The two men fought at Survivor Series '97. Bret was the champ and this was going to be his last match before leaving for WCW. Shortly before this match, Vince informed Bret he would no longer honor their 20 year contract. He used the excuse that he could no longer afford him because they were losing the Monday Night Wars to WCW. Others have said that since the company was going public, Vince needed to get long term liabilities (ex: a 20 year contract) off his balance sheet. Bret had worked out a deal with Vince where he would not lose the title to Shawn that night. He offered to lose the belt to anyone else, but he refused to lose to Shawn in his home country of Canada. The match ended with Vince McMahon calling for the bell even though Bret was in the process of reversing the sharpshooter. After the match, Shawn ran to the back with the title. On TV Bret spit on Vince, broke the TV equipment, and wrote out WCW with his fingers to the audience. Backstage he gave Vince McMahon a black eye.
Shawn would suffer an injury at a few months later that would keep him out of wrestling for 5 years. Bret's career would end in early 2000 due to a concussion he received from a kick from Goldberg. A year earlier, his brother Owen died in a tragic accident during a WWF PPV. Vince would use the Montreal Screwjob as a launching pad to become the hated Mr. McMahon character. His feud with Steve Austin turned the tide in the battle with WCW. He would go on to become a billionaire when the WWF went public and in 2001 he bought WCW from AOL-Time Warner.
What really happened in Montreal?
Through the years many things have come out about that night. In 1998, the movie Wrestling with Shadows was released. This movie featured a camera crew following Bret around during 1997. They had backstage access to some of the events. At the time, Shawn said he didn't know what was going to happen. In 2002, Shawn revealed he knew beforehand. In his 2005 autobiography, Shawn admits that the screw job ending was Triple H's idea.
Bret Hart returned to the WWE in 2010 and publicly embraced Shawn Michaels on his first night back with the company. In 2011, the WWE released Greatest Rivalries: Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart. The DVD featured an interview with both Bret and Shawn about their past issues.