The Montreal Screwjob is 20-years-old today! That's right, friend. You are two decades closer to your meeting with the reaper since the most long-term lucrative angle in the history of wrestling took place; a fact you might not have been aware of considering that wrestling repeats the Screwjob all the time. I mean, WWE did it just last year for crying out loud!
The idea that you don't know what happened during the Screwjob is downright insulting to your intelligence, so let's just cut to why we're here. There have been too many shot-for-shot reproductions of the swerve and I am just terrified someone is going to get screwed at Survivor Series this year making Michael Cole claim that he's 'NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT' even though he has, the numpty.
It's one of the most iconic stunts in wrestling that doesn't involve Mick Foley and gravity so the appeal to replicate is there for all to see, but considering that 100% of the Screwjob's value lay in the fact it was a real-life situation, the fact that there have been enough kayfabe rip-offs of it to fill a 10 list is pretty dumb when you think about it.
10. Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs. Chris Benoit - Raw Is War 2001
It seems appropriate to start in 2001, the year the Attitude Era came to an end. Turns out, to subconsciously mark its pass, WWF's creative team riffed on the angle which many associate with the era's birth.
Stone Cold Steve Austin turned heel at WrestleMania X-Seven, shocking the wrestling world by shaking hands with Vincent “Satan Himself” McMahon, and what better way to get the most of a new partnership with Big Vin than exploiting his magical point-at-the-bell-make-the-bell-ring powers. They're super effective.
Barely eight weeks after the Rattlesnake's turn, he was set to defend his WWF Title against Chris Benoit in The Crippler's native Canada.
What's that?! CANADA?! Better roll out the Montreal Screwjob! The original also happened in Canada, didn't you know?
Just as Shawn locked Bret in his own move four years earlier, Austin took Benoit to the mat and planted him in the Crippler Crossface. At ringside, Vince McMahon comically gestured to the timekeeper, the bell rang and a building full of Canadians loudly exhaled in frustration.
9. Shane McMahon Vs. Shawn Michaels - SNME 2006
In the 1980s, Saturday Night's Main Event was a big deal. They were irregular specials (you'd normally get about five a year), which were often main-evented by a big deal like a Hogan or a Savage or what have you.
In the mid-2000s, the concept was briefly revisited with the first of the revival taking place on March 18, 2006, in Detroit. The closing bout was a Street Fight, pitting Shane McMahon against Shawn Michaels.
What's that?! Shawn Michaels?! Better roll out the Montreal Screwjob! The original also featured Shawn Michaels, didn't you know?
As a really good match drew to a close, HBK scalped Shane O Mac with Sweet Chin Music. When the count was interrupted by Vince at ringside, Michaels hauled the Chairman into the ring only to eat a low blow. Shane then strapped the Sharpshooter on Shawn and, yup, Vince McMahon called for the bell.
8. Daniel Bryan Vs. The Big Show - SmackDown 2012
As a rule of thumb, if you're going to pay homage to one of the most shocking angles of all time, you should try and match the occasion in terms of stakes. The Montreal Screwjob took place in order to wrestle the WWF Championship from Bret Hart, in 2001 it was done to preserve Steve Austin's ill-gotten title reign, and on SmackDown in 2012, it was done because Big Show made fun of John Laurinaitis' voice.
I've just thrown up.
On the previous Raw, Big Show had made light of Mr People Power's raspy twang. During a match between (then-heel) Daniel Bryan and the giant, Bryan had locked Show in the Yes! Lock very early in the contest before the bell mysteriously rang without Show submitting.
Confusion gave way to resignation as the camera panned to Big Johnny stood by the timekeeper's area, announcing Bryan as the winner.
7. Bret 'The Hitman' Hart Vs. Goldberg - Starrcade 1999
Did you know that before Starrcade was a non-televised house show it was actually quite a big deal in WCW? It's true, every December up until 2000, Vince's biggest competitor would hold its annual blowoff show, a WrestleMania-quality spectacular where months of buildup would culminate in a satisfactory season finale. All loose ends would normally be tied up nice and tight during the course of a wonderful evening's entertainment so guess where we're going with this...
Starrcade '99 was stuffed show with 13 matches squashed into under three hours of television. The main event saw Goldberg attempting to win the WCW Heavyweight Championship from Bret Hart.
What's that?! Bret Hart?! You get the picture by now...
While this match will go down in history as the one where Goldberg gave Hart the thrust kick to the head that shortly thereafter forced The Hitman's retirement from the ring, its finish was almost as egregious. Keep in mind before we continue that Starrcade was the biggest show of WCW's year, meaning that in turn, its main event was the biggest main event of the year.
After the referee was accidentally clocked, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper made his way to the ring wearing the black and white. Hart then locked Goldberg in the Sharpshooter and, sing it with me, Piper called for the bell without Goldberg submitting in the main event of Starrcade, the biggest match at the biggest show of the year. Urgh!
6. Natalya Vs. Charlotte Flair - Payback 2016
The most recent rip-off of the Screwjob took place last year at Payback in a match for the WWE Women's Championship between Charlotte Flair and Natalya. While Nattie's character may have been somewhat dead in the water at the time, the matchup had a note of historical prestige to it.
Just two years earlier at NXT Takeover, the second NXT special and the first to name itself 'Takeover', Charlotte and Natalya fought for the vacant NXT Women's Championship in the night's best match. The two women went to war with each other for over 17 minutes, earning the adulation of the fans the world over as they did so.
Two years later the two women met again on the main roster in identical circumstances right down to the presence, at ringside, of Ric Flair and Bret Hart.
What's that?! Bret Ha... oh stop it now.
