Rewriting The Book: What if … Shawn Michaels never lost his smile (Part XI – Final Chapter)

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Rewriting the Book

By C.G. Scum

 

What if Shawn Michaels never “lost his smile” or forfeited the WWF Title in February of 1997?

 

Part XI: The Final Chapter

After over three months and almost nine months of storylines being covered this is the “Final Chapter” of our story. Coming out of the Survivor Series, Bret Hart is to be honored on his final day in the World Wrestling Federation in a very special edition of Raw titled “Bret Hart Appreciation Night.” It has been billed that on this show we will see one final matchup between the “Hitman” and his longtime rival Shawn Michaels in what is sure to be an appropriate send off to the fourteen year veteran of the company and five time WWF Champion. Bret dropped the World title one night earlier in Montreal to his brother, Owen, in what was undeniably one of the greatest matches in his storied career and no doubt he is looking ahead to what will for certain be an emotional farewell on the company’s flagship program which happens to take place in Ottawa, Ontario in Bret’s home country of Canada. In addition to the sendoff for the “Hitman” and his final WWF match, we will also visit the “behind the scenes” conversations that took place beginning with Vince McMahon telling Bret that they had to negate his twenty year contract on September 22 right up through his final day in the company. These “secret” meetings will shed light on why and how the final weeks of Bret’s WWF career played out as they did and also give us a bit of insight as to what direction each player involved in these talks may see their careers head in the future after the November 10 edition of Raw. So, without further ado, we begin the conclusive chapter of this story at “Bret Hart Appreciation Night” in Ottawa, Ontario at Raw is War, as one last time we question, “What if Shawn Michaels never lost his smile” or forfeited the WWF title in February of 1997.

 

Backstage at Raw- November 10, 1997- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

 

Several hours prior to the show, all nine men that are to be involved in the main event storyline tonight meet in Vince McMahon’s office to make sure one last time all players are on the same page. Vince addresses all, as there is a nervous excitement in the air over how these events will play out and be received.

 

McMahon: “Ok, are we all ready to make this happen tonight? (All quietly nod in agreement.) I assume all of you know your roles here and each is ready to pull of what I feel may be the most realistic and elaborate rouse in WWF history. Now to my knowledge, outside of us right here in this room no one knows a thing about this, correct? (Again, all nod in agreement) Perfect, well let’s make this happen, Bret, tonight is your night my friend, let’s send you off with a bang and shake up this business as we know it.”

 

Bret: “Let’s do this guys. I can’t say again how much I will miss this company and all of you. I cannot thank you enough for giving me my chance to say good bye and especially to do it here in front of my home country’s fans. It is bittersweet and will be emotional for me, but one last time, I am ready to give it one hundred and ten percent and like you said Vince, I am ready to shock the world.” (Handshakes and hugs are exchanged by all with Bret as each man goes their separate ways until the show is about to go live.) Note- This along with the rest of the backstage meetings leading up to this event will be included following the events of “Bret Hart Appreciation Night.”

 

Raw is War- November 10, 1997- “Bret Hart Appreciation Night”- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada-

 

Raw comes on the air to an emotional look back at the storied fourteen year WWF career of Bret Hart. Highlights of many of his greatest moments are shown and following this intro, the shot goes live to a raucous crowd that is chanting “Thank you, Bret,” at the top of their lungs. Following the crowd shots of the countless signs pleading “Please don’t go,” and “We love you, Bret,” we go directly to the ring, where Vince McMahon awaits with a microphone.

 

McMahon: “Hello and welcome everyone, to Monday Night Raw. Welcome to a very special edition of Monday Night Raw, as tonight, we bid a farewell to one of Canada’s own. We bid farewell to one of the greatest performers in the illustrious history of the World Wrestling Federation. We bid farewell to a man that stands for all that is right not only in this industry, but also for all that is right in the world. Tonight we bid farewell to a true hero, a true role model, and a true champion. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we not only bid farewell, but we celebrate a fourteen year career of a five time World Wrestling Federation champion and we celebrate the legacy of a man that I am personally proud to not only call my friend, but a man that is much like a son to me. Ottawa, Canada, I give to you the man who we honor tonight, he is the “Excellence of Execution,” and undeniably, he is the “Best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be,” I give you Bret “The Hitman” Hart. (Bret’s music hits and pink and black confetti drops from the ceiling. The Ottawa crowd is deafening as a humbled “Hitman” strides to the ring in cut off black jean shorts, a Calgary Hitmen jersey, black leather jacket, and his trademark shades. Hart waves to the crowd and seems to be shaken a bit by the rousing ovation. He marches into the ring and shakes McMahon’s hand and then pulls him in and the two share a long embrace. The crowd is so deafening that Bret has to wait several minutes to even get a word in and he is so emotional, you can see him wiping a tear from his eyes as he composes himself to talk. Just as he prepares to speak, the crowd volume again reaches a fever pitch, chanting “Please don’t go,” and the entire locker room, led by Owen, Bulldog, the “Anvil,” Undertaker, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels comes out to the stage and applauds the outgoing superstar. Raw goes to a quick commercial break as his fellow superstars and the crowd continue to show their respect to Bret.)

 

After the break, Bret is in the ring, composed and addresses the crowd and his coworkers who remain on the ramp.

Bret: “Before I begin, I would like to thank two people first, without which none of the past fourteen years would’ve been possible. They are right here in the front row, and they are my parents, Stu and Helen Hart (Camera shot goes on to and Helen, who wave and receive a warm ovation) Through all the madness over the past fourteen years, they have been there for me through thick and thin and I just want to say before the entire world, thank you and I love you. Also, I must begin by thanking my beautiful wife Julie. Julie has put up with me living the life of a WWF superstar and being on the road 300 plus days a year for these past fourteen years and has been a rock for me. She has raised my children and has always been there for me to, no matter what and I just wanted to publically thank her and say, Julie, I love you. (Camera shot goes to a teary eyed Julie who is next to Stu and Helen) Lastly, before I address all of you, I must say I feel a bit naked out here without my “Foundation,’ so if it would be ok, I’d like to have Jim Neidhart, the British Bulldog, and my brother, the new WWF Champion, Owen come down here and stand at my back, just like they always have for this my final say here in the World Wrestling Federation. (Owen, Bulldog, and The Anvil join Bret in the ring) Ok, now that we have everyone in place, and last but not least, (He turns to Vince) I have to thank Vince McMahon. Vince, you gave me the opportunity to live out my dreams, and those dreams far exceeded anything I would’ve ever imagined. Now, you just introduced me as someone who you consider a friend and almost like a son, and I hope you know the feeling is mutual. You have been like a second father to me since I came to the WWF back in 1984 and I cannot express enough how much I appreciate you and all that you have done for me. You have no idea how much I will miss you and how much I will miss working my butt off for this company. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you my friend. (A choked up Vince nods his head and lightly applauds, mouthing the words “I thank you, too, Bret.”) Okay, wow, this is harder than I had even imagined where to begin? Well, let me start by addressing the line of reality and fantasy that can be sometimes blurred in the world of professional wrestling. You see, in today’s world of sports entertainment that line can many times be very hard to differentiate between. The reason I bring this up is for the past eight months or so, my on screen character has taken on the unique role of one that remains a hero to you fans here in Canada (huge pop from crowd) and in our many overseas markets, but one that has been a villain or bad guy to the WWF fans in the United States. The truth is this. I do love the fans across the world, here in Canada and overseas, but unlike my on screen character, who would say nasty and derogatory things about the American fans, I also love the great fans across the U.S.A., too. I wanted to make sure to clear this up here on my last night with the company, as for fourteen years, whether they cheered me, or booed me, I whole heartedly loved performing for the fans in all of the great and wonderful cities across America and enjoyed many of the most special and unforgettable moments of my life with those great fans and I wanted to take this opportunity here live in front of millions of viewers all over the world to say to my fans in America, I love you, and thank you so much for letting me be a part of your life for all of these years. The same goes to you, the great fans of Canada and to all of our WWF fans worldwide. You are out here saying “Thank you, Bret,” well, I say “Thank you, fans,” and I mean it, I mean it so much. (Another absolutely deafening “Thank you, Bret” chant erupts and Hart nods his head, again fighting off tears as Owen, Bulldog, and the Anvil, comfort him. Once again as the crowd continues to roar, Raw goes to another commercial break.)

