While that was a perfectly cromulent RAW last night, I know for a fact that I will have to choose between RAW and Smackdown in a month and I will go with the show without JBL. Speaking of commentary, let’s get back to Bret Hart’s book where we are now in the heart of 1997, the greatest year in wrestling.
On April 11 Vader made the mistake of going bonkers on Good Morning Kuwait.
This was the typical “interviewer asks if its fake” deal and Vader looking to protect the business, probably with his vast Japan experience in mind (since they still treated it as sport). For me the best part of this is how the Undertaker is there too in a very rare glimpse of him out of character. When Vader grabs the guy, Taker sits there stonefaced unwilling to move. Unlike the United States and a coalition in 1990, the Undertaker was not willing to defend Kuwait against attack.
But the fan noise was so loud I couldn’t hear my cue. Instead of the show ending with Shawn nailing me, we went off the air with me dressing him down. I felt bad about it, but Shawn thought I did it on purpose and was furious.
I’ve read another take on this where Bret was supposed to say a certain thing to cue Shawn to superkick him, but forgot the exact line. The segment is below as it aired, with Bret berating Shawn for his transgressions in kayfabe. HBK had issues with separating this from real life and thought he was personally being insulted. But more importantly, this was what led to the big fissure between the two from which the relationship never truly recovered once Michaels decided to go rogue in future promos, like with the “Sunny Days” comment which alluded to Bret having an affair with Sunny. Which is funny since it was SHAWN who was screwing around with her!
Before Raw was off the air, Vince was hyping the inside story of a backstage brawl between me and Shawn for sale to fans on his 900 number.
June 9, 1997: At the Hartford RAW, there were big plans for something on TV with Bret and Shawn that went by the wayside when the two came to blows backstage. The Hitman ripped a chunk of hair right out of Michaels’ head. HBK stormed out, declaring that it was an unsafe working environment and vowed to leave for WCW despite a guaranteed contract. For his part, Vince McMahon was more than willing to play up the real life animosity between the two for ratings, which was not a first. He would use Randy Savage’s paranoia similarly in his 1989 feud with Hulk Hogan.
When the referee made the all important three-count, no-body was paying attention to Owen because everyone was riveted to Bruce’s unscripted comeback! Owen was furious at Bruce for stealing his big pop.
Bruce Hart never knows when to fade into the background. He is like the person at a party who thinks it is always about them. He laid into Austin with shots to the kidneys prior to this and jumped the guardrail to take on other members of Austin’s team (Legion of Doom, Goldust, Ken Shamrock). By doing this, he took attention away from Owen Hart’s big moment, pinning Austin 1-2-3 cleanly in the center of the ring in Calgary.
Despite Bruce being a dick, that is an awesome match. Probably the best 10 man tag of all time. In fact the entire July 1997 In Your House: Calgary Stampede is a fantastic show, maybe the best top to bottom PPV by the WWF in the 1990s.
Owen had become my most reliable friend and supporter, and we ended up having an interesting talk about things worth dying for. We agreed that the wrestling business wasn’t one of them.
Bret and Owen could travel again after the reformation of the Hart Foundation in early 1997 and they became close. This passage sends chills through the spine with the knowledge of what eventually happened.
When Steve moaned to him, “I hurt my neck. Don’t touch me! I can’t feel my feet,” Owen was beside himself with guilt and dread.
This was really a stupid spot, all things considered. It’s possible that Owen could not do a traditional tombstone piledriver since that would violate two rules: 1. don’t use another guy’s finisher (especially as a transitional move) and 2. don’t cross the Undertaker. The sit-out piledriver is far more dangerous, and even more so when you do reversals like they did since Owen didn’t lift him high enough. Austin had ALREADY been diagnosed with neck damage a few months earlier where one doctor advised retirement. Basically, the guy shouldn’t have been taking a move like this in the first place. It was to be a false finish, Austin kicking out at 2 3/4 before finally getting the win later. Instead, he had to win with a weak rollup in part because of the stipulation: Austin said he would kiss Owen’s ass if he lost.
Davey had made the huge mistake of promising in interviews with the British tabloids that he’d win his title match for his sister, Tracey, who was dying of cancer. He’d been told he was going over, but on the day of the show Vince and Shawn changed the outcome. Davey was devastated.
This refers to the Shawn-Bulldog match at the UK only PPV One Night Only from September 1997. If you’ve never seen the match, go watch it on the Network because the heat for this match is off the charts. Not only does Shawn win, but he blows kisses to Davey’s wife and sister. Putting the European title on HBK was a puzzling move to say the least.
He went on to say that if I left, I would actually be doing him a favor because he was about to downsize into a northeastern U.S. promotion.
Vince McMahon again displays buyer’s remorse on the 20 year Bret Hart contract. Which by the way would only be expiring this October had it stayed in effect all the way through.
remembered Brian leaning back in his chair in the dressing room in St. Paul, his arms crossed, beaming at me with a sparkle in his eye, even though we’d just been talking about how much he distrusted Shawn and the clique, and how he was worried about his future.
I often wonder how things would have been different if Pillman never had the car accident in 1996 and his subsequent dependency on painkillers. There is not a doubt in my mind that he becomes a cornerstone of the Attitude Era, working on the level of Austin, Rock, HHH and the rest. Pillman passed away the next day after the conversation in St. Paul.
There were only two wrestlers who didn’t come out—Shawn and Hunter.
The October 6, 1997 RAW led off with a tolling of the bell for Pillman and HBK and HHH didn’t bother to come out for the moment of silence.
I watched on the monitor backstage as Vince posed probing questions to Melanie Pillman, Brian’s pretty, young, clearly distraught wife, live via satellite from her living room. She said to the camera, “It’s a wake-up call. Your husband could be next. . . . He lived for this business and died for this business. I hope no one else has to die.”
This was a total ratings stunt by Vince, who was desperate for a win over Nitro since the losing streak was over 60 weeks by this point. It was undeniably in poor taste to interview a widow less than 48 hours after the death of her husband. The Pillmans were in the middle of divorce proceedings at the time and the child Melanie was pregnant with was not Brian’s. It is said by her daughter that Melanie used the proceeds from the Brian Pillman Benefit shows to buy drugs. What a sad story all around.
Coming up next time: Montreal