The WrestleMania 13 match between Bret "The Hitman" Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is widely regarded as a turning point in the history of professional wrestling as it signified the dawn of the famed Attitude Era. Ken Shamrock was the special guest referee and he recently spoke to Andy Malnoske of Wrestling Inc. about his memories from the match.
Shamrock enjoyed a successful Mixed Martial Arts career before making his WWE debut in February 1997. A month later, he was inserted as the guest referee in an "I Quit" match between Austin and Hart. Shamrock said he was initially skeptical about it because he expected to be watching a fake fight, but he was pleasantly surprised when Austin and Hart went after each other. He said that match ushered in the Attitude Era and changed the landscape of pro wrestling.
"I think that without a shadow of a doubt that the match changed wrestling. It really launched us into the Attitude Era. I know that when they first pitched the idea of the match I was a little bit skeptical about being a referee because I was afraid that I was going to be in the ring with guys that weren't really going to hit each other. You were going to have space in between when they threw a punch, and I was just not that person. I didn't know how I was going to deal with that," Shamrock said. "I said, you know what, these guys are going to do a good job and it wasn't going to be something I was going to be embarrassed about, so when the match started, those guys went after one another. It was like watching an MMA match. They put on a great match and those guys went after one another. It is a match that I think anybody that watches it and sees it sees that those guys did a tremendous job and they changed the way that pro wrestling was going and turned it into one of those great times in pro wrestling, which was the Attitude Era. I mean, me being in there as an MMA fighter, and the reputation that I was carrying and those guys putting on one of the greatest matches I have ever seen and me being a part of that and suplexing them into the end, and tying it into that no holds barred era in with that match really changed pro wrestling. That was when we launched the Attitude Era."
In 1998, Shamrock entered into a brief rivalry with The Rock. He said he enjoyed working with him and wishes they had the opportunity for a longer program. The Rock was eventually moved into contention for the world title, so Shamrock believes they have some unfinished business.
"The Rock, I really enjoyed my time that we had with our little angle. I remembered doing house shows. I remembered doing pay per views with him. It seemed like we were really getting things going. I even took a chair shot to the face, which has never been done until Mick Foley took it to the face three times. I always thought The Rock and in our direction it was a really good time for pro wrestling. It was the Attitude Era," Shamrock said. "Guys were really having pride in their aggressiveness, and when The Rock moved up to take the world title, I thought for sure that I was going to move up and we would have the match for the world title, but it never came about for whatever reason, but man, it would be great to finish that because it was kind of left open. It was never finished. So, it would be great to go out and have that opportunity and close that door."
Peter Bahi contributed to this article.