1997 was the transition year for the WWF from the New Generation Era to the Attitude Era. WWF was trying a lot in 1997, like introducing the European Championship, the light heavyweight division, etc. They might have been still unable to beat WCW’s ratings in the short-run, but it was a solid showing for the WWF in 1997 overall. These are the wrestlers who were at the top of their game:
5. Shawn Michaels
As usual, Shawn Michaels continued to be one of the best in-ring workers for the WWF. Even though it wasn’t the best year Shawn had, as he had some weak matches with the likes of Sycho Sid and Ken Shamrock, he did manage a lot of classics against the likes of The Undertaker, Steve Austin or The British Bulldog. The weak point of Shawn’s year was the fact that he was constantly in and out due to questionable injuries, even missing both WrestleMania and SummerSlam in a wrestling capacity. To end the year, he was involved in the Montreal Screwjob, and the beginning of DX was polarizing with Shawn’s promos being unwatchable at one point. I would have loved to give Shawn a higher ranking, but some of the aforementioned points prevents me from doing so.
4. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
Even though Owen Hart and British Bulldog enjoyed a lot of singles success in 1997, I put them as one entry because they spent a huge portion of the year as a tag team and did great work together. Owen held the Intercontinental Championship on multiple occasions and British Bulldog became the first ever European Champion, while simultaneously holding the Tag Team Championship as a duo. They also joined forces with Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart and Brian Pillman to form The Hart Foundation, producing awesome work in there. They didn’t have the best year as far as match quality is concerned, but they were very entertaining to watch and one of the most essential parts of the show.
3. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
If 1996 wasn’t enough proof of Steve Austin’s potential, 1997 firmly cemented Austin as someone who would be a main eventer sooner or later. Austin started off the year continuing his rivalry with Bret Hart, which ended up being one of the best wrestling feuds ever. During the feud they had two magical matches: first at WrestleMania 13 which is my personal favorite match of all time; the second at In Your House: Canadian Stampede as part of a 10-man tag match. Austin enjoyed both singles and tag team success as he won the Intercontinental Championship multiple times in the year and also won the tag team straps with two different partners, Shawn Michaels and Dude Love. However, there was a negative in the year for him as his neck got seriously injured at SummerSlam, which affected him a lot and forced him to change his style of wrestling going forward.
2. The Undertaker
The Undertaker’s first Paul Bearer-less full year proved to be an awesome one. Undertaker started off the year strong winning the WWF Championship at WrestleMania 13. He had a very strong reign which I feel was his best World Championship reign ever. He had good matches constantly and the storylines were also very entertaining. He was in the main event scene for the majority of the year and he did a great job. The year also marked the beginning of his feud with his “brother”, Kane. The back story to it was awesome and led to Kane’s debut having such a great effect. Overall, solid year for the Deadman and quite possibly his best year in the 1990s.
1. Bret Hart
After being away for majority of 1996, Bret Hart had a solid showing in 1997. He started off with an awesome feud with Steve Austin and followed that up with a great feud with The Undertaker. As usual, Bret had great matches all the time and his PPV record in the year is just too damn impressive. He was the leader of The Hart Foundation and they were often one of the best things to watch. As a heel, Bret Hart cut awesome promos and proved to everyone that he can be great in that department too. As infamous the end to Bret Hart’s year was with the Montreal Screwjob, it takes nothing away from the great year Bret had and it was definitely one of the best years he had in wrestling.
And that’s all for today’s post, thank you all for reading. Stay tuned for further updates. Have a nice day!