November 9, 1997. Survivor Series. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This was supposed to be the final nail in the WWE’s coffin, with WCW holding the hammer. The now former World Champion, Bret Hart, was just screwed out of his title and on his way to WCW with a chip on his shoulder. How could the WWE possibly recover now? It’s all over but the crying, right?
Well, it would turn out that Vince McMahon knew a thing or two about this pro wrestling business and knew how to turn something like this to his advantage. He would make himself one of the greatest wrestling bad guys the industry had ever seen (even outdoing WCW’s Eric Bischoff, who had been doing the schtick months earlier). He’d also turn the company around with stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock.
But, what about WCW and Bret Hart? Hart was the hottest star in wrestling after the Montreal Screwjob. Certainly they could have combated WWE’s Attitude Era assault with him? Well, you read the headline of this article. What do you think happened?
Take a look at the 15 ways the WCW totally wasted Bret Hart, and feel free to leave feedback or add comments.
15. WCW Waited Way Too Long To Debut Him
As a condition of Hart’s release from the WWE, he had a 60-day no-compete clause. This didn’t mean he couldn’t appear on WCW television, however – he actually debuted on television a month after he left the WWE. He just wasn’t allowed to wrestle for another company for two months.
Instead of waiting the aforementioned month, WCW should have struck while the iron was hot and the Montreal Screwjob was still fresh in everybody’s mind. Perhaps they had a good reason – maybe Hart needed time to adjust to a new backstage environment or had a nagging injury he wanted to rest. Maybe he just needed time to recover from what happened in Montreal.
Whatever the reason, it is clear to see that if having him wait a whole month to debut was WCW’s idea, then it’s one of their dumbest ideas ever. Well maybe not ever. But almost. Sort of like…
14. When WCW Did Debut Him, It Was In The Dumbest Way Possible
So, what groundbreaking angle did WCW choose to debut the man who was arguably the most talked about talent at the time? Did they have him come in to rally the WCW troops against the nWo? Did he automatically get injected into the Sting/Hogan Starrcade ’97 match? Maybe they could have set up an angle where Hart had planned to be in the corner of one those combatants?
Nah, they had him be the referee in the Eric Bischoff/Larry Zbyszko match. Hot damn! That’s a licence to print money right there!
By the end of the card, it turns out there was a very specific reason they had Hart in a referee position. It just turned out to be a very stupid reason.
Are you sensing a theme here? One would think with an incredible talent like Bret Hart, the WCW would have a million great ideas for how to debut him. Sadly, this is yet another example of how he was underutilized.
13. WCW Tried To Recreate The Montreal Screwjob In The Dumbest Way Possible
Here’s how the Sting/Hogan match evolved and then played out: Hogan joins nWo. Sting becomes a “dark avenger,” silently stalking Hogan and the nWo from arena rafters across the country. They do this for an entire year. The build-up is intense as hell, and the Hogan/Sting match-up becomes the most anticipated match in decades.
Finally, the match happens – and Hogan wipes the floor with Sting. Referee Nick Patrick (a former nWo flunky himself) counts the pin and Hogan wins. Suddenly, here comes Bret Hart, shouting “this isn’t happening again!” and restarts the match! Because he was a ref in a previous match, he can do that, apparently? He accused Patrick of making a fast count (he hadn’t) and after Sting locked Hogan in a Scorpion Death Lock, ruled the decision himself to give Sting the victory. So in this case, Hogan got screwed!
The whole thing seemed to be a cheap cop-out for the story line and was a total disappointment, further damaging to Hart’s WCW tenure.
12. He Was An nWo Lackey
Following the end of his no-compete clause, Hart would go on to feud with Ric Flair (finally, some smart booking) and even take on the nWo himself, taking on Brian Adams in his first WCW Monday Nitro match. Because when you want to debut the hottest wrestler in the world (or at least he was before Starrcade), the best way to do so would be to have him fight the guy who was once known as Crush.
In April of 1998, Hart interfered in a world title match between Hogan and Randy Savage, helping Hogan beat Savage for the title. He wouldn’t actually directly join the nWo; he was just an associate – because that makes sense. Not really.
History has shown time and again that having a wrestler turn heel with no real explanation almost never ends well. Remember how much we loved Steve Austin’s heel turn after WrestleMania X-Seven?