 

Following the break, we see highlights from Bret’s classic match at Wembley Stadium with the British Bulldog from SummerSlam ’92. This would begin a trend for the rest of the night as returning from each commercial we are shown a different classic “Hitman” moment. Throughout the night we visit his first WWF title win in late 1992 over Ric Flair, his Intercontinental Title win over Mr. Perfect from SummerSlam ’91, his WrestleMania 8 win over Roddy Piper, His being crowned the 1993 King of the Ring, His WWF title win vs. Yokozuna at WrestleMania 10, The Iron Man match at WrestleMania 12 with Shawn Michaels, his WrestleMania 13 ladder match win over Michaels as well, his “I Quit” match at the April 1997 “In Your House” against Steve Austin, the SummerSlam ’97 WWF title victory over the Undertaker, and finally his match last night at Survivor Series with his brother, Owen.  With each clip shown, comments from either Bret or his opponent were shown also, reflecting back on those bouts. (Flair, Piper, and Perfect were not available for comments, as they were in WCW at the time.)

Returning to the ring after the quick highlight segment, Bret continued to address the crowd, now turning to his family members in the ring.

 

Bret: “I would be remised if I did not speak of these three men who stand with me in the ring here before I wrapped this up. These men are all my family and honestly I consider each a brother. Let me start with you, Davey. (Bulldog steps up) From our beginnings up in the Stampede days, to the Hart Foundation and the British Bulldogs tearing down the house, to Wembley Stadium and right up until now, you have always been one of my favorite opponents, and I would have it no other way than to have you standing right here by my side to help me get through this emotional night. I just wanted to say, thank you for always being my friend, thank you for always being my brother, and I love you. (Bulldog responds)

 

Bulldog: “Well, Bret, I must say I feel the same. I consider Wembley Stadium the greatest moment in my career. I must admit with all of our history over the years, was hoping that it could’ve been the Bulldog and the Hitman tearing it down one last time for the WWF title last night at Survivor Series, but even though I was a bit disappointed that it was Owen you chose to go out with, I understand and I love you too. It just won’t be the same here without you, my friend. (Davey and Bret shake hands and then embrace. Bret then speaks again.)

 

Bret: “Next up, Jim Neidhart. My tag team partner. When I was literally almost saddled as the “Cowboy” Bret Hart back in my first year here, I cannot express how relieved I was to see the big, smiling, rhino walk into the locker room and hear that the plans had changed and we would be put together. The rest was history. A tag team partner, a true friend until the end, and likewise a true brother. I love you, too, Jim, and I will miss you so much. (Neidhart responds)

 

Neidhart: “Bret, you know I feel the same to , man. The days of the original Foundation were the best of my life. 93,000 fans at Pontiac Silverdome, two great runs as tag champs, you are the best friend I have ever had. Now, like Davey, I always though it would’ve been fun and the fans would’ve really dug a “Hitman” versus “The Anvil” one on one bout, and I’d have been honored to do it as your final pay per view match here last night, but again, I agree that Owen was a great choice, and man, what a way to go out, you two were unbelievable. I love you, my friend, and will miss you so much. (The two embrace and Bret turns to Owen.)

 

Bret: “Owen, last but certainly not least. I cannot begin to say how proud I am of you. My little brother. You were a Blue Blazer, you were High Energy, but now look at you, the WWF Champion. I always told you that in the end, you cannot deny talent, and you have certainly got talent. It may be the hardest part of me leaving to not be able to get through the long road trips and the endless hours knowing that I at least have my brother at my side, but I know great things lie ahead for you here, and that send off at Survivor Series last night was the exact proof I needed to be assured of that. My brother, I wish you all the best and will miss you so much. Thank you for always being there for me. (Owen addresses him in response.)

 

Owen: (Teary eyed and very emotional) “Bret, what can I say. The greatest big brother a guy could ever ask for. I can never thank you enough or repay you for all you have done for me, for my career, and especially last night, you made my dream come true and in the greatest match of my life, I am now the World Wrestling Federation Champion. (Crowd pops with a huge ovation) No one will miss you here more than I will my brother. I love you so much and you are my role model, you are my hero, and I for one will be the biggest fan rooting you on here tonight in your last ever WWF match against Shawn Michaels. Just like all these fans keep saying, I say to you, “Thank you, Bret.” (Crowd again gets very loud with yet another “Thank you, Bret” chant, as the two brothers hug and then Bret responds.)

 

Bret: (After crowd dies down) “Owen, I’m glad you touched on that last match, as before I sign off and finally let the rest of this show get moving along, I would like to call down to the ring one last member of the WWF roster. Now on camera, he has been the most fierce and hated rival I have ever had, but again, on my last night, to knock down those barriers of reality and fantasy I spoke of, he is a man that I respect greatly and one of the best in ring competitors to ever lace up a pair of boots. If I could have the “Heartbreak Kid,” Shawn Michaels please come to the ring and join us at this time. (HBK’s music hits and the crowd boos him unmercifully. Michaels looks a bit confused and surprised, but abides and strides to the ring as the show heads to another break.)

 

After the commercials, Shawn is in the ring and he and Bret standoff face to face and it appears they may go at it, until both crack a smile, shake hands and share an embrace. Bret then speaks toward his longtime on screen rival.

 

Bret: “Shawn Michaels, my greatest opponent ever. We have had Iron Man matches, cage matches, ladder matches, flag matches, hell, we even had some classic tag matches back in the days of the Foundation and the Rockers. Tonight, in my final send off, it is scheduled for the “Heartbreak Kid” and the “Hitman” to do it one last time. I cannot think of a more fitting end to my WWF career that to absolutely tear this place down like we always do, but seeing that I am leaving the company and in looking at things and wondering what exactly is the right thing to do out of respect to a company that has been so good to me, I had another idea. I think that instead of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels getting it on one last time, as a parting gift out of respect to you and out of respect to the WWF, I should step aside for that match and let Shawn Michaels get the shot he deserves and go one on one tonight with my brother Owen for the World Wrestling Federation Championship. What do you say Shawn?

 

Michaels: “Well, “Hitman,” I will say, I was looking forward to tearing this place down with you one last time. I also want to say, that since you are breaking down the barriers of reality here tonight, that I too have the utmost respect for you, and I too will miss you greatly my friend. That being said, I would be honored to put the finishing touches on “Bret Hart Appreciation Night” by taking on your brother, Owen for the WWF Title. I would be honored, but I really am not too comfortable on your last night, sending you off like that, so here is an idea that just jumped in my head. Now, I appreciate you passing the torch along to Owen and myself in your swan song here tonight, but how about we get the “Excellence of Execution” involved in the match too? What about this? How about Owen Hart against Shawn Michaels for the WWF Championship with Bret “The Hitman” Hart as the special guest referee? What do you think, Bret?(Shawn and Bret both smile, Bret looks back at Owen, Bulldog, and Neidhart and all smile and nod their heads)

 

Bret: “I think it would be an honor to officiate a match for the WWF Championship between two of the greatest stars that ever set foot in this ring, Shawn, that is what I think. I think it is a great idea and I think it is the perfect send off to the perfect career in front of a perfect crowd. I will see you all back out here for the main event tonight. (Shawn and Bret shake hands) WWF and all of its great fans, I love you, I thank you for all your support over the years, I will miss you so much, and hey, who knows, maybe we will all meet again someday, somehow, and somewhere down the road. Make no mistake about it, when I say it, it is a catch phrase, but there is absolutely no denying that the fans of the World Wrestling Federation are without a shadow of a doubt, “the best there is, the best there was , and the best there ever will be.” I love you all, goodbye. (Bret waves goodbye to the crowd, as Owen and HBK shake hands and then all of the stars in the ring leave, so Bret can soak in the cheers of the crowd as the show again goes to commercial.)

 

Several matches take place throughout the rest of the show, with the different Bret highlights coming on after each break as explained above. After the final break, we see highlights of Bret’s emotional speech from earlier in the night and then HBK and Owen are introduced. Owen comes to the ring alone, while Michaels is seconded by Rick Rude. Bret is the last introduced, and he comes to the ring again in his black cutoffs and a referee’s shirt to a huge ovation as it is main event time at “Bret Hart Appreciation Night.”

