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WRESTLING COLUMNS

The Screwjob AGAIN... But Let's Lay It To Rest
February 2, 2005 by Kirsty Quested


If you've clicked on the link to bring you this far I'm assuming that despite your sigh of "not that AGAIN" you are curious not only as to what I have to say, but perhaps, like me, anxious to put the Montreal Screwjob to bed once and for all. Before I go any further, however, to those of you who voted in the poll to help me choose the subject of my next biographical column (and are now thinking "What the hell did we vote for if she's just going to bang on the same tired old subject again?") do not fear. The voting is closed. The votes are tallied. The winner was clear. The research is well underway... but like the sadistic little toad that I am, I'm keeping him a secret until the article is posted. But back to matters at hand.

This column is intended to be somewhat contemplative and a digression from what most of you are used to from me. As you know, I try to be as objective as possible in my biographical work, but here you'll get my opinions... whether you want them or not.

In my little world, the subject of the infamous Montreal Screwjob has been rearing its ugly head recently. I was interviewed by Gary "Stinger" Smith for his wonderful talk-show-style column, Deadly Venom (a subsection of A View From The Rafters) and he asked the inevitable question. "What do you think when I say Bret screwed Bret?" My responses provoked some interesting debates with various friends and colleagues, and I revisited the '97 Survivor Series and the outstanding documentary, Wrestling With Shadows. Recently, Eric James Taylor gave rise to further debate in his column, Time To Move On, to which, I admit, I may have pounced on with un-necessary vigour. Eric, you were a gentleman. Thank you. The resulting feedback to Eric's column and the debate that ensued has, for want of a better phrase, got me thinking.

It's interesting where your mind wanders when you're shovelling horse sh*t. I was engaged in that mundane (but necessary, when you own horses) activity yesterday mulling over the Screwjob and its seemingly endless fallout. Will the debate ever cease? I wondered. Will Shawn Michaels and Earl Hebner always take the blame? It's been pointed out to me by LoP'er Morpheus that Earl's son Brian Hebner is subjected to chants of "Your dad screwed Bret" whenever the WWE is in Canada. At first I thought, well sh*t happens. So the son pays the price for his father's folly. Got a problem with that, go bitch at your boss because he set the whole regrettable incident in motion. After a while I thought, no that's NOT fair. And as Brad pointed out in feedback to Eric's column, the WWE is to blame for constantly riling up the Canadian fans; if they want to move on (as Vince McMahon is ALWAYS saying) then leave the Hebners at home when the WWE goes to Canada. Don't job the Canadian stars to the sharpshooter in Canada. Stop niggling! How are the Canadian fans going to forget if certain performers refer to the Screwjob during interviews ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY??? The spectre of Montreal is like a bully, in some ways - if you ignore it, it will go away. But Vince McMahon and the powers-that-be in the WWE seem to be under the oft misunderstood illusion that no publicity is bad publicity (thus the constantly harping on). Not in this case Vince. Not in this case.

What I don't want to do in this column is spark the age-old, now-very-tired debate of who was right, who was wrong, who screwed who and who deserved what. Everyone has their opinion and they're entitled to it. I'm sure you all know mine so to rehash it here would be superfluous and boring. (Never let it be said, however, that I back down from a challenge - if you wish to cross swords with me in debate I have just three words for you - bring it on. I employ no false modesty when I say I know more about the incident than almost anyone and I'll defend Bret till the end. Just send me an email - I welcome the challenge J). What I'd like to do is draw a parallel - an analogy, if you will - and then leave you to ponder my words and see if you can draw a conclusion that will allow you to let the Screwjob fade to its proper place - the distant past.

