(PCM) Some of you may have heard of what has become known as wrestling entertainments most notorious double-cross! It is most often referred to as the “Montreal Screwjob” or the “Montreal Incident”, but do you know what really happened or just who is to blame? Much of that still remains a mystery as no one wants to take on full blame for the incident, but either way the “Montreal Screwjob” has gone down in WWE history as one of its’ most infamous cases of deceit and double-cross.
The incident occurred when WWF (World Wrestling Federation as it was previously titled before the name change to WWE or World Wrestling Entertainment) owner Vince McMahon and several other WWF employees were accused of secretly manipulating the outcome of a predetermined match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at the 1997 Survivor Series match. The pay-per-view (PPV) event was held on November 9, 1997, at the Molson Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Prior to the match Bret Hart was the reigning WWF World Heavy Weight Champion and the manipulation of the match or in wrestling speak, shoot screwjob, occurred when Hart, who was assuming he was going to keep the title ended up losing the match to his opponent Shawn Michaels. The results occurred without Hart’s knowledge or approval and it is thought that McMahon and his cohorts manipulated the results due to the fact that this was slated to be Hart’s last match with the WWF, as he had made the decision to leave the WWF for it’s rival promotion WCW (World Championship Wrestling) and McMahon was not pleased. Hart, at the time, was one of WWF’s most beloved and longest working performers.
According to Wikipedia, a week prior to Survivor Series, Hart, who had performed for the WWF since 1984, signed a contract to perform with WCW beginning in December 1997. McMahon sought to prevent Hart from leaving the company as the champion, but Hart was unwilling to lose the title to Michaels – with whom he had a long feud both on-screen and off – at Survivor Series in his home country. Hart, Michaels, and McMahon came to an agreement where the Survivor Series match would end with a disqualification, which under normal rules would result in Hart retaining the title. Hart would then lose or forfeit the title at a later date. However, McMahon decided without Hart’s knowledge that Michaels would win the title at Survivor Series. Accounts differ as to who exactly was involved in the plan and the extent of their involvement. The plan was executed when match referee Earl Hebner, on direct order from McMahon, ended the match as Michaels held Hart in the Sharpshooter submission hold, Hart’s signature finishing move, even though Hart had not submitted. Michaels was declared the victor by submission and crowned as the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
The results of the “Montreal Screwjob” has lasting ramifications for the WWF and even helped shape additional themes and storylines throughout the WWF universe. It also shaped the character of “Mr. McMahon”, as McMahon’s evil boss type character. Prior to the incident Vince McMahon, was best known as an announcer and his role as owner of the company was much more understated.
Wrestling fans, especially those in Canada were outraged after the incident and demanded that the match be called in favor of Hart. WWF refused to back-down and for a good number of years to follow Hart was shunned by both the WWF and McMahon. Hart and McMahon did eventually reconcile their differences and Hart was eventually inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
Other wrestling fans believe the entire “Montreal Screwjob” incident was an elaborate scheme that took place with Hart’s full knowledge and participation, however both Hart and McMahon have dismissed those claims. It was not until the January 4, 2010 episode of WWE Raw that , Hart, in his first appearance on live WWE television since the “Montreal Screwjob”, had a lengthy on-screen discussion with Michaels about the “Montreal Screwjob” and other events in their past. Afterwards the pair agreed to call a truce, bringing closure to the incident after more than 12 years.
The incident is still arguably the most talked about and highly debated matches throughout the history of the WWE, and it still remains a mystery as to just who is to blame. Many feel that because the WWF was in great financial peril at the time of the incident, it led to McMahon wanting to push Hart out the door. Hart was offered an $8.4 million dollar three year deal from WWF rival WCW which he turned down in 1996, after he was offered an incredible 20 year deal with the WWF from McMahon, which also promised him a management position with the company after his retirement from the ring. This would have made Hart one of the highest paid performers of all time. Due to the financial woes of the WWF at the time McMahon was unable to pay Hart what was promised and it certainly led to a lot of bad blood between the pair.
There was also a ton of fighting off-screen between Hart and Shawn Michaels, with one fight prior to a house show in Connecticut leading to Michaels being suspended for two months. There were a ton of rumors spreading around that Michaels was claiming that he refused to ever lose to Hart, but he later claimed he would do whatever was asked of him by McMahon. Hart claimed that he would have no problem losing to Michaels, but requested that it not be done in his native country of Canada, hence why the “Montreal Screwjob” was an even bigger slap in the face to Hart.
It was initially agreed upon that there would be a disqualification finish for the match in Montreal and Hart would relinquish the title at a later date, hence leaving WWF for WCW with a clean slate, however McMahon and company later changed their minds about the agreement and allegedly without Hart’s knowledge decided to go with the “screwjob” plan. Things were a mess after the match and many other wrestlers were outraged with McMahon’s behavior and rallied behind Hart. It is has been stated that when McMahon tried to approach Hart to apologize for the incident, Hart ended up knocking McMahon out cold. Things definitely did not end well.
It was promised that Michaels would not carry out the championship belt on the next episode of “Raw” and there would be no mention of his victory over Hart, however this was not the case, as Michaels came out carrying the belt and gloating about his win. When asked about the incident, McMahon infamously stated, “Vince McMahon didn’t screw Bret Hart. I truly believe that Bret Hart… screwed Bret Hart.”
Others beg to differ, but at least everything has calmed down now. You can watch the infamous “Montreal Screwjob” match below and draw some conclusions of your own: