In the latest from the Guest Booker series from Kayfabe Commentaries, Bruce Prichard is asked to reconsider 1997’s infamous Montreal Screw Job from a different perspective. What if there was a way around it? What if a different path out of Montreal existed?
The main event from Survivor Series 1997, Bret Hart versus Shawn Michaels, is one of the ultimate subjects in wrestling and everyone has his or her take on it. Prichard was there, so credibility-wise this offering is much better than some of the recent attempts in creating controversy on a story that doesn’t need it. Prichard shuts down all the conspiracy theories about the Montreal Screw Job being a work. He explains that Vince McMahon will always do what he has to do for business, even if that includes letting Hart out of his contract, changing the finish on him during a match, and then giving him the opportunity to take a free swing at him in the dressing room.
Who better than a man who lived it all, knew all the alternatives, and has had years to think about another way, to present us an alternative?
This is my favourite line of DVD and as booker myself, I have always found it fascinating to discover how some of the greatest mind in the business work. The first DVD in this series with Kevin Sullivan booking the WWF in 1984 without Hulk Hogan was fantastic piece and the ECW rebirth done by Gabe Sapolsky is another one I really enjoyed. I was hoping for Bruce Prichard to be as good as those offerings. It turns out that the Prichard DVD is closer to recent releases in the series where it is more of a shoot interview and less of a booking exercise.
Then again, if you are looking for a great insight on Montreal from someone who was there sitting at the gorilla position during the event then this is a great DVD. We get many facts, no “I think” or “I suppose,” like in many interviews about the whole McMahon and Hart fiasco. I wrote a book that includes, I would humbly say, a fairly complete recap of the whole situation and even I learned a few things about the background of the screw job.
For example, Hart dropping the title to Michaels at the Survivor Series was always the plan even before the decision was made to let Hart out of his contract. They were planning to blow off that feud at the Royal Rumble while keeping a hot and strong fire under Steve Austin building-up to two or three big matches at Wrestlemania 14.
The most important revelation is that the presence of McMahon at ringside for the match between Michaels and Hart in Montreal was the Hitman’s idea. That’s why Hart was so easily put in the position of having the one person who could change the finish on him right at ringside in the middle of the action.
I don’t want to spill all the beans but you get the idea of the insight a man like Prichard who lived it could bring to the story. Where this DVD fails is on the Guest Booker concept. I was expecting them to bring up a scenario that was logical and plausible and bring up some interesting points and story possibilities in this booking exercise to leave Montreal without the screw job. After all, Bret Hart himself is on record since last December at the Ottawa Pop Expo in wishing that the whole Montreal screw job never took place (there’s a free idea for a future release).
What we have is a pure fantasy booking premise of Hart only leaving after Wrestlemania, Hart still getting “screwed” in losing the belt, Hulk Hogan magically showing up on Raw in Ottawa the day after Montreal and then Hogan putting Austin over for the title at ‘Mania instead of Michaels while Hart would lose to The Undertaker that day in Boston before finally leaving for WCW. There were some talks in 1997 of Hogan going back, more Hogan using Vince to get more money from WCW than him being really close to going back. The timing was all wrong that November, with Hogan just a month away from the biggest PPV in the history of WCW — Hogan versus Sting that Bret Hart would ironically be involved with and the first match to copy the Montreal finish for the sake of controversy. I felt it was a really cheap and easy way to present an alternative booking scenario.
Lucky for us the fantasy scenario is not even a quarter of the 1 hour 45 minutes of the DVD so we can still get a lot from this interview if we don’t pay attention to the title of Guest Booker.
We get to know Bruce Prichard’s background, going back to the Houston office of Paul Boesch, the glory days of Mid-South Wrestling under Bill Watts, through the WWE, and finally the misery of TNA. A definite highlight of this DVD presentation for me was the very interesting details and backstory on how Prichard came up with the concept of Bret Hart versus his brother Owen leading-up to Wrestlemania 10.
I also loved how he was able to give us a list of qualities and talents needed to be a good booker — patience, the ability to be brutally honest at times and to be nice and consider other’s feelings at other times, to listen to people, to seek other people’s ideas, and how to make the talent believe in your own idea. He even explains the “what if” principle he learned from Pat Patterson, and that story alone is a great look at the mind of a booker.
I would not be a good booker if I was not brutally honest here as well. This DVD is as a long way from being a home run. However, what if it would have been listed in the Kayfabe Commentaries Timeline series instead of its Guest Booker series? What if it would have used the name “History of WWF 1997” instead? That’s a game changer for me. My expectations would have been very different, even if this DVD only covered the Montreal incident and not the whole year.
Bruce Prichard is a fascinating figure in the pro wrestling business and even if this was not the best way to showcase him, I think he remains someone people can always learn from if they pay close attention to the way he explains the decision-making process of booking wrestling. So I say put the title aside and just enjoy the shoot interview! I think we can all find something in there to enjoy.