In October 1996, Hart announced on RAW that he had decided to stay with WWE amid interest from WCW. Despite signing a 20-year contract with Vince McMahon’s company, The Hitman still joined WCW a year later after agreeing a three-year deal worth $9 million.
“Bret felt he had great worth. He felt like he should have been paid more, and I’m not disagreeing with that, quite frankly. He should have been the highest-paid guy in WWE by far. He was the most valuable player in WWE at that time by far, so to me it was not a hard decision. But, also, I’m not looking at the books. I’m not looking at Vince’s accounting and so forth and so on,” Jim Ross said.
Bret Hart was one of the biggest names in the wrestling business in 1996. Earlier that year, he lost to Shawn Michaels in a 60-minute Ironman match in the main event of WrestleMania 12.
Jim Ross on Bret Hart’s importance to WWE
Bret Hart built up a loyal fanbase during his 13 years in WWE between 1984 and 1997. Although he received positive reactions in America, he was especially popular in Europe and in his home country of Canada.
Due to his popularity around the world, Jim Ross felt it was important that WWE tried to keep hold of Hart:
“Losing Bret would have been a big hit on the live events,” Ross said. “And even though today live events are not of huge consequence, it seems like, because of the rights fees and so forth and the promotions getting their money in a different source, Bret was always that staple that drew houses. He was big on the live event tours and sold tickets and made money for the company,” said Ross.
Jim Ross added that Bret Hart had more respect amongst his peers than almost every other WWE Superstar. For that reason, he thought it was “difficult to put a dollar price” on someone as invaluable as Hart.
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