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Michael Burnside

What if the Montreal Screwjob never happened?

Rating: 5 votes, 3.80 average.
Alternate Universe 5

9th November 1997. Survivor Series. One of the most talked about and discussed wrestling matches ever. Bret Hart had signed a contract to work with company rival WCW. The problem for the McMahons and WWF was that Bret was the champion. To make things a little more difficult was that while he had a PPV title defense against Shawn Michaels, who would be (and was) an adequate person to take the title off him, Bret and Shawn had backstage personal and political issues. In short, Hart wasn't prepared to drop the title to Michaels in Canada.Vince got a little worried; he didn't want the champion of his company, leaving to his rival without having been beaten for the title. It would make his top tier championship look bad and it would be a nightmare if he appeared on Nitro with the WWF championship. So the plan was for to Shawn to beat Bret in the main event by submission and win the title which was what happened. It's just they didn't tell Bret thats what they were going to do. And when they did it, Bret was pissed. He left on bad terms and Bulldog and Neidhart went to WCW with him.

Its been well talked about and discussed over the years and usually ends in many heated words. The conversation usually goes around in circles if you ever view it in various forums.

"Bret had creative control. He had a say how he had to lose"
"He should have dropped the belt if he was going"
"Shawn was a dick and did shit like this all the time"
"2 wrongs don't make a right, he should have done his job and lost"
(and return to top and repeat til the end of time)

But what if there was a solution? What if they didn't have to trick Bret into losing the title? And what would happen to those involved down the line?

What if the Montreal Screw Job never happened?

Quite a big 'what if.' First, to make it really work, we need to come up with an alterative Survivor Series 97 ending. After the bad blood between Hart and Michaels then it might be a but much to expect Hart to do the job on home soil to a man who he geninally didn't like. The plan (as far as Bret was aware) was that Survivor Series would end on a double DQ. The next night on RAW he would vacant the title with a farewell speech. While Shawn did that a year and a half earlier and Edge would do it over a decade later, neither of these men were leaving for a rival company which was beating WWF in the ratings.
But perhaps it would be ok, if they went along with the double DQ Survivor Series ending and on RAW the next day while making his farewell speech, he was interrupted and challenged to an impromptu match? One of the names mentioned in the debates and pieces of news that have come out over the years was that of Ken Shamrock. Shamrock later down the line would be a Intercontential and tag team champion as well as winning the 1998 King of the Ring. So for the sake of the set up lets say, the MSJ never happened and the next night on RAW, Ken Shamrock after challenging Bret to a final match, became the WWF champion. What happens to everyone?

Bret Hart - Bret Hart goes to WCW were he has a (compared to his WWF stint) relatively disappointing and underused career. Even when he came to WCW in the wake of the MSJ, they failed to really capatilise on him and so its fair to say things would be much the same if the screwjob never happened. Although he wouldn't have gotten the reputation he has over the years of a bitter man. And since he wouldn't be holding a grudge against the WWF and Vince, he may have returned when his contract with WCW ran out (although he was released slightly before the end due to the injury he received from Goldberg).
Of course, if Owen still gets involved with his Blue Blazer storyline and has the tradigic accident at Over the Edge, then this may still sour his relationship with the WWF and wrestling. However, without the initial screwjob, then prehaps Bret will forgive alot easier.
The Wrestling with Shadows documentary that was being filmed at the time, would be nowhere near as big as it became now that the excitment of the MSJ never happened.

Shawn Michaels - Despite not winning the title at Survivor Series, Shawn would challenge the new WWF champion Ken Shamrock at the next PPV, the December In Your House. This is were he will take the championship (by dastardly cheating means) from Shamrock who is merely a transitional champion. Shawn will continue his run as normal, handing the Euro title to HHH, continuing his feud with the Undertaker at the Rumble and finally ending up at Wrestlemania 14, dropping the title to Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart and the British Bulldog
- After the screwjob, the Bulldog asked for his release and went to WCW with Jim Neidhart. Without the screwjob, there's be no need for both of them to leave. Neidhart would probably fill out the bottom of the wrestling cards, jobbing to new talent before quietly being released. Owen and the Bulldog would possibly reform their tag team partnership and continue to do well in the tag team division with feuds with the New Age Outlaws and the returned Legion of Doom.
The sad thing is, without going to WCW, Bulldog would not have received the injury he did at Fall Brawl 98. It was this injury (where he landed badly on a trap door in the ring) which damaged Bulldogs back and led to his problems with painkillers. Bulldog died of a heart attack aged only 39 in May 2002 although it may have been down to years of steroid abuse.