 

Match- WWF Championship Match- Champion, Owen Hart vs. Shawn Michaels (with Rick Rude)- (Bret Hart is the special guest referee)- The match begins and all parties shake hands. Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler both express their feelings that it is an absolute honor to be a part of this special night for Bret and to call this bout which is his official send off. The match as expected does not disappoint. Owen and Michaels put on an absolute clinic, trading the upper hand back and forth for the majority of the bout. Great scientific mat skills are showcased by both men, as are dazzling high flying, high risk moves that see Bret, the official, at times even applauding the two superstars. Adding to the drama, the red hot Ottawa crowd hangs off every move and counts rabidly with each of the numerous near falls and false finishes. After almost thirty minutes at a break neck pace between Owen and HBK, suddenly, a wrench is thrown into the action, as unexpectedly, especially on such a “feel good” night, from the back two masked men, dressed in the same garb as the “men in green,” but in the original color we saw, all black, stride slowly toward the ring. Owen, Michaels, and Bret all seem confused at this appearance, and as they stalk toward ringside, Bret questions HBK, who assures him that this has absolutely nothing to do with him. The two walk to ringside and simply stand with their arms folded as after the brief distraction, Michaels and Owen continue with their match, seeing HBK take the upper hand . He hits a flying forearm smash off the ropes and floors the champion, kicking up immediately and “warming up the band” as he readies fore “Sweet Chin Music.” As he does though, the two “Men in Black” jump to the apron, causing Bret to walk their way and turn his back. HBK also begins arguing with the two unknown men, when from the other side of the crowd, a “man in green” sneaks into the ring with a chair in hand. In a flash, the crowd is brought to a hushed and confused silence, as the “man in green” waits and when Bret and Shawn both turn around, he knocks the “Hitman” out cold with a sickening chairshot as Michaels hustles over and grabs each leg of Owen. The “Man in Green” then removes his green sweatshirt to reveal a black and white striped referee’s shirt underneath, just as HBK twists Owen into the sharpshooter. The two “men in black” enter the ring, as the green-masked official immediately calls for the bell despite it appearing that Owen had never given up. He screams at the timekeeper and even leaves the ring standing over him hollering, “I said ring the damn bell.” The bell rings and the two “men in black” put the boots to a confused and arguing Owen before holding a semi-conscious “Hitman” up by each arm. Meanwhile, from the back, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Chyna, Jesse James, and Billy Gunn, come to the ring and celebrate as Michaels is announced the winner and handed the title belt. On the contrary, a completely disgusted Rick Rude, realizing what has happened passes the group on his way by as he leaves ringside and walks away alone, obviously wanting nothing to do with what had just occurred.  The “Man in Green” returns to the ring and gets directly in Bret’s face before pulling the hood off to reveal himself as Vince McMahon to the complete disbelief of everyone. Handing Bret over to James and Gunn, who now hold a confused and angered Bret up, Michaels takes center stage and unmasks the two ‘men in black” right in Bret’s face and one can almost see his heart break as they are revealed to be the British Bulldog and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart.    McMahon does not join in the DX celebration, as he simply struts from the ring after taking the microphone and announcing Michaels once again as the new WWF Champion. DX welcomes Bulldog and Neidhart, as they all throw a few crotch chops and have some laughs as they are pelted with garbage from the Canadian crowd. Michaels, Neidhart, and Bulldog each throw a crotch chop in the face of Stu, Helen, and Julie Hart, as they leave the ringside area, as Raw goes off the air to the image of a heart broken “Hitman” laying over his fallen brother as Jim Ross breaks the stunned silence from the commentary table expressing his confusion and disgust with a simple questioning statement, “Oh, man, you want to talk about controversy,” before the rest of his statement was cut off and the screen simply went to black.

 

After Raw went off the air and off camera the entire DX faction, minus Rude, sprinted to the back, grabbed their bags and zoomed off. Bulldog and Neidhart left with the group as well. Steaming mad and storming around backstage, Bret, with Owen in tow sought out McMahon. Many of the “boys” were confused, as they figured with the masked men, etc. this had to be part of the show, but when Bret found the owner of the company, the two traded heated words until he laid out his boss with one punch, a solid right that connected and blackened the eye of his long time boss. Vince was helped up and to his office by several nearby agents, while Bret changed, kept mostly to himself other that saying his goodbyes and left the arena in a huff.

 

In the weeks to follow, the entire story behind the final swerve at “Bret Hart Appreciation Night” would play out as the superstars involved headed in different directions. As was done last chapter, I will visit each of these superstars now and detail where their characters went from this point

Bret “The Hitman” Hart- Bret Hart as advertised left the World Wrestling Federation following the controversial ending at the November 10 edition of Raw. He would debut in WCW in mid-December and make his first actual appearance being involved in a match for the company at their December Pay Per View, Starrcade.

 

Shawn Michaels- Shawn Michaels would continue along with DX to dominate the World Wrestling Federation over the next few months. HBK would hold on to the WWF Championship for over four months, before dropping it to Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14. Michaels would suffer a near career ending back injury as a result of a “Casket Match” that he had at the Royal Rumble with the Undertaker and would barely be able to compete against Austin those two months later. Following WrestleMania, due to the injury, Michaels would not be seen on WWF TV for almost a year and he would not actually compete in another match until 2002.

 

Vince McMahon- Vince McMahon would use the heat that he got after revealing himself as the final “Man in Green” to eventually become one of the greatest heels in company history as the “evil boss,” Mr. McMahon. Two weeks after Bret’s final night, Vince would sit down and address the events of the Owen/Michaels match and the turn on Bret, completely playing it off as a real occurrence and coin an infamous phrase in said interview with Jim Ross, when he told the world, “I didn’t screw Bret Hart, Bret Hart screwed Bret Hart. This “evil boss” character would go on to an epic feud with the soon to be new WWF champion, Steve Austin that captivated wrestling fans worldwide, not only bringing the WWF back to the top as the number one wrestling company in America, but also delivering previously un thought of television rating numbers in the process.

 

Owen Hart- Following getting “screwed” out of the WWF title, Owen would not appear on WWF TV for several weeks, as he watched from home as DX and Vince McMahon even made a mockery of his brother and family name. When he did return, he was billed as the “Lone Hart,” and feuded with Michaels and DX, but he was never able to regain the title. He remained in the WWF as a major player until a freak accident at the May 1999 pay per view, “Over the Edge” saw Owen tragically fall from the rafters in a stunt he was to do during an entrance as his “Blue Blazer” character went horribly  wrong and he dropped from the ceiling and tragically died as a result of said fall.

 

British Bulldog and Jim Neidhart- After helping to “screw” Bret on his last night and Owen out of the WWF title, Bulldog and Neidhart were brought out as new members of DX the following week on Raw. The association was very short lived however, as during the same segment they were introduced and welcomed aboard, the other members turned on the two, revealing they used them to “screw over” their family members. Following this embarrassing moment and consequent beat down, Bulldog and Neidhart left the company and did not resurface until several months later when they appeared in WCW.

 

Conclusion

 

While this is the end of the “on screen” portion of this story, as advertised in the previous two chapters, there was a method to the madness that played out in the final month plus of Bret Hart’s WWF tenure. Despite being played off on camera as a complete “shoot” as you will see in these conversations, an elaborate plan was actually put into place by the people that were “in the know,” despite the fact that it remained unknown as to whether Bret Hart or his brother, Owen were “in on the plan” or not by not only the fans worldwide, but also by the entire WWF locker room and staff outside of those in the conversations. The conversations began backstage at the September 22 edition of Raw at Madison Square Garden, when if you will recall, Vince McMahon confronted Bret with the staggering news that he would need to opt out of their 20 year contract signed just one year prior.

 

Backstage after Raw- September 22, 1997- New York, NY

 

After the show and behind the scenes at this Raw, Vince McMahon seeks out Bret Hart. He tells him that they need to have a very important conversation. Thinking nothing of it, Bret showers and then makes his way to Vince’s makeshift office backstage at MSG. He sits down and asks what is going on.

McMahon: “Bret, there is no easy way to say this, so I am just going to come right out and say it. Our company is in dire straits financially and we are in serious danger of being run out of business by Turner. This is so hard for me to say because I have always saw you as almost like a son and I appreciate all the great work you have done for me, but I am going to have to break the 20 year deal I signed with you. I just cannot afford it. (A stunned Hart is nearly speechless) This is all I have been thinking about all week since we got our financial reports, and it is killing me. But, I don’t want this to end in a bad way, there is too many good memories there, so I have been putting my head together with two other guys you know very well and I think we have come up with an idea that will see everybody win. You, me, and the WWF. Now, I need your input here, but make no mistake about it, I want this to play out however you envision it, but once we weigh our options, I need you to wrap your head around this idea. I know this is a lot to take in right now, springing this on you, but we do have some time and the one thing that I need you to promise me because it is so crucial to this thing working how we have planned is that not a word that is spoken between us about this is told to anyone else. Like I said, I realize this is sudden and I know how much you love working here, hell, you turned that bastard Bischoff down cold just last year to stay with me, but I have no choice here. We are possibly looking at downsizing to strictly running in the Northeast, and your contract is just too much at this point.”

Bret: “Wow, I am not sure what to say, Vince. I told you then, I don’t want to go anywhere. Is there no possible way to make this work? I mean come on, I turned down millions of dollars, I turned down a winning lottery ticket to stay true to you when you were down and out. I will do whatever it takes to stay.”

