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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Revisiting Montreal
May 3, 2004 - by Robbie C Extreme



A scene that will unfortunately live on it the history of professional wrestling for an eternity and one that will be debated for equally as long. I take you all the way back to 1997, we are in the Molson Center in Montreal, Quebec, the event is the WWF Survivor Series and headlining the evenings entertainment is the highly anticipated rematch from Wrestlemania 12, D-Generation X leader Shawn Michaels takes on the reigning WWF Champion and Hart Foundation leader Bret "The Hitman" Hart.

The build up to this one had been huge and the fans were hungry with anticipation as the main event finally made it's way to center stage, it was the beginning of what would be a disappointing end to the night for many fans around the world.

The closing moments of the match up saw Shawn Michaels lock the Sharpshooter, Bret Hart's very own finishing move, onto the Hitman, referee Earl Hebner signaled for the bell in a mere matter of seconds and most notably when Bret was in the process of reversing the hold, the official announcement claimed that Bret had submitted to his own maneuver. Earl and the new World Champion Shawn Michaels made a rather quick exit from the arena, Bret on the other hand spat down at Vince McMahon and proceeded to destroy the monitors at the announce tables and make out the letters of the WWF's biggest rival, the WCW, rumor even has it that Bret punched Vince backstage, this little incident has gone down as the Montreal screw job.

Leading up to this night Bret was asked to drop the World Title to Shawn in the middle of the ring, the most obvious reason is because Bret was on his way to the World Championship Wrestling promotion, the last thing Vince, or any promoter for that matter, wants is a former star to leave his employ on a high and go onto give the competition an immediate boost. Vince also at this time had determined that Bret's main event standings were coming to an end, the times where changing and soon we'd see the era of Attitude hit the World Wrestling Federation and Bret, in Vince's opinion, just wasn't cut out for the direction his product was headed. Of course Bret had refused to do the job to Shawn and Vince took matters into his own hands.

We've heard all sides to the story, Bret claiming he was screwed, Vince claiming it was Bret who screwed Bret, and Shawn Michaels playing dumb like he no idea about the whole set up, until recently anyway. So who really did screw whom in this situation?

From the get go I wish to make it very clear that I am in no way a fan of Vince McMahon, but yet I am not a Bret Hart fan either, both men were/are extremely talented, Vince in a business sense and Bret in the wrestling talent sense and I don't plan on taking those things away from either man in this article, I just plan on giving what I hope is an unbiased opinion on the subject.

Wrestling is still a business and it employs a lot of people for different roles, Vince of course is the owner and Bret was one of his employees, I'm making this point, as obvious as it is, because what we seen each week on Raw and Smackdown! seems to cloud people's perceptions of the wrestling business, in reality the talent don't consistently beat the crap out of Vince McMahon and his officials, wrestlers don't get arrested on a weekly basis and show up again for work in a mere matter of days, Wrestling is a business and like most business' it is the boss that has the final say in the matter, and if one of it's employees decides to challenge that decision then he will usually suffer the consequences of his actions. This is exactly how it was with all parties involved in this incident, Vince is the owner of the company and has not only the last say, but the power to make or break you, Earl Hebner is a referee who has little pull in the company and should he have refused to go along with the plan I'm sure he would have been shown the door as I'm sure Vince would have no trouble finding himself a new head referee, Shawn didn't like Bret on a personal level, so what would it matter to him if Bret was pissed off, it's not like he was screwing over a friend to keep his top spot in the company secure, and of course Bret, who decided to challenge the boss' ruling and paid for it.

I'm not trying to shift all the blame on to Bret here, but lets face it, he is just as guilty as Vince is, before anyone jumps down my throat about this I want to ask how many of you can honestly say that you flat out challenged your boss' decision on a work matter. Part of Bret's job as a wrestler is to not only entertain the crowds and bring in the ratings, but to job to men in the ring, whether it would be an up and coming rookie or someone who he did indeed despise in the locker rooms after the show, it was a request that is part of Bret's job and he refused to do it, so Vince made sure things went the way he wanted it to.

Vince as well could have done this a little more tactfully, I mean this guy could very easily have caused a riot that night and definitely did lower the respect the fans and wrestlers had for him, not to mention the credibility of a company that employs god only knows how many hundreds of people that all need to earn a wage to feed their families.

