Wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart recently sat down for an interview on an episode of Rasslin’ with Brandon F. Walker.
During the podcast Hart talked about his match with Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13, which Steve Austin has discussed in the past. Hart revealed he wasn’t looking forward to the match due to the limitations of an I Quit match, and that he was actually expecting to face Shawn Michaels for the title.
“Me and Steve had worked a few times,” remember Hart. “We had worked at Survivor Series not that long before that, it was a great match. And it’s often overlooked by people, with how good it was. But when we got thrown together [at WrestleMania], it wasn’t the match I was expecting. I was expecting to wrestle Shawn for the title. And I loved the idea of working with Steve, but I didn’t like the idea of working with him so quickly right after Survivor Series. This was, like, four months later. And the limitations of the I Quit match only made it harder.”
Hart shared that even Steve Austin was apprehensive about the match, saying that the match didn’t seem to fit his wrestling style.
“I remember Steve saying, ‘I’m not a submission guy, I don’t have a lot of submission holds’ And I’m kind of going, ‘Well I’ve got the Sharpshooter, I can put the Figure-four on, there’s the sleeper hold.’ There’s a certain resumé of holds you can sort of go to [during the match]. But I was a technical wrestler and I could go for a lot of different holds. But when you take the pinfalls out of the match, it makes it harder to tell a good story because you don’t have those false finishes. I wasn’t very excited about the match.
“If anything, I was a little bit frustrated that it had been thrown together so ad hoc within a few weeks of WrestleMania. [They said], ‘It’s you and Steve again in an I Quit match.’ [I was] like, ‘Really? An I Quit match?’ I always hated the concept of an I Quit match. Like I said, you take out all the pinfalls, and the pinfalls are what make a match exciting. I wasn’t very excited about working with Steve [in that kind of match], and I don’t know that Steve felt any different, either.”
Bret said that during that time he was also turning into a heel, a concept that he had only wrapped his head around a few days before the event. Hart says he and Austin put the match together the day of, and that he knew he could trust Steve to build the match with him.
“The fact is I had a lot of respect for Steve,” admitted Bret. “I loved working with Steve, and he was one of my favorite guys to work with at that time. And I knew I could really trust Steve to work with me side-by-side and build this match together. I knew we had great chemistry, and we really pieced a sort of rough sketch of how we thought the match should go. And it was like magic.
“It stands to me as, maybe, my all-time greatest match. Because of the restrictions of having an I Quit match. We told such a good story. When I watch that match back today, and I know Steve will often watch it back and we’ll talk to each other, there’s not one move that is out of place. Everything in the match builds to the next thing, to the next thing, to the next thing, it’s such an interesting climb to the climax at the end. It’s such a great story-telling experience. I don’t know if I’ve seen a match, ever, that duplicates that story-telling.”
Hart went on to say that while Austin didn’t need his help, their matches and program together really elevated the Stone Cold character.
“Steve was destined for great things in wrestling, and he didn’t need me, or matches with me, to do that,” acknowledged Hart. “I will say that I think [the match] really opened doors for Steve. His character was sort of formed that night, and [had been forming with their matches together previously]. But the WrestleMania 13 match really made it in Stone. And he was a main guy after that night.”
Later in the interview Hart is asked what he considers to be the prime of his career. Hart says that is a tough question, but that he would have to say 1997.
“I would have to say ,” Hart decided. “I think when I look back on that period, I was trying so hard to deliver the great matches that I sort of had a reputation for. A lot of people throw around the term ‘classic’ . . . It’s only a classic if someone remembers it. . . You look back on matches in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the term classic isn’t thrown around so much. Whereas in 1997, I’d had a history of delivering these classic matches. You know, Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect [Curt Hennig], and different ones, classics. I think I was in my peak in ’97, artistically, emotionally, physically, I was at the best of my game. And when I think of when I wrestled Steve, [and putting together the match], it was like, ‘I know exactly how the match should go, this is what we need to do.’ And me laying out a story for the match is basically what we did.
“It [was] the same with The Undertaker at SummerSlam, the In Your House pay-per-view in Calgary, the Stampede show with Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and everybody. It was one after another. I feel like they were all home-runs. Even wrestling Vader and The Patriot, different guys that I worked with. They were great matches, great performances, great tension in the ring.
Hart even identified the Montreal Screwjob, which he has discussed in greater detail, with Shawn Michaels as a match that would’ve been amazing. Hart says he went into that match with the intention of giving Michaels the best match of his career.
“Even, unfortunately, the Screwjob match was on par to be an absolute classic,” said an adamant Hart. “It would’ve been one of the greatest matches Shawn and I ever had. We fought ten or fifteen minutes on the floor before we even got into the ring. Then we went into the ring and gave about ten minutes, of what was going to be a thirty-five-minute match, that was going to blow people away. I wanted to have the greatest match that Shawn ever had, that night. I look back to that time period and that’s what I was trying to do. And I believe at no time in my career was I telling better stories than at that time.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Rasslin’ with Brandon F. Walker with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.