‘On This Day’ is a commemorative article series. It is dedicated to specific events, matches, and occurrences in wrestling history. We revisit those key moments and look back at how they went down and what they meant to the wrestling industry. In Your House Final Four 2/16/97 is that event.
Imagine the four most popular superstars in the World Wrestling Federation, one match, with one goal, the WWF Heavyweight Championship. That is exactly what happened on this day in wrestling on February 16, 1997. The event was In Your House Final Four. Held in Chattanooga, TN, this event was arguably the most anticipated In Your House of all time. This pay per view was designed to settle the controversy created at the Royal Rumble 1997. During the match, Bret “Hitman” Hart eliminated Stone Cold Steve Austin. However, the referees didn’t see it. All the referees were too busy separating Mankind and Terry Funk. They didn’t notice Bret throw Austin over the top to the floor.
When Austin saw that no one noticed, he snuck back into the ring and eliminated Undertaker and Vader, who were attempting to eliminate each other. The Hitman then eliminated Diesel. As he was celebrating, he didn’t realize Austin sneak up from behind and throw him over the top rope. Hart thought Austin was already eliminated. Since no referees saw Austin eliminated, he was allowed to continue and eliminate the Hitman. Stone Cold Steve Austin had won the 1997 Royal Rumble and was headed to WrestleMania 13 to wrestle for the WWF Championship. Bret Hart was furious.
The Match Is Set
The next night on Monday Night Raw, The Hitman made his grievances known. Bret grabbed the mic and blamed everyone, including Vince Mcmahon, for him being screwed at the Rumble. He demanded that Austins’ win be overturned and give him the title shot at WrestleMania against WWF Champion Shawn Michaels. Bret said that he feels he’s been mistreated ever since he returned to the WWF. In the back of Harts’s mind, he wanted to defeat HBK as payback from WrestleMania XII. He feels now that Vince McMahon purposely is trying to “screw” him.
Hart further added that since the WWF would do nothing about this, he is quitting. Hart then walked out of the arena. Later on, in the show, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon made an announcement. He stated that in the WWF, all referee’s decisions are final, so he can not overturn the decision. Stone Cold Steve Austin will remain the winner of the 1997 Royal Rumble. However, due to Austin’s questionable tactics, he has decided to make a Final Four Match at the next pay per view In Your House 13. The participants would be Stone Cold Steve Austin, Vader, The Undertaker, and “if he accepts” Bret “Hitman” Hart. The winner will face WWF Champion Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania 13 in Chicago, Il on March 23, 1997.
In Your House Final Four 2/16/97
HBK lost his Smile
On February 13, 1997, Thursday Raw Thursday WWF Champion Shawn Michaels vacated the championship. According to Michaels, he had suffered a severe knee injury and needed time off. Known to the WWF fans as the “Lost my smile” promo, HBK claimed he had lost his passion for the business. As of that moment, he was giving up the WWF Championship and going to find himself. On the other hand, Bret Hart believed Shawn Michaels was afraid to fight him, knowing that he would be dropping the title to him at WrestleMania 13. Due to the WWF title being vacated, the Final Four Match became a WWF Championship match.
The winner would become the WWF Champion. Psycho Sid, whom Shawn Michaels defeated for the WWF Championship, was scheduled to receive a rematch on that episode of Raw; however, due to the HBK injury, that match did not happen. Instead, Sid would get his rematch against the winner of the Final Four Match the Raw after the pay per view.
Hitman wins WWF Championship.
In Your House, Final Four exceeded all expectations. The match started with Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin immediately going after one another. Their rivalry was at its peak by this point. Undertaker went after Vader, whom he had unfinished business with. In the first few moments of the match, Vader went to hit The Undertaker with a steel chair shot. The chair was blocked, and instead, Undertaker sent Vader face-first into the steel steps. This cut Vader above the eye. Vaders face was a crimson mess of blood. Undertaker then went after Hart, and power slammed him. On the outside of the ring, Vader and Austin used everything they could find.
