The Man Without Fear
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Texas by way of Illinois
Re: Classic Wrestling General Discussion & Review Thread
Re-posting this review for this particular thread. Enjoy!
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart
"Son, you're lookin' at the best there is!"
The rivalry between Canadian legend, “The Excellence of Execution” Bret “Hitman” Hart and the Texas “Rattlesnake” Stone Cold Steve Austin is etched in wrestling history as one of the greatest ever. This is a review on some of the best matches of this historic feud that was one of the World Wrestling Federation’s most important programs in 1996-1997. The Hart-Austin feud further solidified the status of a legend, but it also was the meteoric rise of a new one.
WWF World Tour from Kuwait City, Kuwait
May 9, 1996
Before the famous rivalry officially began on TV in the fall of 1996, Bret Hart and Steve Austin actually had their first matches together on WWF’s tour of the Middle East and South Africa that year. While the matches they worked together at these live events are not part of the story in their TV/PPV feud, I appreciate watching quality matches that are not widely talked about like this one from Kuwait. The match automatically gets points for the talent performing, but they also have Jim Ross and Gorilla Monsoon on commentary!
The Kuwait City fans are absolutely electric for everything Hart and Austin do in this match. Austin riles them up with his heel antics and taunting. I love how Austin bumps for Bret. Austin was always great at selling a good heel beating bouncing of the canvas to make the babyface look strong. Bret gives a basic yet solid babyface performance selling well during Austin’s domination of the match, and working his signature hope spots like the bulldog and Russian leg sweep as they built to the finish. This may be one of their first matches together but their chemistry is already apparent. Their transitions in momentum, the pacing of the match, the momentum shifts, and counter wrestling just click together so smoothly it almost looks effortless. The action is nicely compacted and entertaining with the little time they are given.
Match Rating: ★★ 1/2
WWF World Tour from Sun City, South Africa
September 14, 1996
Once Stone Cold Steve Austin--the cold and pissed off Texan--entered the ring, he threatened to whoop everybody’s ass in Sun City including Owen Hart on commentary. It is Austin’s in-your-face brashness that makes him despised opposed to the internationally loved and respected Bret Hart at this point. We see this distinction more as Bret opened his arms to the children at ringside. Bret built a bond with the WWF fans, and to the majority he is their hero. Austin doesn’t give a damn how revered Bret is and he gets into Bret’s face not to show respect but attitude. Bret’s not going to be intimidated and he shoves Austin on his ass!
Bret immobilizes Austin for a portion of the match with an armbar early in the match. Austin obviously gets frustrated with Bret outwrestling him because Austin believes he is supposed to be the new best wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation. However, the veteran still has the skill to negate that claim of Austin’s with every counter-hold Bret finds to outwrestle Stone Cold. This is a standard competitive story but it is understatedly performed.
Austin introduces the first strike of the match with a quick back elbow just as Bret thought they were going to play a physical game of chess going hold for hold in a wrestling contest. Austin’s game plan was set, he was going to use the clubbing blows to immobilize Bret then go back and try to wrestle the Hitman to defeat. The problem with that plan is Bret continues to outwrestle Austin until The Rattlesnake starts using punches against Hart. Austin must brawl as well as wrestle if he wants to beat Bret Hart.
Austin’s use of stall tactics on the outside to kill Bret’s momentum, or when Austin got dirty by poking Bret in the eye and sneaking in a low blow was all strong heel character work. When Bret eventually made his comeback he did a good payback spot from earlier in the match with the quick back elbow to Austin. I was pleased to see that addition because Bret was literally throwing the move in Austin’s face and he showed him that he can also play the striking game to build momentum. It was a subtle yet poignant physical message.
I thought they put together a beautifully executed wrestling sequence for the finish. It continued the story of the veteran putting the younger wrestler in his place with seasoned wrestling skill. This is a rare match that very few Hart-Austin fans have yet to see but they absolutely should. The technical wrestling is well-executed and accompanied with subtleties from both wrestlers. A terrific preview for what was to come when Bret would officially make his return on TV to feud with Austin.
Match Rating: ★★★
WAKE UP, BRET!
