We all know about the Montreal Screwjob. The most controversial moment in pro wrestling history. In honor of this game-changing incident (which I’m still bitter about) taking place at the Survivor Series and this year’s Survivor Series being just around the corner and FREE (because screw those of us who already paid $9.99 for it), I figured we’d look at 10 other instances in which Bret Hart was also screwed out of winning a match (even though he was well aware of it happening).
The Match: 20-Man Battle Royal
Third Party Involvement: None
The Screwjob: In the final moments of the opening match of WrestleMania IV, Bret Hart and Bad News Brown had decided to team up on the Junkyard Dog. And in no time they dumped JYD over the top rope. They celebrated together, seemingly coming to terms as co-winners, until Bad News Brown Ghetto-Blasted The Hitman upside his head. He then proceeded to beat on him a bit more before sending Bret over the top rope.
The Aftermath: Bret showed early signs here of not taking too kindly to being double-crossed. He attacked Brown from behind then, in typical wrestling trope fashion, smashed the shit out of Brown’s over 6-foot tall trophy. This is exactly why WWE can’t have nice things.
The Match: vs. The Nasty Boys for the WWF World Tag Team Titles
Third Party Involvement: Jimmy Hart
The Screwjob: While the Hart Foundation was able to foil Jimmy Hart’s first attempt at costing them the titles via megaphone to the dome, they weren’t so lucky when his contrived airbrushed motorcycle helmet came into play. While Bret wasn’t directly affected as Jim Neidhart was the one who literally took one for the team, it obviously cost Bret the match too. Them being a tag team and all. Earl Hebner is also partly to blame as he was too busy keeping Bret outside the ring rather than paying attention to what was going on behind his back. “C’mon ref, turn around!”
The Aftermath: Nothing really happened, except for Bret heavily leaning towards that singles run he had already been contemplating.
The Match: vs. Yokozuna for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Mr. Fuji and Hulk Hogan
The Screwjob: Bearing in mind that each of Yokozuna’s legs was the size of one Bret Hart, Bret was able to pick up both of those giant hamhocks and somehow apply a Sharpshooter that still looked a thousand times better than any Sharpshooter The Rock has ever done. Then without warning, or at least to me as a kid who didn’t realize that Hogan returning meant a return to the status quo, Mr. Fuji threw salt in Bret’s eyes causing him to release the hold. Salt that somehow when ingested through your eye ducts rendered you momentarily paralyzed for at least three seconds, because all Yokozuna did to follow up was pin Bret. He didn’t bust out a leg drop or an actual wrestling move to put him away, he simply hooked the leg. Which shows just how effective hooking the leg during a pin can be. I’ve had both hard gas permeable contacts in my eyes temporarily shift in place at the same time and burn the hell out of my eyes while driving and still managed to keep from swerving into another lane. You’re telling me Bret couldn’t kick out at two while rubbing salt from his eyes?
The Aftermath: Nowadays in the WWE, former champions will exercise their rematch clause the next night on Raw after losing their title on a major show. Bret wasn’t even done completely getting all that damn salt out of his eyes before Hulk Hogan showed up, feigned concerned over Bret’s condition, then beat Yokozuna in an impromptu match for the WWF World Title. So much for that rematch clause.
Survivor Series 1994
The Match: vs. Bob Backlund in a Submission Match for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Owen Hart and Helen Hart
The Screwjob: After tripping the British Bulldog (Bret Hart’s second for the match) and causing him to bump his head into the steel steps and slip into a coma, Owen Hart relied on the sympathy of his mother Helen Hart to cost Bret the match. Despite this being a submission match, the actual competitors in the ring had no say whether or not they felt like giving up. That was up to their cornermen. Bret had the Bulldog and Bob Backlund had Owen. The only way the match could end is if either cornermen threw in the towel on behalf of their wrestler.
