The Montreal Screwjob and the Most OMG Moments in the History of WWE
On November 9, 1997, professional wrestling was forever changed by Vince McMahon's decision to openly and unapologetically screw his top star, Bret Hart, out of the WWE Championship live on pay-per-view at Survivor Series.
The decision reverberated across the wrestling landscape, with its effects long-reaching and undeniable. The Chairman of the Board's brazen decision to betray one of his longest-tenured and most respected employees left fans stunned, not unlike other moments from his company's illustrious history.
In observation of the 23 years since the Montreal Screwjob, relive these iconic OMG moments, each with its own historic implication on WWE.
10. He's Back...and He's Better Than Ever
Almost forgotten these days is the July 2002 debut on WWE Raw of former WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff. As he stepped through the curtain after being revealed as the new general manager of the red brand, he embraced Vince McMahon in a moment that felt like hell freezing over.
Here was the very man who gleefully attempted to put McMahon and Co. out of business during the Monday Night War walking on stage to take over the show he tried to derail. The image of Bischoff in a WWE ring, recalling his various attempts to undermine the company's success, was shocking, to say the least.
Maybe it is because Bischoff became such a major on-screen character for the company in the years that followed that the impact of that moment has been lessened over time. Wrongly so.
If ever there were one person fans were certain they would never see on their televisions again, it was Bischoff—especially on a show owned by McMahon. But there he was, that crap-eating grin shining brightly on WWE's flagship show.
The unpredictability of his debut deserves to be ranked on any countdown of OMG moments.
9. Stone Cold Stuns Mr. McMahon
Leading up to the September 22, 1997, episode of Raw, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had dropped everyone from best friend Jim Ross to commissioner Sgt. Slaughter with his trademark Stone Cold Stunner.
Unhappy with the rebellious attitude of The Texas Rattlesnake, Vince McMahon addressed his employee inside the historic Madison Square Garden.
Urging Austin to take time off and rehab the injured neck he suffered weeks earlier at SummerSlam, McMahon was the caring boss looking out for his blossoming megastar. Austin, though, would have none of
In a moment that would spark a rivalry that carried WWE past WCW in the Monday Night War and helped make Austin the icon of the Attitude Era, Stone Cold dropped McMahon with a Stunner before being handcuffed and escorted out of the arena.
It was a jaw-dropping moment in that Superstars simply did not put their hands on McMahon. In fact, to that point, he had rarely (if ever) been addressed as the owner of the company. He was simply its voice, the lead play-by-play commentator.
That moment changed the dynamic and jumpstarted arguably the greatest rivalry in wrestling history. It was also indicative of WWE's willingness to throw anything at the wall in an attempt to fight back.
8. Shane McMahon Buys WCW
March 26, 2001, should have been the greatest night in the history of Vince McMahon's time as the owner of WWE.
After a five-year battle for pro wrestling supremacy, his company had put WCW out of business. Furthermore, he had purchased the company for pennies on the dollar. He had not only won the war—he had bought the competition.
On screen, his rivalry with son Shane manifested in one of the greatest angles in Raw history.
As Vince bragged about his victory, demanding former WCW owner Ted Turner show up at WrestleMania that Sunday to sign over ownership of the company, Shane appeared live on TNT and revealed that he had bought WCW out from under his father.
It was a huge coup for Shane-O-Mac and a great way to stick it to his old man. It also added considerable heat to their Street Fight at the Showcase of the Immortals, a match that already had several layers to it.
The angle, simulcast on Raw and Nitro, was the last great moment in the rich history of Turner's company and the end of the storied Monday Night War as we knew it. McMahon would attempt to recreate the competition of the weekly battles through a brand extension but failed miserably to bring the sense of urgency and unpredictability to his product that era produced.
Including the unforeseen swerve that March night.
7. Hulk Hogan Slams Andre the Giant
Entering WrestleMania III, fans had never seen Andre the Giant defeated on WWE television. Vince McMahon and the rest of the company's commentary team had spent years hyping The Eighth Wonder of the World as an undefeated, unbeatable giant and cast very real doubt that even the almighty Hulk Hogan would be able to knock him off his pedestal in suburban Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome on March 29, 1987.
The battle between the unstoppable force and the immovable object attracted worldwide coverage and an indoor attendance record of 93, 173 fans.
Andre dominated, as expected, forcing Hogan to fight from underneath if he wanted to retain his title. The Hulkster did just that, and in a moment that left commentators Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse "The Body" Ventura stunned, the champion hoisted Andre off the ground and delivered the bodyslam heard 'round the world.
A big leg drop followed, and Hogan retained his title, defeating the unconquerable icon.
The moment firmly established Hogan as the undisputed face of professional wrestling while giving Andre the legendary moment a performer of his stature deserved. To this day, fans remember where they were when they watched Hogan do the unthinkable en route to retaining his title, making the slam and match one of those transcendent moments in wrestling history.
6. 'Austin 3:16 Says I Just Whooped Your Ass!'
Moments after defeating Jake "The Snake" Roberts to win the 1996 King of the Ring, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin joined Dok Hendrix for an interview that would change the course of his career and result in one of the most iconic T-shirts in wrestling.
Mocking Roberts' religious beliefs, Austin exclaimed, "You talk about your John 3:16...well, Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!"
It was brash and spat in the face of authority. It was wholly disrespectful, but it struck a chord with an audience fed up with the cookie-cutter good guys who had dominated Vince McMahon's wrestling company.
