Rewriting The Book – What if Bret Hart lost at Summerslam ’97? (Part IV)

21 Submitted by on Mon, 25 July 2016, 21:39

The final chapter is here! If you missed the previous three, here’s Part I, Part II and Part III.

Our story continues on the final Raw before Survivor Series. The epochal event has taken shape as the ultimate battleground and final confrontation for many ongoing feuds, including Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Cactus Jack, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Owen Hart, and The Nation Of Domination against Ahmed Johnson, Ken Shamrock and the Legion Of Doom. Most important, though, is the career-defining — and career-ending — main event, a loser-leaves-town title unification match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. While Hart and his Foundation lost in embarrassing fashion against Rick Rude’s Martial Law stable, he is not deterred, and has his sights set on another target with one week to go before his title defense. And with a number of enemies already dispatched, and Shawn Michaels humbled the week before, there would appear to be nothing slowing down Bret’s roll …

Nov. 3, 1997: Monday Night Raw (Hershey, PA)

The final Raw before Survivor Series kicks off with Faarooq and Scorpio entering the ring. Faarooq commandeers the mic from the ring announcer with a sneer.

“Shut the hell up!” he barks at the crowd, which inspires them to do the exact opposite. After they finally quiet down some, he continues on. “I know for a fact that Uncle Tom and those two clowns in football pads ain’t here tonight! So, Ken Shamrock! Mister “World’s Most Dangerous Man”! Get yo’ ass down here for a world-class whuppin’ from the most dangerous group of athletes in the World Wrestling Federation!”

Shamrock does indeed come out, in his gear and ready to fight, but he stops at the top of the ramp. “You’re right, Ahmed, Hawk and Animal aren’t here tonight! But since I knew they wouldn’t be here, I made a call to a friend of mine. And not only is he here tonight, he’s the fifth man of our team this Sunday at Survivor Series!” Faarooq’s confidence visibly erodes. “He is a world-class expert in escrima and tae kwon do, and my sparring partner … ‘The Lethal Weapon’ Steve Blackman!”

A man with dark hair and a goatee, built almost exactly like Shamrock, steps through the curtain, a pair of escrima sticks in his hands. Blackman shows off his formidable skills in wielding the sticks, as well as a variety of kicks and strikes. Blackman sets the sticks down once the display is over and, together, they rush the ring. Faarooq and Scorpio, clearly not expecting Shamrock to have a partner or for him to be a skilled martial artist, panic and jump out of the ring. But Blackman and Shamrock are there to intercept before the Nation can escape into the crowd. Blackman and Shamrock dissect Faarooq and Scorpio with their surgical MMA attacks … until, predictably, Martial Law hits the scene and breaks up the fisticuffs. Faarooq and Scorpio gladly retreat for the safety of the locker room … and right into Rick Rude.

“You two seemed so ready to go a few minutes ago,” Rude says with no shortage of condescension. “Why turn tail and run?” Faarooq opens his mouth, but gets it shut by Rude, who just keeps talking. “You asked for a match, and we will not let these people down. I need a ref out here now!”

When Raw comes back from commercial, the match is underway, even if Faarooq and Scorpio look very unhappy about it. Scorpio manages to put up some fight, but when Faarooq gets in, he’s over-confident and pays for it. Rocky comes down and tries to offer “advice” to Faarooq in the form of barked orders, which Faarooq doesn’t appreciate. Faarooq even tags out so he can confront Rocky on the floor, a move that perplexes Scorpio and leaves him wide open to eating a kick to the head that puts out his lights. Blackman picks up the win in his first match, and the loss only furthers the argument between Rocky and Faarooq, on the eve of an important battle that needs cohesion more than ever.

Raw comes back to WWF Champion Bret Hart – sans the Hart Foundation – entering the ring, a mic in hand and a serious look on his face.

“When I pledged to dismantle the conspiracies in the World Wrestling Federation, I promised I would cut out the cancer at its source. Last week, I made an error,” he says with sincere shame. “I led my family into battle, not against the sickness, but the symptom. Martial Law are a dangerous entity in the World Wrestling Federation, but they’re the gun, not the hand that holds it. I am still committed to bringing the honor and integrity back to this company, but going through Martial Law is not the way to do it.” Bret raises his head and looks up at the stage. “Rick Rude! We need to talk, now!”

After a bit of a wait, Rude finally shows up. Martial Law initially comes out with him, but he tells them to wait on the stage instead. Rude enters the ring and stands firm in front of Bret. “I don’t appreciate being summoned like a servant, Bret,” he says.

“And I don’t like being jerked around and screwed, but that’s all I’ve gotten this year from the WWF. Sucks not getting what you want, doesn’t it?”

“Bret, if this is how this is going to go, I’m not gonna waste–”

“You’re not going anywhere,” Bret says in a flat, icy tone. Rude, in mid-stride to walk away, turns around with a snap, eyes narrowing. “I said we’re going to talk, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Rude walks right up to Bret, mere inches away. “I don’t take kindly to your tone or your demands, Bret. I’m the law around here, not you.”

Bret smirks. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, actually, Rick. You see, last week, my brothers and I took on your stupid little gang of thugs. But they’re not the problem.” Bret stabs a finger in Rude’s chest. “You’re the problem. At least Gorilla Monsoon was just old and losing interest. You have no excuse other than being a puppet of the McMahons. You’re a thug, just like your gang of thugs, only you’re in a suit.” Bret touches the lapel of Rude’s jacket, but Rude slaps away Bret’s hand almost instantly. “It’s time to take off the suit, Rick. You wanna fight the good fight? Do it where it counts: here in the ring!”

The crowd goes nuts, chanting “take the suit off” at Rude. But Rude throws a bucket of cold water on that pretty quickly. “Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, Bret, but I’m retired. I have a back injury that I’m not risking re-aggravating, especially not for you.” Rude starts to turn away, then comes back, holding up a finger. “But … if you’re willing to make a wager, I think I have an idea.”

Bret’s eyes narrow. “I’m listening.”

“You want me out of my position, right? What if I let someone fight for me instead?”

“Who?” Bret asks with suspicion.

“I have two hours to figure that out. It’s a one-time deal, Bret. Here and now, yes or no. You say yes, you come back for the main event tonight, and if you win, I resign tonight. That means I go, and Martial Law goes, all in one shot.”

“I want a no-interference guarantee.”

“Bret, that’s the law of the land around here! You should know that by now!” Rude says, in disbelieving amusement. “You have my solemn vow that the only people that will be in that ring from start to finish will be you, your opponent and the referee.”

“Your promises are as hollow as this country’s morals,” Bret says to a resounding round of boos. “I want it as a condition. If there’s interference, I win automatically.”

Rude raises an eyebrow, but eventually nods. “Fine. Done. See you in two hours.”

The Godwinns are in the ring when Raw returns. Hoping to build momentum for a tag title shot, they take on the ad hoc tandem of Vader and European Champion Jeff Jarrett. The duo, looking to work out the kinks as a pair ahead of their match against the Hart Foundation at Survivor Series, look good out of the starting blocks. Neither of the Godwinns are physically able to stand up to Vader, so when they get the chance, they put the heat on Jarrett. That doesn’t last long, though, as Jarrett uses his speed and mat skills to get out of some predicaments, and tags in Vader. From there, it’s all downhill for the hog farmers, giving Vader and Jarrett some solid momentum going into Survivor Series.

Backstage, Michael Cole is at the interview stage and welcomes the youngest of the Hart family, Owen Hart. “Owen, in six days, you defend the Intercontinental Championship against ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin at the Suvivor Series. But last week, Rick Rude seemed to hint that there were things you needed to consider heading into the match. You’ve had a week to think about it–”

“I didn’t need a week to think about what he said. It was garbage then, and it’s garbage now!” exclaims Owen. “He wants me to wrestle soft, so I don’t endanger the company’s ‘investment’. He wants me to take it easy on that … that … low-life Steve Austin! He has that foul-mouthed saying of his about Austin 3:16? Well, I have my own. Owen 3:16 says I just broke your neck! And this Sunday, if that’s what I have to do to put you down and out, I’ll do it again!” Owen laughs maniacally.

“But Owen, you don’t feel the slightest bit of hesitation? This is his first match back since you injured him at Summerslam! He could wind up paralyzed! He could –”

“If he’s such a fragile little baby, maybe he shouldn’t be getting in the ring! Maybe he should stay home and … whatever it is he does on his ranch! If you step through those ropes, you’re doing it to make somebody hurt. Case closed. He’s gonna try to do it to me, and I’m gonna try to do it to him. I–”

Now it’s Owen who is interrupted, but not with words; Steve Austin steps into frame. Owen’s eyes go wide with surprise at first, then narrow.

