In 1996, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was taking over the landscape of the professional wrestling business. Backed by Ted Turner and his seemingly bottomless pockets, the Atlanta based promotion was blowing the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) out of the water, pushing Vince McMahon's company further and further into the hole the dark ages beginning with the steroid trials had created years before.
During this time, Eric Bischoff was taking advantage of his financial freedom by keying on disgruntled WWF superstars who weren't getting what they felt they were owed, be that monetary or within the confines of their characters via their position on the totem pole. Guys like Kevin Nash and Scott Hall bailed to form the New World Order (nWo), the cool heel stable that nearly buried the WWF for good.
There was one name whose contract was coming up that could have delivered the final dagger, at least at the time. That name was Bret Hart.
"The Hitman," along with Shawn Michaels, were the two top wrestlers in the company once Hulk Hogan finally left and a bigger emphasis was placed on pushing smaller wrestlers to the top of the card. While it was rough for business at first, the quality of the matches in the main event improved greatly.
WCW, knowing they could all but cripple the WWF by signing Hart away, offered him a big contract that McMahon could come nowhere near matching. So instead of offering a lot of money at once, McMahon offered a 20-year contract that would also guarantee Hart would have an office job within the WWF once his in-ring career came to a close.
In short, he was basically signing for life.
And on this date in history (Oct. 21, 1996) he put pen to paper and chose to remain loyal to the company that had remained loyal to him. Stuff like that mattered to a man like Hart.
Unfortunately, this story doesn't have a happy ending, as you all likely know. The WWF would continue to falter, crushed under the weight of such strong competition from WCW. McMahon would ultimately inform Hart he could no longer fulfill his end of the contract and Bret could once again entertain offers from Bischoff and Turner. Once they came back with an insane deal -- something like $9 million over three years -- Hart was put in an impossible position.
Eventually, he agreed to the terms and would leave the WWF after Survivor Series in 1997. How he left -- the Montreal Screwjob -- is a story for another time.