Now, I admit this analogy is not a very good one. I'm almost fearful of mentioning it because I worry that there might be people out there who think there are similarities in personality and character between Bret and this other person. But the outcome for both men is the same, and what's more, it's a shame. So please, PLEASE, keep an open mind and for the love of god and all his little seraphims, don't post outraged feedback that I had the temerity to compare Bret Hart with... here it comes... Michael Jackson. SIT DOWN! Don't run away screaming. Stop and listen. Work with me here people... follow this through to its logical conclusion.

What do these two men have in common? Wherein lies the connection? They're both performers, entertainers, yes... but the differences in their genres of performance are so far apart as to be unbridgeable. No, the answer can be found in their achievements. And in their legacies.

Michael Jackson. Pop superstar since the tender age of just 5 years old. From "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" to "Bad" Michael Jackson has been unique, talented beyond all comprehension and at the top of his game for longer than anyone else of the same tenure (whether you like him or not - I should mention at this point that I'm actually not a fan. But talent is talent and his is undeniable). The millions upon millions of fans around the world are testament to his incredible achievements in the world of pop music. Sure, he was a bit weird along the way. Nose sliding down face here. Burnt off hair there. The odd monkey or two, rumours of oxygen tents and a double personality as sister LaToya. But his talent as a songwriter, singer, performer and entertainer always eclipsed his rather eccentric personality. He was that good. No, not good. Outstanding. Then he went and did something that means no-one will remember any of that. He let it be known that he likes kids. In some form or other. Now, just as I'm not going to bang on about who was right and who was wrong in Montreal, I am similarly not going to enter into debate about Michael Jackson's guilt or innocence. I'll tell you in private, if you want to know, what I think. But not here because whether he is guilty or not isn't the point.

Bret Hart. Probably wrestling before he could walk. Rose through the ranks of the WWF to become 5-time World Champion, displaying a technical ability and talent that was unsurpassed. Garnered legions of fans. For the most part, the ultimate good guy. Gave his career everything he had. Hated by some, yes - but even those who didn't like the Hitman had grudging respect for his in-ring ability. The mighty ring general. Some have said that he lacked the charisma of other wrestling icons - Hulk Hogan, Shawn Michaels. Maybe he did. He was hardly flamboyant. But despite this, in a world of larger-than-life, colourful-beyond-belief characters he still rose to the very top and sat there, comfortably, for longer than most. Then he was the central figure in an event that has become one of the most historic in wrestling lore - the Screwjob.

Where the similarities flow together, we fish. Catching anything?

Due to events separate from their talent - whether deserved or not - neither Michael Jackson nor Bret Hart will be remembered for what they gave the world of entertainment - Michael for his music, Bret for his wrestling. Yet in their heydays they were both iconic, enormously talented performers. Isn't that sad? After Michael's first public accusation, he continued to write and perform. Sadly, no-one cared anymore. Whatever the outcome of the current trial, it's my opinion that he will never do so again. After the Screwjob, Bret wrestled another 2 years with the WCW, but under the dark cloud of the Screwjob, an event that in a world of theatre, crossed the line into reality and left him in limbo. He carried with him not the legacy of his unmatched performances in the WWF but the spectre of his exit from it.

There's the parallel people. There's the analogy. Two very different men. Both possessing an abundance of talent. Both gave to their respective genres all they had and rose to the top. Will they be remembered for it? No, they will not. Is this right? Well that's up to you. What's your opinion?

Let's leave Michael to get on with jury selection and turn our attention to Bret and the Montreal Screwjob. Let's finish what I started out to do here. I hope you come to the same conclusions that I did - and if so, perhaps we can truly start to lay the Screwjob to rest.

