Ringside Rewind: The Montreal Screwjob

This post originally ran on RingsideRants.com on November 9, 2013 and is being re-posted as part of the lead-up to Survivor Series 2014.

During the main event of Survivor Series 1997, in the WWF Championship match between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, referee Earl Hebner signaled for the bell as Michaels had Hart in the Sharpshooter, in what would forever be known as the “Montreal Screwjob.”

Only a few men knew the plan and Bret wasn’t one of them. Despite assurances to the contrary, Vince McMahon screwed Bret Hart that night in Montreal.

Hart was on his way to WCW, after being told by McMahon that WWF wouldn’t be able to follow through on Hart’s 20-year contract due to financial troubles. According to the owner of the WWF, Hart would be doing what was best for everyone by leaving for WCW.

So that’s what Bret Hart did, negotiating a lucrative contract with the enemy, and agreeing to drop the belt the night after Survivor Series. He didn’t want to do business for Shawn Michaels and especially not in Canada. In wrestling, though, when it comes time to do the job, you do the job.

There is so much controversy surrounding the events of the “Screwjob” that a compelling case can be made for a number of arguments. Most say Bret Hart got a raw deal. Some say Bret Hart should have played by the rules and laid down for Michaels. A large number of people think the whole thing was a work.

No matter why and how the whole thing went down, it remains one of the most important moments in wrestling history.

That night Vince McMahon as the heel authority figure was born, which would lead to the Austin-McMahon rivalry and the Attitude Era. It also forced McMahon and the wrestling industry as a whole to pull back the curtain a bit. Depending on your stance, that was good or bad for business.

For two men that hated each other, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels truly had great in-ring chemistry and some of the greatest matches of each wrestler’s career came against one another.

Ringside Rewind: Team Andre the Giant v. Team Hulk Hogan, Survivor Series 1987

Following their historic matchup at WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant would square off again at Survivor Series 1987, but this time they would bring some friends along.

The main event of the pay-per-view featured Andre the Giant teaming with One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and “Ravishing” Rick Rude to take on Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Don Muraco, Ken Patera and Bam Bam Bigelow.

Ringside Rewind: Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart, WWE Championship Match, Survivor Series 1992

Survivor Series 1992 was the first event of its kind to put more emphasis on singles matches than the traditional elimination matches. In fact, the event only featured one elimination match, a four-on-four contest that pitted The Nasty Boys and The Natural Disasters against Money Inc. and The Beverly Brothers. Unfortunately, the trend of more singles matches than elimination matches has continued all the way up to present day, making Survivor Series a mere name more than a theme.

While Survivor Series 1992 is considered one of the more lackluster shows in the event’s history, there were two very strong main event matches. The first was a tag team match with Razor Ramon and Ric Flair taking on “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Mr. Perfect.

The second main event was the final match of the evening, featuring Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels challenging Bret “Hitman” Hart for the then-WWF Championship in one of the first of many matches in the pair’s storied rivalry.

Michaels had just won the IC Title a few weeks before from The British Bulldog, who was abruptly released due to steroid allegations and was made to drop the belt to HBK on his way out. Hart was originally scheduled to defend the WWF Championship against Jake “The Snake” Roberts at Survivor Series, but the WWF couldn’t come to terms with Roberts on a contract, and the new Michaels v. Hart main event was born.

The match is considered one of the better main event title matches in WWE history and was awarded 4.5 stars by Wrestling Observer‘s Dave Meltzer.

Ringside Rewind: WCW World War III 1995: 60-Man, 3-Ring Battle Royal

In 1995, WCW introduced a unique new concept to the wrestling world: A 60-man, three-ring battle royal. The winner of the contest would also become the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, since the title had been stripped from The Giant.

On November 26, 1995, “Macho Man” Randy Savage won the inaugural battle royal in controversial fashion. Savage was the last man standing in the ring and declared the winner, yet Hulk Hogan had technically not been eliminated since he was pulled from the ring by The Giant. The referee didn’t see it and only caught Hogan standing on the arena floor, declaring him eliminated.

There would be four total World War III pay-per-views, with the 60-man battle royal in subsequent years earning the winner a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match.