“I ain’t here to do anything but take the chance to do what you’re doin’ right now,” he says, then looks at Cole. “You got any questions for me, son?”

“Well, umm –“

“This is my interview–”

“We’ll get to you in a second,” Austin says, holding up a finger to shush Owen.

“Okay, um … well, Steve, the past three months, you’ve been out of action due to the injury you sustained at Summerslam. You’ve caused quite a bit of chaos in getting to this point. Now that you’re here, and the moment is six days away, have your thoughts changed any on the match?”

Austin smiles. “No, I haven’t changed a damn thing about what I thought. It means ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is back. We can stop talking about it. The journey’s over. It’s ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart for the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Title.”

“But what about what Owen Hart has hinted at, that he intends on not following Rick Rude’s request to be mindful of your injured neck. Does that heighten the animosity between you?”

Hell yeah, it’s heightened the animosity, professional as well as personal. But the fact of the matter is, I never asked for Rick Rude to step in and tell Owen to take his foot off the gas. If I wasn’t ready to get in this ring, if the doctors weren’t ready to let me, you can be damned sure I wouldn’t be.

Owen,” says Cole, “you just heard what Steve Austin said. He doesn’t want you to go easy. He’s coming in full speed ahead. Without tipping your hand to your strategy, tell me about how you’re approaching this match now as a competitor.”

Tipping my hand? I don’t think it’s any secret, Michael Cole. I’m not going in there to play defense, and I’m not in there just to win. As far as I’m concerned, the belt is dangling, and we’re both going for it. So I have one reason, and one reason only to go inside that ring, and that is to beat ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. To show to the world that what happened at Summerslam was a fluke. I’m gonna beat him, and it’ll be the last time he steps foot in a WWF ring. It’s just that simple.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I–”

Austin grabs the mic from Cole before he can close out the moment. “Hold your horses, son.” Austin looks eye to eye with Owen, his gaze as serious as a heart attack. “I’ll go on record as sayin’ that wrestlin’ you, Owen Hart, you gave me one hell of a fight. So when I roll in to Molson Centre in your backyard and Survivor Series this Sunday? Do I wanna beat you on a personal level? Oh hell yeah, I do. But on professional level, which bleeds over into my personal existence … I need it, Owen. I need it more than anything you could ever imagine. So that’s the mentality I roll into the Molson Centre with, the fact that ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is back, and that I must beat you to be the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion once again. And there is no other way. There can be only one. There can be only one World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Champion. And that will be, when it’s all said and done … Stone Cold Steve Austin.” Austin lets go of Cole’s hand and walks off.

Owen’s brothers-in-law are up next in competition, looking to build momentum the same way Vader and Jarrett did earlier. But their opponents aren’t just any team, but the holders of the World Wrestling Federation Tag Team Championships, The Headbangers. Even more surprising, after some pre-match jaw-jacking between Jim Neidhart, Davey Boy Smith and the ‘bangers, the champs volunteer to put the titles on the line. That comes to be a move they quickly regret, as Anvil and Bulldog – two very experienced hands in tag wrestling, with four lengthy reigns between them – show a seamless cohesion that Vader and Jarrett did not, combined with their veteran seasoning. The result is a thorough dismantling of The Headbangers; even their token offense is all but dismissed, en route to stereo powerslams that end the match. But no sooner are they hoisting the titles in celebration – a victory that puts gold around the waists of every member of the Foundation – than Rick Rude comes out. He announces, to the delight of the crowd, that Neidhart and Smith will defend their newly won titles against Jarrett and Vader in six days … and that since Neidhart and Smith “love to cause mayhem”, Rude makes it a Texas Tornado match.

The percussive heart-beat that kicks off the music of D-Generation X; Hunter Hearst Helmsley and his bodyguard Chyna walk down the ramp, a snarl twisting Helmsley’s face. “I’m gonna make this short and sweet. Mick Foley! What’s gone down between us has gone on for long enough! It’s time to end it, and this Sunday at the Survivor Series is the place to do it!”

Cactus Jack’s theme music cues up, ushering the hardcore icon down the ramp. Cactus stands in front of Helmsley as the former Connecticut blue-blood rants on.

Foley, it’s time to end this once and for all. I’m not afraid of you, no matter what stupid shirt you put on. We end this at Survivor Series!”

Foley smirks and nods. “Okay. Fine by me.” He then leans forward. “And how would you like to end it? Steel cage? I beat you there. Falls count anywhere? I beat you there too. Let me lay this out for you, Hunter, so you have a chance to really consider this. Have you watched my stuff from Japan? Have you seen what I’ve done? Barbed wire, C4, baseball bats, spike nails … that’s not what you have to do to beat me. That’s what other people have tried to use to stop me … and failed.” Cactus gets in closer, his voice getting more intense. “That’s the bar you have to clear to even stand a chance, Hunter! And the men that did those things, who used those weapons … they are much more dangerous, much more savage, much more psychotic than you can imagine. So whatever you’ve imagined, whatever sick, twisted fantasy you got cooking, just know I’ve already done things far, far worse! Whatever idea you have, it’s a match that you can’t win, and I can’t lose!”

Now Helmsley smirks back, and the smug self-satisfaction behind it is enough to change Cactus’ demeanor. “Oh, I know your resume. I know all about the deathmatches and the extreme violence. The ear that got torn off, the concussions, how you’ve bled on almost every continent on this planet … and that’s exactly what I’m after. Your blood.” Helmsley’s smirk grows to a sick smile. “For what I have in mind, I won’t have to out-wrestle you or out-brawl you or survive some crazy set of weapons. All I need to do is draw blood first.” Helmsley lets it sink in for just a moment. “It doesn’t matter who’s more brutal. That’s a war I can’t win. But spilling your blood first? That’s just a race. And I can win that race!”

I guess we’ll find out this Sunday, Hunter.” Cactus gets a little bit closer one more time. “But between you and me … unless you plan on bleeding me dry … even if you win … you’re gonna lose.”

Cactus lets the ominous threat hang in the air as he glares down Helmsley. But Helmsley doesn’t show the slightest bit of intimidation, returning the intense stare right back at Cactus as Raw goes to commercial.

At last, the main event comes around, not only the final moments on Raw before an epochal Survivor Series, but quite possibly the final match on Raw for Bret Hart should he not be victorious. Bret enters the ring first and asks for a mic.

Alright, Rick. You’ve had two hours,” he says. “You said you could find an opponent for me … but I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter who it is!I’m the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be! There isn’t a person in that locker room I haven’t beaten!”

Rude strolls out, smiling with no shortage of self-satisfaction. “Is that a fact, Bret? Well, I hate to break the bad news to you, but not only did I find someone, but I can promise you that you have not beaten this man. In fact, you’ve never faced him.”

Rude steps back through the curtain and, for a handful of moments that feel like much longer, nothing happens. Bret watches the stage with suspicion, waiting impatiently … and then the lights go out and ominous organ music fills the arena. Bret’s jaw drops as the arena is bathed in a muted red light, the atmosphere for a very specific man … or, more accurately, monster. Paul Bearer leads Kane onto the stage and down the ramp. Bret stands frozen in fear as the monster approaches closer; his paralysis breaks when Kane steps up on the apron, and he bails out of the ring. Bret scrambles around the ring, keeping an eye on Kane, who stands in the ring, turning to watch Bret’s hasty retreat, but never once making so much as a twitch to indicate pursuit. The only movement he makes is to raise his arms to summon fire from the turnbuckle posts to intimidate Bret even more.

Only when the ringposts ignite, the fire is golden. Dustin Rhodes rolls out from under the ring, a steel chair in hand. By the time Kane turns and sees him, it’s too late; Dustin brings it down square in the face of the masked monster.

Which causes Kane to stagger back all of a single step.

Dustin is stunned, but only for a moment, as he winds up and brings it crashing down again. The chair shot sends Kane back another couple steps, but he does not falter. Dustin swings like a baseball player the third time, connecting full on like Babe Ruth, which gets another couple steps, then follows it up with a stab in the stomach, and then an uppercut-style swing. None of the barrage has the effect of getting Kane off his feet, but it does send him back far enough to tumble over the ropes and to the arena floor … landing on his feet. Paul Bearer rushes out and holds back his charge from retaliating, as Dustin has the upper hand. Goldust’s music cues up and the red lights turn gold to bring an end to the in-ring portion of Raw.

