On December 19th, 1999, Bret “The Hitman” Hart suffered multiple concussions in his match against Bill Goldberg at the WCW Starrcade PPV. An errant mule kick and a botched turnbuckle sharpshooter spot which led to Hart falling on the back of his head outside the ring were the cause of Bret’s injuries, but he still persisted on making it to WCW shows afterward as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion. Vince Russo had just included Bret in his reboot of the stale New World Order storyline positioned as the leader of the NEW nWo. The plans in play would have had Bret Hart, Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett act as the thorns in Goldberg’s side during the upcoming months.
On January 13th, 2000, Bret Hart was told that he had a severe concussion and the last place he needed to be was inside a wrestling ring. Bret vacated his championship and was pulled from all of his on-air story lines while he stepped back to get healthy. Unfortunately, Bret Hart would ultimately retire from professional wrestling due to his injuries suffered during this time.
By the end of October 2000, Bret Hart would be terminated from World Championship Wrestling.
It was on January 10th, 2000 when Bret Hart would actually have his final match of World Championship Wrestling, main-eventing WCW Monday Nitro against Kevin Nash.
Bret Hart: “When I arrived at the arena for Nitro, I found that [Vince] Russo had concocted a storyline around me being forced by Terry Funk to wrestle a title match against my own nWo team member Kevin Nash. I’d hoped to be off that night, but instead I had to hurry away to buy black skater shorts, new running shows and knee pads and change in time to air live clips of me and Kevin getting worked up and dressing for the match. With my head thick and thumping and that stabbing pain in my neck, I taped my ankles, wrapped my broken-down knees and smeared my lower back with gobs of Icy Hot. Just another day in my pain-filled life.” – ‘Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling’ 
Even after requesting a lighter schedule to Vince Russo due to getting hurt in his match at Starrcade, Bret Hart still continued to wrestle. A hardcore match against Terry Funk on Thunder, several house show matches against Sid Vicious, world title defenses against Chris Benoit and Jerry Flynn; all of this while Bret suffered through, popping handfuls of pain-killers to get by.
Bret Hart: “People with concussions are the last ones to figure out how badly hurt they are. I was more responsible than anyone for downplaying my condition to myself and everyone else. Somewhere inside me, a fearful voice cried out that I was seriously hurt, but that same voice warned me to quit listening to my brain because it was my brain iself that was damaged. So I let myself go on believing that the problem was a sore neck.” – ‘Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling’ 
With all this in mind, it’s kind of difficult watching Bret Hart going through the motions against Nash on Nitro here. Never mind the Old Age Outlaws awfulness that start off this match with Terry Funk and Mr. Wonderful holding a stripped down Scott Steiner hostage, seeing Hart getting choke slammed and powerbombed by Sid as the finish of the match is almost too much. It’s one of those things were you want to go after Vince Russo for not stepping in and saving Bret, but Hart explains in his book that he also takes personal responsibility for everything post-Starrcade. There could’ve been a moment when he went over Russo’s head and requested help from Bill Busch, but that never happened. Instead, Bret Hart continued on in a haze.
After this Nitro match against Kevin Nash, Bret Hart would eventually return to WCW television to take part of story lines but kept away from any actual action. An in-ring return in World Championship Wrestling would never occur for the Hitman as Bret would learn from his doctor that his injuries were too severe. His career was over.
Any bitterness or anger towards Goldberg for his injuries has seemingly subsided from Bret over the years. Goldberg himself has expressed extreme remorse for being the responsible for causing the injuries which eventually ended the Hitman’s wrestling career. Even though he ended up having a handful of matches a full decade later in the WWE once he buried the hatchet with Vince McMahon, Bret Hart wasn’t the same.
If only the care and precautions regarding concussions and CTE existed back then like it does today in professional wrestling.
Different times, I guess…