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John C.



I Quit Match - Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin

Thanks to my buddy DRQ for making the best banner I have ever had. Nice blade jobs, eh?

Welcome to the third installment of my look at wrestling's greatest matches. Because WrestleMania is only a few days I thought this would be a good time to look at not only WrestleMania's greatest match ever but the WWF's greatest match of all-time as well. Without further Apu, here she blows...

Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin @ WrestleMania 13 - March 23, 1997
The feud started in 1996 after Austin had won the King of the Ring and Bret had left the WWF after losing the WWF title to Michaels at WM12 so he could ponder his future. Throughout the summer of '96, Austin would come on TV and say that Bret was afraid to wrestle him in order to coax him into returning. Bret came back and his first match back was a memorable one (an epic five-star match worthy of a column in the future) in which he defeated Austin at Survivor Series '96. At Royal Rumble '97, Austin won in controversial fashion causing this feud to heat up even more. At the February '97 PPV "Final Four" Bret won the vacant WWF title after he defeated Austin, Vader and the Undertaker in a fatal four way match. During that match Austin, who was supposed to WIN the title, injured his knee legitimately so they re-booked the finish and Bret had the title but it only lasted for one night. Bret lost the title on Raw to Sid after Austin interfered to set up this match for the world title. In the weeks leading up to WrestleMania, the babyface pops for Austin began to increase even though he was acting like a traditional a heel. People were becoming tired of Bret Hart's character so from that point on the WWF made the push to turn things around. On the Raw prior to WrestleMania, Bret faced Sid in a cage match that ended up in a DQ after interference from Undertaker, Austin and Shawn Michaels prevented Bret from winning the title. After the match, Bret assaulted Vince McMahon verbally and physically saying he was screwed by the WWF again. After months of talk, after months of fighting, the Hitman and the Rattlesnake stepped into the ring for one more battle. It was not a world title match, it was not the main event but it is a match that wrestling fans will never forget.

We are in Chicago, Illinois with your hosts Vince McMahon, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. This is an "I Quit" match (or submission match) meaning that it there are no DQ's, no countouts, no pinfalls and the only way to win the match is to make your opponent submit. The special referee for this match is Ken Shamrock who signed a WWF contract about a month earlier. Steve Austin comes out to a mild pop, probably the last mild pop he has ever received. Vince tries telling us that Austin gets a big reaction but it's mild at best. Bret comes out to a slightly bigger pop that Vince says is mixed. If you really pay attention to the commentary you can figure out where this whole thing was headed.

Austin charges at Bret with a double leg takedown and they brawl out to the floor. They do the whole "I punch you, you punch me back" routine and the crowd pops for it. Bret tosses Austin into the ring post headfirst and sets him up for a suplex. Austin counters and crotches Bret over the steel guardrail (back in the days when it was still steel). Austin nails Bret with a clothesline sending him to the floor as Vince unleashes his first "fuhgeddaboutit" of the night. Austin climbs the guardrail and throws Bret into it again. Hey there's Captain Lou Albano in the crowd! Why did I just get excited for Captain Lou? Ten years from now will we consider Mideon a legend too? They brawl into the crowd going up several levels as Shamrock follows because matches like this ALWAYS end in three minutes. Yeah, sure they do. Austin goes for a piledriver in the crowd but Bret reverses it and he lands back first on the steps although we cannot see it from this angle. As they come back to ringside they throw fists instead of walking to the ring like SO MANY matches today. Bret hurls Austin over the guardrail and they are outside the ring now on the blue mats. Bret hits a forearm/fist type move off the guardrail to keep Austin down on the mat. Austin's up with the advantage and whips Bret shoulder first into the ring steps, which Bret takes like a man. Crowd likes that, I guess they can appreciate a good bump. Austin gives Bret the double middle finger (just in case Bret forgot that one plus one is two) and hits a clothesline off the ring apron. Austin picks up the ring steps, Bret kicks him in the gut but Austin whips Bret into the ring post. After about five minutes they finally roll into the ring.

