The Montreal Screw Job is one of the most infamous moments in pro-wrestling history. For that rare wrestling fan who is not familiar with the story (or too young) the basic premise is Bret ‘The Hitman” Hart was getting ready to leave the then-WWF for WCW in November of 1997 and was ‘screwed’ out of his WWE Title and did not know how the match would end.
Hart was the WWF champion at the time and the original plan was for him to lose the title at Survivor Series on November 9th in his home country of Canada. Bret had a certain degree of creative control and felt it did not make sense for him to lose in Canada so he would simply vacate the title the following night on the WWF’s flagship show Monday Night Raw. The owner of the WWF, Vince McMahon, did not like that idea and was concerned he would show up on WCW’s show Monday Nitro with the WWF title.
Long story short, at the Survivor Series they had Shawn Michaels win the title with what was supposedly a surprise to Bret hence the “screw job” moniker. For greater detail please visit this site, Pro Wrestling Wiki.
My main goal in this blog post is to give my opinion on this well known event in professional wrestling, which is…this is the greatest and longest running work/storyline in the history of pro-wrestling. What has captured people’s attention over the years is the fact that this finish was decided at the last moment without Hart’s knowledge therefore, ‘screwing’ him over and causing a huge and supposedly very real reaction from Bret. He was angry, spit on McMahon, punched Vince backstage, and then went to WCW for an unfortunately uneventful run, therefore this was supposed to be a very real moment in wrestling where one of its icons got screwed over and did not know the ending of the match ahead of time.
I have one big reason for why this entire match was pre-planned and Bret Hart was fully aware of the ending before hand:
To this day we hear from Bret how Vince McMahon was a father figure to him, how Vince realized he could not afford to pay Bret any longer, and how he told Bret to go make your money in WCW and come back. Bret had creative control and a great relationship with his boss. Getting ‘screwed’ over did two things for both men. In regards to Bret it allowed him to leave for the rival promotion without looking like a turncoat to the fans. Second, it launched the evil Mr. McMahon character which helped to draw an incredible amount of money for the WWE during the Attitude Era. Sometimes things just happen organically in wrestling, like The Rock coming in as a blue-chip baby face with the fans hating him instantly and him using that to become the most successful wrestler in history. Most of the time in pro-wrestling things are well scripted out in advance and the way this incident worked out could not have been better for the WWE and Bret has always seemed like a class act to me and I feel would be the type to do whatever needed to be done to help his soon to be former employer be successful.
The other thing is the fact that at the time it was figured Bret would return to the WWE at some point and they had a built in storyline which could have been the biggest draw in the history of professional wrestling. It did not happen due to injuries, the unfortunate death of Bret’s brother Owen, and The Hitman’s stroke/bike accident. It would have been amazing to have that kind of built in heat if he returned to the WWE and started immediately in a feud with his boss. It would have been reminiscent of the Stone Cold/McMahon feud, but could have went in a lot of different directions that would have made the rivalry stand out and make a ton of money for all parties involved.
Everyone involved in The Montreal Screw Job treats it as a real and unscripted incident, but I have a feeling that at some point one of the parties involved will finally admit it was all a work. A great one, but a work none-the-less.