Poor Bret. Sure, he gets a PPV payoff, but at the cost of once again having WWE trot out a Screwjob clone in front of him 19-years after he was part of the original. Charlotte locked Nattie in, you guessed it, the Sharpshooter and referee Charles Robinson calls for the bell despite Natalya not tapping all because he's a super big fan of Ric Flair.
5. WWE '13
WWE 2K18 is out now replete with all sorts of fancy mechanics, go and buy it. One thing missing from the game, however, which was present five-years ago, is the ability to re-enact the Montreal Screwjob. Sure, you could re-watch the cutscene of Vince screwing Bret in the much-lauded Attitude Era-themed Showcase Mode, but what some may not have realised is that, while playing as a special guest referee, you could actually choose to screw one of the wrestlers in any given match.
As referee, should you call it 'right down the middle' and refrain from interfering and in turn, your Referee Meter will rise. Once it reaches completion, you'll be given the opportunity to perform finishers on wrestlers and, yes, screw them if they're locked in a submission hold.
WWE '13 was Attitude Era through and through...
4. CM Punk Vs. The Undertaker - Breaking Point 2009
Breaking Point was an experimental PPV theme that WWE only attempted once for reasons that will soon be made clear. On paper, it seemed fundamentally sound. Much how events like Extreme Rules would focus on special weaponry-oriented combat, Breaking Point would place its focus on submission matches with a Submission Match, an I Quit Match and a Submissions Count Anywhere Match on the card.
Oh, and it took place in Montreal. SUBMISSIONS?! IN MONTREAL?! WHERE COULD THIS BE HEADING?!
So yeah, the spectre of the Screwjob hangs heavily over the whole show with the Montreal fans just waiting for WWE to pull the trigger. The entire show passes with zero nonsense right until the main event in which CM Punk defended his World Heavyweight Championship against The Undertaker.
After just eight minutes (including Taker fake-winning the belt and the match being restarted) Punk locked The Deadman in the Anaconda Vice, the bell sounded before the then future Cult Of Personality bolted up the ramp as Teddy Long stood next to him, gawping at The Phenom with all the emotion of a plant pot. And why did Teddy screw The Undertaker? No reason was given. There was no need for a reason, the location of the show was enough.
3. Sting Vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan - Starrcade 1997
Just over a month after Survivor Series 1997 and Bret Hart's acrimonious departure from WWF, WCW held its show of shows, Starrcade. The main event saw Hollywood Hulk Hogan put the WCW Heavyweight Championship on the line against Sting in one of the most hyped PPV main events of the decade.
It can't be overstated just how massive the main event of Starrcade '97 was. The New World Order had completely dominated WCW for over a year, forcing The Stinger to walk out in protest in late 1996. Sting didn't wrestle a match for over a year as well, opting to morph into 'crow' Sting and start haunting Hogan and chums from the rafters. Months and months of storyline preparation went into this one event and they ripped-off the Screwjob...
Instead of Sting overcoming the odds and winning clean WCW sought to capitalise on Bret Hart's recent signing, though he couldn't wrestle owing to a no-compete clause. Referee Nick Patrick fast-counted Mr Crow (he actually counted at a regular pace, screwing up the entire thing to begin with) but Hart refused to 'let it happen again' and restarted the match. Sting locked Hogan in the Scorpion Death Lock, which is the same as a Sharpshooter, and Hart ordered the bell rung despite Hogan not visibly tapping out.
The biggest event in your company's history and you cap it off by copying something WWF did a month earlier... shakes head vigorously.
2. Mankind Vs. The Rock - Survivor Series 1998
One year on and they did it again. Two Survivor Series main events in a row ended in Screwjobs. One was real, the other a carbon-copy kayfabe imitation.
Survivor Series '98 broke from the norm by avoiding the traditional elimination tag matches, dedicating instead the entire PPV to a single tournament. The contest, titled Deadly Games, was to crown a new WWF Champion after the belt was vacated owing to McMahon/Austin shenanigans. The culmination of the tournament saw The Rock take on Mankind.
One calendar year after Bret Hart didn't tap out to the Sharpshooter, The Rock locked the exact same hold on Mankind with Vince at ringside immediately calling for the bell. The Rock then proceeded to turn heel by hugging Vince and newly-turned Shane, becoming the Corporate Champion as JR bellowed: “They screwed us all!”
1. AJ Styles Vs. Kurt Angle - TNA Impact 2010
At Genesis 2010 just a few weeks earlier, AJ Styles had turned heel, clocking Kurt Angle with a belt to retain his TNA Heavyweight Championship. The Olympic Hero was given one more crack at The Phenomenal One's title on an episode of Impact, which ended in bafflingly s**t circumstances.
Hulk Hogan had recently debuted in TNA and what came with him were a giant performance fee and some truly awful storylines, this little beauty included.
Styles countered an Ankle Lock with one of his own for the finish and when referee Earl Hebner (yup, the same referee in Montreal way back when) called for the bell, Styles high-tailed it.
WWE have ripped-off the Screwjob aplenty, but at least it's their angle to rip-off. WCW gave it a couple of tries, but both events at least had the decency to directly involve Bret Hart. TNA just re-enacted the Montreal Screwjob beat-for-beat and expected...?
Angle swears up a storm, threatens to go back to WWE on camera, shouts that he quits and even spits in Hogan's face EXACTLY HOW BRET SPAT AT VINCE. Did they hope people had forgotten? Were they counting on people 'getting it', because doesn't that make the whole trying-to-be-real thing pointless? I don't know. I just hope we don't see another version of a Screwjob at Survivor Series in a couple of weeks...