The Montreal Screwjob…20 Years Later

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A Retrospective

November 9, 2017

March 31, 1996 the day Wrestlemania 12 took place at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim California.  The main event that night was a one on one encounter between the two top performers in the WWF(E) that year the challenger Shawn Michaels and the champion Bret Hart.  They would wrestle for an hour which when it was announced by then commissioner Rowdy Roddy Piper was completely unheard of in modern day WWE.  Not only would the two wrestle for an hour but they would wrestle for sixty minutes in a match that could have multiple possible decisions via pinfall or submission and had none by the time the sixty minutes had elapsed.  The score at the end of the sixty minutes was 0-0 just as the scoreboard read as the bell rang to signify the start of the match.

The two men were exhausted as anyone would have been if they had just wrestled for an hour and regardless of your opinion on how the match may be perceived so many years later Bret and Shawn put forth their best individual efforts and came together to give us something we would remember forever.  After the match Bret took his championship that he never lost and walked up the ramp, then Howard Finkel would come on the PA system and state that “This match has been ordered to continue under sudden death rules.”  Bret Hart turns around and you can clearly see him ask “Why?” but he marched back down to the ring like the soldier he was like a scene in old yeller to be put out of his misery with a sweet chin music so that he could do the right thing and drop the belt to Shawn in the “time honored tradition” that is professional wrestling.

Fast Forward to 1997, according to more rumors Bret vs. Shawn 2 was supposed to happen a year later at Wrestlemania 13 in at the Rosemount Horizon in Chicago Illinois.  However a few months prior to the match taking place Shawn would make his way down to the ring on the February 13th edition of RAW in a scripted interview and claimed that he had “lost his smile” he told doctors that he had some sort of knee injury and that he had to “retire” but the real reason why this happened is because Shawn didn’t want to drop the title to Bret and for whatever reason Vince McMahon let Shawn do whatever the hell he wanted.

So instead at Wrestlemania 13 we got a submission match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin which allegedly both men thought was going to absolutely suck but it turns out it’s both men’s favorite match that they ever had and it’s also the favorite match of the person that’s currently writing this article so for that we owe Shawn Michaels a thank you.

Fast forward to November 9, 1997 the day that Survivor Series took place in Montreal Quebec Canada at the Molson Centre in front of 20,593 fans.  The card was very lackluster to say the least but everyone that ordered the show did so to see the match that was nearly 18 months in the making and that was Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart in what would turn out to be the most talked about wrestling match in the history of pro wrestling.

The match took place and was what it was, the two men came out to the ring and began brawling with one another.  The commentary team was playing up the length of time that this particular match took to get signed and that if they didn’t get in the ring the match may not even happen.  Both Bret and Shawn brawled over the place they threw literally everything at each other that they could until they both got into the ring and the match could finally start.  Referee Earl Hebnar would finally ring the bell and the match would finally start.  Honestly this match was completely different than their previous encounter and you could tell during it that they had some legitimate heat with one another.  Whether that was by design or not is a different story but what they did that night felt real.  It had an edge to it unlike anything I had seen in the year 1996 and most of the stuff that happened in 1997 something was different.

The match would come to an end when Shawn Michaels would stand over his foe and lock on Bret Hart’s famous Sharpshooter.  Shawn turned the hold over and sat down and rather than get down on the mat and ask Bret Hart if he wanted to give it up Earl Hebnar told the timekeeper Tony Yeaton to ring the bell and Tony obliged.  Shawn immediately released the hold and the camera zoomed in on Bret’s face to get the full shock value of the moment and what just happened within it.  Bret knew what happened and got back up to his feet and Spat in Vince McMahon’s face.  The camera focuses on Vince who would wipe Bret’s spit from his face as Hart and his family stood in the ring in shock.  Meanwhile on the outside of the ring Gerald Briscoe had a job and that was to make sure Shawn Michaels was able to get out of the arena safely without harm.

The cameras then went backstage mind you there was a documentary that was being filmed at the time called “Wrestling with Shadows” that documented most of Bret Hart’s 1997 for the film.  Immediately after the incident Bret was walking around backstage and Shawn was sitting on the floor sobbing like a baby claiming that he knew nothing about the incident and that he wasn’t in on it.  It was sometime then where Bret Hart went and found Vince and punched him in the face.  This was all so that Bret didn’t show up to WCW with the WWE World Championship.

About a month later Bret Hart would appear rival WCW and his career would falter, would he win the World Title there sure but none of the stuff that that company did with him made any sense outside of the Benoit match that no one can even mention for obvious reasons but that’s an entirely different article for a different day.

Did we just witness the greatest work of all time?
A few weeks later on RAW Vince McMahon conducted the now famous “Bret Screwed Bret” interview.  In said interview he has a black eye however according to who was there no one ever saw Bret punch Vince so it’s widely conceived that the punch never actually happened.  Did said punch happen behind closed doors?  Sure but if no one is there to witness it did it actually happen?

Many fans and some wrestlers question the “Montreal Screwjob’s” Validity saying that it was a work many people have taken credit for the idea of the screwjob saying it was their idea such as Vince Russo and Gerald Briscoe.  I can tell you that according to multiple sources there’s no way that Vince Russo could come up with an idea like this.  Also if you’re going to screw someone you probably shouldn’t tell anyone about it besides a few key people.  Fact is not everyone knew about it but more people knew about it than they should have.  Also if this was a legitimate screwjob why did they do it in front of a camera crew that was there to document Bret Hart’s career?  It just doesn’t add up.  Do I believe it was a work absolutely not because if it was I feel that Bret’s career wouldn’t have ended so badly.  But documentaries such as the Montreal Theory do exist trying to prove that the Montreal Screwjob is the greatest work in the history of the business.

There’s also a part of that documentary where they talk about how the real mastermind behind the Montreal Screwjob won’t be revealed until that person has been buried in the ground which is the only thing in that entire six hour documentary that jumped out to me.  Otherwise that documentary can be dismissed as drivel and bullshit.

Years later on the now defunct WWE show Confidential, Shawn Michaels would admit that he knew about the Montreal Screwjob and all of the details before it happened they also showed what happened backstage at that show after the incident and it was very awkward to watch and I’m sure it was even more awkward to anyone who was there.

Bret Hart admits that when Shawn put the Sharpshooter on him for the finish that Shawn originally almost did it wrong, Bret yelled at Shawn to reverse his (Bret’s) legs so the hold would be applied the right way.  Bret later described doing this as loading his own gun with the gun powder to put him out of his misery.

So readers what’s your take on the “Montreal Screwjob” do you believe it is the most controversial incident in wrestling history or the greatest work/angle of all time”?  Sound off on the comments below and make sure to follow me on twitter @Headliner5 and we can discuss this very incident.

-Nathan

 

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