We found out later that Hart broke some TV monitors around ringside, motioned the letters “WCW” with his hands in the ring and then went backstage. Vince McMahon confronted him in the locker room. Bret decked him with a right hand. On the WWE Confidential piece on the subject, Vince claimed that Gerald Brisco stepped on his foot, broke his ankle and Bret nailed him in the temple.
The people that perpetually kiss Vince’s ass will say that he took a dive, but the black eye on his face would suggest otherwise. Hart then asked Michaels if he was in on it. Shawn said, “as God as my witness, no.”
At the same time as this, HHH was busy lying to Bret Hart’s wife by saying he knew nothing about it as we saw in the Wrestling With Shadows documentary. They covered the whole family with the lies on that night. Classy.
The finish, as told to Bret Hart, was for the match to continue another couple of minutes after the Sharpshooter spot. Things would disintegrate, DX would interfere and then the Hart Foundation would interfere.
It would end as a “schmozz” as Bret called it and Vince agreed to (in Wrestling with Shadows). The next night on Raw in Ottawa, Hart said he would forfeit the title because he refused to lose it to Michaels. McMahon, on tape (again from Wrestling with Shadows), told him that was fine.
On his DVD, Bret said he agreed with Vince when McMahon said they had a lack of communication on the whole thing. He said he understood why Vince felt he had to do what was right, but he also said that he didn’t regret doing what he did after the match.
We also found out that Hebner bailed quickly out of the ring and into a waiting car because he feared that Bret might beat the crap out of him. Earlier in the day Hebner swore on his children that he wouldn’t screw Bret. In Bret’s book he mentioned that he specifically asked for Hebner to ref the match because he trusted him more than anybody.
The screwjob came about like this according to Michaels in his autobiography. Michaels, along with HHH, talked to Vince about it a couple of days before the PPV. It was suggested by Hunter to screw Hart out of the title. Gerald Brisco, an agent with the WWE that put together the matches, went to Shawn to work out the finishes for the match.
Michaels claims that Hart was the one to suggest the Sharpshooter spot, so as soon as he heard that idea from Bret he knew that would be the moment. They didn’t tell Pat Patterson, who was an agent that was close to Bret. He, much like Bret, thought it would be the double DQ ending.
They felt like if Patterson knew, he’d tell Bret. They told Earl Hebner about it on the day of the show. The locker room didn’t know. The announcers didn’t know. Only a handful of people (Vince, Brisco, Hebner, Shawn and HHH plus some of Vince’s cronies) really knew what was going to happen.
To me, the key point is this: McMahon screwed Hart because he thought Hart was going to take the WWE Title to WCW. I don’t believe Hart would ever do that. He had too much loyalty to the WWE. He didn’t want to leave. Vince pushed him out because he knew the relationship with Hart and Michaels had deteriorated to the point that one of them had to go.
Hart was 40, Michaels was in his early 30s and he was also influential on the booking of the shows. He was in Vince’s ear much more than Bret was. Vince said he didn’t have the money to keep him around, which was probably a fabricated story on McMahon’s part.
Four months after this incident he was able to pay Mike Tyson $3 million to work for him for one month, but he couldn’t handle paying Hart $1 million for a year? He was clearly lying. It was his way of saying he’d rather have Shawn than Bret because he knew they couldn’t co-exist anymore.
The most common question asked of this situation is whose fault was it? I think it was the fault of both Vince and Bret with some fault falling on Michaels’ shoulder. However, the issue was mainly a Vince/Bret one and it all came about because of trust. At the time of the incident I blamed Vince for it.
Yes, I understood his paranoia with WCW overtaking his company and his champion signing with them. I understood the position Bret put him in by refusing to put Michaels over due to the personal relationship that those two had. I also understand why he says he doesn’t regret it.
This whole thing spawned the heel Mr. McMahon character that is arguably the most profitable heel character that McMahon has ever had. This one match made McMahon into a bigger star than anything else ever could.
The next four years led to incredible business and profits for a company that was teetering on the edge for three years prior. Does Vince regret screwing Bret? Of course not.
You can blame Bret for being stubborn about losing in Canada and losing to Shawn. If Vince asked him to put Undertaker or Austin over for the title would he have done it? I think so. Vince never proposed that because he knew Bret vs. Shawn was the money match.
They wanted to save Austin’s title win for the next WrestleMania while Undertaker had the feud with Kane. He proposed dropping the title on Raw in Ottawa the next night via forfeit, but he refused to put Michaels over because of Shawn’s insistence that he would never put Hart over.
Fifteen years later, mention the “Montreal Screwjob” to a wrestling fan and you will get their opinion on it. Some people blame Vince. Some people blame Bret. Some people blame Shawn. Some people think the whole thing was a work even to this day. I never thought it was a work and I always sided with Bret more than Vince.
I think McMahon drove him away in a move that was unnecessary. He should have found ways to make Hart and Michaels work together as professionals for the betterment of the company. Both of them should have handled things differently, but if you look at the big picture, McMahon’s more at fault than Hart is.
With that said, I absolutely agree with Vince when he says he has no regrets because he felt like it was something he had to do.
In a perfect world, Bret and Shawn should have been friends (as they were prior to the start of their feud in 1996), Bret should have been wrestling in the WWF for another 3 or 4 years after Montreal happened until he was in his mid 40s when he would have retired. He never should have spent a moment in WCW because he was always a WWF lifer to me.
He also should have been in the WWF to prevent his brother Owen Hart from attempting the stupid stunt that cost him his life in May 1999. I’m glad that Hart was able to mend the fences with McMahon, glad that he was inducted into the Hall of Fame to say goodbye to his fans and glad that he has been able to close the chapter on his life with the excellent DVD they put out covering his amazing career.
On a personal note, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart are two of my five favorite wrestlers ever. I feel lucky that I got to see them perform throughout their primes. Michaels entertained me like nobody else has ever had in wrestling while Hart made me feel proud to be a Canadian like him.
They kept me interested in a business that, at times in the 90s, was doing everything it could to drive me away with a weak talent roster. I hate that this rivalry existed between them. I can only imagine what kind of legendary matches we would have seen if they had a harmonious relationship.
I don’t think I’m overrating the incident when I say that aside from some of the tragedies that have happened in wrestling, and we know there have been plenty of those, this is one of the three most famous moments in the history of the WWF/E.