IT'S TIME, BRET!
IT'S 3:16, BRET!
TIME TO WHIP YOUR ASS!
The build to the Survivor Series is quite remarkable in its foundation based on the competitive nature of Stone Cold Steve Austin seeking to prove that he is the best wrestler in the company. Austin wants to prove this by defeating the best there was. Austin would go as far as crippling his former best friend to display his determination. If he would do that to Pillman, what lengths would he go in a match with The Hitman?
Bret has to answer Austin’s challenge not only because he would look like the quitter Austin claimed him to be, but Bret has something to prove too. Bret needs to prove to his fans and to himself that he still is the best wrestler in the company, and this belligerent yet ultra-talented man needs to be taught a lesson in respect. This is not only a battle of technical wrestling aptitude, this match is a clash of personalities and the will to fight for your status in the industry. Bret stated he is "greedy for respect" and when it was all said and done Austin would respect him.
November 17, 1996
“Bret, I'll tell you what you're gonna see - My fist in your face and my foot in your ass as I kick the hell out of you all over New York!"
Stone Cold Steve Austin in the historic "mecca of wrestling" at Madison Square Garden, in front of a raucous crowd and a legend, shows no reverence. Instead, he flips off Bret Hart and his fans! The dichotomy of this face-off between the abrasive Steve Austin and the venerable legend Bret Hart is a compelling sight to behold.
They worked the first few minutes with some great wrestling exchanges as Bret brought the focus on an arm lock. The pivotal moment came when Austin draped Bret on the ropes with the Stun Gun. Austin was viciously consistent in this match during his attacks on Bret’s throat and chest by choking, stomping, dropping elbows to the throat any chance he got. The sternum to turnbuckle spot Bret is famous for in his big matches is worked perfectly into Austin’s assault on Bret's ability to breath.
The intensity is incredibly high in this match as the momentum shifts back & forth when they ferociously throw fists at each other and brawl all around ringside. It is marvelous watching Austin throw his venomous punches and Hart throw his spirited punches as the two go blow for blow, toe to toe. Steel barricades couldn't contain this mêlée! Bret was forced to raise his physicality level to combat Austin who introduced his brawling and dirty tactics into what was supposed to be a wrestling match. Austin used brawling to ultimately manipulate a wrestling advantage in his favor. Bret has the advantage in the technical wrestling department, but he had to brawl to survive a fight with Austin. Bret WILL FIGHT Stone Cold to sustain his chances of winning and to keep his pride intact by not quitting.
Austin was determined to make Bret quit in the final stretch by applying various submission holds. I love the psychology surrounding the Texas Cloverleaf applied to Bret. The move does primarily target the legs but Bret had to rely on his damaged upper-body for any chance of escaping the hold. This submission tested the will of Bret and he endured by grabbing the ropes.
The payback spots were brilliantly implemented into the match. My favorite was when Bret was able to turn the tables on Austin by hitting him with the Stun Gun. Bret also tried to deprive Austin of his breath with a sleeper hold. Austin also has a good payback spot when he finally executes a superplex on Bret. The Rattlesnake would be damned if he didn't get to deliver that move. You can see how much he wanted to do the move when he throttled Bret with punches and chops and how he secured his spot on the top rope, which eliminated any opening for Bret to counter the move like he did earlier in the match.
The ways they tightly wrapped psychology with the action is just impressive. Every move means something. For Austin it was a dissection of Bret, in body and spirit. For Bret it was to stand his ground, on the "holy ground" of MSG as he calls it. The same place he overcame the odds before (as JR mentions) against Mr. Perfect and Yokozuna, only this time he's fighting a totally different animal. The Texas Rattlesnake is unlike anyone the Hitman has ever faced before.
The psychology was so well crafted throughout the match that it strengthened the storytelling of the finish. Austin expertly used moves to systematically destroy Bret’s ability to breath (cut the air off the prey like a snake) from the Stun Gun in the first half of the match to the Million Dollar Dream in the closing moments. Austin was so determined to beat Bret into submission that he would not break the hold even when Bret had him pinned. Bret survived while showing Austin he's still a master of the ropes with a superb wrestling finish. Austin’s defiance cost him the match.