11. His first WCW Championship Match Was For The Television Title
The former WWE champion – and the most talked about man in sports entertainment at the time (even with the delay in debuting him on WCW TV) – was now in WCW and ready to compete. Considering WCW’s tendency to elevate former WWE stars (see Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall… hell, even look at Brutus Beefcake), you would think that he would immediately be pushed into the main event.
Did you think that? You thought that, didn’t you? Ha ha, you silly goose. Instead, his first championship match was for the WCW Television championship – at the time held by future WWE Hall of Famer Booker T. No offense to Booker, but, seriously?
Considering he was a heel and an “associate” of the nWo (I still can’t even…), it makes sense he would not be going after the WCW World Title, which makes the previous entries on this list even more stupid.
10. His First WCW Championship Was The U.S. Championship
So, anyway, here we are. After unsuccessfully going after the TV Title (Question time: do you think if Hart had won said title, it would have made his WCW run better or worse?), he defeated Diamond Dallas Page on an episode of Nitro for the United States title. This wouldn’t have been so bad had he not then lost it a month later to Lex Luger.
I understand the thought process to a degree – you can’t have a wrestler with Hart’s skill, pedigree and reputation and not have him hold a title. It’s a bit ironic that it was the United States championship, considering that the last time he was a heel, he was about as anti-American as you could get. It could also be concluded that by putting the title on Hart, it was helping elevate it – much in the same way WWE tried to elevate the same title by putting it on John Cena for a while.
That being said, putting it on Hart was a waste of Hart. You don’t pay a guy $3 million a year to elevate the United States championship.
9. He Didn’t Have A Major Feud With The nWo
One of the major story lines Hart was involved in centered around how the WWE fans at the time were all supporting the “bad guys.” The kids in the crowd cheered for the antics of D-Generation X or the anti-authority nature of Stone Cold Steve Austin, which is why his “heel” persona in the WWE was so revolutionary. He was a “bad guy” in the USA but a beloved hero in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
When he got to WCW, his character should have kept playing on that. He should have told the world that he hated the way the nWo did things and that “this is the same crap that was going on where I just came from.” Instead, he kinda-sorta was against the nWo and then was kinda-sorta their ally before eventually joining them altogether another ridiculous decision by WCW and one we will be getting to shortly.
8. His Original Feud With Goldberg Hit A Snag
On an edition of Nitro in March of 1999, Hart called out Goldberg, claiming he could beat WCW’s “franchise player” in five minutes or less. Goldberg answered the challenge and hit a spear on Hart – only to discover that Hart was wearing a metal plate under his hockey jersey, much like Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars. Or Marty McFly in Back To The Future, Part III. Hart would then publicly “quit” live on air.
The idea was that Hart would take some time off to heal an injury and then return to face Goldberg in a major feud. This had all the makings of a classic, one of the few times WCW was steering Hart in the right direction. They even had scheduled him to appear on The Tonight Show to hype the feud upon his return.
Sadly, Bret’s brother, Owen, would pass away in an accident in the ring right before his return. WCW would let Hart wrestle Chris Benoit (oh, the irony) in a tribute match before giving him more time off to mourn, which was the right thing to do.
Still, a decent booker would have found a tasteful way to respect the dead while still keeping the buzz on this feud going.
7. They Put Him In The Ring With Goldberg In The First Place
On December 19, 1999 – Starrcade ’99 – WCW World Champion Bret Hart defended his title against Goldberg. During the course of the match, Goldberg struck Hart in the head with a thrust kick, causing a severe concussion. Less than a year later, Hart was retired at age 43 due to complications with post-concussion syndrome.
It’s plainly obvious that Goldberg certainly did not intend to injure Bret Hart in that match. If that had been the case, Hart would of course never have agreed to matches with him afterwards. But, given Goldberg’s still-green levels of experience at that point (Goldberg had only debuted less than two years prior), WCW’s inability to properly protect their biggest acquisition since signing Hulk Hogan in 1994 was not only foolish, it was damn near irresponsible.
Is it necessarily fair to blame WCW for accidents that happen in the ring? There is a lot of debate on that, but professional wrestlers should be assured that they are safe when they perform matches.
6. WCW Did Nothing With Davey Boy Smith Or Jim Neidhart
When Hart left the WWE, his brothers-in-law and Hart Foundation teammates Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith came with him (Bret’s brother, Owen, was not let out of his contract and Brian Pillman had died the October before Bret left). And even though it’s clear that WCW may have not used Hart to his full potential, it was still more than they used Smith and Neidhart – which was not at all.
