Bret Hart became WWF Champion for the first time on October 12 1992 when he defeated Ric Flair at a live event in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The Hitman would go on to hold the title on four more occasions before his exit in 1997, but that first win was marked by an important conversation with Vince McMahon about how he was free to work in the future.
Even before capturing the World Championship Hart was known as one of the best in-ring performers in the company, if not North America as a whole. However, the validation that the win brought him, meant that he could start calling the shots inside the squared circle.
“You’re The Champion, You Call The Shots” – Vince McMahon
During an interview with The Ringer, Hart recalled a pivotal conversation with then-WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. Hart revealed that McMahon told him that now he was champion it was up to him to set the tone.
“When I became champion, Vince gave me a lecture on it one time, saying, ‘You’re the champion, you call the shots, no one tells you how to wrestle. You’re the guy that tells everyone else how to wrestle.’ And I made that my new rule. For a long time up until that, I always had to incorporate some other wrestler’s ideas into my match to make him happy. Now I could tell people, ‘No, we’re not going to do that idea. We’re going to cancel that because it doesn’t make any sense, but we’re going to do this instead.’ And nobody would argue with me anymore,”
Later in the interview, Hart explained that he believes his matches hold up better than those of his contemporaries because he was a perfectionist and innovator in the ring.
“When you go back and you watch these old matches over and over again like people do today, I think my matches hold up better than any wrestlers that I can think of. I was a perfectionist in the ring and I was an innovator. I was not a thief. There’s a lot of thieves out there that steal ideas from other wrestlers.”
Bret Hart’s relationship with Vince McMahon famously disintegrated in 1997, a fall-out cemented by the Montreal Screwjob. After leaving for WCW Hart wouldn’t be involved in any kind of WWE-related project again until 2004. The Hitman was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and had a match with McMahon at WrestleMania. It was recently revealed that the match between the pair almost took place at WrestleMania 22, years before it eventually happened.
H/t to Sportskeeda