Wrestlemania 13: Heat!
March 23, 1997
Few matches in wrestling history are more important than Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin from Wrestlemania 13. It’s the match that launched Steve Austin as the top babyface in wrestling, the match that started Bret Hart’s road to leaving the WWF, the match that launched the Attitude Era, the match that helped turn the tide in the Monday Night War. It’s also one of the best wrestling matches ever.
Austin and Bret had been feuding since the fall. When it was announced that Bret was returning from a hiatus in the fall, Austin immediately began trashing him. “If you put a letter ‘s’ in front of ‘Hitman,” then you’ve got my exact opinion of Bret Hart” has always been a favorite line of mine. Bret’s return match was scheduled against Austin at Survivor Series, with Bret getting the win in a classic when he bridged into a pin to escape the Million Dollar Dream. The issue appeared to be settled. Good had triumphed over evil.
But it wasn’t over. Austin won the Royal Rumble under dubious circumstances when he re-entered the ring after the referees at ringside didn’t see Bret eliminate him. Austin threw out Bret and Undertaker and won the match, earning a championship match at Wrestlemania. Because Austin cheated, a Final Four match was scheduled for the February In Your House show. It was essentially a re-do of the final four the Royal Rumble: Austin, Bret, Vader, and Undertaker in an over-the-top rope battle royal. The winner would go to Wrestlemania.
And then real-life got involved. The original plan for Wrestlemania was probably Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels in a re-match of the prior year’s Wrestlemania main event. This time Bret would go over Shawn and turn heel. Shawn got wind of this and decided that his knee injury was too bad for him to continue to work and pulled out of the match. Shawn vacated the WWF Championship in his “Losing my smile” speech. Thus, it was announced that the WWF Championship would be awarded to the winner of the Final Four match.
Bret won the match to become a four time WWF Champion. Unfortunately, his title reign was short-lived as he was defeated by Sycho Sid the following night on Raw after Austin interfered. It was then announced that Bret would face Austin in an “I Quit” Match at Wrestlemania 13. But first, Bret got his mandatory re-match against Sid. In this case, Austin actually tried helped Bret win so that he could get a title shot at Wrestlemania. But Undertaker, who was scheduled to face Sid at Wrestlemania, interfered on Sid’s behalf and helped him win. Thus, Bret had been screwed again. And his frustration all came out in the post-match interview:
So we go into this match with Bret as a babyface who people are getting sick of and Austin as a heel who people are starting to like. And on this night in Chicago they would fight to settle their score.
Jim Ross, Vince McMahon, and Jerry Lawler are our hosts for the evening.
Four-Way Tag Team Match: The Godwinns vs. The Headbangers vs. The New Blackjacks vs. Doug Furnas and Phil LaFon
Winners will be the #1 contenders for the tag titles. The crowd has no interest in any of these teams and it’s hard to blame them. The first elimination comes when Bradshaw shoves the referee on the floor during a brawl with Furnas and LaFon. And it turns out Furnas and LaFon were counted out, so we’re quickly down to Headbangers and Godwinns. The Headbangers pull off a few nice highflying moves, but this one stays pretty dull. Jerry Lawler tries to make a joke about Vince not being in touch with pop culture by reference Fleetwood Mac. Pot calling the kettle black there. Mosh hits The Stage Dive, a top rope Seated Senton, for the win.
Rating: ¾*. That was boring.
Intercontinental Championship: Rocky Maivia (c) vs. The Sultan
The Sultan is Rikishi in one of his many failed gimmicks. He has Bob Backlund and Iron Sheik in his corner. Honky Tonk Man is on commentary. Two guys with 80s gimmicks and three guys from the 80s at ringside. That pretty much sums up this show. I think they were still doing that angle where Honky was looking for the next great IC Champion to manage. I believe it turned out to be Billy Gunn, which lasted all of a few weeks.
This was not good. Rock was still super green, so he needed somebody good to work with. Rikishi really wasn’t that guy. Rock’s matches at this point all followed the same pattern where he would get his ass kicked the entire match until making a sudden comeback at the end. That’s exactly what happens here, as Rock kicks out of a Piledriver and got the pin with a Schoolboy.
Rating *. Lame match.
Rock gets beat down post-match, leading his dad to jump the railing and help him out. Because every new cool babyface needs help from his dad.
Todd Pettingill interviews Ken Shamrock, who was never much of a talker and definitely wasn’t at this point. He will be the referee for the Hart/Austin match.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Goldust
Goldust kicks Triple H’s ass for the first five minutes. HHH cuts him off with that Knee Facebuster move that I’ve never heard a name for, but Goldust responds with a Powerslam. Goldust goes to the top, but gets cut off and thrown from the top rope to the floor. Next few minutes are Triple H working over Goldust’s back. Goldust’s comebacks keep ending in double knockdowns. Goldust sets up for the Curtain Call but gets distracted by Chyna going after Marlena. That allows Triple H to hit a Pedigree for the win.
Rating: **¾. Enjoyed that match. These two guys were total pros and worked pretty well together.
