The infamous Montreal Screwjob shocked the wrestling world; never before has the perceived “fake” industry been rocked with such a scandal, so much so that the impact is still felt to this very day. This event is a story of ultimate betrayal; the veteran and top star of the WWE getting deceived by the ruthless owner of the company. The story is something perfectly fit for a wrestling angle, however, this was no angle and several people were indignant in the process. There are two sides to this story; McMahon feeling his back is against the wall and is fearful that Bret will leave with the title to the WCW, sees no other alternative and has to orchestrate a job on his beloved superstar. Then, there’s Bret’s side of the story; a veteran star of ten plus years (and the champion of the company), is leaving for the competition and wants to go out of his way and not drop the title to his real life, bitter adversary, Shawn Michaels, in Hart’s own country. It’s easy to take either side, as both had very good reasons for not budging, which eventually led to this incident.
There were several moving parts for this incident to go out as planned, and most required acts of deception and betrayal. In a way, this event resembled a “mob hit” of sorts, as Vince carried out a plan which only a few close to him knew about. This article explains several details that are not known about that eventful November night in Montreal. Here are 13 things you didn’t know about The Montreal Screwjob.
12. Bret and Vince’s Relationship
Before the aftermath from the incident, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart had a very close relationship throughout Bret’s time with the WWE. By Hart’s own admission, there was clear respect between the two. In order to show his respect, Hart gave Vince a framed drawing and letter of appreciation after being given the main event spot at SummerSlam in 1992; without Hart’s knowledge, McMahon arranged for the wrestlers to fill the ring and praise Hart at the end of WrestleMania X.
However, even with this mutual respect, Bret had an element of distrust for Vince when it came to business. This stemmed from an incident in 1993 when Hulk Hogan refused to drop the title to Hart at Summerslam, after McMahon gave his word he would. Once confronted, Vince denied ever planning a match between the two. In addition, months after this incident, Hart’s contract was set to expire, and a handshake deal on a contract would give Hart the rights to the name “Hitman” and the ability to use the name outside the WWE. Though, Vince sent Hart a contract without any of the terms they previously agreed on. Things suddenly became rocky between the two.
11. Vince Asked Bret To Leave
With the WWE in financial peril in 1997, Vince went to Bret to restructure his contract and defer the bulk of his salary to the end of the twenty year contract. There was a chance Bret would never see this money, as the WWE at that time were on the verge of collapsing. With the WWE about to become a public traded company, Vince needed to eliminate big money via long term commitments. Vince asked Hart to do him a favor and leave the company, he even gave Hart some time to negotiate a deal with the WCW. A month after asking him to leave, McMahon asked Hart to stay with the company. However, Vince couldn’t come up with a convincing storyline for Bret to stay, as Hart did not see a future with the WWE.
10. Triple H Came Up With The Idea
The perception was that Vince came up with the angle to do a job over Bret, although regarding the creation of the idea, it was in fact Triple H who proposed the idea during a meeting. In Michaels’ book, he states, Hunter, Vince and himself, were in the office a couple of days before the event discussing what to do with the problem at hand with Bret not wanting to drop the title. Triple H then said what everyone was afraid to say in the room, if he doesn’t want to do business, “we do it for him”. Now that the idea was out in the open, the three of them conspired to come up with a way to screw Bret over.
9. Wrestlers Wanted To Boycott Raw
Vince received major heat from his roster because of the way he handled a situation with a veteran wrestler like Bret Hart. Several were suspicious about him and feared for their own futures. McMahon held a meeting with all the talents explaining his motive for what went down; he explained that if it wasn’t done this way the company’s future would be in jeopardy. The potential revolt was calmed by Hart telling his peers not to boycott Raw for risk of being fired. Asides from the members of The Hart Foundation, only Mick Foley boycotted Raw the following night.
8. Who Came Up With The Sharpshooter Spot?
There are many discrepancies involving who actually came up with The Sharpshooter Spot. Michaels states that Bret came up with the Spot with the idea of him pulling on Michaels’ leg and reversing it. It is also believed that Pat Patterson came up with the Spot as Hart states in his autobiography, “Pat Patterson told me that he thought it would be a heckuva spot to let Shawn put me in the Sharpshooter and then reverse it on him.” However, in the same work Hart also states “I found myself jostling with Jerry Brisco, who I would find out later was the one who had designed the whole Screwjob for Vince.” In addition, Vince Russo stated in his book Forgiven, that it was he who proposed the Sharpshooter Spot, though many believe it is false as Russo had no involvement with the incident. Unfortunately, the truth of who came up with the Spot will never be revealed, as there are several inconsistencies in the stories.
