I just rewatched my Unforgiven 2003 DVD that was lying around, and I forgot about how good it was. It was probably my favorite Raw PPV that was only one branded.
Handicap Tables match for the Tag Titles was a fun way to kick off the show, Test and Steiner had an alright match for what it was worth and what both men usually had, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels could arguably be MOTN, Kane and McMahon in a LMS match was amazing one of the more forgotten about and underrated feuds out there, Christian / Van Dam / Jericho was again very well done, man I wish the IC title got that much attention right now with that ammount of talent, and Goldberg / HHH was a feel good moment to close off the show with Goldberg winning.
Rosemont Horizon, Rosemont, Illinois; March 23, 1997 Submission Match
Bret 'Hitman' Hart vs. 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin
To start off, watch the promo, it's not as good as the likes of Austin/Rock from Wrestlemania 17 or Shawn Michaels/The Undertaker from Wrestlemania 26, but it's still a pretty good promo video which hypes the match up and it really shows the early signs of the Attitude Era, it gets you pumped for the match..
I will let you know that this Wrestlemania for me is one of the worst Wrestlemania's of all time, there is one simple reason why it isn't actually the worst and that is this match up. This match had a lot of significance in branching out Stone Cold’s character. The program did two things perfectly. It established Stone Cold as someone who would never quit and it also helped turn him face, while turning Bret heel at the same time. One of the best, if not the best double turns in the history of the business.
The story goes a little like this, at WrestleMania XII Bret Hart took some time off, when he returned the New Generation he was comfortable with was slowly becoming the Attitude Era and that did not sit well with Bret at all. After being repeatedly “screwed” by people like Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin as he had mentioned numerous times since returning, Bret continued to complain until the fans got tired of it and began to side with Austin who was rapidly becoming the top face, a star. Bret's frustrations got the better of him causing him to do out of character things such as push commentator Vince McMahon on his ass and an obscenity laced tirade at the end of a live Raw. Bret claimed the WWE and the fans had changed however it was Bret that was changing, it was just brilliant from everyone involved.
The match begins with "The Worlds Most Dangerous Man" Ken Shamrock from the UFC at the time coming down to the ring, he is the special guest referee for this match. He already stated that no one will intimidate him during the submission match. The glass smashed and Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring, he gets predominantly booed, Bret Hart's music hit and he made his way down to the ring, he was still getting cheers but it is a notably mixed reaction.
The match was explosive from the off, Austin tackled Bret right off the bat. They brawled on the floor outside and Bret tossed Austin into the ringpost. Bret gets suplex crotched on the guard rail and clotheslined into the crowd. They brawled into the crowd, this was pretty new and fresh for the time and not as trite as it would become later on in the Attitude Era. The Hitman dominated most of the crowd brawl which was out of character for him. Austin then got backdropped down the bleacher stairs. They finally return to the ringside area and Austin reverses an irish whip and Bret flies into the steel steps. Austin double flips off Bret, which would become his trademark and gave him a diving clotheslines from the apron.
They take turns ramming each other into the ring post. Bret countered a backdrop into a swinging neckbreaker and a driving elbow. Bret began to work the leg and Austin’s bad knee, great selling by Austin through out the match and nice from Bret to focus on an area, a master of this trade. It is funny hearing Vince McMahon long time face complain about Bret on commentary and Jerry Lawler, the awesome heel he was at the time and Bret Hart's long time foe agree with him. Stone Cold countered the legwork and hit the Stone Cold Stunner. Bret kicked his leg out but Austin kept getting up. This is a significant part in the match as this is point where the fans began to side with Austin.
Bret debuts the ringpost figure four leg lock as Austin writhed in pain but he just will not quit, I remember seeing this and absolutely loving it, despite being a big Austin fan at the time. Bret grabbed the ring bell and a chair. Bret tried to Pillmanize Austin’s leg but he recovered and waffles Bret off the turnbuckles with the chair to a huge ovation, the crowd well and truly backing Stone Cold at the moment. Austin pounded Bret with the chair and hit a slam and a suplex. Austin dropped the middle finger driving elbow and began to stomp at his groin.
Stone Cold continued the Bret move hit parade with a Russian leg sweep. Stone Cold applied an armbar/neck crank submission hold then segued into a Boston Crab, Bret made the ropes however. Austin then went for the Sharpshooter, Bret Hart's own finishing move but Bret countered. Austin sidestepped Bret and tossed him to the floor to a mixed reaction. Bret reversed a whip on the floor and Austin wiped out a cameraman, timekeepers and Jim Ross, "BAH GAWD"!
Stone Cold is bleeding, big time. Bret Hart tossed Austin into the steps and the ringpost. Bret mercilessly works the cut, genius move from the Hitman. Bret Hart reintroduced the chair at this point and started to work Austin’s bad leg with it. Bret then tried the Sharpshooter and Austin uses the eyes just as Bret did to Austin earlier in the match. Bret started to beat Austin in the corner. Austin countered however by kicking Bret in the mid-section and then began to stump a mud hole in his ass, in the words in the great J.R. Stone Cold then set up and nailed a superplex. Stone Cold used an electrical cord to try to hang Bret from the ropes but Bret clocked him straight in the head with the ring bell to counter it.
Bret Hart then locked in the Sharpshooter on The Texas Rattlesnake. Austin tried fighting it with blood dripping down his face in an iconic WrestleMania moment. If however you have no recollection of the moment I am talking about, I will be happy to provide you with a picture.
The iconic Wrestlemania 13 moment, Austin vs. Bret Hart
Stone Cold Steve Austin passed out from the pain so special guest referee Ken Shamrock called for the bell. Bret Hart won the match but no one seemed to care, Stone Cold did not quit. Post-match Bret tried to maim Austin but Shamrock wasn't having none of it and stopped him with a belly to back suplex. Bret got in his face but left instead, to a chorus of boos, the crowd had fully turned on the Hitman.
Stone Cold refused help to the back from Shamrock or any other referee for that matter. He stunned a referee and limped out on his own two feet to the fans chanting “Austin”, a significant match in his career, one where he didn't have to win to get put over, a match in which told excellent storytelling, a match where the crowd really made it special, as well as the commentators, hats off to everyone involved in what is my favourite match of all time.
I give this match a resounding 5 stars out of 5 *****.. Outstanding match that helped propel Stone Cold Steve Austin into the stratosphere and become the star of the late 90’s that we all knew he become. A wild brawl that became the blueprint for most of the Attitude Era main events. I still think the best part of this match is how Austin came into the match as heel and Hart came in as face but just by sheer ring work and ring psychology, Bret was the heel and Austin, who never gave up, the face at the conclusion. You can actually feel the crowd turning on Bret midway through the match which is awesome. THIS is how you tell a story in the ring and sadly it seems to becoming somewhat of a lost art.
Not sure if I'm awesome enough to come up with a review but my fav match of all time is probably Savage V Steamboat WM3. Cliche I know but I love it. I can remember being 6 years old watching WM3. Everyone was so excited for Hogan/Andre. As was I but Savage/Steamboat was the show stealer to end all show stealers. Or something. Flair V Sting first Clash of the Champions might be a very close second. Tough call.
My top 5 favorite wrestlers of all time
1. Macho Man Randy Savage (RIP...thanks for the memories)
2. Mick Foley (Cactus Jack)
3. Bret Hart (The Hart Foundation best tag team ever)
5. Ted DiBiase (best heel of all time)