Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

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Bob-O
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Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Bob-O » Mar 9th, '18, 08:29

Who doesn't love a good conspiracy? I always thought the Screwjob was a little fishy...

-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:
phpBB [video]

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?


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Re: Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Big Red Machine » Mar 9th, '18, 10:20

Here are the problems with this:

1. The thing about Vince protecting the business is completely false. He actually voluntarily exposed it as part of an argument that he shouldn't be subject to certain NJ commission taxes (I believe this all happens in the 1987-1990 range, right around the time he would be preparing for, receiving revenues from, and then paying taxes on WrestleManii 4 and 5, both of which took place in Atlantic City.
Furthermore, a favorite tactic of Vince's and Hogan's (especially in the 80s) was that when giving an interview to a mainstream outlet, they would readily admit that the business was a work. This served to immediately establish credibility with the reporter, which, in turn, allowed them to lie out their asses about specific stories and/or aspects of both the business as a whole and WWF's business in particular, which the reporter would just assume were true because they were telling the truth about the business being a work, which is the thing that wrestlers were most known for lying about.

2. This also totally discounts the reality of financial situation, which was that the company was in dire financial straits and Vince was desperate, and thus would certainly have been willing to break any rules he had about protecting the business in order to gain exposure from the documentary he thought would help pay off financially.

3. The popularity and drawing power of the Harts in Canada (and, to a lesser extent, Europe) and of Davey Boy in the UK cannot be underestimated, especially when you take into account both the financial situation of the company and the fact that Canada in particular had been solid WWF country. While the promotional efforts of Frank Tunney in Toronto, Pat Patterson in all of Quebec (and, I think the Maritimes as well) and the Rougeaus in Montreal in particular should not be underestimated, the Harts were equally important in the promotion of Western Canada, and at this point (especially with Jacques having already gone to WCW at the time), the Harts- and especially Bret- were their biggest draws there (and with Rick Martel, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, (shoot Canadian) Piper, and even guys like PCO already locked up by WCW, plus the fact that Bad News Allen was unlikely to come back due to a dispute with Vince over Vince not making him world champion like he claims Vince promised, there really weren't any replacements available, either. I mean... I love them both to death, but are you really going to try pushing 1997 Lance Storm and Don Callis as top stars? To do this in such a way that they threw all of the Harts aside from Owen away (Davey Boy was given the option of buying out his contract, which he accepted), and then not do anything with Owen was insane.

4. Everything I've seen written about the 20 year deal, including from Meltzer, who got the entire Montreal story directly from Brett, pretty much at the time, says that the idea was that Brett would wrestle for three more years and then have an office job basically for life, and that the majority of the money would be payed at the back end because the company was in financial trouble at the time.

5. The idea of Bret not being able to be a tippy-top guy in WCW comes down to WCW's own stupidity more than anything else. Yes, there were a lot of "top guys" already there, but doing the Screwjob basically ensured that Bret was coming in as essentially the hottest star in the industry (maybe you could make an argument for Sting, but that's about it). Yes, there were a lot of top guys in WCW, but guys usually put on that list include people like Scott Hall, who Bret was clearly a bigger star than, and Roddy Piper, who even WCW had figured out didn't work as a top guy by that point. It would have been Bret, Hogan, Savage, Sting, Flair, Luger, and Nash. The Steiners were still a team act, and Giant had been thoroughly buried,. Furthermore, this supposed logjam of top guys didn't stop Goldberg from breaking through.
And, as Brian Alvarez noted, giving Goldberg the belt when they did, in the abrupt manner that they did, actually totally destroyed big, long-term stories that were being built up as title programs for Hogan against both Nash and Bret. Yes, some Hogan politics became an issue, but the main reason Bret didn't become a tippy-top guy in WCW was WCW's own stupidity... but the Screwjob happens in November 1997... and by that point, WCW really hadn't f*cked up much yet (and certainly not much that was truly important). We hadn't had the fiasco that was the Starrcade finish, the hot-potato world title switches, Bischoff's meltdown that leads to the challenge at Slamboree, turning Bagwell heel, beating Goldberg the way they did, the Fingerpoke of Doom, Hogan vs. Warrior, the Halloween Havoc 1999 finish, Flair's fake heart attack, squandering the Mike Awesome signing, Bash at the Beach 2000... none of these classic WCW screw-ups have happened yet aside from neutering the Horsemen after Flair's return in 1997 with Hennig's turn at War Games. There is no reason for Vince or anyone else to think that WCW would screw Bret up so royally.

