One of the main reasons, at least if you believe Vince McMahon, for the Montreal Screwjob was that the head of the WWF’s empire was afraid that Bret Hart would turn up on WCW television brandishing the WWF Championship.
Following the actions of Alundra ‘Madusa’ Blaze in dropping the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash on Monday Nitro following her departure, the company were not about to risk the same happening with their biggest prize.
Despite numerous protestations from Bret Hart and everyone that knew him that ‘The Hitman’ had too much respect for the gold and its lineage to do such a thing, pleas fell on deaf ears and the company sought to remove the strap from him via any means necessary.
Now, Eric Bischoff has spoken out about the rumours that Bret would appear on Nitro and ditch the strap in 1997 on his 83 Weeks Podcast.
Even though Bischoff hasn’t had the most glowing reviews of ‘The Excellence of Execution’ in recent weeks, calling Bret Hart a “whiny b***h” when the Canadian spoke out about WCW’s drug testing policy, he came to Bret’s rescue where Montreal was concerned.
After co-host Conrad Thompson had read out a passage from Bischoff from 1997 praising Hart from his integrity and honesty, the former head of WCW spoke on the words he uttered 23 years ago:
“I didn’t know Bret that well in 1997. I came off, listening to that quote, I came off like I sounded like I did, right? I perhaps wanted to believe I did and maybe I, I think not maybe, I think to a large degree I really felt that way cause I really did believe that Bret was an honorable guy and look, I always have a strong instinct about people and I rush to judgement pretty quickly when I’m in a room with somebody. I either feel pretty good about them or I don’t pretty quickly and I’m right about 75% or 80% of the time or at least I think I am and I move forward accordingly and I felt good about Bret. I felt like he was an honest guy and I still do, honestly. I believe that Bret believes the things that he says, I don’t think Bret, I never thought Bret, even when we were at the kind of the peak of our ‘verbal sparring’ back and forth on social media, I’ve never thought of Bret as a dishonest person, but here’s the truth: I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in Vince McMahon’s shoes. I didn’t hear the conversations. I wasn’t looking Bret in the eye when those conversations about how they were going to handle the situation were taking place and since I wasn’t in the room, I didn’t have any insight into those conversations.”
Bischoff then touched on the subject of whether Vince McMahon was correct in the decision he made on that fateful night. Having been in the same role as McMahon, Bischoff had to think carefully about what he would have done in that situation:
“It’s really hard for me to judge whether Vince made the right decision or not. I know the conversations that I had with Bret Hart, I know what I told Bret and I made it clear to Bret (as I alluded to just a little bit, a little while ago on this podcast) he didn’t need the belt. He didn’t need to come to WCW with the belt. The fact is because of all the litigation that was going on at the time, had Bret showed up with that WWF belt, which was a trademarked piece of property of WWF at the time, I would have had my balls cut off and stuffed down my throat by Turner Broadcasting attorneys.”
To put a full stop on the project, Bischoff did admit that had he been a few years younger and had the inexperience and guts he had when he first took over the promotion, then he would definitely have had Hart parade the championship on WCW television.
After all, Vince McMahon did the same with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 1991 when Ric Flair made the jump.
“I know that I couldn’t have talked Bret into walking away with that belt so that I could take it on WCW TV and pull a Madusa and drop it in the trash. Bret would have not taken part in that. I believe that, but even if he would have, in 1997, the people that I work for wouldn’t have allowed it. That would have been the end of my career at Turner at that point. So it was totally unnecessary for Vince to do what he did, but guess what? Vince didn’t know that because my pattern of behavior, starting with giving away finishes and doing all the other kind of unorthodox things that I did to make noise and get on the map and create that water cooler buzz that I was talking about earlier. All that crazy shit. Madusa showing up, throwing the title in trash – I don’t blame him for thinking that I was going to do something ridiculous because I’d been doing ridiculous shit for a long time and it was driving him crazy and I was kicking his ass in the process so I kind of think Vince had to do what he had to do, but the sad part is, it was all totally unnecessary cause it, well, I’ll just let it go at that. It was unnecessary.”
Whether you think Vince was right or not to do what he did, professional wrestling history would have been very different without Montreal for better or for worse.
Credit for the interview: 83 Weeks Podcast
h/t for the transcription: Wrestlezone