The Hart Foundation were one of a kind. When Bret Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart debuted in WWF during the mid-80s, they weren’t expected to reach the heights that they did. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that backstage officials had other plans for Bret Hart. They wanted him to be “Cowboy” Bret Hart, a gimmick that he outright refused.
You can only imagine how the course of WWE history would have changed had he stuck to the cowboy gimmick. He never would have reached the success he did, and chances are, he never would have teamed with Jim Neidhart either. However, WWE gave him what he wanted and he teamed with Neidhart, with Jimmy Hart as their manager.
They were a heel stable and saw success early on. Their first notable performance was at WrestleMania 2, where they took part in the 20-man Battle Royal (that even had NFL stars participating). They would last until the final three, having to take out Andre The Giant in the end. They weren’t successful in their efforts, and Andre would win the Battle Royal.
Their success would start rolling in at the turn of 1987. In early ’87, the Hart Foundation was feuding with The British Bulldogs. New-at-the-time was referee Danny Davis, who was quite shady. He allowed The Hart Foundation to use dirty tactics to beat The Bulldogs for their first-ever tag team titles.
The Bulldogs wouldn’t be the only victims of Davis’ shady refereeing. Tito Santana, who was Intercontinental Champion at the time, lost to “Macho Man” Randy Savage after Davis allowed the latter to use dirty tactics to pick up the prestigious title. With three men furious at Davis, it led to a WrestleMania match, where Davis went from referee to a debuting wrestler. He teamed with Hart and Neidhart in what would be a successful effort against The Bulldogs and Santana. In fact, he pinned the legend British Bulldog after smacking him with Jimmy Hart’s megaphone.
Santana would get a measure of revenge half a year later, as he teamed with Rick Martel to defeat The Hart Foundation and end their 10-month title reign. Though it would take a while for The Hart Foundation to get the titles back, they would begin a new direction the following year – as babyfaces.
Hart fell short in the WrestleMania IV Battle Royal and began to show signs of being a babyface. Neidhart was by his side and when Jimmy Hart “sold” their contracts to the Rougeau Brothers, it cemented them as babyfaces.
However, their face turn didn’t exactly work at the time, and for around two years, they dropped down the card and weren’t even in the title picture. However, by the summer of 1990, they found themselves as the #1 contenders against Demolition, the most dominant tag team of that era. With Crush added to Demolition, the odds were against The Hart Foundation as they vied for the titles at SummerSlam in a 2-out-of-3 falls match.
It was as intense as a tag team match could get, and it was clear that it was going to be a SummerSlam classic. With the numbers game not favoring The Hart Foundation, it became clear quite quickly that they were in for a rough night. It was tense as ever, and the Legion of Doom came out to even the odds. Mind you, LoD was just a couple of months into their WWF debut.
It resulted in The Hart Foundation winning their second tag team titles, in what remains one of the greatest feel-good moments in SummerSlam history. They would have another extensive run with the titles, all the way up until WrestleMania VII, where they dropped it to The Nasty Boys.
After that, they split as Bret Hart branched out to a singles career. Over a year later, he would end up becoming WWF Champion and begin a legendary run as a singles star. He became a pillar of WWE’s New Generation Era. It really begs the question as to what could have been with The Hart Foundation, but no one really complains about it because Bret Hart was clearly destined for a big run on the top.
The Hart Foundation did reform in 1997 after Bret Hart turned heel at WrestleMania 13. However, it wasn’t just a 2 or 3 man group. Apart from just Neidhart, Bret Hart recruited his brother Owen, Brian Pillman and The British Bulldog. Together, they would form a pro-Canadian and British faction, while being anti-American.
This would mark Bret Hart’s final run in WWF (discounting the 2010 fiasco of a match), but what a run it was. The New Hart Foundation, as they were called, would end up being heels in the United States but babyfaces elsewhere. Though their run lasted for just months, they were the one of the best parts of WWF programming as the company was on the cusp of the Attitude Era. The programming was far edgier than before, and a simple babyface Bret Hart wasn’t going to cut it.
In the case of the New Hart Foundation, one really must wonder what could have been. Bret Hart still had a few years left in his tank and had he not left the company (and on such bad terms at that), the new Hart Foundation would have gone down as one of the greatest stables in WWE history. They certainly had the starpower for it.