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What could have been if Bret Hart won the Royal Rumble in 1997?

Bret Hart should have won the Royal Rumble in 1997, and this is what could have, and should have occurred, following the event.

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08:  Special guest referee Bret 'The Hitman' Hart is introduced during the WWE Smackdown Live Tour at Westridge Park Tennis Stadium on July 08, 2011 in Durban, South Africa.  (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Bret Hart could have had a different career trajectory

Every now and then, it's good to look back on a particular moment in history and think what could have been. That question could indeed be placed on the shoulders of the WWE in 1997 when they allowed 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin to claim victory in the Royal Rumble event. 

In doing so, Austin increased his heel push. At the time, the WWE were putting serious time and effort into his character to create the next company heel, as Shawn Michaels continued to divide opinion amongst fans.

The decision to confirm Austin as the Royal Rumble victor in 1997 was nothing but a mistake, and 'The Hitman' should have been the winner of the entire tournament instead. Why? Let me tell you.

In late 1996, the rivalry between Steve Austin and Bret Hart brewed for months, with the two culminating in a Survivor Series show stealer that November. Hart won the match after he outsmarted Austin by doing a little backflip with Steve having the sleeper hold locked on him.

It was Hart's first pay-per-view event since Shawn Michaels defeated him at Wrestlemania XII and that should have been the beginning of the road to Wrestlemania XIII for him.

In the lead up to the Royal Rumble in 1997, the rivalry between Shawn Michaels and well, Sycho Sid, was the initial story for a champion.

Pretty awful when you consider that the Rumble event has witnessed some of the best Championship matches in the title's history, it begs the question, what was occurring at that time? 

Also read: 5 Integral numbers that define The WWE Royal Rumble Match

According to Bret Hart's autobiography, Hart confirms that Vince McMahon had planned almost twelve months ago with Hart and Michaels that the duo would clash at Wrestlemania once again in a rematch - giving Hart the victory.

Maybe Hart isn't as intelligent as he makes himself out to be, but IF the company had any intention put the belt on Hart in Chicago, then surely giving him the push and allowing him a victory in the Rumble match would have only increased his status as a main event star, and not ignited the feud between Austin and Hart?

You would think so at least?

Nope, McMahon went ahead and put the belt on Michaels as expected and gave Austin the victory in the Rumble match. Before anyone claims that it was the right decision because of the match at Wrestlemania between Austin and Hart, it was wrong.

Austin was going over so strongly with the fans, that a victory in the Rumble was not necessary. Also, the company refused to announce on this particular year that Austin would be given the main event spot at 'Mania.

So if they had no intention of pushing Austin to the forefront, why wouldn’t they allow Hart to earn the victory in the match?  

Bret Hart entering into Survivor Series 1997

Just weeks after the Rumble, little was made of Michaels and Hart's potential title match before HBK shockingly relinquished the belt on Raw because "he lost his smile".

Not only that, Michaels suffered a knee injury that many people saw as just an excuse for him not to have to drop the title belt to his arch-nemesis on the grandest stage of them all.

Hart winning the Rumble match would have instantly ignited a feud between Hart and Michaels once again in the fans’ eyes.

That would have had the WWE Universe talking and with money being pumped into the marketing and advertising, it could potentially have resulted in an even greater anticipation to the rematch of the Iron Man match.

Instead, we got The Undertaker and Sycho Sid as the main event of the annual extravaganza that is considered by many fans as the worst main event in Wrestlemania history. Surely putting the belt on Hart and having him wrestling Austin in the main event would have been better and stood 'The Hitman' better?

Again, no, it was apparently better to put the belt on Sycho Sid, so he could battle The Undertaker in the most boring match ever witnessed.

Why did it all occur? Only because WWE failing to book Hart to win the Rumble meant that their main event of Wrestlemania was nothing but a sham. 

Not only this, after the main event, Hart could still have been made the champion and could have finally gotten his rematch with Michaels at Summerslam.

The event is considered the second highest marquee event of the WWE year, the money that could have been drawn between the duo would have surely stood them the test of time in the Monday Night Wars. 

Who knows? Had Hart won the Rumble match and gone on to win the WWE title at Wrestlemania, Hart may not have been in possession of his title when his contract was up for negotiation in October 1997.

Following that moment, Hart was forced to sign with WCW and the infamous Montreal Screwjob soon occurred, destroying Hart's career.

All this because of the Rumble's poor booking? Maybe! But the fact remains that Hart should not have lost the Royal Rumble because it was simply a disaster.

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