The most controversial event in the history of professional wrestling (and perhaps in the history of Canada as well, I’m not good on Canadian History) Was a match in which Bret Hart was screwed out of his WWE championship in a match against Shawn Michaels at the 1997 Survivors Series. The ending of the match came when Shawn Michaels locked Bret Hart in his own submission hold, the sharpshooter and Vince McMahon told the referee to call for the bell even though Bret Hart never tapped out. This controversial finish led to Bret Hart spitting in Vince McMahon’s face, throwing a fit and destroying the announcers table after the match and punching McMahon in the face after the show went off the air. But what led up to this event and who is to blame?
THE BACK STORY
Bret Hart was leaving the company and Survivors Series 1997 was supposed to be his last night. Bret Hart was going to WCW because the WWE was losing the ratings war between the two companies and they didn’t have enough money to pay Bret Hart. Vince McMahon told Bret personally to go to WCW because he couldn’t afford Bret while WCW, which was owned by Billionaire Ted Turner, could afford him.
The only problem with Bret Hart leaving was that he was the WWE champion. Vince McMahon, who had a lot of faith in Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart’s biggest rival, proposed that Bret Hart would lose the title to Shawn at the Survivors Series…Bret Hart didn’t agree with that at all and that’s where the idea of a screwjob began.
VINCE MCMAHON SCREWED BRET HART
Vince McMahon was doing everything he could to protect the value of his WWE championship. He was afraid of another Alundra Blaze/ Madusa stunt. When Alundra Blaze left the WWE she was their women’s champion, she then turned around on WCW Nitro and threw the title in the garbage. Vince McMahon refused to let his companies biggest title possibly go to WCW so he devised a plan to screw Bret Hart out of the title.
Shawn Michaels, Triple-H, the referee of the match Earl Hebner, and various other road agents held secret meetings with Vince McMahon to devise a plan to remove the title from Bret Hart. Ultimately the agreed that they needed a quick finish somewhere in the match that Bret Hart could not reverse and have the whole plan backfire. Ultimately they decided to have the referee ring the bell even though Bret Hart did not submit.
BRET HART SCREWED BRET HART
Many people blame McMahon for this event but a lot of the could fall on Bret Hart himself. Bret refused to give Shawn Michaels the title even though the company wanted him to. He refused to do it out of sheer hatred for Shawn, who in the 90’s was known in the wrestling world as a huge troublemaker who was very immature at the time. Bret Hart went on record and said he would stay an extra day and lose the title on Raw to anybody EXCEPT for Shawn Michaels.
It is an unwritten wrestling rule that when you are leaving a company as one of the top performers that you lose to one of the new up and coming superstars in order to make them look more successful, this is known as putting someone over. Bret Hart refused to put Shawn Michaels over simply out of hatred even though it was the most logical business decision.
Somehow Vince McMahon was able to turn the Montreal Screwjobs into one of his most successful endeavors. There have been many DVD’s, Video Games and Books that center around, or at least feature, this controversial event.
Perhaps the biggest success coming out of this event was the character of Mr. McMahon. The night after the screwjob Mr. McMahon gave an interview on Raw where he claimed that he didn’t screw Bret Hart and that “Bret screwed Bret.” This led to Mr. McMahon becoming one of the most hated entities in wrestling. With this new found level of hatred Mr. McMahon would begin a huge feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin, which ended up helping the WWE earn record high ratings and ultimately defeat WCW in the Monday Night Wars.
This controversial event ended up making the WWE a very successful place. Even though all parties involved carry some of the blame they have all finally moved on from what has happened (Even if it did take 13 years for Bret Hart to forgive them)