Date: June 9, 1997
Location: Hartford, CT
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, RF Video, Pro Wrestling Insider
The television feud between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had a very real life element to it, and tension had been brewing for months before it came to a head on this night in Hartford.
As noted elsewhere, Shawn Michaels was not popular backstage in the mid 90s, with his cocky attitude and immature behavior rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. Bret Hart was among those who didn’t like it and didn’t like him, but was professional enough to never let it get out of hand.
That is, until the “Sunny days” comment.
On a Raw broadcast on May 19, 1997, during a promo between the two, Bret was in the ring with the Hart Foundation while Shawn was on the Titantron. As they were going back and forth, Shawn made a comment about Bret not being able to “last 10 minutes in any situation, if you know what I mean.” He then followed up by saying Bret has been seeing a lot of “Sunny days” recently, implying Bret was having an affair with Tammy Sytch, who played the role of Sunny in WWE.
Bret was furious over the comment, although it wasn’t noticeable on TV. Over the next couple of weeks, the comment caused problems at home between Bret and his wife. The irony is that Shawn is the one who had a relationship with Sytch behind the scenes, and according to her, it lasted 9 months. When it ended, Shawn was convinced that she was sleeping with, or had slept with, Bret. That’s where the comment came from.
Sytch is on record saying she never had an affair with Bret. She explained that Bret was a loner who didn’t want to share a locker room with the other boys, so he asked her if he could share her dressing room when she wasn’t using it. Sytch had her own dressing room since she was among the only women on the roster at the time, and obviously she didn’t use the men’s dressing room. As the two began to share the dressing room regularly, Shawn took it as the two were sleeping together.
According to Shawn in his shoot interview, he and Bret hadn’t said a word to each other behind the scenes for about three months (not counting the TV shows, as obviously the two spoke to each other during some of the segments). He also still maintained that “the truth hurts” when speaking of the Sunny days comment, implying he still believed the two had an affair.
Three weeks after the “Sunny days” comment, Bret confronted Shawn about it backstage in Hartford. Shawn was upset that after three months of Bret not talking to him, all of a sudden he was. Bret told him that the comment crossed the line, saying, “You wat to talk about my f*cking family?” Shawn walked away from him, after which Bret shoved him into a wall.
Shawn turned around and more words were exchanged. Most versions of the story agree that Bret did start the fight, but that Shawn was every bit as guilty in instigating it and being a smart ass. Shawn said Bret went for a swing but that it missed, after which Shawn chuckled. He claims Bret then did a double leg dive and tackled him, causing the two to go through a partition that separated an interview area from the shower area.
Shawn claims they each had each other in a front face lock before everyone came to quickly break it up. Other witnesses said Bret was able to mount him and throw some punches before Jerry Brisco, Pat Patterson, and others broke it up. It was described as a “one sided affair,” but quickly broken up. Bret did manage to pull out a big chunk of Shawn’s hair, leaving him with a temporary bald spot. Michaels also had a puffed up face, which confirms that he did land at least a couple of blows. Bret re-injured his knee in the scuffle. Shawn also had a bloody elbow from the fall they took when going to the ground.
In a funny twist, Jim Cornette said Jerry Lawler was having a bowel movement at the time this happened, and had to pull up his pants and come out to help break it up. Steve Lombardi was going nuts and screaming in the hallway about what had just happened, which is how Cornette heard about it.
Bret and Brisco argued loudly back and forth in another room before Hart left the building at about 8:30pm (after Raw had gone on the air). Shawn went to Vince and told him he had worked Bret into a frenzy and to call him when it was all sorted out. Reports said Michaels went crazy and shouted that he’d never work against anyone in the Hart Foundation because he couldn’t trust them, and threatened to go to Boston (where WCW Nitro was being taped). He then asked “PJ” (PJ Polaco aka Justin Credible) for a ride back to the hotel, leaving the building just before Raw went on the air and claiming he couldn’t work or stay in this kind of environment.
Michaels was scheduled to wrestle Pillman that night, as a replacement for Austin since Austin had injured his knee the previous week in a house show match with Michaels. With Michaels not in the building, Mick Foley ended up wrestling Pillman. But the match was flat, as Foley had yet to truly get over, and Pillman was limited in the ring from his ankle injury. The entire show had to be rewritten at the last minute, which resulted in Ken Shamrock getting a more prominent role in the main event mix.
Vince McMahon was spending little time with other personnel that day, as he had long personal conversations with both Hart and Michaels separately. Days after the fight, McMahon called both into his office and convinced them both to “pretend to like each other,” as Michaels later put it. They shook hands and agreed to work together, and of course a few months later Hart was gone from the company anyway as a result of the infamous Montreal screwjob.
In hindsight, with Michaels the way he is and Hart the way he is, the conflict was inevitable. The WWF was losing a lot of money at the time, thanks to WCW dominating the market share and Hart’s pricey contract. It wouldn’t be long before Hart was gone (to WCW), Michaels was gone (temporarily retired from the back injury), and Austin would take the company to new heights in light of Vince’s heel turn.