The “Hitman” Got Royally Screwed

I will start off by saying that I am absolutely in love with Shawn Michaels, yes good old HBK, he could give me “sweet chin music” and as I am lying flat on my back, I would thank him ( he is hands down the sexiest wrestler to come out of the 1980’s/90’s). However, during this article I will stay completely unbiased and give you the story of how Bret “The Hitman” Hart got royally screwed in Montreal. 

At the time of his departure, Hart was a 14-year veteran of the WWE. Vince McMahon gave him his big break and in the 1980’s he made his debut as one half of the tag team known as, “The Hart Foundation” which consisted of Hart, his brother in law Jim Neidhart, and their manager Jimmy Hart (they really kept it in the family.) During the 80’s and 90’s Hart grew to a WWE hall of fame nominated wrestler. His late younger brother Owen Hart (RIP) would eventually follow in Bret’s footsteps and make quite a name for himself within the industry as well.  

By 1997 McMahon and the WWE were facing severe financial hardships and Vince McMahon would seek to make the foundation a public traded company. However, this would mean that the company would have to cut any long-term financial contracts. This opened the doors for Hart to sign with their competitor WCW and in November 1997 that is exactly what he did.   

Hart had won the “WWF Heavy Worldweight Championship” at SummerSlam that year and he wanted to hold that title until his departure from the cooperation on December 5, 1997, Vince MaMahon agreed to allow him to do so. It is no secret that Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels had a severe ongoing off-screen feud. These two dudes would rather walk across a bed of nails than have to deal with each other. So, it was a no brainer that Hart would wrestle his last match against Michaels (lovingly known by fans as “The Heartbreak Kid”). The two had found themselves in several backstage arguments and Michaels even accused Hart of having an affair with WWE Diva “Sunny” a claim that would earn him a 2 month suspension.

Hart claimed that after a show in San Jose, California on October 12, 1997 he approached Michaels to have a professional conversation about trusting each other in the ring. During this conversation Hart claimed that he told Michaels that he would have no problem losing to him if that is what McMahon wanted. Allegedly Michaels replied that he “would not be willing to do the same” (don’t worry guys HBK would later find Jesus and he is a much nicer person now) this response obviously infuriated Hart and the feud between the two continued to grow. 

Hart approached McMahon and said he would have no problem giving up his heavyweight title before leaving the WWE but he would not lose in a match against Michaels as he felt HBK would do him dirty and not give him a clean match. Despite telling McMahon this Hart was scheduled to wrestle Michaels in a title match at the upcoming 1997 “Survivor Series” being held in Montreal, Canada. This match would result is what is undoubtedly still one of  the most talked about moments in WWE history, “The Montreal Screwjob”.   

McMahon agreed to allow Hart to hold on to the WWE heavyweight title by having his match against Michaels end in a disqualification and Hart would end up losing or forfeiting the title on a later date. Although people believe McMahon had another plan in mind, one that is thought to be a personal betrayal against Hart. Thinking that the plan was set in stone Hart went on to promote his match at the upcoming “Survivor Series” and during this time Vince McMahon (allegedly) met with WWE wrestler Pat Patterson ( who wrestled from 1958-2000  and Shawn Michaels a day before the event in a hotel room to discuss plans for “The Screwjob”.  

Later on, both Michaels and Hart had a meeting with Patterson to discuss the match. During this meeting Hart said that he would allow Michaels to put him in his own signature move “The Sharpshooter” until he was rendered unconscious (an idea that was pitched by Patterson). The rest of the match was to proceed as thus; “Hart would grab Michaels’ foot and reverse the hold, putting him in the Sharpshooter. Michaels would submit to the hold, but the referee would still be unconscious. Hart would let go of the hold to try to revive the referee, but Michaels would hit Hart with his finisher, Sweet Chin Music, and make the pin. A second referee would then run to the ring with Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, and Davey Boy Smith following close behind. The second referee would start the count, but Owen and Davey Boy would break the pin. The original referee would then recover and start to make the count, but Hart would kick out, setting up about five more minutes of brawling that would result in a disqualification.” But that is not exactly what happened.

On the night of “Survivor Series” the Molson Center in Montreal was sold out with more than 20,000 fans in attendance. Hart’s departure from the WWE had been leaked to the public and many fans had found out. This resulted in the crowd chanting “YOU SOLD OUT!” directed at Hart during the match despite their absolute hate for Shawn Michaels. Hart would mention after the match that in hindsight he should have known something was off when he noticed Vince McMahon was not at the announcers table to give commentary during the match (something he regularly did during this time) and that he should have headed his (brother-in-laws) Davey Boy Smith and fellow wrestler Vader’s previous warnings of a possible set up.  

