Wrestling Star’s Career Once Took an Explosive Twist in Central New York
For a few years in the late '90s, it seemed like everyone watched wrestling. Every Monday night, TV audiences could choose between the cartoonish antics of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) or the theatrical absurdity of World Championship Wrestling. The two companies battling each other for ratings led to some pretty memorable TV moments. One of them involved one of the WWF's most stalwart "good guy" performers, Bret "Hitman" Hart.
"The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be"
Bret "Hitman" Hart was a huge fan favorite in the '90s. Known for his technical prowess and in-ring storytelling, Hart became a multiple-time world champion, capturing the WWF Championship on five occasions. Although wrestling is pre-determined, there was a believability to Hart's matches that forged a connection with audiences. By his own admission, Hart liked playing the hero ("babyface" in wrestling lingo) over a villain ("heel"), which made his eventual switch all the more shocking.
Hart Turns Heel in Central New York
Vince McMahon and the WWF creative team eventually convinced Hart to turn heel, and the seeds were planted on an episode of Monday Night Raw that aired on March 17th, 1997 from Syracuse's Oncenter War Memorial.
Hart attempted to dethrone WWF Champion Sycho Sid in a cage match, but all sorts of chicanery ensued -- as it often does -- essentially "screwing" Hart out of a victory.
Here's a recap from pdrwrestling.net:
Lots of suspense surrounding this match... Sid begins to climb over the cage wall as Bret heads for the door, but the Undertaker is right there to slam the door on him while Sid makes it over the cage wall and both his feet touch the floor to give Sid the win... There was a lot of extracurricular stuff happening, but it all made sense and intertwined. Just great booking.
Afterwards, Bret Hart cut a scathing, profanity-laced promo on Vince McMahon and the Syracuse audience, which was pretty shocking coming from an established babyface. Hart would go on to become the company's top heel for the remainder of 1997 before making a jump to WCW.
Bret Hart's wrestling career is legendary, and it's interesting to note this pivotal change to his character happened right here in Central New York.