WWE Survivor Series 1997 housed the most controversial ending in professional wrestling history. The ending to Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels was suppose to be different from what had aired on the pay-per-view. Referee Earl Hebner called for the bell when Shawn had Bret in a sharpshooter. However, Bret didn’t tap. Shawn got the WWE title. Bret was on his way out of the company. He was going to WCW. Bret didn’t want to give the title up to Shawn though. Vince McMahon had to protect his company and the title and set-up this whole ending behind Bret’s back. The ending saw Bret’s actual response. It showed real emotion and frustration. That was 1997 and it was dubbed as “The Montreal Screwjob”. It is 2013 and not only is the event still being talked about, but wrestling companies have used the real unscripted ending in their fake scripted shows. This ending has become one of the most overused situations in wrestling history.
WWE Survivor Series 1997 was in November while WCW Starrcade 1997 was in December. Bret Hart jumped ship and that pay-per-view had Hollywood Hogan vs. Sting. WCW had their own version of the screwjob. A month later and the wrestling world is already playing it off. Bret was the enforcer in the match. Sting had Hogan in the Scorpion Death Lock and Bret called the bell. Did Hogan submit? All I saw was Hogan shaking his head, “No!” The world still was baffled about the finish of Bret and Shawn’s match. A month later and we have a finish that had people pondering. The difference was that this one in WCW was that it was suppose to end like this. Everyone involved knew it was going to happen. It was not a secret. Did it go over as well as WWE’s? Not at all. Some felt ripped off. The huge build-up to the NWO vs. Sting match only had Bret calling for the bell. Sure, they moved forward in the story after that, but that match at Starrcade was the changing point. It was suppose to be a great change, but the fans weren’t happy.
Let’s fast forward to 2009. The setting is WWE Breaking Point and it is in Montreal, Quebec. Does the city sound familiar? Should because it is the same city that had Survivor Series 1997. At any rate, it was CM Punk vs. Undertaker in a Submission Match. This match had several swerves in the final 5 minutes. First Undertaker used the Hell’s Gate, but Teddy Long came out and said that move was banned. The match continued and Punk put Undertaker in the Anaconda Vice. The referee called for the bell, but, just like the others, Undertaker did not tap. Punk and the referee joined Mr. Long on the stage after the match. It felt just like 1997. It had that eerie feeling to it, but it was a storyline. It was planned. What a great way to mimic the original but following it up was terrible.
We talked about WCW’s version of the screwjob. We also discussed WWE’s way to rehash the screwjob ending. What about TNA Wrestling? Yes, they even had their own version of the Montreal Screwjob. This, though, may have been the most believable, or raw, situation out of them all. January 21st, 2010′s Impact had AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle. Just these two in the same sentence is greatness. We seen a couple matches between them so far since this bout, but no one was complaining to see another. In this match, while they weren’t in Montreal, they were in Orlando, Florida. Earl Hebner was the referee, the same referee from the original Montreal Screwjob. I don’t like to make comparisons, but let’s: Everyone always talks about who is better… Kurt Angle or Bret Hart. Well, both were brought up differently, both have that technical side to them. So, it’s quite fair to say that Kurt was the Bret in this match… from in the ring to how he acted. AJ Styles could be the Shawn Michaels. AJ is the young gun. He is the guy with lots of talent. That’s just like Shawn back then. As the story goes, Kurt had AJ in the Ankle Lock. AJ reversed it and put Kurt it in, but Earl quickly called the bell. You can already guess that Kurt didn’t tap. Kurt was confused. The whole audience was confused. Earl helped AJ leave the scene. Hulk Hogan came out to try to calm Kurt down, but Kurt was in a rampage. He yelled at Hulk. He said he could go back to WWE. He even stated, “I quit!” He spit in the face of Hulk… just like Bret did to Vince in 1997. After the spitting, Bret went to the commentator’s desk and threw some equipment. Well, so did Kurt. We were really in 1997 all over again. How did the story turn out? Well, a week later had Kurt apologize to Hulk and he never left.
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We all love reality inside the wrestling shows. We love when we have to question whether a story or event is real or if it was planned (As I stated in my previous article). It keeps us on our toes. It keeps us watching. Like Eric Bischoff‘s book…. controversy does create cash! However, wrestling fans always compare. They compare the present to the past. They compare stars to shows to storylines. Sometimes it’s the companies at fault for rehashing the stories. The Montreal Screwjob event has been used time and time again. We all love unpredictable events, but it is time to set the line between history and pretend history.
The original Montreal Screwjob will always be remembered and talked about because was unscripted and real. All the others simply want to bring that to the table, but the end results always hurt. We know Kurt didn’t leave TNA because of that finish in 2010. We know the finish at Starrcade was only to drag the story on. The screwjob finish has become the staple of an overused work scenario that has no clever ending.