If you haven’t been watching, the docu-series Dark Side of the Ring on the Viceland network is telling fascinating wrestling stories from a perspective we rarely get to see (a non-WWE perspective, specifically). The Bruiser Brody episode is rightfully drawing the most attention, but the one drawing the most controversy, unsurprisingly, has been the episode about the Montreal Screwjob, the famous incident from 1997 in which the bell was rung without a proper finish to force an uncooperative Bret Hart to drop the championship to Shawn Michaels on his way out of the company to join WCW.
Veteran wrestler Lance Storm, for example, complimented the Brody episode even as he denounced the Montreal episode for what he clearly saw as spreading misinformation:
In an interview with the 411 Wrestling Interview Podcast on 411mania.com, producer and co-creator Evan Husney made it clear that, like many documentarians, they were less interesting objective truth than in telling a story about everyone’s differing perspectives on that one moment:
Well, I mean obviously, we’ve heard a lot of criticisms on the Montreal Screwjob episode. I think one of the things is, why that story has endured for so long is, I think people could read the Wrestling Observer and get Dave’s exhaustive bullet-pointed facts on the story. Obviously we have the challenge of kind of condensing it to a forty-four minute episode at the end of the day. But really, I think that this story for us was fascinating in that everybody kind of has their own version of the truth of what happened that night. And how it kind of lives on as the JFK assassination of wrestling in sort of ways. And it’s like, I don’t know if a listing of the facts would have been as compelling. And I think what Bruce meant, and maybe it was a combination of us taking it out of context a little bit. But I think what he meant is — the way he phrases it, he sort of says, ‘You know, it’s your last night in the company,’ and I think he sort of meant it as looking back in hindsight.
Another source of controversy has been the presence of Scott Hall in the episode, claiming that the entire thing was a work even as Bret Hart contradicts his entire position from firsthand experience. Clearly this is another example of Husney and co-creator Jason Eisener being more interesting in the telling of the story than in which part of it are fact.
Scott Hall, for example, is another aspect of the story that gets a lot of heat, so to speak in terms of why Scott Hall is in there. And the truth of the matter is, when we were talking to Scott about being in the Randy Savage episode, which he’s also featured in, I just mentioned that we’re doing this episode about the Montreal Screwjob. And his response to us, you know, was just like, “Total work!” You know? [laughs] Like, “What?” And he just went into detail on why he thinks that, and then it was too good not to include. Because it also shows that there is maybe more of a divide than people think. And I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist, but we actually put a poll out there on the internet that was like, “So, what does everybody think?” And we were surprised how still, after all this time, there’s like 40% I’d say almost that maybe want to believe or do believe that it was [a work]. We know from talking to Bret. My expert opinion is, I don’t think that’s true at all, but it’s just fascinating. On a macro view if you’re looking at this from a bird’s eye view, it’s fascinating after all these years that this one thing, not everybody agrees on.
You would think that people in the wrestling community would be more sympathetic to documentarians more interested in telling stories than in reporting objective truths, but on the other hand no other community is more ready to fight over what is and isn’t “real.”