By one count, former pro wrestling star Bret (Hitman) Hart has been in 21 video games.
But the 55-year-old Calgary native has a soft spot for “WWE 13.” That’s because the game features Hart and others in classic playable storylines from the so-called “Attitude Era” years starting in the late ’90s.
For Hart, the mid-80s and pro wrestling icon Hulk Hogan were “much more about cartoon characters.” A change was needed.
“By the early ’90s when I was sort of in my prime, we started moving to the Attitude Era and I like to think that I kicked the doors open for the Attitude Era,” Hart said in an interview.
“It was more about the wrestling,” he added. “It wasn’t so much about the characters, even though we were in a lot of ways much more interesting characters.
“The titles really seemed to mean a lot to the wrestlers in that era. Winning and losing and being on top was sort of critical…. Winning titles meant prestige and better pay. The top guys were making the best money. So there was a lot at stake.
“I think all that played into that Attitude Era. I know for me probably in ’97, for sure, I had my greatest matches in the WWE. I was for sure in my prime, (doing) my best stuff.”
Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, all of whom are in the video game, were all part of that.
Hart beat the Undertaker in the 1997 “Summer Slam,” winning the title for the fifth time.
“One of my favourite matches of all time,” he said.
Hart notes how the Undertaker changed his wrestling style by that ’97 bout, upping the tempo and “doing all sorts of moves.”
“Whereas in the beginning, he was kind of like Frankenstein, kind of moving around slow and ponderous in the ring, and was very methodical. But times changed and by the mid-90s, Undertaker had revamped his whole character.”
Austin had also changed his act.
“I like to think I was carrying the flag for the whole company, where it wasn’t about the wrestlers being cartoon characters,” said Hart. “It was about the wrestlers being committed stars that were trying to get to the top.”
The bottom line was the wrestlers weren’t one-trick ponies.
“I don’t want to rag too much on Hulk Hogan but he’s pretty one-dimensional,” said Hart. “Very big guy. The great, magnificent body that he had – the 22-inch arms and all that kind of stuff. But after a while, after (The Ultimate) Warrior came, it was like, ‘Enough of the body-building, let’s go on with who can actually do a drop-kick and who can actually climb up on top and do stuff.’
“I think the wrestling really did change from these sort of dinosaurs to the guys who were really picking it up and doing the moves.”
Hart, who had a stroke in 2002, still plays a role in the WWE although not as a full-on competitor.
He says he has recovered well from the stroke, but has issues with his ankle and has a few other nagging injuries.
“But for the most part, I’m pretty good,” he said.
He has plenty of respect for today’s wrestlers “especially because it’s a much more drug-free environment.”
“There’s a lot of innovators,” he said, citing Rey Mysterio, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan.
“When I was done wrestling in 2000 – that’s when I got hurt and retired – I had just about run out of every move. I couldn’t think of anything else, at least at the time. I remember thinking I’ve done everything I could possibly think of as far as endings to my matches, moves, counters to my moves, little add-ons to different sequences of moves, I always felt I had personally exhausted myself out.”
Today’s top wrestlers have shown him differently.
“They’ve really stepped up a lot. They might not be as big and as bulky as the wrestlers back in the ’80s were, but they’re every bit as hard-workers as this industry has seen. I think they’re working harder today than they’ve ever been working.”
He’s also impressed with today’s video games.
“I find that they’ve really raised the bar the last five years or so with the detail. The figures or characters all look pretty much the way I remember them.”
The game also allows you to use the kind of ring psychology he used in his matches, he says.
“In a lot of ways you can put together a real match and have as close to the real thing as you can get now in a video game.”
The Attitude Era is just part of the game, which includes today’s wrestlers and the ability to create your own storyline.
The WWE game is developed by Yuke’s Co. Ltd, a Japanese company with a long history of wrestling games.
Rated T for Teen, “WWE 13” is available for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii.