WWF April 1997 -Hart Vs Austin, Paul Bearer Fireball and the emergence of the Hart Foundation


We begin to see Attitude era gimmicks emerge on RAW is WAR. Tiger Ali Singh made his debut and the Headbangers who had been around since January were featured prominently on RAW against Owen and the bulldog. 1997 was the year Bret Hart’s story really took shape and coming of Wrestlmania Hart had a match with Austin at the in your house event Revenge of the Taker. A match that Austin won by result of disqualification. It was becoming evident now that Steve Austin was main event caliber and notably his gimmick was taking off big. Revenge of the Taker also saw new WWF champion Undertaker defeat Mankind and in a stunt after the match set a fireball in the face of his long term manager turned bad Paul Bearer. It seemed that Undertaker really had gotten revenge for the events of Summerslam 1996.


Raw on the 21st April kicked it up a notch by making Austin Vs Hart on free TV for the first time. During the main event Austin assaulted Hart’s leg with a steel chair. As chair shot after chair shot went in the crowd loved it. Owen and the Bulldog interfered early on in the match however once the tide shifted in Austins favor Brett tried to escape to find Michaels. Michaels forced Hart back into the ring with Austin who got the win.


Not only was this a very chaotic exiting segment on RAW but it made scene and seemed planned to give payoff for long term watchers. People who saw Wrestlemania the year before and remembered the Austin Michaels iron man match It was a nice touch and there was even more to come.


Towards the end of the month RAW once again saw the Hart foundation brawl with Austin and the Legion of Doom. This time Jim Neidhart came out and made the save. Neidhart had been Bret Hart’s tag team partner back in the late nineties to early eighties.


The WWF had just come off a Wrestlemania where not everything had gone according to plan. But the event had ended up surviving largely because of the Austin and Hart rivalry. It was that rivalry that provided a lot of RAW’s great moments of this month (and indeed this year)


The booking seemed largely more logical than the WCW however RAW remained behind in the ratings war.


It was announced that the next IYH event would be called “A cold day in Hell.” It would feature Steve Austin going for the WWF title against the Undertaker. The Hitman was walking on crutches by the end of the month (a legitimate knee injury but the audience were led to believe it was Austin’s assault with the chair that was at cause)


With Austin’s title match looming you had to wonder if his rivalry with the Hart family was really over.