But in the back, cameras catch up with Bret Hart, running through the hallway, yelling out for Rick Rude. Bret opens every door he passes, looking for the WWF’s lead authority figure. A production assistant passes by, and Bret grabs him by the lapels, demanding to know where Rude is. The PA tells him he saw Rude headed towards the parking garage, so Bret throws the poor kid aside and runs for the garage.

When he gets there, Rude is getting into the backseat of a car. The car takes off with a squeal of tires on pavement as Bret attempts a short and futile chase of the vehicle. Bret stops and watches it disappear into the night, yelling that he will get his hands on Rude on Sunday. Bret turns to make the walk back to the locker room …

right into Sweet Chin Music!

Raw ends with Shawn Michaels, dancing around the unconscious body of Bret Hart, doing crotch-chops and telling the WWF Champion to “suck it”, proving the point that Bret can’t always defend against Shawn’s most lethal weapon.

Nov. 9, 1997: Survivor Series (Montreal, Quebec)

Survivor Series opens with a lengthy video package, looking back over the careers of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. First, it focuses on Bret, showing his title wins and moments from notable matches: main-eventing Summerslam 1992 against Davey Boy Smith, defeating Yokozuna at Wrestlemania X to regain the WWF World Title, becoming King Of The Ring, ending Diesel’s year-long title run, and defeating Stone Cold Steve Austin at the previous year’s Survivor Series. Then, Shawn’s career highlights are given their tune to shine; the first ladder match at Wrestlemania X, winning back-to-back Royal Rumbles, walking down the aisle with Jenny McCarthy at Wrestlemania XI, and winning back the WWF World Title from Sycho Sid a year prior.

These are the moments we wish we could remember them by,” the voice-over says, right before the screen goes black. Then; “But these are the moments they leave us with.”

The package goes into a montage of their less-than-respectable moments: Bret’s profanity-laced tirade in February, Shawn forfeiting the WWF World Title under claims of “losing his smile”, the formation of the Hart Foundation, Shawn’s role in the end of The Undertaker’s title run, the formation of D-Generation X, and Bret’s in-ring altercation with Vince McMahon that put him in the hospital. The package flashes back to their first singles encounter, back at Survivor Series 1992, with the voice-over saying that once upon a time, they were “merely opponents” … but over the years, more confrontations are shown, and now, the voice-over calls them “bitter enemies”. As a series of images from their careers goes by, the voice-over says; “Tonight, one of these men will walk out the undisputed World Wrestling Federation Champion. And one man will walk out … and never be seen again. As much as we want to remember what they were, this is how one man will leave us, forever.”

With that, the event begins, and kicks off with the final confrontation between the Nation of Domination against Ahmed Johnson, Ken Shamrock, Steve Blackman and the Legion Of Doom in a classic Survivor Series elimination match. Before they can even get in the ring, the Nation show signs of trouble, as Rocky Maivia and Faarooq disagree rather vociferously on the way down the aisle. The rest of the Nation look shocked by Rocky’s open dissension against their leader, and walk a little farther away from the bickering pair, as if the physical distance can save them the turmoil. Ahmed’s team, not surprisingly, is all high-fives and camaraderie as they approach the ring., where Rocky’s and Faarooq’s bickering is still going on (and now moved onto the most mundane of topics: who will lead off). Even when Ahmed’s team settles on who will start (Blackman), and the ref is ready to signal for the bell, Rocky and Faarooq are still arguing. D’Lo Brown finally settles the argument, pushing through the two of them and announcing he’ll start the match for the Nation. Rocky and Faarooq head back to their corner, continuing to bicker on the apron.

As soon as the bell rings D’Lo moves forward, right into a kick to the gut from Steve Blackman. An axe kick to the back of the head lays out D’Lo, and three seconds later, the Nation are down a man. Faarooq and Rocky argue a little more as D’Lo drags himself out of the ring and to the back, until Rocky insists he’ll show Faarooq “how to do business”. Rocky proceeds to wrestle Blackman to a stalemate; Blackman tags out, bringing in Animal, while Rocky tags out to Faarooq. The leader of the Nation and one half of the legendary Legion Of Doom lock up, but Faarooq is clearly off his game, getting pushed around and manhandled in a way a man of his size and resume shouldn’t be. After a couple minutes of getting dominated by Hawk and Animal trading off, Rocky blind-tags Faarooq during a whip into the ropes; on the way back, Animal goes down too soon for a back body drop, and Faarooq kicks him. But Rocky is right there to jump in, hit the Rock Bottom and score the pin, evening up the sides at four a piece.

Shamrock rushes in next, kicking off several minutes of back-and-forth quick tags, as each side tries to get the man advantage by going for killshots as quickly as possible. Rocky tries to catch Shamrock on his entry with a Rock Bottom, only to get elbowed and belly-to-belly suplexed. Rocky runs for the safety of Kama Mustafa, who, after a short exchange of holds and whips, gets two on Shamrock following a Death Valley Driver. Shamrock tags in Hawk, who gets two after a series of shoulder tackles and a powerslam. Kama defers to Faarooq, who also gets a long two on Hawk with a powerslam of his own. Hawk tags in Blackman, who nearly gets two on Faarooq following a pump kick to the chest. But Faarooq, eager to prove something to his followers, refuses to tag out, even after taking more punishment from the deadly martial artist. After three near-falls, the Nation is begging Faarooq to tag out; instead, he catches Blackman low off the ropes and sets up for the Dominator. Blackman rolls out the back and runs up the turnbuckle … only its the turnbuckle in the Nation’s corner. Rocky gives Blackman a shove, sending him crashing to the mat, and Faarooq scrambling to get out of the way. When he does, that allows Scorpio to blind-tag Faarooq, climb the turnbuckle, and eliminate Blackman with the Tumbleweed, putting the Nation up 4-3. Moments later, it becomes 4-2, thanks to Hawk rushing in, getting caught by Scorpio with a superkick, and Rocky finishing him off with a Rock Bottom.

With the sides now at 4-2 in favor of the Nation, Faarooq is finally willing to get in the ring with Ahmed Johnson … for a couple minutes. Once Ahmed starts showing his never-say-die resiliency and Faarooq can’t keep him down, the Nation’s leader tags out, much to the derision of Rocky. Faarooq doesn’t come back in until Ahmed tags out to Shamrock, which, soon after, the Nation take control of the match and slow down the pace. The Nation tag frequently, getting a fresh man in every time it looks like Shamrock is about to mount some kind of comeback. When on the apron, Faarooq and Rocky shout out contradictory orders to Kama and Scorpio; Faarooq demands Shamrock be punished, while Rocky just wants him pinned. The trouble is, even after a good six minutes of four-on-one abuse, Shamrock keeps finding ways to strike back. Faarooq, however, is so fixated on making his enemies suffer – and, obviously, putting Ahmed Johnson in a four-on-one hole – that he finally snaps and takes action against his own team, slapping Rocky in the middle of one of his counter-orders. Rocky’s eyes almost look like they’re going to fall out of his skull, but Faarooq couldn’t care less; he tells Rocky to “shut the hell up”, and tells the others not take Rocky’s orders because he’s not “all black” like the rest of them. Scorpio mounts the turnbuckle to go for the Tumbleweed on Shamrock, but Faarooq stops him, telling him not to finish off their opponent just yet. Scorpio tries to reason with him, but Faarooq is having none of it and orders him to come down. Scorpio considers it for a few seconds, gives Faarooq the finger and jumps … only Shamrock, given damned near an eternity to recover, rolls out of the way as Scorpio lands on nothing but mat. Shamrock rolls back, up to his feet and grabs Scorpio’s ankle, and cranks it like a twist-tie on a loaf of bread. By the time Kama is through the ropes to make the save attempt, Scorpio taps out, shrinking the two man advantage to one. Kama pounces on Shamrock right away, whipping him into the ropes, but he makes the cardinal sin of whipping him into the side nearest Ahmed; Shamrock wisely slides under the ropes and, as Kama slides out, he slides back in and makes the long-overdue tag. With Ahmed as fresh as new snow, he takes Kama to the woodshed, and tosses Rocky when he comes in to save his brother-in-arms. Faarooq refuses to step in, and watches in horror as Ahmed makes mincemeat of Kama with a blitz of offense. Just like that, the advantage that was 4-2 all of three minutes ago is erased, the sides now dead even.

