What really happened during the Montreal Screwjob?

Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997
Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at Survivor Series 1997

As a wrestling fan, you've probably heard of the Montreal Screwjob that took place at the 1997 Survivor Series. Of course, it involved WWE Chairman Vince McMahon literally double-crossing Bret "The Hitman" Hart live on pay-per-view in front of the world. This wasn't a storyline, this was real.

It sent shockwaves through the industry as fans couldn't believe what they had witnessed. Questions were raised at the time about whether the Montreal Screwjob was legitimate or part of the show. It has been etched in history as one of the most remarkable incidents in the history of professional wrestling.

So what really happened during the Montreal Screwjob?

Leading up to the infamous event, Bret Hart signed a lucrative contract with WWE's rival wrestling company WCW. WWE could no longer afford to keep "The Hitman" so he took matters into his own hands and agreed a move.

At the time, Bret was WWE Champion, but he was unwilling to lose the championship to Shawn Michaels. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, wanted Bret to drop the title to The Heartbreak Kid. A plan was devised between all parties for the match to end via disqualification, with Hart to either lose or forfeit the title later.

Behind closed doors, Vince McMahon devised a plan to double-cross Bret to make sure the championship was taken from him. Only a few knew of the plans, including referee Earl Hebner, who became a key player in the Montreal Screwjob coming to fruitition. Vince didn't want Bret taking the title to WCW and was willing to do whatever it took to make sure Shawn Michaels walked out of the match as WWE Champion.

The night came. Survivor Series 1997 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the home-country of Bret Hart. The match played out as planned, until Shawn Michaels locked Bret Hart in a Sharpshooter until all of a sudden, Earl Hebner called for the bell to be rung. The match was over. Hebner and HBK bolted for the backstage area.

Vince McMahon, who was at ringside, had instructed the timekeeper to ring the bell, just as Earl had called for the match to end. The plan worked, and it left a sour taste in the mouth of Bret Hart, who spat in Vince's face as he looked down at him from the ring. As the two crossed paths backstage after the incident, Bret Hart punched the chairman.

Bret left for WCW, and Vince McMahon was left to pick up the pieces, including sporting a black-eye on television because of the incident.

Did Shawn Michaels know of the Montreal Screwjob plans?

One thing that was noticeable once the Montreal Screwjob occurred was that Shawn Michaels seemed legitimately livid. He was visibly angry about what had just occurred, which led many to believe that he did not know what exactly was going to happen during the match.

Shawn Michaels did in fact know of plans to double-cross "The Hitman" as he confirmed with ESPN:

"[It was] probably the most uncomfortable day I've ever had in the wrestling business. By the time the day comes, the decision has been made. But no one knows how it's going to get done until Bret and I sit down to start discussing the match -- none of this can actually go into play until we do that. And so it was just an uncomfortable day knowing what you know, [how others] assume it's going to happen, and then you having to be the one to orchestrate it all."

Thankfully, many years later, all parties involved managed to patch things up as Bret Hart returned to work for WWE in 2009. He was immediately involved in a storyline with Vince McMahon which resulted in a WrestleMania match, with the WWE Universe getting some closure on the Montreal Screwjob.

Where were you watching Survivor Series the night of Montreal Screwjob that happened in 1997? Let us know in the comments below!

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