With Bulldog out and Backlund trapping Bret Hart in the Cross-Face Chickenwing for what seemed like 10 minutes, Owen pleaded and cried for his mother to throw in the towel for Bret. The best part of the Owen/Bret Hart feud was always Owen’s much deserved extra screen time. He always stole the show. Suddenly, mother’s intuition took hold and Helen snatched the pink and black towel from Stu Hart and threw it in the ring. Stu was none too happy…or maybe he was indifferent, it was kind of hard to tell. Earl Hebner, the referee for the match, allowed it because fuck it, the corresponding towel was thrown in. Which is fine, because obviously this is the least shitty thing Earl did to Bret Hart.
The Aftermath: Bret Hart sold the effects of a 20-minute Cross-Face Chickenwing as he was helped to the back by Pat Patterson, Tony Garea, and Helen Hart while a disappointed Stu trailed behind. And Owen later cut a pretty awesome backstage promo laughing at all his family members for duping them so easily.
Royal Rumble 1995
The Match: vs. Diesel for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Owen Hart, Shawn Michaels, Bob Backlund, Jeff Jarrett, The Roadie
The Screwjob: Either Bret Hart wasn’t comfortable letting Diesel go over on him clean, or he needed to look strong going into his WrestleMania XI match against Bob Backlund. Whatever the reason, this match ended in a schmoz. You know the term. It’s what Bret Hart had suggested to Vince for the ending of his Survivor Series ’97 match against Michaels. Throughout the match Owen and Michaels took turns interfering, then along with Jarrett, and Backlund said screw it, and decided to bum-rush Diesel and Bret at the same time. I’m not quite sure how this finish benefited either one of those guys, other than Michaels who would later go on to win the Royal Rumble to face Diesel. Instead of restarting the match after WWE officials got things under control, Earl Hebner concluded the match as a draw.
The Aftermath: Bret and Diesel did that whole thing where babyfaces shake hands and give each other props for being tough competitors or whatever. Respect, bro.
The Match: vs. Shawn Michaels in an Iron Man Match for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Gorilla Monsoon
The Screwjob: Shawn Michaels had a whole hour to try and pin or make Bret Hart submit and couldn’t get the job done. Hell, I’m pretty sure count-outs and disqualifications might’ve even helped. But by the time the 60-minute time limit expired neither guy had gotten a win over the other. This is usually how Ric Flair retained his world title back in the NWA days. Clearly, Bret had retained his title as well. I would’ve been fine having spent my mom’s hard earned $30 for that finish. But no. WWE Interim President, Gorilla Monsoon, decided to restart the match in a sudden death overtime where the wrestler to score the first pin or submission would become champion. Tired and clearly distraught over Monsoon’s ruling, Bret was nailed by some Sweet Chin Music courtesy of Shawn Michaels and lost the title. Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels had finally gotten their wish.
The Aftermath: Bret got the “fuck out” of “Shawn Michaels’ ring” as Shawn had suggested and walked back toward the dressing room wondering what he ever did to deserve such treatment.
In Your House 12: It’s Time
The Match: vs. Sycho Sid for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Shawn Michaels
The Screwjob: After a brief ringside attack, Sid threw Bret Hart back into the ring to continue the beat down. Before going in after him though, Sid decided to punk Shawn Michaels who was there guest commentating and not there to affect the outcome of the match. Shawn Michaels oversold a shove in the face from Sid and went flying backwards into the barricade. Back inside, Sid resumed work on Bret and went for an Irish whip into the ropes. Meanwhile Michaels, who had free reign to do whatever he wanted during this time period, jumped on the apron to bitch at Sid or something. The Irish whip was reversed and Bret was sent right into Shawn Michaels’ waiting arms. Bret stumbled back and Sid connected with a powerbomb and handed Bret the first of three consecutive losses to him in the span of four months.
The Aftermath: A bloody nose for Bret thanks to Michaels. Bret didn’t do anything at first, but then decided to pummel Shawn Michaels NHL-style before walking away.
Royal Rumble 1997
The Match: 30-Man Royal Rumble
Third Party Involvement: None
The Screwjob: Bret Hart had clearly eliminated Steve Austin during the last minute of the Royal Rumble, only for Austin to jump right back in without being detected by the referees who were too busy tending to Mankind and Terry Funk matters. Austin proceeded to dispose of The Undertaker and Vader simultaneously. He then caught his breath while Bret Hart eliminated Fake Diesel (thus guaranteeing Fake Diesel wouldn’t be a part of the upcoming In Your House: Final Four pay-per-view) and dumped Bret over the top rope to win the Rumble.