Within 24 hours, there were signs emblazoned with "Austin 3:16." Soon, the iconic black T-shirt with the verse printed across the chest would debut at merch stands, breaking sales records and making Austin one of the hottest commodities in the industry.
The promo, its long-term effect and fans' reactions to it helped make it an OMG moment that would set the stage for an era that would save WWE from irrelevancy in the war for wrestling supremacy.
5. Seth Rollins Cashes In
WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, California, featured the most unforgettable Money in the Bank cash-in of all.
Roman Reigns and Brock Lesnar waged war in the night's main event in a brutal and physical battle between two men the fans had no interest in seeing leave with the WWE Championship.
Cue Seth Rollins, who waited until both men were down and exploded through the curtain, sprinting to the squared circle and handing over his briefcase. Moments later, he delivered a stomp to Reigns, pinned him and escaped Levi's Stadium with the top prize in the industry.
Fans celebrated accordingly. Though it was a dastardly heel absconding with a title he had no right to hold, they applauded the shocking execution and the unpredictability of it all. They cheered the gutsy creative decision and the fact that the company's biggest event ended with a sense of excitement for the shows that would follow it.
Social media captured the moment brilliantly, and WWE established Rollins as one of the stars of its future, a role he remains in some five years later.
4. The Pipe Bomb
Fed up, frustrated and on his way out of the company, CM Punk sat atop the Raw stage and delivered a pissed-off promo that would become known as The Pipe Bomb on the June 23, 2011, episode.
Expressing his dismay with the backstage politics, sycophantics and his lack of opportunities, Punk unleashed on Vince McMahon, his "idiot daughter and doofus son-in-law," John Laurinaitis, John Cena and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, all while vowing that he would leave WWE after Money in the Bank with the company's top prize in tow.
The effects of the promo were felt immediately, as social media erupted, making Punk one of the buzziest personalities in the world. Soon after, he was on late-night television, being interviewed by household names, and was the hottest thing wrestling had produced since Austin and The Rock.
The promo reflected the frustrations of fans disenfranchised by the WWE product. Punk was their voice, a voice of the voiceless. It was such an iconic moment, almost immediately, because he did what every single one of them wished they could do: went on TV and passionately stuck it to McMahon.
History tells us WWE managed to flub the follow-up in epic fashion, but there is no denying the emotion and attention it elicited. Nor can you denounce its place in wrestling history or its significance to Punk's career.
It is, in many ways, a major reason why fans still clamor to see him back.
Those who watched WrestleMania XXX live will never forget the stunned silence and uneasiness that filled the Mercedes-Benz Superdome seconds after the referee's hand slapped the mat a third time, awarding Brock Lesnar the victory over The Undertaker in one of the night's marquee matches.
Not because Lesnar could not win but because The Deadman had never lost on wrestling's grandest stage. On 21 occasions, he had conquered any and all who stepped up to challenge him at 'Mania. But not that night.
Fans sat mouths agape, in awe of what they had just seen. It was a sure thing, they thought, that Undertaker would deliver a Tombstone and add Lesnar's name to a long list of Superstars who tried to overcome him on that stage.
On that April night in New Orleans, he encountered a relentless Beast, a savage competitor who did not give two damns about any mythological streak or insurmountable force. He suplexed, slammed and F5'd his way to the most improbable victory in wrestling history and kicked off a reign of dominance that continues to this day.
It also started the journey toward retirement for wrestling's greatest gunslinger, the first hint that The Deadman's career was entering its final chapters.
2. 'As God as My Witness, He's Broken in Half!'
The rivalry between The Undertaker and Mankind culminated at the 1998 King of the Ring when they battled inside Hell in a Cell. It would be a moment that took place outside of the steel structure that would forever define it, though.
Minutes into the contest, both men battling atop the cell, Undertaker grabbed hold of Mankind and launched him off the edge and through the announce table below. "Good God almighty! That killed him!" Jim Ross exclaimed on commentary as Mankind laid in the wreckage of the table.
It was not the only fall he would take in the match.
Showing incredible resilience, Mankind got off the stretcher and climbed back on top of the cell despite having a dislocated shoulder. He would throw down with The Deadman some more before Undertaker grabbed hold of his throat and proceeded to chokeslam him through the roof of the cell.
"As God as my witness, he's broken in half!" Ross exclaimed.
Fans in Pittsburgh's famous Igloo watched in awe as referees, trainers and best friend Terry Funk checked on a battered and broken Mick Foley, with Undertaker staring down through the opening in the cell at his opponent.
Amazingly enough, Foley made it back to his feet and continued the match, eventually losing after enduring a backdrop on to some thumbtacks and a Tombstone. But nothing could top those two unforgettable spots, Ross' iconic calls and the admirable fortitude on display by Foley.
1. The Montreal Screwjob
When Bret Hart exercised his creative control and refused to lose the WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels in the main event of Survivor Series in 1997, billionaire owner Vince McMahon concocted and underhand plot to get the title off his biggest star before he departed for the rival World Championship Wrestling promotion.
In a moment that would forever link Hart, McMahon and Shawn Michaels, the Chairman of the Board ordered the bell to be rung just as The Heartbreak Kid applied The Hitman's trademark Sharpshooter, awarding the match to Michaels as a stunned audience inside Montreal's Molson Centre watched on.
The incredible realness of the proceedings, as well as long-term effects—that included the dawn of the Attitude Era and WWE's victory over WCW in the Monday Night War—have helped make the Montreal Screwjob and indelible moment in the company's rich history and one that is revisited ad nauseam by conspiracy-theorist fans.