‘Good Ol’ JR’ Jim Ross has discussed ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith leaving the WWE to join WCW in 1997. After the infamous ‘Montreal Screwjob’ at Survivor Series 1997, which saw Vince McMahon call for the bell to cost Bret Hart the WWE Championship, those closest to Bret were intent on following him to WCW.
Smith, as part of Hart’s ‘Hart Foundation’ stable and the real-life brother-in-law of Bret, was one of those looking to make the switch. During the height of the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWE, several wrestlers would leave one company for the other ins search of more money or a more prominent place on the card. Jim Ross was in charge of Talent Relations at the time so was in charge of who left and who came to the WWE. Speaking on his Grillin’ JR podcast, Ross detailed his thoughts on Smith leaving the company. Ross explained:
“I think maybe the general thought was that, maybe, Davey had run his course. What else are you gonna do with him? They’ve done everything with him. Davey peaked in Wembley Stadium, let’s be honest about it, that was his defining moment. So what do you do next? The next thing would be, well he could’ve won the WWE title but that was never a strong consideration.
At Wembley Stadium in Davey Boy’s home country of England, Smith and Bret Hart would main-event SummerSlam 1992. In a critically acclaimed match, Smith would win his one Intercontinental Championship. Following that, Davey would actually join WCW in 1993 for a short stint. He made his WWE comeback at SummerSlam 1994 where he was involved in the feud between Bret and Owen Hart.
Those three men would add another Hart brother-in-law, Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart, and Hart family trainee Brian Pillman to form the ‘Hart Foundation.’ In 1997, the 5-man group would feud with DX, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and others. This would culminate in a 5 v 5 main-event at the Canadian Stampede pay-per-view in the Hart’s hometown of Calgary.
Ross also explained why when Bret, Smith, and Neidhart would all join WCW, that the WWE would not allow them to use the ‘Hart Foundation’ moniker:
“The company had to protect his intellectual property. The WWE owned that brand, they owned that intellectual property, they owned the ‘Hart Foundation’…The issue is you can’t start giving away your intellectual property or everyone’s going to want it. So what happens when people start changing jobs, changing territories? ‘Well, you gave Bret his IP…’ So now there’s legal precedent that you will do that and I think it would cause a bigger legal issue. Even though I’m probably one of the biggest Bret Hart fans ever, I understand why Vince (McMahon) did that. In those meetings that he and I had, with others, I endorsed that decision.”
During the podcast, JR also details how Vince McMahon went out of his way to help two people leaving WWE get better deals for themselves in WCW.
Credit: Grillin’ JR