November 1997 saw the continuation of a legitimate personal feud between HBK and Bret Hart, they had already set the world on fire at WrestleMania XII where HBK overcame Hart in a 60-minute Iron Man match in overtime, to secure his first WWE world title.
So their Survivor Series clash was one of promise and excitement, only the match never finished the way any of us would ever have imagined. Hart had signed a pre-contract with WCW to begin December 1997, and had held the WWE title since SummerSlam.
Amid fears of the promotion’s world champion walking with the belt Vince McMahon appeared at ringside for the title match. Michaels applied Hart’s own submission move, the sharpshooter, on the Hitman and referee Earl Hebner prematurely called for the bell, despite their being no submission from Hart.
McMahon doubled down and ordered the timekeeper to ring the bell, becoming known as the Montreal Screwjob.
The controversial match is a prominent piece of dark wrestling history that showcased the behind the scenes nature of the product we watch today, and legitimised Shawn Michaels’ real heel status in wrestling at the time.
Michaels had been groomed to take the belt off the departing Hart, and instead of the title being won in a show stopping match, controversy and fakery took centre stage.
Looking back, the screwjob, although controversial, can perhaps attribute to the star power of Shawn Michaels, everyone loves a bad boy, and Shawn Michaels had become the biggest bad boy in the WWE at that time.