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Re: Bret Hart Contract in late 1997?
Here's the story I've always knew.
In 1996, Bret was offered a 3 year, $3 million a year deal from WCW. Vince countered with a 20 year deal, with Bret making $1.5 million a year for the first 3 years and spend the next 17 in the booking department at a reduced salary.
On September 22, 1997, Vince told Bret he was intentionally breaching his contract because he couldn't afford to pay him. Vince gave Bret written permission to negotiate with WCW and Bret had an escape clause in his contract that allowed him to leave with 30 days notice and have "reasonable creative control" on how his character finished up.
Before an October 24th show in NY, Vince told Bret the money situation changed and he was able to pay him the agreed upon deal. At that point, WCW had yet to make Bret a serious offer and he told Vince he really didn't want to leave.
On October 31, WCW made Bret an offer for 3 years, $3 million a year. The next day, which was the deadline, Bret told Vince about the offer and said he wanted no additional money from Vince but just wanted to know the direction of his character. Vince had no answer and said he was giving Bret permission to extend his notice and that the WWF CFO would give him written permission. The CFO told Bret that he couldn't get it in writing on such short notice. Bischoff calls Bret for the second time that day with the offer.
On the night of November 1, Vince told Bret to just take the WCW offer. He also gave Bret an idea of how things would play out if he stayed. He would drop the belt to HBK at Survivor Series, HBK goes over again at the December PPV in a four way with Bret, Shamrock & Taker. HBK wins again in a ladder match at Royal Rumble and on the January 19th RAW, Bret opens the show by saying if he can't beat HBK for the title that night, he would retire. Bret would win the belt and go on to drop it to Austin at Mania. But according to Meltzer, Bret wasn't too keen on 4 major losses and only 1 major win. Bret signed with WCW, hours before the midnight deadline.
On November 2, Vince told Bret he wanted HBK to win the belt but Bret refused to drop it in Canada, saying he'd rather do it in Youngstown, OH on the 14th, MSG on the 15th or the December PPV. Vince mentioned dropping the belt at Detroit the night before Survivor Series but Bret felt he needed to go into Montreal as champion.
Bret's WCW contract would begin on December 1st and Bischoff gave him permission to continue in WWE through December 8th. On December 7th, Bret was to drop the title to HBK and come out the next night and give a farewell speech, as all parties had agreed to.
Bottom line, it's a reason Bret didn't appear on WCW TV until December 15th. Bischoff extended Bret's finish up date to December 8th, which would have been the night of RAW, where Bret would say goodbye. But, the screwjob came because Bret turned down various scenarios of dropping the belt, Vince had a fear implemented by HBK & HHH that Bret would show up on Nitro with the belt and throw it in the trash. Vince began calling Bischoff but couldn't get in contact with him because Bischoff was on a hunting trip all week in Wyoming, which was the week leading up to the Survivor Series PPV.
So at final notice, Bret remained under contract pretty much until December 8th, allowing for the title change the night prior. But due to his ego, HBK & HHH in Vince's ear and the fact that Bret had creative control for his final 30 days in the company (which would have been from Survivor Series to the DX PPV), we got a screw job.