The Aftermath: This was the first real instance of Bret shifting his frustrations from WWE wrestlers Superstars to WWE administrative personnel. After throwing referee Mike Chioda out of the ring and threatening to beat another ref within an inch of his life, Bret took his complaint to the ringside announcers’ table. He yanked on Vince’s neatly-pressed tux while screaming at him to do something about the injustice he had just witnessed. It was a step towards the whole “let’s acknowledge that the guy doing the horrible commentary is actually the owner of the WWE” thing that later manifested itself into wrestling’s greatest heel. Bret was breaking down the fourth wall, and his claim of throwing Austin out of the “goddamn ring” and then mouthing other inaudible expletives only made it seem that much more real and intriguing. Forget your Goldusts, Steve Austins, and D-Generation-X’s, Bret Hart was the real trailblazer of the Attitude Era.
Monday Night Raw – 2/17/97
The Match: vs. Sycho Sid for the WWF World Title
Third Party Involvement: Steve Austin
The Screwjob: For whatever reason, besides the obvious hate factor, Steve Austin decided to crack Bret Hart over the head with a steel chair while he was on the verge of making Sid tap out to the Sharpshooter. I guess their “Submission” match at WrestleMania 13 wasn’t a done deal yet. Austin didn’t quite sneak up on Bret as he just grabbed a chair, sauntered in front of Bret, then jumped up on the apron, got the chair right in position, and whacked Bret Hart with it. Maybe Bret was too caught up in the moment to notice Austin right in front of him, ’cause I’ve seen Bret let go of a Sharpshooter to stop someone in their tracks for less. Point is, Earl Hebner, proving that he was in desperate need of a completely different type of earpiece, heard nothing and went along with the match as Sid powerbombed his way to a second victory over Bret Hart. If that wasn’t enough, Bret had barely won the title the day before at the In Your House: Final Four pay-per-view. He was now nothing more than a short-lived transitional WWE Champion.
The Aftermath: Not much happened as Bret was still selling the chair shot and follow-up powerbomb. Plus, he needed to keep out of the way so The Undertaker can have a stare down with Sycho Sid to close the show.
Monday Night Raw – 3/17/97
The Match: vs. Sycho Sid in a Steel Cage Match for the WWE World Title
Third Party Involvement: Steve Austin and The Undertaker
The Screwjob: With Bret and Austin being official for WrestleMania 13, Austin tries to make up for last month’s screwjob by attacking Sycho Sid and securing himself a title shot. But The Undertaker ain’t having it and makes his way down to ensure he doesn’t lose his title shot. After a superplex off the top rope, Bret and Sid struggle to exit the cage. Earl Hebner and other officials are busy trying to get Austin to the back which frees up The Undertaker to stroll on over to the cage door where Bret is making his way through, and slams the door on The Hitman. Meanwhile, Sid is on the opposite side dropping to the floor, thus beating Bret for the third time in a WWF Title match in the span of four months.
The Aftermath: This was the earliest worked-shoot Attitude Era style promo to really air on Raw. For a guy who condemned the Attitude Era, Bret seemed like a perfect fit. Being the biggest Bret Hart fan at the time, this promo only made me like him even more. Much like Bret, I was mad as hell too and I wasn’t going to take it anymore. While others shouted crybaby, Bret was just a disgruntled vet who wasn’t going to stand for these injustices any longer. And who could blame him? He had lost to Sycho Sid three times in the span of four months! In his rant he decried bullshit and rightfully so. And the man who had the power to make it all right was sitting a few feet from the ring watching it all go down. Yet, he did nothing. Wouldn’t that make you want to snatch the mic from his hand and shove him onto his ass too? Watching this go down now, you can’t help but feel like this segment was the seed that would eventually flourish into the Montreal Screwjob. The WWE has never been that good at long-term booking, but it’s made guys at What Culture think that might’ve been the case and it led to Michael Sorg producing this documentary about such a conspiracy taking place.