This is the second episode of the six-part series “Dark Side of the Ring” on Vice Network. This is on the Montreal Screwjob from the 1997 Survivor Series.
FWIW I wanted to gloss over this because it’s been talked about ad nauseam but for the sake of continuity, and to get to the amazing third episode it was time to bite the bullet.
And yes the third episode, the Killing of Bruiser Brody, was everything I wanted and more. It blew me away. This one, not so much.
– Bret Hart, Bruce Prichard, Jim Cornette, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Scott Hall, Earl Hebner and Vince Russo are the primary talkers here.
– They go into some history with the Hart family and the dungeon. Nothing you haven’t heard before. Although Jim Cornette has a funny story about Stu Hart using the same spatula to flip eggs and then scoop up cat droppings during Hart family breakfast. From there they talk about the WWF purchasing Stampede in 1984 but they gloss over them re-selling the promotion a year later.
– They fast forward to the early 90s when Hart and Shawn Michaels were showing chemistry in tag matches.
– Prichard said it was Vince’s call to put the title on Bret in 1992 because Ric Flair was dealing with some health issues and Hart had been growing a global fan base with his work. Cornette says McMahon is the one of the most unique individuals on the planet, “if you could cross a genius with P.T. Barnum and Donald Trump you would get the love child that is Vince McMahon.” Cornette says that Vince pretty much runs everything.
– Prichard says someone made Bret champion, Vince, and it could be taken away as easily as it was attained. Cornette says there is no set attributes for deciding a champion, it was just whoever Vince wanted. He adds that Bret tended to look at the championship like guys in the old days did and he wanted to protect it.
– They fast forward to the 1996 area when Hall and Kevin Nash leave for WCW and they break kayfabe on the way out with the Curtain Call, which leads into a big rant by Cornette about kayfabe and breaking it.
– Bret and Cornette talk about Bret’s first backstage altercation with Shawn, which came around the time of the “Sunny Days” comment. Bret describes their fight as “watching two prostitutes fighting downtown.” He yanked out a bunch of Shawn’s hair.
– Once Bret does the deal with WCW. Prichard and Cornette talk about the time-honored tradition and how Bret was not just leaving the WWF but going to their hated, direct competitor so he was going to have to drop the belt. Bret says he was told of the plans by Vince about a month before the match. Bret says he looked at it as a chance to really end things with Shawn on a good foot so he told him that regardless of what happened in their past he’d always be safe with him in the ring. Shawn said thank you but added he would not guarantee the same safety in return. (FWIW that sounds a little different than the way Bret has told that story in the past…I thought he told Shawn he would happily put him over but Shawn said if the roles were reversed that Shawn wouldn’t do the job for him…WHICH IS IT BRET?!?!?)
– Cornette said it was short-sighted of Vince to think that Shawn and Bret, given their past, would just magically have a match and agree to everything come Survivor Series. He said he took Bret’s side because Shawn was being the prick but at the same time, the situation was what it was and the belt had to come off Bret. He talks about Bret having reasonable creative control. (One could argue that his control didn’t really cover this situation since he was leaving the company. Right?).
– Earl relays the story of him promising Bret that he wouldn’t count him out. Bret claims that Earl swore on his family. Earl doesn’t go into that and instead talks about the camera crew for Wrestling with Shadows.
– Vince did not know Bret was wired for their private meeting that you heard on Wrestling with Shadows. They originally wanted camera crews in there but Vince said that was not how he wanted to conduct this meeting. Bret wired himself anyway.
– Prichard says from what he knew the finish was going to be a few run-ins, some chaos and it would end in disqualification. Bret would make his speech the next night and forfeit the title.
– Earl said the first he knew of the plan was when Gerald Brisco told him what to do while he was walking past gorilla position to the ring. Earl kind of resisted but Gerald gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse…”do it or get fired”. Earl claims he stepped back and told his brother to get his clothes in the car because he knew he might have to leave ASAP.
– Bret said Shawn kind of botched the sharpshooter but they got it on and Bret stares at Vince and see’s him saying “ring the fucking bell”. Earl said if he didn’t ring the bell, Vince was probably going to. Earl hauled ass. Bret spits a solid loogie on Vince and threw a big tantrum.
– Now we get to the fun part. Who was the unknown mastermind behind this? Well three guys were in on the original plan — McMahon, Cornette and Vince Russo.
– Russo said Vince pitched many different scenarios to Bret to get the belt off him and onto Shawn but Bret wasn’t having any of them. Then Vince tell Bret that the creative would go back to the drawing board and then call Shawn and tell get ideas from him that he would pitch to Bret again.
