10 Things You Didn't Know About WWE In 1997

Fights, firsts, and not a single word (after these ones) about the Montreal Screwjob.

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There are lots of reasons why fans of a certain vintage (and younger ones who have done their homework) consider 1997 to be the best year in North American wrestling history.

The market leader was no longer WWE, but the product was so captivating that they were on the slow road to reclaiming their place. Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart had worked an industry-defining programme with an industry-changing match at WrestleMania 13, helping to formalise an edgy philosophical shift that had been lurking under the surface in the company since late 1995.

Turning the 'Hitman' heel and inciting a civil war between America and Canada was bold but brilliant, and the path to babyface supremacy was wide open for Austin when Shawn Michaels embraced what most knew about his real-life persona and turned his obnoxiousness all the way up to foreshadow the arrival of D-Generation X.

Kliq friends appearing on screen together was nothing new of course - WCW rode the wave of momentum brought about by the New World Order's phenomenal success, and successfully gambled on waiting a full year to bring Sting back to (temporarily) end Hollywood Hogan's tyranny.

Infamously, a botched screwjob conclusion (that featured Bret Hart himself) tainted 'The Stinger's Starrcade win, but the company were trying to figure out how best to fold in the wrestling story of the year/decade/all time that had taken place in Montreal one month earlier.

This list won't. No more Montreal! Not when we can discuss...

10. A UFC Finish To A WrestleMania Main Event

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...a far more captivating storyline conclusion to a Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels match instead of the real life one everybody remembers, Bret Hart revealed the violence he had in store for their WrestleMania 13 rematch before it was canned after 'HBK' lost his smile.

Speaking years after the event, he said;

"I had an idea where I was gonna — if you could visualize like it’s like a thirty, thirty five minute match me and Shawn would’ve tore the house down with a really great match and the place is going crazy. Basically a duplicate of the iron man match all over again, but we wouldn’t go the full hour again. I wanted to do a thing where Shawn was stomping his foot, getting ready to give me the big kick, and I’m in trouble like I’m pulling myself up form the ropes on the other side of the ring and Shawn goes to give me that big kick as I stagger over to him, just like at the iron man match. Except this time I would take Shawn’s foot, catch it in the air and get him to the ground and put some kind of a shoot hold on his foot and break his foot right in the middle of the ring. I wanted Shawn to tap out like they do in UFC, where it’s like when they break somebody’s arm they tap out pretty fast and everyone jumps in and it’s a very serious kind of thing. I wanted to break Shawn’s foot and then they hand me the belt and I would’ve gone over and stand over the top of him and go ‘f*ck you.'”

A future-friendly finish for the day, Bret's idea of a flash victory would still be a white hot moment all these years later, not least with one detail he omits from the story - rumours abounded that the company were thinking about creating a prosthetic attachment to Michaels' boot to accentuate the snap.


Michael is a writer, editor, podcaster and presenter for WhatCulture Wrestling, and has been with the organisation over 7 years. He primarily produces written, audio and video content on WWE and AEW, but also provides knowledge and insights on all aspects of the wrestling industry thanks to a passion for it dating back almost 35 years. As one third of "The Dadley Boyz" Michael has contributed to the huge rise in popularity of the WhatCulture Wrestling Podcast and its accompanying YouTube channel, earning it top spot in the UK's wrestling podcast charts with well over 60,000,000 total downloads. He has been featured as a wrestling analyst for the Tampa Bay Times, GRAPPL and Sports Guys Talking Wrestling, and has covered milestone events in New York, Dallas, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, London and Cardiff. Michael's background in media stretches beyond wrestling coverage, with a degree in Journalism from the University Of Sunderland (2:1) and a series of published articles in sports, music and culture magazines The Crack, A Love Supreme and Pilot. When not offering his voice up for daily wrestling podcasts, he can be found losing it singing far too loud watching his favourite bands play live. Follow him on X/Twitter - @MichaelHamflett