The Montreal Screwjob (also called the Montreal Incident;
French: Le Coup Tordu de Montréal) was an infamous and
controversial legitimate professional wrestling incident in
which World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now World Wrestling
Entertainment or WWE) owner Vince McMahon and WWF employees
covertly manipulated the pre-determined outcome of the match
between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels at the 1997 Survivor
Series. The pay-per-view event was held on November 9, 1997, at
the Molson Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The manipulation
– a "shoot screwjob" in professional wrestling parlance –
occurred without Hart's knowledge and resulted in Hart, the
reigning WWF World Heavyweight Champion, losing the title to
Michaels in Hart's last match with the WWF before departing for
rival promotion World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The
"screwjob" is generally believed to be an off-screen betrayal
of Hart, who was one of the WWF's longest-tenured and most
popular performers at the time.
Hart won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam in August 1997. A week prior to Survivor Series, Hart, who had performed for the WWF since 1984, signed a contract to perform with WCW beginning in December 1997. McMahon sought to prevent Hart from leaving the company as the champion, but Hart was unwilling to lose the title to Michaels – with whom he had a long feud both on-screen and off – at Survivor Series in his home country. Hart, Michaels, and McMahon came to an agreement where the Survivor Series match would end with a disqualification, which under normal rules would result in Hart retaining the title. Hart would then lose or forfeit the title at a later date. However, McMahon decided without Hart's knowledge that Michaels would win the title at Survivor Series. Accounts differ as to who exactly was involved in the plan and the extent of their involvement. The plan was executed when match referee Earl Hebner, on direct order from McMahon, ended the match as Michaels held Hart in the Sharpshooter submission hold, Hart's signature finishing move, even though Hart had not submitted. Michaels was declared the victor by submission and crowned as the new WWF World Heavyweight Champion.
The Montreal Screwjob has garnered a notorious legacy both on-screen and off, and was partly chronicled in the documentary film Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (1998). The far-reaching impact of the incident led to its adoption as a theme in matches and storylines of the WWF's "Attitude Era" and the creation of the character, "Mr. McMahon", the evil boss. Many wrestling fans, and several within the business, believe the entire incident was an elaborate work executed in collaboration with Hart. Nonetheless, Hart was ostracized from the WWF while McMahon and Michaels continued to receive angry responses from audiences for many years in Hart's home country of Canada. Hart and McMahon later reconciled, and Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 1, 2006. On the January 4, 2010 episode of WWE Raw, Hart, in his first appearance on live WWE television since the Montreal Screwjob, had a lengthy on-screen discussion with Michaels about the Montreal Screwjob and other events in their past, and agreed to call a truce, bringing closure to the incident after more than 12 years. Both men sat side-by-side to discuss the Montreal Screwjob in detail on the 2011 WWE Home Video release, Greatest Rivalries: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart. Longtime industry writer Mike Johnson called it "arguably the most talked-about match in the history of professional wrestling".
Hart's departure from the WWF