With deceptive speed, Ahmed runs over, grabs the ropes Faarooq is holding onto, and slingshots him into the ring. With nowhere to run or hide, Faarooq tries begging for mercy, and finds none as Ahmed releases a year and a half’s worth of pent-up rage on him, making him pay for every injury and every missed opportunity. Faarooq gets one glimmer of hope on a telegraphed back body drop that he turns into an attempt at the Dominator … only to have it spoiled when Rocky reaches in and yanks Faarooq’s ankle. Livid, Faarooq forgets all about Ahmed Johnson and turns to berate the young upstart, and almost instantly pays for it, as Ahmed spins him around and drills him with the Pearl River Plunge. Three seconds later, the leader of the Nation is eliminated, leaving only Rocky Maivia. Ahmed puts a boot on Faarooq’s chest, looks right at Rocky and gestures for him to get in the ring and face the music. Rocky doesn’t give it a second thought … and elects to get counted out instead, waving it off as if to even consider it was the height of absurdity.

But once Ahmed and Shamrock clear the ring, Rocky gets in the ring again. Faarooq, having pulled himself up, gets in Rocky’s face, and the argument begins anew, prompting the rest of the Nation to come down and get involved. Rocky shoves Faarooq just as Kama, D’Lo and Scorpio enter the ring; quickly, they get in between the two … only Faarooq doesn’t appreciate it. He berates the three, calling them “stupid” and “confused” by the words of a “slick-talkin’ half-blood who don’t know nothin’ about the struggle”. Faarooq pushes past Kama and Scorpio and levels a finger in Rocky’s face, telling him that he needs to “know his role” and “fall in line”. Just as he’s about to level an “or else” consequence, Kama, D’Lo and Scorpio all band together and start pummeling Faarooq, while a smile slowly spreads on Rocky’s face. When Faarooq is sufficiently weakened, the Nation feed Faarooq to Rocky, who drills him with the Rock Bottom. Before leaving the ring, Rocky puts a foot on Faarooq’s chest and, with the rest of the Nation on either side of him, puts up his fist in the Nation’s salute, yelling out “by any means necessary!”.

Before the next match, a couple of short solo interviews run with different wrestlers, discussing the main event and its participants. Hawk and Animal mention how they fought both men when they were in the Hart Foundation and The Rockers, and that it’s sad to see how the young men they were became the bitter, hate-filled men they are. The Patriot says he respects both men as competitors, but both should be “ashamed” of their actions … and yet, he goes on to say that, if made to choose, he’d rather Shawn Michaels win, after Bret Hart’s words towards the United States.

While it is gold light and the haunting melody of Goldust that kicks off the entrances of the next match, it is Dustin Rhodes, clad in blue jeans and a white tank-top with his wrists taped, who comes to the ring. He comes to the ring alone, as Marlena is backstage watching on a monitor, with three members of Martial Law stationed around her. The gold switches to crimson for the arrival of Kane, whose deliberate pace only serves to drive Dustin nuts with anticipation. The thirst for vengeance becomes too much for him to wait patiently for, and he slides out of the ring, meeting Kane in the aisle. Dustin runs into Kane full-speed with a clothesline that has literally no effect, and neither does the follow-up series of right hands. Under the continued glow of the red light (which JR attributes to “powers”), Kane whips Dustin into the guard rail, then grabs the steps and smashes Dustin in the face. Kane rolls Dustin into the ring and chokes him a lot. A hard whip sends Dustin back outside, where Kane whips Dustin into the other set of steps. Kane charges at Dustin, who rolls out of the way; Kane collides with the steps and flips over. Dustin quickly grabs a chair and smacks him in the head with it, while the ref argues with Paul Bearer about being too close to the action. Dustin manages to get a piledriver on the floor, and then starts stalking Bearer. Bearer tries to run away, but Dustin absolutely blasts him with a standing Bionic Elbow. Dustin turns his attention back to Kane, only to find that Kane has already awakened and is behind him. Kane chokeslams him through the Spanish announce table. Kane picks up Dustin and rolls him into the ring, but as soon as he gets in, Dustin has pulled himself up, and he comes at Kane again, swinging like a madman. The punches do little more than annoy Kane, as he pushes Dustin off, but Dustin keeps coming back, eventually stunning him with a standing Bionic Elbow of his own. Dustin grabs Kane’s head and hits a perfect bulldog, then follows it up with the classic Bionic Elbow … but instead of the win or even a long two, he gets a short one, and Kane absolutely launches him up and off. Dustin quickly collects himself and climbs up on the middle turnbuckle, but when he comes off, Kane catches him by the throat and nails another chokeslam. Kane scoops him up and then plants him in the middle of the ring with the Tombstone for the exclamation point on a nearly full-on squash. Kane stands above Dustin, looking down upon him, and summons his ringpost fire. As the fire ignites, Marlena runs out to check on her husband … and then Kane sees her. Kane steps over the top rope as casually as if he were walking a dog. Marlena tries to run, but finds herself blocked in by the rotund mass that is Paul Bearer. Kane slowly stalks towards her, like a scene out of an 80’s slasher movie–

And the red light goes go out.

When the arena lights come back on, Undertaker is standing in between Marlena and Kane. Undertaker says nothing, just shaking his head. Kane tilts his head slightly up, as if to look down on Undertaker in condemnation. Finally, Undertaker breaks his silence and tells Kane that he’s better than this. Bearer comes around and reminds Kane of the pain Undertaker (supposedly) caused him; he says it’s better to back off now, and that they’ll have their time, and their revenge, very soon. Undertaker yells back that he will never fight his brother, and that he’ll break Bearer’s “poisonous hold” on Kane’s mind.

Another pair of testimonial interviews rolls between the matches, these from Blacjack Bradshaw, Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon. Bradshaw says Bret’s anti-American attitude disgusts him, but at least he conducts himself like a champion, unlike Shawn Michaels, who acts like a “snot-nosed punk from high school”, and says he’d rather see Bret win. Furnas and LaFon are staunchly partisan for the Hart Foundation, praising them for standing up to the “imperialistic” United States.

Before the ring announcer can introduce the challengers for the WWF Tag Team Titles, The Jackyl interrupts the proceedings.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop the pageantry, Finkel!” The Jackyl strides to the ring as if he’s trying to set a land-speed record on foot. He rips the mic from Howard Finkel’s hand with a dismissive sneer and takes center ring. “Ladies and gentlemen, by decree of management, the WWF Tag Title match has been re-booked as a triple threat match!” The Jackyl gives the shock and confusion a moment to set in before barreling forward. “Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the first team of challengers, Vader and the WWF European Champion Jeff Jarrett!” Clearly not expecting a unified entrance, Vader and Jarrett come out together to the roar of the crowd. Both eyeball The Jackyl with curiosity and suspicion.

The other challengers,” he says no small note of pride in his voice, “representing Martial Law, Sniper and Recon!”

Jarrett has to physically restrain Vader from grabbing Jackyl and knocking his head into the cheap seats with his bear-like hands. Sniper and Recon enter the ring, showing no fear of Vader or Jarrett by getting right in their faces and smiling. The champs are introduced in such a way as to seem like an afterthought to their very own title defense; Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith hold up the belts to a raucous ovation from the Canadian crowd, but do so with seemingly little confidence.

That state of mind comes through even more once the bell rings. With the champions’ advantage gone in a single-fall triple threat format, Anvil and the Bulldog do all they can to stay in the match and push the offense as hard and fast as they can. But pushing the pace and staying in the match at all costs also means they leave themselves open to more mistakes and more punishment. Once they lose the offensive advantage – thanks to an uncharacteristic attempt at a top rope move by Bulldog – they struggle to get it back for even a moment. The match becomes Martial Law, Vader and Jarrett jockeying for the right to pin the champs, as the teams blind-tag each other every other blink of the eye and attempt (or interrupt) enough pinfalls for an Iron Man match. Vader and Jarrett rely on their balance of size, speed, strength and skill to carry them through, and for a while, it looks like they might come up the winner. But the one thing most everyone forgets is that a triple threat is, by design of its rules, no-disqualification; Martial Law do not, and they use that to their advantage, bending the rules at will and right in front of the ref.