Hart & Michaels are leg locked

Before the bell even rang Michaels and Hart brought their match outside of the ring and into the crowd while being closely followed by McMahon and other WWE officials. As the match started to heat up the two men returned to the ring to continue their fight. As planned Hart pushed referee Earl Hebner in from of Michaels and jumped from a top turnbuckle sending all 3 men tumbling to the mat. Michaels and Hart would both get up but after giving a rake to Hart’s eye he was able to get Michaels back down to the match and put him in his own finisher “The Sharpshooter” (all of which was planned in advance).

This where shit starts to get shifty. While Michaels was holding Hart in “The Sharpshooter” fellow referee Mike Chidoa was supposed to run into the ring to take over for the fallen Hebner. Although someone was yelling in Hebner’s earpiece for him to get back up. In return while backstage with Owen Hart and Davy Boy Jones (all of whom were waiting for their cues to enter) Chidoa repeatedly yelled back that Hebner was not supposed to get back up and the match was supposed to continue. This left everyone back stage in a state of confusion while Bret Hart was still unaware that something was going on.  

According to some fans they say they saw Michaels glance up at Hebner as he continued to tighten his hold on Hart, leading them to believe that he was in on the plan the whole time (no way, not my sweet baby angel). Michaels kept tightening his hold on Hart and refused to offer up his own leg for the reversal. Hebner jumped up and yelled for timekeeper Mark Yeaton to ring the bell. Vince McMahon who was next to Yeaton at the time reiterated by telling him to; “Ring the f****** bell!” A confused Yeaton rang the bell just as Hart was able to break Michaels grip and allow for the reversal. Shawn Michaels music began playing (“I think I’m cute. I know I’m sexyyy…) as the ring announcer declared him the winner and new “WWE Heavyweight Champion”.  

During this time Earl Hebner left the ring and was exiting the arena. After a moment of shock, Hart was able to get to his feet and walk over to McMahon spitting directly in his face, while Michaels appeared to show confusion. Michaels was then ordered by McMahon to; “pick up the damn belt and get the hell out of here!”. Michaels was seen exciting the building with fellow wrestlers Brisco and Triple H before the broadcast suddenly cut out. After cameras stopped rolling McMahon and many other WWE officials hurried backstage as an enraged Hart began to smash cameras, monitors, and other ringside equipment. Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and Jim Neidhart rushed to the ring to calm Hart down. 

The fans in attendance that night immediately began to voice their anger about the situation, while fans who had been watching on television sat at home rather confused and unsure about what had just happened as Jim Ross wrapped up commentary and went off air 4 minutes before schedule. To make matters worse the next night on an episode of “Raw” Michaels carried around the championship belt and did a segment where he stated that “Vince McMahon didn’t screw Bret Hart. I truly believe that Bret Hart… screwed Bret Hart.”, he would continue his mocking for weeks to come.  

As McMahon suspected he received backlash from WCW when they addressed the issue on an episode of their popular program “Nitro”. The WCW also rehashed “The Montreal Screwjob” at their event “Starrcade” in 1997 during a sketch where Bret Hart would not let Hulk Hogan leave the ring with the “WCW Heavyweight Championship” after he claimed wrestler Sting got screwed during the match.  

On January 4, 2010 Hart returned to the WWE for an episode of “Raw” and immediately called out Shawn Michaels so the 2 men could put an end to their feud and move on. Michaels accepted Hart’s kindness and agreed to bury the hatchet. The 2 men shook hands and decided that they want both of their careers to be remembered for one of the many matches they wrestled in and not one bad one. When the conversation finished Michaels turned and looked as if he was about to deliver “Sweet Chin Music” to Hart but instead embraced him in a beautiful hug of friendship. 

IIn 2002 Bret Hart suffered a stroke and Vince McMahon took it upon himself to call during his recovery and send his well wishes. The two men were on sparse speaking terms after that year but have sense put all of this behind them. Through the years there have been many different accounts of the infamous “Screwjob” even one that involved Triple H as the organizer of it all. Only few people know the truth and I doubt they will dish it anytime soon with each member involved in the incident giving different accounts of what led up to it in their respective autobiographies. 

Since this incident both Shawn Michaels (in 2011) and Bret Hart (in 2006) have been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and have cementented themselves as 2 of the greatest wrestlers to ever step foot in the ring. They aren’t better than Undertaker though……nobody disrespects Taker. When I was a kid, he used to scare me though because he would roll his eyes back in his head and was supposed to be a dead man walking, not to mention his creepy ass music! Once again, I digress…. 

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2 Comments

  1. This is a very good write up. Well written. That night those two reconciled is a night I’ll never forget. Having only been a wrestling fan for six years at the time, through that six years all I heard about was the Montreal Screwjob and I couldn’t get enough of the story behind it, still can’t to this day. It’s such an interesting, dark, and convoluted mess.

    Also, I didn’t know about McMahon calling Hart after Hart suffered a stroke. That was an interesting fact.

    Liked by 1 person

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