Let’s visit the World Wrestling Federation in 1997. This was literally the most exciting year for me as a wrestling fan, and one of the top reasons was The Hart Foundation: Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Jim Neidhart, and Brian Pillman headed by Bret Hart. Bret (his character and likely in real life) had grown frustrated with the American wrestling fans for cheering on “bad guys” like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
This leads me to one of the most exciting and intense moments in wrestling history which took place just a few weeks before Bret reformed the Hart Foundation - the first minute of this video:
(The swearing definitely helped, but Bret’s intensity would have made it work without)
Bret had fought the good fight, yet people cheered Austin for doing things like taking a steel chair and repeatedly drilling Bret in the knee with it. The interesting thing is: The Hart Foundation became “bad guys” in the United States but became overwhelming crowd favorites across the rest of the globe – especially in Canada where Bret and Owen are from. Then Bret finally regains the championship and is set to defend against Shawn Michaels in Montreal at the Survivor Series… but there’s a wrinkle.
In ’96, Bret signed a ten year, multi-million dollar contract with Vince. Now Vince approaches Bret and says that he can’t pay it. Vince suggests Bret see if Eric Bischoff (The President of WCW – the WWF’s competitor) can get him a good deal. Bret doesn’t really want to but agrees. It’s set: The Survivor Series will be Bret’s final WWF pay per view before leaving the company. But wait a second – Bret is the WWF champion and isn’t terribly interested in losing to a guy he really doesn’t like in Shawn Michaels in his homeland. Vince really wants Bret to lose the title to Shawn at the pay per view, but Bret doesn’t want to. Alternatives are thrown about. They settle on a disqualification at the Survivor Series. Bret doesn’t lose the title to Shawn and they’ll figure something out in the next couple of days as to how and to whom the title changes hands. The Survivor Series turns out to be an emotional night. Everybody backstage and most of the fans know that it’s Bret’s last Pay Per View with the company and nobody’s really happy about it. Then this happened:
Vince screwed Bret out of the championship. Shawn put Bret in a submission hold (Bret’s OWN submission hold) and the referee indicated that Bret gave up, ending the match and giving the title to Shawn.
Bret was understandably bitter. He went to WCW a few weeks later and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart and The British Bulldog followed shortly after. Only Owen Hart wasn’t let out of his contract as he was seen as too valuable to the WWF. For the next two years we held out hope that Bret might come back some day but there was so much anger it seemed unlikely.
Owen deserves his own posting. He was a ridiculously talented wrestler and absolutely hilarious. Then on May 23rd, 1999, Owen fell to his death during a WWF Pay Per View (luckily it was not on camera). He was supposed to descend from the rafters in his Blue Blazer superhero outfit but something happened. So very tragic.
So if we thought it was merely unlikely that Bret would return to the company after being screwed, now that his little brother died under Vince’s watch we could pretty much erase any thought of him coming back.
But time heals all wounds, as they say. Bret has apparently signed a contract to host RAW on Monday (TOMORROW!) and the contract runs through Wrestlemania which is in either late March or early April.
AND… there are rumors that he will wrestle one final match at Wrestlemania.
This is HUGE. Just friggin’ huge. For the first time in over TWELVE YEARS, Bret Hart comes to Monday Night Raw on Monday, January 4th, 2010.
What’s going to happen with Bret and Vince?
What’s going to happen with Bret and Shawn?
What kind of reaction will the crowd give the five time WWE champion?
I can’t wait to find out!
Stone Cold Steve Austin is a hyena,