McMahon: “Bret, I wish it were that simple, but trust me when I say it is not. Like I said though, I have a plan and I think it can make us both very wealthy and very happy, and in the end, who knows, maybe if all goes as planned we ride off into the sunset together. Now, have you had any contact or interest from Bischoff since last fall? Because if so, he does not need to know our dire situation here, but I think I can help you to work out a great deal with them and in the end, I can rebuild our company at the same time.”

Bret: “Whoa, wait, you are going to help me work a deal out with Turner, Bischoff, and WCW. Now you , know that I love you and I love this company, but you have to understand that I am a bit skeptical when I hear you saying this, Vince. I saw how you shoved Hulk out the door. I saw how Randy’s character was decimated and forgotten when he left. Hell, you even okayed that bullshit fake Diesel and Razor nonsense. I am going to have to weigh my options here. The “Hitman” character is more than just a part of the TV show to me and my fans, and I do have reasonable creative control in the last thirty days of my stay here written into my deal, so all if this has happened real fast and I need to sleep on it for sure.”

McMahon: “I fully understand and I expected your skepticism. I want you to leave exactly how you would like to. Now I have discussed with creative the possibilities of a huge, groundbreaking “shoot” type angle in which you would leave on, and I really think it would be like nothing ever done before. It would send you off red hot to WCW, and it would also set up the WWF to take off in a whole new, edgier, almost reality based format. The way I see it, and the details are still foggy, as I have not heard back from my guys yet, but in the end, your final day in the company would be the night after Survivor Series. You can go out that night however you would like, but I see somewhere between now and then, you dropping the title to Shawn, as the edgy attitude that they are portraying right now is exactly the direction I see this company heading. How you want it to go down, is up to you, but in the end, get this, I see the final swerve, in the end of your chapter here in WWF is you getting screwed over and you being cost your title in some way that we blur the lines of reality. Pull one over on not just the fans, but on all the boys, too. No I am not sure exactly who or how to do that and make it work, but I got some minds that I trust working on it and I think this will be huge. What do you think?

Bret: “Wow, whoa, again, I see you have put a lot of thought into this, and honestly, I am in shock here. I am hearing what you are saying, but I am barely comprehending it. So, I don’t know what to say or what to tell you. I need to talk to Julie about this, I need to look at what my options are here. Hell, I don’t even know if I am still wanted in WCW? Vince, this is just a huge bombshell that you dropped on me, and I just need at least some time alone to think things over. Let me get some rest and some time with my thoughts and we can talk about this all tomorrow.”

McMahon: “Okay, I understand totally, Bret. But do me a favor, like I said, let’s keep this just between you and me. Obviously, a few others will have to come on board if we make this happen, but for now, at least until tomorrow, no one else can know, okay.”

Bret: “Yeah, of course, okay. Just between you and me. I will see you in Albany, I guess.”

Vince offers one last apology and the two shake hands before Bret leaves a bit shaken and saddened by the news he has just heard.

Backstage mid-afternoon before Raw- September 23, 1997- Albany, NY-

Off camera, hours before taping was set to begin for Raw, Bret Hart sought out the owner of the WWF, Vince McMahon backstage in his private makeshift office at the Pepsi Arena to discuss what had been laid out to him at Madison Square Garden less than 24 hours prior. The “Hitman” looking a bit restless enters McMahon’s office and sits down, locking the door behind him.

Bret: “Vince, I have got to be honest with you, I did not get much sleep last night and I am really having a hard time wrapping my head around this. I have been back and forth all day today thinking about what you said, and I guess if that is the way that it has to be then I think that we could probably make this thing work.”

McMahon: “I am so sorry Bret, but I don’t really know what else I can do. My hands are tied here. Plus, did you give any thought to what I had mentioned as far as the direction we can take this in. I have them working on it and I really think in the end it is a win , win situation all around. Hell, I will even help you to get the biggest payday you can out of them, and in the end I think that way everyone can be happy. But, like I said, it has got to be ok with you, so what do you think?”

Bret: “Well, yes, I did think it over and for the most part I think it could work to, but I had a little bit different of a scenario in mind, so you tell me what you think. Now, before I get in to this, I want you to know, this is no disrespect to Shawn, because I think the world of him as a performer, but you said last night you wanted this to go down how I wanted it to, and I really think in the end this could play out even better. Maybe we should get Shawn in here to discuss this, because I want him to understand where I am coming from too.”

McMahon: “I thought you might say that, and either way he eventually should be in on these discussions, so I clued him in briefly on our conversation and told him to come by this way and he should be here with in the next few minutes, but anyhow, I am all ears Bret, lay it on me and we can fill Shawn in when he gets here.”

Bret: “Great, I just want to be straight up here. As much as I never, ever wanted to leave and as much as I consider you almost like a father to me, I will say that I am kind of excited to see how we can pull this off. So again, I love your idea…(Vince butts in)

McMahon: “Well, I can’t take all the credit. I was hashing it out with the only other two people who are privy to any of this at this point, and I do have to give them some credit. I told them when we have our ducks in a row that they will have to get to work on exactly how this all plays out. Like I said yesterday, I am still not totally clear on all the who’s and how’s, but overall I am really excited and how this could play out. Now go ahead please, I didn’t mean to interrupt.” (At this point, there is a knock at the door and it is Shawn Michaels as expected. He comes in, shuts the door behind him, says hello to Vince and gives Bret a pat on the shoulder and then the two shake hands before he sits.)

Michaels: “Wow, this is crazy, Bret, I hate to see things happen this way. You know I have always cherished our matches and the great chemistry we have had over the years. But from what Vince said, maybe this will all work out for everyone in the end. I like the premise that was set down before me, but I agree with Vince in that I also want you to go out however you would like to. So either way, I figure with all we have given the people to this point, we might as well go out with a bang.”

Bret: “Shawn, I am so glad you said that and I was just saying the same thing to Vince. Now, I am just kind of in the rough stages in thinking about this and I don’t want you to think what I have to say is disrespectful to you in any way, because in the end we will actually wind up with about the same result, it is just that having things go down this way would really mean a lot to me after all these years if we could make this happen. So please hear me out on this and see what you think. Like Vince said, for this to work, for it to really work, the only one’s privy to this can be the players involved. (Michaels and Vince nod in agreement) Okay, so that being said, in the end here on my last night, I think somehow Shawn you do wind up the champion on the Raw from Ottawa. Not totally sure how we get there yet, but instead of me putting you over at Survivor Series, it would mean a lot to me if my last match would see me pass the title to Owen. I know we could have a great match in front of the Canadian fans and we haven’t been in the ring together for a long time, I just really would love to give him his moment for that one night, my last big match. That is not disrespect for you and again, like I said, maybe the next day or even the next month at the pay per view, you take the strap from Owen. (Vince and Shawn both seem to not be opposed to the idea.)

Michaels: “I have no problem with that at all. Owen is deserving and when we do have our match, I am confident it will be a great one. So, now the question is Vince, how do we get to where you are thinking?

McMahon: “Well, that I don’t know, but I will throw this bone to my guys and we will see what they can do with it. I like it, and I still think being that it is Owen going over that this can play out just how I envisioned. I think once we get a plan put in place, then Bret, you are going to have to get him on board and smarten him up to all of this. But if that is what you want to do Bret, like I said, that is very important to me and we will make it work. Why don’t we plan on meeting all together, with us, Owen and my guys at our next taping. We can all put some time in thinking about this and come back with a stronger game plan. Sound good? (Bret and Shawn agree. They begin to leave, but Vince stops Bret) Hey Shawn, if you don’t mind, I’d like a minute alone with Bret.”

Michaels: (On his way out the door) “No problem. Talk to you guys soon, and oh yeah, my lips are sealed.”

McMahon: “Great, thanks. (Turns to Bret) So, I wanted to know, have you had a chance to get in touch with Bischoff?

Bret: “Actually, I found out he will be in L.A. next week when I am out there for that MAD TV shoot that I am doing, so I have arranged to sit down and meet with him. I spoke with him very briefly and he said they were still interested. He offered up either a two or three year deal at $1.8 million a year to only work 125 dates each year. I told him get it back to the $2.8 her offered last fall and we could talk.”

McMahon: “Brilliant. Nice work. That way you should at least get two and a half. Now, what perks can you get?

Bret: “I am not sure, but last time, they were ready to give me the moon, why, any suggestions?

