As far as historical moments go, some are huge and are remembered forever, while others are private or relatively so. The latter often remains hidden from others, but they’re no less important in the overall scheme of things. One of these moments happen on this day in history on March 25, 1997 (it was taped and broadcast on March 31, 1997).
Bret Hart stands tall
This day in wrestling history occurred during a Monday Night Raw, where Bret Hart was challenging Rocky Maivia (Dwayne Johnson) for the Intercontinental Championship. As things often happen in professional wrestling, things backstage often change leading up to the second the wrestlers head out to the ring, and this night was no exception.
Here’s Bret Hart’s account (special thanks to @awrestlinghistorian for the excerpt and fun fact shared later about Bret saving the Rock’s job):
“I was slated by the booking committee to challenge Rocky Maivia for the Intercontinental Title and Hunter was insisting I beat him. I didn’t see any need for me to beat Rocky; it wouldn’t build heat for my new heel turn and would only undermine a real talent. I insisted on a DQ instead, which infuriated Hunter. He and Shawn disliked Rocky intensely and were too myopic to see that Rocky was destined to become one of the all-time greatest megastars in the history of the business, The Rock. Looking back, I’m glad I got to work with him at least once.” – Bret Hart, Hitman book.
Rocky Maivia never caught on
I admit I’m one of the few that actually liked the Rock as Rocky Maivia and never understood why he was so soundly booed and jeered by fans. His charisma and athleticism showed through, but the package didn’t work for many fans despite the push and him having won the Intercontinental Championship.
It’s something that happens a thousand times in wrestling promotions, and often talent slips through the cracks until they find a gimmick that works. It’s how Steve Austin came to the WWE and floundered initially as the Ringmaster. John Cena had a rough patch, as did many others.
As pointed out by @awrestlinghistorian, there were rumors that Vince McMahon almost fired the Rock around then, but Bret Hart convinced him not to, and that led to the Rock using the Sharpshooter as a tribute to Bret.
Had Bret not saved McMahon from making a huge mistake, the professional landscape could very well be far different than we currently have.
What makes this stand out even more is this is the only match between Bret Hart and The Rock.
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