TJR Retro Review of WWE Survivor Series 1997 (Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels)

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TJR Retro Review of WWE Survivor Series 1997 (Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels)
Photo credit WWE

This Monday night on Raw, Bret Hart returns to WWE TV in Montreal for the first time since Nov. 9, 1997 at Survivor Series.

Today I'm here to review that historic event with a detailed breakdown of every match on the show.

It’s hard to properly cover all the history involved in this show in a few paragraphs, but I guess the starting point would be WrestleMania XII in the spring of 1996. Bret Hart lost the WWF World Title to Shawn Michaels in a very memorable Ironman match.

Hart took the next six months off (he was going to film a TV show that was cancelled) to rest his body after years of being on the road while Michaels had a difficult title reign due to WWF business being down during much of 1996.

When Hart came back in late 1996, Michaels was still the top babyface in the company. Shawn had the title again in February 1997 when he suffered a knee injury. He forfeited the title, saying the injury was career threatening and that he had “lost his smile.” In Hart’s view, Michaels didn’t want to put Hart over at WrestleMania 13, as had been rumored. That created a lot of animosity between the two.  

Even though there was genuine hate between the two, they worked together at Summerslam ’97 with Michaels as the ref for Hart’s title win against the Undertaker. That led to Michaels turning heel just like Hart was.

Michaels would go on wrestling the Undertaker for the next two PPV main events while Hart had a meaningless feud with a midcarder like The Patriot. Michaels also went on to win the European Title from Hart’s brother in law the British Bulldog in a match in England. This infuriated Hart as well as his entire family.

In Hart’s fantastic autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, he wrote about how he talked with Michaels in October 1997 about putting Michaels over if that’s what McMahon wanted. Hart claims that Michaels told him he would never put Hart over even if Vince wanted it, which led Hart to say he would not lose the title to Michaels in Montreal at Survivor Series.

On November 1, 1997, just eight days before Survivor Series, Hart ended up signing with rival promotion WCW for $3 million per year although he wanted to stay with the WWE out of loyalty. It was McMahon that told him to sign with WCW because he feared for his own company.

What he also feared was that Hart might show up on WCW TV with the WWE title, which is why there were so many questions heading into the show. 

Could Vince trust Bret? Could Bret trust Vince or Shawn? What exactly was going to happen? The issue was very real. Smart fans and marks alike had no idea what was going to happen. Little did we know that we were about to see what is arguably the most famous professional wrestling match ever.

I will write a lot about the entire scenario after the match review because there is so much to say on the subject.

The other story heading into this show had to do with Steve Austin’s health. Austin was the biggest rising star in the company with the brightest future. Three months earlier at Summerslam, Owen Hart botched a Tombstone Piledriver by dropping to his ass to deliver the move instead of on his knees like the Undertaker does it.

Austin’s neck got compressed and he was out of action for three months. His career was obviously cut short by the move. By the time Survivor Series ’97 rolled around there were a lot of questions about Austin’s future. Could he continue his rise to the top of the WWF or would his neck injury bring him so much pain that his career would end?

Now let's go back to Nov. 9, 1997 and re-live the historic WWE Survivor Series 1997 event.

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