WWE: Bret Hart's Homecoming Brings 1997 Survivor Series Controversy Full Circle
“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome WWE Hall of Famer, Canada’s own, Bret the Hitman, Hart!”
With that introduction, 15 years of controversy finally came full circle. And, it’s about time.
It really has been a long time coming, hasn’t it? After the infamous screw job, the death of his brother Owen, his hugely disappointing run in WCW, the moment for Bret to finally climb through the ropes of a WWE ring in Montreal is a welcome sight.
Perhaps now, the past has been firmly put in the past, where it belongs.
For far too long, Bret harbored a grudge against Vince McMahon and WWE. He blamed Vince for his eventual downfall, holding onto a singular moment in time that the majority of fans had let go. Simply put, we had moved on.
Well, most of us had.
The energy of the Canadian crowd when one of their own hits the WWE ramp is just unreal. Heel, baby face, doesn’t matter, most of the time fans will blow the roof off for that Superstar. It is that passion, that love of the business, and of the hometown hero, that fuels their reaction. And it’s the same reaction that we heard every time Bret Hart worked in front of a Canadian audience.
So, when Survivor Series went down in 1997, those fans were not unaffected, sitting back in their chairs, proclaiming “eh, it’s all set-up anyway, he’ll just go wrestle in WCW, and it will be fine. He’ll show ‘em.”
Not even close.
Canadian fans didn’t want Bret to leave in the first place. Everyone knew that this pay-per-view match would be Bret’s last in WWE, and despite the fact that there was no going back at that point, they still did not want to see him go.
So, add to that a supposed “betrayal” by Vince McMahon, tarnishing Bret’s last match, and handing the WWE Championship to his most hated rival, Shawn Michaels, and you have a recipe for true contempt.
Contempt, in its purest form. And it was that sheer hatred that kept them on Bret’s side, in his corner, no matter who said what about the situation. Bret was blameless in their minds, and Vince was the monster behind it all.
The truth is, we have all learned a lot since then about that night in Montreal. We know now that Shawn Michaels, though he had denied it for years, did know about the title change before it happened. We also know that though Bret had cleared the finish with Vince long before the opening bell, that McMahon was at a crossroads, perplexed as to how the situation should be handled.
When in doubt, ask the Game.
Yes, it was Triple H who said “f**k him” in regards to the Hitman. For the man who would come to be known as the Cerebral Assassin, the only way to do business that night was to take the bull by the horns and make it happen themselves.
So, Shawn reversed the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner very quickly called for the bell to ring, and before you know it, instant hate mail.
But that was then, this is now, and the Bret Hart that we saw on Monday night is a man who is at peace. He has finally come to accept what happened that night back in 1997, and now fans of every country have the opportunity to see him in a WWE ring where he belongs.
The way it should be.
And what better way to welcome Bret back to Montreal than with an interruption by the current WWE champion?
I have to say, every time Punk is in the ring, he just gets better. And whenever he is staring down a WWE Legend, he always steps up to the plate. He more than holds his own, reminding every fan that yes, he does belong on the main event level, more than deserving of the opportunity that he has earned.
For me, it was good to see them both in the ring together. A great moment, to link the past and the present, a way for fans to make the transition from one era to another. And, just the mere mention of Bret vs. Punk in a dream match was enough to likely make fans begin imagining the possibilities, asking “what if?”
Better us than the Hitman. And it’s about time.
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