Match Rating: ★★★★ 3/4
Hart vs. Austin encompasses many elements but I think JR, who was fantastic on commentary putting over both wrestlers and the match as a tremendous deal, astutely pointed out the match is about wrestling, competition, intensity, and drama. I appreciate how Austin and Hart captured a real competitive feel when they fought. When the performers can make me suspend disbelief I can become more enthralled with the action. Hart and Austin’s chemistry together is phenomenal. They kept it highly competitive and both displayed greatness in this classic match but the dispute was far from over.
March 23, 1997
The intensity level between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart had reached its pinnacle by this point. Through battles in the Royal Rumble Match and in the Final Four, through screw jobs and all-out brawls around arenas, the molten hot rivalry would climax at WrestleMania in a Submission Match.
Ken Shamrock was appointed special guest referee for this no holds barred war. How fitting to have this credible MMA Ultimate Fighter call a match between two of the fiercest competitors in pro wrestling when the objective is to make your opponent submit by any means.
Austin’s glass shattering entrance is one of the most iconic entrances ever at a WrestleMania. Stone Cold may have broken through the glass as a despicable heel but most of the fans in Chicago were highly entertained by his personality that exuded unadulterated attitude. Austin is edgy, abrasive, and but more importantly he is uncompromising. Whether he is a son of a bitch or whatever, many people appreciate that charismatic quality.
Bret Hart’s character has been compromised. He is bitter about being “screwed” out of championships and opportunities to fight for championships. Bret is disgusted with the emergence of attitude because he is a wrestler whose standards were rooted in respect and tradition. As Bret stepped over the shards of glass so did he pass what was left of his era. Due to Bret’s whining and complaining during the Road to WrestleMania, he receives a mixed reaction from the boisterous Allstate Arena crowd instead of the complete admiration that was once so strong with the fans.
When the bell rang there was no stare off his time, there weren't even wrestling exchanges as they immediately brawled because this rivalry had moved far past proving who the best wrestler is. This fight is about ravaging the other man’s body and his will. It is about beating the other man into submission – the ultimate defeat.
Bret eventually targets Austin’s injured knee to set him up for the Sharpshooter. Straightforward wrestling psychology effectively added to the story of the match. I love how both Austin and Bret sold Austin’s desperation hit of the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin’s injury was being exploited and he had to pull out the big gun to stop Bret, but it wasn’t necessarily enough to put the Hitman down for long. It literally just stunned Bret and he sold the effects well without completely shaking off Austin’s finisher before going back to controlling the match. The Figure Four on the ring post was a cool spot that caused the crowd to erupt. The overall viciousness from both men was visible in every move they delivered.
When Bret introduced a steel chair into the match to attack Austin’s knee and attempt to shatter his ankle like Austin did to Pillman, I thought that was a fitting callback to Austin’s first vile act of the feud in his attempts to prove a point and awaken the Hitman to come fight him. Austin indeed did awaken the Hitman but this is a more ruthless Bret Hart. When Austin was in control of the match battering Bret with the steel chair, each shot caused roars of excitement and approval from the fans. The tides of the match were not only turning but so were the fans, so were Bret and Austin...
You can see the outstanding character progression of both men as the match builds. When Austin attempted to lock Bret in the Sharpshooter, Bret used the dirty tactic of raking Austin’s eyes to escape instead of the honorable way of outwrestling the other man with a wrestling counter like he used to do. When Austin raked Bret’s eyes or punted him a low blow, the fans loved him more for it.
The fans accepted Austin for who he is and that is one tough SOB who is going to do what he wants to do. Austin’s not the man who preached about honor and whined about getting screwed. He’s the guy that says he’s going to kick Bret Hart’s ass with no hesitation about it. Austin was inspiring in his blunt acts of defiance such as giving referee Ken Shamrock two middle fingers in reply to the question of quitting. Before the match Austin had already vehemently stated “I ain’t got no quit in me at all!” Austin’s perseverance throughout this punishing match was proving his words true.
AUSTIN NEVER GAVE UP!