And in the final moments, the blatant disregard for the rules they’re there to uphold proves to be the key to the match. With Sniper in the ring against Anvil, Recon and The Jackyl run around and attack Vader and Jarrett from the floor. With the Bulldog too exhausted to muster up any help for his compatriot, Sniper is able to floor Anvil with a discus clothesline that puts out Jim’s lights. Three seconds later, and a team that wasn’t even scheduled for the match when the night began stands tall as the new WWF World Tag Team Champions. JR and Lawler both are boggled, wondering how Martial Law got this opportunity and why they seemingly went off the reservation with the rulebook.

The next set of testimonial interviews comes from Jeff Jarrett and Rocky Maivia. Jarrett says that he said all he has to say about both men the night he came back to WWF, and that as far as he’s concerned, they can both get out of his way because they’re yesterday’s news. Rocky is equally dismissive of both men, saying it doesn’t matter which “jabroni” stays, because he’ll make the winner “knows his role”, and the loser will get a “swift kick in the ass out the door”.

After being introduced, Hunter Hearst Helmsley runs up the ramp and camps out next to the entryway; as soon as Cactus Jack comes through the curtain, Helmsley ambushes him. He tries to ram Cactus’ head into the steel support structure for the TitanTron, but Cactus mule-kicks Helmsley south of the equator to put a stop to that. Cactus leads Helmsley down the ramp we go, punching away every few steps. Once in the ring, they trade blows until Cactus gets the better of Helmsley and whips him; Helmsley reverses, but Cactus meets him with the Cactus clothesline, sending both men out to the ring. The patented running apron elbow follows, and Cactus gives the crowd a “bang bang!” to get them popping. Cactus closes in on Helmsley, but Helmsley goes low. He grabs a chair and swings, but Cactus ducks and Helmsley’s swing connects with the ringpost instead. A series of rights by Cactus, and then an attempt at a clothesline, but Helmsley ducks and nails Cactus with a facebreaker knee smash, then launches him into the steel steps. Helmsley rolls Cactus into the ring and follows behind quickly, bringing the chair with him. Helmsley stomps away at Cactus for a bit, targeting the head with his feet and a few fistdrops for good measure. But an early attempt at the Pedigree on the chair gets Helmsley slingshot over the top rope. As he climbs up, Cactus is there to meet him with a tackle that sends Helmsley flying off and into the guard rail. They brawl on the floor, both trying to use the environment to help draw blood, but to no avail. They wind up near the commentary table, where Helmsley bounces Cactus’ head off it, grabs a monitor and drives it at Cactus’ skull; he manages to get up his hands to block, but the impact still lays him out. After clearing the table and sending JR and the King scattering for safety, Helmsley puts Cactus on the table.

But he makes the mistake of turning the opportunity to Pedigree Cactus into a big show, giving Cactus time to waffle him in the nuts, grab Helmsley by the arms and nail a double-art DDT, turning the table into campfire kindling. When he finally gets up, Cactus goes to the timekeeper to take the hammer used to ring the bell, but Helmsley is not far behind, shoving Cactus over the barricade and into the front row. The brawl now goes into the crowd, where a couple first-row ticketholders have their folding chairs turned into weapons. While both men take a few to the body, Hemsley ends up with the advantage after placing the edge of the chair under Cactus’ throat and jamming both him and chair into the floor, ramming the steel into Cactus’ windpipe. From there, Cactus – staggering and struggling to get oxygen – does everything he can to keep his face away from Helmlsey as the former blue-blood shows a sadistic side, literally driving Cactus through the arena with the chair. When they reach the top of an aisleway staircase, Helmsley jabs Cactus in the gut, grabs him by the shirt and pulls him while turning out of the way, leveraging Cactus into a freefall tumble down the concrete steps. While Cactus tries to scrape himself off the arena floor, Helmsley’s attention is drawn to the nearby concourse exit doors, where his bodyguard Chyna appears, handing him a glass bottle. Helmsley now walks down the steps with a sick smile, enjoying every moment of catching up to Cactus, who is near the barricade. Helmsley runs at Cactus …

and gets back-body-dropped over it. Cactus pulls himself over the barricade, crawls to the apron and fishes underneath for something. As he emerges and stands up, so does Helmsley, resulting in a Mexican standoff: Helmsley with his glass bottle, and Cactus with a screwdriver. They circle one another, making lunges and attempts at strikes, but both dodge and duck every shot. That is, until Helmsley telegraphs a swing; Cactus catches the arm, grabs it and bites it. Helmsley screams and gets out of it by kicking Cactus in the gut a couple times. With Cactus doubled over, Helmsley forces away the pain and shatters the bottle over Cactus’ head. The extreme icon staggers into the ring apron; Helmsley pushes him in, follows, grabs Cactus and positions him over the abandoned steel chair. The third time proves to be the charm, as he finally lands the Pedigree, driving Cactus into the steel. The ref checks Cactus’ head, and while there’s a trickle, it isn’t deep enough … and that enrages Helmsley. He leaps onto Cactus, blasting him with a flurry of punches, then goes completely savage and starts biting at Cactus’ forehead. Cactus comes to life, pushing Helmsley away. Cactus gets to his feet, kicks Helmsley in the gut and puts him in position for his patented style of piledriver –

Until the ref calls for the bell. Cactus wipes at his forehead and discovers it is covered in blood. Furious, he follows through with the piledriver, laying out Helmsley. Chyna rushes down the aisle, but Cactus is right there to meet her, applying the Mandible Claw to incapacitate her. Once done, Cactus rolls out, grabs the bottle, waits for Helmsley to get to his feet, then absolutely blasts him with it. The bottle explodes in a spray of glass shrapnel, opening up wounds in Helmsley’s forehead. Though the loser, Cactus leaves on his feet, while the winner has to be helped to the back.

As assistants sweep up the glass, another set of videos run, this time featuring “Road Dogg” Jesse James and his partner “Badd Ass” Billy Gunn,, and another by Brian Christopher. Christopher talks about having watched both men growing up and respecting the in-ring skills of both men. When the off-screen interviewer asks if Christopher’s dad being Jerry Lawler might skew his opinion on who he wants to see win, Christopher insists Lawler is not his dad and walks out of the interview. Gunn and James praise both men for their skills and careers, but side with Shawn Michaels, stating that they like D-Generation X’s “style”.

Owen Hart walks to the ring wearing a t-shirt saying “Owen 3:16” on the front, and “I Just Broke Your Neck” on the back, telling the camera on the walk down that this time, he’s finishing the job. But his confidence seems to waver a little when Steve Austin comes down the aisle like a speeding truck. Owen doesn’t know what to do, and before he knows it, Austin hits the Thesz press and blasts Owen with punches. Jim Neidhart runs out to save Owen, but Austin is too quick and drops him with the Stunner, allowing Owen the advantage to club and beat on Austin into the corner. Owen unleashes with some chops and punches, trying to rob Austin of his momentum, but Austin is too fired up and quickly turns it around. Owen gets a kick in the midsection in on Austin and tries a piledriver to a thunderous ovation; Austin backdrops out of it, much to the dismay of the audience. Owen rolls out right away, and Austin tries to reach down and pull him back in, but Owen grabs Austin’s legs and pulls him down. With Austin’s leg around the ringposts, Owen whips it a couple times, but when he stops to soak in the hometown glory, Austin mule-kicks Owen right in the beak. Owen staggers away and tries to leave, but once Austin shakes out the soreness in his leg, he chases down Owen and clotheslines him in the aisle. Austin proceeds to beat the daylights out of Owen in the aisle, leading him on a violent tour of the aisleway back up to the ring. Owen is rolled into the ring, but he rolls out the other side, and when Austin follows, Owen low-blows him. Owen slams Austin’s face into the destroyed announce table a couple times, then wraps an electrical cord around Austin’s neck, begging the ref to disqualify him. When the ref doesn’t, Owen tosses Austin back in and gets some stomps in the corner. When Owen pulls Austin up, Austin gets a thumb in the eye and staggers away. The couple seconds is all that’s needed for Austin to shake it off; as soon as Owen comes back near him, he grabs him, puts him in the corner, and stomps a mudhole in the baby of the Hart family. A whip into the ropes by Austin turns into an attempt at a side slam, but Owen flips out of it and lands on his feet. As quickly as Owen can do that, Austin kicks Owen in the gut, gives him a pair of middle fingers and hits the Stunner. Three seconds later, and the title Austin never lost is back in his possession. Neidhart and Bulldog run out before the ref can even get the belt back from the timekeeper, but they’re too slow for Austin, earning Stunners for their troubles from the new Intercontinental Champion.