Austin with some kicks, whip into the ropes and Bret hits a swinging neckbreaker. You won't see Austin taking that sort of move again with his neck in the shape it is today. Here's an ACTUAL quote from Vince: "If Bret loses this match you have to wonder what kind of excuse he will come up with." Scary isn't it? Bret with an elbow off the middle rope keeps Austin down again. Bret works on Austin's left knee; the one that was legitimately injured six weeks prior to this match but Austin was healthy at the time of the match. Bret uses several different moves (knee smash, kicks to the knee, the hamstring puller) to work over the knee but none of them are rest holds because they are, according to JR: "two finely tuned athletes who are not worried about covering their bald spots." I wonder who that was in reference to, brother. Shamrock asks Austin if he gives up but Austin shows Shammy the two middle fingers salute so that he can understand that one plus one is two. No wonder I love Austin so much, he is such a role model to the kids! Bret goes for a butt splash on the knee but Austin moves. Austin is up quickly and hits an old school Stunner (no lead in with the kick) while JR reminds us that there are no pinfalls. Both men are down for a few seconds but Bret has the advantage and kicks him in the knee a few times. He pulls Austin to the corner and puts on the FIGURE FOUR AROUND THE POST! Man, I sure miss that move. Crowd is going absolutely berserk but Austin will not give up because he is a tough bastard.

Bret rolls him in the ring and grabs the ring bell placing it on the apron. Bret grabs a chair, places it on Austin's ankle just like Austin did to Brian Pillman several months earlier. It's called "Pillmanizing" now because of that incident. Bret climbs the top rope but Austin is up with chair in hand and he absolutely drills Bret across the back with the chair to a nice pop. Bret's down, Austin drills him in the back with the chair again. Body slam followed by an irish whip into the buckle puts Bret down again. Suplex by Austin, he hits the fuck you elbow off the middle rope to a nice pop again. Kick to the groin (the astute Mr. McMahon informs us everything is legal), russian leg sweep and Austin puts him in a painful looking arm submission but Bret will not submit. Close-up of Bret's dad Stu, Lawler says: "Even Stu woke up for this." The first 90 minutes of the show was crap so I do not blame anyone for sleeping. Austin applies a Boston Crab and sits down low as Bret says "no" about a million times. Bret reaches the ropes so the hold is broken. Austin goes for a sharpshooter but Bret pokes him in the eyes. Vince says, "it could happen" to the possibility of Bret giving up to the sharpshooter leaving viewers at home to wonder about THAT statement. He could have said "November 9, 1997 in Montreal" but I guess he did not want to go into details. Austin tosses Bret outside again but Bret reverses an irish whip sending Austin headfirst into the guardrail by the announcers and timekeeper. Bret follows him in as we see that Austin has been busted open.

Bret rams Austin's head into the guardrail, as Austin's blood is everywhere, literally. To say Austin is bleeding profusely is an understatement. Bret punches Austin in the head to open the wound several times. See, if a guy loses blood he will be more likely to give up if he were put in a submission hold. That's psychology people! Austin is thrown into the ring post, the steel steps, the guardrail and everything else that could possibly open up the wound more. Austin crawls in the ring; close-up of Austin's face shows everybody the nasty blade job as the crowd goes ballistic. Definitely a bloodthirsty crowd, no wonder Rodman fit in with the Bulls. Elbow to the head by Bret; kick to the head followed up by rapid punches on the head. Bret with the backbreaker and elbow off the middle ropes keeps Austin grounded. Bret with the chair to the left knee four times as JR goes ballistic saying Bret is sadistic, evil and everything else to convince you he is a heel. However, the crowd still pops for the chair shots. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, crowd pops in anticipation but Austin rakes the eyes to the approval of the crowd. Bret with some more punches to Austin's head in the corner. Bret steps back about a foot and Austin kicks Bret in the nuts. Vince yells out: "Wow, we need kickers like that in the XFL!" Actually Vince did not say that but you KNOW he was thinking it. Vince DID say that Bret deserved a shot in the nuts though.

