-Let's talk about Wrestling With Shadows. It's awfully convienent that Brett had an independant film crew following him around to document all this. Assuming, as the producers of Wrestling With Shadows would have been, that things would have been business as usual for Brett - the documentary would have been interesting but uneventful. As exposing as Beyond The Mat was to the business, this was an "independant" film crew with virtually free reign of the locker room and the private life of WWE's top babyface, for really no reason except to expose the business - specifically WWE's business, since at the begining of filming, he'd just signed his 20 year contract. As crazy as Vince McMahon seems sometimes, it's very much outside his business character to allow this - early on he found there was far more money to be made producing things in house, and always has. From Colliseum Home Video all the way to WWE Network, to WWE Magazine, right down to the programs at live events, even barring photographers from ring side (Apter mags had to purchase pictures from Vince if they wanted to use shots from his shows). Even though he had a contract with the production company, if he saw money in this why wouldn't he just "borrow" their idea and produce a documentary himself? His company was struggling at the time, and he could have done this himself at no expense and little effort. Vince, again with his questionable ethics and perspective of the business (Sports Entertainment), always did his best to protect the business - only really exposing it when he was getting sued. He pulled the plug on Triple H's initial push because of the Curtain Call just a year or two before this, if you need reassured of his efforts to protect kayfabe at the time. Why in the world would he allow an OUTSIDE film crew into his lockerroom, for LITERALLY no other reason than to see what Bret's up to? C'mon now... he wouldn't. Kevin Nash sums it up pretty well here:
at 1:38 "...anyone that knows Vince McMahon knows... Vince McMahon doesn't sell 3 years of the Federal Government up his ass, he doesn't sell a spinal fusion, he didn't sell a double quad injury, but he's gonna sell a punch from one of his boys on film? C'mon..."
Nothing about this documentary is characteristic of Vince McMahon! But what better way to convince everyone beyond a shadow of a doubt that the whole thing was a shoot?
Let's talk about WHAT happened, and just how absurd it all is...
We all know what happened, I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time on the details. Brett's essentially offered the same contract as Hulk Hogan to jump to WCW, crazy Ted Turner money. Vince counters with an equally crazy 20 year deal (to put it into perspective, it would have ran out a year and a half ago), which Brett accepts out of loyalty to the brand. Months later, Vince says "Oh shit, what was I thinking!? I can't afford all that!" and SUGGESTS his CHAMPION reach out to WCW to see if they'd still be interested. They are, and Brett takes it. There's a few ideas out there as to what the terms of this 20 year deal were, I've seen a million dollars a year and variations that it was weighted where Bret would see more money in the front and less in the back as his career winded down. Regardless, it doesn't seem to me that it was the kind of money that would bankrupt the company, considering we're talking about their champion, and especially considering they paid Mike Tyson a million dollars for a night's work a year later...
When it comes to Bret dropping the title, again, we know what happened - Bret hates Shawn, Bret doesn't want to drop the belt in Canada, blah blah blah. Let's not be marks for a second, let's think about this rationally. Bret is LEAVING to go earn more money than any of us could ever dream of making. Bret has NOTHING left to prove in WWE. Bret comes from a wrestling family, and Bret's dad was a promoter himself. Bret knows how this works, and he's already won the game. The boss says drop the belt, you drop the belt. I call bullshit on "creative control of his character". That doesn't mean he get's to decide that he stays champion, it means "hey, you're going to lose the title in Montreal, let's hear how you'd like to go about doing that." Bret's done, on his way to get rich, why in the hell am I supposed to rationally believe Bret dropping the title was SUCH AN ISSUE on VINCE'S end that he had to lie to Bret about the finish and go through all this nonsense to keep the title in-house? I'm just not seeing it from the guy that had to deal with Hogan's ego for a decade.
The actual "screw job" itself doesn't all add up to me either. What was Vince doing at ringside to begin with? Hebner knew the finish, he knew what to do. Call for the bell, raise Shawn's hand, get out. All was going well when Vince came out, and everything finished up according to plan. His presence at ringside was unnecessary, unless you NEEDED your face seen so you could take credit for it later. On the live airing of the show, you can't hear Vince calling for the bell ("Ring the bell, ring the damn bell!") - this was picked up by the "documentary" crew, and added to all of WWE's replays. Then we've got Bret's temper tantrum afterwards. Oooooh, was he mad! Smashing monitors, spitting on his boss (who was conveniently at ringside), making sure everyone in attendance knew he was leaving for the competition... c'mon now... rewatch that, think about it long and hard... does that seem like a natural reaction to have, considering you've already won the game, is THAT a natural reaction or is that a professional wrestler working live on pay per view?
Vince came out of this and used it to become the greatest heel of all time. Many people close to the situation said that in the Bret Screwed Bret interview, he legitimately thought he was the babyface and people would sympathize with him. As absurd as that is, it's made more-so when you find out that Vince had been throwing the idea of turning heel a few months prior. While none of that points toward Bret being in on the screwjob, it's interesting nonetheless.
While some will say Bret wasn't happy with the Attitude Era direction the company was taking, or that it was made clear he wasn't going to be the top guy anymore, what is essentially unanimous is that Bret Hart was NEVER worried about the money (Scott Hall said in a shoot interview that Bret was known as the "400k a Year Champion"). Everybody is so quick to make this about the money, without considering that he made a lateral jump to WCW that had the same ethics problems as the Attitude Era, so many "top guys" that he'd NEVER be "the guy" for more than an a few months. People will talk about how WWE didn't WANT Bret anymore, which is also ridiculous, when you consider they weren't just losing a great worker, but they were losing an entire BRAND - the face of the Hart name was out the door. To this day, one can't look at hot pink and black without thinking of The Hitman, you can't say there wouldn't be a desire to keep him around. None of it adds up.
My theory, the only one that makes sense to me, was that Bret was in on the whole thing. While I mentioned that money was never an issue with him, he made A LOT of it because of it. Not only the crazy Ted Turner paychecks, but HOW LONG did Bret talk about this? He did everything in his power to keep this event in the headlines for YEARS and years and years and years. The aforementioned documentary, he wrote books about it, and countless interviews and appearances... what the screwjob did was make Bret Hart... interesting. It took his brand to another level, one that snuck it's way into mainstream media, one that elevated him from an "all time great" to a legend. Mr McMahon also became a Legend, and one can't believe, with all the non-wwe press this got, that it wasn't sold to Bret as such I - the conspiracy theorist - would say YOU are out of YOU'RE mind! Bret got his retirement plan and Vince's struggling company got bailed out.
There's other theories out there, like Vince sent Bret as a mole to take them out from the inside, or Vince knew if he kept feeding WCW big contract guys they'd have to eventually run out of money, to which whatever. Those are fun to think about, but the fact of the matter here was that Bret HAD to be in on this, for whatever reason. Think about it, in the end, only two people had to keep that a secret...
What do you think?