The documentary, "Wrestling with Shadows," was obviously a piece that tried to make Bret Hart look like a victim. We had seen before clips of Vince McMahon talking about the Montreal Screwjob before and as always the line that is remembered is "Bret screwed Bret." The documentary only shows Bret Hart's side of the story and only offers glimpses as to what Vince McMahon was saying. Bret really did not want to do the right thing and drop the title when he was supposed to. He had an ego and really believed what he was saying about being a wholesome character and being a role model that people should follow. This turned him into a modern version of Hulk Hogan, who did not want to lose to anyone and cost him more than he bargained for.
It seems to me, from what I have read and the interviews that Bret Hart has given, he really had trouble distinguishing what he accomplished in the ring and who he was as a person. He took what he did and showed the crowd very seriously. First off he really felt that any loss on his part would hurt the character he tried to portray. And as we saw in the documentary, that character really just seemed to be himself. But as a wrestling fan, I know that would not have been the case. A good example would be the match in which Bret broke his sternum. Instead of allowing the match to end as quickly as possible and let his opponent pin him, he decided to lose in a way that would not make his opponent look good. He put his health at risk over his image! He did not seem like the kind of guy that was willing to put someone over. And this was especially true when it came to Shawn Michaels. The video only touched upon this very little but Bret Hart truly did not like Shawn Michaels. I have seen interviews that really reflect his Lou Thesz like mentality in that he believed Shawn was too showy and cocky. He believed that Shawn's more high flying and Mexican styled form of wrestling was too effeminate and he was not the kind of role model kids should have.
First one can understand that Vince was scared. The women's champion had already shown up on WCW before and trashed the belt on screen. So why not let Bret forfeit the title? Well, Vince already had experience with that when Ric Flair made his first stint with the WWF and ran his mouth about being the real world champion and carried around the gold belt. Vince did not want to give Bret an angle when entering WCW and have him claim that he was the real champion and that he had never lost the title. One could see that Vince had no choice but to ask Bret to lose the title.
So why could Bret just do what he was supposed to? He did not do what should have done and that was drop the belt to Shawn at the pay-per-view. That is the way of the business. One thing seems clear to me and that is Bret was not thinking. His mind was not in the mindset of a wrestler or promoter, but rather a star who wishes to preserve their self image. In the documentary there is this whole hopeless kind of mindset Bret gives to the camera when he talks about being relegated to being the number 2 heel. He seems to think that the comments he makes about the audience will be there forever and that he can't turn face. Usually, I see a confrontation between two heels leading to one turning face. Two heels facing off usually doesn't work well with the audience. It just doesn't happen so fast. Also, he had to think about the fact that Survivor Series was one of those traditional pay-per-views that had been around for a while and people did not want to get a disqualification ending. Did he really believe that one loss in Canada would hurt his image. Losing the belt and keeping his image would have been so easy! Shawn was the clear heel and having someone like Rick Rude run in a help him screw Bret out of the title and have it actually be planned would have been perfect. The people would not seen Bret lose cleanly and the title would have changed hands. His pride and self preserving attitude would not let him do something like this.
I have seen lots of my favorite stars lose cleanly. Shawn Michaels lost to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XIV, The Rock lost clean to Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 15 and he was still hated by the people and then loved again when he turned face. Triple H and Shawn Michaels, arguably my favorite current wrestlers both lost to Christ Benoit at Wrestlemania XX cleanly. These superstars put over other wrestlers for the benefit of the wrestler and most importantly the people. If Bret had lost to Shawn, not necessarily cleanly, it would have given the fans something to cheer or boo. It would have allowed the WWF to move in the direction Vince wanted which is what he had asked Bret to let him do. These superstars that I mentioned did not lose their aura of being the greatest wrestlers to me when they lost on the greatest stage of the business. Shawn Michaels had wrestled what many thought was his last match and made Stone Cold the top guy in the business. That is what a wrestler should do, for other fellow wrestlers and the company.
I do appreciate the fact that Bret Hart was a great wrestler and provided some great matches but he put himself in the position that allowed the Montreal Screwjob to happen.