Wrestling Observer Flashback – Bret v. Shawn Special Edition!
Okey doke, so in the 1997 RAW rants thus far, we’ve alluded to the all the crazy stuff happening behind the scenes with Bret and Shawn, but what EXACTLY was that? Well, Dave was covering it extensively in the Observer at the time, so here’s a mini-Flashback covering the top stories of the idiotic drama happening between two supposedly grown men, leading up to the blowup after King of the Ring…
First up, the 06.02.97 issue.
– 14 months ago, Bret and Shawn were supposed to have a classic match at WM12, where Shawn would win and Bret would take time off and build to a rematch at WM13. However, plans changed. Much like King of the Ring, where they were supposed to have a singles match and that is now off.
– No one is really sure where the work ends with the two of them, and they’re not helping by throwing out shoot comments on live TV.
– So originally, plan was that Bret would return at Summerslam 96 and Shawn would beat him in a ladder match to solidify his place as WWF champion, but Bret felt like the ladder match gimmick was HIS, so he extended his time off and the new plan became Bret returning around Wrestlemania 13 and beating Shawn for the WWF title in their rematch. Since it was “Shawn’s turn”, you see. And then Shawn suddenly developed a crippling knee injury and couldn’t drop the title after all.
– So we move to the 5/12 RAW, where Bret babbled about nonsense for so long that the show went off the air before Shawn’s planned superkick spot, which Shawn’s side interpreted as Bret sabotaging him to make him look stupid on live TV. (Counterpoint: Shawn was so fucked up on a daily basis that he needed little help in looking stupid on live TV.) And the next week on the 5/19 show, Shawn showed up “in no condition to perform”, which resulted in him making the infamous “Sunny Days” remark to Bret, setting the internet ON FIRE.
– Also, Shawn wore a BANDANA on live TV, which was secret carny code to indicate that he’s still Kevin Nash’s best friend. Plus, you know, refusing to drop the World title at Wrestlemania seems to indicate he’s in a bad place. BUT THAT BANDANA, YO.
– So with all that going on, Shawn got pissy with Vince about how his best friends went to WCW and got the biggest guaranteed contracts in wrestling history, and he demanded the same thing from the WWF. OR ELSE. And Vince was like…
– Clearly, with four years left on his contract, Shawn’s demands to leave were not being met. But they started to plan for a contingency in case Shawn did show up on WCW TV by whatever method. Ironically, Shawn’s main complaint is that Bret’s new contract violated the terms of his own contract, which supposedly guaranteed him to be the highest paid guy in the promotion. This is ironic because the very people Shawn wanted to join, Hall and Nash, were totally willing to waive that clause in their contracts in order to get Bret to sign with WCW!
– Unfortunately for Shawn, after he signed his giant deal with the WWF (and bragged to everyone backstage about how WCW couldn’t afford to sign him to the same deal), TV ratings went in the toilet with him on top.
– So after setting up the King of the Ring match between the two, Bret had to pull out due to his knee not healing as fast as expected, and now Bret is saying that he’s going “punch Michaels out”. Is it a work? Who knows.
Onto the next chapter, the 06.09.97 issue, with only one minor note:
– Shawn appeared in a wrestling magazine wearing an Outsiders t-shirt, which further pissed off Vince McMahon. Dave suspects that if he really does have a clause in his contract guaranteeing that he’s the highest paid, then the WWF is in breach and he could leave whenever he wants. The fact that he hasn’t left indicates his legal position might not be what he’s representing. (I’m just laughing at the very notion of an upstanding promoter like Vince McMahon breaching a signed agreement with one of his performers!)
Next up, the 06.16.97 issue, where everything hits the fan the night after King of the Ring:
– So after a year of tensions building between Shawn and Bret, things exploded on the 06/09 RAW tapings, as both Bret and Shawn were monopolizing Vince’s time before the live show to the point where no one else could get in a word edgewise about actually running the show. This resulted in Bret going into Shawn’s dressing room and screaming at him about how Shawn was ruining his personal life with the “Sunny Days” stuff.
– They went at it and Hart reportedly won the fight and pulled out a chunk of Shawn’s hair in the process. Bret reaggravated his knee in the process, but no other injuries resulted.
– Brisco and Patterson finally broke them up and Bret nearly got into a fight with Brisco as well, before leaving the arena and not appearing on the live TV show. And in fact the Austin v. Pillman match that had been hyped for a week was cancelled, because Steve hurt his knee at the PPV, and it was supposed to be Pillman v. Shawn instead. But then Shawn was beat up by Bret, so they cancelled THAT as well. Austin wanted to do the match, but at this point he’s too valuable and they forced him to take the night off.
– This all resulted in Shawn throwing his own fit and walking out of the show just before it aired, yelling about how he would never work with anyone from the Hart Foundation again, and further that he’d try to make it to Boston and show up on Nitro.
– So the entire show was rewritten on the fly, with Ken Shamrock getting a top spot in Shawn’s place at the upcoming Canadian Stampede show. At the moment, Shawn is presumed to have left the company, and the status of the tag titles is unknown.
– The next day, Vince sent out the following memo to WWF employees: “Last night in Hartford, Shawn Michaels breached his contract by refusing to perform. We are hopeful Shawn will reconsider his position and return to work. Shawn has four years to go on his five-year contract. The door is open for Shawn to return under the terms of his contract.”
– Shawn had previously met with Vince on 5/18 and asked to be let out of his contract because he would be “set for life” with WCW, which makes one question how exactly he would know how much money they’d offer.
– So clearly that would put everyone in a really bad situation from a legal standpoint should Shawn have pursued it.
– As it turns out, Shawn didn’t have a “favored nations” clause in his contract, but rather it was a verbal agreement with Vince. (Maybe it was a legally binding text message…) Shawn further claims that Vince told him, straight up dawg, that if he was ever unhappy in the WWF, he could just go to WCW, no problem. Everyone else in the business thinks Shawn is full of shit.
And that’s where we stand leading into the 06.09.97 RAW show later this week!