What if Bret Hart never left the WWE?
On 9 November 1997, one of the most controversial incidents in the history of the wrestling business took place when Shawn Michaels defeated Bret Hart in the main event of the Survivor Series pay-per-view to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.
“The Hitman” had already agreed to join WCW but refused to drop the title to his long-term rival in Canada, where Survivor Series took place that year, and thought he had come to an agreement with Vince McMahon & Co. about the match ending in a disqualification, with the title change (or title forfeit) happening at a later date.
However, Vince changed the finish because he didn’t want WCW to announce the signing of Bret when he still held the World Heavyweight Championship, which they legally would have been allowed to do the following day.
To avoid the bad publicity of WWE losing another major star – and their champion, no less – to WCW, Vince ordered referee Earl Hebner to end the match when Michaels locked in the sharpshooter, even though Bret didn’t actually submit, meaning HBK won the title.
Over the last two decades, there have been many arguments for and against Vince’s decision to ‘screw’ Bret, while fans have debated what would have happened in the Monday Night Wars if the Montreal Screwjob never took place.
In this article, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at five ways that the wrestling industry would have been different if Bret never left WWE in the first place.
#5 Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIV)
By the time WrestleMania XIV came around in March 1998, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had cemented his status as WWE’s next megastar and it was clear that, regardless of his opponent, he was going to emerge from the event as WWE champion.
That’s exactly what ended up happening, with “The Rattlesnake” defeating Shawn Michaels in the main event of the show, but there’s a very good chance that the headline match that year would have been Bret Hart vs. Austin if “The Hitman” didn’t join WCW.
Bret would potentially have remained WWE champion all the way until WrestleMania XIV, where Austin could have exacted revenge one year on from losing the legendary submission match that the two had at WrestleMania 13.