The Undertaker versus Bret Hart with Shawn Michaels as the special referee match at SummerSlam 1997 was a key character and career moment for all involved. It was one of my favorite main events ever.
In the heart of New Jersey, this really was WWE going all in with the anti-American Hart. The stipulation carried that if Hart didn't win the WWE Championship from The Undertaker, he would never wrestle on American soil again.
A half-hour classic that saw a variety of styles showcased. Technical wrestling on the match, a brawl and of course a famous chair shot. The ending of the match came with Michaels ripping a steel chair out of the hands from Hart who was prepared to use it. Hart then spit in the face of HBK, which prompted him to retaliate swinging the chair but hitting The Undertaker on accident. Hart got the win as Michaels reluctantly counted to three.
This put into motion Hart's heel character as he led the Hart Foundation heel stable. It was an on-screen launch of HBK's rebellious attitude that blurred the lines of real and script with DX. It also brought a new humanized chapter to The Undertaker's character. He now had a feud to settle with Michaels, but was being haunted with the memory and impending debut of his brother Kane.
This was wrestling and this was sports-entertainment. Nothing was absent for any fan in the main event of this SummerSlam classic.
This main event launched a lot of new eras in legendary careers but also set a new tone for WWE's booking. Rarely, if ever seen before, did WWE have open interpretation with characters and their actions. It was very black and white. Good guy and bad guy. Right decision and wrong decision. SummerSlam 1997 began to present scenarios of attitude, morals and entertainment appeal.
Michaels accidentally hit The Undertaker with the chair after Hart moved out of the way. The Undertaker placed blame on Michaels. This then prompted a heel reaction and promo from HBK but some would say the attitude it sparked from him was some of his most likable stuff by some fans. It was the eve of the attitude era where tradition went out the window.
Hart was hated in American arenas, but he was treated like royalty in every other country around the world.
So much in late 1997 triggered the most famous era in wrestling history. SummerSlam 1997 was vital in moving into the final stretch of so many characters and feuds that ushered in the attitude era and WWE's momentum regaining the top spot in their war with WCW.
We got classic fights between Undertaker and Michales which included the first ever Hell in a Cell match plus Kane's debut. Hart and Michaels were still on a collision course for each other which culminated at Survivor Series 1997 where the famous Montreal Screw Job took place. This was the birth of the Mr. McMahon character and really gave true life to DX.
So in three weeks it will be SummerSlam 2013. Sit back, enjoy and think about what piece of history you could be getting ready to watch.