Ravishing Rick Rude - After the MSJ Rick Rude, outraged with what happened to Bret, left WWF for WCW. Since Rude was not on a fixed contract with WWF he was able to do this quite easily. Without the MSJ, Rude would not have the desire to leave and so would remain helping out DX. When DX expands to include the New Age Outlaws and X-pac, Rude may look a little like an odd man out despite being a non wrestling member so would probably slip away from the group over time.
Sadly Rude died of heart attack in April of 1999.

Vince McMahon - The 'Mr McMahon' character is often said to have his roots at the MSJ. And they also say it was the Mr McMahon character that worked against anti authority hero Steve Austin in the storyline that saved the WWF.
However if you look back, the Mr McMahon character was well on the way to being created before the 1997 Survivor Series. Granted it may have given the character an extra kick jump but it was on Raw on 22 September that Steve Austin first gave McMahon a stone cold stunner. The first of many. By that point, everyone knew that Vince was not just a simple commentator but rather the big boss who, in kayfabe, was not impressed with Stone Cold's actions. With the continuing rise of Steve Austin's character and popularity, it was inevitable that this would antagonize the boss when Austin becomes champion at Wrestlemania 14, and so the Austin/McMahon saga was bound to happen regardless what happened at Montreal.

In Conclusion...
For such a massive talked about event, the MSJ probably didn't change the wrestling landscape much at all. It wouldn't have much impact on the Monday night wars and WCW would still be bought out when it did. We wouldn't see the booking of so many of the copycat screwjob match finishes and Bret may not have been as bitter as he became for so long. Vince wouldn't get the 'You screwed Bret' chants but the Mr McMahon character would still be there to give Steve Austin hell and provide us with some of the most amazing wrestling TV.

So what if Steve Austin never came to WWF....? Hmmmmmm?

edit - Just want to give a quick shout and thanks to the responces the Alternative Universes have being recieving- much thanks!
Have a safe Halloween and just to let you know on Halloween and the day after, my second novella 'PREY FOR THE VAMPIRE'. is free! so check it out on Amazon. All the best,

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Updated 10-30-2012 at 04:04 AM by Michael Burnside (a little thank you....)

Thoughts and Opinions


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  1. DK Wrestling Savior's Avatar
    Very good write up. But the first sentence of the conclusion baffles me some. You say it didn't really change the landscape much, but earlier you talk about Bulldog staying. Owen Hart teaming with him. If it prevents the death of Owen Hart, I'd say that's a pretty big change. And if Bulldog doesn't get hurt in WCW, then dying due to pain meds, that's a pretty big change as well.

    However, I just commented on another blog that mentioned the screwjob. And everybody has their thoughts about it. My thoughts are, it wasn't a screw job at all. Not full out anyway. I'm sure there are some parts that are legit with it. But I also feel that there's a big part of it that wasn't as legit. And I go back to Wrestling with Shadows. Some parts of it make me think it was more planned than not. Things like, Bret and his wife questioning whether or not to trust Mcmahon when he said he would win the match. Also, Bret's wife referring to HHH and HBK by their wrestling names, instead of real names. Plus, Bret went on to WCW and go over every top star they had. And WCW eventually spiraled out of control and died.

    He suffered an unfortunate incident with Goldberg. Plus he wasn't quite as over as they had hoped. He really didn't fit in down there. He probably got pissed about the politics that went on down there. And I think the Owen Hart death is what fueled all the anger and grudge for all that time.