Whether you've loved him or hated him, whether you believe he deserved what he got or that he was un-necessarily and viciously shafted, I believe we can all agree on one thing. Bret "Hitman" Hart gave a huge amount to the world of professional wrestling, to the entertainment we all love. I think we can all agree on his talent in the ring, his dedication to duty and devotion to his fans. At least, I hope we can. And if we can do that, then perhaps we can try to remember Bret Hart not as the man at the centre of controversy, but as one of the most iconic figures in wrestling. You don't have to like the "Hitman" character. Look beyond that. Look to the man, and corny as it sounds, lets lift the dark cloud of the Screwjob from him and let the light of his talent, his contribution to wrestling, shine instead. To the fans who start up the chant for Shawn Michaels, Earl Hebner and Brian Hebner - stop. Let it go. By doing so you only perpetuate the legacy of the Screwjob and let it overshadow one of the greatest men to ever step foot in the squared circle.

Let the Screwjob fade into the past, lock it down and keep it there. If you want to do justice to Bret Hart, then highlight instead his great career and not its miserable end.

If you've gotten this far, thank you. I hope this has given you something to think about, but even if it hasn't, then I simply appreciate your taking the time to read the ramblings and musings that came to me while shovelling horse sh*t.

by Kirsty Quested


Brad Dykens wrote:
Bravo... However, this column begs the question..... what does "niggling" mean???
Josh Willey wrote:
First off, I want to commend you on staying true to your feelings and continually staying with those feelings. Not very many people tend to stick to thier guns. In response to your new column, I agree with you on alot of points. The main thing that I want to get across to these people is that if it weren't for that "Screwjob" and Vince Mcmahon, we would most likely see both Bret AND Owen wrestling for us today. If Vince would not have gotten rid of Bret, I guarantee you that Owen would not have taken the risk that he did that dreadful night. I am in no way saying that Bret was not at fault for partial blame, but what I am stating is that if you had something precious that belonged to a company and the boss wanted it back before you left because of going to a competitor.....you would probably comply if you were still close to him. But, alas, if it was taken before you had the chance to give it back then yes, he had every right to do what he did. I definately agree that everyone should put it behind them, but the one simple thing that those involved have not done to put it in the past is..... an apology to Bret. An apology that would simply state, "I am sincerely sorry for what happened in Montreal." I hope to read more of your columns in the near future, because you have somehow hit every nerve (hehe).
Erkka Järvinen wrote:
I think the screwjob should have been layed down a long time ago but the fact is that it will never be forgotten. I think Brad (if i remember right you were running this site) should change Vince McMahon's finishing move "screwjob finishes". That is kind of disrespectful towards McMahon i mean c'mon. Vince is a man who every wrestling fan should have a lot of respect. Oh and by the way, i bet the guy who you are gonna make a column about is not gonna be Triple H. I hope someone will take time to make a column about Triple H someday. Maybe it will be me, you can never know
Dan I. wrote:
Being a Canadian and a Bret Hart fan since the 80's, I'm well aware of the legacy of the 'incident' and how it's reflected on Bret's career. I admit to being one of the many fans who have not forgotten the Screwjob and still hold a bit of a grudge against the parties involved. However, like you, Kirsty, I feel it's time to pack it away and let things finally rest. Michaels has admitted that he lied about not knowing about the finish, and I think (or at least hope) that his spiritual turnaround of the last few years has made him a different man. Hebner, despite being senior referee, still knew what side his bread was buttered on - he really had no choice. And McMahon...well, I'd never put anything past him. The thing I truly wish for now is that Bret himself finally lets the past lie quiet, no matter how painful it may be. I truly (and probably selfishly) hope that his passion for the sport not be tainted forever, and he returns to the industry in some capacity. I guess it's too much to ask that he go back to the WWE, but I'd imagine a company like ROH would love to have Bret Hart as a figure in their organization. There's simply too much experience and knowledge going to waste.
Matthew Geddes wrote:
Anyone interested in the true legacy of Bret Hart should do themselves a favour and find a copy of his match with Chris Benoit on Nitro, known as the Owen Hart tribute match. No titles, no gimmicks, no run ins, and especially no screw jobs. Just a great 20 odd minutes of the two best damn technical wrestlers of the last twenty years. As much as I loved Bret in the WWF, this is the match I remember most, as when you stripped all the BS away, and under the most tragic of circumstances, Bret proved yet again that he simply he is the best there ever will be.
Danny Parkhill wrote:
First of all, Kirsty, congratulations on yet another superb column. I look forward to your next with great interest. Now, onto the column.
I have to say that I agree with you on every aspect. It is time for Canadians to get over the screwjob. But, as a Canadian myself, I won't forget. The chantings of "you screwed Bret", "your dad screwed Bret" and etcetera no longer come from me. But, when they did, myself and my friends didn't chant it at house shows because we honestly thought it bothered Hebner and Shawn. [Don't get me wrong, I'm sure it eats them alive. It's quite sad actually.], but because we found it more as our little inside joke. I'm not sure if you're Canadian, nor am I sure that other Canadian fans feel the same as myself, but that's mostly why I chanted.
I definitely agree that the WWE should stop referring to it. I can think of at least 2 times off the top of my head that they referred to it blantantly [see Shawn Michaels VS. Chris Benoit VS. Triple H at Backlash, where, with Earl Hebner as the referee, Michaels put the Calgary native Benoit in the Sharpshooter], and it frustrates me. Not only because I'm a Bret Hart fan, but because some fans and the WWE tell Canada to stop the chants, and refer to it. It happened 2 weeks ago, for crying out loud!
In closing, I have no arguments, but I thought I'd write in to share my thoughts about some of the points made in the column, and congratulate you on a job well done.
chris peacock wrote:
First off let me say that it is a very good column that I enjoyed reading very much. Second let me say that Bret Hart is one of my personal favorite wrestlers. He is defenatly in my top ten and probably in my top five for ability in and out of the ring.

