The 1992-96 era had been a difficult one for WWE as Vince McMahon repeatedly tried and failed to find a wrestler who could replace Hulk Hogan as a superstar attraction and box office draw.
the 1992-96 era is most commonly associated with Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, owing to their legendary statuses, but in truth, they didn't dominate WWE during that time period in the same way Hogan did in the 1980s or Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock did in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
After Hart and particularly Michaels disappointed at the gate, Vince McMahon looked at his roster and saw nobody who could step into the breach.
Therefore, he decided to make his most successful gimmick performer, WWE Champion for the majority of 1997. That man was The Undertaker.
'Taker had reigned as WWE Champion for a few days in late 1991 but had never been considered for a title run ever since.
He was an attraction, an anomaly to contest gimmick contests with the likes of Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Kamala and others.
However, after The Undertaker became a more serious and dynamic performer during 1996 in a heated feud with Mankind, McMahon was forced to reassess his worth as a potential headliner.
McMahon was also faced with the internal issues brewing between Hart and Michaels. Their on-screen feud had escalated into full on backstage enmity. When Michaels implied on air, that family man, Hart was unfaithful to his wife (which, incidentally was true, as Hart later revealed in his autobiography, Hitman, published in 2007), Hart lost patience with his co-worker and when he demanded an apology, that was not forthcoming, he pounded Michaels for real.
McMahon did not envy trying to book either of his top stars in title positions during 1997, as he continued to look elsewhere for Hogan's successor.