Hart vs. Michaels
Written by Canadian Bulldog
Forget The Montreal Screwjob.
The rivalry between WWE Hall of Famers Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels dates back to 1990, when both were tag team competitors. While both duos were babyfaces at that time, they were often on opposite sides of the ring.
The Rockers even defeated The Hart Foundation for the WWF Tag Team Championship - kind of. At a television taping on October 30, 1990, Michaels and Marty Jannetty defeated Hart and Jim Neidhart for the belts in a Two Out Of Three Falls Match. Unfortunately, one of the ropes broke mid-match. Because it didn't look good, Vince McMahon decided to nullify the match and The Hart Foundation kept the titles instead.
Still, it wouldn't be the last time we saw Hart vs. Michaels - not by a long shot.
By 1992, both had solidly become singles competitors - Hart as a babyface and Michaels as a heel. They often battled for Hart's Intercontinental Championship on the house show circuit (including in Ladder Matches, which were just being pioneered at the time).
By the fall, Hart defeated Ric Flair to become WWF Champion, while Michaels pinned The British Bulldog (no relation) to captured the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Without any serious rivalries built up for either man (and due to their sold work on the house show circuit), they met for Hart's title at Survivor Series.
Still, it wouldn't be the last time we saw Hart vs. Michaels (and at Survivor Series, or in a WWF Title match, for that matter).
By 1996, Hart and Michaels found themselves facing each other again - this time in an Iron Match Match at WrestleMania XII. Both men being babyfaces at the time, they performed a Match Of The Year candidate, with Michaels capturing Hart's WWF Championship in sudden-death overtime. Hart decided to step away from the ring to pursue acting for a while and he felt the company was in good hands with The Heartbreak Kid.
During Hart's time off, he began regretting that decision, questioning Michaels' ability to be a role model for children. While that was sentiment was kept off cameras at the time, there seemed to be something that they could revisit when Hart returned to the ring.
You guessed it - it wouldn't be the last time we saw Hart vs. Michaels.
The final chapter in this rivalry began in 1997. Hart, back in the WWF, quickly turned heel and Michaels was among his targets. The two were scheduled to clash at that year's King of the Ring, but a real-life backstage fight over an on-screen comment Michaels made on Monday Night Raw caused McMahon to scrap the match entirely.
By SummerSlam, Hart challenged The Undertaker for the WWF Championship and Michaels was made the special referee. While his real-life feelings for Teh Hitman were quite apparent by then, Michaels still cost Undertaker the championship, turning heel in the process.
By the fall, Hart had assembled his army, consisting of old partner Neidhart, brother Owen Hart, brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith and family friend Brian Pillman. Michaels was associating with Triple H, Chyna and (briefly) Ravishing Rick Rude.
Michaels challenged Hart for the WWF Championship at the 1997 Survivor Series in a match that had become deeply personal and, as we learned, Hart was on his way out of the company. Although they had an incredibly tense and competitive match at Survivor Series, McMahon "screwed" Bret out of the championship, giving Michaels the gold and only intensifying the legitimate bad blood between these two.
It wasn't until 2010 that Hart and Michaels buried the hatchet during (both on-screen and off) during a segment on Raw, putting the end to a rivarly that began some 20 years earlier.