– Cornette and Russo go into why they hate each other. Cornette said they couldn’t be any different if one of them was “African-American lesbian nun and the other was a Neo-Nazi skinhead martian from outer space.”
– Moving past their issues Cornette finally tells Vince that they have to double cross Bret and goes into some history of double crosses. Russo claims Cornette didn’t tell that story but who really believes Cornette knew a story that he didn’t tell? Exactly.
– Cornette suggests the plan that Shawn put Bret in his hold and they ring the bell. He opined that Bret would be upset but he wasn’t going to expose the business.
– Then the BEST part is that Russo claims HE told Vince the plan and suggested the plan. Sure. (Ok given what we know about Russo’s booking style does anyone on earth believe he would propose something so uncomplicated? I didn’t think so.). Russo claims he wishes he didn’t propose the idea. I bet.
– Cornette was surprised they actually decided to pull it off. In a funny bit he says he sees this and quickly wonders who knows about this besides him and figures that he might get a beating if he hangs around so he leaves and as he’s leaving he see another car ready to leave behind him and figures it was Hebner. He actually beat Hebner out of the building.
– Prichard said he was in a bad position because he SHOULD have known but he didn’t and the boys would assume that he did know. He said he felt betrayed by Vince. No one knew if Shawn was in on it. He denied it to Bret’s face when they were in the dressing room together. Prichard convinced Vince to meet him and “give him one if Bret wanted to take it”. Bret took a shower first and then punched him out. (Sadly they omit the funny part where Vince fucked up his ankle stepping on Brisco’s foot). Bret then claimed Shawn was crying and waiting to get beat up but that part doesn’t correlate with the timeline or what we saw on Wrestling With Shadows. Pretty sure Shawn was long gone when Bret punched out Vince but Bret gonna Bret every now and then.
– Earl said that Vince defended him to the boys and took responsibility for the call. He said that if anyone had an issue with it, they could talk to him and be released.
– Prichard said he had his talk with Vince and Vince said that he didn’t want to tell him because had he told him than Prichard could never say he didn’t know. Vince said that Shawn basically took onus off of him. All right.
– Cornette laughs at the idea of Bret going on TSN and basically exposing the business despite all the history he had with wrestling and how hard he tried to protect it.
– As the story continues, Vince begins to pull back the curtain and transform into Mr. McMahon with one simple line: “I truly believe that Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart. He can look in the mirror and know that.”
– They talk about Bret’s lackluster time in WCW. Hall said he made zero impact there. Bret said WCW was a wasteland and didn’t have a clue. Bischoff takes some responsibility for the failures but also said Bret was so detached from the business that he wasn’t committed to making anything work.
– Hall believes the Montreal Screwjob was a work. Bischoff believes it was a total shoot. Hall said everyone was in on it. He points to Bret’s face when the bell rang “does that look like a guy that was surprised” (well yeah, it kinda does) and then he points to Bret spitting on Vince and the camera going tight in on Vince. Hall says that Vince has been in the TV business forever and none of that happens that smoothly without the big boss approving it. And then Bret is standing in the ring, on a global broadcast, and motion the call signs of his competitor? Ok, fair enough…
(But wait a second, I don’t think that part was shown on the actual broadcast. Good thing I have the Network so I can just load it up. Ok here we go. Shawn puts Bret in the sharpshooter. Hebner rings the bell. Hart eventually gets out of the hold and spits on Vince. We see Hart spitting on Vince but it’s not a focal point of the shot. Then Shawn rolls out of the ring, argues with Vince, grabs the belt and all we see is him heading to the back flanked by Triple H and Brisco. Hall is seeing the Wrestling With Shadows video I think.)
– Russo says it definitely wasn’t a work. Prichard agrees. Cornette laughs at the idea that Hall would think it’s a work because he’s one of Shawn’s best friends and talks to him all the time. Cornette said anyone who thinks it’s a work is a “dumb, stupid fuck”
– Bret feels bad for Earl. Earl says life was the shits for a while. He’s happy he and Bret are friends again but the feelings that he betrayed a friend doesn’t go away.
– Cornette says he takes joy in hating Russo and he will live to piss on his grave and he’ll take a picture of it. He says hate is a hell of a motivator.
Bottom Line: There was next to ZERO new information on this with the exception of the Cornette/Russo stuff. We should also assume that Brisco knew because he was calling the shots from Gorilla. If you have lived under a rock and needed to know about the screwjob and the history leading up to it this isn’t the best primer. Wrestling with Shadows and the Bret vs. Shawn documentary are both better watches.