In the documentary world, there are very few based around professional wrestling that are actually good. Most of them are produced in house by Vince McMahon and the WWE, so in turn, they are biased and end up downplaying the historical value. Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows is a completely different monster. Produced independently, the documentary was just supposed to chronicle Bret Hart's life for a year and ended up catching on camera one of the biggest incidents in wrestling history: "The Montreal Screwjob", where Bret Hart was publicly "screwed" out of his World Title by McMahon in an unscripted moment that has become one of the most hotly debated topics among wrestling fans and journalists for years.
The documentary, which I saw on A&E back when wrestling was still considered "cool", is many things: it's a biography on a legend, it's a story about just how crazy professional wrestling is, and it's a historical document on a moment in wrestling that many believe crossed the line. In the beginning, it's just about Hart and his early life and current career in the WWF (WWE now, sadly). He tells of his home life and being trained by his legendarily brutal father Stu Hart, and goes into the year 1997 as a whole, when Hart turned "heel" (bad guy) and regained the World Title. Something happens during this time that takes the documentary to a level no one expected: Hart, although signing a previous agreement, is told by McMahon to sign with WCW. Hart does not want to do this, as he considers the WWF to be his home, but he eventually negotiates a deal and will be leaving for WCW in November. Just one issue: he is still the champion.
Hart spends the time trying to figure out a way to lose the belt and keep his head up out of the company, something McMahon rarely allows departing talent to do. Hart wears a wire (!) and we hear McMahon agree to a Double DQ finish against Shawn Michaels at a pay per view entitled Survivor Series and he'll relinquish the belt the next night on Raw. Hart does not want to lose to Michaels, who has become cocky in the recent years due to his success and refuses to "job" (lose) to anyone.
The story is well-known by wrestling fans from here. The ending is changed without Hart's knowledge. The best part though, occurs in the aftermath. The doc captures the backstage hooplah, from Hart's family in shock to Hart threatening to destroy McMahon. It's very real and a very rare in-depth look at something not many outside the business get to see.
Hitman Hart is a documentary for wrestling fans and even non-fans. It captures a period integral to the art and at the same time, plays out in a way that is interesting for anyone with just a passing interest in wrestling. As far as independent wrestling docs go, it is the best produced and one of the most accessible for anyone to watch. I highly suggest this to anyone who has even a remote knowledge of the "sport".