Bret "The Hitman" Hart is one of the most popular WWE Superstars in recent memory. His pro wrestling career is that of a legend, a man who has done it all. But much of that career has been defined by the event known as The Montreal Screwjob, a moment in Bret’s career when Vince McMahon double crossed him, forever impacting his life. Or did he?
The Montreal Theory is a new DVD, one that is putting forth the notion that the incident involving Bret, Shawn Michaels and Vince McMahon back in 1997 was all a work. Supposedly, Bret Hart not only knew about what was going to happen, but agreed and cooperated from start to finish.
I have to say that of all the conspiracy theories that exist in and around the industry, this is one that I never thought I would ever hear. I suppose that’s because of the drama that has surrounded it for so many years, how it has permeated the consciousness of wrestling fans all over the world so long now.
To imagine it never really happened? How do we do that?
Of course, we all know the story here. Bret Hart was leaving for WCW, and the proposed finish to his Survivor Series match against Shawn Michaels included a run-in that would result in Hart keeping the WWE Championship.
The next night on Raw, he would thank the fans for all their support, say goodbye, and surrender the title belt to Vince.
At least, that was the plan as described in Bret’s Wrestling with Shadows DVD that was being filmed at the time.
But none of that happened, as Vince showed up at ringside and apparently ordered referee Earl Hebner to stop the match right when Shawn hooked Bret up in his own move, the Sharpshooter.
The moment that the bell rang, time seemed to stop for everyone. Bret and Shawn both looked very surprised, bewildered as to what had just happened. Fans stared on in disbelief, attempting to understand what they had witnessed.
Had Bret tapped out? Did we miss it?
When the realization set in that Bret was hung out to dry in Montreal, the wrestling world was immediately thrown into chaos. Fans could not get enough of WWE programming, everyone wanted to know why this happened and who was behind it all.
However, we did not have to wait long to find out.
“Bret screwed Bret.” One of the most infamous quotes that the business has ever known, and it came from Vince McMahon, who suddenly found himself inserted directly into the WWE storyline as its top heel.
But what if all of it was supposed to happen this way? What it The Montreal Theory is right and the Screwjob was nothing more than a way to send a now red hot Bret Hart off to WCW, while the aftermath of it all played out on WWE TV, causing ratings to climb because of it?
Bret does one final job, for the sake of the company who indeed made him a star and for the industry that he loved. He does what any good talent wants to do and he leaves the promotion a little better than when he got there and helps them move on to the next phase of their evolution.
Is it possible?
The truth is, anything is possible. This is not just an entertainment company that we’re talking about here, this is also a professional wrestling promotion. WWE operates in an industry whose entire concept is based on manufactured storylines between fictional characters.
Pro wrestlers lie to you. That’s their job. Pro wrestling promoters lie to everyone. It’s what they do. The majority of fans not only know this, we’re used to it. We expect it. And most of us don’t really don’t have a problem with it.
But could Bret Hart lie to his own family? Assuming that Bret kept it to himself, sworn to secrecy by Vince, would he have been capable of lying all these years? And if his family did know, how in the world did they manage to keep it hidden from fans, without so much as an inadvertent slip of the tongue, since 1997?
For me, this is where it begins to fall a little flat.
Yes, Bret Hart is a pro. And yes he would likely be fully prepared to do whatever was necessary to help WWE, who made him a star to begin with. But while it is plausible that he kept this to himself for 16 years, I just don’t know if I believe it. That’s a tremendous amount of lying.
Which leads me to the other part of my issue with The Montreal Theory. Because if it is true, then Bret Hart also lied to his fans. And that is a pretty big deal.
While it is a fact that we as fans are used to being worked, manipulated by the pro wrestlers we follow and whose work we respect, this situation is a bit different. Bret’s fans have stuck by him through everything, through the absolute worst of times.
They were there for him when the Screwjob happened of course, but they were also there when his brother Owen Hart tragically died in a WWE ring. They supported him through his WCW career and they were there for him when he suffered a stroke in 2002.
“You screwed Bret,” another infamous quote, was not just made by fans who were in the crowd to have fun, it was done because many of the people chanting it truly believed it. They were on Bret’s side, they had huge amounts of respect for him and the troubles that he had seen in his life. They only wanted to see their hero eventually conquer, to overcome all of the trials and tribulations he had known and just be okay again.
But, if all of that was based on a lie? All of it?
The backlash for Bret could be very overwhelming, and I believe it could not only damage his legacy, but potentially ruin it, if indeed The Montreal Theory is true. And because of that, Bret would never say a word about what he did, not since that night in Montreal, and certainly not now.
Which means that a denial will sound like a lie. Will we really know the truth if we hear it?
Where will fans come down on this one? Will it be laughed right out of existence? Or, will the DVD shed a brand new light on a moment that truly defined Bret Hart, as well as Shawn Michaels’ career for so long now? At the end of the day, will it still be known as The Montreal Screwjob?
Or a screwjob on the fans?