Ocean’s Eleven is one of the best action/heist movies of the 2000’s. With George Clooney and Brad Pitt in their prime, it was funny, fast-paced and entertaining all the way through. The scene where George Clooney explains to Brad Pitt why they should rob 3 casinos for $150 million is one of my favorite film exchanges of the past 20 years:
Pitt: “Why do this? And don’t say money. Why do it? Why take the risk?”
Clooney: “Because the house always wins. You always play the same stakes, you never change them, and the house will take you. Except when that one, perfect hand comes along, and you bet big. And then you take the house.”
The film was about a group of old school criminals who all banded together and played their roles to pull off the one last epic heist that would be the best of their lives.
This is what I believe Vince McMahon, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels did with The Montreal Screwjob.
The Story They Are Going With
This story changes slightly depending on who tells it (more evidence that it’s as fake as Sasha Banks’ weave). But the basic gist is this:
Bret “The Hitman” Hart was the WWE champion in 1997. He signed an enormous contract with Vince McMahon. Vince then realized he couldn’t afford him anymore, and told him he should probably take money and go to WCW.
This is where I believe the truth in this entire saga ends.
The story then goes that Bret Hart started having problems with Shawn Michaels in real life. Apparently he told Shawn he would be happy to put him over on his way out, and Shawn said “Thanks, but I want you to know that I wouldn’t do the same for you.”
This insulted Bret so deeply that Bret, who has creative control in his contract, refuses to put over Shawn on the way out.
This escalated all the way right up to the final few days of Bret on the WWE payroll. The final pay-per-view before Brett’s exit would be Survivor Series 1997. Apparently Bret was told that it would be a DQ finish, and he would vacate the belt on Raw the next night and leave the company.
However, the decision was made to actively screw over Bret Hart in the ring and steal the title from him live on pay-per-view.
Some say it was Triple H’s idea, which rings the most fucking false to me. Remember, this isn’t “The Game” Triple H. This isn’t Mr. Stephanie McMahon. This is fucking random Degeneration X lackey HHH. I’m sure he had major pull backstage.
Some say Bruce Pritchard. Some Vince Russo.
Personally, my money is on Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels…and Bret Hart.
If this was a “Screwjob”, everybody sure made out really fucking well in the end.
Think about it.
Vince McMahon, overnight, is the top heel in all of professional wrestling.
Shawn Michaels is the new WWE champion, as a hatable heel with a title he “stole”. Epic heat on him.
Bret Hart is the most sympathetic babyface in all of wrestling, and gets to move on to his new home without ever losing a match to drop the belt.
Literally everybody involved benefits from this. Why wouldn’t Bret go along with this? It benefits him 100 times more than laying down for a clean Sweet Chin Music on his way out.
Why would Vince agree to screw Bret under these conditions? If the idea is to “screw” Bret, shouldn’t Bret look badly here on the way out? There’s no way to pull it off. It’s blatantly obvious what’s happened, and even if it wasn’t – even if the ref rang the bell and the commentators screamed “BRET SUBMITTED TO THE SHARPSHOOTER, THAT’S ALL FOLKS, GOODNIGHT!” – the story would still be leaked.
I understand this isn’t the internet era of getting constant news pumped into your bloodstream with an IV, but they still had means of communication invented then. People would have obviously found out what happened, and Bret would be more popular than ever.
The only reason to have a “result” that helps Bret as well is if it was a mutually agreed upon resolution. If the screwjob was indeed real, they couldn’t have possibly shook hands and come up with a better alternative that would help all parties involved more.
This is the perfect compromise to lead all of these men on better paths than they were originally on.
Why does good Ol’ “Cowboy” Bob think it’s so hard to believe?
I personally feel that 99.9% of what you see in a wrestling ring is meant to have been seen in a wrestling ring. Injuries and mistakes aside, of course.
This is a carnie act. It originated with carnival barkers in the 1930’s and the roots are still there. It’s why people get so sensitive when you point out how Shane McMahon is working them to high heaven. People don’t like feeling fooled. And that’s what carnies do to marks. Fool them.
I also believe that 99.9% of what these guys say, in interviews or in-ring, is with a purpose. When Jon Moxley left WWE and had his final bullshit WWE “exclusive” interview on the network, he said “I have my reasons, but this is the one time the million dollar man didn’t get his prize.” Obvious shot at Vince McMahon on his way to his new home at AEW. He knew exactly what he was doing.
The CM Punk “pipebomb”? Completely planned. Everything that CM Punk said was expected. Even if he made it up on the spot, WWE knew that he would be speaking off the cuff.
Even the past few shows, Dolph Ziggler was taking shots at how “embarrassing” Goldberg was in the ring, referencing his embarrassingly shitty Undertaker match from Saudia Arabia. Turns out it’s to set up Ziggler vs Goldberg at Summerslam.
This is a television show, meticulously crafted to get attention and shape characters. The idea that the main event of one of the most important pay-per-views of the year would be placed in this type of wild, unpredictable jeopardy is completely laughable.
