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This Week in Wrestling: The Montreal Screwjob

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To be completely honest with you, for what the majority of this week, I pondered whether or not I should even attempt to write h is article. For no reason other than the question of what can I say about the Montreal Screwjob that hasn’t been said over a million times before me. This moment has become quite arguably the most pivotal moment in Wrestling history. With the ring of a bell, the landscape of professional wrestling was changed forever and we never looked back. Today, we relive the Montreal Screwjob.

In October of 1996, amidst a slew of defections from the WWF to WCW, Vince McMahon held a very important meeting with the man who had helped fill the void left by The now departed stars of the 1980’s, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart. Along with Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker, Hart ran the main event scene during what was known was The New Generation. The meeting in question between the two men was held so that Bret Hart could sign a 20-year deal to remain with the WWF. This was unprecedented for the WWF at the time as guaranteed contacts were hard to come by in WWF in the mid-90’s. Though initially the contract left both men satisfied with business, things would soon sour.

With business failing and WWF’s overall popularity being at an all-time low, McMahon decided that having Bret long term was not the financially feasible idea moving forward and made the decision to end the contract early. Along with this, he gave Hart permission to engage in contract discussions with WCW. Hart soon reached an agreement with the Georgia based promotion for a three-year deal. Hart was set to leave the company but still a problem lingered. Hart was the reigning WWF Champion and was set to retain the championship at the upcoming Survivor Series 1997 show against Shawn Michaels.

After being asked if he would drop the championship to Michaels, Hart refused citing their personal feud that was through the roof at the time. After it became clear that Hart wanted no part of losing to Shawn Michaels (in Canada of all places), an agreement was allegedly reached for Hart to defeat Michaels in Montreal and then the next night on Raw, he would drop the championship to Ken Shamrock. According to Bret, he was fine with this as he held a great amount of respect for Shamrock.

In the days leading up to Survivor Series, backstage paranoia spread amongst those near the top of the company that Hart would no-show Raw and would take the championship onto WCW television and trash it, as Alundra Blayze had done previously. Pinpointing who devised the plan is difficult as there are multiple conflicting reports in regards to who had the original idea for the screwjob. Among those who have taken credit for the plan are Triple H and Vince Russo. In the midst of the match, Michaels place Hart in his own submission move, The Sharpshooter, and (without submission) Senior Official Earl Hebner called for the bell to be rung, signaling the end of the contest. Just moments after the bell is rung, Hebner leaves the ring, sprinting to the back into his car that was already running and left the building. Left at ringside was Vince McMahon, who stayed firm staring Hart into the eyes as the Hitman realized what had just happened. Hart spit into McMahon’s face before destroying the announcing tables.

Hart soon went backstage where he was intercepted by Vince McMahon who Hart promptly knocked out cold leaving a deep black eye. Hart left the arena that night and wouldn’t appear in a WWE ring again until the early 2010’s. Although the relationship between Hart and McMahon would take decades to repair, this moment marked the unofficial starting point for the Attitude Era.

Now, revealed as the owner of the company, McMahon used the hatred from the fans held for him stemming from this event and molded it into the Mr. McMahon character that he would become. The character of Mr. McMahon would prove to be the perfect foil for Stone Cold Steve Austin, allowing Austin to become a global icon for doing what all middle class Americans want to do: assault their boss.

The one true tragedy of this event is that WCW failed to capitalize on the buzz of now having Bret Hart, keeping him off TV for too long and when he finally debuted, it was lackluster and not perceived well from fans. At least once a year, WWE will pull a staged screwjob to further storylines but they don’t mean the same as the used to as the emotions held by fans because of the heartbreaking nature of the Montreal Screwjob are no longer there. Although fences have been mended between the two parties, This moment will forever remain one of the most discussed, scrutinized, and analyzed in pro wrestling history.

Christian is an avid wrestling fan who began watching in the summer of 2001. His passion for the business starts and ends with the history of the sport. He loves holding discussions with fellow fans about their opinions on events in wresting history spanning all promotions and time periods. He currently has plans to co-host a podcast with fellow FightBoothPW contributor Brandon Miller (@brandonpsmc). If anyone would like to reach Christian, they can email him at cwaughh16@gmail.com or his Twitter account @cdubb106

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