Backstage Fight Stories: HBK vs. Bret Hart


When you think of a real-life situation in the not-so-real world of professional wrestling involving legendary WWE Superstars Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, you immediately think of Montreal. You immediately think of Survivor Series. You immediately think of the screw job. In the latest edition of my ongoing editorial series, “Backstage Fight Stories”, however, we’re going to look at the other infamous altercation between “The Hitman” and “The Heartbreak Kid.”

The setting was Hartford, Connecticut. The year was 1997. The altercation was one in which HBK lost a large chunk of his hair, and both men were laughed at for being involved in the least “manly” shoot fight of all time.

To tell this particular story, you need to go back to May 19, 1997, where during an episode of WWE RAW, Michaels dropped the infamous “Sunny days” comment in reference to Hart’s alleged affair with WWE Diva Tammy Sytch. While the dislike between Hart and Michaels had existed prior to the “Sunny days” comment, it was that remark that took their beef to the next level.

After weeks of Hart snubbing Michaels backstage at events, refusing to speak off-camera to his on-camera rival, he finally approached HBK in Hartford. Hart reportedly went up to Michaels to talk to him, and Michaels, annoyed by weeks of being snubbed by Hart, said something to the effect of, “you haven’t spoke to me in weeks, and now you decide it’s time for us to talk?” along with a colorful insult that I won’t bother repeating.

At this point, as the story goes, the two clamped on to one-another, with Hart grabbing a hold of a large chunk of HBK’s hair. As a result, said-large chunk of Michaels’ hair was ripped clean out of his scalp. The two apparently went through one of the wall-like backdrops used for backstage interviews on television at the time, and Jerry “The King” Lawler, who was apparently in the middle of dropping a deuce in the bathroom, quickly ran to the scene to help break things up. I believe Pat Patterson was in the middle of things, also attempting to separate the two. One way or another, Hart and Michaels were finally pulled apart.

An enraged Michaels stormed into Vince McMahon’s office, with a handful of his own hair, slammed it on McMahon’s desk and exclaimed, “I’m out of here. This is not a safe working environment.” Again, I have excluded some colorful adjectives for the sake of a clean article. Anyways, the “unsafe working environment” line would end up being a phrase used often by the wrestlers working in WWE at the time as a rib to Michaels, mostly behind his back in random situations.

If you believe the legendary Jim Cornette, the large chunk of HBK’s hair that was used as a physical example of the repercussions of working in an unsafe environment during the emotional McMahon-office temper-tantrum by Michaels, was actually collected by Cornette, and to this day remains in Cornette’s home.

Near the end of that year, which ended up being one of the most famous, or infamous, depending on which events or moments you point to, Michaels gave Hart a receipt in the form of the most famous double-cross in pro wrestling history. I need-not get into the details of that story, as by now, everyone has heard the legendary tale of the “Montreal Screwjob.” If you haven’t, you should purchase the “WWE: Greatest Rivalries – Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart” DVD, as it is the most in-depth release you will find, along with the “Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows” documentary, that details everything that went on during their historic Survivor Series showdown.

Until next time, this has been another installment in my ongoing eWN editorial series, “Backstage Fight Stories.”

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