Two adolescent boys share a bedroom, one is blondish and the other dark haired.

    It’s past 10pm and they drift into a slumber.  Suddenly, a loud bang shakes the house and what follows are sounds of torture and anguish. The boy’s eyes open widely as they mirror each other. There is another sound. It resembles the sound of a building collapsing during an earthquake. This causes the blondish boy to leap out of bed. He is told to get back in bed by his brother. The authority at which the demand is made makes it clear he is the older of the two siblings. Ignoring his older brother, he slips out of bed and cracks the door open.

    The house shakes as the foundation is rocked. A loud moan screeches out. It’s clear the moan, as well as all the other sounds, are coming from the basement. Suddenly the thundering sound footsteps racing up the stairs and towards the boy’s room. Panicked, the younger brother runs back to bed and follows his older brothers lead in attempting to simulate sleep. The door opens and a grizzled older man looks in at them.

    The man is wearing a wrestling singlet, is sweating profusely and has the face of an angry owl. A sliver of light illuminates the room, which is decorated in wrestling trophies and posters from local wrestling events in Calgary. The man stares at the boys for a few seconds, looking for signs of life, seeing none he exits closing the door behind him.

    The younger brother whispers to the older, “I can’t wait until we get to go into the dungeon.”

    This was the life of The Hart Family.

    This year WWE will induct The Hart Foundation, which comprises of  Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and Bret “The Hitman” Hart into the Hall of Fame. It’s about time. They were a transformative tag team. They set a standard of pairing strength with speed. Tag teams like Jeri-Show and Big Cass and Enzo all owe a debt to The Hart Foundation.

    What I loved most about The Hart Foundation was how different they were. You had two very distinct personalities paired together to make a fantastic eye-popping act. Bret was quiet, cool, and collected. Whereas Jim was loud, confrontational, and would laugh like an absolute maniac at any given moment. 

    “Settle down, Anvil, settle down,” Bret Hart would say.

    Did I mention they were my favorites? My Grandmother got me into wrestling. I was forced to keep her company, so I watched, and I ended up getting hooked.

    The first time I saw them I thought to myself, “Why is Michael Jackson hanging out with that red headed dude? And when did Michael get so buff?”

    But then I saw them wrestle and that was pretty much a rap for me. I remember mowing lawns so I could afford Hart Foundation action figures. I also remember buying two copies of their WWE Magazine cover. One to read and the other to keep. It wrapped it up in plastic and kept it right up until I entered college.

    But I may be getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with some history.

    Bret Hart idolized his father and worked hard to excel at amateur wrestling. He started at the age of nine and was a natural at the sport. He won tournaments, championships and medals. Bret eventually got bored with amateur wrestling and feared he would end up coaching in some middle school gym, but he still needed his father’s respect so he decided to professionally wrestle. Bret started training in Stu’s promotion and, of course, he was a natural. He gained experience mixing it up with the likes of the Dynamite Kid. Eventually, he became a bit of a sensation in Stampede Wrestling for the humility he showed backstage and the authenticity he displayed in the ring.

    Bret ended up in WWF in 1985 when Vince bought Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. Bret was offered a lame cowboy gimmick, but he had other ideas…

    In high school, Jim Neidhart stood out by using his strength to become a champion in shot putting. After school, he ended up in the NFL playing in pre-season games for The Oakland Raiders and The Dallas Cowboys. After he was cut from the Cowboys he ended up at Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion. He married Ellie Hart (one of Stu’s daughters) and became an official member of the Hart Family. Jim would go on to become a tag champ. In 1983 Stu entered Jim into an anvil tossing competition. He won the contest and earned $500 as well as a new moniker: “The Anvil”. Jim would essentially become a tag team specialist; he teamed with King Kong Bundy in Georgia Championship Wrestling and won the Tag Team belts in Mid South Wrestling with Butch Reed. As mentioned earlier, Stu Hart sold his promotion to Vince, leaving Neidhart to find a new path under new management.

    After Bret was forced into that awful gimmick all he wanted to do is team up with Neidhart. There was a a comfort level there. WWF rejected the idea. They wanted Bret to be a white meat babyface. It didn’t work out and Bret got so frustrated he wanted to go back to Canada. Finally, they let him turn heel and tag with Jim.

