Bruce Prichard Reminds Fans Hart/Austin Double Turn Didn't Happen In Just One Night

The iconic image of a bloodied Steve Austin passing out to Bret Hart's Sharpshooter will never be forgotten. And while the conclusion to the classic WrestleMania 13 match has been dubbed as the moment Austin turned babyface, Bruce Prichard — a key cog of WWE's creative team at the time — has reminded fans that the so-called double turn actually took place in the weeks leading up to that year's Showcase of Immortals.

On his recent "Something to Wrestling With" podcast, Prichard admitted that fans forced WWE's hand and tried to turn Austin babyface when he returned from his storyline ankle injury [caused by Brian Pillman] in late 1997. 

"It wasn't all in one night," Prichard argued. "That's where people get lost in translation. When Steve came back from injury and got the Stone Cold gimmick rolling, he just had this groundswell of support — the audience wanted Steve to be their guy so bad! They waited and waited, and they had already turned Steve. 

"If anything, it was the turning of Bret Hart that solidified the crybaby Bret [and turned Austin]. I think Bret felt, both personally and character-wise, that the audience just turned on him — for this foul-mouthed Texan that should be jeered, not cheered. That [crowd reaction] kinda confused Bret a little bit." 

'You always look at what's best for business overall'

Despite admitting that the fans themselves turned Austin in the lead-up to WrestleMania 13, Prichard acknowledged that Austin needed Hart's assistance to truly pull off the character change.

"I don't know if Stone Cold could have turned without Bret Hart," Prichard asserted. "Bret did a magnificent job of helping to make Stone Cold Steve Austin. Those guys had some of the greatest matches ever, and it takes two to tango there. That was some memorable, good stuff."

Prichard went on to praise Hart for sacrificing merchandise sales, a natural aftermath of the Candian turning heel for the first time since the mid-1980s. It's no secret that the "The Hitman" character was beloved by kids, and the idea of a heel version of Hart was almost unfathomable at the time. However, Hart recognized that Austin's popularity had surpassed even his own, according to Prichard. 

"That was never really a discussion," Prichard recalled. "I don't know if Bret's merchandise was so significant that you go, 'Oh my god if we lose this...' You always look at what's best for business overall, and that was best for business overall. Steve's merch, at that point, had already exploded. So, there was no problem there."

Prichard isn't the only one who feels Hart elevated Austin to the next level. Austin himself has previously thanked Hart for kickstarting the "Stone Cold" phenomenon in 1997, stating in a recent interview that he "owes a huge part of my career" to Hart and that it was Hart who made the creative call for Austin to pass out from the Sharpshooter — a finish that clearly resonated with fans.