McMahon: “Yes, one huge one. It plays into exactly what I meant with the whole “ride off into the sunset” line I fed you yesterday. See, I know those idiots down in Atlanta will have no idea what to do with a Bret Hart. So, I think you need to ask for what they gave Hogan. You need to demand from them some type of say over your character. Whether it is a hand in their booking or just the final say on your direction, it is imperative to you and the “Hitman” character to make that happen.”

Bret: “Wow, good thinking. You are right about that. Thanks, Vince. I will definitely ease that in there. Anything else?”

McMahon: “Nope, that is about all, we will talk soon. Go out there and give ‘em hell tonight, champ.”

Bret leaves the office and seems much more at ease than when he had first arrived. He heads toward the regular locker room area.

Backstage at the end of Raw- September 23, 1997- Albany, NY

After their segment on Raw following the Bret/Vader match, the “Hitman” sought out Michaels for a word. Bret was confused and a bit angered at the fact that his contract situation has apparently already leaked and definitely none too thrilled with Shawn alluding to it in their interview segment earlier. Realizing this, upon sight, Shawn is quick to apologize and the two keep their discussion to a minimum, agreeing to catch up with Vince after the show. They go their separate ways to shower and change and once the final segment involving Austin has aired and the locker room begins to thin, the two meet back up and head to the boss’ office. Sham grabs a seat, while Bret remains standing at the front of McMahon’s desk.

Bret: “What the hell was that? I thought no one was going to get wind of me leaving? It hasn’t even been a day. How could this possibly have leaked already, and Shawn, did you have to make light of it out there? I mean come on, I thought we agreed to keep this under wraps.”

McMahon: “Bret, I don’t know. I apologize, but unfortunately with the dirt sheets and now with this internet, somehow everything gets out there. I can sure as hell tell you that it did not leak from me and I am pretty certain that Shawn couldn’t have got word out as he only knew about this when I told him this afternoon. Either way, apparently it’s out there, so there is nothing we can do accept roll with it. Now, your idea earlier Bret, involving how we go about your last month or so here and your role on television leading up to the sendoff, I think it could work even better with this being out there. I mean it sort brings a “what is real and what isn’t” sort of feel to this, I think, what about you Shawn?”

Michaels: “I agree, and Bret, I am sorry again, I was just feeling it out and playing off the crowd. My thinking is exactly what Vince said, with what you laid out earlier, we can take this the exact direction you said and use the fact that this is out there now to make it even more real. That is all I was thinking. Just like you said earlier tonight, I meant no disrespect Bret, none what so ever.”

Bret: “All right, all right, well, I guess you are right. I was just shocked when I walked out there and there are already signs and the people are chanting about it. It just threw more for a loop. I mean, Vince I thought it was just us and a select few others that are even in on this going down?”

McMahon: “That is correct Bret, actually there are only two others that even know anything about this as far as I know. Now as far as the contract deal goes, that could be a host of people that could have leaked that, as we have many people who deal with our finances that were at our meeting where I found out just how bad of shape the company is in. So, they may have just been speculating in telling the wrong people, but your contact issue was obviously brought about there. Either way, the more it sinks in the more I like it. As a matter of fact I think this thing may have just got damn real.” (Bret and Shawn exchange glances and both nod in agreement)

Bret: “Well, I suppose you are right. There is not much we can do about it, so if these lowlifes and bottom feeders from the dirt sheets want to get in our business and pull one over on everyone, I say why not return the favor and pull one over on them. (The three share a smile) You are dead on too Vince, I hadn’t thought of it that way right away, but this getting out does bring a reality to the whole thing and it plays about perfectly into what we had in mind. Will you see the guys to run everything we have discussed by them and see what they can do with it?”

McMahon: “One step ahead of you, Bret, I talked to them right after we spoke earlier and if I know them, after seeing the reaction tonight, they are all over it.”

Bret: “Perfect, so I say we let this start playing out at the Pay Per View. We only have a month or so to pull this together. Do you think we could all get together before Sunday’s show, or would it be best to keep any attention away from it to meet somewhere else.”

McMahon: “Well, I will talk to them and we will for sure discuss everything Sunday afternoon. Then we can bring in the others and see what they have come up with and go from there. But again, the contract stuff, that is inevitable that it was going to leak eventually, but for this to work, for it to work for all of us, these ideas cannot go any further than the three of us in this room for right now. Understood?”

Michaels: “For sure. I one hundred percent agree. I think we have something real special here, let’s not blow this.”

Bret: “I do to, so it’s agreed. We will not breathe a word of this and we will meet back up on Sunday to try and get a clearer picture of exactly where we are heading.”  (Right then there is a knock on the door, Vince explains that he actually invited the two men creatively helping him with this storyline to stop by to see him before he had realized Bret and Shawn would be in. the door opens and Head Creative Writer, Vince Russo and Pat Patterson enter the room, exchange handshakes all around and pull up a seat.)

McMahon: “Guys, obviously, you are familiar with Mr. Russo and Mr. Patterson. I have my Dr. Frankenstein here in Vince and the best finish guy in the business in Pat to help us mold this thing in a work of art.” (Both Bret and Shawn smile and agree as Russo begins to speak)

Russo: “First off guys, I want to say, I love this whole idea. Bret, I want to apologize too, as I stopped Shawn earlier and told him to lay into and play off the crowd knowing you were leaving. But there is a reason for it, and hear me out. My thinking is this, you want real, right? You want the fans, you want the boys, hell, you want your own mother’s to fall for this hook, line, and sinker, right? So, here is what we do. At the pay per view, at the end of your match with Slaughter, we have Shawn and the boys come out and leave you ass laying. You get carted out of there. So, that takes you off TV pretty much the whole time until Survivor Series when you are gonna face Owen. That gives the illusion not only that yes, you are leaving, but also that now that it is out there you are pissed and feel you have been done wrong here. We feed that you are feeling that way to the scumbag dirt sheet guys, the Meltzer’s, the Keller’s, these types of leeches and you know these morons will eat it up for dinner.” (Bret interrupts, as McMahon rubs his hands together with an evil twinkle in his eye)

Bret: “Um, ok, Vince, but how does that help build me and Owen, or how does that let me leave with my head up? How does me still being a pouting, crybaby help me stay “red hot” as the other Vince said?”

Russo: “Let me finish, hear me out, please. Now after you get put out, Shawn will be on each week, hinting and fueling the flames. Both with the crowd and the rumors about you leaving. Then a few weeks out from Survivor Series, you show up. You come out, selling a neck injury, neck brace and all. But in the promo, remember, it is a “real” promo and you are genuinely pissed, so mid-way in you tear the brace off and you lay it out how it is. You bash the WWF for screwing you on the contract, you bash the fans and rumor sheets, and you tell them, either my last match is with my brother, the only damn person I trust around here, or I take the WWF title and go south to Nitro with the damn thing. Now that is real, no one expects it, and no one does real as good as you, Bret.”

Bret: “Wow, I like it, I like it a lot. Then how about the next week, Shawn comes out and answers it the same way. He gives it to me good, leaves no stone unturned, and to keep it real, I still don’t show until the match at Survivor Series.”

Russo: “Exactly. Exactly. It sets everything up perfect, and I am still bouncing ideas around, but the way I am thinking now, in the end, the whole part Vince spoke about with you leaving and getting “screwed over,” I am not totally sure yet, but I am thinking it is as a part of Raw the night after Survivor Series. We have a “Bret Hart Night.” We remember all your great moments and you get to say goodbye to everyone, the fans and your friends, and hell, it’s even in Canada. A real warm and fuzzy night, and then at the end, somehow you are involved in the main event and there comes the “screwjob,” with Shawn taking the belt off Owen. Still don’t have the specifics down, but what do you think?” (All in the room are very pleased with the direction as noticeable on the sly grins wore by all. Michaels then chimes in)

Michaels: “I love it, but how do we get Bret involved if it is me and Owen, just a suggestion that jumped in my mind that has yet to play out, we still have had me promise Bret that there is one more “masked man” surprise for him. Maybe somehow it’s Owen? Or what about Davey or even Jim? I did say on camera it was almost like “family?” It would be cool to weave that in there.”(Patterson chimes in)

Patterson: “Well fellas, I was thinking on the same lines of Shawn for the finish, using the “masked man”  in the end to put one over on Bret or Owen or however we do it. The only question is, who is the masked man, and how do we have Bret involved? I think this is our next step, so why don’t we agree to each put some thought into this and then when we meet back up, we see what we have come up with.”

McMahon: “I love it, I absolutely love it. This gives me an incredible idea. Vince and Pat, I will be in touch with both of you very soon, I think I have another wrinkle we can throw in to this that, like I told Bret will send him down south on fire and take our company back to the top of the wrestling world with a bullet. So, until next time gentleman, let’s remember keep this under wraps.” (All again agree, pleasantries are traded along with handshakes as each man goes their separate ways.)