    The Hart Foundation was formed in 1985 and managed by Jimmy Hart, who I was shocked to discover was not at all related to them. I assumed he was their uncle or something. Their first proper match was against SD Jones and Mario Mancini on April 20th 1985.

    It’s remarkable how much of their act was already perfected. From the gear and Anvil’s manic laugh, to that awesome Hart Attack finisher. And look at how that crowd reacted to Jimmy Hart. They hated him. (Jimmy Hart really needs to get some respect. He was a great manager and wrote tons of WWE theme songs.)

    They made their first big impression in 1986 at Wrestlemania 2. They were the last two guys Andre tossed out in his battle royal. But their first real test came in a feud against The Killer Bees. They feuded all throughout 1986 and usually lost. They then began a feud with their best-known rivals WWF Tag Team Champs The British Bulldogs, the team consisting of The Dynamite Kid and Hart family member Davey Boy Smith. The feud would eventually award The Foundation with their first WWE Tag Team titles. They won the belts on February 7th in 1987 on an episode of Superstars. Referee “Dangerous” Danny Davis gave them a assist.

    The Hart Foundation would start feuds with Tito Santana, Danny Spivey, and The Bulldogs. They retained their titles through Wrestlemania 3, and an exciting 2-out-of-3 falls match against The Bulldogs on Saturday Night Main Event. But on October 27th The Hart Foundation dropped the titles to an old foe, Tito Santana, with a new partner Rick Martel. They called themselves Strikeforce.

    The two teams would meet again as they both captained teams at Survivor Series. The Harts lost that match and would go to lose several more against Santana and Martel.

    At this point, Bret started to flirt with being a singles star. He and Bad News Brown would feud after Brown betrayed Hart in a 20 man Battle Royal. Neidhart would join the feud and then The Hart Foundation would start a slow face turn which led to them feuding with legendary WWF Tag Champs Demolition. By now Jimmy Hart had split from The Hart Foundation and betrayed them, costing them the tag titles at the very first SummerSlam. The Hart Foundation would begin to feud with any team managed by Hart, including The Rougeaus and The Honky Tonk Man and Greg The Hammer Valentine. After The Hart Foundation began to pick up losses, including a high profile match with The Brain Busters, they started to take on singles matches. The Anvil would have a few matches with The Warlord, while Bret Hart would perform with Mr. Perfect in a series of great matches, hinting at the brilliance that Bret would soon present to the industry.

    Eventually, the guys would team up again and defeat Demolition to win their second and final Tag Team Championships. The Hart Foundation held the titles until Wrestlemania 7, where they dropped the titles to The Nasty Boys. Jimmy Hart, managing the new champions, tossed in a helmet that was used to “assist” them to beat his former clients.

    That was, for the most part, the end of The Hart Foundation. There would be other iterations of The Hart Foundation, but none would ever reach the success and acclaim as the original.

    As for what happened to Bret and Jim…

    Bret would go on to have one of the greatest careers in modern wrestling history, winning several World Championships and Jim Neidhart would continue to have some success in singles wrestling, but would eventually make his way to ECW, New Japan, and WCW. In 1994 Neidhart would return to WWF/WWE  and reunite with his famous family, including future singles star Owen Hart. 

    Beyond all of Jim Neidhart’s wrestling success, it is clear from his appearances on Total Divas that he considers his greatest contribution to professional wrestling to be his daughter, former Smackdown Live Women’s Champ Natalya. And you can bet she’ll be smiling from ear to ear on April 6th, 2019 when he enters The WWE Hall of Fame.

    I can almost hear his devilish laugh amongst the clouds.

    There are a handful of truly revolutionary dynasties in the industry of pro wrestling like the Guerreros, the Von Erichs and the Anoa’i’s, but perhaps no family has had the inter-generational dominance of The Hart Family. This is a family that has sacrificed literally everything to this industry and it’s heartening to see them being placed amongst the Gods, Deities and Immortals in Vince’s kingdom.

    This induction is not simply about honoring some forgotten tag team from the 80’s, it’s about acknowledging a bloodline that personifies excellence.