“Some would say I screwed Bret Hart. Bret Hart would definitely tell you I screwed him. I look at it from a different standpoint. I look at it from the standpoint of: the referee did not screw Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels certainly did not screw Bret Hart, nor did Vince McMahon screw Bret Hart. I truly believe that Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart. And he can look in the mirror and know that.” – Vince McMahon
“I would have choked Shawn out in the middle of the ring, I would have front-face locked him and ended the match.” – Bret “The Hitman” Hart
To the average simpleton, the world of professional wrestling comes off as a fraudulent form of entertainment. There are moments within professional wrestling that break the fourth wall, that create a mass spectrum between bogus and palpable, real or fake. Whether it’s CM Punk dropping a “pipe bomb” on RAW in the summer of 2011, or JBL seriously leaving the Blue Meanie in a bloody heap on ECW One Night Stand 2005. Moments that are completely sincere and real create a massive amount of hype and history within the nature of professional wrestling. Nothing created more history and media “buzz” within wrestling than the Montreal Screwjob.
The year is 1997, it’s November and Survivor Series is right around the corner. Arguably the biggest feud of the 90’s is closing for its final match-up. The end of an era and the beginning of the biggest peak in professional wrestling has already begun to make waves. Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, the two biggest attractions of the, then World Wrestling Federation are set to clash for the WWF World title in Hart’s home country of Canada. What was sold as a “fictional rivalry” couldn’t be any more real. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were real-life sworn enemies, they absolutely loathed the sight of one another and a legitimate clash of egos and rival company factors set up the greatest breaking of kayfabe in the history of wrestling. The fact of the time was, Bret Hart was leaving the WWF for the then rival WCW.
That would be all well and fine, but at the time, Hart was WWF champion. Vince McMahon was known to have loathed the idea of a WWF champion appearing on a rival company’s flagship television show, as in 1995 Alundra Blayze would throw out the WWF Womens championship in a garbage can. Hart was very stingy and refused to drop the title to practically anyone at the time. With, no options left the WWF made an alternate plan to ensure the WWF title would stay where it would belong. The double cross of the ages resulted, in the creation of the “heel” persona of Vince McMahon and the rating spike of WWF, and the backbone of the Austin-McMahon feud. But what if, these clear and decisive moments in wrestling history never happened?
The fact remains, that if the Montreal Screwjob never occurred, the creation of “the evil boss” Vince McMahon would never have taken place. The Austin-McMahon feud of the 90’s wouldn’t have happened. The rating spike, the WWF was accomplishing would still have held strong but it would create a more evenly matched competition for WCW to capitalize on. Looking at Neilson ratings for each promotion around November of 1997, WCW Monday Nitro was achieving a five-star rating while WWF Monday Night Raw was achieving a three-star rating. If the Montreal Screwjob never occurred, stars like Triple H, The Undertaker, and Chris Jericho could have been working for Ted Turner in the current year of 2016.
The Montreal Screwjob created the biggest “shoot” in professional wrestling historic history, its significance and chaotic effect on today’s business still has wrestling fans re-living the televised gold of the late 90s. Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon, and Bret Hart have since made amends, without a shadow of a doubt the legacy of the Montreal Screwjob can never die.