Due to the shocking death of Brian Pillman, the group does not meet at the pay per view or at the following two night’s Raw tapings. (The edition that aired on October 13 was actually taped on the 7th in Topeka, KS)  However, later that week, Bret flies to Los Angeles for his appearance on MAD TV and has a meeting with Eric Bischoff where they hammer out the details of a deal. Bischoff takes Bret figures and demands in stride and shows great interest in bringing him to WCW. As discussed, Bret does not in any way “show his cards” in regards to the WWF being in financial trouble, he just plays it off as though he has an opportunity to get out of his deal and wants to make a change. The two leave with a handshake and Bischoff tells him that he will present Bret’s wishes to his higher ups and they leave the meeting agreeing that they will talk soon to finalize things as Bischoff lays out a dead line that he needs to have the deal done one way or another by November 1 at the latest. Immediately after the meeting, before leaving town, Bret makes a call to Vince McMahon and tells him about the sit down with Bischoff.

Phone Conversation between Bret Hart and Vince McMahon- October 10, 1997-

Bret: “Hey, Vince, it is Bret. I just left the meeting with Bischoff and it sounds like everything I asked for is a go. He just needs to clear the air with his higher ups at Turner.”

McMahon: “Perfect, see, I knew this would work out for everyone. Now what did he say about the creative control clause?”

Bret: “He said he had no issues with it, again, he just has to run it through the right channels.”

McMahon: “Oh, perfect, that is great news. You see, I didn’t want to tell you this part of the plan until we heard from Bischoff that this could be included, but now I suppose I can lay it out for you and you can understand what I meant this whole time. Do you have a minute to chat? Are you alone, because this will strictly be between you and I and eventually the pieces of the puzzle I have in mind.”

Bret: “Well, yeah, I don’t have to catch my flight for a bit, what’s up?”

McMahon: “Alright, brace yourself for this, because this was the entire key to my plan. This is where it all comes together and in the end, we all wind up one happy family again.”

Bret: “Sounds good to me, lay it on me.”

McMahon: “Okay, well, this has to be just between us. Even more so than anything else going on, as I think in some way it could be considered tampering, and given all the legal battles with us and WCW over the past few years, we certainly don’t want to go there. But, here goes, now obviously, we cannot openly be in discussions about your creative direction there once you leave, but my master plan is that when you go down to Atlanta, I will be sending some guys bit by bit to stand by your side to help you out with this. Actually, a few guys that left here that I have remained on good terms with have offered up to help, and they are already there. They are so disgusted with the nonsense going on there that with you leading the way and the “reinforcements” let’s call them, we can bring that whole damn operation down from within and the beauty of it is, it will all just seem like one big storyline until they realize that it is too late and by that time, we will have them right where we want them. With you pushing the creative button and laying these ideas out and the other guys having even the minimal clout that they have I am sure we can do this.”

Bret: “Wow, ok. Um, I wasn’t expecting that, but let me get this straight. So, I go down there and use the creative control to push a few things around the way we want them? But then what? What happens to me Vince? I have a family to feed and a living to make, so this all sounds a bit risky to me. What happens to Bret Hart?”

McMahon: “Well, a bit risky maybe, but really you would be bulletproof in the whole deal. The story that you would be pushing through would be fantastic, the best thing that they have had ever in that one horse outfit. You would be able to tell them that you know some guys that want out of here that can add to the on air story and you come out a great team player. When in reality, you are slowly and methodically running them into the ground from within. Then as for what becomes of Bret Hart, I tell you what becomes of Bret Hart. In the end, when we finally send in the final nail in the coffin and step on their throat once and for all, it will coincide with your contract being up and guess who makes his triumphant return to the WWF?”

Bret: “Ah, now I hear you loud and clear. You know, now that you mention it, I have a few friends there now that I know have had it with the politics and bullshit down there, so I could maybe talk to them about helping this cause if you would be interested in possibly bringing them up north.”

McMahon: “That is perfect, the more we have involved that are already there, the less dirt that could possibly be traced back to our hands. How many guys are you speaking of? I am pretty sure of two that I have in mind that we want here anyhow.”

Bret: “Yep, those are the guys. So, you would be interested if they are willing to help out here?”

McMahon: “Hell yes, I am very interested. So, between them, the “reinforcements” and a couple of other key players, there would not even be much of a change in what they have been doing. Then just when it starts getting real close to pulling the rug out from underneath them, bang, we send them down the final piece and their asses are mine.”

Bret: “You never cease to amaze me. Complete genius. So, who are we thinking here?”

McMahon: “Well, that is the thing. I know exactly who will be able to help and not make it suspicious at all. They are all either real tight with you or the others already there I have talked with, so being that we are on the phone and just to be completely safe, we can leave those pieces to fall as they come about when we are in contact once you have got there?”

Bret: “Okay, okay. That is probably for the best. So, this sounds like it is going to be some big stuff. I can hardly wait.”

McMahon: “Me too, Bret. Me too. I said I’d get that son of a bitch Turner and that smarmy bastard, Bischoff and this is going to be the one to get them. I knew if I bided my time and played it slow and found someone I could really trust that we could pull this off, and you are just the guy and at the perfect time. Again, this is just between you and I and this more so than anything else we are talking about is just between you and I. I have all the ducks in a row on this and if you just trust me here, I just need one more person to drop a call to some old friends down there and with them on board, we can’t miss. Shawn actually said he thinks he can help us on this one, too, so I will get on him to see what he can do. We will not speak a single word of this until you are heading  to start down there and then you and I can hash it all out. Sound good?”

Bret: “Sounds great, Vince, sounds great. Oh, and thanks again for the advice on dealing with the new contract. I will talk to you in a few days when I am back.”

McMahon: “No problem, Bret. Happy to help, oh and by the way, I think Russo has the whole thing we talked about with you coming back for the “shoot” promo ready, so he will be calling you soon with details, ok?”

Bret: “That works for me, I got to get going here. See you soon.”

McMahon: “Alright then, talk to you soon.”

Following Bret’s return home from his taping in California, he receives a call from Vince Russo that they want him to return to Raw to cut the promo that was spoken of at the last meeting on the live October 20 edition of the show in Oklahoma City. They meet briefly before the program to discuss the direction of Bret’s on air promo and when Hart presents his thoughts to Russo, he absolutely loves it and the segment goes off perfectly as planned. The group makes plans to finally meet again as a whole prior to the next night’s taping of raw to be held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as in the time apart, the whole story has seemed to come together. Bret is instructed to have Owen present at this meeting.

Backstage mid-afternoon before Raw- October 21, 1997- Tulsa, OK-

The same five men (McMahon, Russo, Patterson, Bret, and Michaels) along with Owen meet in McMahon’s makeshift office at the Convention Center in Tulsa hours prior to the taping of the program that will air on October 27. All seem excited and anxious to arrive, other than Owen, who does not seem to know much other than a briefing that Bret gave him about him leaving the company. McMahon begins the meeting.

McMahon: “Gentleman, it has been a while. I am happy to say that I think we have got our plan set and ready to go, I am just wondering what each of you think about it. First, I believe congratulations are in order for the newest man to join our group here, Owen.”

Owen: (Looking a bit confused) “Congratulations? What for? I really don’t know much of what is going on here?”

McMahon: “Well, we will clue you in here momentarily, but in the midst of what is the most innovative and industry changing storyline ever, I would be remised to not inform you that your years of hard work and dedication are going to be rewarded and for that, you can thank your brother, Bret. We gave him the option on his way out to leave any way he wanted and the direction he chose that we all one hundred percent supported was to drop the WWF Championship to you at Survivor Series in his final match. So, congratulations on joining a very exclusive fraternity, Owen. It will only be very briefly, mind you  because of the story which we have laid out, but in Montreal on November 9, Owen Hart will stand on top of the world of sports entertainment as WWF Champion.”

Owen: (smiling wide, face turning red, as all others in the room applaud him and shake his hand) “Wow, I don’t know what to say. Thank you. Thank you, all of you. What an honor, and in Montreal, against Bret? It is a dream come true.”

McMahon: “Ha, ha, ha. Well you’ve earned it and it is going to be special. Now the next night, you will drop it, but you will still remain a huge part of the main event picture after and who knows, maybe we will get that thing back around your waist sometimes soon.’

