WWE Greatest Rivalries: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart (DVD Review)23 Oct, 2011 By: John Latchem
$29.93 three-DVD set, $39.95 two-disc Blu-ray
The incident known as the “Montreal Screwjob” is well-known to fans of professional wrestling. In November 1997 at the WWE “Survivor Series” pay-per-view in Canada, Bret “The Hitman” Hart defended his championship belt against Shawn Michaels.
But Hart’s contract was set to expire that day, freeing him to jump to rival WCW, and WWE owner Vince McMahon wanted him to drop the title to Michaels. Hart, citing his young opponent’s arrogance and lack of respect, refused, agreeing only to drop it to anyone else the next night. But McMahon was haunted by an earlier incident in which a WWE champion took the belt to WCW to trash it, so during a crucial point in the match, McMahon had the referee ring the bell as if Hart had submitted, giving Michaels the title.
It would become one of the most significant events in wrestling history, but its seeds had been planted years before as two up-and-coming stars rose through the ranks of the company. In this remarkable DVD the two men at the center of the controversy come together nearly 14 years later to reflect on how their careers led to that point, hoping to find a moment of catharsis along the way.
The program is unusual for a wrestling disc in that it’s formatted as an in-studio interview, as longtime WWE commentator Jim Ross talks with both men. It begins with the usual tale of camaraderie among the boys in the locker room, as talented young wrestlers looked to help each other in the ring to establish themselves as stars, but simple miscommunications caused long-simmering tensions to flare.
The fact they would now sit for this discussion indicates these are vastly different men than they were before that night in Montreal. Michaels shows a lot of contrition, probably tied to his turn to Christianity during his first retirement in 1998, and tears up as he recounts the guilt he felt about agreeing to McMahon’s plan.
Hart’s life was subsequently marked by a series of tragedies, beginning with the death of his brother Owen in a WWE ring in 1999, followed by a career-ending injury in 2000 and a stroke in 2002. It was during his recovery, he said, that he realized how much his rage over the incident was killing him, and he eventually was able to set aside his anger and returned to the WWE in 2010.
While he seems to harbor some resentment and is still working through the issues, Hart takes a lot of responsibility for not completely understanding where Michaels was coming from at the time. This represents absolution for Michaels, who recounts that all he ever wanted was for Bret to think he was a good wrestler.
With the tensions eased, the two seem more like old pros reminiscing about old times, and those insights make this set a must-have for any wrestling fan’s shelf.
The set includes a collection of matches between the two, from their tag team days in the 1980s to their iron-man match at Wrestlemania XII. Curiously missing from the line-up is the full Montreal Screwjob match, though clips of it are played during the interview.