Austin’s performance is quite possibly the most inspiring wrestling performance ever - the blood gushing out of his temple as he resisted the pain, his refusal to quit, and giving it his ALL to attempt to escape the hold are all honorable actions. Austin’s body may have technically submitted because it passed out to the pain, but his will was never broken by Bret Hart.
Bret’s spiteful attack on Austin after the match and walking away from a confrontation with Ken Shamrock further established that he did not stand for honor and respect anymore thus solidifying the double turn. The double turn is one of the most riveting feats ever accomplished in wrestling storytelling. To have a once beloved hero descend in character as he stands in victory, and at the same time have this bad ass outlaw who in defeat ascends in the eyes of the fans by way of intensity, blood, and grit is absolutely remarkable.
Match Rating: ★★★★★
An image that not only displays the brutality of this match, it also defines the character of Stone Cold Steve Austin - "The World's Toughest Son of a Bitch!" This gruesome shot of Austin's face full of pain, dripping blood is one of the most memorable images of all time. Austin rose from the blood soaked ring and WALKED out of the arena. During this powerful moment, the fans showering him with their cheers christened Stone Cold Steve Austin as THE ANTI-HERO of the World Wrestling Federation. Austin’s defiance to quit in this match made him the most admirable man in the industry. Stunning a referee and refusing help further displayed his indissoluble pride and toughness.
Hart decisively defeated Austin but the story isn’t about Bret Hart’s victory. Austin’s performance and what he gained was more transcendent than a simple win in a match could have meant for him. If “Austin 3:16” was the seeds planted for the birth of a new era, then Hart-Austin at WrestleMania 13 is the emergence of that harvest. After this match Austin skyrocketed from this performance as the hottest wrestler in the company. The official kick off of “The Austin Era” would begin a year later. This WrestleMania 13 classic is widely regarded by wrestling fans as the greatest match in WWF history. A match as exceptional in quality and significant to an entire generation of wrestling fans deserves such recognition.
“You’re gonna have to KILL me to be finished with me!”
After WrestleMania, Austin still wanted to tear Bret to pieces because he believes even though Bret may have won the match at WrestleMania he did not beat Stone Cold. At the same time, hell no Austin isn't going to let Bret just walk away from this war. The contempt Austin holds in his cold blue eyes told a better story than any words written or spoken could. Bret sought support from his family because he believes Owen Hart and British Bulldog would not turn their backs on him like he believes the fans unfairly did to him. The Hitman also knows he will need reinforcements in his struggle not only with Stone Cold Steve Austin, but with other Superstars in the company. The technical victory was settled in the Submission Match but the moral conflict continued.
In Your House 14: Revenge of the Taker
April 20, 1997
Bret stated that he didn't care about these people anymore. Bret takes issue with the American wrestling fans because many of them in his mind didn’t support him through his problems with the company. Bret loathes the fans new found acceptance of Stone Cold Steve Austin. In the interview before the match for all intents and purposes, he declared war on Stone Cold and American wrestling fans. The situation is so personal in this rivalry that is competitiveness personified. Both men want to maim their opponent and take pride in doing it.
After taking their story to another level in the brutal no holds barred-submission showdown at WrestleMania 13, I didn’t understand why they would have a standard rules match a month later. It would make more sense if they had another no disqualification type match to settle things once and for all. Based on how they booked the finish I can see why they made it a regular match because it actually advanced Bret and Austin’s characters as heel and anti-hero.
Notwithstanding the rules, they started the match off brawling all over the place as if it was a no holds barred affair. During the match I thought Bret’s attack on Austin’s injured knee with a steel chair was a brilliant choice to build the match around. It was great continuity in story from WrestleMania 13. Austin would never willingly submit and Bret knows he must dismantle Austin’s body to overcome him.
I could see Bret’s heel character become more devious with every dirty move. The choices Bret made to accentuate the character in the progression of the match were on point. He raked at Austin’s eyes any chance he could, he thrashed Austin’s knee with a steel chair as the referee was distracted, ripped the knee brace off, gave essentially a one-legged man a low blow when Bret was firmly in control of the match, etc. Bret was just stellar with his heel psychology.
