“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart at Wrestlemania 13
Class of 2013
Inducted by Hustle
A lot can be said about the Submission Match between Bret “The Hitman” Hart and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13. Great brawl? Sure. Show-saving match, on a card full of garbage? Yes. Part of a fantastic feud that split off and turned into entire countries feuding? Absolutely. However, the reason this match is my personal all-time favorite is simple..
The double turn.
Wrestling has seen turns of all types through the years, both before and after WrestleMania 13, but this was special for a handful of reasons. For one, it was on the largest stage in the business. Two, it was, as I said, a double turn, with both Hart and Austin turning at the same time. Most importantly, though, is the fact that it was completely organic, and really, wasn’t supposed to happen.
Coming into the match, there were seeds planted, with Hart being the old school face that was, perhaps, too old school, and pockets of fans were growing tired of his ways. He was still acting like a face, and doing face things, but he wasn’t getting the same reactions that he was used to getting. Austin, on the other hand, was a foul mouthed ornery son of a bitch. Not exactly your tried-and-true “good guy” traits, but because of the time and the culture at the time, people were starting to appreciate him. Fans were seeing that, in a lot of ways, they were just like Steve Austin. None of it was supposed to happen. Hart was supposed to be a face, and Austin was supposed to be a heel. It was the fans that helped to push the double turn, and in a sheer stroke of brilliance that doesn’t happen too often these days, a wrestling promotion actually listened to what the fans were demanding.
The Chicago (go figure) crowd was vocal and boisterous from the start, and they dictated things right away. They were all over everything “The Hitman” was doing, and he played his role to perfection. Slowly, but surely, he’d turn the heelish actions up a notch, until things finally built to a crescendo. After Austin passed out in the Sharpshooter, forcing Special Guest Referee Ken Shamrock to end the match, Bret decided he wasn’t finished, and he continued the assault. The crowd turned on him completely, and Austin, who had already gained “points” for not tapping out to the Sharpshooter, was an unconscious hero. The double turn was officially complete, and people were hungry to see the new badass face hand the new heel’s ass to him on a platter.
What followed was a wild and crazy ride that saw some of the more unique twists, including the birth of “Bizarro Land”, which saw Bret as Canada’s conquering hero, meaning that he would be cheered like royalty in his home country, while being booed everywhere else, all as Austin would be hated by Canadian fans while he received some of the best face pops in the business in the rest of the world. That’s really jumping too far ahead, though, so let me get back on track.
The match had everything I look for when I’m trying to be entertained by this great sport that we all love so much. It had able competitors, with Hart and Austin being two of the better workers of all-time, albeit using different in-ring styles at the time. It had a good back story, and wasn’t just a random match with two random guys. It had a hot crowd, helping to take the story Hart and Austin were trying to tell to the next level. It had psychology, with Hart slowly descending into the depths of heeldom in his attempt to put away the younger Austin, who was not going to stop fighting until he had disposed of his hated adversary. It even had the promise for more, because the ending meant that Austin would want his revenge, and he’d fight even harder to get it. Just a complete package of a match, and one that I can watch, to this day, and find no flaws in. I watch the match a lot. I mean a lot. Probably an unhealthy amount.
Since the match happened on March 23rd, 1997, I kid you not when I say I’ve probably watched the match, in its entirety, 500 times. I’ll watch it and break down the tape like I’m trying to become a wrestler myself. I’ll watch the entire match studying Bret’s moves, and won’t look at anything Austin is doing, then vice versa for my next viewing. I’ll watch the match and just focus on the crowd’s reaction to everything. I’ve even watched the match.. and this might be the peak of my wrestling nerdery here.. where I try to get one step ahead of the action and “fantasy book” my own alternate version of everything. By that, I mean that I’d be watching Spot #1 and envisioning how I would put Spot #2 together, and so on, creating an entirely new match in my head. This is the first time, publicly or privately, that I’ve ever admitted that to anyone, so consider yourselves lucky. Or unlucky. The choice is yours, really.
It is my honor and pleasure to induct this match into the very first class of the LoP Hall Of Fame. I can only hope all of you can get half as much enjoyment out of the match as I do.
Related Links: LOP/WH Hall of Fame 2013- “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Bret Hart Says Classic Match With Steve Austin Was Modeled After A School Fight
Full Schedule for the “Biography: WWE Legends” Series from A&E and WWE Studios