Friday, November 10, 2017

20 Years Since Montreal

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of the Montreal Screwjob.

I've probably lost count of the times that I've written about it. It was the day when Bret Hart - who was leaving the WWF and had a term in his contract that allowed him to have creative control for the final days of his deal - was hesitant to lose the WWF World Championship to his bitter on and off screen rival, Shawn Michaels, in Canada.

Their match, at the 1997 edition of The Survivor Series, was meant to have ended with Michaels' friends and Hart's family interfering. Instead, there was a setup and - as Michaels had Hart in the Sharpshooter finisher - the referee, Earl Hebner, called for the bell and indicated that Hart had submitted.

He hadn't.

This was the biggest match in wrestling history.

It led to WWF becoming a bigger company simply because it made a villain out of its owner, Vince McMahon. He went on to feud with Steve Austin and did mega business in the years following.

Shawn Michaels' career went awry in the months following the Screwjob. He was injured during a match at the 1998 WWF Royal Rumble and then - after dropping the title to Austin at WrestleMania XIV - was forced into retirement due to his back issues. He returned four years later.

Hart went to WCW. However, by 2000, he had been forced to retire due to a concussion he suffered in a bout with Bill Goldberg.

I didn't write about it yesterday because I wanted to be pedantic and schedule the post to be published at around the time it occurred, which was in the early hours of November 10th (for UK!).

I watched it live. Going in, I had no idea that Bret Hart was leaving for WCW. I was under the impression that he was in for another nineteen years (he had signed a twenty-year deal in 1996) so - when they did the finish with Michaels winning the belt and exiting the stage, the first thing I thought was they had to rush things because there may have been a fire in the arena.

It was so peculiar, I rewound the videotape a number of times to watch how it ended and I still didn't figure it out that night.

Or rather morning.

I began to work it a few hours later when a guy in my class told me that Hart was leaving for WCW. I then phoned a wrestling hotline later that night and figured it all out from there.

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