Bret Hart vs Vince McMahon

Date: November 9, 1997
Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter, USA Today

Everyone knows that Vince McMahon screwed Bret Hart in the infamous Montreal screwjob. The whole scene played out before everyone’s eyes at Survivor Series ’97, and the drama surrounding the double cross was chronicled a couple years later in the movie “Wrestling with Shadows.”

But after the finish of the match, things continued backstage. Much has been written about the scuffle between Vince and Bret, and the report here will best ascertain what really happened.

Vince locked himself in his office after the match, with either Pat Patterson or Jerry Brisco in there with him. The Undertaker was pounding on his door and said in no uncertain terms that Vince had to apologize to Bret.

As soon as Bret came backstage, he went directly for Vince’s office. He tried to break through with his shoulder, but realized it was pointless because it was bolted into the ground. He then walked into his own dressing room, where Shawn Michaels was swearing to God that he didn’t know anything about it. Much of this can be seen in the movie. Hart later said that if he knew Michaels was in on it, he’d have choked him out in the ring. On this night he still wanted to kill him, as he suspected Shawn knew all along. But he wanted to know for sure before he did anything.

Bret claimed to USA Today that by this point, he had calmed down. He knew the show was over and there was nothing else he could do about it, and that he thought he’d never see Vince again. It wasn’t until he got in the shower that he got worked up again.

While Hart was in the shower, Davey Boy Smith and Rick Rude kept telling him that Vince was waiting for him in the dressing room and said he wasn’t leaving until he talked to Bret. He told them, “Please tell Vince to leave me alone. It is not a safe environment for him.” Smith and Rude told Vince that Bret didn’t want to see him, but Vince insisted and came into the dressing room area anyway with Shane McMahon, Sgt Slaughter, and Jerry Brisco. Rude and Smith told Bret a few more times that Vince wasn’t leaving and that he wanted to set things straight with him.

Bret was angry that Vince wanted to test him out and prove something. Bret’s son was there and he was calm, but Vince kept insisting on seeing him and it pissed him off again.

Unfortunately, Bret had no towel when he got out of the shower. Smith had stolen it for his match, as he had often done. Bret came out and walked right past Vince. He wanted to take him out right there, but said the thought of doing it while naked seemed “ridiculous.” So he found another towel and came back.

Vince started telling Bret his reasons why he did what he did, that he couldn’t let Bret go to WCW with the belt. Bret said he had no problem losing anywhere else but Montreal. He called Vince a piece of shit and a liar. Vince replied that this was the first time he had ever lied to him. Bret replied “Are you kidding me?” and listed off about 15 lies with ease, and that those were just the lies in the past week. Vince had no answer for the lies, just saying that “What I did to you today won’t hurt you,” and “You’ll still get all the money you’re supposed to get from WCW.”

Somewhere in the conversation, Bret told Vince that if he was still there after he got dressed, he was going to punch him out. Years later, Too Cold Scorpio said he was there and that Vince was yelling at him to leave the building, and Bret said he’ll leave when he’s good and ready. He said Bret was “mad as f*ck” and he knew some “shit was about to go down.”

Bret remembers getting dressed very slowly, so as to give Vince time to leave. But he wouldn’t. He seemed like he wanted to prove some kind of point. Later it was said that Vince wanted to take a punch “for all the boys.” But that may have just been a face saving gesture. We’ll never know for sure.

Bret remembers the last thing was tying his shoelaces. He remembers thinking there was nothing else to put on. He stood up and started to realize that Vince had this all planned out, that he wanted to be this courageous lion who stood Bret down.

Bret finally walked toward him, and Vince did the same. With Vince were Slaughter, Shane, and Brisco. With Bret were Owen Hart, Smith, Rude, and Jim Neidhart. To Bret’s right were Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, who Bret said was sitting in the corner crying like a baby.

All stories say Bret and Vince locked up like a wrestling match. Bret remembers feeling the shoulder pad on Vince’s suit. Bret broke free and threw a punch that the Observer reported “would’ve knocked out a rhino.”

This is where the stories differ. Bret remembers it as an uppercut to the jaw. He said, “It was the most beautiful uppercut punch you could ever imagine. I actually thought it would miss and go right up the side of his head, but I popped him like a cork was under his jaw and lifted him right off the hand. I broke my right hand just beneath the knuckle, and knocked Vince out cold.”

Other reports claim the punch was to the left temple. Other reports are in line with Bret’s version. One report said there was fear Vince had broken or fractured his jaw, which would be consistent with an uppercut.

However, Vince had a black eye all week, which was still visible on November 17 on Raw when Vince did his famous “Bret screwed Bret” interview. In that interview he also claimed to have still been suffering from blurred vision and possible concussion. The black eye, blurred vision, and concussion would all be consistent with a blow to the temple. The black eye was definitely not a makeup job, and in fact makeup was applied to try to hide the black eye.

It’s not clear if Vince was really knocked out, or just knocked down. Again, it depends on whether or not it was an uppercut or a blow to the temple. Vince apparently growled like he was going to get up, but had no legs. One report said Shane jumped on Bret’s back, and that Smith then jumped on Shane’s back to pull him off. Smith is said to have hyperextended his knee doing this, as he wasn’t wearing his knee brace. The whole scenario was said to have lasted about 40 seconds.

Other reports say Smith and Shane were never involved, and that it wasn’t a fight, just one punch. However, Smith’s lawyer later faxed a letter to WWE, saying he injured his knee breaking up the fight.

If Shane jumped on Bret, that would insinuate Bret had done more damage while Vince was down. That might explain why it was perhaps an uppercut that sent Vince down, and maybe a follow-up punch that gave him a black eye. But that is just speculation on our part.

After they were pulled apart, Bret asked Vince if he was going to now screw him on all the money he owed him. A groggy Vince replied, “No.” Bret then told Shane and Brisco to get that “piece of shit” out of here and that if they tried anything they’d suffer the same result. Two reports, including Bret’s, said Vince was dragged out of the office. Another report said Vince got up on his own accord. Either way, Vince’s ankle was injured from someone accidentally stepping on it.

Bret said everyone was expecting an overhand punch, not an uppercut. He said nobody wanted to see them fight, which contradicts with later stories that said Bret became a hero to the locker room because they all wanted to punch Vince at one point.

After the punch, Bret focused on Shawn. He was still on his knees crying, and Bret wanted to kick him like a field goal. But instead he tapped him on the shoulder, said “Thanks for the match,” and shook his hand.

The aftermath of the Montreal screwjob can’t be overstated. It led to Vince’s heel turn, and led to Austin becoming the top babyface, which sparked the WWF to its peak levels of business in company history. Bret did go to WCW, but they squandered a golden opportunity and Hogan played a part in that behind the scenes. WCW did go onto have their most profitable year ever in 1998, thanks mostly to a successful summer with the Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone angle and PPV, plus they lucked into a new superstar named Bill Goldberg who quickly became their top draw. At the time, wrestling was on fire everywhere and it was the peak of the Monday night wars. Truly a golden era that no wrestling fan who was around at the time will ever forget.