    I'm a firm believer that everything you see on TV is scripted and planned. Same goes with interviews that you hear and read, books that you's all made to spark interest. So I don't feel all of it is true. There's probably some truth, but not all. Just plain and straight doesn't sell, Controversy does, and McMahon is a multi-hundred millionaire today, as a result, whether it's real or not.
  2. Michael Burnside's Avatar
    Thanks for the responce. Regarding the deaths of the Bulldog and Owen, I think Daveys death wasn't totally attributed to the painkillers but the steroids that he abused. Weather or not the painkiller addiction would have delayed his death or prevented that then we'll never know.
    As for Owen, it all depends if the Blue Blazer angle still goes ahead. Granted if time rolls differently then its very possible this storyline never comes up. Its a chilling thought and to be honest I've been a bit uneasy at suggesting a change here or there could have saved his life.

    Regarding the lives of these two men, then yes, its possible it was effected by the MSJ but regarding the Monday night War and the eventually monolopy WWE now has, then I don't believe there was an impact.
    Updated 10-30-2012 at 04:05 AM by Michael Burnside
  3. matt1tude's Avatar
    Another "what if" blog I've always thought about is what if Owen didn't hurt Austin's neck. I mean I've watched his matches before the incident and he moves a lot quicker compared to after, so his in ring ability would have been better and he wouldn't have had to take the time off in late '99 to late '00 and would have continued wrestling past '03.
  4. Sahu's Avatar
    that was scripted....I feel like the original idea is to bring back Bret to WWF n have one epic feud with VKM or HBK or HHH or all 3 of them...

    But, Owen's death had hurt Bret so much n he was never the same after his career got ended abruptly...otherwise we might have seen a return of Bret to WWF for a feud with all those involved in the feud...

    I guess all the ppl involved have taken a blood oath not to reveal it....

    All the bitterness of Bret is because of Owen's death and ending of his own career abruptly....

    Whatever it is, irrespective of MSJ Bret is my all time favorite...
  5. the_goblin's Avatar
    Without the Montreal Screwjob, Vince never becomes the villain that later defined the Attitude era, possibly never revealing himself or at least revealing himself much later as owner of the company. It was Bret calling out Vince that led to the Evil Vince character.

    So While you blog is excellently written I must confess to disagreeing with your summation.
  6. pld459666's Avatar
    Nice Article. However, if I were in Vinny Mac's position, I would have done the same thing. There's no way you could have trusted Bret Hart to show up the next night on RAW to vacate the title.

    If Bret was such a traditionalist and was all about the business as he has claimed, then he knows that the time honored tradition is the outgoing champ does the job. Not only does he do the job, he does it CLEAN. Middle of the ring. 1 2 3.

    If the MSJ never happened, Bret takes the belt to WCW and trashes it just like Madusa did with the Womens belt. Ric Flair also took the NWA/WCW belt to WWF when he went there as well in the early 90's.

    With the way WCW was stomping WWF in the ratings, Vince could not take the chance that their Strap showed up on Nitro the way the NWA/WCW Strap showed up on WWF programing.

    The title is great, but the true story lies in "Why The Montreal Screw Job HAD TO HAPPEN"
  7. pld459666's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Sahu
    that was scripted....I feel like the original idea is to bring back Bret to WWF n have one epic feud with VKM or HBK or HHH or all 3 of them...

    But, Owen's death had hurt Bret so much n he was never the same after his career got ended abruptly...otherwise we might have seen a return of Bret to WWF for a feud with all those involved in the feud...

    I guess all the ppl involved have taken a blood oath not to reveal it....

    All the bitterness of Bret is because of Owen's death and ending of his own career abruptly....

    Whatever it is, irrespective of MSJ Bret is my all time favorite...
    If that was a swerve (all parties knew) then Bret has to be the dumbest man alive or he's still getting paid by WWE to keep that under wraps and continue to play stoopid to the "I had no idea it was going to happen" role.

    Interesting idea that it was a work, but to much of a risk in the "What if" component about Bret's stay in WCW
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