If WCW had been smart, they would have utilized these two alongside Hart, even forming a faction to compete with the nWo. This would have been especially interesting considering Hart’s bizarre relationship with the nWo and a storyline that fans would likely have appreciated. Instead, the two floundered as a tag team for a while before simply being released. It was as if the WCW creative team lost its creative juices whenever they envisioned story lines for Hart.
5. Hart vs. Sting Should Have Been Legendary
When Hart was in his first run as WWE champion (and probably at the peak of his popularity) in 1992, the man called Sting also held that same position in WCW. The two super popular babyface champions were constantly involved in hypothetical inter-promotional “dream matches” (much in the same way Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair were in the 1980s). Hell, they even used the same finishing move.
So, when the two both ended up in WCW five years later – and when it was obvious that Hart wasn’t going to challenge for the World title – it should have been a no-brainer that the two would feud. And they did. It just sucked, is all.
During 1998’s Fall Brawl event, Hart had renounced his involvement with Hulk Hogan and the nWo. On the following episode of Nitro, Hart had seemingly hurt his knee in a match against Hogan, prompting Sting to come to his rescue. Sting, being the most gullible man in pro wrestling, was attacked by Hart, prompting a feud between the two.
Unfortunately, the feud just became an extension of both the nWo Hollywood/Wolfpac and Hogan/Warrior feuds. What should have been a PPV headliner was instead a wet fart of a program.
4. He Reformed The nWo
After his match with Goldberg at Starrcade 1999 (see above), Hart announced he would vacate the WCW championship on the following Nitro and he and Goldberg would have a match to determine the “true champion.” Instead, during the match, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash approached the ring with baseball bats and, before you know it, Hall, Nash, and Hart had reformed the nWo with, of all people, Jeff Jarrett.
It’s also worth noting that instead of their trademark colors being black and white, this new version (now dubbed “nWo 2000”) sported colors of back and silver. Because, of course they were.
Hart’s second WCW World title reign would only last a month before he had to vacate it – and, eventually retire – due to injuries. It was a shame that WCW felt that in order to get Hart over in the main event scene, they had to rehash the nWo angle again.
3. Warrior Was Favored Over Hart
One year after signing Hart, WCW signed yet another former WWE champion – the (formerly Ultimate) Warrior. However, whereas Hart was introduced to the WCW audience with hardly any fanfare whatsoever, Warrior had a theatrical debut that made Chris Jericho’s 1999 WWE debut look like, well… Hart’s WCW debut.
Warrior was immediately thrust into a feud with Hogan (which was pretty much the reason they hired him in the first place), given a major angle in which he (attempted) to form a sort of revenge-nWo faction and was given a major PPV main event against Hogan at Halloween Havoc 1998 – a match that was, also, one of the worst matches of all time.
While Warrior was only meant to stick around for a year at most, imagine if they had given that type of debut to Hart, a guy they intended to keep for a long time. Sadly, we will never know that alternate reality.
2. Hart Never Got To Elevate Younger Stars
WCW wasn’t particularly interested in bringing any of their younger stars up into the main event scene. Sure, they had future WWE champions on their roster, such as Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Rey Mysterio and (ahem) Chris Benoit. Hart showed what kind of matches he could have with the WCW roster with the tribute match he had with Benoit in his brother’s memory.
Instead, the main event was populated by guys like Hogan, Hall, Nash and Goldberg – and we all saw what kind of matches he had with them. If WCW had actually planned for the future – and put that plan in motion – Hart would have been the guy to lead them there. Not only was this a disservice to Hart’s skill, but to the young guys on the roster who would have surely benefited from matches with a talent like Bret Hart. Instead, there was a lot of same old, same old.
1. His Signing Was Made To Spite WWE
At the end of the day, it’s plainly obvious that the only reason WCW and Eric Bischoff signed Bret Hart was as a big middle finger to the WWE and Vince McMahon. Hart was the biggest name that WCW had signed away from the WWE since the nWo formed and, as such, booking him in such a shoddy manner seemed like WCW was saying “see how much better our guys are than this guy from the WWE?” The irony was so thick, you could slice through it.
As for Hart, himself, the guy was put into an unwinnable position. The WWE could no longer afford his contract. Regardless of who you feel is to blame for the Montreal Screwjob, after that humiliation, how could Hart not go to WCW? Even still, you had to know that he felt he wasn’t going to have a great career there.
Despite the lackluster last couple of years of his career, “The best there is, the best there was and the best that ever will be” still had a legendary career in which he should be proud.
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