Austin pulls himself up as he whips Bret into turnbuckle sternum first in the bump that Bret made famous. Austin with eleven kicks to Bret's chest (now known as "stomping a mudhole" by JR), he gives Bret the finger again because he is a mathematician and kicks him one more time. The crowd popped big time for all those kicks so Austin gives Bret a superplex to an even bigger pop. Austin leaves the ring to get an extension cord as Bret heads towards the bell that he placed on the ring apron ten minutes earlier. Austin puts the extension cord around Bret's neck (to make him pass out) but Bret grabs the ring bell, amazing how it was not used earlier, and drills Austin in the head with it. JR: "Bret Hart just rang Austin's bell." The crowd pops again as Austin is motionless in the ring. Bret puts Austin in the sharpshooter and sits on it pretty good. Austin shaking his head in the "Oh hell no" manner as Shammy asks him if he submits. Close-up on Austin shows the blood dripping down his face. The crowd is on its feet the entire time popping huge while Austin tries to fight but he cannot so he slowly passes out. Wait a second! Austin feeds off the power of the Hulkmaniacs, hits the big boot and the legdrop for the win! Steve Austin has taken a step into immortality! Whoops, that was some other guy. Now back to your regularly scheduled match description. Austin in a push up position as blood drips on his teeth and in his mouth. Bret falls face first as the crowd pops and the announcers believe he has broken the hold. However, Bret still has a hold of him so he cranks on the sharpshooter again, as Austin reaches for the ropes but he fails in an attempt to break free. Austin goes for one last push but he can not find the strength so he passes out. Shamrock asks very loudly: "Steve, do you give up?" Kenny, being the genius that he is, realizes that Austin is out so he stops the match and Bret wins. Key thing to remember: Austin NEVER gave up leading to the "Toughest S.O.B." phrase that we came to know and love. Bret refuses to relinquish the hold so Shammy pulls him off. In case you were wondering, Austin was in the sharpshooter for one minute and forty-five seconds. Definitely ***** but it is not over till the fat lady sings or till the heel gets his cheap shots after the bell.

The crowd pops for Bret and he poses on the turnbuckles but realizing that he is supposed to be a heel, Bret attacks again as Austin lies in a pool of his own blood. Bret grabs the left leg and kicks it some more to some jeers from the crowd. Bret goes to apply the sharpshooter again but Shamrock gives him the belly to back flip as the crowd gives him a very nice face reaction. Shamrock wants to fight but Bret just walks away because he is a cowardly heel now. Bret looks at the crowd giving them a "you make me sick" face that leads them to boo him out of the building. Austin pulls himself up and stuns referee Mike Chioda because he tried to help him up and the crowd gives him a nice face pop for that. Austin stumbles out of the ring by himself because he on this night he is God and is allowed to do whatever he wants. He hobbles to the back as the crowd gives him a standing ovation chanting "Austin, Austin, Austin."

With that, Bret is the WWF's top heel while Austin's push to the top is set to begin. JR makes sure that we understand Austin is a face by reminding us that 20,000 people were chanting his name at the end of the match. Vince McMahon begins seeing dollar signs as a new star is born. Somewhere in Atlanta, Eric Bischoff calls Hulk Hogan on the phone to advise him on how to cover up his bald spot. You know, typical treatment for the top star of WCW. The Austin phenomenon began at King of the Ring '96 but it became legendary after this performance.

The feud picked up after the memorable WrestleMania match with a return match at the April PPV, Revenge of the 'Taker. Austin had the advantage in the match as he had Bret locked in the sharpshooter. Just as Austin was set to get the victory, Owen and Bulldog ran in to cause a DQ and give Austin the victory. The next night on Raw (April 21, 1997 to be exact), one of wrestling's best moments took place. It started with Austin delivering a classic line similar to this: "If you put an 'S' in from Hitman then you'll have my opinion of Bret Hart." Somebody get the Road Dogg so he can spell it for us. Anyway, it was a street fight that saw Austin viciously attack Hart with a steel chair crippling the Hitman. Austin used the steel chair to injure Bret's leg while the crowd popped with every chair shot. Bret was put on a stretcher and was on his way to the hospital. However, Austin had other plans. Just as Bret was being loaded onto the ambulance, Austin attacked him while he was on the stretcher. This was vintage Austin and everybody ate it up.

For the next month or so the feud picked up even though Bret was in a wheelchair. Austin had his hands full trying to deal with the other members of the Hart Foundation. Apparently WWF management felt he did enough to earn a world title shot against the Undertaker at the May PPV, Cold Day in Hell. During this match, Austin hits a Stunner but before referee Earl Hebner can count the pinfall Hart Foundation member Brian Pillman rings the bell to piss off Stone Cold. 'Taker hits the tombstone and wins the match. While the Hart Foundation members beat on 'Taker, Austin heads over to Bret in his wheelchair, steals his crutches and takes out the Hart Foundation with the help of 'Taker. After the match, Austin stuns 'Taker (both were faces) because he doesn't trust anyone and the crowd loves every minute of it. Typical Austin behavior again and the people love it.

