It’s one of the biggest moments in wrestling history. On November 9th, 1997, the defending WWE champion, Bret Hart (who was leaving for competitor WCW), was screwed out of the world title (depending on who you talk to), as it was handed to Hart’s real life and pro wrestling rival, Shawn Michaels. It has been referred to as the Montreal Screwjob.
It’s been discussed and dissected from both sides of the debate and wrestling historians and fans have all formed their own conclusions, and like many scandals throughout history, only a select few will ever actually know who fired the magic bullet.
But we can play armchair bookers, can’t we? What would have happened if the Screwjob never took place, read on for the alternate timeline of wrestling history. But first, like with any alternate timeline, we need to know the rules before we can fully examine what happens here.
- Bret and Vince part ways amicably.
- Vince McMahon never delivers the “Bret Screwed Bret” promo.
- Vince also agrees with Bret that he should drop the belt to Ken Shamrock.
- HBK doesn’t face The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble; he never suffers the injury that puts him on the shelf for years.
- Bret’s career isn’t ended by an errant Goldberg kick.
Now that we know the parameters of the alternate timelines, let’s book the territory.
15. The Road to Shamrock vs. Owen
The new WWE champion, Ken Shamrock, tells the fans that he will carry on Bret’s legacy, while forging his own. Owen comes out, angry that someone other than him promises to carry on Bret’s legacy. He demands a title shot, but Commissioner Slaughter makes him face off against HBK for the #1 contender’s spot. Michaels wins and faces off against Shamrock at December’s D-Generation X: In Your House. Owen interferes, costing Michaels the belt. Shawn’s frustrated that HHH didn’t come out to help him.
14. Shamrock vs. Owen Shoot Fight Rules
Shamrock and Owen both lay claim to the legacy of Bret Hart, Owen vows to take the gold from Shamrock at the Royal Rumble and challenges Shamrock to Shoot Fight Rules, which means you can only win by knockout or submission (essentially, a worked Brawl for All). Davey Boy and Anvil don’t leave for WCW and help Owen win the title instead. Dan Severn tries to help Shamrock, but to no avail. In WCW, Bret defeats Sting for the WCW title one week earlier at nWo Souled Out, making this the first time in wrestling history that brothers are World Champions. Stone Cold wins the Royal Rumble thanks to interference from Kane, who buries The Undertaker alive.
13. No Way Out of Texas 1998
The last In Your House PPV features Austin, Severn, and Shamrock against the Hart Foundation. With fan anticipation building for Austin vs. Owen II, the bookers make sure that they never touch each other during the match. Severn turns on Shamrock, beating him unmercifully. This sets up the first triple main event in WrestleMania history, Shamrock vs. Severn in a rematch from their UFC wars, Austin vs. Owen II, and our next entry. Kane confronts his resurrected brother, but The Undertaker still vows to not fight his younger brother.
12. DX Explodes
Also at No Way Out, Shawn Michaels confronts Triple H as to why he wasn’t there to help him at D-Generation X: In Your House. Triple H explains he was out recruiting, forming the DX army, while Michaels was being selfish trying to get the title. After a low blow from Chyna, Michaels falls victim to the Pedigree and a beat down from the New Age Outlaws. Triple H says he’s sick of being seen as a lackey and says he’s destroying HBK’s legacy at WrestleMania.
11. WrestleMania XIV
The theme for WrestleMania is Legacy–Owen vows to continue his brother’s legacy, Triple H vows to destroy HBK’s legacy, the best Ultimate Fighter in the world wants to cement his legacy, and the Deadman is ready to show his little brother why he is the Conscience of the WWE. Shamrock and Severn have a bloodbath, which sees Shamrock go over, the fans applaud both their efforts, as do the UFC crowds; more UFC fighters express interest in joining the WWE. Triple H and HBK is also a war, but filled with run–ins, including the debuting X-Pac and Nicole Bass, to help HBK even the score, their faction is called the Kliq. The Undertaker’s streak continues as he defeats Kane, and the Austin Era begins as he pins Owen clean in the middle of the ring.
10. Faces vs. the Hart Foundation
Stone Cold spends the next few years feuding with Owen, Davey Boy, and Neidhart over the World Title. Anyone who graduated from the Dungeon is brought in as part of a new Hart Dungeon stable–Chris Jericho, Lance Storm, Edge, and Justin Credible to name a few. Austin is a loner but is occasionally aided by guys like Shamrock, Dude Love, The Undertaker, and the Kliq. DX continues to be in mid–card feuds with an Ahmed Johnson–led Nation of Domination, who turned their backs on Farooq. The Undertaker, in a bid to gain momentum against the Dungeon, starts to convince the faces to follow him as part of his Ministry of Darkness, they take on darker personas, and Austin continues to wage war on his own.
9. WCW is Saved by the Hitman
With Bret keeping the flame of WCW burning, people continue to watch and continue to see the Hitman elevate everyone to main event status. Guys like Dean Malenko and Eddie Guererro are finally given their due. Bret gains serious stroke backstage and takes an up and coming Goldberg under his wing, teaching him how to wrestle. Guys like Hogan try to convince Bischoff that Hart is bad for business, but the ratings don’t lie and he won’t hear it. Bret Hart has helped stave off WCW from going under.
