News has broken that Bret Hart has signed a short term deal with the World Wrestling Entertainment. Vince McMahon eased Bret into the picture on the December 28, 2009, edition of Monday Night Raw by announcing Hart would be the guest host for the January 4 Raw--the edition that is going to face head-to-head competition from TNA's Impact and the debut of Hulk Hogan.
To anyone familiar with the WWE and pro wrestling in general in the past fifteen years, this news comes as a blockbuster. In fact, most wrestling fans would've bet their trailers this day would never have come.
In 1997, Hart was the champion of the then-WWF. He was a good wrestler. He was popular. He was the 'anti-steroid' champion the WWF was looking for to help restore its credibility from the steroid scandals of the late '80s and early to mid '90s.
Problem was, he was also leaving.
In 1996, Hart signed an unprecedented 20-year contract with McMahon to stay with the WWF in light of offers Hart had received to jump ship to then-competitor World Championship Wrestling. By 1997, McMahon had asked Hart to revisit that offer, as the WWF was experiencing financial difficulties that, McMahon claimed, would make it impossible to honor that contract.
By November 9, 1997, the date of the WWF's Survivor Series pay-per-view, it was long established Hart would be jumping to WCW. The plan was for Hart to drop the WWF title to real-life rival Shawn Michaels. According to Hart's own biography, he was happy to drop the title to Michaels on his way out, with one caveat--he didn't want to do it at Survivor Series because it was being held in Hart's home country of Canada. He wanted to retain the belt at Survivor Series and drop it the next night on Raw.
Vince McMahon, being notoriously arrogant in not liking to be dictated to, as well as notoriously paranoid, didn't like Hart's plan. He was still concerned Hart might jump ship and take the WWF title with him to trash it on WCW programming--something that had precedent with Meduca Micelli doing just that with the WWF's Women's Championship.
McMahon orchestrated the greatest shoot in wrestling history. As Michaels had Hart in Hart's own finisher, the Sharpshooter, referee Earl Hebner called for the bell, as if Hart had submitted when he, in fact, did not. Michaels was in on it. Hebner was in on it. The problem was, Hart was not.
The aftermath is legend. Hart raced to the locker room and punched out McMahon. He then left the WWF, cursing McMahon and Michaels, and vowed to never return.
In wrestling, it's amazing how fast 'never' comes. In 2006, Hart returned to accept induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. It was the first time since the Montreal Screwjob that he had any dealings with WWE. It's widely accepted the reason Hart did so was do have creative input into a Bret Hart DVD the company was producing, wishing to do so to prevent WWE from using the DVD as a means of trashing his career.
This was thought to be a one-off project. Hart swore for years afterwards he would never work with McMahon again, trashing McMahon at every opportunity.
Now he returns to WWE to host Raw and do who knows what else.
Does this make Hart a hypocrite? Or is he, in fact, a genius that recognizes a good opportunity when he sees it.
Many on the internet speculate the plan may be for Hart to work a program that will culminate in a match with he and Undertaker tagging up to take on McMahon and Undertaker's rival, Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 26.
The groundwork is already being laid. Michaels, off the heels of one of the best Wrestlemania matches ever where he lost a classic to Undertaker at WM25, has challenged Undertaker to a rematch for WM26. Michaels and McMahon, on the 12/28 Raw, teased an alliance to screw with Hart on the 1/4 Raw. The scenario is very feasible.
And, if that pans out, that match could revive the biggest WWE show of the year, as Wrestlemania has been dropping in pay-per-view buys for years due to lack of creativity and the economy.
Hart stands to make a nice sum of money for sacrificing his principles for four months of work. For a man that is 52 years old and hasn't been able to wrestle in years due to career-ending head injuries, that type of pay-day would be a substantial reason for 'never' to come so fast.
Not bad for a work that has been 12 years in the making.