With that said I am going to do something I have never done before and talk on the Screw Job. The reason I have never talked about it is because I was afraid people would throw rocks at me for my opinion on it. As far as it goes is that alot of people were wrong for what happened that night but just like you can blame Shawn, Earl, and even Vince for what happen that night, you can also blame Bret for his role in it. I honestly think that Bret was being selfish that night. If it were me in his position I would love to lose the title in my home town or my home country. It would make me feel proud and help me to remember where I started and how hard I worked to get there. The point is that Vince would not have let any other person get away with what Bret was trying to get away with. If Triple H or Hogan would have tried that they would probably have the same thing happen to them. I know that Vince has something against Bret but that isn't the point here. The point is that Bret did not want to go with tradition and the way thing were done, he insted wanted to do things his own way. If Bret would have went with tradition then none of this screw job crap would have ever happened.

I also think that this all needs to die, because you are all right guys like Shawn and Earl deserve to live this down and move on with there life and there careers. If Shawns son becomes a wrestler is he going to have to put up with people saying "Your dad Screwed Bret". It is just something that has been going on way to long.

In closing I would like to say that I have nothing but respect for the hitman and what he has done and that is what I look at. He is one of the greats in this bussiness and deserves to be remembered as such. But everyone acts like Bret is the angel in this whole situation when he should take his share of the fault as well and everyone should remember if he would have done things how they had been done for the last 20 years then he would have never had this happen to him. Thank you for your time.
Ditto Robertson wrote:
The screwjob will never be settled to the point where you can satisfy everybody; their's too many fingers being pointed. But enough is definately enough. As a Shawn Michaels fan, everyone says it is typcial for me to think this way. But when people start chanting "you screwed Bret" at Brian Hebner, who has no ties to the situation but his last name? Things are starting to get out of control. You think Hebner and HBK wake up in the morning and say "what screwjob?" Reminding them isn't going to make them feel bad, it's not going to change anything! They know they screwed Bret, but it saying it every damn time they come out just shows Hart's fans are just like Bret; whiney, pathetic and live in the past. GET OVER IT!
Shane Cossey wrote:
Excellent column , and yes I do agree it is time to put the screwjob behind up , I am certain bret hart has since he and vince mcmahon are on speaking terms , and it is rumored that bret is being inducted into the WWE hall of fame . But I would like to comment if I may on what you said about the screwjob overshadowing brets legacy , I truely do believe that is happening , but only shawn michaels fans would use the screwjob as a taint to bret harts legacy , I personally dont care about the screwjob anymore, sure it pissed me off and sure I do still hold some what of a grudge against shawn michaels vince mcmahon and all other parties involved in that fateful event. But bret hats legacy shoudlnt be tainted becuase of one event that took place years ago , near the end of his career , that night in montreal was THE ONLY time he had ever refused to job to anyone , before hand he had worked with virtually every talent on the roster from shawn michaels himself to issac yankem... the man gladly put others over , and i dont mean to carry on into the debate on teh screw job but who is anyone to judge bret for refusing to job