Sunday, March 20, 2016

Wrestlemania Flashback: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin

By Brandon Albright, @B_Rock1978

“I’m laying in a pool of blood. This is the greatest feeling in the world."
-- "Stone Cold" Steve Austin --

Wrestling Lockup with Brandon, brought to you by Triple Threat CLE, is back with another blog entry. It's Wrestlemania season, so in my fifth blog of 2016, I'll be talking about a match that is definitely in my top 5 of greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time. I'm talking about Bret "The Hitman" Hart vs. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, at Wrestlemania 13, in a No Holds Barred, Submission Match. I recently went back and watched this match on the WWE Network and I was reminded of how much I really loved this match. I then dove into the media world and dug up some interesting facts and rumors that helped lead to one of the greatest matches in WWE history. Now any hardcore wrestling fan like myself probably already knows everything I put in this blog, but so what, there are always other noobies that might not know any of this.

- A Match That Almost Didn't Happen: Imagine what would have become of Bret Hart and Steve Austin's careers if this match didn't happen like originally planned. Many stories have circulated over the years about the original plans for Wrestlemania 13. Bret Hart had just come off of a loss in an "Iron Man Match" at Wrestlemania 12 to the "Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. Stories from past backstage employees and wrestling writers have stated that the original main event for Wrestlemania 13 was supposed to be Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels in a rematch from their prior Wrestlemania 12 match for the WWE World Title. This however, was during the time frame when Shawn Michaels basically hated everyone in the WWE, thought he was god's gift to the WWE and was the rumored backstage jerk and trouble maker.

According to stories, the storyline was written a year in advance where Hart dropped the belt to Michaels at Wrestlemania 12 and then Michaels would return the favor at Wrestlemania 13 and drop the belt back to Hart. Michaels, who had just defeated Psycho Sid at the Royal Rumble to win the WWE World Title, now refused to do the deed and job to Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. At this time, whether true or not, Michaels suddenly suffered a knee injury, claimed to have lost his smile and vacated the WWE World Title. Many, including Bret Hart, stated that Michaels faked the whole thing and found a loop hole to get out of facing Hart at Wrestlemania. So now an "injured" Shawn Michaels just ruined the Wrestlemania main event that was planned out a year ago and now one of WWE's top baby faces, Bret Hart, had no match on the biggest stage in sports entertainment. This would turn into a good thing, however, for the WWE.

- Setting Up The Match, Hart and Austin's Opinions: Just three weeks before Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon, decided to revisit a past feud and go with Bret Hart facing Steve Austin in a "No Holds Barred, Submission Match". Austin recently commented on his podcast that he was sitting at home in San Antonio watching RAW, with a knee injury, when McMahon made the announcement. Austin stated that he was extremely pissed off about the announcement because it was a submission match and Austin didn't have many if any submission holds in his arsenal. Bret Hart also commented recently that he wasn't happy about the match either, because he and Austin made an agreement that their first Survivor Series encounter would be the one and only time they'd face each other. Hart wasn't comfortable with how well of a match he and Austin could perform at Wrestlemania, because they put all their ideas into their Survivor Series match thinking it would be their one and only meeting. Hart and Austin were worried, but what they didn't know was they were about to have one of the greatest matches in WWE history.

- Special Enforcer Ken Shamrock: The WWE decided to add another special attraction to what was already a special stipulated match. WWE got in contact with former UFC fighter, Ken Shamrock. The nicknamed "World's Most Dangerous Man" would end up playing a good part in the match, as the appointed special guest referee and helped in making the Bret Hart heel turn at the end believable. This turned out to be the beginning of what was a decent WWE run for Ken Shamrock, as he went into a full time WWE wrestling schedule after this match. WWE I think used Shamrock the correct way in this match as well and didn't have the spotlight on him too much. There were times watching this match that I forgot that Shamrock was even the referee because the WWE did a great job focusing on the stars of the match, Hart and Austin. WWE did, however, let Shamrock get a little bit of recognition. Go back and watch the end of this match, as Shamrock picks Bret Hart up like a rag doll and slams him down when Hart refuses to let up on Austin and becomes a heel.

- Fighting In The Crowd: Both Bret Hart and Steve Austin commented on their brawl in the stands and through the crowd to kick off the match. Hart and Austin came up with the idea, but were afraid Vince McMahon would shoot down the idea of fighting in the crowd. Vince surprising agreed to the idea only because he 100% trusted two guys like Hart and Austin to pull it off without causing any injury to a fan. Fighting through the crowd wasn't a very common thing in wrestling back then, maybe except for ECW, but this opened the door to other organizations using this as a great match time waster and climax build up to the match finale. Funny part of this was right when Bret Hart gets tossed over the barricade, a security guard gets kicked right in the back by Bret Hart on accident. Good thing it wasn't a fan.

- Austin Comments On Bleeding: The idea of having blood (aka color) in the match was all Bret Hart's idea. Austin stated that he was a little worried about doing the blade job because he never bladed before. Hart came up with the idea that he would hide the blade and do the honors on Austin's forehead when the match called for it, which would eliminate Austin being worried, because he was afraid he'd cut himself too deep. The idea worked tremendously especially when it came to the matches finale. Austin being trapped in Bret Hart's sharpshooter, in a pool of his own blood and face completely crimson masked is one of the greatest flashback moments in WWE history. Bret Hart recently stated that he was willing to put his career on the line if the blade job went wrong and if he would have caused tremendous injury to Austin. When it was all said and done, Austin said it was one of the greatest moments in his career.

- Double Turn: The closing moments of the match we began to see what would be called a double turn. Bret Hart entered the face (good guy) and Steve Austin entered the heel (bad guy). By matches end Hart began to get booed by the fans and Austin got "Austin" chants and cheers for his "refuse to submit" attitude. Hart made the fans hate him even more by refusing to let up on Austin after the match, forcing Ken Shamrock to step in and rag doll slam Hart. This time frame was also when Bret Hart went into a "What about me?" and "I'm getting screwed" gimmick. A week leading into Wrestlemania, Bret Hart had a huge temper tantrum after getting screwed out of the WWE World Title. Hart grabbed a microphone, spat on Vince McMahon and cut a curse filled promo that would've made CM Punk blush. Many felt that this was the real moment when Hart went heel and many fans wanted to see the heel Austin destroy Hart at Wrestlemania.

- What Could've Been: Supposedly stories have stated that Vince McMahon was so happy with the way Hart vs. Austin turned out, that he had already penciled in a heel Bret Hart vs. a face Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14 for the WWE World Title, a year in advance. At Wrestlemania 14 Hart would go in as the champion and Austin would finally get the win on his arch enemy and take the WWE World Title for his first run as champion. Unfortunately, backstage politics, Bret Hart's unhappiness with the WWE's Attitude Era direction and Hart's eventual jump to WCW at the end of 1997 ended that idea. Steve Austin, as we all know still went on to Wrestlemania 14, but it was Shawn Michaels he defeated for the WWE World Title instead of Bret Hart.

So there you go, those are the stories and rumors I heard about one of the greatest matches in WWE history. Hope you enjoyed the blog, as I personally enjoyed going back down memory lane and doing research on one of my favorite Wrestlemania matches of all time. If I ever made a list of must see Wrestlemania matches, this match would definitely be in the top five.

Now go do yourself a favor and watch one of the greatest Wrestlemania matches of all time!

Thanks again for reading, you can follow me @B_Rock1978 and also please follow @TripleThreatCLE. We post about Cleveland sports, all sports in general, wrestling and entertainment news.

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