Bret Hart has a body of fitting of any wrestling Hall Of Fame on the planet, now the two-time WWE Hall Of Famer has named what is possibly his favourite match as well as the best year of his long and illustrious career.
Hart began his wrestling career in his native Canada wrestling for his father Stu’s promotion, Stampede Wrestling. After that promotion was bought by Vince McMahon in the mid-80s, Hart joined brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith, Dynamite Kid and Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart in the World Wrestling Federation.
Bret Hart found tag team success with The Anvil before capturing his first Intercontinental Title at SummerSlam 1991 against the man Harts says he could have wrestled forever, Mr. Perfect. A first WWF Title followed for The Hitman in 1992 as he would go on to hold that title five times and headline several WrestleManias throughout the nineties.
Now in an appearance on Rasslin’ with Brandon F. Walker, Hart has gone into detail about what he says could be his “all-time greatest match,” his Submission Match with Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13.
According to Hart, he was skeptical about the match because of the limitations put on it as a submission and also said he fully expected to be facing Shawn Michaels in a repeat of their WrestleMania 12 main event from the year before.
Bret Hart explained:
“Me and Steve had worked a few times. We had worked at Survivor Series not that long before that, it was a great match. And it’s often overlooked by people, with how good it was. But when we got thrown together [at WrestleMania], it wasn’t the match I was expecting. I was expecting to wrestle Shawn for the title. And I loved the idea of working with Steve, but I didn’t like the idea of working with him so quickly right after Survivor Series. This was, like, four months later. And the limitations of the I Quit match only made it harder.”
“I remember Steve saying, ‘I’m not a submission guy, I don’t have a lot of submission holds’ And I’m kind of going, ‘Well I’ve got the Sharpshooter, I can put the Figure-four on, there’s the sleeper hold.’ There’s a certain resumé of holds you can sort of go to [during the match]. But I was a technical wrestler and I could go for a lot of different holds. But when you take the pinfalls out of the match, it makes it harder to tell a good story because you don’t have those false finishes. I wasn’t very excited about the match.
Hart says he felt the match had been thrown together by the company however his admiration for his opponent and the chemistry he had with Austin helped the two men pull off a classic encounter.
“If anything, I was a little bit frustrated that it had been thrown together so ad hoc within a few weeks of WrestleMania. [They said], ‘It’s you and Steve again in an I Quit match.’ [I was] like, ‘Really? An I Quit match?’ I always hated the concept of an I Quit match. Like I said, you take out all the pinfalls, and the pinfalls are what make a match exciting. I wasn’t very excited about working with Steve [in that kind of match], and I don’t know that Steve felt any different, either.”
“The fact is I had a lot of respect for Steve. I loved working with Steve, and he was one of my favorite guys to work with at that time. And I knew I could really trust Steve to work with me side-by-side and build this match together. I knew we had great chemistry, and we really pieced a sort of rough sketch of how we thought the match should go. And it was like magic.”
Bret Hart then added that out of all his classic bouts over the years, the WrestleMania 13 clash with Austin might just stand above all others:
“It stands to me as, maybe, my all-time greatest match. Because of the restrictions of having an I Quit match. We told such a good story. When I watch that match back today, and I know Steve will often watch it back and we’ll talk to each other, there’s not one move that is out of place. Everything in the match builds to the next thing, to the next thing, to the next thing, it’s such an interesting climb to the climax at the end. It’s such a great story-telling experience. I don’t know if I’ve seen a match, ever, that duplicates that story-telling.”
Later in the discussion, Hart was asked when he felt he was at the peak of his powers during his career. The Best There Is, The Best There Was, And The Best There Ever Will Be admitted that he’d perhaps never been better than in 1997.
“I would have to say . I think when I look back on that period, I was trying so hard to deliver the great matches that I sort of had a reputation for. A lot of people throw around the term ‘classic’ . . . It’s only a classic if someone remembers it. . . You look back on matches in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the term classic isn’t thrown around so much. Whereas in 1997, I’d had a history of delivering these classic matches. You know, Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect [Curt Hennig], and different ones, classics. I think I was in my peak in ’97, artistically, emotionally, physically, I was at the best of my game. And when I think of when I wrestled Steve, [and putting together the match], it was like, ‘I know exactly how the match should go, this is what we need to do.’ And me laying out a story for the match is basically what we did.”
“It [was] the same with The Undertaker at SummerSlam, the In Your House pay-per-view in Calgary, the Stampede show with Brian Pillman, Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith, and everybody. It was one after another. I feel like they were all home runs. Even wrestling Vader and The Patriot, different guys that I worked with. They were great matches, great performances, great tension in the ring.”
Of course, as wrestling fans know only too well Bret Hart and his 1997 came to a sudden stop at the Survivor Series in Montreal. The infamous Montreal Screwjob with Shawn Michaels is a match that Hart says he intended to be the best of Michaels’ career.
“Even, unfortunately, the Screwjob match was on par to be an absolute classic. It would’ve been one of the greatest matches Shawn and I ever had. We fought ten or fifteen minutes on the floor before we even got into the ring. Then we went into the ring and gave about ten minutes, of what was going to be a thirty-five-minute match, that was going to blow people away. I wanted to have the greatest match that Shawn ever had, that night. I look back to that time period and that’s what I was trying to do. And I believe at no time in my career was I telling better stories than at that time.”
Credit: Rasslin’ with Brandon F. Walker