Bret "Hitman" Hart, Survivor Series™ 1997
by "Rockin" Robin Drodge
Date: August 25, 2004
Canadians will never forget the 1997 Survivor Series™ in Montreal. The reason, their hero Bret the “Hitman” Hart got screwed in his own Country and for the World Wrestling Federation Championship. This was supposedly his last match in the Company. Vince McMahon had offered Bret a 20-year contract, which he accepted. Later McMahon told Bret that they could not fulfill the contract and then told him that he could negotiate with World Championship Wrestling (WCW™), but the problem was that Bret did not want to leave the WWF.
Bret contacted Eric Bischoff and tried to negotiate a contract at WCW™. Bret had until November 1, 1997 to either give his notice to leave or to stay with the WWF. There was a deadline in his contract that he had until midnight to make up his mind whether he would accept the offer from WCW™ or whether he would stay with the WWF. Bret made his decision to sign with WCW™ and give his notice to Vince.
In Bret’s contract, it stated that he had a thirty-day period in which it said that he had reasonable creative control over his character before he left the Company. So after the decision was made the match for the Survivor Series™ was still going to take place. The match was between Bret and Shawn Michaels. Bret and Shawn had some problems and he told Vince that he would drop the title anywhere in the United States but he would not drop the title in Canada. So a lot of options were discussed on what Bret could do in order to drop the title. The Survivor Series™ was in Montreal, and Vince had suggested that Bret would drop the title to Michaels, but Bret would not go for this.
Vince tried several times to get him to consider the possibility but every time he refused to lose in Canada. Bret told Vince that he thought he would win the match at the Survivor Series™ and forfeit the title on Raw to Vince in Ottawa, and that he would give a speech talking about his time in the WWF and provide a positive outlook on the Company.
After Bret’s decision to leave WWF to go to WCW™, word got out through the media. A certain number of wrestling hotlines had learned the news that Bret was leaving and going to Atlanta to work with WCW™. After this a lot of internet reports started to circulate about Bret’s decision to leave. The WWF website got flooded with messages so the Canadian division decided to release a press statement; in which they denied the reports. A few hours later the Company in Stanford released a statement in which they said that Bret was exploring all of his options at the time. So the word got out about Bret leaving. Bret would finally make his first media appearance on TSN’s “Off the Record”, hosted by Michael Lansberg, in which he asked Bret if he was leaving. He did not come out and completely say which way he decided but he did express his concern in the direction of where the WWF was going in. It got so bad that he couldn't even sit and enjoy watching RAW™ on TV with his kids. He was to wrestle his last live event in Canada at the Skydome in Toronto. Some of the fans screamed “you sold out”, while others had signs about the company and its direction.
The main event was a six-man tag match between the Undertaker, Mankind and Stone Cold Steve Austin against the team of Bret, the British Bulldog and Jim the “Anvil” Neidhart. The team of Undertaker, Austin and Mankind won the match.
The time had arrived for the Survivor Series™. Bret had talked to Earl Hebner, his close friend, and explained the situation he was in. Hebner had sworn on his kid's life that he would make sure that the match went well. When the decision was made in how the match would end, it was decided that it would be a Disqualification (DQ) in that Bret would retain the title and then hand over the title the next night on Raw in Ottawa. Owen Hart and the British Bulldog were supposed to run in and cause the match to end. What would happen is Earl Hebner would get knocked down, Shawn would put Bret in the sharpshooter, and then it would be reversed. Next, Shawn would tap out, but there would be no referee. Then Bret got up and went to get the referee back into the match, when he turned around he got hit by a superkick from Shawn, in which he would cover Bret, resulting in a second referee entering the ring to start the count. Once the referee counted to 2, Owen and the British Bulldog would run in and then a few minutes after this interference the match would end in a DQ.
The above was the original plan for how the match was supposed to end. However, the following is what actually happened.
Bret was the “baby face” and Shawn was the “heel” in the match. It all started off on the outside of the ring before the bell rang when Michaels and Hart battled with each other. They then went up to the ramp area where Vince appeared, and he tried to get both of them back to the ring so the match could start. The bell rang and the match officially started. It went back and forth, Hebner had taken the bump and was knocked down, Shawn put Bret in the sharpshooter. Bret tried to reverse the hold and while he was trying to do this or before he had his leg turned, Hebner got up and said to ring the bell. Vince was also at ringside for the rest of the match and he told the timekeeper as well to ring the bell. After this happened Michael’s music hit right away and they announced that Michaels was the new champion. Michaels seemed to be surprised and was mad at Vince because he did not want to win the title in that way.
