There have been many moments in WWE history that have signaled the beginning of a new era. Hogan slamming Andre, Diesel beating Bob Backlund in eight seconds for the title and Brock Lesnar suplexing Big Show from the top turnbuckle are a few moments that stick out to many people.
The most era-altering moment, however, came at the hands of Vince McMahon himself. The figurehead of the global wrestling giant preferred to keep his name out of the spotlight in his early days as chairman, instead opting to do color commentary at ringside.
It soon became public knowledge that Vince was not just the son of the former chairman. Vince began to integrate himself into a more physical role when Bret Hart attacked him at ringside following a match.
McMahon eventually accepted his role as the company representative on television, and he began to run things from a more managerial standpoint while on screen.
What was his most era-altering moment you ask? None other than the Montreal screwjob, of course.
During the Monday Night Wars, Vince McMahon began to lose his top talents to WCW. Lex Luger appeared on the innaugural Monday Nitro, and Rick Rude would end up appearing on both shows at the same time as he opted to leave WWE for WCW after he had pre-taped Raw for that week.
When Vince decided that Bret leaving WWE as the reigning champion for his competition would not be good for business, he began to scheme.
Close to the end of the match, Shawn Michaels locked on Bret's signature submission, the Sharpshooter. Right when it looked as if Bret would reverse the hold, Vince signaled for the bell. Shawn grabbed his belt and headed to the back looking extremely upset after the match.
No one watching knew what to make of the events in front of them. Vince had screwed his top guy for the last decade out of the WWE title, and it appeared like a legit move and not just a storyline.
Bret fumed, and understandably so. He spat in Vince's face and then proceeded to destroy the ringside area. It is also said that he punched Vince in the face following the altercation, but no video is available of that moment.
Once Vince screwed Bret he went from being Vince McMahon to Mr. McMahon, a far more veil and vindictive side of his own persona.
This led to the greatest success WWE had ever seen. Soon new talents like The Rock, HHH and Steve Austin emerged as the top guys in the company, and with WCW falling apart at the seems, it was only a matter of time until WWE started to dominate the ratings once again.
Vince may not have foreseen the way things had worked out, but I bet dollars to donuts that he is happy he did what he did. It all led to what essentially became the Attitude Era, which is lauded by many as the golden years of WWE due to its increased violence and risque stories.
The Divas stripping all the time didn't hurt ratings either.
Now Vince is back to his role of a more behind the scenes chairman, with Teddy Long and a laptop doing most of the leading for him on screen.
I am glad now that the whole Montreal screw job happened because if it had not, we may not have the same WWE we have today.