Tybo Talks… Was ‘The Montreal Screwjob’ a Work?

Survivor Series is one of WWE oldest PPV’s (second only to Wrestlemania) and in the 30-year history of one of the most loved PPV’s there is one moment in time […]

Survivor Series is one of WWE oldest PPV’s (second only to Wrestlemania) and in the 30-year history of one of the most loved PPV’s there is one moment in time that stands out above them all. The Montreal Screwjob. I would even go so far to say that The Screwjob could be in the top three most prolific moments in all of wrestling history.

If your unsure of what The Montreal Screwjob is I’m sure if you look it up you will have at least heard about it, so I’m not going to explain what actually happened at Survivor Series 1997.

All caught up? Then let’s get into it. I am going to explain why I think the greatest swerve in wrestling history may not have been the shoot we are lead to believe.

Who’s idea was it?
Let’s start by going back to the beginning. There are many conflicting reports and accounts for who’s idea it was to do the ‘screwjob’, and who was ultimately involved in the whole situation. Bret himself has said in his book that Gerry Briscoe was the originator of the idea. Michaels has said in his book that it was Triple H that originally presented the idea to Shawn and Vince, this was seconded by Triple H himself on the ‘McMahon’ Home video. He talked about a three-way conversation between himself, Shawn and Vince. So at least these two accounts match to a point. It’s also worth mentioning that Vince Russo claims he is the one who went to Vince with the idea, although Russo is not mentioned in anyone else’s account of the events, except his own.

Although we will never truly know where the original idea manifested from, if I was to hazard a guess I would say the three-way conversation was actually a four-way conversation with Bret in on it from the beginning.

How it all happened
It’s fair to say that when it was all done and the bell had rung, Bret was not happy. He spat on Vince’s face, clearly cursed out WWE (then WWF) and mentioned WCW a lot more than Vince would ever allow on WWE TV.

There are at least a few things that were not quite right about that match and that night in general that should raise a red flag or two.

It’s important to remember that when that night started the evil ‘Mr McMahon’ character didn’t exist. To most of the fans Vince was just a colour commentator and nothing more, no one knew he was actually the owner of the whole company. This is the first red flag, Vince was not on commentary that night but was ringside. There was no reason for him to be there if you were Bret surely at this point you would start to think something wasn’t right.

This is only a small point but during the match, Michaels was meant to put Bret in the Sharpshooter, this was, of course, the point of the screwjob. The interesting part about this is Michaels was apparently about to do the move wrong and Bret corrected him. This may not seem like a big thing, but why would Bret want the move to be done right? This was his last WWE match and he apparently hated Shawn, would this not be a great way to stick it to Shawn by him attempting and failing to do the move Bret was famous for and fail, or did Bret want to make sure he was in the move correctly so they could get the finish they needed?

Finally, when it was all done and Bret realised what had happened, he proceeded to take his frustrations out on the announce table by smashing it up. This has never really sat right with me, why would you bother? Bret at no point tried to get a mic and bury Vince or the WWE, he never chased down Vince on TV, he decided the table was going to get it. Even this did not look the best, it just looked really pantomimed and he was ‘going through the motions’. Aside from that, why would you smash up the announce table anyway?

As I mentioned there are a few red flags to me, but all things I have mentioned can be explained, Vince could be ringside for any reason, the move could just be because Bret wanted the match to go well, and he could have just seen red with the table… but maybe not.

Wrestling With Shadows
For anyone who doesn’t know ‘Wrestling with Shadows’ is a documentary centring around Bret’s last year in WWE. This was not a WWE documentary, and the makers were given unrestricted access to all the backstage goings on of the WWE. This in itself was unprecedented for its time, this was 20 years ago, kayfabe was still alive and well. SO why give so much access to a group of none WWE filmmakers?

If you were planning to pull off the heist of the century, would you want a film crew you weren’t employing documenting what everyone was doing in your house?

There is a part after the PPV in the backstage where Bret point blank asks Michaels if he was involved, and Michaels said he had no idea. This could just be Michaels being scared of what Bret would do to him, or it could be to make sure there was no legit heal on Michaels as McMahon felt he should be the one to take the brunt of it from the boys in the back and the fans.

