Bret Hart is being used as an inspiration by WWE in 2023.
Although it ended in chaos and a move to WCW, Hart’s run from mid-1996 until he left the WWF in late 1997 is the stuff of legend.
Fresh off the back of winning the King of the Ring tournament, Steve Austin set his sights on Hart, continually taunting and taking jabs at the star despite him being on hiatus. Hart finally returned to the WWF to face Austin at Survivor Series, but it did little to settle the rivalry.
At In Your House 12 a month later, Hart challenged Psycho Sid for the World Championship only to be accidentally cost the match by Shawn Michaels. In a theme that continued into 1997, Hart lost matches and title opportunities through largely no fault of his own.
However, The Hitman’s increasingly explosive outbursts were slowly turning him heel in the eyes of the audience. This culminated in an incident on Raw in the lead-up to WrestleMania 13 where Hart confronted Vince McMahon who was still working as an announcer. Hart ranted about management and the “bullsh*t” screwing him over at every turn.
With Hart’s heel turn confirmed, the exclamation point was applied during his rematch with Austin at WrestleMania, home of the famous “double turn.”
In the months after WrestleMania, Hart was positioned firmly as a pro-Canada heel, with the Hart Foundation presented as anti-American. As such, Hart remained a babyface outside of the United States, especially in Canada.
Writing in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer noted that this slow heel turn — despite being rooted in truth — is serving as inspiration for Drew McIntyre’s current character.
The former World Champion is growing ever more sceptical of those around him on Raw, which is logical for his character, but gives him heel-style tendencies in the process.
“If you watch the McIntyre turn as a heel who is logically right but people don’t like it because of that and think Bret Hart 1997 in the U.S., it’s because that is part of the inspiration of the character.”
What Happened To Bret Hart Next?
Hart remained a heel until the summer of 1997 when crowd reactions began to turn once again. The Hitman was positioned opposite long-time rival Shawn Michaels who was cemented as the WWF’s top heel.
To add to the intrigue, the relationship between the pair continued to deteriorate backstage. The angst between Hart, Michaels, and Vince McMahon exploded at Survivor Series, resulting in the legendary “Montreal Screwjob,” as Hart headed to WCW.