World Tag Team Championship: British Bulldog and Owen Hart (c) vs. Vader and Mankind
All four guys are heels, but that doesn’t really hurt the match as the crowd is behind Vader and Mankind. This isn’t a bad match, but it does end up dragging a little bit over the course of 16 minutes. Bulldog Suplexes Vader and Powerslams him, both of which are pretty impressive. Mankind gets the Mandible Claw on Bulldog and appears to be on his way to victory, but they spill outside where they are both counted out.
Rating: **½. Some good action, but ended up dragging.
I Quit Match: Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart
There are definitely some cheers for Austin during his entrance. They got at it right off the opening bell, just pummeling each other. The fight spills out on the floor and Austin hits the ring post harder than I’ve ever seen anyone hit. Austin dumps Bret on the railing and then they brawl into the crowd. After several minutes they’re back at ringside and Bret hits Austin with a Diving Elbow off the guardrail. And then Austin throws Bret into the steps ridiculously hard. Austin posts Bret again and they go back to the ring. Bret hits a Swinging Neckbreaker and a Diving Elbow. Now Bret goes to work on Austin’s knee. That continues for a few minutes until Austin hits a Stunner out of nowhere!
Bret goes right back after Austin’s knee. He locks on the Figure Four around the ring post, a move I’ve always loved. Bret brings the ring bell and a chair into the ring. Bret goes to Pillmanize Austin, but gets smacked with the chair instead. And the crowd cheers! Austin tunes Bret up, mostly focusing on Bret’s back. Diving Elbow by Austin lands. Russian Leg Sweep by Austin, then some kind of Arm Bar/neck hold. Boston Crab by Austin and the crowd roars. Bret makes the ropes and Austin breaks. Austin tries for the Sharpshooter, but Bret goes to the eyes. They go back to the floor and Bret sends Austin into the guardrail. Austin is busted open. Blading was definitely not allowed at this time, but Bret and Austin figured it was better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.
Bret’s just destroying Austin now. Backbreaker, then the Diving Elbow. Bret gets the chair and beats Austin’s knee with it. Bret goes for the Sharpshooter, but Austin rakes his eyes. Austin just kicks Bret in the balls. Bret takes his signature sternum-first turnbuckle bump and Austin stomps a mud hole. Superplex by Austin. Austin looks woozy from blood loss and can’t quite follow up. Austin gets an extension cord and chokes Bret on the apron, but Bret gets hold of the ring bell and clocks him with it!
That bell had been sitting there for ten minutes, you just knew it was going to get used eventually. Bret goes to the Sharpshooter and locks it on! Austin’s in the middle of the ring. He fights and fights, but Bret keeps pulling him back. We get the famous camera shot of Austin’s bloody face screaming in pain. Finally, Austin passes out and Shamrock stops the match.
Rating: *****. One of the best wrestling matches ever. Just incredible physicality, intensity, and storytelling. Hard to think of anyone ever being put over stronger in a loss than Austin was here. In one match, they established Austin as their top babyface and Bret as their top heel. The story was so perfect: Bret’s frustrations all boiling over, him losing it and ultimately becoming the monster he was trying to fight. Austin, gutsiest SOB on the planet, refused to quit. And ultimately he passed out rather than quit. Awesome, awesome match.
Bret goes to take liberties with Austin, but Shamrock takes him down. Bret teases going at it with Shamrock, and walks away instead. That’s perfect too, as Shamrock looks like a badass and Bret looks like a pussy. Austin walks out under his own power, mostly to cheers.
Chicago Street Fight: The Nation of Domination vs. Ahmed Johnson and The Legion of Doom
This one was bowling shoe ugly, mostly in a good way. Pure brawl here. And for once, it’s a no disqualification tag match where they don’t both to tag in and out. Officially, the competitors for the Nation were Faarooq, Crush, and Savio Vega, but D’Lo, Clarence Mason, Wolfie D, and J.C. Ice all get involved too. Ahmed pulled off an impressive dive over the guardrail onto Faarooq. Faarooq tried to Piledrive Hawk through the announce table, but ended up just sort of falling off. Road Warriors hit the Doomsday Device on Crush, but instead of pinning him they picked him up for a weak looking shot with a 2×4 and then pinned him.
Rating: **½. It was alright. Dragged on longer than it probably needed to and a lot of the weapons shots looked pretty weak.
WWF Championship: Sycho Sid (c) vs. Undertaker
Ever wanted to see a 20 minute Sid match? No? Apparently you’re smarter than the bookers. This match drags on and on. At one point Sid locks on a Bearhug and I swear it lasted for half an hour. The only good thing that came from this is the urban legend that Sid shit his pants during the match and Taker still was enough of a pro to hit him with a Tombstone to win.
Rating: ½*. Abysmal main event, worst ever in the history of Wrestlemania.
Overall: Pretty crappy show. The Austin/Bret match is an all-time classic, and a few other matches were decent. But the main event was pure garbage, and so were half the other matches. This show feels super dated. The gimmicks, the set, it all just feels straight out of 1987 instead of 1997. The difference between this show and Wrestlemania 14 the next year is staggering.