In the late 1990s, the wrestling landscape began to dramatically change and suddenly someone like old-fashioned hero Bret "Hitman" Hart wasn't cool anymore. Hart's virtuous babyface character was not someone the jaded 90s crowds wanted to cheer and they searched the WWF roster for a new hero. They found "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Austin had reinvigorated his career by ditching the loser Ringmaster gimmick and becoming an amped-up version of his real-life self: A redneck from south Texas who drank beer and kicked asses. He was the perfect foil for Bret, and was the Hitman's handpicked opponent after Bret returned from a sabbatical. Instead of crowds greeting Bret with thunderous cheers against supposed mega-heel Austin, they began cheering for the Texas Rattlesnake instead.
Bret's character started to become whiny, petulant, and completely unlikable as a result of the changing fan reaction. Hart started blaming American wrestling fans for being crude, rude, and stupid for cheering the likes of Steve Austin and D-Generation X. It was a genius move because suddenly Bret was the number one heel in the United States but, in Canada, he was still the hero.
Episodes of Raw either featured American fans flipping off Bret or Canadian fans waving giant Maple Leaf flags and singing the National Anthem. It completely reinvented the Bret Hart character and created a red-hot angle, one that Vince could capitalise on in order to compete with WCW. Until Montreal, that is.