ONLY once , shawn had done it countless times before , breaking the WWEs tradition , refusing to pay homage to the man who made him famous , although bret being the reason behind shawns success is arguable , he still had no right to refuse to pay homage to bret , and job the title back to him. I am in no way trying to start a fire here with you , im simply stating my opinion on the matter about the screwjob , I truely believe all bret hart fans look towards the montreal screwjob as nothing more than a flash in the pan in bret harts career , i most certainly do , i appreciate everything he has done in the world of professional wrestling , he is one of the greatest wrestelrs who ever stepped foot in the ring , arguibly the greatest WWE worlds champion ever , a TRUE LEGEND and treuly the ULTIMATE standard bearer when measuring ones greatness and ability in the ring , and i dont know about you or any other bret hart fan , or even those who hate bret , but theres no way in hell im going to let some childish debacle that happened years ago tarnish the legacy of one of the greatest wrestlers ever. Once again, congratulations on a teriffic article
Hades Malakian wrote:
I personally feel that what happened to Bret was an outrage. I do understand why Vince did what he did, but it still should not have happened. On one hand, you have Vince, trying to protect his World Championship, because he didn't want it thrown into a trash can on the rival's show. On the other hand, you have Bret Hart, a guy who I assume hadn't done much of anything wrong in the business at all. For all its worth.. I don't blame Shawn Michaels, because I don't think he had anything to do with it. I don't think any one would want to win the world championship under those circumstances. Brain Hebner should not be taunted for something he had nothing to do with. Earl... I'm sure he was just doing what he was told to do (and I'd think there would be a hefty bonus for it as well). Yes it is a black mark on wrestling, but history is marred with nasty black marks. Lets not put it to rest, lets try to learn from this mistake so it won't happen again to another great competitor.
TwistedArachnid wrote:
I agree with you 100%. It was a sad thing to happen, and because of it I'll never like Earl Hebner, Vince, or HBK. I do feel it should be layed to rest though. Bret is on speaking terms with WWE, but I do feel Vince needs to stop bringing it up. I blame Vince solely for it not dying down, not the fans. People stand there saying how we should respect Vince for everything he brought to wrestling, but what has he brought? He copied off ECW, hence the attitude era. He screwed one of the best wrestlers out there, and put the other one, my favorite wrestling, Owen Hard in the worst gimmick ever. Owen was on of the best (God rest his soul) yet he was stuck with no big pushes worthy of him. Vince fired Razor Ramon back in the 90's, then fired him again, saying he had alcohol problems, even though Scott Hall says he was clean. Vince made wrestling into a joke, by admitting it was fake, he bought out the competition all to come out on top. He's no longer the fan favorite commentator, but the evil owner, and anymore it seems he doesn't know the difference between his character or himself. He busts out T n A to try and get ratings, which is stupid. I want to see wrestling, if I want sex, I'll watch a porno. (No I'm not gay either, like one of the other OWW writers called me...Which is why I've lost respect for OWW, but moving on) So what has Vince done? He's killed wrestling...If they'd have stuck with the old era, things would be great, even the attitude era was good if they kept it, but this Entertainment era? Is all hit and miss, and he's missing more than hitting...
Jeff Barna wrote:
And yet another superb article, with a great way to close on one of the most nagging and distasteful incidents in wrestling history.