Austin never did wrestle Hart again on a PPV in a one on one match but they did take part in a five star 10 men tag at the Canadian Stampede PPV in July. Austin had a minor feud with Brian Pillman, a rift with his tag partner Shawn Michaels and a feud with Owen Hart to keep him busy throughout the summer. Austin also had a major neck injury in August of '97 that sidelined for three months and would change his wrestling style forever. Bret won the world title at Summerslam '97 from 'Taker and went on to have feuds with The Patriot and Shawn Michaels. As you all know, Bret left the WWF after Survivor Series '97 so Austin and the Hitman did not get the chance to wrestle again on a PPV.

When all was said and done, they had three one on one PPV encounters with Bret winning two and Austin getting a DQ victory in the other one. Steve Austin never pinned Bret Hart to actually win the feud but when I look back on it I can clearly say that when all was said and done Austin came out on top. It's the perfect example to show fans that wrestling is not about winning or losing; all that really matters is getting over. Make no mistake about it; this was THE greatest feud in WWF history.

WrestleMania 13 was a below average card that featured one excellent match with several disappointments. On paper, the card did not look great but I thought the tag title match could have been better. It was a match that saw Owen & Bulldog retain the titles over Mankind & Vader after a DQ. Originally the plan was to put the straps on Mankind & Vader but Bret persuaded Vince to keep the belts on his family members just so his heel turn would work better. The Sid/Taker world title match headlined the card. It was boring as hell but it did give 'Taker another run with the world title (he deserved it) and it marked the end of Sid's run in the WWF so it is fine with me. The worst match on the card was the IC title match that saw a very green Rocky Maivia taking on the Sultan who is now known as Rikishi Phatu. The crowd was dead the entire night until the "I Quit" match and after that point they were pretty hot. Overall, a very weak WrestleMania so avoid it if at all possible. The submission match is on the "'Cause Stone Cold Said So" video so just rent that instead of the PPV. It is a good video that is in stores everywhere so look around and check this match out if you have not seen it. If I have time I will do a review of this video but don't wait for me to do that, check it out out for yourself.

The ironic thing about this whole situation is that the match that was supposed to headline WrestleMania never actually happened. Shawn Michaels won the world title back from Sid at Royal Rumble '97 but once he learned that he was supposed to drop the title to Bret Hart at WM13 he came out on Raw before the February PPV and said he "lost his smile." He told WWF bookers that he had injured his knee and could not defend the title so he sat out for about three months. Whether this was a legit injury or not is unknown but we do know he had legit heat with Bret Hart and that is why he did this. The one thing I do know is that if Shawn had dropped the strap to Bret at WM13 we never would have seen the "I Quit" match. It should also be noted that the penciled in main event for WrestleMania 14 was supposed to see Bret Hart drop the world title to Steve Austin but that never happened because of Bret's fallout with Vince McMahon. The WM14 main event was changed to Michaels vs. Austin in what turned out to be Shawn's last match in the WWF. Funny how things happen sometimes isn't it?

Note: If you want more info on the WWF in 1997 check out the Rise of the WWF columns that I wrote a while ago. You can do that by clicking HERE.

There are a lot of people out there who are probably groaning because I tend to talk about this feud and this match a lot. I admit that I go a little overboard with it but this was probably the most important match to ever take place in the WWF. In early '97 business was not good in the WWF while WCW was doing its best business ever. The WWF needed something new, they needed something to bring back their fans and it was this match that led to all of their success today. Prior to the WM13 match, fans were lukewarm in their reactions towards Steve Austin but after this match was over he had won over every type of fan there is. Bret Hart went from being the top babyface in November '96 to the WWF's top heel following this match. In recent interviews both men have said that this is the best match of their WWF careers and they are absolutely right. This match made the career of Steve Austin and revived Bret Hart's WWF career even though it ended eight months later. They are two of the best wrestlers ever and it's no wonder why they are the ones who competed in this special match. Why was it so special? Here are some reasons:

Bret Hart's Cheap Tactics - Austin came into this match with a minor knee injury that kept him out of action for several weeks. Although he was able to work the match, it was obvious that Austin was not 100% during the match, which is a credit to his determination. Working on the knee was Bret's way of transforming himself to a heel in the middle of the match. He would kick Austin's knee several times, scoff at the crowd and have a smile on his face. His altercation with Shamrock after the match was excellent because it solidified his spot as a heel while making Shamrock a big time face in the process. Bret played the role of the whining coward perfectly in this match and it showed.

