In the fall of 1992, Bret "Hitman" Hart was coming off of a history-making Intercontinental title match against the British Bulldog at SummerSlam, a match in which he lost in front of 80,000 of Bulldog's fellow countrymen in London.
Hart was making a name for himself as arguably the finest in-ring technician in the sport and was relied upon heavily to deliver great matches on a nightly basis. Most of the time, he more than delivered on expectations.
When heavyweight champion Ric Flair suffered an inner-ear injury and needed to drop the title, Vince McMahon made a bold decision and chose Hart as his company's next main event babyface.
In a match in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Hart applied the Sharpshooter to Flair, forced a submission and celebrated his first WWE Championship victory in his home country.
Hart's win was shocking for a few reasons. First, no one knew he was challenging for the title until the night of the match. It was not televised, nor was it hyped prior to that night's event.
Secondly, Hart was the exact opposite of what McMahon's promotion had touted as its champion for years. He was smaller and more versed in the in-ring artistry of the business than the muscle-bound, hulking superheroes of the past. He was a reliable hand and one who, regardless of what most believed he was capable of, seemed destined to thrive in the midcard as Intercontinental champion forever.
"Macho Man" Randy Savage had cracked the mold before him, but Hart would break it into a thousand pieces.
His shocking title win changed the course of WWE forever. Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan all have Hart to thank for proving successful in his first opportunity to lead the company.