Bret Hart & Steve Austin | Their Rivalry Continued

After punishing Austin’s knee, the Hitman pulled him into the corner and put on the figure four around the ring post. Bret then wrapped the chair around Austin’s ankle, preparing to snap it in two like Austin did to Pillman. Unfortunately, Stone Cold got up and smacked Bret on the back with the chair. Austin attempted several submissions on Hart, but the Hitman countered every one. The WWF was definitely protecting both superstars from looking weak. Austin threw Hart to the outside of the ring. Bret Hart caught Steve Austin and rammed his head into the steel barricade during their rivalry.

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Austin was split open and gushing blood. In his book My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret Hart stated that the blood was a judgment call between him and Austin. He felt it warranted the situation and made a lasting image. Bret threw Austin back in the ring and, like a shark that smells blood attacked Stone Cold. In true heel fashion, the Hitman was slowly turning the fans.  Austin got the advantage again by a kick in the nuts.  He whipped Bret Hart sternum first into the turnbuckle.

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Photo / TheWWEHistory / WWE

The crowd was on their feet as Austin was “stomping a mudhole” in the Hitman. You had to think that both combatants were smiling because they knew they were making a classic. Austin gave Hart a superplex from the top rope, and the crowd got even louder. Finally, Austin grabbed an extension cord and proceeded to choke the Hitman. Adding to Bret’s new heel attitude, The Hitman grabbed the ring bell and struck Austin with it in the head. The rattlesnake crumbled to the mat. Bret Hart went for his signature move, the Sharpshooter. He locked Austin in the move, but Austin wouldn’t submit.

The lasting image of Austin gushing blood and refusing to submit has become a signature WrestleMania moment. The Hitman had literally tried to get blood from a stone. As Austin gave his last effort, Bret locked the Sharpshooter in more. Austin finally passed out from the pain. Ken Shamrock had no choice but to award the match to the Hitman.  To make sure that Hart’s heel turn was complete, he refused to let go of the hold. Ken Shamrock had to pull Bret Hart off of Stone Cold. . For a split second, Bret “Hitman”  Hart and Ken Shamrock had a meeting face to face. Hart, now a true heel,  backed off. The crowd started booing Bret.

As Bret walked back to the locker room, he let several fans know he felt they were number one with some sign language.  Back in the ring, referees and EMTs were attempting to assist Stone Cold back to the locker room, but Austin wanted to do it on his own. As the crowd cheered Austin, he got back to his feet.  As blood poured down his face,  he made his way out of the ring. This WrestleMania match has gone down as arguably one of the greatest of all time. Two legends gave their all and left their mark. Whether you are a Hitman fan or a Stone Cold fan was irrelevant. This match proved why these athletes are two of the best.

Hart Foundation Reunited

The next night on Monday Night Raw, Bret Hart did a promo where he talked about respect and how America no longer respects him.  He also mentioned that he will still continue to be a hero in every country besides the United States. The Hitman took this one step further by reuniting with his brother Owen and his brother in law The British Bulldog,  who were involved in their own rivalry over the European Championship. The Hart Foundation were back together. Blood truly was thicker than water. Bret Hart then directed his anger to his archrival Shawn Michaels.

Bret Hart: The Last of the Hart Foundation
Photo / Sportskeeda / WWE

He attacked HBK and put him in the figure four around the ring post, injuring Michaels’s knee.  Bret hart had officially snapped, however, arguably for the better. Next on his hit list was the new Intercontinental champion Rocky Maivia.  Not yet known as The Rock, Maivia was a squeaky clean babyface. Bret Hart definitely made him look amazing. Finally, Bret had enough and decided the intercontinental title wasn’t worth it. He trapped Rocky in the figure four around the ring post and refused to let go.  Just then, the sound of glass breaking echoed through the arena; Stone Cold Steve Austin attacked Bret Hart. The Hart Foundation ran out to save Bret.  All three foundation members mugged Austin until the Legion of Doom saved him. Stone Cold Steve Austin was still a loner, but it was apparent that the babyface locker room accepted him.