The last two testimonial videos run before the main event begins. The first is Jim Ross. He praises their careers like everyone else, putting over how neither man was viewed as a World Champion, but they proved all the doubters wrong. He mentions how they’re only two out of three men in the history of the World Wrestling Federation to be called World Champion on at least three occasions, and that both men have beaten “certified legends” to earn that honor. But in the end, JR says, “there’s only gonna be one at the end of the night”; he says Bret’s in a dark place, but he believes Bret can be brought back to the light. Shawn Michaels, he says, “is gonna get worse before he gets better”, and that maybe it’s best for him and the WWF if he has to go through that somewhere else.

The last video is none other than Vince McMahon. It is far briefer than JR’s. Vince says that no one Superstar is bigger than the World Wrestling Federation, and that they will work with whomever is victorious in the title unification, loser-leaves-town main event of Survivor Series. When asked if he feels he can work with one wrestler better than the other in regards to improving the “toxic atmosphere” in the WWF of late, Vince more or less reiterates that he’ll work with the winner to carry the WWF forward. When asked if he had a preference as to whom would win, he says that both men are still in the prime of their careers, and hates to lose either one. The interviewer points out how this doesn’t answer the question, at which point Vince quietly removes the mic from his lapel and leaves.

The lights dim, giving the main event an extra special feel, as the spotlight centers in on Howard Finkel. The Fink introduces first the special guest referee for the match, which is quite the surprise, given none had been announced prior; it is none other than Rick Rude. The arrival of the “corporate troubleshooter” in a striped shirt adds an extra level of tension to an already combustible situation.

Shawn Michaels is the first introduced, with cameras following him out from the locker room. As he stands in the archway, ready to cross over from backstage into the arena, he turns and tells Chyna and a bandaged Helmsley to stay where they are. Reluctantly, they comply, and watch Shawn go down the aisle alone. The crowd is ready to stone Shawn as he walks to the ring, and Shawn can’t help but make it worse by stealing an audience member’s Canadian flag. He uses it to dust off the steps, then before doing his signature entrance pose, he wipes his crotch with it. After the fireworks go off, he keeps piling on the anti-Canadian gestures; using it for a handkerchief, putting it on the ground and crotch-chopping at it, and then humping it a few times, until the crowd is so molten hot with rage, they’re half a heartbeat away from a riot. When he hands off the Interim Championship to Rick Rude, he does so with a clap of the shoulder to Rude, which prompts immediate speculation by JR and Lawler as to the meaning of the gesture. Rude looks perturbed and confused by Shawn’s overly friendly gesture.

By contrast, Bret Hart – who comes out with a Canadian flag on a flagpole over his shoulder – gets the welcome of a returning war hero. As they chant “we love Bret” and “Canada”, Bret basks in the moment, taking only a second to give his sunglasses to a youngster at ringside before standing in the ring again, enjoying the thunderous ovation. When he surrenders his WWF Championship to Rude, he kisses it first. There’s a tense moment where Bret doesn’t let go once Rude has hold of it, and it looks like there will be a tug of war. Bret relinquishes his grip on the championship. Rude holds up both championships –

And Shawn picks that time to attack before the bell rings, but Bret gets the better of it and floors HBK. After some more beating by Bret, he has Shawn on the ropes and clotheslines him to the floor. Bret tosses Shawn into the ringpost, and proceeds to pummel the living daylights out of Shawn on the outside. Lawler makes mention that the bell has not been rung yet, meaning the match still hasn’t officially begun, but it makes no difference to Bret or Shawn. Bret continues just blasting Shawn, exorcising 18 months of frustration and hatred with his fists. When Bret pummels Shawn out into the crowd, Rude gestures to the back, and out come security guards. Closely behind the security are a number of WWF officials and front office staff, including Pat Patterson, Gerald Brisco …

And Vince McMahon.

As Vince, Patterson and Brisco direct the security staff to keep the crowd at bay, Shawn is thrown back into the ringside area and staggers over to one of the two remaining announce tables. By the time Bret can get through the sea of referees and executives all urging him to get in the ring, Shawn surprises him with a few shots, and slams his head off the table. A bandana comes flying out from the crowd, which Shawn picks up and uses to choke Bret. More fisticuffs by Shawn takes them around the ring, where Shawn dumps Bret into the crowd. The refs scramble to make room and beg Shawn and Bret to bring it back but neither man is listening. Shawn goes for a piledriver, but Bret counters and backdrops him back into ringside. The brawl continues on the outside as even more refs try to get the situation contained, but neither man will have any part of it, as they both push officials away. Bret hits Shawn low with a kick that could make a field goal at fifty yards and hammers on Shawn some more. Shawn gets in a couple shots from his knees, gets up and tries the piledriver again in the aisle, but again Bret backdrops out of it. A vertical suplex on the arena floor by Bret is the first genuine wrestling move of the unofficial match so far. Still more brawling, as the referees are helpless in their quest to get them back in the ring. Shawn uses a handful of tights to whip Bret into referee Tim White, but barely gets more than a couple seconds of breathing room before Bret is on him again. They battle up the aisleway, Bret thoroughly owning Shawn and throwing him around like a ragdoll. After bashing Shawn with a fire extinguisher, and bouncing his head off the entry archway, referee Jack Doan makes the mistake of getting too close and gets clocked by Bret. Vince finally has enough, gets in Bret’s face and demands he get into the ring “or else”. Bret stares at him for a long moment, then, to the overwhelming delight of the crowd, flips Vince the bird … but he complies, punching Shawn back to the ring and, finally, into it.

A Quebec flag thrown into the aisleway that Bret picks up is used to choke Shawn until Rude, having called for the bell to start the match, threatens to disqualify him right off the bat. Bret drops a leg over the back of Shawn’s head, and then an inverted atomic drop. But Michaels dodges a clothesline attempt off a whip, comes back and hits the flying forearm. Shawn takes his time, punting Bret in the face, and then delivering a leaping stomp to the back of the head. Now it’s Shawn turn to wrap the Quebec flag around Bret’s throat, which goes on for a couple seconds longer than Bret’s strangling of Shawn did before Rude intervenes. Shawn crotch-chops at the dissenting fans, throwing gasoline on an already nearly-out-of-control bonfire. After a fist drop, Shawn again taunts the fans, walking around, leaning on the ropes and running his mouth, as if he has nothing better to do. Shawn tosses Bret to the floor and follows him out there. More brawling, and more taunting of the crowd by Shawn, which has the officials and security panicking, as the front row looks ready to come over the barricade and run down Shawn like a dog in the road. Shawn takes apart the steel steps and hits a gourdbuster onto them. Shawn grabs the flagpole, breaks off a length of it, then comes off the apron and stabs Bret with it. Once again, the fight moves into the aisleway, and the officials do their best to diffuse the dangerous situation to no avail. Shawn dominates the fight in the aisle, a fight only Rude seems content to let play out. Shawn makes sure to show Bret’s face of agony a few times before continuing the beating, and then takes Bret back to the ring. Shawn re-enters the ring via a top rope double axe handle, then grounds Bret with a front facelock.

Just when it seems like Bret’s strength is ebbing away, he starts to fight back, getting to a vertical base. It takes three tries to get out of it, but on the third, Bret picks up Shawn and sends him sailing through the air like a paper airplane. Bret begins to work the leg with surgical elbow drops, but Shawn counters with an eye rake from behind. Shawn whips Bret, but telegraphs the backdrop; Bret kicks Shawn, causing him to stand, then kicks at Shawn’s left leg a few times until Shawn uses another eye rake to stop him. Shawn bodyslams Bret and climbs the turnbuckle, but Bret is up by the time Shawn is ready. Shawn switches to a crossbody, but Bret rolls through and hooks the leg for a two-count. Bret immediately complains about the count, telling Rude he was slow; Rude disregards Bret’s protest and tells him to “get back to work”. Shawn gets Bret cornered, but Bret kicks at Shawn’s leg half a dozen times, then drags Shawn to the ground, pulls Shawn’s legs around the ringpost and whips the leg into the unforgiving steel. After four whips, he slaps on the ringpost figure-four and holds onto it until Rude gets to 4.999999 on his five-count. Hart methodically works over the leg, first with a couple more elbows, and then hitting a pair of the rope-assisted sit-down splashes. Bret applies a picture-perfect figure-four leglock in the middle of the ring. Shawn fights and struggles but the ropes are a million miles away, so, after what feels like an eternity in the hold, he manages to roll over. Bret, much closer to the ropes, claws his way there, forcing the break. Bret whips Shawn hard into the corner, flipping him upside-down; when he gets back on his feet, Bret’s right there to pull him to the center of the ropes and hit three of his favorite moves in a row: the Russian leg sweep, the vertical suplex and the backbreaker. In between each move, Bret goes for a lateral press, but each move only gets two (a short two per Bret’s continued protests). Bret goes to the top rope, but Shawn grabs Rude and pushes him into the ropes, causing Bret to crotch himself on the top turnbuckle. Shawn somehow climbs the turnbuckle, grabs Bret and hits a superplex, then follow that up with his trademark top elbow drop. The crowd could not be more ravenous as Shawn – exhausted, beaten, in agony and drenched in sweat – crotch-chops them, then stands in the corner and tunes up the band. Bret stands up, turns and Shawn is right there, throwing Sweet Chin Music; Bret catches it, grabs the other leg and goes for the Sharpshooter, only for Shawn to push off Bret with his legs. When Bret comes back, Shawn goes for Sweet Chin Music again, and this time, it connects. Shawn falls onto Bret …

And then Rude makes the fastest three-count in history.