8. Comings and Goings
Upset at his current place in the company, The Rock asks for his release. He can’t stand the “Die, Rocky, Die” chants and Vince won’t allow him to embrace being a heel. But he grants The Rock his release. Dwayne Johnson heads to WCW as a mid–carder, but after a series of matches with the underrated Ernest Miller, the two elevate each other and Booker T joins their ranks, along with Sting, Luger, and the Steiners. WCW finally has a force big enough to dismantle the nWo. But Scott turns on his brother at World War III, becoming Big Poppa Pump and Vince offers lucrative deals to Hall and Nash to come back. With no real competition in the nWo, the faction is dismantled, WCW bookers don’t know what to do next and WCW begins to falter.
7. The Kliq is Whole Again
At Survivor Series 2001, the final battle is set between DX and the Kliq, the match is disrupted by the return of Nash and Hall, who question why their brothers are fighting, so they all come together as the Wolfpac. At Armageddon, The Wolfpac (HBK, HHH, Nash, Hall, Waltman, and Kane) take on the Undertaker’s Ministry (Taker, Bradshaw, Farooq, Mankind, Edge, and Willow [Jeff Hardy]) in Hell in a Cell, with the winning team’s leader becomes the #1 contender. The Wolfpac win but since there’s no leader, they have a game of strip poker at Raw to decide who will take on new champion, Chris Jericho, who defeated Shamrock and fellow Dungeon mate, Owen Hart, for the strap.
6. WWE Wins the War
Despite decent ratings and the feud between Sting and the “Brahma Bull,” Dwayne Johnson, not to mention Bret Hart having the rivalry of the industry with Bill Goldberg, AOL/Time Warner can’t keep costs of WCW down and opt to sell. Vince buys out his competition a week before the 2002 Royal Rumble. The storyline is that the Dungeon bought out WCW and now the WWE will have to contend with a true Canadian Stampede. At the Rumble, invaders like Booker T, Dwayne Johnson, and Jeff Jarrett disrupt the Rumble so that Bret wins, this brings out Vince McMahon who is now officially outed in the storylines as the boss. He will now allow a WCW star to main event WrestleMania.
5. The Road to WrestleMania X8
Bret Hart agrees to relinquish his ‘Mania spot for a chance to let WCW shine. On Raw, he issues an open challenge to anyone in WCW to come take the title from him. Booker T answers the call. The match is as good as any ever seen in WCW and just as Bret Hart begins to turn Booker in the Sharpshooter, Booker throws up the sign of the Wolfpac. Shawn Michaels appears on the Titantron to “welcome” Bret back before wailing him with Sweet Chin Music, costing Bret the title. The Hart–Michaels feud is now a Wolfpac–Dungeon feud that envelops the WWE and WCW. Members of both promotions, along with members of the old ECW all choose sides.
4. The First Invasion
On the road to Invasion 2002, ECW unites under Paul Heyman and the rogues become immediate fan favorites, led by stalwarts like RVD, Tommy Dreamer, and Raven. The main event at Invasion is a 6–man, 2 on 2 on 2 Elimination Chamber match, RVD and Sabu for ECW; HBK and Austin represent the WWE; and Bret and Owen fight for the Dungeon–WCW stable. It’s the first Chamber match ever and it’s gory. RVD and Sabu bring kendo sticks with them and they are used throughout the match by everyone. They are eliminated first by a Stone Cold Stunner and Owen Missile Dropkick from the top of the Chamber. Old sibling rivalries are brought up as Owen turns on Bret, allowing team WWE to win the day.
3. The Blackheart Says Goodbye as the Olympian Debuts
Since Owen turned his back on both WCW and the WWE, no one trusts him and he is being hunted down by the Harts. In real life, the Rocket wants to retire and does so after a severe beatdown by debuting star, American Hero Kurt Angle. Since blood is thicker than water, Bret and Neidhart assault Angle and nail him with the Hart Attack. The U.S.–Canada angle is ignited again as Bret and Angle tear the house down with a series of matches that generally end with Angle getting robbed thanks to interference from Davey Boy and Neidhart. Angle challenges Bret for the WCW title in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Bret accepts and taps to the ankle lock in the middle of the ring. It is the first time that a WWE star was won WCW gold.
2. The Beast Incarnate Arrives
Paul Heyman, still angry over how his ECW was merely absorbed instead of being a viable third brand in the now years long Invasion storyline, recruits OVW stars John Cena, Randy Orton, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Dave Batista, and Brock Lesnar. The Heyman Family stable also includes unofficial allies like RVD and Tommy Dreamer, along with valet Dawn Marie. The stable is used to elevate all of these new rookies, but the clear cut above the rest is Lesnar, who is pushed straight to the top, he takes “old man” Ken Shamrock to the limit and we catch a glimpse of the future UFC career he’ll have when he debuts the Kimora Lock. After Shamrock, Lesnar’s next target is only other “real athlete,” Kurt Angle.
1. WrestleMania XX
After years of title switches between the WWE and WCW titles, the titles are up for grabs in a unification tournament at WrestleMania XX. The last two title holders, Bret and Shawn receive a bye to round two, adding the stipulation “loser leaves town,” which Bret loses. The MSG crowd delivers a rousing “Thank You Bret” standing ovation that brings out most of the locker room to thank the legend. The tournament includes Eddie Guerrero and Lance Storm in a draw and Triple H defeating Jericho in a masterpiece. In their first meeting, The Undertaker defeats Sting. Triple H takes on Dwayne Johnson in the finals in a glass–ceiling shattering match that mints both stars. The Game wins, becoming the first undisputed champion as Hollywood calls on Johnson.
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