Owen: “Fantastic, I am just humbled to even be given that moment. You know I’m on board for anything that is best for the company.”(Russo chimes in)

Russo: “Yeah, that is wonderful. That is going to be great, but guys, the day of reckoning is almost upon us here and I think we have a great plan in order, so I have to lay this on you all. (Everyone turns to Russo, listening intently) So here is what we have. Like we just said, Owen goes over Bret at Survivor Series and  then the next night, Raw from Ottawa will be “Bret Hart Appreciation Night.” We send Bret off with a grand celebration, confetti, streamers, the whole nine yards. We get Stu and Helen and Julie right in the front row and we give Bret about half an hour to start the show to say goodbye. He can thank the fans, his family, the boys, real emotional feel good stuff. But then the last part of his speech, again going back to reality, he calls down Shawn. Now remember, it is billed that you two are gonna go at it one last time, but instead, you two share your love for each other and somehow, Bret steps aside, he passes the ball to Shawn and suggests Shawn fight Owen for the belt instead. But then here is the twist, Shawn agrees, but out of respect on his big night, he insists that Bret is involved, as the referee. (Everyone in the room nods gleefully) This sets up the whole ending and our big swerve, but instead of just the “masked man” ending we spoke of, we add a second swerve that comes first. Owen and Shawn tear that mother down, they go at it for , I don’t know, twenty or thirty minutes and then from nowhere, two masked guys appear, same get up that we have had, maybe even have them in the original black suits. They cause a distraction and then the final guy in green shows and lays out Bret and he pulls his get up off and has a referee’s shirt on, but he keeps the mask on. Now, this is frigging great, Pat, do you want to jump in here and tell them the finish, I can’t take the credit for all of this, it’s god damned genius.”

Patterson: “Ok, so, here goes. The masked referee immediately calls for the bell even though Owen never gave up and he gives the belt to Shawn. The other two goons jump on Owen and Bret as the referee struts his stuff, right. They hold Bret up and the first two masked guys are Bulldog and Neidhart. (Laughter comes from the group as they love the idea.) So, Bret is crushed, you see in his eyes how hurt he is deep down.” (Russo chimes back )

Russo: “Oh right, and I forgot, Bret, in your speech, when you thank Davey and Neidhart, they both show love, but they mention being a bit jealous that you picked Owen to fight at Survivor Series. Nothing over the top, but they just put it in there real smoothly.” (Bret chimes in)

Bret: “I love it, so, who is the referee?”( Russo and Patterson giggle and look at McMahon, who rubs his hands together as he speaks)

McMahon: “Me, I am the referee, and again, playing off the reality I screw you over on the way out for threatening to leave with the title in your interview. It sets up my whole plan. You head south and you have got a big story to tell about getting screwed over after all these years and you have the whole wrestling world in the palm of your hands. Me, I play it off at first, but then I continue to be more and more involved until I am the biggest and most hated asshole in the business. It’s perfect, who doesn’t want to hate their egomaniac boss?(Laughter and applause from all in the room)

Bret: “Wow, didn’t see that coming, this is going to be epic. So, I will let Davey and Jim know, or do they know?”

Russo: “I floated the idea by them on the phone last night and they said if it was cool with you they loved it. Plus Vince said the way they will play out opens them up for what you and him had spoken about, too.”

Bret: “Unreal. Perfect, I can’t wait, people are not going to know what hit them. So again, this goes no further right, and  think we are all set here, correct?”

McMahon: “Yes, we are all set. This is going to be great, but this is the last time that we will all meet in the same spot until the eleventh hour in Ottawa. Individually, we can all hash things out that before that night and in the time proceeding if needed, but in order for no one to think anything is up, I think it is best that way. (All agree) So, I am proud of every one of you involved here and I know this is going to take everyone here to a higher level. Let’s keep it under wraps as always, and pull this thing off without a hitch.” (All again agree and then get up to leave.  Bret, though, stops Shawn as he is leaving)

Bret : “Shawn, hang on a second, can we go over something here quick?”

Michaels: (Everyone else files out of the room, leaving McMahon, Bret, and Shawn) “Sure, what’s up?”

Bret: “Well, Vince had laid some other plans out as I head to WCW that I know he mentioned to you. Any word on that, or no?”

Shawn: “Oh, jeez, I kind of forgot about that. Is that really going to go down? Man, I know that everyone will be in, it is just a matter of me laying it out there. I will get on it and we will talk in the next week ok.”

Bret: “Perfect, because, I have spoken with a few guys that have just completely had it, and they want in for sure. Plus, Vince, we are still on the same page as far as who you had in mind, right?”

McMahon: “Oh yeah. I have already explained to the parties that I had in mind and one actually is so disgusted with his direction he brought me another idea that adds a player to the equation, so we are good to go on that front. It will be a slow and methodical move and like I said, in the end, men become wealthy and then they “ride off into the sunset.”

Bret: “Perfect, I love it. Man, this is gonna be good,”

On the eve of the deadline set forth during their meeting several weeks back, Bret finally received word from Eric Bischoff that all his wishes were made a reality. After a brief chat, where the final details were hammered out, Bret hung up with Bischoff and immediately again called Vince McMahon. After receiving a faxed copy of the deal, he relayed the details to Vince, who chuckled in evil glee at hearing of Bret’s “reasonable” creative control clause and he congratulated his longtime employee on securing a three year deal that would earn him nearly nine million dollars total. That being said, Bret hung up with McMahon, signed the documents and faxed them back over, effectively ending his 14 year run with the WWF. He was now set to debut on WCW Monday Nitro tentatively at some point in early to mid-December.

Backstage at Raw- November 10, 1997- Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Several hours prior to the show, all nine men that are to be involved in the main event storyline tonight meet in Vince McMahon’s office to make sure one last time all players are on the same page. Vince addresses all, as there is a nervous excitement in the air over how these events will play out and be received.

McMahon: “Ok, are we all ready to make this happen tonight? (All quietly nod in agreement.) I assume all of you know your roles here and each is ready to pull of what I feel may be the most realistic and elaborate rouse in WWF history. Now to my knowledge, outside of us right here in this room no one knows a thing about this, correct? (Again, all nod in agreement) Perfect, well let’s make this happen, Bret, tonight is your night my friend, let’s send you off with a bang and shake up this business as we know it.”

Bret: “Let’s do this guys. I can’t say again how much I will miss this company and all of you. I cannot thank you enough for giving me my chance to say good bye and especially to do it here in front of my home town fans. It is bittersweet and will be emotional for me, but one last time, I am ready to give it one hundred and ten percent and like you said Vince, I am ready to shock the world.” (Handshakes and hugs are exchanged by all with Bret as each man goes their separate ways until the show is about to go live. Just before they leave, McMahon and Russo remain in the office and they call Bret and Owen to stay for just a minute longer.)

Bret: “Yeah, what is up guys?”

McMahon: “Well Bret, in order to make this real, I mean really make this real, I wanted there to be something to make even the boys be unsure about what goes down here tonight. I mean, with the chair shot, and masked man angle, I know the boys will all think it is just a work, but I had asked Vince here if he could think of a way to pull a quick one past them, too, to even further blur the lines.”

Bret: “Um, ok, so what do you got?”

McMahon: (Turns to Russo) “Well, Vince, lay it on him.”

Russo: “Okay, we are looking for real here so again, it has got to be totally under wraps. That’s why I wanted Owen here to, because after the finish tonight, you guys will be leaving the ring together. You are pissed and embarrassed, right, and you are leaving seething mad. So, I asked Vince and he said it was a go, so here is what happens. After you walk to the backstage area, you are so pissed; you storm right up and find Vince. When you get there, he pleads your case and you floor him.”

Bret (and Owen at same time): “Floor him?”

Russo: “Yeah, you knock his ass out. One punch. You do it in plain sight of the boys or at least some of them, you get your bags, say your farewells, and everyone is confused. Don’t even talk about it after, belt him, goodbyes, and cruise.”

Bret: “Wait, Vince (McMahon), this is what you want?”

McMahon: “Hell yes, really whale me one good. Black my eye, leave a mark for sure. You pop me good, and I go down in front of everyone. Backstage, everyone will be buzzing about it. I am always willing to take one for the team, especially in this case.”

Bret: (Looks at Owen in disbelief) “Um, ok, if that is what you want, I will do it.”

McMahon: “Great, oh and Bret, before you go, I wanted to invite you over tomorrow to my room for lunch, before we head our separate ways, I have some other big news that I’d like to share with you. Let’s call it a parting gift, ha ha ha.”

Bret: “Sounds good, I just hope it is a better parting gift that I am going to give you upside your head later, boss.” (McMahon, Russo, Bret, and Owen all share a chuckle before wishing each other luck and heading in different ways.)

