The WWE Montreal Screwjob is considered one of the most controversial unscripted incidents in professional wrestling that took place at the Molson Centre in Montreal, Canada on November 9, 1997, at the Survivor Series pay-per-view.
The famous incident saw Vince McMahon and some other WWE employees change the outcome of the main event pitting then WWE Champion and hometown hero Bret Hart against his long-time rival The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels without Hart’s knowledge in one of the most shocking double crosses of all time. The Screwjob is referred to as a real-life betrayal of Bret Hart by Vince McMahon, considered one of the top performers of that Era.
What was the reason for WWE Montreal Screwjob?
23 years ago today, The Montreal Screwjob took placeAdvertisement
One of the most infamous wrestling moments ever
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) November 9, 2020Advertisement
Bret Hart was the reigning WWE Champion at the time with his contract coming up with the WWE and despite all best efforts to keep their top Superstar within their company, negotiations failed and Bret Hart decided to jump ship to rival promotion, WCW led by Ted Turner. Vince upset to lose his top star, asked Bret Hart to drop his WWE Championship to Shawn Michaels on his way out in their final encounter at Survivor Series 1997.
The Excellence of Execution refused to go with the match finish due to the event taking place in Montreal, Canada in front of his home fans and proposed an alternative to beat Michaels at the event and vacate the championship the next night on Monday Night RAW. But Vince McMahon was not ready to succumb to Hart’s demands and decided to conspire with his WWE personnel to screw him out of the title.
The plan for ‘Bret screwed Bret’
On this day in 1997, the Montreal Screwjob occurred at Survivor Series.
The most controversial ending in wrestling history. pic.twitter.com/DoXQ0Egsbj
— B/R Wrestling (@BRWrestling) November 9, 2019Advertisement
Vince McMahon met up with WWE official Patt Patterson, and Shawn Michaels a day before Survivor Series in a hotel room to plan the screwjob with Patterson’s close ally Gerald Brisco and WWE referee Earl Hebner (although claimed that he was informed about the plan at the day of the event) also reportedly involved in the planning. Many also speculated that commentators Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were also aware of it, but denied the allegations.
Michaels and Hart also met with Patterson to discuss the match finish with Bret allowing Michaels to put him in the Sharpshooter while the referee was unconscious. The rest of the finish would be as per the discussion; Hart reversing the submission hold and submitting Michaels but the referee would still be unconscious leading to Shawn delivering the Sweet Chin Music to Hart with a second referee running to the ring to make the pinfall. This would allow Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith to run interference and break the pin leading to the match ending in disqualification.
How did the Montreal Screwjob exactly happen?
Awesome fan pic from the Montreal Screwjob, taken just as Earl Hebner was about to call for the bell 📸 pic.twitter.com/vcJuJ4VgYE
— 90s WWE (@90sWWE) November 9, 2021
Bret Hart walked into the match with caution about the match finish by Hart Foundation member and brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith as well as Vader reminding him to be alert, kick out from pinfalls quickly, avoid fast counts and submission holds and not lie for too long on his back. The match began with Hart and Michaels brawling outside the ring followed by Vince McMahon and WWE officials who were at ringside.
As the match approached the finish of the match, viewers claimed that Michaels glanced at referee Earl Hebner as he was ready to put Bret Hart into the Sharpshooter hold. As per their plan, Michaels tightened the hold refusing to offer his leg to Hart who was supposed to reverse the submission move and Hebner shouted ‘Ring the Bell!’ to the timekeeper triggering Hart about the screwjob after Vince McMahon yelled ‘Ring the Fuckin Bell!’ who broke free from the hold by leaning forward, grabbing Michaels leg causing him to fall.
Hart seemed totally confused as Michaels’s music started to play who sat in the ring while Bret Hart spat in the face of Vince McMahon and destroyed the ringside area while Michaels grabbed the WWE championship and headed backstage with D-Generation X members Triple H and Chyna. Vince and his cronies followed suit to the massive heat and anger of the Montreal audience. Owen Hart and British Bulldog ran to the ring to calm Bret down who finger traced W-C-W on the screen exiting the ring to the ovation of the fans.
Reactions to WWE Montreal Screwjob:
Owen Hart consoling brother Bret immediately after the Montreal Screwjob took place at Survivor Series '97 pic.twitter.com/JPLMfwvTWQ
— Pro Wrestling Stories (@pws_official) March 16, 2021
The incident received major backlash from the Montreal fans in attendance, with surprise reactions breaking the internet immediately after the match finished and many speculating that it would put WCW in a dominant position moving forward. McMahon and his associates reportedly locked themselves in their office with The Undertaker banging on the door furiously.
Bret even asked Michaels about his involvement in the screwjob to which he denied. Vince then met up with Bret Hart and an altercation followed with Bret punching Vince in the face who spotted a black eye and sprained ankle backstage.
23 YEARS AGO TODAY…Advertisement
The Montreal Screwjob.
Was it a work or a shoot? pic.twitter.com/eV8kmnUjuE
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The Montreal Screwjob was recreated on certain occasions in the WWE, most notably at the very next Survivor Series in 1998 in a match between The Rock and Mankind for the WWE championship which McMahons double crossing Mankind in the same reenactment of the incident shouting to ring the bell while The Rock had him trapped in the Sharpshooter and he did not submit. Another similar incident saw CM Punk locking in The Undertaker in the Anaconda ViceGrip in their submission match at WWE Breaking Point 2009 with referee Scott Armstrong ringing the bell, even though The Deadman did not submit.
Reconciliation after WWE Montreal Screwejob:
Bret Hart waves to the fans as he's escorted out following the Montreal Screwjob. A powerful moment captured. pic.twitter.com/SYhupbRTS6Advertisement
— Pro Wrestling Stories (@pws_official) January 4, 2022
Bret Hart’s in-ring career came to an end in 2000 and the following year saw WWE surpass its rival WCW in the Monday Night Wars and put their competition out of business. In 2005, Hart finally agreed to collaborate with WWE on the release of the DVD ‘Bret “Hit Man” Hart: The Best There Is, the Best There Was, the Best There Ever Will Be’ about Bret’s entire wrestling career. The final act of reconciliation was set in stone when Bret Hart agreed to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2006 seemingly putting all the hostility to an end.
The Pink and Black Attack finally stepped back inside a WWE arena after 13 years in 2009 appearing as a Guest Host on WWE RAW welcomed back to a standing ovation by the WWE Universe and addressed the Montreal Screwjob. He confronted Shawn Michaels and after an intense showdown buried the hatchet with his real-life longtime rival embracing in the ring. He would then engage in a storyline rivalry with Vince McMahon leading to a match at Wrestlemania 26. The road to Wrestlemania also saw various incidents recreated from the Montreal Screwjob by Hart and McMahon. It was in finally in Pheonix Arizona at Wrestlemania 26 that Bret finally put Montreal behind him tapping out Vince McMahon and celebrating his win with his entire family.