Ringside Rewind: Team WWF v. Team Alliance, Survivor Series 2001

As we gear up for Survivor Series this Sunday, let’s take a look back at the 2001 version of the event, as posted on WWE’s YouTube page. This was the culmination of the “WCW invasion” storyline, which was so much worse and more convoluted than it could have been. The main event of Survivor Series 2001 was Team WWF v. The Alliance in a traditional elimination match where the winning team’s company would stay in business while the other’s doors would be shuttered, at least in kayfabe.

Team WWF was comprised of The Rock, Chris Jericho, Undertaker, Kane and Big Show while the Alliance squad was made up of Steve Austin, Rob Van Dam, Kurt Angle (who never competed for WCW or ECW), Booker T and Shane McMahon.

Five Star Friday: Stan Hansen v. Kenta Kobashi, 8/15/93

Five Star Friday is a weekly feature at Ringside Rants. Each Friday will bring a different contest from Dave Meltzer’s prestigious list of five star-rated matches.

Each of these men have previously been featured in our Five Star Friday video drop, but today they go one-on-one with each other. Stan Hansen and Kenta Kobashi earned Meltzer’s five star rating for their All Japan Pro Wrestling match from August 15, 1993.

Ringside Rewind: AJ Styles & Air Paris v. Alex Wright & Disco Inferno, WCW Thunder, 2/21/01

In 2001, a 23-year-old AJ Styles had just entered WCW under the name “Air Styles” – along with Air Paris – in the tag team, “Air Raid.” On the February 21, 2001 episode of “Thunder,” Air Raid took on “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright and Disco Inferno.

It’s strange to think that AJ Styles has been around long enough to have wrestled in WCW, even if it was during the company’s spiraling end. It was only a few months after Styles’ arrival that Vince McMahon bought WCW and Styles wasn’t offered a contract.

Ringside Rewind: Team Hogan v. Team Andre, Survivor Series 1987

The very first Survivor Series took place Thanksgiving night in 1987 and was headlined by the Team Hulk Hogan v. Team Andre the Giant elimination match. Hulk Hogan, Paul Orndorff, Ken Patera, Don Muraco and Bam Bam Bigelow took on Andre the Giant, One Man Gang, King Kong Bundy, Butch Reed and “Ravishing” Rick Rude before 21,300 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio.

The pay-per-view went head-to-head with NWA’s Starrcade, with Vince McMahon threatening cable providers that if they aired the competition’s PPV instead of his they wouldn’t be allowed to air WrestleMania IV. Needless to say, many gave in to the threat.

Ringside Rewind: Rob Van Dam v. Sami Callihan, 2CW, 6/24/13

Rob Van Dam wrestled Sami Callihan at 2CW’s “An Evening with Mr. Monday Night,” which took place June 24, 2013 in Binghamton, NY. It would be Van Dam’s last appearance on the independent scene before returning to WWE at Money in the Bank. Callihan was also headed to WWE and its developmental territory, NXT. He know competes there under the ring name Solomon Crowe.

Ringside Rewind: Triple H v. The Rock, Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match, SummerSlam ’98

Instead of watching another going-through-the-motions episode of Raw, I sifted through the DVD collection and chose SummerSlam 1998 for my viewing pleasure. Emanating from Madison Square Garden, the card was highlighted by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin defending the WWF Championship against The Undertaker, Jeff Jarrett v. X-Pac in a Hair v. Hair match, The New Age Outlaws v. Mankind in a No DQ Handicap match for the Tag Team titles, Ken Shamrock v. Owen Hart in a Lion’s Den match, and Triple H challenging The Rock for the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match.

This was a time when then-WWF really cared about the undercard, which is what made the entire product so much stronger. When I long for the days of the Attitude Era, it’s not the “attitude” or the scantily clad women that I miss; it’s the quality of the roster. The New Age Outlaws were more over then than Alberto Del Rio could even dream of being, for example. WWF put time into creating valuable and compelling storylines for everyone from the bottom of the card to the top, which gave you more of a reason to tune in than, “Hey, this one match might be good.”

But I digress.

The Rock and Triple H were feuding over the Intercontinental Title in 1998 as well as jostling to see who would be the next man up to the main event scene, which made their matches and promos against each other great.