Bret’s work to systematically breakdown Austin’s knee was masterfully focused and Austin sold his moments in peril exceptionally well. They played up the knee injury in a few instances when Austin attempted to deliver momentum shifting moves like a piledriver but he couldn’t. Yet, he still continued to fight. This display from Austin again refusing to allow pain, injury, or Bret Hart beat him was courageous.
Even more courageous and a freaking awesome spot was the finish when Austin bashed Bret in the head with the knee brace, then locked him in the Sharpshooter! Bret submitting right there would have been the perfect finish and I would have rated the match higher if he had. However, I understand how the DQ finish was a continuation in establishing Bret’s alliance with Bulldog and Owen, Bret gets more heat because he couldn’t beat Austin, and Austin looks stronger for having Bret effectively beat in his own hold. So the DQ finish was a key factor in advancing the story and its characters. I personally would have preferred a submission finish after failed attempts from Bulldog and Owen to cause a DQ (LOD could have stopped them). Nevertheless, the direction they took makes sense and it is a great main event.
Match Rating: ★★★
The action after the match is the most thematically riveting part of this encounter for me. Austin got the opportunity to tear into Bret’s KNEE with a steel chair before locking him into the Sharpshooter again to truly test his will when the pain is unbearable. When they were finally separated, Bret didn’t walk out on his own free will. He was escorted out by the two men who helped him escape defeat from “the ‘fightiness SOB’ you’ll ever find.” The Rattlesnake despite his knee injury was fired up and stood tall. Once again, Austin achieved a victory greater than any match result in this war with The Hitman!
Raw Is War
April 21, 1997
This was actually an amazing episode of Monday Night Raw built around the Austin-Hart rivalry in multiple segments. The Street Fight is an incredible segment and the final 1-on-1 match between Stone Cold and The Hitman. Stone Cold Steve Austin is consumed by his hatred for Bret Hart. He wants to continue what he started at Revenge of the Taker.
As Bret entered the arena there was no mixed reaction for him at this point. He was showered with a chorus of boos. The American fans despise him as much as he despises them. Bret had lambasted them and claimed that they valued violence over dignity and respect. Disdain is what he will show them in a fight with their anti-hero. However, in hypocritical fashion, Bret had Owen Hart and British Bulldog help him attack Austin as the fight began. This can’t be a singles war anymore and Shawn Michaels cleared house with a steel chair to leave Austin and Bret alone to settle things alone in this battle.
They continued to tell the story of the violent act that initially took things to the next level when Bret wrapped Austin’s ankle in a steel chair in an attempt to break it. Of course it was a huge mistake for a man with an injured knee to go to the top rope, but that was the length Bret was willing to go to cripple Austin. Austin bashed the hell out of Bret’s injured knee and joints all over his body with a chair in a full on ruthless assault. It was an eye for an eye, or a knee for a knee!
Cornered in the ring like prey, Bret ultimately displayed an act of defiance himself when threatened by Austin with the chair. Or maybe it was an act of mockery as Bret flipped off Austin with two middle fingers in his face. Austin answered by continuing the beating with multiple chair shots before torturing him in the Sharpshooter again. Austin once again established his dominance in this rivalry.
Austin wasn’t declared the official winner of this match because the bell never officially rang even though a referee was there the entire time. In the record books this match is a no contest. Bret needed knee surgery so they used this angle to put him on the sidelines for a couple of months. Austin went over again without officially pinning or making Bret submit, and he never would in their legendary feud.
Bret would not surrender at the threat of steel chair assault, and Austin would not relent from torturing him with the steel chair. What a moment it was to see Bret and Austin flipping each other off as Austin executed the Hitman with his own Sharpshooter. Bret’s defiance couldn’t escape him from defeat and the drive Austin had to beat him wouldn’t allow it.
Unlike Austin at WrestleMania 13 but very much like the night before at IYH, Bret was carried out again by his family before being placed on a stretcher. Austin ultimately attacked Bret in the ambulance too in a scene that has become a bit cliché now but was so unpredictable and chaotic at the time.
