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Shawn vs. Bret: WWE Superstars weigh in, part two
Who made the right decision in Montreal?
The rivalry between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels raged for nearly a decade both in and out of the ring, but it came to be defined by a single date: November 9, 1997. That night, HBK and The Hit Man clashed for Hart’s WWE Championship at the Survivor Series in Montreal, in a bout that changed the course of WWE. Knowing that Hart was planning to leave for WCW, Mr. McMahon came to ringside during the bout and forced the official to call for the bell when Michaels had The Hit Man locked in the Sharpshooter, thus stripping Hart of the title. The incident changed not only the three men involved, but the very direction of WWE as The Chairman became a loathed villain and standards of taste dipped to new lows in the absence of the heroic Hart.
DOLPH ZIGGLER: I saw Wrestling with Shadows a long time ago and said, ‘Man, Bret Hart got screwed. I hope that doesn’t ever happen to me.’ And then I realized at some point that what is good for the business isn’t always good for one person. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and I now side with Shawn Michaels.
CHRISTIAN: I was there. Edge had a developmental contract with the company at the time. I went with him to the show and we got to be flies on the wall. We saw a lot of hoopla going on in the locker room. We were a little bit confused, so we just tried to stay out of the way until an official came up and said, “It’s probably better if you guys left.” We just got out of there and we didn’t even realize until the next day what had happened, so it was kind of crazy.
BOURNE: I always feel like Vince screwed Bret. Bret did not screw Bret.
RYDER: At the time, I couldn’t believe it, but it just created this interest, this buzz, this “Attitude Era.” It got all these new fans watching and I wasn’t a loser in high school for wearing wrestling shirts anymore.
BARRETT: Bret Hart was an incredible performer, but he should have agreed to drop the title to Shawn Michaels on the night in question. I think it was the right thing to do for the business at the time, even if it wasn’t the right thing for him to do personally.
HAWKINS: The guys that work here now understand what it’s like. Now you’re in Bret’s shoes and you’re getting a different perspective than you did on the outside looking in. You know how he felt about what was going down and what was asked of him, so it’s tough.
PHOENIX: Bret was screwed, and his exit from WWE was certainly not what he deserved after all the time and effort he put into it.
MORRISON: I understand why Bret felt the way he did about the “Screwjob,” but taking a step back I understand why Vince felt the way he did too. It’s hard to say who’s right and wrong, but what’s interesting is what’s gone on since then. Vince knew that Bret was good for business and brought him back, and that’s why I think the phrase, “Never say never,” always makes sense.
PUNK: At the end of the night [in 1997], I was really just sad, because I didn’t think I would ever see Bret in WWE again. I mean, the guy worked his [butt] off for this place and they just discarded him like a piece of garbage. I was even more disappointed the next night when nobody really did anything about it. Sure, Owen and Davey and Anvil did, but you expected them to. I almost wish everybody stuck up for him.
NATALYA: When the “Screwjob” went down, I saw the pain that my uncle went through. It was very sad and very traumatizing for him. It really affected our entire family, because my dad and Davey [Natalya’s uncle, The British Bulldog] still worked for WWE. My grandmother was upset about it. My grandfather was rattled. It divided the family in a few ways.
CENA: I think it's best summed up as being a typical day in WWE. Anything can happen on any given broadcast.
Who has had more influence on your career?
It’s been more than a decade since Survivor Series 1997 and much has changed. The Hit Man made an unexpected return to WWE, beat Mr. McMahon at WrestleMania and made his peace with Shawn Michaels. HBK left his adolescent arrogance behind, had kids and found God. Both Superstars have retired and been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Now, their complete legacies as influential competitors can be reviewed in full.
ZIGGLER: It’s no question — Shawn Michaels is the greatest of all time. Bret Hart was really good at wrestling, but this is the sports-entertainment business. I model myself after some of the greatest sports-entertainers of all time and Shawn Michaels is absolutely at the top of the list. I’ve always been a huge fan and always will be.
MORRISON: Shawn is my inspiration to this day. The flamboyance, the flash, the charisma, the attitude — that is what really made me love wrestling, and that’s why I think he’s so cool.
BARRETT: My favorite match of all time is The British Bulldog against Bret “Hit Man” Hart for the Intercontinental Title at [SummerSlam 1992]. To see those two together in such a great venue, in such a great match with such great buildup ... it’s my favorite wrestling memory.
DANIEL BRYAN: Shawn Michaels. He trained me!
CENA: I really have competed in some grueling matches against Shawn, so I've got to take HBK on that one.
McINTYRE: Bret’s matches always drew me in. I didn’t understand why until I actually started myself. When you realize what he’d done in the ring it’s just compelling.
NATALYA: I am very loyal to my Uncle Bret, but I never hated Shawn. It’s hard to hate somebody that performs the way that he does. Like him or hate him, you have to respect him. He’s one of the greatest of all time.
PUNK: Even though I was so drawn to Shawn as a kid, I think I learned more from Bret, because of his basics and fundamentals. That’s a foundation that everybody should learn. Unfortunately, everybody does not. He is the perennial wrestler’s wrestler. No lie — best there is, best there was, best there will ever be.
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