‘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. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog for the WWE European Championship is that match, and February 26th, 1997 is that date.
In early 1997 the World Wrestling Federations European following was reaching an all-time high. Since Summerslam 1992 at Wembley Stadium in London, England, European fans had been craving the unpredictable action of the WWF. The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith was adopted as their hero. Like a knight to the Queen of England, Davey Boy Smith could do no wrong. To give the European fans something special, the WWF introduced the European Championship. They held a tournament during the 1997 tour of Germany. The winner of the tournament would be the first-ever European Champion. This was the first new title the WWF had introduced in 20 years.
In the Semifinals, The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith advanced, defeating Vader. His brother-in-law Owen Hart defeated his brother Bret Hart by count-out. It was official, once again, two Hart family members would wage war for a championship on international soil. This time it was Owen Hart challenging his brother in law The British Bulldog. Not only were these two superstars family members, but they were also the current WWF Tag Team Champions.
Owen Hart & The British Bulldog
For weeks dissension had been building between the tag team champions. It all started at the 1997 Royal Rumble when Owen Hart “accidentally” eliminated the British Bulldog. This didn’t sit well with Davey Boy. Despite their growing differences, the tag champions defended their titles against all challengers. On February 16, 1997, At In Your House 13 Final Four, The British Bulldog fired Clarence Mason, the teams’ advisor. Owen tried to talk him out of it, but Bulldog would not listen. He sent Mason packing his bags. The tag champions brought their frustration to the European Championship Tournament. They were about to show the world which of the two Hart Family members were better.
In Berlin, Germany, on February 26, 1997, The European Championship final was held. Owen Hart wanted to prove that he was the better athlete. The British Bulldog wanted to take home the title. This was going to be a classic. Just as expected, both tag team champions tried to outdo one another. Owen attempted to use his speed and quickness, but Davey Boy would power his way through. At one point, Owen Hart even hit a German suplex on the Bulldog in Germany. He also rocked him with a devastating enziguri kick to the back of the head. He even locked in the sharpshooter. No matter what Owen tried, Bulldog would power out of.
Nothing could stop Davey Boy from becoming the first European Champion. As Owen went for a victory roll, Davey boy reversed it and got the pin. The British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith had become the first WWF European Champion.
The Match That Led To the Reformation of A Foundation
The following weeks after this match, The King of Harts kept trying to upstage the New European Champion, the British Bulldog. Most notably, on March 23, 1997, at WrestleMania 13, during their entrance, Owen would get in front of the Bulldog when walking down the aisle. It was obvious Owen was not satisfied with the loss in Germany. The next night on Monday Night Raw, the duo defended the tag team titles against the Headbangers. Davey hit the ropes at one point in the match and knocked Owen off the ring apron to the floor. When Bulldog went to check on him, Owen started a shoving match.
Later on, as The Bulldog was being taken apart by the Headbangers, Owen seemed less than eager to help. Davey boy would reach for the tag, but Owen, in true heel fashion, would pretend like his arm didn’t reach that far. Finally, The King of Harts tagged in the ring and began clearing house. After just two spinning kicks, Owen tagged in an exhausted Bulldog. Davey wasn’t even recovered yet from the beating he received earlier. After seeing the tag titles slip away, Owen finally decided to make the tag. He locked in the sharpshooter on a headbanger mosh, but thrash hit Owen from behind.
Bulldog came in to help Owen. He powerslammed The Headbangers and went to put Owen on top for the pin since he was the legal man. Owen shoved off The Bulldog. Davey exploded, shoved down the referee, causing a DQ. He then got into a shoving match with Owen. Owen Hart stated that he was sick and tired of watching the Bulldog pretend he’s the better man. He challenged the European Champion to a title match the following week on Monday Night Raw.
The Hitman Brings His Family Together
On The March 31 episode of Raw, Owen Hart faced the British Bulldog for the European Championship. The match started as an all-out brawl. Consumed with jealousy, the King Of Harts wanted to destroy his brother-in-law. As the two tag champions were about to injure one another permanently, Bret “Hitman” Hart ran to the ring and separated them. He said the WWF and the American fans have been trying to divide the Hart family for years. He further claimed that all American WWF fans want is blood and violence. No longer will the American fans drive apart the Hart Family. After a tearful reunion, the three Harts walked out of the ring as a family. The Hart Foundation was reunited.