So, in conclusion, this conspiracy theory is just a theory.
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Re: Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Bob-O » Mar 10th, '18, 21:42

Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 9th, '18, 10:20
1. The thing about Vince protecting the business is completely false. He actually voluntarily exposed it as part of an argument that he shouldn't be subject to certain NJ commission taxes (I believe this all happens in the 1987-1990 range, right around the time he would be preparing for, receiving revenues from, and then paying taxes on WrestleManii 4 and 5, both of which took place in Atlantic City.
Furthermore, a favorite tactic of Vince's and Hogan's (especially in the 80s) was that when giving an interview to a mainstream outlet, they would readily admit that the business was a work. This served to immediately establish credibility with the reporter, which, in turn, allowed them to lie out their asses about specific stories and/or aspects of both the business as a whole and WWF's business in particular, which the reporter would just assume were true because they were telling the truth about the business being a work, which is the thing that wrestlers were most known for lying about.
I wasn't trying to call Vinny the kayfabe police by any means, and while the the Hogan stuff was done on a larger scale, it was nothing that hadn't been done before. What you're saying here, with Hogan calling it all a work to gain credibility, is exactly the same thing Wrestling With Shadows did for The Screwjob. What would the Screwjob have been without the documentary behind it?
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 9th, '18, 10:20
2. This also totally discounts the reality of financial situation, which was that the company was in dire financial straits and Vince was desperate
The reality of the the financial situation is also up for debate. It's only ever really brought up right before the screwjob is. Besides going from live Raws to taping them, the company really didn't show surface fatigue. These same dire financial straits brought in Mike Tyson at no spared expense just months later...

Regardless, maybe they really were on the brink of bankruptcy so motives aside, at the end of the day I think Bret was in on it. The whole thing is either too fishy or too obvious for him not to have been.
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Re: Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Big Red Machine » Mar 11th, '18, 11:25

Bob-O wrote:
Mar 10th, '18, 21:42
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 9th, '18, 10:20
1. The thing about Vince protecting the business is completely false. He actually voluntarily exposed it as part of an argument that he shouldn't be subject to certain NJ commission taxes (I believe this all happens in the 1987-1990 range, right around the time he would be preparing for, receiving revenues from, and then paying taxes on WrestleManii 4 and 5, both of which took place in Atlantic City.
Furthermore, a favorite tactic of Vince's and Hogan's (especially in the 80s) was that when giving an interview to a mainstream outlet, they would readily admit that the business was a work. This served to immediately establish credibility with the reporter, which, in turn, allowed them to lie out their asses about specific stories and/or aspects of both the business as a whole and WWF's business in particular, which the reporter would just assume were true because they were telling the truth about the business being a work, which is the thing that wrestlers were most known for lying about.
I wasn't trying to call Vinny the kayfabe police by any means, and while the the Hogan stuff was done on a larger scale, it was nothing that hadn't been done before. What you're saying here, with Hogan calling it all a work to gain credibility, is exactly the same thing Wrestling With Shadows did for The Screwjob. What would the Screwjob have been without the documentary behind it?
Without the documentary it would have been a fishy thing happening on the PPV, Bret breaking sh*t in front of a bunch of fans, then Vince explaining it on TV and then Bret talking to Dave Meltzer about it. The documentary doesn't premier until December 20, 1998. By that time, the Screwjob had already become a legendary thing.
Bob-O wrote:
Mar 10th, '18, 21:42
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 9th, '18, 10:20
2. This also totally discounts the reality of financial situation, which was that the company was in dire financial straits and Vince was desperate
The reality of the the financial situation is also up for debate. It's only ever really brought up right before the screwjob is. Besides going from live Raws to taping them, the company really didn't show surface fatigue. These same dire financial straits brought in Mike Tyson at no spared expense just months later...

Regardless, maybe they really were on the brink of bankruptcy so motives aside, at the end of the day I think Bret was in on it. The whole thing is either too fishy or too obvious for him not to have been.
It is also brought up an time the year 1996 is discussed, or Stone Cold Steve Austin, or anything else. The money that went to Tyson was pretty clearly from Bret and their ransoming of Davey Boy.
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Re: Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Bob-O » Mar 11th, '18, 12:47

Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 11:25
Without the documentary it would have been a fishy thing happening on the PPV, Bret breaking sh*t in front of a bunch of fans, then Vince explaining it on TV and then Bret talking to Dave Meltzer about it. The documentary doesn't premier until December 20, 1998. By that time, the Screwjob had already become a legendary thing.
Valid point about the doc. I still say Bret was in on it, and I still think it's too convenient they were making it to begin with. I mean, Bret breaking stuff in front of a bunch of fans? Not much different than the worked-shoot he did on Raw where he cussed a lot about getting "screwed" (hmmmm...), or the time he "quit"... had he showed up on Raw the next night, it would have been great tv, but (beyond the "everyone knew he was legit leaving" thing) it wouldn't have been crazy. It felt like a work to me, from one of the greatest workers of all time. They just let him do it! Nobody tried to stop him... seems like there'd be some sort of security in place beyond Triple H in case he started attacking people...

Vince explaining it on TV makes it feel more like a work! You'd think, had he legitimately let things get that out of hand that Bret The Hitman Hart was spitting on people and destroying sets for real he'd be moving on from that pretty quick. "He didn't want to do business... he destroyed my set... broke my equipment... spit on me... punched me... threatened my son and several other employees... what a baby lol!!! I'm going to do the logical thing here and blame him, pay him, and get back to suing Scott Hall for chewing toothpicks..."