Austin hit Vader with a chair, ring bell, or anything he could get his hands on. Vader recovered and got the upper hand on Austin. Vaders own blood seemed to motivate the Rocky Mountain Monster. At one point, he dropped the Undertaker so hard it appeared the deadman was almost eliminated. Vader attempted a moonsault but missed. Four hundred plus pounds of Vader came crashing to the mat. Meanwhile, Hart and Austin were continuing their assault on each other.
In Your House Final Four 2/16/97
The Hitman finally was able to fireman carry Austin over the top rope. Stone Cold was officially the first man eliminated. His WrestleMania 13 title match was now non-existent. Like a shark smelling blood, The Hitman went back after Vader. Eventually, he got Vader on the top turnbuckle and superplexed him to the mat. From out of nowhere, Steve Austin returned, attacking Bret Hart. This time it was a fact that Austin was eliminated. He was not supposed to be still in this match. Vaders manager Paul Bearer was helping Vader attack The Undertaker. Vader went to the top rope for a Vaderbomb on the Phenom, but Undertaker recovered and low-blowed him sending him over the top rope to the floor.
Vader was eliminated. Now the match was between arguably two of the most popular superstars of the 90s, Bret “ Hitman” Hart and The Undertaker. The Rattlesnake Stone Cold Steve Austin was still lurking around ringside. The Undertaker set the Hitman up for the Tombstone. However, Austin was still trying to interfere in the match and get at Bret Hart. Undertaker had enough of Stone Cold and went after him. As Undertaker was dealing with Austin, The Hitman clotheslined the Undertaker over the top rope. Undertaker had been eliminated. Bret “Hitman” Hart had won his fourth WWF Championship. Bret Hart had finally been vindicated.
Stone Cold Ends Harts Reign
The next night on the February 17, 1997 episode of Monday Night Raw, as agreed, Bret Hart put his newly won WWF Championship on the line against Psycho Sid. It looked as if the Hitman might retain the title. He was able to put the Sharpshooter on Sid. Sid was moments away from giving up when Steve Austin hit Bret Hart from behind with a steel chair. Sid dropped Hart in the powerbomb and won the WWF Championship. Austin had accomplished his goal and “screwed” the Hitman. Due to this win Psycho Sid would now defend the WWF Championship against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 13 in Chicago, IL. Bret Hart was livid.
He challenged Stone Cold Steve Austin to an I Quit Submission Match at WrestleMania. A week later, Bret Hart received his rematch against Sid, inside a steel cage. If Sid won the match, he would defend the title against The Undertaker; however, if Bret Hart won, the WWF Title would be defended against Stone Cold in Chicago. Due to the realization that he might win the WWF Title, Undertaker interfered in the match and attempted to help Sid. Likewise, for the first-time-ever, hell froze over as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Hitman worked as a team. Unfortunately, as Bret was attempting to escape, Undertaker slammed the door on his head. This enabled Sid to escape the cage and retain the title.
In Your House Final Four 2/16/97
Frustrated Isn’t The Word For It
As the steel cage was being taken apart, Vince McMahon attempted to interview the Hitman. Bret Hart had officially had enough. After Mcmahon asked him if he was frustrated, he shoved Vince to the mat. “ Frustrated isn’t the damn word for it,” Bret yelled. “Everybody screwed me, and nobody does a damn thing about it. Nobody in the building cares; nobody in the dressing room cares so much injustice around here. I’ve had it up to here. Everyone in the dressing room knows I’m the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”Stone Cold Steve Austin then came on the Titan Tron, telling Bret it was his fault, and ever since he came back, he’s done nothing but cry.
Hart responded by challenging Austin to come out to the ring. Not only did Austin accept the challenge so did the Undertaker and Psycho Sid. The four got into a giant brawl on live television. As the four superstars proceeded to maul each other, Shawn Michaels walked down the aisle to antagonize The Hitman. Bret Hart had enough. This episode of Raw had arguably the greatest buildup to a WrestleMania ever. This all came about because of the events of WWF’s In Your House Final Four on 2/16/97.