Steve Austin's Blood Loss - On the banner at the top of this post is a picture of Austin's blade job from this match. As you can see, it is a very bad cut but it is one that suited this match perfectly because it helped to tell a story. The blade job was a necessity because it helped Bret become a sadistic heel while cementing Austin's place in history as a tough guy. The story is that Austin passed out because of the blood loss, not because he gave up. By not giving up Austin proved to the world that he is the "toughest S.O.B. in the WWF" even though he lost the match. One of the greatest blade jobs ever making the match that much more memorable.

The Double Turn - For those wondering, a double turn means that a heel turns face and a face turns heel usually in the blowoff match of the feud. It is not an easy thing to accomplish but the WWF really pushed the double turn it worked perfectly. Afterwards, the only thing people were talking about was Bret's cowardly act and Austin's toughness, not the fact that Bret won the match. This is a BIG reason why Austin became so popular following this match. Austin went from getting a mild reaction at the start of the match to getting the biggest pop of the night at the end of his match. It was probably the first time the entire arena was chanting "Austin, Austin" and it was a match that he lost. Completing a double turn is not an easy thing, just look at WCW's attempts at it last year.

Goldberg and Sid competed in an "I Quit" match at WCW Mayhem this past November and I remember it because I was there. Sid was supposed to lose the match by passing out so that he could look like a tough guy but after the match nobody cared about Sid, just like before. Comparing Goldberg and Sid to Hart and Austin is like comparing the Clippers to the Lakers but my point is that it is not an easy task to pull off a double turn. You cannot go out there and say "act like a face" and expect people to cheer you. Austin's face turn was not planned until the WWF realized how popular he had become after his excellent performance in the Royal Rumble. The fans are the ones that make or break a career, just ask Steve Austin and Vince McMahon if you do not believe me.

I know I may get some heat for labeling this match as the greatest WWF match to ever take place but I truly believe that it is. It will always be remembered as a great brawl that incorporated several elements to make it interesting. Telling a story in a wrestling match is difficult to do but with the use of a chair, a ring bell, a killer blade job and the greatest double turn ever helped to make this the greatest match in WWF history. If you like gimmick matches you would say other classics like Michaels vs. 'Taker or Michaels vs. Razor is the best ever. If technical wrestling is what you like then you would probably say Hart vs. Hart or Steamboat vs. Savage is the best ever but every wrestling fan is different so you are not wrong if you disagree with me. I have said it before but I will say it again, this is THE greatest match to ever take place in the history of the WWF. I am not going to say it is the greatest match ever because I am very fond of Steamboat vs. Flair at Wrestlewar '89. I also think highly of a Jushin Liger vs. Owen Hart match from Japan in '91 but the Hart/Austin match is the best in WWF history.

I will never be tired of seeing this match nor will I ever be tired of talking about it. I will never forget Bret using the figure four around the ring post. I will never forget when Austin cracked Bret in the back with a chair. I will never forget the sight of Austin's blood dripping into his mouth. I will never forget the pop Shamrock got for pulling Bret off Austin. I will never forget the standing ovation Austin received after delivering the performance of a lifetime. Everybody involved in the match deserves a standing ovation because what they gave us on March 23, 1997 was a terrific match that I will never forget.

Bottom Line: If you have not seen this match go to your local video store and check out the WrestleMania 13 or 'Cause Stone Cold Said So video cause it is definitely worth a look.

If you have any comments about this match or any match you want me to review you can do that by emailing me at and I will do my best to reply to you. Thanks to Scott Keith and his RSPW FAQ for providing me with some of the information I needed to make this column complete. I will post some of your responses in a few days so write me with your thoughts on the column. I will be back for the WrestleMania preview with DRQ on Friday so until then take care and have a great week.

Smell ya later,
John C.
Big3 Oratory

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