What’s most interesting is what the ‘Wrestling with Shadows’ film crew didn’t document. After everything happened, Vince went to see Bret in the locker room, it’s said that Vince would allow Bret to punch him if he wanted to. This is the only thing no one documented, Vince went into the locker room and walked out clearly shaken like he had taken a punch to the face. If you had the opportunity to punch your boss after they did what Vince apparently did to Bret, would you only punch him once?

Now, wrestling in its very essence is to look like you are beaten up when you are not, so would it be that shocking that the only footage from the whole situation that would have been almost undisputable does not exist?

Couple this with Vince having a sit-down interview with JR on Raw where he cut his infamous ‘Bret screwed Bret’ promo, where he was sporting a no 100% believable black eye. This could be me clutching at straws, and Bret didn’t hit Vince as hard as you would expect and Vince was trying to garner some sympathy from the fans, but it seems more likely (to me at least) that there may not have been a punch thrown at all, and Vince was just selling as only Vince knows how.

The Aftermath
After all the dust had settled, it was clear that the wrestling world had changed forever, but was that a bad thing?

Even 20 years after such a huge swerve, and an unforgivable betrayal between colleagues and close personal friends, it’s hard to see the negative from a business standpoint. For such a terrible situation to be in everyone’s got exactly what they wanted. Vince obviously got to protect his company and world title, Bret got his massive WCW payday and then became an even bigger babyface from the fans sympathy, Shawn Michaels became a huge heel and with Bret in WCW, WWE’s ‘Attitude Era’ truly began with the super heel ‘Mr McMahon’ character, and his mega babyface counterpart Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Even the ‘Wrestling with Shadows’ filmmakers got themselves an evil protagonist that you ‘couldn’t write’ in their words, for their now unmissable documentary, the likes have never been seen again.

It’s almost impossible to see The Screwjob as a negative when you look at it as a business. It just feels like everything fell into place, for everyone involved a little too well.

Regarding the fallout from Montreal, there are one or two other things that never sat right. One of them being Owen Hart’s reaction to the whole situation, or lack thereof. It’s well documented that both Mick Foley and The Undertaker threatened to quit they were both so upset with what had happened (Foley even no-showed the following nights Raw). Owen seemed to do nothing, he remained with the company despite what they had done to his brother. Owen could have made the jump to WCW and made far more money, but he never did. Would you be more loyal to the company or your family in that situation?

There is also the fact that Bret didn’t do anything to get any sort of compensation after he left WWE. Bret had creative control over his character, this meant that it was written into his contract to say he didn’t have to do certain things that he thought would damage the character of ‘Bret Hart’. This basically means that Vince was in breach of contract and Bret would have had an open and shut case against Vince and the WWE. So, why didn’t he, Bret is no stranger to a court visit, so why didn’t he this time when he was clearly in the right to do so?

Finally and what I think is the most obvious reason why the screwjob wasn’t completely a shoot, why would Vince get himself in a situation like this where he needs to concoct this plan to get the title off Bret? Remember this all happened after Alundra Blaze took the Women’s title to WCW are threw it in the bin. There is no way Vice would ever get this close to something like that happening again.

Bret leaving WWE was not sprung on Vince the night before Survivor Series, there were talks and negotiation between the three parties for months before, so why didn’t Vince have Bret drop the title on a Raw weeks before the PPV. It was clear Bret had an issue with Michaels, he said it himself, so why not have a shock victory from someone on a Raw over the champion and work it out later?

Or was this all to make Bret look as strong as possible when going to WCW, Ted Turner loved the idea of taking WWE’s top talent right from under Vince’s nose. There is arguably no one bigger than the WWE Champion. So, the title stays on Bret throughout the entirety of the WCW negotiations, this makes WCW offer even bigger money to Bret and he walks away from the whole situation with an insane amount of money for his final run and he gets to be the martyr in the biggest screwjob in wrestling history.All culminating in two close personal friends (Bret and Vince) doing the seemingly impossible and pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, and never truly revealing the truth.

Don’t get me wrong this whole thing is pure speculation, but you have to admit there is at least one or two things that certainly don’t add up. I doubt we will ever be told the full truth of what really happened from Bret or Vince but as wrestling fans do we really want the final wrestling vail to fall?

Let me know what you think about The Screwjob and if you think its a work or a shoot.