Montreal – Was Bret Hart In On It?

The Montreal Screwjob is by far now the most famous moment in wrestling history. It’s a subject few in the wrestling industry are willing to openly talk about and a subject that brings out a lot of passion from those who do. Some 16 and a half years after the original incident this is still one of the most talked about moments by wrestling fans and has been analysed to death now by a lot of people. So why am I digging this up again? Because I felt it was time to ask the question, what if Bret was in on the screwjob and this was all a work that benefited all parties involved? It’s an interesting question and one I give my thoughts on in this article.

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I really don’t feel a need to go too in-depth into what happened as Montreal has been talked about so many times I see no point to this. However, a brief way to bring those who are not familiar with the incident up to speed is 1 week before Survivor Series, Hart, who had performed for the WWF since 1984, signed a contract to perform with WCW beginning in December 1997. McMahon sought to prevent Hart from leaving the company as the champion, but Hart was unwilling to lose the title to Michaels, with whom he had a long feud both on-screen and off, at Survivor Series in his home country. Hart, Michaels, and McMahon came to an agreement where the Survivor Series match would end with a disqualification, which under normal rules would result in Hart retaining the title; Hart would then forfeit the title to McMahon on Monday Night Raw the following day. However, McMahon decided without Hart’s knowledge that Michaels would win the title at Survivor Series. The plan was executed when match referee Earl Hebner, on direct order from McMahon, ended the match as Michaels held Hart in the Sharpshooter submission hold, Hart’s signature finishing move, even though Hart had not submitted. Michaels was declared the victor by submission and crowned as the new WWF Champion.

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I have been an avid fan of Bret Hart all my life, he was my favourite wrestler growing up, and is still my favourite wrestler of all time. For years, I felt an injustice had been done to Bret following Montreal, and never believed Bret would return to the WWE. SO when I found out he would finally return to our screens I was as hyped as anyone. It meant the ghost of Montreal could finally be put to rest for everyone involved and the wrestling world could finally move on. Bret’s return on Monday Night Raw in 2009 saw a burying of the hatchet with Shawn Michaels both on and off screen, and saw a match develop between Vince McMahon and Bret, which culminated at Wrestlemania 24 with Bret defeating Vince. Finally, this story has a happy ending.

I never really thought anything more of it until a few months ago when I saw something on Facebook talking about an independent documentary on the Montreal Screwjob. I did some research into this and found it was available so I pre-ordered my copy and waited. The DVD is titled ‘The Montreal Theory’ and it explores two sides to the story – The factual side of the story where it breaks down everything that happened with the parties involved 18 months from before the screwjob occurred. The second part turns that story on it’s head and presents new evidence, often overlooked facts, theories & memories from those who studied it, watched it unfold, and were there live backstage to officially create “The Montreal Theory” – a scenario that introduces the possibility that Bret could have secretly been a part of, or even orchestrator of everything, and the short and long term benefits everyone experienced because of it.

From watching the DVD, I feel some of the theory offered is a little far fetched and perhaps sees some people over analysing certain facts to make it look questionable. But there are points in the DVD that have made me question the validity of this being a genuine screwjob. Thoughts on this are even offered by people form within the wrestling industry including Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and Raven. Shoot video footage from names such as Jerry Lawler, Kevin Nash & Sean Waltman, Tammy Sytch, the New Age Outlaws, and Chris Kanyon all appears in the DVD too and shows them frankly talking about their belief Bret may well have been involved in the screwjob.

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Going back to a point I made at the beginning about everyone involved benefiting from Montreal, I believe if it was the intent for this to be a work, then the tragic accident of what happened to Owen Hart was not a part of this and was something that no one could have predicted happening. WWE benefited hugely from the screwjob and so did Vince McMahon, but Bret was never the same again after he left WWE, being forced to retire due to being kicked in the head and receiving a concussion courtesy of Bill Goldberg.

So, what if the Montreal Screwjob was in fact something Bret was in on? In my opinion it doesn’t make anyone involved a bad person for keeping the truth from us for so many years. If anything, it makes these men geniuses! In an industry dominated by speculation and news leaks constantly coming out online, to keep this kind of thing a secret for so long would be unheard of and a great achievement. Yes, a lot of people are going to be mad, and I understand that. I was annoyed with HBK and Triple H when after denying involvement for many years they finally admitted they were in on the screwjob, but in time I forgave and let it go. People would in time forgive Bret and Vince. It’s a controversial issue that we may never hear anything more about over the years, but the questions will always be there about how much Bret really knew about what was going to happen. Perhaps that’s why the screwjob is still talked about so often in the wrestling world. Do people believe there might be something more to this than meets the eye?

Everyone has their own opinion on Montreal and I would love to hear yours. Personally, I’m on the fence. I would like to believe that the conspiracy theories are just that, but if it came out Bret was involved then I would not be surprised. I used to be a believer that Bret got screwed by Vince, still believe that was probably the case, but I can’t help but feel there is more to this incident than meets the eye and some things just don’t add up and make me wonder if it really was genuine.

I hope you enjoyed this article, thank you for reading, and I look forward to your thoughts and feelings on this controversial subject.

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  • Mike

    Lance storm himself has stated that once he talked to Bret about it, all his questions about whether it was a work or not were completely squashed. That should make it pretty clear that it was not a work

    • Jamie Welton

      Thanks for responding Mike. My response back to that would be do you believe everything your told about the whole thing? If Bret was in on it, is he going to really admit it to anyone openly? I understand we should accept his word and it’s very likely that Bret wasn’t a part of anything, but in wrestling you never quite know

  • Ron

    I think Brett was not that good of an actor. Shawn and the ref, maybe, and Vince was not a big ball haver back then, way before he was willing to take a hit. As ruthless as Vince has been through decades, I can easily believe he would screw over his champ (look at Bob Backlund, who saved his ass after Bruno, and how he treated him after he won the title from Brett and then lost to Diesel in 8 seconds!) Vince is more one-way than anyone ever associated with wrestling (see his championship win) and I understand Brett, after stroke, losing brother, going from the top of the hill to "who cares", prostituting himself for more recognition after all these years. Good for Vince to come up with something unique (though the Barry Windham as Sting title loss has similar uniqueness), that put Shawn (a minor+ player at best) over the top as a champ! Good for YOuuuuu!

  • Jamie Welton

    Thanks for replying Ron. I agree with you, if you watch back the footage Bret looks a bit bewildered, as did Shawn but Triple H certainly didn't. I think all the unfortunate things that happened to Bret have changed his view on WWE and it was great to see him come back for the closure etc, but the question remains would he have done that had none of those things happened? We will never know of course, and that's the thing, if Bret was in on any of it (And he did a good acting job of acting like he knew nothing) chances are we will never know. The theory won't ever go away until every bit of it can be cleared up and it will always be in the back of peoples minds