Before Bret knows what’s going on, Shawn rolls out of the ring. Rude does the same, grabbing the two WWF Championship belts and handing them to Shawn. Rude and Shawn make a beeline for the exit as garbage starts raining in from all sides. Bret stands up, his shoulders slumped in disbelief. He looks down at Vince McMahon, who is below him on the arena floor, looking up at him. The expression on Vince’s face is indescribable; sadness, vindication, regret, anger … it looks like a mixture of all of them, and yet none of them. Bret lets Vince know what he thinks of him by spitting on him. The crowd chants for Bret, chants “Hitman”, and pelts Vince with garbage as he walks to the back. Bret traces three letters in the air in broad gestures: WCW. He vents his anger on the ringside area, trashing monitors and a camera, all to the delight of the crowd. For Bret, it may be cathartic. But it will not change what has happened.

There will be other fights. Other championships. Other wars. But for Bret, none of these will be here. When he walks out of the ring, he is a hero to the Canadian fans, and now a martyr to many more. And it is the last time he walks out of a WWF ring. His reign – some would say a reign of terror – is over.

Epilogue: Nov. 17, 1997: Monday Night Raw

Two weeks later, a special sit-down interview with Vince McMahon, conducted by Jim Ross at the WWF studios in the TitanSports building, airs on Monday Night Raw. The topic: Vince, finally addressing the events of Survivor Series and the speculation running rampant that those events caused. The intro to the pre-taped interview mentions how Shawn Michaels revealed the night after Survivor Series that he’d conspired with Rick Rude and Vince McMahon to get the belt off Bret Hart (and the tag titles off Bulldog and Anvil and away from Jeff Jarrett) and get Bret out of the company. Footage is shown from the final moments of Survivor Series, where Rude makes a three-count that clocks in at barely a second and a half. In the background of the shot, Vince’s face can be seen, yelling “yes”!

Let’s cut right to the chase, Vince”, begins JR. “Survivor Series. Did you or did you not screw Bret Hart?”

Vince McMahon does not hesitate in answering. His voice is moderated, calm and controlled. “Some would like to believe I screwed Bret Hart. Bret Hart would definitely tell you I screwed him. I look at it from a different standpoint. Rick Rude didn’t screw Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels certainly didn’t screw Bret Hart. Nor did Vince McMahon screw Bret Hart. I truly believe that Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart. And he can look in the mirror, and know that.”

I’m sure, in some parts of the country, especially those of our viewers in the Great White North, there is a collective groan that you are not accepting responsibility. Shawn Michaels says you orchestrated the situation, and the fact that people are not going to understand what you mean by ‘Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart’, so what do you mean by that?”

Well I will certainly take responsibility for any decision that I’ve ever made, I’ve never had a problem doing that. Not that all of my decisions are accurate; they’re not. But when I make a bad decision, I’m not above saying I’m sorry and trying to do the best about it that I can. Hopefully the batting average is pretty good – that I make more good decisions than I do bad decisions. As far is screwing Bret Hart is concerned, the fact of the matter is, Bret Hart spent the last year railing against a system that said they weren’t respecting tradition. He said Steve Austin didn’t respect tradition, Shawn Michaels didn’t respect tradition, and that I didn’t respect tradition. And he did this by terrorizing the World Wrestling Federation and holding the World Wrestling Federation Championship hostage. Bret Hart claims to be a traditionalist, but did everything in his power to bury those traditions. That’s something that I would have never, ever expected from Bret, because he is known as a traditionalist in this business. It’s a source of pride for him. It would have never crossed my mind that Bret would scheme and manipulate and terrorize the men who helped make him who he is, and the company who helped make him who he is, rather than uphold the time-honored traditions of how this business works. Nonetheless, that was Bret’s decision. Bret screwed Bret.”

If you were only a story writer, and the Survivor Series was only the final chapter in the story of Bret Hart, the WWF years, how would have preferred to write the final chapter?”

As a storyteller, I would have hoped that Bret’s story would be a dramatic one. I would hope that Bret’s story would be one that would give him dignity, that would give him the poise to state that, ‘I was, maybe, the greatest WWF Superstar ever,’ in terms of his departure. And one way to be able to give back to the company, being able to give back to those individuals, those superstars, who helped you achieve the level of success that you have, when you know that you are leaving in a time honored tradition, might have been, for argument’s sake, that after the most grueling match that Bret ever had in his life, that Bret was pinned. But in that small moment of defeat, Bret would have stood straight up and shown the whole world what a true champion both as a human being and a wrestling persona that he is. And if I had been Bret, if I were writing the story, I can see Bret, after a 1-2-3, simply saying, ‘Okay,’ to his opponent, ‘you got the best of me. I want to congratulate you. I want to stick my hand out and congratulate you. And furthermore, I want everyone in the whole locker room to watch my match, so that I can show, for those who follow in my footsteps, the way in a time-honored tradition, this is to be done. To show that I went out the way a true champion would go out, no matter what the situation’.”

Are you able to step back and objectively look at this thing and evaluate your friend, your perhaps former friend Bret Hart, the human being, and have sympathy for this man?”

Vince’s eyes go wide for a moment. “Sympathy? I have no sympathy for Bret whatsoever. None. I have no sympathy for someone who is supposed to be a wrestling traditionalist, trying to burn the empire around him and claim he’s trying to restore its glory. Bret made very very selfish decisions over the past year. Bret’s going to have to live with that for the rest of his life. Bret screwed Bret. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Bret.”

JR blinks, but gets right back in the rhythm. “This is a crazy question,” he asks. “Would you welcome Bret Hart back? If, down the line, he called you and said; ‘You know Vince, I’d like to come back. I’d like to come home.’ Would you allow him to return to the WWF? I mean he spit in your face. Notwithstanding that he destroyed monitors & television equipment. Would you allow him to ever come back to the WWF if that were an option?”

Vince’s shoulders shrug ever so minutely. “This is a strange business. Many, many things you never think you’ll see happen end up happening. And, yes I would. We would have to have a real frank understanding. I would want to hear Bret say, ‘Vince, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be selfish and I just kind of lost it there for a while.’ And I have no problem saying ‘Bret, jeez, I’m sorry. That I had to do what I had to do as well.’ Yeah. If Bret could see through the hatred and the fog in his mind and recognize what he’s done wrong, I would welcome him back under those conditions.

You just said ‘I had to do what I had to do’. So then you admit to screwing against Bret Hart?”

As I said before, Bret screwed Bret. Did I take action? Yes, I can’t deny that. I did what I believed needed to be done. It was an unwinnable situation, and I found the way out that had the least amount of grief.”

What about Jim Neidhart and the British Bulldog? What about Jeff Jarrett?”

The last thing this company can tolerate is reprisal by Bret’s cohorts. Safeguards were put into place to make sure we were as protected as possible. It wasn’t as big of a threat as Bret presented, but action was still taken. As far as Jeff Jarrett is concerned, I understand he values himself highly, and I question any man who doesn’t have a high opinion of himself. Do I think Jeff’s self-appraisal might be a bit too high? Possibly. Was I upset that he went to the competition a year ago after we’d invested a fair amount of time and effort in building up his national brand? Sure. But I would hope that Jeff remembers he’s already carrying one of my championship belts around his waist, a championship he won in his first match after returning. I would hope he remembers that and remembers that he has not been denied opportunity or been unfairly targeted. Sometimes in business, there is collateral damage. This was one of those cases. Nothing more.”

