Jericho welcomes Dave Meltzer to the show to discuss The Montreal Screwjob, 20 years after it occurred.
Meltzer points out that the Montreal Screwjob was a pivotal moment in wrestling history, and it really changed the direction of the business moving forward. In the days following the Screwjob, Vince McMahon and Bret Hart both talked about the business’ secrets publicly for the first time ever, revealing the scripted nature of professional wrestling, and this changed the business forever.
He also points out that this event led to the introduction of the heel authority figure, which has remained in WWE to this day. The Mr. McMahon character is arguably one of the greatest characters in the history of the business, and it helped pole-vault “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to heights of popularity rarely seen in professional wrestling. This, in turn, played a part in the untimely demise of WCW.
Jerico informs that when he started in the business he felt as if he had one foot in the “old school”, and one foot in the “new school”. When he started kayfabe was still prominent, but as his career progressed the business changed dramatically. He points out that nowadays, Vince McMahon tells you what to do and that’s the end of it. Back in those days, Title holders had a lot more creative control, and McMahon was more inclined to listen to his Champions.
Meltzer informs that Bret Hart was one of the most valuable guys in the business at that time. WCW’s original offer to Hart was 2.8 million per year for 3 years, but Hart had a sense of loyalty to McMahon and WWE, so he signed a 20-year contract to remain with WWE for 1.5 million per year.
Unfortunately, WWE was going through a tough period financially at this time, and McMahon even had to take out loans from banks in order to keep the company going. One day the water coolers were even repossessed from their offices. Amidst these financial struggles, McMahon asked Hart to restructure his deal and Hart said no. Meltzer thinks that this was the beginning of rising tension between both parties.
Meltzer informs that WWE turned around their financial situation by adjusting their PPV model. At this time WWE was running In Your House PPVs 8 times a year for $19.99. Their “Big 4” PPVs were more expensive, costing $29.99. McMahon didn’t think fans would buy 12 big PPVs each year for $29.99 each, but once Bischoff succeeded with this model in WCW, McMahon tried it as well and it worked. That was the difference between WWE losing money or making money.
Meltzer and Jericho wonder why McMahon didn’t take the WWE Title off of Hart sooner, rather than leaving it until Survivor Series. Meltzer thinks McMahon did this because Hart versus Michaels was such a hot match at that time and he didn’t want to throw it away. This was a smart move in part, because Survivor Series actually did the best buy rate of any WWE show that year.
Prior to their big Survivor Series match, tensions between Michaels and Hart were steadily rising. At one point, Hart was supposed to beat a young Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) with a Sharpshooter at one event, but Hart didn’t want to beat the young, up-and-comer. This upset Michaels and Triple H, who probably weren’t a fan of Johnson at this time because he posed a threat to them.
In addition, Michaels was constantly bragging backstage during this time about never losing. When Hart tried to calm the situation days before Survivor Series by telling Michaels that he had no problem putting him over, Michaels responded by saying, “That’s great because if the roles were reversed I wouldn’t put you over”.
Jericho says this is a fine detail that a lot of people seem to forget today, especially those who criticize Hart for not wanting to do the job that night. He says if someone said that to his face, he’d tell them to “Go F*** Yourself” and he’d never work with them again.
Meltzer points out that the original idea that night might have been to simply have Michaels hold Hart down for the 3-count, but McMahon didn’t think they could do it like that because Hart might have got up and knocked Michaels out with one punch. Then Hart would have went to WCW as a hero, and WWE would have been left with a Champion that wasn’t worth a penny. Michaels had to be able to deny that he knew what had happened.
Jericho points out that the Screwjob created a butterfly effect, changing the course of professional wrestling history. If Hart would have remained in WWE, would Steve Austin or The Rock have become huge stars? Would Hart have convinced his brother, Owen to say no to the stunt that ultimately cost him his life?
These are questions to which we’ll never know the answers, but Meltzer thinks one this is certain – Hart would have had a longer and more successful run if he would have stayed in WWE. Hart’s WCW run never amounted to much, and if he would have stayed in WWE he would have been in the main event picture with Austin, The Rock, Michaels and Triple H for years to come.
Meltzer points out that when Shawn Michaels returned to WWE in the early 2000s The Rock refused to work with him, even though this was a dream match for a lot of fans. This stemmed back to the things Michaels did years prior, when The Rock was beginning his WWE run.
Meltzer and Jericho both agree that because Hart’s career was seemingly cut short, a lot of fans today don’t hear enough about how amazing he was in the ring. There’s no doubt in both their minds that Hart deserves to be on the Mount Rushmore of the greatest technical professional wrestlers of all time.
That sums up today’s episode Talk is Jericho. You can listen to the show yourself anytime here, and I’ll catch ya next week for another recap!