No other professional wrestler is more associated with the month of November than Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart. In November of 1997, Hart was one of the hottest wrestlers in the business. He was also at the center of the most controversial moment in professional wrestling history, the Montreal screw job. Since that subject has been beaten to death, let’s skip that and jump right into what went wrong with Bret Hart in WCW instead.
Five-time WWF(E) champion Bret Hart join WCW in November of 1997. Hart was at the time a huge international star and regarded as one of the best in-ring performers in the world. On paper this should have been a huge addition to the WCW roster. This move was coming at a time when professional wrestling was rocketing to the top of cable TV.
If you were a fan like me, you were beyond excited at the thought of seeing Bret Hart face off with WCW stars. The possibilities? Sting, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Bill Goldberg, DDP, and of course Hulk Hogan. Then there were guys that he could wrestle again like Ric Flair, Randy Savage, and Curt Hennig. Endless opportunity for new stories to be told!
The NWO was the biggest going. An angle that helped send the popularity of wrestling through the roof. Bret Hart, who spent the year of 1997 ‘fighting for wrestling tradition’ in WWE could have been the perfect foil for the NWO. Again, Hart is fresh off the most controversial moment in wrestling history and all he had to do was show up in WCW a week later. It would have blown the roof off the wrestling world. Instead, WCW chose to hold off on Hart’s debut for over a month. He did have a no-compete clause but that only covered in ring wrestling. Hart could have appeared on camera as soon as a week later on WCW Nitro.
The delay allowed Hart’s momentum to cool a bit and it was pretty much downhill from there.
One of the biggest problems with the way WCW handled Hart was that he was never clearly defined. Was he in the NWO or not? Did he hate Hogan or not? Was he on Sting’s side or not? Was he a ‘good guy’ or a ‘bad guy.’ Hart flip flopped back and forth so much it was tough to keep up with. Why was Hart helping Hogan? Doesn’t he want to be world champion? Afterall, one of Hart’s favorite sayings was, ‘I’m not greedy for money, I’m greedy for respect.’ However, too me, the way Hart was portrayed by WCW was completely against what fans knew about the Bret Hart character.
It wasn’t long before it seemed Hart was just another guy in the NWO. When WCW did offer a match like Hart vs Booker T or Hart vs Sting, the match ended with outside interference or in a DQ. Totally lame. When WCW finally gave us Hogan vs Hart, it was on Nitro and ended in some odd schmoz where Sting helped Hart after he was injured. Total waste.
At one point, Hart reformed the dead NWO. Fans were already tired of the NWO and to bring it back with Hart was another misstep. When it was looking like the fans would get a Hart and Goldberg feud that was stalled. An injury to Hart delayed what could have been an interesting story between Hart and Goldberg. Unfortunately, Hart’s run and career came to end following a kick to the head from Bill Goldberg. It just seemed like Bret Hart and WCW was destined to fail from the beginning.
Looking back, Eric Bischoff would say Hart did not have the passion to make his time in WCW work. His exit from WWE and the death of his brother Owen had left Hart a shell of his former self according to Bischoff. Even if that was true, the way Hart was used in WCW was forgettable at best. WCW had one of the top wrestlers in world coming off the craziest moment in wrestling history and they could not capitalize on it.
Perhaps Vince didn’t screw Bret. Perhaps WCW didn’t screw Bret. Maybe just maybe Bret screwed Bret. Bret could have swallowed his pride and stayed in WWE. According to Bruce Prichard, Vince McMahon came back to Bret and offered to honor his contract once it seemed like things were turning around financially. However, Hart who was not happy with his position creatively with WWE, so he chose to leave anyway. What could have been?
If you ask me, what went wrong with Bret Hart in WCW? To put it simply, EVERYTHING.
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