Bret Hart & Stone Cold
Retribution from a Rattlesnake

The final singles match between the Hitman and Stone Cold was scheduled for April 20th, 1997, In Your House Revenge of Taker. This was to be a one on one match to settle the bad blood between the two superstars. It was clear that during this match, Austin was the true fan favorite. Hart made it a point to be as vicious and sadistic as he could. At every opportunity, he would take out Austin’s knee. The Hitman was relentless. He even took off Austin’s knee brace. The match was a back and forth slugfest. At the finish, Austin put Hart in Hart’s own finishing move, the Sharpshooter.

At that point, the Bulldog interfered, causing a disqualification. Stone Cold Steve Austin won the match, but the war was far from over with the Hart Foundation.  On April 21, 1997, The two legends were once again in the same building, and chaos ensued. This was the night after the pay per view, and tension was reaching a boiling point.   Stone Cold Steve Austin grabbed the mic and challenged Bret Hart to a street fight. He stated that he was not leaving the ring until Bret Hart came out. The Hitman did show up, but he didn’t come alone. The Hart Foundation attacked Austin from behind.

Shawn Michaels ran through the crowd with a steel chair to run off the Harts. This left the Hitman and Stone Cold in the ring to settle their differences. Hart took Austin apart most of the time. Until Austin grabbed a chair and brutally slammed it into Bret Harts’s knee repeatedly.  To add insult to injury, the Texas Rattlesnake locked Bret Hart in the sharpshooter. As Hart was screaming in pain, Austin refused to let go.  The Hart Foundation returned and ran off Stone Cold. Bret Hart left the arena on a stretcher. He was going to need to be taken to the hospital.

Backstage, WWF President Gorilla Monsoon confronted Austin. He banned Stone Cold from the arena. However, Austin had other plans. The paramedics loaded Bret Hart into the ambulance. To the Hart Foundation’s surprise, the ambulance driver was replaced by none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin himself. Austin attacked the Hitman again. Finally, WWF officials and security were able to get rid of Austin, but the damage had been done. Bret Hart was officially out of action for 3 months due to Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Hart’s War

Even though the Hitman was injured, that did not stop the Hart Foundation from making Austin’s life a living hell.  However, Steve Austin’s career was taking off. On May 11, 1997, at In Your House A Cold Day in Hell,  he received a WWF Championship match against The Undertaker.  The Hart Foundation made sure to welcome Steve Austin to his title match. Since the street fight with Austin, Bret Hart added two more members to his entourage. Jim “The Anvil” Neidhardt and Brian Pillman both became Hart Foundation members. Stone Cold Steve Austin was officially a family target.

The Harts acquired 5 front row tickets to watch Austin get buried by the Deadman. Throughout the match, Austin taunted the Hart Foundation. True to Brian Pillman’s loose cannon character, Pillman grabbed the bell from the timekeeper and rang it. This was enough to distract Austin as the Undertaker picked him up for the Tombstone. Amazingly Austin reversed it for a split second. The Phenom reversed it back for the win. After the match, the Hart Foundation attacked the Undertaker. Bret Hart was left all alone sitting in a wheelchair.

Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin | Steve austin, Stone cold steve,  Hitman hart
Photo / WWE

Austin recovered, dumped Hart over, and grabbed a crutch to save the Undertaker. The following month Stone Cold Steve Austin was signed to a match with a returning Shawn Michaels at King of the Ring. Not only was he granted the one on one match to his surprise he was also booked in a tag team championship match with Hbk against the Hart Foundation Owen Hart and The British Bulldog. It was obvious neither superstar wanted to tag together. Austin especially didn’t trust anyone. Hbk and Michaels surprisingly won the tag titles after a well-placed superkick.

This loss did not sit well with the Hart Foundation as they stormed the ring and attacked Shawn. On the other hand, Austin was leaving the arena with both belts when he saw Bret Hart. He attacked the Hitman, trying to reinjure his knee.   It was obvious that the new tag team champions did not get along. This added more interest to the match at King of the Ring 1997. On June 8, 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels met each other one-on-one for the first time. This was a highly competitive match.

Austin thrived in a don’t trust anyone type of situation. Shawn Michaels proved why he is the showstopper. This was a classic in the making. After a hard-fought, competitive match, the referee got knocked out. Shawn Michaels went for the superkick, but Austin blocked it and hit the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin went to cover Michaels, but there was no referee. Austin was angry. He picked up the ref and gave him a stunner. As Austin turned around, Michaels superkicked him. Once again, with no referee, there was no one to count.   Finally, another ref came in, but instead of making the count, went to check on the injured ref. Shawn Michaels gave this referee a superkick.

