On what he considers the most successful era of his career: "I think in 1997 I was in my absolute prime. I was never bitter; I was uninjured. I was ready to go and ready to make some serious changes to make a difference to have my all-time favorite matches that I would have loved to have. It's a shame that the Montreal Screwjob happened, especially from the fact that there wasn't anymore matches with Shawn Michaels or Steve Austin. Can you imagine the matches I could have had The Rock when he was finally over, and some of the other guys. I wish, even when I went to WCW I could have had classic matches with Chris Benoit, and it's a shame that things happened the way they happened, but in 1997, there was so many great matches. It was such a strong year for me.
"I love when I think about the SummerSlam match against The Undertaker. What a great match, wonderful story. Two wrestlers that had such great respect for one another. I look back on 1997, with my match against Steve Austin; heck, even the Screw Job itself was a really great match. That was all planned, the way the match was built, and then the bell started, but we had another 25 minutes planned that the Screwjob hadn't allowed us to continue with it. When the bell rang, that was when the whole wrestling match was going to start because we were brawling all over the floor. All I cared about was having this beautiful match, and telling a story. Had the Screwjob not been written into the story, it would have been a classic---perhaps the greatest Shawn Michaels/Bret Hart match that we would have talked about today, not because of what happened. That spot with the Sharpshooter with Shawn reversing it was planned, it was just a spot; and a pretty good spot; a big momentum changer. That was the first five minutes of the match, but the real spots were coming, but unfortunately we never got to do them."
On what helped him regain his enthusiasm for the business: "I think WCW will kill any kind of joy in your life. I think I started hating money; The money they paid me was insane; but I would be off and fly first-class airplane, luxury cars and hotels, and then arrive at the arena and have Eric Bischoff tell you 5-10 minutes after 6pm that you are off tonight. I would then ask why I flew all the way down [to the arena] and then he would tell me not to worry about it and enjoy the day off [at the arena]. I didn't go there to dog it, I wanted to work and tear that place down. I wanted to wrestle, and to have something. They were so bad, they would kill any hope in anybody."
On Eric Bischoff: "I don't have a good thing to say about Eric Bischoff or anything he ever did. Talk about the Midas touch, he was the opposite. He would kill your career; he was too stupid to know what a career was. It's like, if you had passion for your matches and a genius for wrestling talent, it didn't mean anything to Eric Bischoff, he was the worst loser, maggot - he was a nice enough guy, but he was just the worst. I felt so bad, because I went to WCW because I really wanted to make a difference. If you look at WCW and all the names that they had, and all the wrestlers, they had everything, all they needed was to have someone who knew what they were doing; someone with half a brain.
"I heard his quote, which is why I get hostile towards Eric Bischoff talking about how when i came to WCW I was like a broken toy, or that I didn't have the fire. I could strangle him when I hear him say that because that is so not true. I was on fire; I wanted to take the world on; I wanted to take that whole company and kick Vince McMahon in the teeth. I wanted to put on the best matches. Give me Chris Benoit, give me Booker T, give me Sting, Hogan, and we can really get this thing rocking here, but he was such an idiot - I would tell him that if he was sitting right next to me; you are an idiot and you cost everybody. You look at wrestling today it's like a monopoly, so the wrestlers themselves have no leverage of any kind. Before, if they weren't going to be paid, you could have told them that you were going to go to WCW like the old days, that was so much better for the wrestlers because we had a bargaining table, but today? No, and that is all Eric Bischoff's fault; he killed the wrestling business, he was the worse.
"I like Eric. He was always nice to me. He had done some nice things for me like the night Owen [Hart] died, he flew me home in a learjet; paid me the whole summer with a ridiculous wage, so he did some nice things there, but at the same time, he lied to me and killed my career. It's kind of like; come to WCW and sign this contract so that we can kill your career. That is what we are going to do."
On getting closure with Shawn Michaels after a legendary on-air and behind-the-scenes rivalry, culminating with the infamous "Montreal Screwjob": "When I came back and did that storyline with Shawn, it was something I always remember. I remember telling Vince McMahon that I wanted to have peace in the ring, and Vince was surprised, but I told him that I would be happy to shake his hand, make peace with him and that caught Vince by surprise. I always thought that when I would go back, and even met Shawn, I thought to myself that in about 3-4 months from now I would be really sorry that I ever did any of this with him; that he is not going to change, that it wouldn't mean anything to him, but I was wrong, and I am glad I was wrong. He appreciated that gesture so much; I think he was under so much guilt and shame because what he did was something to feel ashamed because Pro Wrestling is all about respect, and he didn't have the trust and respect from me in the first place back then, which is how that storyline originally happened. The whole Screwjob is based on a single conversation between me and Shawn, maybe a month before the Screwjob, where I stopped him and said that we are going to wrestle each other at Survivor Series in 3 weeks, and he said, yeah, I just found out today. I told him that I wanted him to know that I had no problem doing anything that he wanted, and said that I know we had our issues, but if I had to drop the belt to him, it's not a problem. I also said that if you are in the ring with me you are always going to be safe, and said that I was a total professional, if I had any issues with him I would talk to him about it in the locker room, never in the ring, and I remember saying that to him, and Shawn looked at me, which is where everything started, he looked at me and said that he appreciates that, but he wanted me to know that he would not do the same thing for me. When he said that, it was like, I just promised that I would lose the belt to you and now you are telling me to stick it up my a**? That was where all the problems started;
"Shawn and I made a peace that was very real. I am proud that I dug deep into my soul and made peace with the guy, which I wasn't sure at the time whether it was the right thing to do. I just want to say with people, anyone in their own life, if you have something eating away from you, and kind of destroying you, make peace with it and get it out of the way. Don't keep dragging down all this pain, which is a lesson that I learned."
Check out the complete episode of The Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast featuring the Bret Hart interview at YouTube.com. H/T to WrestlingInc.com for transcribing the above Bret Hart interview quotes.