Wrestling Flashback: Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin

Survivor Series 11/17/96
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York

“If you liked Tyson vs. Holyfield, your gonna love this” Jim Ross

The quote by Jim Ross helped set the tone for the Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin encounter as they engaged in an intense stare down, followed by a pair of middle fingers by Austin before the opening bell. Everyone remembers their match at Wrestlemania 13. The Survivor Series bout gets lost in the shuffle when talking about the great matches of this business. The story leading up to and during the match was simple and effective.

This was Bret Hart’s first match since losing to Shawn Michaels six months earlier. There was much speculation that Hart might sign with World Championship Wrestling. Hart decided to come back to the Federation because he wanted to prove he was still the best. Steve Austin was tired of waiting for his turn to become a star and decided to take it by beating the Hitman in his big return.

“If you put the letter ‘S’ in front of Hitman, you have my exact opinion of Bret Hart” Stone Cold Steve Austin

While Bret was consistently in the main event, this was Austin’s first time at center stage. Most times, the brash upstart might under perform due to being to caught up in the moment. Austin not only went move for move with the Hitman, he also showed no sign of being star struck. The finish came when Hart used the same reversal he used on Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania 8 to pin Steve Austin. While the promotion billed this as Bret’s big return, which suggests “tune up match” Bret did not see it that way and acknowledged this by calling Austin “The best wrestler in the World Wrestling Federation today.”

This was a great example of how a match should be put together. The match starts off slow and builds to a great in ring story where moves are not wasted and everything was done for a reason. In the end, Bret Hart got another victory in a high profile match, but, Steve Austin showed everyone that he was main event player thus planting the seeds for the Austin era.

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