Was The Montreal Screwjob a Work?
by, 12-31-2012 at 09:02 PM (20787 Views)
You all know how the story goes: During Survivor Series 1997, in the WWF Championship main event, Shawn Michaels has Bret Hart locked in his own signature submission move: The Sharpshooter. On orders of Vince McMahon, standing at ringside, referee Earl Hebner orders for the bell to be rung and for Michaels to be declared as the new WWF Champion despite the fact that Bret Hart did not tap out. This would create bitterness between Hart and McMahon/Michaels for years until they decided to resolve their issues recently. Not only was the M.S. arguably the most controversial event to ever happen in professional wrestling history but the event helped create the "Mr. McMahon" character as well as set up the foundation for the Attitude Era. But with all of these benefits that benefited the WWF as well as Hart's relationship prior to the screwjob, some wrestling fans have speculated that it was all a work, a way for WWF to get that extra edge over Turner as well.
Even I have to admit that if some of the details of the Screwjob, the discussions with Hart/McMahon before the screwjob and the the results of the screwjob are all analyzed, I couldn't really dismiss that possibility either. Not completely support it and believe it but completely shun it. Anyways, if you want to get a very extensive look at the Montreal Screwjob, I'd suggest you look here. Be warned that some of the details can be perceived as hearsay. Otherwise, I'll try to cover the details as best I can.
Overview of the Screwjob:
Anyways, around late 1996, Bret Hart, 14 year veteran of the WWF, had a contract with the WWF that was expiring. When it was time for him to make a decision on where he was going, Bret rejected on offer from WCW when Vince brought up the idea of him signing a 20 year deal. Wanting to prove his loyalty and stick with the company that had been like a family to him, Hart signed with the WWF. A few months later, Vince told Bret that he could no longer honor his contract because of a financial crisis. Looking into the future, McMahon didn't see Bret Hart as a major player in the Attitude Era. At the same time, WCW had offered Hart a 3 million per annum contract and while Hart was considering negotiating with them, McMahon tried to work out storylines and feuds that could benefit Hart's character enough for Hart to stick around. Though he tried to do so, Hart found out that there was no way it could work out because his nationalist character made him a heel and he couldn't become bigger, as a heel, because he felt that HBK had taken his top spot. Being a face wouldn't work because of all of the history between him and now popular, upcoming babyface, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Basically, he was stuck and there didn't seem like there was anything that he could do so Hart signed up with WCW and would have to leave the WWF by December the 5th. Because of that, Vince'e main concern was getting the WWF Championship off of Bret because he was champion at the time. One of the suggestions Vince made to Bret was Bret dropping the championship to Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series in 1997. Bret flat out refused because he wouldn't lose to Shawn Michaels, who had stated that he would never job to Bret, especially since Survivor Series happened to be in Canada that year. Vince pleaded with Hart to reconsider but the contract that Hart currently had with the WWF granted him creative control with his character so in the end, Bret had the final say on what would happen to his Hitman character and still refused. Vince didn't want the incident of Alundra Blayze, the WWF Womens Champion, who moved to WCW in 1995 and tossed one of his championships in the garbage on his rival's television show, to happen again. After more days of negotiating, Michaels, McMahon and Hart all came to one finish that all three agreed on: after the Hart Foundation and DX fought with each other when DX would try to aid Michaels. The match would end in disqualification and Bret would surrender the WWF Championship the next night on RAW, explain his actions, thank the fans for being supportive of him for years and move onto WCW. However, McMahon had other ideas. Vince wasn't comfortable with that finish but couldn't do anything about it without having to get to Hart first. According to Michaels' autobiography, "Heartbreak & Triumph: The Shawn Michaels' Story" Michaels proposed a screwjob finish. Vince reluctantly agreed and spoke with Gerald Brisco, Sgt. Slaughter and other trusted advisers on what they planned to do to to Hart come Survivor Series. Vince also didn't want Shawn to mention the incident as if he had any association with what happened.
When the big day came, Pat Patterson discussed the match with Michaels and Bret Hart and went over what they wanted to do. Hart wanted to have Michaels put him in the Sharpshooter to draw heat. Hart would then counter it. When Shawn heard this, he ran back to Vince and told him how they would execute the swerve, have Hebner, the official, ring the bell when Michaels had Hart in the Sharpshooter, grab the belt, and get the hell out of there. Vince agreed on it and had Michaels fill in Hebner of the details. When the match started, Vince and a swarm of security guards went to ringside. The explanation of their presence, by the commentary team, was that they were there to ensure that the animosity between Michaels and Hart wouldn't escalate. When it came time for Michaels to put Bret in the Sharpshooter, Hebner was knocked as was planned. Chioda, a backup referee would officiate the rest of the match and soon afterwards, Bulldog, Neidhart and Owen, who were all ready to rush in when DX would make an appearance, were set to come out. However, everyone became puzzled when Hebner rose to his feet before Chioda came out. Seeing Michaels locking in the submission hold, Earl ordered the timekeeper to ring the bell. Once it did, Michaels was declared the new champion and Bret was absolutely livid. Michaels feigned shock and anger as well and left in a hurry leaving Bret behind. After spitting on Vince and destroying some WWF equipment after the debacle, Hart confronted Michaels about the incident and denied ever knowing about it. When Vince came in to talk to Bret, Hart punched Vince, took him off his feet and left the locker room and the WWF. Aftterwards, the WWF would bury and humiliate Hart on television and Vince would have an interview with Jim Ross about what happened and the famous "Bret screwed Bret" quote would come of it.
That's as far as I'll go but with all that taken place, there's been something that bothered me a bit. Would Vince really allow all of this to be disclosed so easily? Bret Hart's documentary, Wrestling with Shadows, as well as Michael's autobiography might have revealed a bit too much that he would have been comfortable with. Plus, Vince even disclosed the backstage brawl that he and Bret had during his interview mere days after it happened. That, in my mind, is the major cause of the speculation of the possibility of the whole thing being a work. When the IWC was flourishing back in those days and speculating on what Bret's reasoning for leaving the WWF was, Vince even tried to quell all the negative rumors that he, Michaels and the company was receiving yet he's so open about what happened in Montreal in that interview, knowing that he would be greatly despised...as if he knew about all the benefits of all of the attention he'd be getting beforehand?
But I want to know what you think. Was it really a work? Or do you believe that it was all real?