WWE Smackdown Superstar

WWE Smackdown Superstar
The Great Khali

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Attitude Era and The Montreal Screwjob

The WWF/WCW feud reached new heights in November 1, 1997, when WCW offered a contract to Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Hart was worth up to a reported nine million dollars over the course of three years. The WWF and Vince McMahon countered with an offer worth much less, but for a much longer period, with greater creative control. Bret Hart took the offer, but after several months of financial hardship and sharply falling profits, McMahon was uncertain if he could write Hart's paychecks. McMahon alerted Hart of the situation prior to Hart's match with Shawn Michaels in Montreal, and allowed him to re-open negotiations with WCW. Despite a great sense of loyalty to the WWF, Hart took WCW's offer and was set to appear on their programming by the end of 1997.
While Hart's departure was not a surprise, the WWF was concerned about the fact that the man about to leave was the WWF Champion. Earlier in the WWF/WCW feud, the WWF Women's Champion, Alundra Blayze, signed with WCW while in possession of the belt and threw it in a trashcan on WCW Nitro (imitating a heavily publicized act by heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe). Hart promised that no such thing would ever happen and put an agreement in place that the announcement of his departure would be delayed until the belt could be transitioned to a new champion. However, McMahon was concerned that the word would get out and he sought a way to get the belt off Hart before the deal
Hart used his contractual control over his booking during that year's Survivor Series pay-per-view at Centre Molson in Montreal, Canada. He let it be known to WWF management that he would drop the title on a couple of conditions; not losing to Shawn Michaels or in his home country of Canada. McMahon would deviate from the agreed finish of their match at Survivor Series to allow Shawn Michaels to win the title from Hart. During the match Shawn Michaels put Bret Hart in a Sharpshooter, which Hart was in the process of countering when the referee Earl Hebner, under instruction from Vince McMahon, told the timekeeper to ring the bell to end the match and announced Michaels the winner. Bret Hart was so infuriated at the fake victory he spit in McMahon's face before leaving the ring. Later, in a confrontation with McMahon that same night, Hart punched McMahon in the face, giving him a black eye.
This event set the stage for the turning point in the WWF/WCW feud. McMahon, who had previously acted only as a play-by-play announcer on television, used the backlash stemming from his real-life role as WWF owner in the Montreal Screwjob to cast himself as the evil company owner "Mr. McMahon" in WWF programming, a dictatorial ruler who favored heel wrestlers who were "good for business" over "misfits" like Stone Cold Steve Austin. This led to the Austin vs. McMahon feud, which was the cornerstone of the next phase of development.

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