How Canada fell for one of pro wrestling’s oldest tricks

Title: How Canada fell for one of pro wrestling’s oldest tricks
Date: September 25, 2019
Original Source: National Post
Synopsis: In my first ever piece for National Post, I wrote about a recent controversy with WWE wrestler Lacey Evans, how wrestling is finding new ways to work fans in the modern age, and second-wave kayfabe.

The Montreal crowd was at a fever pitch. Twenty minutes into a highly anticipated match for the WWF Championship, Shawn Michaels locked Canadian icon Bret “The Hitman” Hart into Hart’s own Sharpshooter submission in the centre of the ring. His title on the line and the Molson Centre firmly behind him, Hart planted his hands into the mat to begin the long process of pulling himself to the ropes to break the hold.

Before the usual dramatic crescendo of the match could unfold, however, referee Earl Hebner dramatically signalled for the bell and quickly rolled out of the ring. Michaels broke the hold as his theme music hit the public address system. Hart looked around, first confused and then incensed. While the commentary team wondered “What happened?,” Michaels and Hart turned to face Vince McMahon for answers. Hart unleashed a visible wad of spit that landed in McMahon’s face and Michaels angrily grabbed his new championship and left to a rousing chorus of confused boos.

McMahon had orchestrated an unplanned finish in what would come to be known as “The Montreal Screwjob.” Hart had allegedly refused to drop the title to Michaels before leaving for rival promotion WCW and so McMahon took things into his own hands. The controversy launched “Mr. McMahon” as an on-screen villain, muddied Michaels’ reputation for some time, left a decade-long rift between Hart and the WWF, and, to hear some tell it, killed the art of kayfabe.

Kayfabe is the term used to refer to wrestling’s not-so-secret secret (spoiler alert): Its events and outcomes are staged and scripted. Over the last couple decades, pronouncements of kayfabe’s demise have been as ongoing as they are exaggerated. The Montreal Screwjob, WCW’s constant breaking of the fourth wall with “off-script” angles, the horrific death of Owen Hart and a host of other events have been cited as its endpoint.

Continue reading at National Post.

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