In mid-1997, fan favourite Bret 'The Hitman' Hart turned heel for the first time in years, but in an innovative storyline twist, he would remain a babyface in Canada (where it was practically impossible for a Hart to get booed) and heel it up in the States.
Hart's rationale for this was fairly straightforward: he hadn't changed, the fans had. They didn't want traditional babyfaces anymore; they wanted foul-mouthed, trash-talking, pugnacious, sarcastic b*stards like Stone Cold Steve Austin and the soon-to-materialise Rock. In Hart's mind, however, he was still a role model for the impressionable youth of the world, still their hero - and he didn't deserve the way he was being treated, being marginalised in favour of this new, loud, brash Attitude Era.
As far as he was concerned, the fans had turned heel on him and you know, he's got a point. Like all the best pro wrestling characters, there was just enough of the real Bret Hart in this new Hitman to give it edge and drama: the man genuinely disliked the new direction the WWF was going in, with hypersexualised eye candy performing in the women's division and casual profanity and a general lack of ethical conduct the order of the day.
Hart claims in his autobiography that, in fact, he would still be deafeningly cheered overseas, in Europe and the United Kingdom. Far from turning heel on the world, he'd only turned heel on the USA. That's not borne out by the memories of people who were in attendance at European shows around this time, however: Hart tends towards the self-serving and his memory for events is skewed to reflect that.
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