Senior Referee Earl Hebner made his way to the ring, and due to both superstar’s actions, the match was ruled a Double DQ. Austin grabbed the tag belt and attacked Hbk but was caught. It was only a matter of time before this team would lose the title. On Monday Night Raw, that did indeed happen. Austin and Michaels’s inability to work as a team cost them the Hart Foundation’s tag team championship.

Bret Hart & Steve Austin
Canadian Stampede

Bret “Hitman” Hart was now fully recovered. The war between the Hart Foundation and Austin was reaching its peak. The next pay per view was In Your House Canadian Stampede. This event was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the Hart Foundations’ hometown. The main event was The Hart Foundation challenging Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and the Legion Of Doom. Stone Cold really did not have any allies, but because the Hart Foundation was despised in the USA, there was a common bond. Austin was headed into enemy territory.

Bret Hart was looked at like a national hero. When Stone Cold walked down the ramp to the ring, he was booed out of the building. This was The Hart Foundations night. When Bret Hart and the Foundation were introduced, they received a hero’s welcome. The crowd was arguably the loudest crowd ever in the Saddledome.  Every move that Hart did to Austin was cheered. The match itself was an awesome opportunity to end not only the Hitman/Austin rivalry but also spotlight the careers of the Hart Foundation and Austin’s tag partners.

Behind the scenes of the Canadian Stampede, 20-years on from one of the  best shows ever and the final great moment of the Hart family
Photo / TheSun.Co.UK

At the finish of the match, Bret and Austin were brawling outside the ring. Hitman rolled Austin in, and Owen Hart got the surprise victory. The crowd erupted like Canada just won a war.  Even Bruce Hart and Keith Hart, who were sitting at ringside, got involved. This truly was a Hart Family reunion.  Noticeably Austin did not walk back to the locker room with his team; he went his own way.  This was officially the end of Austin’s rivalry with the Hitman. However, Stone Cold wasn’t done with the Hart Foundation. He targeted Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart. Bret “Hitman” Hart went on to win the WWF Championship by defeating The Undertaker at Summerslam 1997.

Bret Hart & Stone Cold Steve Austin
Respect

Fans might think Bret Hart and Steve Austin legitimately hated each other, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It just goes to show how great these two legends were at creating a story built on blending fiction with reality. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels truly did not get along, and that’s been documented. Hart also had friction with Vince Mcmahon in late 1997.  However, Hart and Austin had unrivaled chemistry.  As mentioned earlier in this article, Bret Hart handpicked Stone Cold Steve Austin to be his opponent at Survivor Series.

This led to the epic showdown at WrestleMania 13, where both stars put on a clinic. In 2006 Bret Hart was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin. He  stated, ‘whenever I worked with Bret Hart, I knew there was a trust, and a level of respect between us and good things just seemed to happen .” Austin further went on to say, “ Bret lives and breathes by his nickname the Excellence of execution, he truly believes that he is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, that’s what made him so good.

Recently Bret Hart was a guest on Stone Cold Steve Austins Broken Skull Sessions podcast. The Hitman stated how he wanted to bring Austin into the WWF, and he kept telling Vince McMahon to give him a shot.  He also stated that Steve Austin was one of the guys that told him leaving the WWF for WCW was a bad idea. The Hitman’s respect is evident for Stone Cold. Bret told Austin

“I had a lot of respect for your work when you came in. In my mind, I already knew eventually that I’d like to work with you. I was hoping they were going to use you right. I knew I could do great stuff with you.”

The Hitman Bret Hart /Stone Cold Steve Austin Rivalry was the catalyst for so many changes in the wrestling industry. The WWF itself began to get more realistic and adult-oriented in its programming. This rivalry ignited fans’ passion for wrestling all over the world. Two great technician athletes in their prime, giving fans everything they had. Many say without Bret Hart, there would be no Stone Cold Steve Austin. Honestly, they are probably right. Austin brought forth that anti-establishment attitude that was the basis for the attitude era.  Most importantly, this feud is why many current superstars laced up their boots for the first time. It will go down as arguably the most pivotal rivalry in the business.