It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since a moment happened in the WWF that may have actually altered the course of pro wrestling history not only for the WWF, but for WCW as well. 1997 might have been one of the greatest years in pro wrestling history. WWF and WCW were battling it out to find out who the top company in North America was. Every Monday, I sat and flipped channels between WWF Monday Night Raw and WCW Monday Nitro because both had things that you didn’t wanna miss! Whether it was the WWF with guys like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, and Stone Cold Steve Austin or the WCW guys with the nWo running roughshod over the company led by “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. These were three men who the WWF really had no use for, and now those three castoffs were part of what made WCW the highest rated wrestling company for 82 weeks. I don’t know if we'll ever see another year like 1997. That leads us to where we what we are going to talk about today!
It was November 9th, 1997. WWF was holding their annual Survivor Series Pay-Per View. Bret “The Hitman” Hart was the reigning champion at the time. He was also one of the most hated wrestlers in America, despite being revered all across the world, but turned heel in America, taking advantage of the changing times as well as the inherent superiority complex most of us Americans have. This night, they were in Montreal. In case you aren’t from this particular Earth, Bret Hart was and still is a true icon in his home country on Canada and was treated as such. He was defending his title again Shawn Michaels whose Degeneration X stable represented that 90s counterculture at that time! Gone were the little kids wearing Hulkmania shirts and that those same kids were now teenagers who were giving people the middle finger or getting put into detention at school for doing crotch chops and telling their teachers to “Suck It”. We were the teenagers who, during the summer, turned on Cinemax or Showtime to see tits and ass after Raw and Nitro went off the air. Vince McMahon even made a speech letting us know that a new era was coming. That era would come to be known as The Attitude Era, and one of the most lucrative and romanticized eras of all time in the history of pro wrestling.
In the backdrop of all of this going on, Bret Hart was about to go to WCW after Vince McMahon advised that he couldn’t afford him anymore. Bret Hart was not only leaving, but he was going to make a ton more money than he was making in the WWF. As much as the Hitman wanted to stay, it didn’t make financial sense for either party. The first epic fail here? Vince didn’t take the title off of the Hitman before allowing him to negotiate with WCW. Bret Hart wanted to drop the title before leaving, but he didn’t want to drop it in Canada. He also didn’t want to drop it to Shawn Michaels, who was the biggest prick in the company at the time. He was a prick, but he was also staying. The issues Hitman had with Shawn Michaels are well documented, so I am not going to go over all of it here. Long story short, HBK had said he was not only going to not lose to Bret, but said he was not going to job to anyone. This pissed Bret off. There were multiple scenarios they wanted to come up with, so that Bret could leave but not be champion. Bret Hart even offered to drop the belt at multiple house shows after Survivor Series or to drop it that Monday after the event in a speech pretty much vacating the title after the match at Survivor Series would end in a double DQ after interference from both Degeneration X as well as the Hart Family. THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED! Instead, Shawn Michaels put Bret into the Sharpshooter (Hitman’s finishing move), and Vince McMahon would yell for timekeeper Mark Yeaton to “Ring the fucking bell!”, ending the match and making it look as if Bret Hart had submitted despite the fact he had never done so. Bret Hart had been screwed out of the title by his boss who had conspired with his opponent to get the title off of Bret. Hitman would spit on Vince, and THEN knock him out backstage before leaving.
We all know this as “The Montreal Screwjob”. We were all told this was a shoot, and that everything we had witnessed was absolutely real! Bret Hart would tell anyone who would listen how he got screwed all while Vince McMahon would do an interview talking about the “Time Honored Tradition” to make himself look like a good guy. Of course, this would backfire and sow the seeds for one of the greatest heels of all time with the Mr. McMahon character. One guy left and made a ton of money in WCW while the other guy would be a top heel while drawing huge amounts of cash with WWF Anti-Hero Stone Cold Steve Austin after Austin beat Shawn Michaels for the title at WrestleMania XIV. This sounds like a win-win situation, does it not?
A few years ago, I had purchased a DVD from well-known independent wrestling commentator Joe Dombrowski called “The Montreal Theory”. Before, I go on, I want to say that it was well done! It brought up questions about the Screwjob. It made me wonder, as it was supposed to, if that screw-job had possibly been the greatest work of all time? Follow me here, what if the plan was for Bret Hart to eventually come back after his WCW contract was up? Where the plan was to exact revenge on Mr. McMahon? There have been plenty of talent who themselves wonder if The Montreal Screwjob was a work! Everyone from X-Pac to Jim Neidhart have said that it was a work. Bret Hart did have a documentary that happened to be filming his last days in the WWF called “Wrestling with Shadows”. They were there when the Screwjob took place! How convenient, right? When X-Pac talked about it, he had said that when he asked Bret “You had to see that coming”, that the Hitman had nodded as if to say yes he did.
If this whole thing was a work, I doubt any person involved would ever admit to it. If it ends up the whole thing was a work, then everyone involved deserves huge props for pulling it off and for sticking to their stories. It would also mean that every single one of us were worked! We will never know if Bret Hart would have returned to the WWF because, of course, his brother would end up being killed a couple of years later. Bret Hart’s own in-ring career would be ended with Goldberg kicked the shit out of him. Had none of these things happened, one has to wonder if he would have eventually returned when his WCW contract was up. After all, WCW was going to eventually die anyhow! Heck, their misuse of Bret Hart was proof positive to how bad things were there in that company. The wrestling world may never know! We can debate about this for another 20 years!
So what do you think? Do you think that everything that happened was real? Or do you think there is a chance that we were all worked. Is there a chance we everything single one of us were played as pathetic dupes and marks? Give me your thoughts! Whether it be on Twitter @whosantcox or you can also hit me up on Instagram @Ultragoldenant. I will catch you next time, wrestling fans!
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