What really needs to happen is for everybody (Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Micronesians, etc.) to just let the Screwjob stay in the past. As I write this, I am disgusted at the condition of the WWE, and the fact that Vinnie Mac is continuously letting his company slide into mediocrity, while insisting that necrophilia angles and Tag Team pushes for mentally handicapped people is what we need as a wrestling audience (I do like Eugene, but his character is getting stale, and as a person who's worked with the mentally handicapped, his portrayal is less than flattering). Why in the name of all that is holy should we, those dedicated to wrestling as a powerful tool of entertainment, stoop to Vince's level by continuing to remember the Screwjob? It is pretty obvious that he likes to remind us of that event (the crowning of the Corporate Champion, anyone?), so why should we play by his rules and continue to argue about it.

I may not know him personally, and I never even met the guy, but I'm willing to bet good money that Bret would not want his fans to remember that incident, especially years after it has happened. If I were Bret, I'd want my fans to remember me for my matches, for my dedication, and for being a larger-than-life wrestler, not for what my boss did to me at Survivor Series. And I'm pretty sure he's tired of others asking him about the Screwjob, seeing as he's probably trying to put it behind him for good as well.

Sorry for ranting on an email that was supposed to have praise for you, Kirsty, but your articles bring out peoples' voices. Otherwise, the feedback columns would look pretty thin. You've written yet another kick-ass article, and said what we ALL need to do - to bury this last lingering pile of horseshit, and to leave the shovel behind us.
Josie Cederman wrote:
just wanted to let you know that i read your latest column about laying the 'screwjob' to rest. i also read the others referred to in it (ie. your interview and your debate with your man eric about the screwjob). i really enjoyed reading it all and my, haven't i learnt so much about wrestling now. but seriously, i think your latest column with the analogy to michael jackson is ingenious. good work my friend. a simple concept and parallel to draw but so effective at the same time. simple but effective is always the best. and hammered home by your direct, talented and humourous style of writing. i thought it was your best yet, even though it was something shorter and more off the cuff than your other researched articles. i especially loved the last line about how it all came to you while shovelling horse shit.
Glenn Turner wrote:
I for one think that Vince McMahon is a genius and (though probably not realising it at the time) did one of the smartest things ever at Survivor Series 1997, I'm not going to try and take anything away from Bret "The Hitman" Hart but I truly believe that if it weren't for "that inciident" then Bret would not be remembered to the degree he is, he would probably slip into the "I wonder whatever happened to" column, but that is not so however thanks to Vincent Kennedy McMahon Junior, Michael Shawn Hickenbottom (Shawn Michaels) and Earl Hebner, another reason why it was so smart was because Vince got so much notoriety for it he became possibly wwe's greatest heel, and it will ensure that Shawn Michaels and Earl Hebner shall never be forgotten. From a moral stand point what Vince did was wrong and i agree that it was wrong, but from a business stand point, thanks to Vince McMahon, the names of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels and Earl Hebner will forever be etched in our memory. Oh and one little bit of ranting: what's the big deal with losing the title in Canada, I'm more than sure that some Americans lost their titles in America.
Joseph Huber wrote:
I loved this column. I agree with it completely. In fact I read this column before, but never responded for some reason (either lack of time or computer problems).

I finally saw Bret Hart Wrestling With Shadows (tonight as a matter of fact) for the first time, and it reinforced my belief in Bret Hart's take on things.

Very well written and entertaining. Your column does well to Bret Hart and reminds us all (even though I was always and will always be on Bret's side) that Bret Hart should be remembered for his classic matches and entertaining us for years in the WWF, not for the Screwjob. Pat yourself on the back Kirsty. "You go girl!" :)
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