The Hart, Soul and Future of the WWE (SummerSlam 97)

By Maurice D. Proffit






SummerSlam 1997

Date: August 3rd 1997

City: East Rutherford, New Jersey

Venue: Continental Airlines Arena

Combined Attendance: 20,213

Sub-Theme: “Hart & Soul”

1997 was a very truculent year for the company. Not so much in a way where the WWE was in trouble, but more so due to the fact that the WWE was starting to push back. After years and years of being the wrestling company that told you to “train, say your prayers and take your vitamins” was now turning into a company where they were beginning to embrace anti establishment, gang warfare and most of all…attitude. SummerSlam 1997 would display each of these elements.

During the summer of 1997, The Hart Foundation (consisting of Bret The Hitman Hart, Jim The Anvil Neidhart, The King of Harts Owen Hart, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith and The Loose Cannon Brian Pillman) Were creating a ton of noise in the WWE, by spreading their anti American propaganda. Tired of being looked at as a bunch of pushovers because they were from the friendly confines of Canada, The Hart Foundation decided to go for the jugular of the WWF and be completely 100% against the company. These 5 men declared war on an entire roster of wrestlers, and no one was safe. SummerSlam 1997 would be the battle ground to turn the tide and really create the mark to establish dominance over the roster.

Brian Pillman would be the first of The Hart Foundation to have a match and it was against Goldust. The stipulation would be that if Goldust would win, Brian would have to wear a dress for a month, and its a great thing that Brian was a former Hollywood Blonde, because the gold dress is what he had to don for a month.

Later in the night, Owen Hart would defend the WWF Intercontinental Championship against Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin who was once a nemesis of his older brother, Bret and now it was the younger bro attempting to take him out. His attempt may have been more than just a thought. For the first 13 min, this was a great match. Solid back and forth between the two and some real aggression coming from both. We know that both men can be both technical and aggressive, but they were able to really give us a story with all styles. However, after a modified piledriver that Owen gives to Austin, Owen Hart unintentionally breaks Austins neck. After about 3-4 min (what felt like an eternity) of the refs checking on Austin, Austin was able to scoop up Owen and get the victory and the championship. However, this win would be short lived as Austin has bigger issues to deal with.

The main event see’s the WWF Champion, The Undertaker, taking on Bret The Hitman Hart. Going into SummerSlam, Bret makes the announcement that he is so sure and so confident and so focused on winning the title, that if he were to loose the match he will never again wrestle in the united states again. Sending shockwaves through the wrestling world, giving hope to those who are no longer Hart fans that they may never see this enemy of the company in the WWF again. However to make things worse, Shawn Michaels made the announcement that he will be the special guest ref for the match. For those who may not know, Shawn Michaels is Bret Harts sworn enemy. Bret is livid. His fate is now sealed for SummerSlam. However, to level the playing field, the WWF ruled that if Shawn shows any favoritism against Bret, he would be banned to wrestle in the United States as well. The match between Taker and Hart was 100% psychology between two ring veterans. You just didn’t know how the tide would turn in the match especially with Shawn being the wild card. But when you talk about turning points, you have to talk about the ending. As Bret was punishing Taker in the corner, he attempted to bring in a chair into the ring, but Shawn takes it away from Bret. Both Bret and Shawn have some words with each other, which leads Bret to say some disparaging comments to Shawn, and spits on him. Shawn swings the chair to retaliate, but Bret ducks and Shawn hits Taker and Bret pins Taker to win his 5th WWF Championship.

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