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Matt’s Retro Review: WWF Championship 1997

Matt takes a deep dive into one of the WWF Championship’s crazier years: 1997! The Undertaker, Sid, Montreal Screwjob and more.

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The Undertaker WWF Championship

Matt takes a deep dive into one of the WWF Championship’s crazier years: 1997! The Undertaker, Sid, Montreal Screwjob and more.

Welcome to the 11th edition of the Retro Review on The Chairshot! This will be a biweekly article here on The Chairshot because we have a lot to discuss! In starting, my question for you is; have you ever had a discussion with a friend or in a group online about who is the greatest champion of all time? What is your defense of your claim? Wins? Quality of matches? Length of reign? In this weekly article, I will be looking back one year at a time and evaluating one specific championship in each article, with a yearly grade ranking and overall grade ranking and as we progress through the years, I will reveal who I believe is the best champion of all time.

To start us off, I am going to discuss the most recognizable championship in the history of wrestling, the WWE Heavyweight Championship. These articles will not discuss the “Big Gold” World Championship, Universal Championship, or any other recognized heavyweight championship in WWE, those will be discussed in other articles. During these reviews, I will count matches aired on weekly television, PPV, and matches also released on VHS and later on home media.

Psycho Sid (November 17th, 1996 – January 19th, 1997)

  • Record: 3-1
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Psycho Sid d. Shawn Michaels, November 17th, 1996, Survivor Series
  • Psycho Sid d. Bret Hart, December 15th, 1996, It’s Time

Thoughts: A very short reign, had a hard time recommending any matches out of the four but after I thought about it, I decided to showcase these two mentioned above. The first one is entertaining because of the cheers Sid gets when he pins Shawn Michaels who was supposed to be a clean cut babyface, but the fans started to turn on his attitude in late 1996. The only other match was a great match with Bret Hart at In Your House: It’s Time in December. Just a quality match, going over 20 minutes. Overall, it’s one of the weakest reigns so far.

Grade (A+ through F ): F

Shawn Michaels (January 19th, 1997 – February 13th, 1997)

  • Record: 1-0
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • N/A

Thoughts: What a tumultuous time here in the company. Quick change after quick change, after three or four years of long reigns. Things were heating up in the world of wrestling as WCW Nitro began dominating the ratings war, and the WWF locker room was at war in itself. HBK supposedly refused to drop the championship and so Vince McMahon sent him home, but not before making him relinquish the championship live on RAW when Michaels “lost his smile”.

Grade (A+ through F ): F

Bret Hart (February 16th, 1997 – February 17th, 1997)

  • Record: 1-1
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 0

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Bret Hart d. Undertaker, Steve Austin, & Vader, February 16th, 1997, In Your House: Final Four

Thoughts: A one day reign for the Best There Is, Best There Was, and Best There Ever Will Be. I am not sure what the company was doing here, other than trying to get a ratings spike after the aforementioned ratings war, by creating the “anything can happen in the WWF” here on February 17th, when Sid would defeat Bret for the title only one night after he won it. I do recommend checking out the Final Four main event as it is a very good entertaining match.

Grade (A+ through F ): F

Psycho Sid (February 17th, 1997 – March 23rd, 1997)

  • Record: 3-2
  • Clean Losses: 1
  • Successful Defenses: 2

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Undertaker d. Psycho Sid, March 23rd, 1997, Wrestlemania 13

Thoughts: Psycho Sid -the Two Month Man. Another trashy reign by Sid here, crushing his opponents in uninspiring do nothing for anyone matches between winning and losing the title. Not sure why the company needed all this change between January and March. Put the title on Undertaker at Final Four, keep it on him through WrestleMania. There just wasn’t any heat on the championship and it felt like a prop because of the mean nothing changes.

Grade (A+ through F ): F

Undertaker  (March 23rd, 1997 – August 3rd, 1997)

  • Record: 11-5
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 5

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Undertaker d. Psycho Sid, March 23rd, 1997, WrestleMania 13
  • Undertaker d. Mankind, April 20th, 1997, In Your House: Revenge of the Taker
  • Undertaker d. Steve Austin, May 11th, 1997, In Your House: Cold Day In Hell
  • Bret Hart d. Undertaker, August 3rd, 1997, SummerSlam

Thoughts: From where we have been to this reign, I may have overrated this reign, but it’s a breath of fresh air compared to what this year has been like. He was involved in 16 matches as WWF Champion, including an appearance on Saturday Night Shotgun in six man tag action! He had great feuds with Mankind, Steve Austin, The Nation of Domination, and Bret Hart throughout these five months. Sometimes a lot of rivalries hurt, sometimes it works. Four quality recommended matches. Zero clean losses. Normally I’d complain about yet another dirty WWF Championship change, but the fallout of The Chairshot at SummerSlam lead to Hell in a Cell, so, I can’t complain about that. 