The Day After”- November 11, 1997- Vince McMahon’s Hotel Room, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada-

Having pulled off everything perfectly and leaving the crowd, the boys in the back, and the entire wrestling world a buzz with the on goings both on and off screen last night at Raw, just as planned, Bret meets Vince in his hotel room for lunch and prepares to say his goodbyes. When he arrives, Shawn Michaels opens the door and Bret says hello, before walking in.

McMahon: “There he is, what a right hand on this guy, huh. Damn, Bret, you could’ve taken it a little easier on me. Ha ha ha.”

Bret: “Hey, it is not often you get a free pass to punch your boss in the mouth, if it arises, I guess you got to take it, right? So, what is going on guys?”

McMahon: “Well, I just wanted to say that all is a go.”

Bret: “What is a go?”

McMahon: “Well, I got my guys down there in place. We got some friends that will be slowly coming down to join you and again, you can take all the credit for getting them there. What a team player that “Hitman” will be down in “Dubya Cee Dubya,’ huh, Shawn.”

Michaels: “Oh yeah, they are so stupid, they won’t know what hit ‘em.’

Bret: “Okay, sounds good. Damn, I am gonna miss this place, but like you said Vince, when all the pieces fall, I guess we all come full circle and ride off into the sunset, right?”

McMahon: “That’s right, Bret, I we will miss you, too. So, I just wanted to again thank you for everything, and given what is going on, I think until we need the pieces to start falling, this is probably in our best interest that we say goodbye for at least a month or so here and now.”

Bret: “That sounds like a good idea. By the way, my guys are all in; too, so all systems are a go. Man, I guess this is goodbye, then?”

McMahon: “Let’s call it goodbye for now, Bret. Goodbye, for now.”

Bret: “All right, well, I like the sounds of that. Take care, Vince, and Shawn, good bye my friend, I will miss you too. There won’t be anyone like you to get the best out of me down there, that is for sure.”

Michaels: “No kidding, and there sure won’t be another “Hitman” around here either. Good bye and best of luck to you down there, too. Watch yourself, man. Oh, jeez, I almost forgot. Those final “big” pieces of this big plan that you were waiting on down south? I just got off the phone with them this morning. They are all in and told me to say tell you that they can’t wait to see you, buddy…..”

To Be Continued…….

This officially marks the end of the story. After over three months and typing out nearly three hundred pages, I would like to take the opportunity to say thanks to all of you that have been reading and giving your feedback, good, bad, or indifferent during each step we took along this journey. After first becoming a fan of WrestleCrap through R.D.’s books and then discovering the site years ago, I immediately became a huge fan of “Rewriting the Book.” When the “contest” was announced, I figured I would give it a shot, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every second of this my debut “Rewriting,” and look forward to bringing you more in the near future following the upcoming debuts of two more extremely talented writers whose work I can not wait to dig into and read once it hits the site. I want to thank you all for hanging in there with me through some difficulties I had personally over the past few weeks which played into a delay in some of the final chapters being submitted. For that I truly apologize, and I hope in the end, you all liked the payoff and look forward to the sequel that had been set up in this here “conclusion” chapter. I want to personally thank Jed, for his help and guidance along the way, especially at the beginning when I was just getting my feet wet and to R.D. and the rest of the talented folks that make WrestleCrap the unique and entertaining site it is for letting me jump on board and contribute in any way. I’d also like to thank Simon, who had previously written some great “Rewriting’s” himself for his encouragement and feedback along the way, and also like I first said, all those who posted either in the forum or on the actual columns. You really made me want to deliver, and I hope I did. One last but certainly not least thanks goes to my buddy, Steve, who not only encouraged me to take a crack at doing this to begin with, but also let me bounce my crazy ideas off him constantly throughout this tale, you’re a heck of a friend and your opinion each step along the way helped a ton, my brother. So, all that being said, I hope everyone enjoyed or taking a look at the question “What if Shawn Michaels never lost his smile or forfeited the WWF Title in February of 1997,” and I hope that you will all come back and join me in the not so distant future, when we ponder the thought, “What if Bret Hart left WWF on “agreeable” terms with Vince McMahon in November of 1997?” (name subject to change) and see where the wild ride that the sequel piece is sure to be will take us.

Written by

Creator, editor and semi-sorta-retired original author of Rewriting The Book, husband, father of three, gamer, lover of 90's MTV animation.
34 Responses to "Rewriting The Book: What if … Shawn Michaels never lost his smile (Part XI – Final Chapter)"
  1. Autrach Sejanoz says:

    Thank you for writing this, C.G., & I can’t wait for the follow-up!

  2. simongr81 says:

    Thank you for the kind words, CG! And thank you for the awesome story!

  3. Donbot says:

    So when are the spin off stories going to be posted? And what will it be mainly about?

    • CG Scum says:

      The follow up will come eventually. For now, we have two fantastic new writers that are waiting to debut here on RTB. I am excited to see their stuff, and the sequel will follow their stories

  4. SilentStranger says:

    Huh, so it ended up with a worked screwjob rather than a real one? Interetsing ending.

    • CG Scum says:

      Stranger, in case you missed my post in the forum, thanks for letting me hear your views throughout the story. It made me really want to produce each step of the way. I look forward to you weighing in on what comes next from me for RTB after the new authors get their stuff out here soon. Hope you liked the ending!

  5. carl zayas says:

    This was definately one of the those RTWs that I checked the site daily for, and would go into panic attacks at the cliffhangers. Excellent payoff!

  6. Madman MadmanM Szalinski says:

    I waited for this ending for so long…I checked every day…

    AND THERE IS A SEQUEL?!?!?!?!!

    …see you soon, man, thank you for the good work.

    • CG Scum says:

      Sorry to keep you waiting and glad you liked the payoff…wasn’t sure how people would react to lining up a sequel, but I thought it would be a fun route to go with it…thanks for the kind words

  7. MisterSpiffy says:

    Great Story! Thanks for sharing it Can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

  8. DanDanDDDan says:

    I think Ron Simmons sums it up best when he says Damn I was hooked from the first moment I read this I knew it would be gold and now you’ve not only created gold you’ve turned it into King Midas’s Trophy room I can’t wait for the continuation

    • CG Scum says:

      Glad you liked it Dan! Ron Simmons and King Midas is pretty flattering company to be in…thanks for the compliments!

  9. CMC says:

    Wow! Amazing story all around! And while I have some idea of who may be Vince’s “double agents” in WCW, I can’t wait to hear who they really are! Can’t wait for the sequel!

  10. Justin says:

    Really enjoyed this story! Found out about it around when chapter 8 was posted and ran through all of them in about a weekend! I especially like how you were really able to capture the voices of the various wrestlers, and the final chapter left ridiculously excited for the sequel. Thanks again for the great read.

    • CG Scum says:

      Thanks, Justin! It is great to hear things like this after putting all the work into writing something like this…makes me want to pull through big time in my next story!

  11. Bear33 says:

    Awesome story can’t wait for the sequel.
    Also sorry about all the family tragedy the same thing happened to me and my wife about a year ago.
    God 1st God Bless

    • CG Scum says:

      Glad you liked it Bear! Thank you for the kind words, too. I wouldn’t call my situation a tragedy, but difficult none the less. It’s cool that everyone was so understanding. Much appreciated!

  12. Mister Forth says:

    First, I want to say I enjoyed this story. Will the next planned story be a direct sequel in that in follows this altered narrative, or will it be rewriting from the main “timeline”?

    • CG Scum says:

      MF, it will follow what was laid out in this last chapter, but that being said, the “timeline” will remain the same and will follow as this story did…so, I guess it will be a bit of both if that makes sense

  13. mike says:

    **Slow clapping, building up to riotous applause**

    Outstanding! Bravo!

  14. alex says:

    when is the next chapter coming? and who helps Bret Hart out to destroy WCW from within?

    • CG Scum says:

      Well, we have two very talented writers that are set to put out their debut “rewritings” any time now, so the follow up from me will be when there stories have finished I believe. But, be sure to check the new work out, I personally can’t wait to see it…and after, we will find out where the next phase of my stories goes. As far as who is alongside Bret, you’ll have to tune in and see. Thanks for the feedback, hope you liked the story

  15. Shane aka RamboHomerMcFly says:

    Just read all the installments back-to-back and though I am not one to throw around the word “epic”, what other words (besides awesome, creative & captivating) could be used to describe the piece in its entirety?
    It felt familiar while maintaining a real freshness; an important (and rarely seen) commodity in literature.
    Thank you for writing it.

    • CG Scum says:

      Thank you, Shane for the kind words! That really means a lot, especially given the respect I have for your stuff that you directed me to through your site in our early correspondence and how excellent a writer I consider you to be. Glad that you liked it my friend

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