Over a year ago, I convinced my wife to finally sit down and watch some wrestling–she hadn’t been a fan and never watched a single show. I was able to get her into the product by introducing her to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Trying not to go too far back into 1996, but still allow her to witness the whole Austin/Bret feud, we started off with the 1996 Survivor Series where the returning Bret Hart picked up the victory.
The infamous “Montreal Screw Job” would take place just a year later, signaling the end of Bret Hart’s WWF career and in reliving all of these moments, I started to reexamine the feud between the two. There’s no doubt that Stone Cold Steve Austin’s feud with Bret Hart helped get him over with the audience, but did Bret really put him over?
In looking back at the entire feud, there was never an instance in which Steve Austin pinned Bret Hart clean–they never had the big culmination to their feud. Their first match–at the 1996 Survivor Series–saw the crafty veteran and then babyface, Bret Hart defeat the loudmouth Austin by reversing a submission into a pin, setting up their rematch at WrestleMania 13 that also saw Bret win with Austin infamously passing out due to blood loss.
The only victory that Steve Austin earned over Bret Hart came at the April 1997 In Your House event when he became the #1 contender for the WWF Title by disqualification. Austin never had another singles match on television with Bret Hart and thus never had the chance to earn a legitimate victory over the Hitman.
>Stone Cold had another shot at Bret Hart at the Canadian Stampede in July 1997 in a 10-man Tag Team Match and in a Flag Match on Raw later that month, but being that these matches took place in Canada, Bret and the Hart Foundation had to come out on top.
Bret Hart became the WWF Champion at SummerSlam 1997 and Stone Cold suffered a broken neck enroute to becoming Intercontinental Champion, signaling the end of their feud. Just 3 months later, Bret Hart would leave the company, being “screwed” out of the WWF Title after refusing to lose in Canada. Steve Austin wouldn’t win his first WWF Title until WrestleMania 14.
Who knows if Bret Hart decided to stay with the WWF if he would eventually drop the title to Steve Austin, but with how the feud had played out through all of 1997 and how his exit from the WWF came about, it is likely that Bret Hart wouldn’t have put him over–especially if it was in Canada.
Bret Hart is undoubtedly one of the best performers in the history of wrestling, there have been many accounts from his co-workers that he took his character too serious and was almost a mark for himself. I wouldn’t doubt that this has clouded his judgment in the past as it did in Montreal on November 9, 1997.