Bret Hart's exit from the WWF after the 1997 Survivor Series is a legendary story. After the Montreal Screwjob cost Hart his WWF World Heavyweight Championship, he had a conversation with Vince McMahon backstage in a closed office. This meeting resulted in Hart punching McMahon in the face on his last night with the company. Hart recently spoke to the In This Corner podcast about that fateful night in Montreal where Hart said he considers it a defining moment in his career.
"In some ways, I'm not so proud of that moment but in a lot of ways, I think it was the single defining moment of my lifetime," Hart said. "You know I often second guess a lot of what I did that day punching Vince and you know I think it made me feel good a few months ago when Chris Jericho was on a podcast and he was talking about Bret Hart should have done this or Bret Hart should have done that, but all these people who are talking about me they don't know my circumstance. They don't know what rights I had in my contract that gave me legal precedent. I had creative control for my last sixty days right there I was legally in the right to do the things I stood up for."
Hart said what it came down to was Shawn Michaels telling him that he wasn't going to put The Hitman over. He said it was a professional discourtesy and many other people would have taken the same tact as he did. Hart also said it was a "bunch of bad guys that were up to no good" before continuing to explain the situation he was in.
"It kinda stings when I think of how much I gave to WWF and how they just wanted to stab me in the back that day and sweep me out the back door and have nobody ever hear from me again. All that I did meant nothing, all those years taping up injuries and working sick and I'd worked for WWF for at least three hundred days a year for at least sixteen years and it meant nothing to them in the end."
A lot has happened in WWE and Hart's life since he punched McMahon. He continued to open up about the situation where he said he has gotten over the Montreal Screwjob because all the other struggles that have happened along the way took precedent.
"You get past it when you go through other struggles in your life. When I deal with my brother Owen getting killed, and Bulldog, so many other wrestling friends of mine that have passed away. You know to having a stroke and almost dying from a stroke years ago and having my brush with prostate cancer two years ago. It's like I don't have time to worry about what happened with Shawn Michaels or Vince McMahon almost thirty years ago.
"If I had to do it again I would have probably done the exact same thing again. I have no regrets on my behavior. I look at it myself in some ways as my crowning moment. My moment to stand up and say I'm a businessman and I'm gonna protect myself and you don't have the right to destroy me. You might have a contract that employes me as a wrestler but you don't have the right to destroy me, rape me. When I look at what I did, what I stood up for I believe I stood up for all the boys in wrestling."
Hart said he sees a little bit of himself in CM Punk. After Survivor Series '97, there was talk that McMahon might press charges against The Hitman for punching him. Hart continued to comment on how he feels Punk stood up for not only himself, but the rest of the locker room when he walked out of WWE after the 2014 Royal Rumble.
"I think the same could have been said about CM Punk as an example. You know his standing up and saying, 'hey I'm doing all the work around here, you're gonna give Batista and Brock Lesnar and Triple H all these guys who are part-timers who are home every day, they're getting all the main event matches at WrestleMania and I'm the one pulling the wagon around here and I wanna be in the main event.' They tried to smooth it over and sugarcoat it and offer him everything but a main event spot so he quit like he held them up on that.
"I heard some guys talking bad about CM Punk in the car about he wasn't one of the boys or something like that. I'm thinking, 'he gave up so much to prove a point for the wrestlers.' You know that the wrestlers are doing the work, put the wrestlers in the main event spot. He stood on those principals and he lost his job, gave up a lot to make that point but he was right and he took a bullet for the industry. I'm glad he won that case a few weeks ago because I'm sure that there was a lot of pressure on him to wear him down and break him in that case."
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit In This Corner with a H/T to Wrestling Inc for the transcription