What is your favorite wrestling match? This is the single hardest question for any enthusiast of the squared circle to answer. There have been so many legendary nights over the years that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one.
Over the next ten weeks I’m going to write about my ten favorite wrestling matches of all-time. The listings will be in no particular order as I’ve given up on trying to rank every match in specific fashion. Now I just enjoy them as fun collection.
Bret “Hitman” Hart Stone Cold Steve Austin: Survivor Series 1996
“If you liked Tyson vs. Holyfield, you’re gonna love this” Jim Ross
Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin from WrestleMania 13 is widely regarded as one of the greatest matches of all-time. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word, however, its predecessor often gets lost in the shuffle when discussing classics of the squared circle.
Austin challenged the “Hitman” to a match at the 1996 Survivor Series, which was Hart’s first in ring appearance since losing the WWF title to Shawn Michaels. Hart wanted to prove he was still the best. Steve Austin, however, wanted to make a name for himself by spoiling the big return.
The bell rang as the two engaged in an intense stare down, followed by a pair of middle fingers from Austin. Many assumed that Austin would be just another foe that Hart would conquer with tenacity and technical brilliance.
Steve Austin didn’t just give Bret Hart a run for his money, he ran even with Hart, every step of the way. The crowd in Madison Square Garden was in awe of this new perspective being unveiled in front of their eyes. With Austin, the customary false bravado followed by cowardly tactics was refreshingly absent.
The stakes increased once Hart realized this wasn’t just another braggart he was locking horns with. Hart ditched the mat wizardry and traded fisticuffs with the “Texas Rattlesnake.” In the closing moments of the match, Austin applied the Cobra Clutch, Hart kicked off the turnbuckle and fell backwards onto Austin for the pin.
Growing up, I was the typical fan who cheered the babyface and booed the heel, and yet, I gained a new-found respect for Steve Austin. That was the point of this match and it was executed to perfection. Hart got the big win while Austin showed everyone he was a main event player.
This is a great example of how a match should be put together. A slow burn that crescendos to a boiling point of combative drama inside the ropes. Steve Austin and Bret Hart exuding the sheer will to win anchored a great story where everything happened for a reason.