What we see in wrestling, on television or in person, is predetermined. However, most wrestling fans will recall that back in 1997, at the Survivor Series in Montreal, WWE champion Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart was defeated by Shawn Michaels. This event lived on in infamy, as the term “Montreal Screwjob” was born and the fallout from what happened became public knowledge. The manner in which Hart lost the title seemed unique. As many will recall, Bret was put in his own submission move when referee Earl Hebner called for the bell.
It was done because the company was concerned that he would leave the promotion with the title. Bret said he wouldn’t do that, but the company didn’t want to leave it to chance.
While it was the most prominent ‘screwjob,‘ it isn’t the only time where wrestlers were double-crossed and screwed out of a win or championship. Often times, the reasons were in the best interests of the promoter and not the wrestler. Throughout history some of the most notable wrestlers in the world were in fact victims of circumstance and they never saw it coming. Here are 10 Other Wrestling Screwjobs You Didn’t Know About.
10. Wendi Richter vs. Spider Lady (Fabulous Moolah) – 1985
During the “Rock n’ Wrestling” era of the 1980s, the top female star in the WWF was Wendi Richter. The match where Richter won the title from The Fabulous Moolah was one of MTV’s highest rated moments ever. Then, in 1985, she had her title taken from her in a conspiracy that included her opponent, the referee and owner Vince McMahon Jr. It happened during a match against an unknown masked wrestler known as The Spider Lady.
Backstage, Richter saw the masked Spider Lady but also saw the Fabulous Moolah, which was unusual because Moolah didn’t attend shows she wasn’t booked on. During the match, Richter could tell it was Moolah under the mask so she knew that something wasn’t right. A few minutes in, “Spider Lady” had Richter in a small package and Richter had her shoulder up at one. However, the referee quickly slapped the mat two more times and rang the bell. Richter went right after her opponent and ripped off the mask, revealing it to be Moolah. Richter took the title back and didn’t relinquish it. She never competed in the WWE or spoke to Moolah ever again. The match was never mentioned again on WWE television.
9. NWA Title Tournament – 1994
The National Wrestling Alliance was a prominent name in the 1980s, prior to the sale to Ted Turner and the rebranding as WCW. One of the promoters that resurrected NWA was Tod Gordon, who owned Eastern Championship Wrestling, which was run by Paul Heyman. Heyman hosted a tournament to determine a new champion. There wasn’t a screwjob or double-cross in the ring as it was determined that Shane Douglas would ultimately win the tournament and become the new NWA champion. However, after the match, Heyman, Gordon and Douglas all double-crossed the resurrected NWA by throwing down the title and picking up a new Extreme Championship Wrestling title, which stunned NWA President Dennis Coraluzzo (who was in the ring watching, and had no idea this was going to happen).
Despite having mended fences for the show, Coraluzzo and Extreme Championship Wrestling remained enemies until a momentary truce between the two sides in 1997 that resulted in both sides claiming that they had reneged on an agreement.
8. Frank Gotch vs. George Hackenschmidt – 1911
Many wrestling historians consider this one of the most famous matches in wrestling history. It pitted Frank Gotch, a world renowned champion, against George Hackenschmidt. Gotch had defeated Hackenschmidt a few years prior to this match up and was defending his championship. In the “rematch of the century.” However, prior to the match taking place, Ad Santel, a sparring and training partner of George, was reportedly paid $5,000 to take out Hackenschmidt’s knee. Due to the reported gate of $87,000, which was quite substantial for 1911, the show went on, but promoters kept the injury hidden from the public.
Gotch knew about the injury and came to an agreement with Hackenschmidt, who wanted to pull out due to his injury. The plan was Hackenschmidt would win one of the three falls match so the match appeared credible. However, once the match took place, Gotch reneged on the agreement and defeated Hackenschmidt in two straight falls.
7. Don Eagle vs. Gorgeous George – 1950
This screwjob was notable because one of the men involved was considered one of the most flamboyant wrestlers in history and a pioneer in the sport. Don Eagle was a world champion in the Boston area, but was defending his title in Chicago – something that was uncommon. On this night, referee Earl Mollohan reportedly “double-crossed” Eagle and counted his shoulders to the mat, when he in fact had kicked out of George’s pinning attempt. Mollohan quickly left the ring to get away from Eagle as fast as he could. There was no reason why Mollohan would have wanted to screw Eagle out of a win, unless he was instructed to. The speculation around the finish was that Eagle wasn’t aware it would happen; his outrage was legitimate, much like Bret Hart’s reaction after his match drew to its conclusion.