7. Michaels Took All The Heat
Even though Vince wanted all the heat to fall on him for the incident, it didn’t work out that way, and most (if not all) of the heat fell on Michaels. Vince was the boss, which meant he was untouchable, and no wrestler would dare confront or mistreat him because their livelihoods depended on him. On the other hand, for Michaels, he was a target for the resentment from the other talents. Michaels has stated that he felt alienated and scared to be in the locker-room alone for he knew many wrestlers were out to get him. Michaels, who was notoriously hated before the incident, had even more heat following this event.
6. Rick Rude Informed Eric Bischoff
The same night the incident went down, the WCW learned of what transpired in Montreal. Rick Rude (then working for the WWE as Michaels’ manager) called and informed Eric Bischoff of what had just taken place. Rude, who was a good friend of Hart’s, would leave the WWE immediately joining WCW two days after the event, mostly due to his disgust over Hart’s treatment. Rude would then famously appear on both Raw and Nitro in the same night on November 17, 1997 (Raw was taped six days earlier). Rude would proceed to criticize Michaels, DX and the WWE, calling it a “sinking ship”.
5. Many Believe It Was A Work
Many wrestling fans and several in the business believe The Montreal Screwjob was all a work. Several wrestlers, including Kevin Nash, The New Age Outlaws and Sean Waltman, have gone on record stating it had to be a work. Jerry Lawler has stated he found it plausible that Hart collaborated with McMahon on the incident. Even with these allegations, Hart’s wife has stated that Bret isn’t that good of an actor to hide it all these years. Furthermore, while the events of The Montreal Screwjob were taking place, Bret was filming a documentary about his life which led several more to be skeptical of the authenticity of this event. Nevertheless, the story remains that Bret had no prior knowledge about the incidents that would transpire that night.
4. Owen Was Unable To Leave
Following the events that took place in Montreal, the British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart (who were Bret’s brothers in law) were granted quick releases from their contracts to jump to WCW and join Bret. Due to his contractual obligations, Owen was the only Hart family member left in the WWE. Unlike Smith and Neidhart, Vince did not grant Owen a release from his contract, and Owen was forced to stay with the company. However, Bret has stated that Owen was skeptical in joining WCW as he feared the company would not use him correctly. In addition, Bret also said that the major reason Owen never jumped ship was because Eric Bischoff was unwilling to match Owen’s WWE contract.
3. Undertaker Forced Vince To Apologize
After the job went down, mayhem ensued and many backstage did not know what was going to happen next. Vince locked himself in his office with Patterson, Brisco and other agents. While Vince was taking confinement in his office, Hart questioned Michaels in the locker rooms asking if he knew anything about what just went down. After their exchange, Hart proceeded to the showers, learning McMahon was still locked in his office. It was The Undertaker (who is arguably the wrestler Vince respects the most) who reportedly knocked on the door and told him he had to go apologize to Bret. If it wasn’t for Taker taking the proper initiative, who knows if Vince would have ever confronted Bret face to face that night.
2. Mr. McMahon Character Was Created
That eventful night left a lasting impact on the wrestling industry. Vince successfully tapped into the outpouring anger of fans over the incident by creating the character of Mr. McMahon. An arrogant heel boss who imposed his authority. With all this power, McMahon had to find a gimmick to oppose his authority, and soon after Stone Cold would appear. This made way for one of the greatest feuds of all time: Austin vs McMahon. This storyline was a significant part of The Attitude Era and was ultimately one of the major reasons the WWE was finally able to overcome Nitro’s 84 week run.
1. Who Else Was In On The Screwjob?
It is widely believed that only a few people knew about The Screwjob (McMahon, Brisco, Hunter and Michaels) and everyone else in the company was in the dark about the incident. However, according to multiple reports, there were several others who knew about what transpired that night. Dave Meltzer reported, “Vince McMahon held a meeting at the hotel with Jim Ross, Jim Cornette, Pat Patterson and Michaels. Reports are that at least two of the aforementioned names looked extremely uncomfortable leaving the meeting”, this suggests that Patterson knew about the incident even though it is believed he wasn’t in on it (due to his close relationship with Bret). In addition, a Pro Wrestling Torch article states McMahon held a meeting Saturday night in the hotel with Ross, Patterson, Cronette and Michaels. Ross and Patterson entered the meeting in a good mood and when they were seen in the hotel lobby afterwards, they were said to be irritable and shaken.