As far as Bret talking to Meltzer, all he had to do was pretend he didn't know anything... I do that, like, every day!
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 11:25
It is also brought up any time the year 1996 is discussed, or Stone Cold Steve Austin, or anything else. The money that went to Tyson was pretty clearly from Bret and their ransoming of Davey Boy.
I'm not arguing this, but "brink of bankruptsy" and "losing the Monday Night War" mean different things to me. When I think Vince going bankrupt, I think about The Screwjob. When I think, "beaten in the ratings 'x' weeks in a row" I think 1996. I don't remember any mass layoffs, drops in production, or any other cost saving measures in 96. Just taping Raw, and getting rid of Bret Hart (and, as you pointed out, Davey Boy). I feel like there'd be more drastic measures being taken by a company that was struggling to keep the lights on. Then to immediately blow all those savings on a Wrestlemania guest spot...

I don't know, man... I like my idea better.
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Re: Tin Foil Hat Time: The Montreal Screw Job

Post by Big Red Machine » Mar 11th, '18, 13:19

Bob-O wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 12:47
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 11:25
Without the documentary it would have been a fishy thing happening on the PPV, Bret breaking sh*t in front of a bunch of fans, then Vince explaining it on TV and then Bret talking to Dave Meltzer about it. The documentary doesn't premier until December 20, 1998. By that time, the Screwjob had already become a legendary thing.
Valid point about the doc. I still say Bret was in on it, and I still think it's too convenient they were making it to begin with. I mean, Bret breaking stuff in front of a bunch of fans? Not much different than the worked-shoot he did on Raw where he cussed a lot about getting "screwed" (hmmmm...), or the time he "quit"... had he showed up on Raw the next night, it would have been great tv, but (beyond the "everyone knew he was legit leaving" thing) it wouldn't have been crazy. It felt like a work to me, from one of the greatest workers of all time. They just let him do it! Nobody tried to stop him... seems like there'd be some sort of security in place beyond Triple H in case he started attacking people...

Vince explaining it on TV makes it feel more like a work! You'd think, had he legitimately let things get that out of hand that Bret The Hitman Hart was spitting on people and destroying sets for real he'd be moving on from that pretty quick. "He didn't want to do business... he destroyed my set... broke my equipment... spit on me... punched me... threatened my son and several other employees... what a baby lol!!! I'm going to do the logical thing here and blame him, pay him, and get back to suing Scott Hall for chewing toothpicks..."

As far as Bret talking to Meltzer, all he had to do was pretend he didn't know anything... I do that, like, every day!
The way everyone has explained it was that they were letting Bret blow off steam, and all of this- even punching Vince in the face- was part of that. Vince was willing to take it. Same with not suing him. Vince did legitimately feel bad about it, as did many in the office (which is part of why Vince didn't tell certain people [Prichard, Patterson... depending on if you believe them of course, as there is an argument that Pat knew becau8se he was the one who suggested the spot where Shawn gets Bret in the Sharpshooter.)
The problem with the whole conspiracy theory is that it ignores too much else going on around it. If you're losing Bret- work or not- , it makes no sense to let the other Harts go and to do absolutely nothing with the one Hart you keep around, Owens, who was both the second most over Hart and who also had a kayfabe history with Shawn and recent kayfabe history (and non-kayfabe history, depending on how Austin's mood was) with Austin.
Bob-O wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 12:47
Big Red Machine wrote:
Mar 11th, '18, 11:25
It is also brought up any time the year 1996 is discussed, or Stone Cold Steve Austin, or anything else. The money that went to Tyson was pretty clearly from Bret and their ransoming of Davey Boy.
I'm not arguing this, but "brink of bankruptsy" and "losing the Monday Night War" mean different things to me. When I think Vince going bankrupt, I think about The Screwjob. When I think, "beaten in the ratings 'x' weeks in a row" I think 1996. I don't remember any mass layoffs, drops in production, or any other cost saving measures in 96. Just taping Raw, and getting rid of Bret Hart (and, as you pointed out, Davey Boy). I feel like there'd be more drastic measures being taken by a company that was struggling to keep the lights on. Then to immediately blow all those savings on a Wrestlemania guest spot...

I don't know, man... I like my idea better.
I'd have to double-check, but I thought they stopped running the third house-show loop in 1996 (or at least late 1995, and might have even stopped running a second one in 1996. Between that and going back to taped Raws, that's a chunk of money right there (remember the downsides guarantees are MUCH smaller back then, and with everything else paid by the house, a smaller house means less money coming in but also less money that needs to be paid out). They also lost some of their higher-paid guys (Hall, Nash, Piper) but without really bringing anyone to replace them (other than Vader) suggesting that they didn't have that money to spend anymore.
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