Hebner ran from the ring to his dressing room. A car was waiting outside for him so he could leave the arena and go back to his hotel. He then packed his belongings and went back home. We don't know what would have happened had he stayed in Canada.
This appeared to be some kind of a plan because in my view, how would the camera crew know when to go off the air at the right time, and how the production truck knew when to play Michael’s music.
After the event went off the air, Bret spit on Vince. He was very mad. He had broken a bunch of monitors that were at ringside for the commentators to use. Bret then gave the WCW™ sign with his fingers and then left to take a shower and head to his hotel. Before leaving the arena, Bret had the opportunity to ask Shawn if he knew what had happened and if he was involved.
Vince went into his office and had locked the door. He finally came out and went into Bret’s dressing room. Vince, his son, Shane, along with Sgt. Slaughter and Gerald Brisco were all with Vince. Bret told Vince if he did not leave after he got dressed that he would face the consequences. Vince gave Bret an opportunity to punch him. Bret took him up on his offer. Vince had suffered a black eye from the punch.
Bret hurt his hand from the punch that he had thrown. Michaels acted very surprised and he said that he had no involvement in what had happened.
The next night on Raw in Ottawa, Michaels came out with the title and said that he had driven Bret out of the Company and he went to WCW™. Either on that show or the following week, Jim Ross had a sit-down interview with Vince to explain what he did. He said that Bret had refused to lose to Shawn at the Survivor Series™, and “Bret had screwed Bret” instead of "Vince screwing Bret”. Vince’s concern was that Bret would take the title and show up on Nitro with the belt. He did not want this to happen so he had to think of something fast in order to get the title back from Bret before he left for WCW™. He decided to do it in a way that Bret would no longer have the title and it would take place in Montreal. Canadian wrestling fans won’t forget this because at the time this was a complete shock and they did not like the way that their hero had left the Company and what Vince had done. Bret went to WCW™ and had an ok run but they really did not know what to do with him. Bret wrestled Bill Goldberg in 1999 and was kicked in the head, resulting in a concussion, causing him to end his career in wrestling.
On October 26, 2000, Bret announced his retirement from wrestling. Bret did not have access to any of his materials in the WWF. This included items such as pictures and videos. Before Owen Hart’s funeral, Vince had a meeting with Bret and told him that he could have his materials back. Later he was told by Vince's lawyer that there was no such meeting regarding him having access to the materials. I am not sure if he obtained these materials or not.
Bret didn't get the opportunity to give a farewell speech to his WWF/WWE™ fans for their support. There are rumors that maybe he may return one day for one appearance just to say goodbye to the fans. The WWE™ are working with him to produce a DVD about his career and to have him comment on some of his best matches. This may happen but at this time it is only a discussion.
Bret Hart’s wrestling career is over, his legacy is not the best because of what happened in Montreal, he was devastated. In my opinion, this is a bad thing because the fans seem to remember that individual incident that took place seven years ago at the 1997 Survivor Series™.
In 2002, on a show the WWF had called "Confidential", and as I understand the name change had not happened yet, their first show was about the 1997 Survivor Series™. They did an interview with Michaels in which he admitted that he knew what was going to happen and he was involved. They also talked to Earl Hebner, he said that he found out 10 minutes before the match took place. Michaels on a recent appearance of “Off the Record” apologized for what happened but he has not apologized to Bret in person. So one of the biggest events that happened in Canadian wrestling history will be remembered for a long time. After seven years now the fans in Canada still remember what happened to Bret Hart.
The WWE™ has since returned to perform at the Bell Centre in Montreal, previously known as the Molson Centre. It was interesting when Michaels appeared, the fans screamed, “you screwed Bret”, and also the same thing happened to Hebner when he was performing his assigned duty as referee. The fans don't forget that statement and keep reminding them at every Canadian event.
When I was at a live event in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, on January 11 2004, when Hebner came out to the ring, the fans screamed, “you screwed Bret”. Who knows this saying may be around forever.
The legacy of Hebner, Hart, Michaels and McMahon will be remembered as they were involved in the screw job or played a role in it somehow.
has been another commentary for The Canadian Connection by your author,
© 2004 Robin Drodge, All Rights Reserved
(This page was last updated on 2007-01-01 )
© 2004 Robin Drodge, All Rights Reserved
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