fairly useless lawyers at the time and there were no provisions about what if it didn't happen. It was all like they are going to buy it and you're going to get a tidy fortune for it and then a percentage of all future gates in your towns whenever they come. That happened for a couple of shows, but it all sort of dried up. My father didn't want to make waves, he wasn't the type of guy to talk to a lawyer at the first sign of despair. And they [WWE] were employing [Jim] Neidhart and Bret [Hart] and Davey Boy [Smith] and Dynamite [Kid], who were all pretty much family. So it wasn't worth destructing those contracts... it was too hard and my dad wasn't a petty man by any means.
WrestlingINC.com: What were your thoughts on Bret and Davey Boy and everyone going to the WWF at that time?
Hart: I was very happy for them all. I thought it was great and I've benefited, I think the whole family has benefited from the association with the WWE. I personally like the McMahon family. My dad's known like 5 generations of McMahons. There was always good harmony with us, even despite it being tested a little bit with Bret's Montreal screw job... that tested things a little bit. But my dad was one of the ones who said immediately [after Montreal] that Bret should have just done the job and been a man about it. [It] doesn't matter if Vince wants you to put his sick grandmother over two straight. That's fine, you just do it. Whoever signs the checks calls the shots.
WrestlingINC.com: So that iteration of Stampede was shut down in 1989, is that when you stopped wrestling or was it before that?
Hart: It was after that, I still wrestled in Puerto Rico and Montreal and a few places. I did odds and ends here and there and wrestled some Stampede shows to fill up the cards.
WrestlingINC.com: Did you enjoy wrestling better or working outside the ring and teaching students and kind of managing the business end?
Hart: I guess I liked it outside the ring. I would say the manipulation of the talent and coming up with novel ideas and working with the media and all that. I had more ability that way. As I said, I was surely lazy and stubborn and I didn't feel that creative in the gym. I guess I had more exciting things to do than push iron.
WrestlingINC.com: When Bret and Owen got involved in their feud during WWF, were you keeping in touch with them during that time?
Hart: Absolutely, a lot of that [videos done hyping their feud] was done at the house. I think they did some custom interviews there at the house interviewing family members, they did it with Davey and Bret and I was supposed to be on someone's side, I can't remember. You know they said, "you and you and you are on Bret's side, and you and you are on Owen's side."
We would always have our Sunday dinners and, pretty much without fail, if Owen or Bret were in town and usually they were there together, they couldn't pass up the Sunday dinner and they would bring their kids over and their wives.
WrestlingINC.com: You were there at the WWF Canadian Stampede, I think it was 1997? What was that like, having the whole family in the ring after the main event, that was a memorable event for a lot of fans…
Hart: Oh that was great, that was good. I didn't get anything [monetarily] for it, I don't know if any of my brothers did. It was fun just to be part of it. Even some kid that wasn't even in our family came flying in the ring and lingered there when we cleaned house and stood there waiting and nobody knew he wasn't one of us... We did, but we couldn't throw him out of the ring in front of everybody. He just stood there, he was like hero for the day for a few minutes there.
WrestlingINC.com: Did you keep in touch with Bret during that time when he was going to WCW?
Hart: Not really other than when he came to the house. My dad's house was kind of like Grand Central Station as far as our extended family went. I would always see Bret at the house, I would never go to his place or anything unless he dropped something off. Basically, you know when they were in town they would stop by dad's. If he was there, I would see him there sometimes leaving, he would just come over to get five stacks of mail from my mother and chit chat with her. She would try to ensure him everything would be alright and my dad would tell him that things were going to pass as long as he got a contract to take care of his family. Don't worry about some back-stabbing whining crying primadonna, just let it all pass.
Guys like Rick Rude and Curt Hennig used to call my dad up after a big match like at Wrestlemania, and he would give advice like they were one of his own sons. He would tell them don't worry about it, ride it out, as long as you are getting paid then that's what counts.
WrestlingINC.com: What were your thoughts on the Montreal screw job, did you think it was not a big deal or were you upset by it?
