The Montreal Screwjob has literally been beaten to death. Is there really much more that can be said about it? We have heard countless recollections from various wrestlers, producers and even from the primary individuals involved in it. There have been WWE Network specials, DVD’s and numerous podcasts that have discussed the event at length. However, I think there is one thing the Montreal Screwjob has not gotten any credit for. It birthed the greatest ongoing storyline of all time.
As you read that last sentence, you probably assume that I am referring to Austin VS. McMahon. Sure, it is arguably the greatest feud of all time. Given the product we see today, many of us avid fans of the Attitude Era would pay good money to see the kind of content we had in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Who could forget the countless segments like Steve Austin making Vince McMahon urinate all over himself in front the entire world by scaring him with a fake pistol? We would love to see a segment with Austin smashing a bed pan over Vince’s head in a hospital. Who wouldn’t want to see the beer truck spraying the entire McMahon family down in the middle of the ring? But no, this is not at all what I am referring to.
The Montreal Screwjob birthed the greatest ongoing storyline of all time. That storyline is the presence of a “heel authority” on RAW and Smackdown Live.
I can see many of you now groaning in disbelief. For so long, internet fans have trashed the idea of having a “heel authority” on Monday and Friday nights. So many of you have stated that the concept has run its course and we need something new. Now remind me, when was the last time we saw a heel authoritative figure in WWE on a regular basis? I believe it was Constable Corbin a couple of years ago. Now tell me dear reader, how much has the WWE product improved since then?
The answer is it hasn’t. In fact, it’s actually gotten worse.
The Montreal Screwjob birthed the character of Mr. McMahon, the greatest heel authoritative figure of all time. The Mr. McMahon and Steve Austin characters went on to draw record business for the WWE. In fact, the WWE might not exist today if it were not for that era of greatness. The very concept of having your main event babyface having to overcome the odds every single week from the heel owner of the company that held all the power was simply genius. Every week we tuned in to see what Steve Austin would have to overcome. It was good business and that angle alone brought the WWE to the center of pop culture.
Since then, we have seen several iterations of the heel authoritative figure. Any true wrestling fan remembers their jaws dropping when Eric Bischoff walked out onto the stage as the new General Manager of Monday Night RAW. The wrestling world was shaken at its core seeing Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff, once bitter foes, combine forces under the WWE brand. Eric Bischoff had a great run as GM for several years, especially when he and Steve Austin were forced to be Co-GM’s together.
From there, you had Jonathan Coachman and William Regal stand atop the flagship show as General Manager. Although their times as GM were short, they each brought a unique personality to the table. Coachman as the guy who was a bit over the top and quite frankly, did not deserve to be in the role. His mere presence just made you hate him. Then you have Regal and his smug demeanor. While some of us smart fans love Regal, he did a great job of making the casual audience hate him.
And then of course there was Mike Adamle…never mind, that does not help my case.
From there we had Stephanie McMahon running Raw as the General Manager. Is there anybody more universally hated in WWE than Stephanie? There is absolutely nobody that gets under the skin of WWE than Stephanie, and she is exceptionally good at what she does. The only person who may have garnered more heat at times would be Vickie Guererro. Just thinking of her shrieking the phrase “Excuse Me” still sends chills up my spine.
One of the more underrated heel authority figures would have to be John Laurinaitis. I absolutely loved Big Johnny and that hoarse voice of his, riding up and down the ramp in his motorized scooter. Lastly, who could forget the aptly named faction called “The Authority.” They are the primary reason that Daniel Bryan’s run as WWE champion even happened in the first place. Triple H and everyone involved in that faction were the perfect antagonist to Bryan’s role as antagonist.
Every great face that has existed in modern day wrestling has needed a heel to work alongside in order to grow his or her popularity. In the era of guys like Austin, Cena and even Roman Reigns where they are more or less “Superman”, they need someone with an equivalent power to give them a run for their money. That is why it makes sense for their opposition to either be in an authoritative role or at least be affiliated with an authoritative figure. Overcoming a “Super Cena” or Steve Austin is hard enough as it is, so it only makes sense that the heel character has some form of administrative power over the face.
While I can certainly understand people getting tired of heel authorities, the bottom line is that it has been the most successful formula in helping get main event and up and coming stars over. Not only that, but since the WWE has done away with having a heel authority, the weekly viewership ratings have declined considerably. Let that sink in. Constable Corbin was doing better numbers than the product we are seeing today.
So, thank you, Bret Hart you miserable shell of a man. If it were not for you giving the proverbial middle finger to Vince McMahon and not “doing business” at Survivor Series 1997, we would not have had all the great moments and heel authorities mentioned above.
The bottom line is, the Montreal Screwjob was best for business.