Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #2 Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Submission Match, WWE Wrestlemania 13)

(Here’s the link for the match on the WWE Network: )

#3 on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List set the standard for in-ring work during the late 80s period of the WWE. #2 set off something far more important: it at once gave rise to the mighty Stone Cold Steve Austin and thus the Attitude Era (and a boom period for the WWE). However, #3 hasn’t aged well (click here for my review). #2 has a timeless aspect to it. Like Randy Savage and Ricky Steamboat did at WrestleMania III, ten years later Stone Cold and Bret Hart stole the show in a mid-card bout. In surely one of the best submission matches in the history of wrestling (not just the WWE), Stone Cold and Bret Hart put on a match for the ages.

At Survivor Series 1996, Bret Hart barely defeated Stone Cold in a brilliant match (it deserves to be on the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches…List). They clashed again during the titular match at Royal Rumble 1997, where Hart ostensibly eliminated Austin but the referees were distracted and didn’t see it. Austin snuck back in and eliminated Hart. Austin continued to be a thorn in Hart’s side. Hart was originally planned to fight Shawn Michaels in a rematch from WrestleMania XII for the WWF Championship. But HBK suffered a “knee injury” (I put it in quote marks as many believe Michaels faked the injury so he wouldn’t have to drop the title back to Hart). Sycho Sid ended up with the WWF Championship, and Hart ended up in a Submission match against Austin at WrestleMania XIII. Bret Hart left for a few months, but when he came back, Stone Cold wanted a rematch.

During this period, things were changing, Hart, the ostensible face, became more heelish in his actions. He justifiably felt screwed over by the company he had served loyally for so long. Austin, the ostensible babyface, was beginning to get cheered for his heelish actions, which mainly including attacking Hart from behind. Austin did what he wanted, when he wanted to do it, and the crowd loved it. They wanted an anti-hero to cheer, rather than a bland patriotic babyface. This match saw the greatest double turn in wrestling history: after the match, Hart became the true heel, and Austin became the true babyface (even after giving a referee a Stunner).

It’s a match that packs so much in yet never feels cluttered. It logically progresses from an initial brawl, to Hart working on Austin’s leg, to Austin stealing Hart’s moves, to a violent and bloody finale. There’s a clarity and depth to storytelling that you see very rarely in the WWF. For example, Hart traps Austin’s ankle in a steel chair in an attempt to jump off the ropes and stomp on the steel chair. It’s seems like a heel move, but it’s actually what Austin did to Brian Pillman during their feud in 1996. Like I mentioned, Austin copies Hart’s series of moves that set up the Sharpshooter (you know, the Side Russian Leg Sweep, the Backbreaker, the second rope elbow drop). Vince McMahon, although selling very well most of the match, allows this psychology to go over his head.

Austin does work on Hart’s back for a bit (even executing a Boston Crab), but his main aim seems to be to batter Hart into submission. He attempts two submissions for the whole match, relying on Hart giving in due to sheer exhaustion instead. Oh, he does strangle Hart with a microphone cord aswell. Hart, however, works over Austin’s bad knee, including an figure four leg lock wrapped around the ring post (which Austin sells like Hart’s trying to saw his leg off!). Things take a more violent turn with the arrival of the steel chair, and Austin’s later horrendous temple gash (which bleeds non-stop).

Before his neck injury, Austin was a great technical wrestler.

You can feel the hatred burning in both competitors right from the ring bell, as Austin doesn’t even wait to start brawling with Hart. Like any great Attitude Era bout, the fight ends up in the crowd and comes back into the ring area with a harsh thud. Not only is it two bitter enemies fighting, but a veteran fighting a relative newcomer. The veteran controls much of the match, but the newcomer through sheer grit and determination fights back. Hart’s fighting for the WWF that he remembers, the one where good guys and villains were easily distinguishable. Austin is simply fighting for himself, fighting merely for the sake of it. However, he also looks like a tough son of a bitch, fighting through the pain of a knee injury and, later on, losing lots of blood due to a head wound.

You’ll have seen one iconic image from this bout if you watch modern day WWE, but it’s will be in black and white: Austin bleeding profuselfy, blood dripping down his face into his eyes and mouth, whilst being locked in the Sharpshooter. That image is really the icing on the cake. That tells the story of the match in one shot, really. Austin will never give up, no matter how much pain he’s in. It didn’t matter who won the bout: Austin won in the bigger picture. This, more than his King of the Ring victory or his disputed Royal Rumble 1997 victory, solidified his ascent to the top of the WWE game.

And he did it in one of the greatest matches in WWE history. Yes, it deserves to be #2 on the WWE Network’s  100 Best Matches…List. Firstly, it’s the match that paved the path for Austin’s meteoric rise to the top of WWE, and the WWE’s boom period of the late 90s. He would turn the tide against WCW. Secondly, it’s a great match in its own right, irrespective of what it would create. You rarely see a match where the psychology, story, in-ring work, and characters mesh so perfectly. There’s brawling, technical wrestling, blood, steel chairs and an iconic image. It’s packs all of this and more into a stunning bout (but also, I recommend watching Stone Cold vs Bret Hart from Survivor Series 1996).

VERDICT: 10/10. Austin and Hart put on a stunning match for the ages. It’s not only one of the best WrestleMania matches of all time, but one of the best matches of all time (in any wrestling promotion).

Does this match belong in the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die? Leave your comments below!

Click here for my review of #3 Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat (WWE Intercontinental Title, WWE Wrestlemania III)

Click here to view my list of reviews of the WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die

2 thoughts on “Review: WWE Network’s 100 Best Matches To See Before You Die: #2 Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (Submission Match, WWE Wrestlemania 13)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.