Wrestlemania 13: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs Bret "The Hitman" Hart (Submission Match)
As promised last weekend, I'm bringing you the second part in the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin in his first big rivalry against no less an opponent than Bret "Hitman" Hart himself. How's that for some excellence of execution?
All company politics aside, Bret Hart has acheived, in my eye, a level of perfectionism that few others in the industry can lay claim to (Dean Malenko and Sting being the few exceptions that come to mind though I'm sure there are others). Whether he was a heel or a babyface, its hard not to appreciate his technical precision and trademark bravo swagger. Hart also had some of the most memorable rivalries that I can remember watching against the likes of Shawn Michaels and even his own brother Owen Hart.
This particular rivalry with Steve Austin (which takes place shortly before the infamous Montreal Screwjob), began shortly after Austin's King of the Ring victory against Jake the Snake and dealt with Hart's indecision to renew his contract with the WWF or defect to the WCW. Hart did eventually decide to stay after a brief hiatus and the two first met at Survior Series (1996) marked his return.
The pair continued their rivalry well into the following year, really climaxing with tonight's Main Event at Wrestlemania 13 in which Hart and Austin fought in a Submission Match. It stands as a brutal bout between the two contenders and remains one of their individually best fights ever, even gaining a 5-star rating from the editor of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer. The match is also marred, however, for being the start of a series of misfortunes between Hart and then-Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels. The events that followed include Hart turning Heel, forming a new Hart Foundation, and renouncing his American fans before his consequential WCW contract signing which ignited the flame for a shameful "screwjob" by a wary Vince McMahon at 1997s Survivor Series that caused Hart to lose the WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels despite previous arrangements.
Despite these setbacks and some bad blood, Hart would eventually come full circle and return to the