The Hart Foundation made its pay-per-view debut at WrestleMania 2 in 1986 as participants of a 20-man battle royal which also included NFL stars. The duo were the final two men whom André the Giant eliminated to win the battle royal. The Harts gained their status as a mid-card team when feuding with The Killer Bees (Jim Brunzell and B. Brian Blair). At Saturday Night's Main Event, the Foundation faced Brunzell and Blair in a tag team match, which the Killer Bees won. The Hart Foundation continued to feud with the Killer Bees for the better part of 1986.
The Hart Foundation began a feud with Tag Team Champions The British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid) in early 1987 over the title. On the February 7 edition of Superstars, in Tampa, Florida, the Harts defeated Bulldogs for their first WWF Tag Team Championship when the referee of the match, "Dangerous" Danny Davis helped the Harts to win the match. On the March 14 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, the Harts made their first title defense against Tito Santana and Dan Spivey and retained the title after Danny Davis hit Santana with Jimmy Hart's megaphone. Santana began to feud with Davis as a result of this action and at this point, he joined the British Bulldogs in their feud with the Hart Foundation. The rivalry culminated in a six-man tag team match at WrestleMania III where the Foundation teamed up with Davis against the British Bulldogs and Santana. Davis hit Davey Boy Smith with Jimmy Hart's megaphone and pinned him to get the victory for the Hart Foundation. On the May 2 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, the Foundation defended their tag title against the British Bulldogs in a Two out of three falls match. In the first fall, they got disqualified because of illegal double-teaming and in the second fall Neidhart was pinned by Smith. However, the Hart Foundation retained the title due to the disqualification result.
On the October 27 edition of Superstars, the Hart Foundation dropped their title to Strike Force (Rick Martel and Tito Santana) after Neidhart submitted to a Boston crab applied by Martel, ending their 10 month reign. The two teams faced each other at Survivor Series in a 10-team Survivor Series elimination match. Strike Force captained a team of fan favorites while the Hart Foundation captained a team of villains. Strike Force was eliminated by the Hart Foundation, but the Hart Foundation also got eliminated and in the end, the fan favorite team won the match. The feud culminated in a match for the WWF Tag Team Championship on the February 5 edition of The Main Event, as the Hart Foundation challenged Strike Force for the title but lost the match.
In late spring/early summer of 1988, Jimmy Hart signed the Hart Foundation's rivals The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers who, in the storyline, claimed 25 percent of Bret Hart's and Jim Neidhart's payment. After Jimmy's betrayal of the team, and the loss of their tag team championship, the Hart Foundation were pushed as fan favorites, though Bret started a slow face turn at WrestleMania IV a few months prior. Hart and Bad News Brown were the last 2 competitors in a 20 man Battle Royal and looked to be co-existing heels but Brown then attacked and eliminated Hart to win. Immediately after being declared the winner and being awarded a huge trophy, Hart attacked Brown and smashed up the trophy starting his face turn. In the summer of 1988, the Hart Foundation began a feud with WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition for the title. At SummerSlam 88, they challenged Demolition for the WWF Tag Team Championship but ended up losing the match after Ax hit Hart with Jimmy Hart's megaphone leaving Smash to get the pinfall. Jimmy Hart had "managed" Demolition alongside their regular manager Mr. Fuji for the match as part of the ongoing Hart Foundation split. On the October 29 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, they faced Demolition in a rematch for the title but lost due to outside interference by The Rougeaus. The Hart Foundation continued their feud with The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, and formed an alliance with Jim Duggan. At Royal Rumble in early 1989, Duggan and the Hart Foundation defeated Dino Bravo and the Rougeaus in a two out of three falls match to end the feud.
The Hart Foundation continued to feud with wrestlers managed by Jimmy Hart through 1989. at Wrestlemania V they defeated The Honky Tonk Man and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine with the use of Hart's megaphone. At SummerSlam 89 they faced the Tag-Team Champions the Brain Busters in a non-title match. When the match was made, the Busters, managed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, were not champions. The Hart Foundation lost the match pushing them further away from regaining their titles. In late 1989, the Hart Foundation split for a while and wrestled in other teams but reunited in early 1990. On the April 28 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event, they faced The Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) in a tag team match, which resulted in a double disqualification after WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition interfered. As a result of the interference, Demolition feuded with both the Rockers and the Hart Foundation. At SummerSlam 90, the Hart Foundation faced Demolition in a two out of three falls match for the tag title, by this time Bill Eadie who played Demolition Ax was suffering from health problems so a third member of Demolition (Crush) was introduced, the Hart foundation didn't know which two members they would face until Demolition entered the arena. The two chosen were Crush and Smash.
In the first fall Hart was pinned by Crush but the Hart Foundation won the second fall by disqualification after Crush attacked the referee. Ax then made his way to the ring and interfered in the third fall until the Legion of Doom came to ringside and attacked Demolition, the distraction allowed Hart to pin Crush and the Hart Foundation won. As a result, the Hart Foundation got their second WWF Tag Team Championship (despite the second fall being decided by disqualification). The Hart Foundation's second title reign lasted until WrestleMania VII when they were defeated by The Nasty Boys (Jerry Sags and Brian Knobs), when Knobs nailed Neidhart over the head with Jimmy Hart's helmet (Jimmy Hart managed the Nasty Boys at the time). The Hart Foundation split after WrestleMania VII, and Bret then focused on his singles career.
In 1997, the Hart Foundation re-formed as a Pro-Canadian and British/Anti-American stable that was born after the events of 1997's WrestleMania 13, where Bret Hart defeated his then-nemesis Stone Cold Steve Austin in a Submission match. During the match, Austin became a fan favorite and Hart became a villain. After the event, Hart reunited with Jim Neidhart and recruited Hart's younger brother Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, and Brian Pillman to form the new Hart Foundation.
This stable opposed the United States, and even degraded the United States and its values whereas they would speak highly of Canada and the United Kingdom (where they were beloved). The New Hart Foundation usually brought the Canadian and British flags out to their matches, and in their promos would talk in disgust about the United States and its inhabitants in general, thus causing fan reactions and making the New Hart Foundation (and Bret Hart in particular) unpopular in the States but highly popular in Canada. Their main feud was with Stone Cold and Shawn Michaels, who (as opposed to the Hart Foundation) were booed heavily in Canada and Europe, but cheered on wildly in the United States. At Canadian Stampede, the Hart Foundation took part in a historic 10-man tag team match where the entire Hart Foundation faced the team of Steve Austin, the Legion of Doom, Ken Shamrock, and Goldust. In the end, Owen Hart pinned Steve Austin. The entire Hart family came into the ring to celebrate afterward.
Pillman was found dead of an undetected heart condition on October 5, the day of In Your House: Badd Blood. A month later at the Survivor Series, Bret lost the WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels in the infamous "Montreal Screwjob". After the Survivor Series, the Hart Foundation disbanded, as both Neidhart and Smith left over the incident and eventually joined Bret on the way out, but Owen stayed, feeling that he may have been sued for breach of contract if he left.