Lately, Shawn Michaels has become as rebellious, as defiant, and as calculating as Bret Hart grew to be. Last week, his actions – the words he spoke, the outfit he wore – resulted in nearly getting Monday Night Raw thrown off the air. Why align yourself with him?”

There is no ‘alignment’, Jim,” Vince says, just a little perturbed. “There was a temporary meeting of converging interests, nothing more. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart had a relationship that was combustible; so did Bret and myself, and Bret and Rick Rude. I have no particular affinity for Shawn Michaels as a person, except to say that he is a fantastic wrestler, and a valued employee of the World Wrestling Federation.”

Will you take action against Shawn Michaels if he continues to be as much of a problem as Bret Hart was?”

Shawn and I have worked very well together in the past. I don’t foresee a need for me to put myself in the middle of in-ring affairs the way I had to at Survivor Series.”

Has this whole affair affected you more personally or professionally?”

Vince exhales deeply. “From the business side, the World Wrestling Federation will go on beyond Bret Hart. This company has been in my family for three generations. It moved on from Buddy Rogers, it moved on from Bruno Sammartino, it moved on from countless others, and it’s still here today. No one man eclipses the promotion, no matter how much they contribute. He is still in the prime of his career, and a phenomenal performer, and I hate losing him as a performer. From the personal side, it definitely has affected me. You can’t end a 14-year relationship like was ended without having feelings. I regret that I was forced into making the decision that I made. I regret that Bret didn’t do the right thing for the business and for himself. I regret that his fans, if there is such a thing separate from WWF fans, are hurt in any way by any of this. I regret that his family is having to endure this tirade that Bret seems to be on. I regret that members of my family, my children, who have known Bret since day one, had to witness this relationship become toxic. I regret all of that, from a personal standpoint … yet, I remain steadfast that I made a tough decision, that was the right decision for the WWF fans and the WWF superstars that remain here.”

If you had the opportunity to speak with Bret, and now’s not a bad opportunity, because you know he watching. Everybody involved in this situation is watching right now. What would you say to him now?”

That he made mistakes that I believe he’ll regret from a professional standpoint, mistakes that didn’t have to be made. I felt I had to do what I did for my company, and our fans, and the superstars that remain here. I am unwavering in that point of view, and I will be until my dying day. And I expect Bret is unwavering in his point of view as well. I don’t know if we’ll ever get together. I hope we will one day. It’s too bad that a 14-year relationship was destroyed because one member of that relationship forgot the traditions said were so sacred to him. That one person in this relationship forgot that what makes a champion isn’t the gold around his waist but the gold in his heart.”

When will you be over this? Will you be over this?”

I’m over it now. I have to be, for the good of my business. At the same time, Bret has been such a part of the WWF. A part of Bret will always be here in the World Wrestling Federation, and I’m going choose to remember the good times. I’m going to remember all the things that we did with Bret where he wrestled to his greatest degree possible, and captivated audiences worldwide, not just in Canada but everywhere. I’m going to remember Bret as the Excellence of Execution. I hope the fans can as well. He spent the better part of the last year tearing down everything he ever built with this company. If his legacy is defined by the last twelve months, by Survivor Series … that’s his failure. Not mine.”

The end.

Got a question or a comment or something you’d like to see addressed in the aftershow column next week? Now’s the time to get it in! Post it below!

Written by

Guilty of creating Rewriting The Book and The Greatest Night In The History Of Our Sport, and publishing them somewhat infrequently. Father of three, husband, avid gamer, lover of 90's MTV animation. Available for podcasts and children's birthdays at jed316@msn.com.
21 Responses to "Rewriting The Book – What if Bret Hart lost at Summerslam ’97? (Part IV)"
  1. Chris O says:

    Does this mean the WrestleMania XIV main event between Austin and HBK will be a title vs. title match?

    • Jed Shaffer says:

      You mean IC vs World? No. In my imagination (which I guess makes this canon, since that’s all where this comes from), Austin drops it similarly to the way he did in our world; forfeiting it so he can focus on the Royal Rumble. Likely to Triple H, which would feed into Austin/Shawn at WM14.

  2. Autrach Sejanoz says:

    Magnificent work as always, Jed! Many thanks for this!

  3. System Error says:

    So it seems we’ve ended on a worked screwjob, at least indicated by Rick Rude being in on it – although that “outside knowledge” is the only way one has to tell. In the context of the story, it’s presented as a “is it a work or is it a shoot?” situation. A nice RTB. Probably in my top 10 favorites, although towards the lower (higher?) end

    Did notice one oddity – my instincts from various reading (including being someone’s beta reader) popping up – in the Austin vs. Owen match, Neidhart comes in and is laid out by a stunner mid-match, seemingly disappears, then “runs out” later.

    All right, questions and stuff, in addition to the ones from before. A mix of various things!
    – This one was hyped up before in the Goldberg Aftershow edition, as an idea languishing in stasis. What inspired you to finally sit down and put this one to pen?
    – What would you say are your top 3 favorite RTBs written by others?
    – Any word on the progress of other RTB writers’ projects?
    – If _you_ could ask the _readerbase_ any question, what would it be?
    – Favorite giant mecha?

  4. Rusty Priske says:

    More Rewriting the book!

    MORE!!!

  5. Jon Milne says:

    Very pleased with this! Does this mean however that Vince still becomes his later evil CEO character that would clash with Austin? One thing is for sure though, I need to check out action of Rick Rude on YouTube.

    I would quite like to see Rewriting The Book take on a promotion that isn’t the main roster WWE or WCW again. My all time favourite RTB is “What If CM Punk took the ROH World Title to WWE?”, and I certainly feel that what with Jim Cornette’s heavily criticised tenure as head of booking for ROH, there’s oodles of storylines that could be fixed there.

    I’d also quite like to see a RTB on NXT. Specifically with questions like “What if Sami Zayn Didn’t Get Sidelined For Seven Months?” or “What If The Bullet Club Had Gotten Involved In The Finn Balor vs Samoa Joe Match?”

    One WWE one I absolutely want to see however, relates to a pitch Paul London apparently made to Vince McMahon while London was Cruiserweight Champion at the time. Since the division had been really badly neglected, London’s idea was for him to toss the title in the trash and light it on fire – similar to what Shane Douglas did with the NWA Title back in ECW – and then replace the Cruiserweight Title with a title based not on size, but style, which would have given guys like Chris Kanyon more of a chance with the company. According to London, all the other cruiserweight wrestlers in the company saw the idea as a fantastic one since they believed it would have cured a directionless division. But, of course, Vince McMahon apparently hated the idea.

    • Jed Shaffer says:

      I’ll be addressing your question and your statement about non-WWE/WCW RTB’s in the aftershow next week.

  6. Mister Forth says:

    I liked the idea of the match being a double-turn.

  7. Alexander The So-So says:

    Good to see this one out, Jed, and always great to see RTB back. But I don’t know, I actually have a mixed reaction to this story. I’ll post my review/feedback in the message board soon.

  8. Hulk6785 says:

    Nice ending. I like the idea of a worked screwjob. So, I have to ask: if the screwjob was a work like in this story, how do you see things turning out for Bret Hart, the WWF, and WCW?

  9. John Q Occupier says:

    I enjoyed this greatly- a world so different, yet so similar… and plausible. Keep up the good work!

    • Jed Shaffer says:

      That’s what I was going for: something that touched enough of our reality to feel familiar, but different. Like looking at a familiar painting from a different angle.

  10. HesitatedEye says:

    Great story as always just realised though that in his career now old HBK has had two title unification matches in the WWF/E.

  11. CMC says:

    Loved the ending here, and like many others, would love to know if it was a shoot or worked shoot, looking so much like the latter. Can’t wait for next week!

  12. Carl Zayas says:

    Excellent story! I love how he stakes were even higher going into Survivor Series. Though I’m wondering how you imagined Rick Rude’s role in this all through the decision of one match. It seems small, but it also then affects real life in that Rude was the one who tipped Bishoff about the screw job, as well as takes out the history making in Rick Rude appearing on Raw and Nitro on the same night. Also, will we ever get closure on our story “What If Bret Hart Left on Good Turns”?

  13. Charles Belles says:

    How do you decide what wrestlers to use or what wrestlers to bring into a particular story?

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