Fitting that the first post of the new year would be about Montreal.
So the whole Starcade 97 thread got me thinking of two questions. The first is about what would happen if Bret Hart would have signed with WCW in September of 96 instead of re-upping with WWF. Would he have just been another addition to the NWO and quickly lost in the background? Would his signing have been a bigger deal than in December of 97? Would he have been used better? Heel or face?
Bret was pretty low-key in 1996, as he was more concerned about his acting prospects than carrying on too heavily with the WWF. Although he was heavily rumored to be the third guy if they couldn’t convince Hogan, so obviously someone at WCW had big plans for him at the time. I think he would have come in, joined the NWO, and done pretty well for himself without the baggage of Montreal hanging over his head in WCW.
Second question is at what point Vince regretted the Bret contract signed in 96. Bret claims that during his very first match at Survivor Series 96 against Austin, Vince and the commentating team was making him sound “old and beat up” (Bret’s words in his book). However I thought it might have been as simple as painting Bret as the old warhorse and cagey veteran leading to what was still assumed to be a main event of Shawn/Bret at WM12. Was the brief and aborted Shawn heel turn during late 96 possibly part of the path to WM12? Face Bret vs. heel Shawn?
Oh yeah, I’m pretty sure that Vince regretted that contract the day after he signed it. It’s obvious that Vince would have been happier had Bret just gone to WCW.
Bret’s match against Sid at IYH in December was termed an afterthought by Bret and after the Royal Rumble, and before Vince had mentioned any plans to Bret about turning heel, the commentating team and the bookers were painting Bret as a huge whiner. As discussed in the blog, fans hate whiners more than almost anything, no matter how “correct” they may be. So why sign Bret to the big contract if they were almost immediately going to make him look weak, flake out on the big HBK/Bret return match, and make him lose most of his matches? Yeah Vince stumbled on the Hart Foundation revamp which got him several more useful months out of Bret, but it still seemed like at every opportunity he undercut Bret, favored Shawn, and went out of his way to irritate Bret both on and off camera.
My point exactly. Vince made a bad deal for himself and then immediately tried to justify his later behavior by sewing the seeds against Bret on-screen.