Bret Hart had “creative control” in his contract. So why the fuck would he not sue Vince McMahon to high heaven after this? Why would Vince risk that?
What if Bret Hart realized what was happening mid-match and tried to legitimately beat the living shit out of Shawn in the ring? What if it caused a police presence to jump in the ring? Not only would it expose the business and destroy immersion, but what if your top star got knocked out by a legitimate punch by your rival organization’s newest superstar?
What if Bret realized what was happening, and yelled “GO WATCH WCW” and wiped his ass with the belt and left?
There’s just too much to risk on live television in a cockamamie scheme where the reactions and outcome is impossible to predict. Also, people do not use the word “cockamamie” nearly enough.
Even in 1997, kayfabe was slowly dying. Degeneration X was holding up “WHO BOOKED THIS SHIT?” signs and the “Kliq” incident certainly didn’t help any. The idea that wrestlers are real was long gone.
Except, in “Cowboy’s” opinion, in the minds of 3 of the most old-school guys we have ever had. Vince McMahon, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart.
“Cowboy” Bob Notes As He Re-Watches The Final 3 Minutes of the 1997 Survivor Series
I’m also curious just how authentic this comes off years later. I promise to be brutally honest on my thoughts.
- Bret’s punches really are a work of art.
- We don’t get any good ol’ fashioned rake of the eyes anymore. Sometimes we get an eyepoke, but no rake.
- So Shawn puts on the Sharpshooter, and Earl yells RING THE BELL really loudly. Along with the international “RING THE BELL” hand signal for all to see.
- Vince McMahon is INSTANTLY right in front of the hard camera.
- I always thought that Bret’s spit, and Vince’s reaction, are the only suspicious portions of this.
- Wrestling, as I mention often in my “Cowboy” round-ups, often use silent movie style cheesy acting. Remember, you’re playing to the dude in the top row. So that’s why you always see the ref throw out the heel’s buddies at ringside by saying “YOU” [exaggerated point] and YOU [exaggerated point] are OUT OF HERE!” [exaggerated point to the back].
- The way Bret LEANS BACK, and then spits in his face, followed by the Vince “I’M DRAMATICALLY WIPING SPIT OFF MY FACE” pantomime seems very hammy.
- It looks like they WANT you to know that Bret spit on Vince’s face.
- Shawn basically takes the title and storms off . Not until the end does he raise the belt quickly as he exits.
- Jim Ross says “Wow talk about controversy!”
I must say if this is fake, and I believe it is, that it is masterfully performed by all parties.
So if I believe it is fake, then why do it?
One Last (Screw)Job
On WWE Network there is also a documentary on this where Jim Ross sits down with both Bret and Shawn and they talk about this thing for 2 fucking hours. Bret sells it as if Vince snuck into his house and choked out his dog.
At one point Bret talks about Earl Hebner. “He looked me in the eye. He said I would never do it. I would never screw you, Bret.” And he breaks down crying.
Crying. Over being “screwed” out of the WWF title.
At one point he says he “wanted to come back to WWE with a machine gun and kill everyone”. I’m not even kidding.
Watching Bret get emotional, and then Shawn get emotional, I had to smile. I just simply don’t buy it.
It reminds me of a certain scene in The Prestige. After Hugh Jackman sees the Chinese guy do the nearly impossible trick, afterwards Jackman and Christian Bale see the guy walking to his carriage.
He is walking slowly, as a weak, feeble old man, being helped by his handlers.
It turned out the “old man” was actually in incredible shape and was secretly carrying a gigantic medicine ball between his legs to perform his act.
As the decrepit old man climbs into his carriage, Bale says to Jackman:
“There’s the trick.”
Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels must have acted that documentary out, then had a few beers and laughed their asses off at the dumbass fucking marks who believed this to be real.
Try telling somebody on the internet that you believe it’s a work. They dismiss you instantly and will trash you to the stone age. Because, again, marks don’t like to know they are marks. That’s why they are marks.
I stated earlier that I believe Bret, Shawn and Vince did this because it would help all involved. Not only for the reasons stated, but for the future as well.
I can imagine Vince saying “Bret, you go up there, and if we right the ship here at WWF, I’ll bring you back in 3 years and you and Shawn will have the most epic feud in wrestling history.”
If it wasn’t for Goldbotch breaking Bret’s neck, that is exactly what would have happened.
However, it’s not just business. You really don’t get more old school than Vince McMahon, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Three men who LOVE this business, were born and bred in it, and respect it.
They lived the era of swearing wrestling was real and never giving any secrets. Of being your character, heel or face, inside and outside of the ring.
I believe these 3 men got together in 1997 and decided not only to help themselves, but to perform one last act of kayfabe that will not only live on forever, but that they will all take to their graves. I don’t believe any of them will ever spill the truth. Even right down to having Bret Hart punch Vince McMahon in the face, for real, because makeup just wouldn’t be convincing enough.
The fact that we are sitting here in 2019 still debating it means that it was a screwjob well done.