I’m not going rate this match because I don’t believe it needs to be rated. It was a tremendous segment to advance the storyline that night. This Raw featured a lot of twists including Brian Pillman returning to extract revenge on Austin for breaking his ankle months prior. Everything thing seemed to come full circle this episode. Austin took out Pillman before the Survivor Series match with Bret and now this angle would go to new heights with more players.
The Hart Foundation vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ken Shamrock, Goldust & The Legion of Doom
In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede
July 6, 1997
At Canadian Stampede, the Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin rivalry was place on a larger scale than ever imagined. At the heart of this highly spirited 10-man tag team match is national pride at stake, and the intensity between The Hart Foundation, Team USA, and the raucous Calgary crowd is gripping to watch. The passion showcased from these fans created a white hot atmosphere that rumbled the arena floor. You can see the cameras and building shaking! The reactions are like a championship finals game pitting the hometown team against its greatest rival team. It is an extraordinary sight to see.
The fans almost drowned out The Fink’s introductions and they nearly drowned out the entrance music they were so loud. Everyone in the Hart Foundation received a huge reaction – Brian Pillman, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldog, and Owen Hart; you would have thought it was the Second Coming when Bret made his entrance it was so thunderous!
The reaction Austin got was pure heat and “Austin Sucks” chants which was interesting since he had actively become the hottest wrestler in the company, but he was facing Calgary’s beloved and he would get no love tonight. Austin reveled in the heat and antagonized the crowd magnificently with his heel antics and dirty moves during the match. It is amazing to see Pillman or Bret rake eyes or choke and the place explodes, but when Austin or anyone on his team does the same thing the fans called for their heads!
The USA vs. Canada feud is one of best angles the WWF ever ran. It created one of the best dynamics in wrestling when Austin & his partners and the Hart Foundation were cheered or booed depending on whatever side of the border hosted the show. It made the angle such a highly entertaining program because so much passion was involved with the competitors and the fans. That made the reasons why the wrestlers fought for feel like a big deal.
Everyone worked their signature moves in the match and didn’t do anything too out of the box which wasn’t necessary anyway. The crowd was already captivated with everything from the big finishers to the smallest taunt. They did happen to continue the story of Austin out to cripple a Hart when he attacked Owen’s KNEE with a steel chair. Bret’s immediate revenge to Austin’s knee emphasized the level of bitterness in this blood feud which was needed in this environment. Austin slugging it out with Bret and the Hart brothers at ringside was awesome to see in this intense setting.
Bell to bell this has to be one of the hottest matches ever. The level of support The Hart Foundation had with their family in attendance and from the Calgary fans, it felt like a situation pitting five Americans versus an arena full of Canadians! Even though Owen Hart cheated to victory it was seen as a heroic effort in the eyes of those fans. The fans were truly as big an element in this match as any of the 10 men performing.
Match Rating: ★★★★
Calgary may have loathed Austin on this night but the world was watching as Stone Cold on one leg and a steel chair tried to FIGHT a ring full of Harts on his own. JR said it best, “HE DOESN'T GIVE A DAMN!” Austin carried away in handcuffs, cursing out every Canadian in sight, and throwing middle fingers in the air added even more aura to his badass outlaw persona. The Hart Family gathering was very touching to see as Canada’s own standing victorious in celebration.
The Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart rivalry may not have had what can be called an official “blow off match” with Austin getting a pin fall or submission victory over Bret, yet they accomplished so much without it. Namely, it got Austin insanely over. This feud was intensely entertaining television for almost a year that featured great promos, brawls, and classic matches. Together they created some of the best matches of their careers and cut some of their best promos ever especially in Bret’s case. Bret’s character had more depth and interest than ever before when he interacted with Stone Cold. Austin was primed to set the wrestling world on fire after working with Bret who perfectly opposed him in the ring and in character. This feud putting Austin on the map makes its role in the establishment of the Attitude Era very significant. I rank the Austin-Hart feud in the Top 5 greatest WWF feuds ever. It may be the best rivalry in company history.
Last edited by Clique; 11-16-2013 at 12:41 AM.