Hart: Since the provisions in his [Bret's] contract had creative control of his last two weeks of his tenure, Bret did have some legitimate rights. When he first dropped the belt, they said this was just temporary and we are going to put the belt right back on you and that didn't happen. And then the match with Shawn and Bret... Shawn's got a sore ass, or he's sick or whatever, I don't think a lot of that was legitimate.
I think that Shawn was one of the best performers I had ever seen and I like Shawn Michaels, and he likes the family. I always heard that he and Marty Jannetty were fans of my dad. From what I understand he was getting somewhat out of control with some of the things there. Vince should have been man enough to keep his word. Bret comes from a fairly good background and there was never any mention of Bret taking the title with him to WCW. Bret was happy that he got such a good offer from WCW. WWE was concerned Bret would have walked with the title much the way Alundra Blaze did when she joined the WCW and threw the WWE belt in the garbage. Bret would have never have done that but I think Vince was so in love with Shawn that he couldn't see straight.
WrestlingINC.com: Bret and Vince McMahon buried the hatched, was it a relief to you or did it not really concern you?
Hart: I didn't give a damn about that to tell you the truth. I'm glad they did, you might as well bury the hatchet. Might as well have peace instead of strife.
WrestlingINC.com: It was great seeing your family at Wrestlemania 26. What was it like being there?
Hart: It was kind of a thrill to tell you the truth. I've seen big crowds before and I've promoted 20,000 attendance shows on a little island in the Caribbean that didn't have that many people in the population. I really enjoyed that, it was really a big thrill, that is the first time I was actually at a Wrestlemania. It was bigger than life and it looked like five movies were being made at the same time, there was all the equipment and stuff. Compared to a normal Monday Night Raw, the building was huge and the accommodations were first class. Great after-party, meeting Billy Corgan and some of the guests they had there... Snoop Dog and Macaulay Culkin... I like meeting celebrities who actually like wrestling.
WrestlingINC.com: Harry Smith and Tyson Kidd had a big role at that WrestleMania. How did Harry feel towards the end of his WWE run?
Hart: He felt disappointed, but at the same time he felt highly relieved. He still has a good repore with John Laurinaitis. John said you're always welcome back, the door's wide open in the future. So that was all good, I was glad to hear that.
Tyson Kidd is one of the best chain wrestlers going and you know he's up there, he can do a lot of the high flying stuff that Evan Bourne does. Tyson is totally a straight shooter, he doesn't smoke, he's legitimate straight edge. He's never done anything as far as drugs or alcohol or steroids go, he totally kept his nose and system clean like Owen did.
WrestlingINC.com: Stampede kind of would come back and then would disappear here and there. I know it just came back again in November and you're behind it now right?
Hart: Yeah, there was a great show, I ran a show with some friends in the area here in Ontario working with my brother Bruce. Bruce and I want to get something going all across the country, we are striving to get television.
WrestlingINC.com: You had the show in November, that's the show where Harry Smith wrestled Fit Finley, do you have any more coming up?
Hart: Yes, as matter of fact I am planning a show maybe on April 15th to coincide with some of the of the WrestleReunion activity. It's a good time to get named talent that's acceptable and desirable by the fans, since they are here anyway.
I would rather establish it than try to make a quick buck on this. There isn't really enough [money] to make it worth your while. Television may be down the road... I've got some meetings with some fairly important people in the television industry in the next week or so.
WrestlingINC.com: You will be at the eleventh PWHF Induction Weekend in May. What will you be doing there?
Hart: I'm inducting Junkyard Dog [Sylvester Ritter] into the Pro Wrestling Hall Of Fame in Amsterdam, NY. I wrestled him in Puerto Rico in 1978, he weighed 250 pounds and we had such a good match that I recommended him to Calgary. Bret wrestled him too, as a matter of fact. I kind of lost touch with him, he's been dead for a while now and it's just too bad that all the stuff he was indulging in wasn't good for your health and it gets pretty complicated when you are on pain killers and this and that. He was a great guy and good athlete and a gentleman and I was always glad for his success.
WrestlingINC.com: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers of WrestlingINC?
Hart: I'd like to say hi to all of my family and to all the Stampede wrestling fans from around the world. You can follow me on Twitter at @SmithHart1.