This whole thing can still be argued back and forth, but before you argue about it think of it from a realistic point of view, not a wrestling one, but a REALISTIC one. None of us go around and give our employers a Stone Cold Stunner, none of us flip off our managers when they ask us to do something that is entirely within reason of our professions and it really shouldn't be any different for wrestlers as the promoters need to do what is in their best interest to make sure they keep their company in check and at the top of it's game. When looking at something like this you need to step away from the fantasy world that is shown to us on a weekly basis and look at it based on the structure of your employing company and how it works.

In the end I will say that Vince did go about it in a sneaky and deceptive way that not only backstabbed one of his workers, but the fans who expected so much more that night, but in the end it was Bret Hart's final decision that came back and kicked him in the ass. November 9th will mark the 7 year anniversary of this night, don't you think it's about time it gets laid to rest and let go permanently?

by Robbie C Extreme


Kjorteo Kalante wrote:
It is true that Vince McMahon was in a precarious situation. Bret Hart had less than a week before jumping to WCW and he was still the WWF Champion. The last thing Vince wanted to see was a repeat of the move Alundra Blayze/Madusa Miceli pulled with the WWF Women's Title. Thus, Vince had a very definite interest in making sure Bret lost the title before he left.

However, there is one major detail that you neglected to mention. You make the event result sound as though Vince said "Hey, Bret, I have this great idea for a controversial loss" and Bret was too selfish to play along. Bret Hart had partial creative control over his character. That clause was in his contract to help protect him from going on a ridiculous jobbing spree for the last month or two of his career. (Remember that Vince is very fond of doing this. The original ending for the Brock Lesnar vs. Bill Goldberg Wrestlemania match allegedly called for Lesnar to win, but after the WWE found out he did not need a push anymore, guess who changed his mind.)

Because of this, Bret and Vince sat down and discussed their options for how to get the title off of Hart before his WWF contract was up. Bret's only problem was the location of the event; he is quoted as saying he would have been willing to job to anyone, even the Brooklyn Brawler, but Canada was his home and he "wanted to leave the building with his head high." Bret and Vince eventually agreed on a plan that would involve a middle-of-the-match spot with Bret Hart being put in the Sharpshooter and then reversing to hold Shawn Michaels in it. Michaels would escape and the match would continue, the eventual end involving Triple H appearing and causing a double-disqualification. Hart would then lose the title to Shawn Michaels on Monday Night RAW the next evening.

This is why Bret was in fact screwed, and your point fails. Bret and Vince had a DEAL. Bret even allegedly double-checked with Vince the night of the match as he had an uneasy feeling, with Vince assuring him that everything would go down as planned. Bret was screwed because Vince took Bret's being in the Sharpshooter as an excuse to abort the match and give Michaels the title. This was clearly not the planned finish, nor was the locker room aware of it, as rumor has it a large collection of superstars (most notably Owen Hart, Mick Foley, and almost the entire cast of the British Bulldogs and Hart Foundation) intended to walk out on next night's RAW in protest, with ultimately Bret Hart himself having to convince them to not risk their careers over the gesture. The Undertaker was not part of that plan, but did reportedly find Vince and demand he apologize to Bret.

One can make all the claims they wish about how people normally do not challenge their employers and that Bret Hart should have simply followed Vince McMahon's will like a good worker. However, in the end, Bret and Vince had an agreement that Vince betrayed. This is why Bret will forever be known as having been screwed.
Bjoern Asprem wrote:
I guess we never ever will have the complete facts about what happened in and around the so-called Montreal Screwjob. One thing I do know, is that Bret Hart did have a Creative Control clause in his contract, which means he's basically in control of whatever happens about his character. He can choose whether or not he's going to lose a particular match or not. Bret Hart agreed to losing the title belt (he had to, he was leaving for WCW), but he didn't want that to happen in Montreal, but next night on Raw. Vince screwed him. I am amazed that Bret didn't bring legal charges, as this was certainly a breach of contract. And to this day, Vince, Shawn and referee Earl Hebner is booed heavily all over Canada. I don't know if the general interest for WWE has dropped in Canada, but I cannot really fathom why Vince did this to Bret, to wrestling and to his own company.

But as I said, we don't have all facts, and we tend to listen more to a babyface like Bret than a heel-owner like Vince. Still, Creative Control gave Bret the power to do as he wanted, and Vince didn't hold true to the contract.
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