If you ask any wrestling fan as to what is the one moment that they think changed the fate of the industry forever, they would also refer to the 'Montreal Sc**w job' incident.
The infamous episode will remain a fabled chapter in WWE's history owing to the consequences that spilled out from it. The entire episode took place in an era devoid of the Internet and hence, it took a long time for fans to recover from the magnitude of what had just transpired right before their eyes.
To set the prelude, WWE was the biggest wrestling brand back in the day and boasted of the who's who as a part of their locker room. Just when it started to look like McMahon had a monopoly across the industry, WCW emerged under Eric Bischoff's leadership and pulled the rug under WWE's feet.
WCW boasted of a solid financial clout and proceeded to lure WWE superstars into their company with multi-million dollar contracts.
This set the stage for the infamous incident at Montreal.
When did this happen?
This happened in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997 on November 09. It's the moment where Bret Hart was cheated out of the WWE Championship or WWF title as it was called at the time. Some refer to it as 'the incident' while others in the WWE Universe use a far more colorful expression.
What led up to this?
Bret Hart was leaving WWE for WCW. Vince McMahon told Bret Hart to seek out a contract with WCW as he couldn't afford the 20-year contract that he originally signed back in 1996. Due to the rise of WCW and Monday Nitro crushing WWE Monday Night Raw in the ratings, Vince McMahon was undergoing financial hardships and eventually realized that he couldn't afford Bret's contract.
WCW and Eric Bischoff offered Bret Hart, a 9 million dollar deal for three years, which was huge at the time. Bret couldn't say no and accepted the offer. But there was an issue. Bret Hart had a clause in his WWE contract that he had creative control in his last 30 days. What he didn't want to do is to put Shawn Michaels over on the way out.
The real-life WWE feud between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels is known by most WWE fans. At the time, their personal relationship was fractured for a multitude of reasons. And considering Bret's last WWE match was in Canada, he didn't want to lose, especially to HBK.
The Hitman's contract was due to expire the day after Survivor Series 1997. Bret Hart agreed to vacate the title on Monday Night Raw the next night. But Vince McMahon was petrified of Bret Hart taking the WWE Championship with him to WCW Monday Nitro and dumping the title into a trash can like Alundra Blayze.
So, in the main event, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels were supposed to have a DQ finish. Well, that didn't happen. Shawn Michaels locked The Sharpshooter on Bret Hart. Bret was supposed to reverse and then, that's when the unthinkable happened. Earl Hebner called for the bell as Bret was reversing the move.
What happened..well..watch the video below, scroll to the 1:23:17 mark and watch WWE History unfold.
Warning: Explicit Language
What went down?
Just as the video shows, Bret Hart was irate and spat at Vince McMahon. After destroying everything in his path, Bret Hart made his way to the locker room confronting Shawn Michaels about what happened. Shawn Michaels said no that he was not part of it. Years later, Shawn Michaels confirmed that he knew what was going to happen and lied about it.
Vince McMahon confronted Bret Hart in the locker room and Bret punched him, as soon as he got out of the shower. Bret Hart was having a documentary called 'Wrestling with Shadows' made on him. While the actual punch was never recorded, the camera's caught the aftermath.
The punch did happen and, as seen below, Vince McMahon was sporting a black right eye.
And others were there to witness it. 2 Cold Scorpio aka Flash Funk provides his colorful description, via an interview with Hannibal TV.
Warning: Explicit Language
While some say that Stone Cold Steve Austin started the attitude era, it can be argued that Mr. McMahon's character was born from the incident in Montreal.
Ironically, Bret Hart going to WCW ended in him getting a concussion and being forced to retire and he was unable to replicate even a small bit of what he managed in the WWE. Vince McMahon went on to make WWE a global powerhouse. While the two did make amends later on, WWE fans will never forget the day Bret Hart punched Vince McMahon in the locker room.
Bret was also inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and made amends with HBK Shawn Michaels during an episode of Monday Night Raw in 2010.