6. Antonio Inoki vs. Bob Backlund – 1979
Backlund lost the WWF title to Inoki in Japan, and the agreement was that he would recapture it when they faced one another in the US. There was a catch, however; in the US, there would be no acknowledgement that Backlund ever lost the title. The match’s conclusion had Tiger Jeet Singh interfere, causing Inoki to lose. However, there was a double-cross after the match concluded – WWF President Hisashi Shinma ruled the match a no contest and said that Inoki was still champion. This was planned by Inoki and Shinma because New Japan Pro Wrestling was going to be taping in Madison Square Garden, and they wanted to have Inoki remain champion to aid NJPW’s ratings.
Vince McMahon Sr. was already building up Bobby Duncum as Backlund’s next challenger, and thus ignored everything. When Backlund vs. Duncam was shown on Japanese television, neither was introduced as champion, and Backlund was given the belt after beating Duncum. However, the pre-match hype in the US had Backlund defending against Duncum.
5. Nobuhiko Takada vs Trevor Berbick – 1991
The most notable exchange between these two featured the former heavyweight champion boxer on the UWFI show at Sumo Hall in Japan. As soon as the match began, Takada legitimately went after Trevor Berbick. He connected with incredibly stiff leg kicks that surprised Berbick because he wasn’t anticipating the match to go in that direction. Berbick left the ring around the three-minute mark of the first round and refused to re-enter the ring.
Pro wrestler Billy Scott and another former boxing champion James Warring took part in an earlier match where Scott did exactly what Takada did to Berbick, and their match also became a shoot. In neither match was one of the men anticipating a worked wrestling match to turn into a real fight. To say that the former boxers were screwed would be an understatement.
4. Danno O’Mahoney vs. Dick Shikat -1936
During the 1930s, one of the most popular wrestlers was Danno O’Mahoney. While he wasn’t necessarily considered much of a wrestler at the time, he was a major attraction in the Boston area for promoter Paul Bowser, and in New York for Jack Curley. O’Mahoney would perform in front of crowds of close to 30,000 people throughout the northeastern United States. Shikat, on the other hand, was thought to be one of the toughest men in wrestling, and was told by promoters Jack Pfeffer and Al Haft to legitimately hurt O’Mahoney during their match. Shikat did as he was asked, and the referees had no clue what to do. However, even though Shikat captured the title, Bowser continued to promote O’Mahoney as champion until he lost it a year later. This particular match hurt the wrestling business in the New York area, and it wasn’t until almost two decades later when it began to draw in Madison Square Garden.
3. Jim Londos vs. Joe Savoldi – 1933
During the 1930s, Londos was the equivalent of Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin or The Rock, men who drew huge crowds and brought in a great deal of money. However, Londos wasn’t liked, and made enemies while competing in the New York area. These enemies included promoters from New York who prepared to set up a double-cross with challenger Joe Savoldi and referee Bob Managoff. During the match, Savoldi had Londos locked up in a submission hold as was planned and Londos made it to the ropes. However, Savoldi applied actual pressure to the hold rather than worked pressure. When Londos had his hand on the rope, Managoff ignored it and called for the submission victory, awarding the title to Savoldi. Savoldi returned to New York where he was supposed to unify the title, but lost it to New York champion Jim Browning.
2. Wayne Munn vs. Stanislaus Zbyszko – 1925
This match up pitted a giant of a man in Munn, who stood 6’8” and was a successful college football player, against Zbyszko. Munn had captured the title from Strangler Lewis, with the intention of an eventual rematch.
A couple of months earlier, Zbyszko put Munn over as a sign of good faith to his promoter. During this match, Zbyszko beat Munn so badly that the referee had no choice but to stop the match and award him the title. It was also done to prevent the Philadelphia crowd in attendance from rioting. The promoter at the time, Billy Sandow, attempted to get the commissions in Michigan and Illinois to erase this match from ever happening so that Munn could still be recognized as champion. He then lost the title back to Lewis, and Zbyszko put over Joe Stecher as the promoters had originally intended.
1. Strangler Lewis vs. Henri DeGlane – 1931
This match could be said that it featured the bite heard round the world, much like the Mike Tyson–Evander Holyfield altercation many years later. The match was a best of three with Strangler already aware that he would win the contest and it would go three falls. Interestingly, wrestlers went back to the dressing rooms between falls.
After the second fall, DeGlane bit himself near his armpit to the point where he drew blood, then kept his arm concealed and returned to the ring for the third fall. Once the match had started he immediately started screaming, and Lewis backed off with no clue as to why. The referee saw the blood and teeth marks and disqualified Lewis, in the process awarding the title to DeGlane. Strangler was so furious that he went backstage intending to beat up the promoter. However, Bowser was prepared, with several bodyguards holding baseball bats surrounding him. Lewis quit the promotion and left for Europe.