Earl Hebner may have had the most unenviable task in wrestling history on November 9th, 1997.
On that night, Hebner was tasked with calling the WWF/E title match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Then when the screwjob took place, it was Hebner who called for the bell to be rung and for the match to end, despite Bret never formally giving up.
In his autobiography, Bret remembered that Earl swore to him on “on his [Earl’s] children” that he was going to call the match fairly. Which, as it turns out, was a lie.
But that’s not to say that Earl Hebner wasn’t, at the very least, conflicted about the weighty choice he had to make. Speaking on an episode of Busted Open Radio, Earl described what was going through his mind once the true match finish was given to him:
“I said to a certain person, ‘I’m not going to do it.’ And that didn’t go over too good … Walking to the ring, I had the different feeling of, ‘Oh, what do I do really? Am I going to do it or am I not going to do it?’ And I guess when I got to the ring, I ended up doing what they asked me to do, but it was a tough situation because it’s either do it or you don’t have a job or whatever price I was going to pay after.”
Earl Hebner and both his brother Dave and son Brian – also WWE referees – were all criticized by fans (especially in Canada) for years after the Montreal Screwjob. Bret and Earl didn’t talk for a long time but eventually made amends.
h/t WrestlingInc for the transcription