The Most Controversial Wrestling Incident of All Time: The "Montreal Screwjob"
One of the major reasons why people watch WWE is the underlying kayfabes (the events that are a part of a storyline). This makes the matches or feuds between two superstars take a whole new interest by putting in some drama to all the mayhem that is shown on the ring.
However, there have been occasions when real-life tensions between the superstars have caused the matches between them to be viewed with a lot more interest. Here, I am showcasing one such rivalry and how it all culminated in one of the most controversial and real incidents in sports entertainment.
Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart have been rivals from their tag team days itself with Bret as part of the team The Hart Foundation and Shawn as part of The Rockers. At one point, The Rockers had even won the World Tag Team title from The Hart Foundation.
But the two became intense rivals around the time of Wrestlemania 12 in 1996. Bret was the reigning WWF champion. The match was stipulated to be a 60-minute Iron Man Match, where the man with the most submissions or pins becomes the winner. After 60 minutes of high intensity, the match ended 0-0.
But WWF President Gorilla Monsoon entered the ring and ordered the match to continue under sudden death rules. Michaels won the match and the title shortly thereafter. After the match, Shawn Michaels is alleged to have told The Hitman to “get the f**k out of my ring,” and the seeds for a bitter and personal rivalry were sown.
After Wrestlemania 12, Bret took some time off and during that time he was offered a big contract in the WCW. But out of loyalty toward WWF, Bret chose to stay back and sign a 20-year deal with them. Shawn was widely believed to drop his title to Bret at Wrestlemania 13; instead, he vacated the title just a few months before Wrestlemania 13 in his infamous "I lost my smile" speech.
He claimed that his doctor had told him that his knee injury would be career-ending. Bret Hart, on the other hand felt that he was faking it, as Shawn had always said that he wouldn’t do any more jobs for anyone in the territory. Bret went on to win the title again by winning the Fatal Four Way match involving Austin, Vader, the Undertaker, and himself.
Feud With Vince
Vince McMahon wanted Bret to drop the title to Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series before moving on to WCW. However, by this time, the feud between Shawn and Bret Hart had reached a personal level, and Bret was unwilling to drop the title to Shawn Michaels.
Both of them had made several personal comments about each other in the build up to the match. While Bret questioned Shawn’s sexual preferences, Shawn made a comment that Bret was having a lot of Sunny days lately. This was in reference to alleged relationship that Bret was having with WWE diva Sunny. The comment led to a major fight between the two in the locker room.
When Vince persisted for the title to be dropped at Survivor Series, Bret said that he was willing to drop the title to anyone anywhere other than to Shawn Michaels in Montreal. One of his reasons was that since Shawn has always been unwilling to do a job for anyone else, Bret would not reciprocate either. Second, since Bret by this time was a big national icon in Canada, he didn’t want to lose over there.
After a lot of arguing, it was finally decided that the match would end in a disqualification. Vince, in the meantime, called a meeting at his hotel room with his confidantes and Shawn Michaels and allegedly set into motion the screwjob.
Bret’s confidantes also advised him to be careful and not to let his guard down during the match. Bret insisted on having his friend Earl Hebner to officiate the match so the he can be in the match without any fear of a double cross. Hebner swore upon his children that he would not double-cross Bret.
During the match, the ref was knocked out cold. Shawn Michaels put the sharpshooter on Bret Hart. But the ref suddenly stood up and asked for the bell to be rung, even though Bret had not tapped out. Vince McMahon, who was on the ringside, asked the timekeeper to “Ring the f**king bell”.
The timekeeper rang the bell just as Bret reached over, grabbed Michael’s leg, and broke the hold. Shawn Michaels’ theme music began to play and he was announced the winner and the new champion. Hebner exited from the ring straight away and was driven to his hotel room, from where he went to take the first flight out of Canada.
Everybody involved was still in shock when Bret recovered and spat directly into the face of Vince McMahon. Vince ordered a seemingly irate Michaels (it was later revealed that he too was in on it the whole time) to “pick up the f**king belt and get the f**k out of here!”
Vince too exited the ringside quickly, while Bret went on a rampage and destroyed the equipments on the ringside before he was calmed by his brother Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith. Before going to the dressing room Bret signed “I Love You” and “WCW” to the fans.
After The Controversial Match
Backstage, he confronted Michaels, who swore he had nothing to do with what had just transpired. Many WWF superstars backstage were pissed off at the treatment meted out to Hart, a veteran of 14 years in the WWF.
Undertaker went into Vince McMahon’s dressing room and told him in no uncertain terms to apologize to Bret Hart. When Vince went to meet Bret Hart, the latter punched the living daylights out of Vince and gave him a black eye in the process.
All the major players in the Montreal Screwjob have gotten on with their life. Bret went on to WCW and had a brilliant career there before suffering a concussion at the hands of Goldberg, due to which he retired from wrestling. Shawn Michaels suffered an injury in the very next PPV and was out of action for almost five years.
Bret has recently said that he has forgiven Earl Hebner, though his animosity with Michaels still continues. Vince McMahon and the WWF went on to buy out the WCW and Vince became a billionaire. He also spawned the Mr. McMahon character out of the entire episode.
But the incident can never be erased from the minds of any of these people or the millions who watched it.