Grade (A+ through F ): B

Bret Hart (August 3rd, 1997 – November 9th, 1997)

  • Record: 6-4
  • Clean Losses: 0
  • Successful Defenses: 1

Recommended Matches to Watch

  • Bret Hart d. Undertaker, August 3rd, 1997, SummerSlam
  • Bret Hart d. The Patriot, September 7th, 1997, In Your House: Ground Zero
  • Bret Hart & The British Bulldog d. The Patriot & Vader, October 5th, 1997, In Your House: Badd Blood
  • Shawn Michaels d. Bret Hart, November 9th, 1997, Survivor Series

Thoughts: Not much needs to be said about this reign. Between his WWF Championship reign in March and here, Bret Hart would go full blown heel in the United States, re-creating the Hart Foundation, leading to perhaps the most entertaining storyline in company history, and it continued into this reign, with Bret feuding with The Patriot throughout the summer, as Bret Hart would insult American audiences and kiss the ground in Canada. We all know how this reign ended, but the match itself is still pretty good. I give the reign a C- because of the events surrounding The Screwjob. So many stories, did Bret screw Bret? We may never know the answer. I originally had this reign higher, looking at it in a vacuum, but the whole thing just was bad for wrestling and led to so much else that I just didn’t like it at all.

*Two things to note. First, the WWF Championship changed hands six consecutive years from 1994-1999, and this is just one of them in the long line. Secondly, how peculiar is it that Bret Hart faced The Patriot at a show called Ground Zero in the month of September? That’s truly eerie stuff.

Grade (A+ through F ): C-


Overall WWE Champion Ranking

  1. Hulk Hogan (January 23rd, 1984 – February 5th, 1988) – A
  2. Bret Hart (March 20th, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) – A
  3. Yokozuna (June 13th, 1993 – March 20th, 1994) — B+
  4. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (April 5th, 1992 – September 14th, 1992) – B
  5. Undertaker  (March 23rd, 1997 – August 3rd, 1997) — B
  6. Bret Hart (October 12th, 1992 – April 4th, 1993) — B-
  7. “Macho Man” Randy Savage (March 27th, 1988 – April 2nd, 1989) – C+
  8. Sgt. Slaughter (January 19th, 1991 – March 24th, 1991) – C
  9. Hulk Hogan (April 2nd, 1989 – April 1st, 1990) – C
  10. Bret Hart (August 3rd, 1997 – November 9th, 1997) — C-
  11. Hulk Hogan (March 24th — November 27th, 1991) – D+
  12. Ric Flair (January 19th, 1992 — April 5th, 1992) — D
  13. The Ultimate Warrior (April 1st, 1990- January 19th, 1991) – D
  14. Ric Flair (September 14th, 1992 – October 12th, 1992) — D
  15. Diesel (November 26th, 1994 – November 19th, 1995) — D
  16. Bob Backlund (November 23rd, 1994 – November 26th, 1994) — D-
  17. Psycho Sid (November 17th, 1996 – January 19th, 1997) — F
  18. Psycho Sid (February 17th, 1997 – March 23rd, 1997) — F
  19. Shawn Michaels (January 19th, 1997 – February 13th, 1997) — F
  20. Bret Hart (February 16th, 1997 – February 17th, 1997) — F
  21. Hulk Hogan (April 4th, 1993 – June 13th, 1993) — F
  22. Yokozuna (April 4th, 1992 – April 4th, 1992) — F
  23. Undertaker (November 27th, 1991- December 3rd, 1991) – F
  24. Hulk Hogan (December 3rd, 1991 – December 4th, 1991) – F

**Speaking of championships, I am currently designing custom made championships and shirts for your wrestling figure collections! Check out the page at Grand Slam Creations – Custom Wrestling Belts & Accessories on Facebook, give us a like and a follow and share with your friends! 


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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