Yet another big problem was when Vince pulled that swerve he, Michaels and his inside cronies were in on. That violated the trust of EVERYBODY in the company and brought to light the fact that Vince was capable of doing something like that. No longer could people go out there and feel completely secure about their standing in the company, or how their match would turn out. If Vince had a problem with you, he might just screw you over the same way he did Bret and embarrass you in front of the people in attendance and the ones watching on tv. When you're expecting guys to go out there and potentially hurt each other so YOU can make money, you don't fuck with your trusting relationship, because the second they don't trust you, they stop working. Vince is incredibly lucky more people didn't leave. Can you imagine if Austin had been so pissed by what happened that he left and went to WCW? We'd see a very different wrestling industry today, one very possibly NOT run by the WWE.
As for your speculation about Bret wanting his victory back, that's just what it is-speculation. Owen stayed because he was contractually obligated to-if he didn't, they'd have sued him and depending on the terms he may have wound up in prison.
Also, Vince and Bret had, by all means, a very good relationship up until the screwjob. You'd think that 2 guys who had a working relationship and personal friendship that went well for over 15 years would have at least given each other the benefit of the doubt. Vince had no reason to think Bret would do that because Bret at least hadn't violated his trust. And you want to talk about people who couldn't be trusted...you think Shawn Michaels, who was heavily abusing drugs and liquor, who ruined the pushes and careers of many guys in the past and who was a self centered prima donna in and outside of the ring COULD be trusted? Shawn didn't want to lose to Austin at WM14 and only under threat of physical violence from Undertaker did he concede-he very nearly stopped Attitude from happening. And yet Bret, the one who gave absolutely no reason not to be trusted in the past, was clearly the untrustworthy one...what sorta fucked up logic is that?
That's what it comes down to, really. I do not understand the logic of people who blame Bret considering what happened and HBK's state at the time. Even in some fucked up reality if Bret was being an unprofessional jerk, he STILL didn't deserve what happened to him. It was completely the wrong way to handle the situation.
The problem I have with your post is the fact that Vince already pulled a "screwjob" 8 years prior, based on Wendi Richter deciding not to resign with WWE. Go back to 1991, when Vince paid Ric Flair to show up on WWF TV with the WCW Title. Go back to 1995, where Luger had jumped ship the day after competing for WWE, without letting Vince know ahead of time. Madusa, in a similar situation, signed with WCW while holding a WWE belt, showed up on Nitro and threw it in the trash. Now, my opinion is that Vince did the right thing, as history shows that trust was thrown out the window years ago, when it comes down to money.
None of us can say whether or not Bret would have shown up on Nitro with the WWE Title. But at the same time, is it wrong for Vince to prevent the possibility of that happening? And answer this: What was the reason Bret left WWE for?
Again with trust. Did Flair give WCW a reason not trust him? Did Wendi Richter, Lex Luger or Madusa give Vince reasons not to trust them? And look what happened. All of them either screwed over their boss or got screwed over for not wanting to do business and lose their titles, eventhough they weren't under contract or signed with the competition. And I know HBK has done tons of fucked up shit, so he's automatically the scapegoat. Look at the relationship Hogan and Vince had. Hogan, giving Vince the impression he was retiring, sat out the remainder of his contract. And 6 months later, he signs with the competition. History has shown there is no such thing as loyalty or trust from the wrestlers to the promoters, what makes Vince/Bret so different? How can you say that Bret wouldn't have jumped ship with the belt, but for us that thinks he might have, you say there is no logic behind that?
In case you didn't know, Attitude Era started months before HBK/Austin. HBK refusing to drop the title had no effect on AE happening or not and I might be crazy, but I thought HBK/Austin were friends. And I've heard Undertaker had to threaten HBK to get him to job but with the way his back was, why would he refuse to job? So, it's a problem for HBK refusing to job because "he would have ruined Austin's push" but it's okay for Bret refusing to job because HBK "hypothetically" said he wouldn't return the favor. Even if HBK said he wouldn't return the favor, what difference would it have made? Bret was leaving, it's not like HBK was scheduled to drop the belt back to him the next month, the feud was likely done at that point. IMO, Bret and Shawn were acting like a bunch of fucking babies. However, 2 wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes, you have to be the bigger man. We all know Shawn was immature but when Bret went from willing to drop it to not willing because HBK said wouldn't do it for him, Bret officially dropped to his level. If I'm Vince, I wouldn't cater to a guy who could potentially jump ship with my title, a guy who doesn't want to do whats right for business, despite being so outspoken against another guy who he classifies as a guy who doesn't want to do whats right for business and, lastly, a guy who basically made the whole situation financially related. Bret left because WCW was willing to pay him more than WWE could. I understand he has a family but what makes you think that if Bischoff offered him a significantly large amount of money, he wouldn't have showed up on Nitro with Vince's title?