Transcript of The Broken Skull Sessions With Bret Hart! This special is now available on-demand on the WWE Network.
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Description: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin gets inside the head of The Best There Is, The Best There Was and The Best There Ever Will Be. WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart gives a blow-by-blow account of The Montreal Screwjob and breaks down his classic matches with The Texas Rattlesnake in an incredibly revealing and candid interview.”
Steve Austin: Hey, everybody. My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Welcome to The Broken Skull Sessions. My guest today is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be. My guest today is the one and only, Bret The Hitman Hart. How are you, man?
Bret Hart: Good to see you, Steve. I’m really good.
Steve Austin: Good to see you.
Bret Hart: Yeah, it’s too long. Been a while.
Steve Austin: You’ve been in Hawaii from Calgary. How was your vacation?
Bret Hart: Oh, it rained almost the whole time. Hence the beautiful tan I got. But it was still better than the minus 45 below zero in Calgary.
Steve Austin: I noticed a certain glow about you. I was wondering what was up.
Bret Hart: It’s freezing cold in Calgary now and I was glad to get out of there.
Steve Austin: How have you been? You good?
Bret Hart: I’ve been really good.
Steve Austin: Two Grizzled Veterans. All the years we’ve got behind us. You’ve got more than I do. But there’s a picture of us back then, look at that. Look at that stare. Look at that intensity. Two warriors about to go to battle and that was good times. I was looking forward to you coming on the show. You know i’m one of your biggest fans. You did so much for my career. I always looked up to you because you’re about a half generation ahead of me and I was coming in right behind you. And hang on for a second. Cheers. I’ll never forget one time we was at a house show somewhere in Canada. I believe it was Canada. I think you was running a little bit late and I had already worked. I probably jerked the curtain that night or I might have been mid card. And you were the main event working with somebody. You come screeching up in a Lincoln Town Car. You had a flat tire. Do you remember this?
Bret Hart: No
Steve Austin: Yeah, so you went in and worked the show and worked the main event. While you was in there working the main event, I was out there jacking up your Lincoln Town Car. It was a rental car. Changed the tire for you. And by the time you came out from showering, you was ready to go down the road.
Bret Hart: What happened to those days?
Steve Austin: But we’ve always got along. Do you remember meeting for the first time?
Bret Hart: You know, this is a true story, too, that people don’t know. I was going to Vince all the time and trying to bring new guys in. And I remember talking about you. I think you had just signed with ECW. And I said why didn’t you guys grab Steve Austin? He was free, he was available. I said you’re looking for new guys all the time. I said he’s one of the best guys down there and they just let him go at WCW. I said I didn’t know why you didn’t grab him. I talked to Vince about it. And I remember the next week you were sitting in the dressing room.
Steve Austin: Yeah, I remember you telling me, you said I saw you coming before you did. And I want to get into this in a little bit because you were always hands-on with you career, very hands-on with your booking and your storylines. And I have done several of these broken skull sessions and we kinda go all over the place. And sometimes it’s chronological. But with you, it’s kind of like our WrestleMania 13 match, which I want to talk about. But we jumpstarted that match, you know. You came to the ring and I tackled you.
The Montreal Screw Job
Steve Austin: I’ve got some highlights for you, but I’d like to jumpstart this session with you because I remember many years ago, it was Montreal, The Montreal Screw Job. And I just want to jump right into it because, to me, it was just a pivotal moment obviously for you. It was a big moment for the entire wrestling industry. And I remember being there. I don’t remember who I worked with, I just remember watching that match over and over again before I talked with you. And it just blew me away what happened that night. And I remember I fired a call down to you a night or two later, whenever things kind of settle down because I was still in shock. Mick Foley quit. You know, the locker room was in disarray and nobody knew what the hell was going on. But I never got a chance to sit across the table from you and talk to you about your mindset, about where you were and how that went down. How did that all lined up? Why did that all happen?
Bret Hart: It was a lot of dishonesty going on back then with the company. I think Vince was not going to honor my contract that he signed with me. He was trying to find ways out of it. And told me, he goes we can’t meet your contract anymore. In fact, he was going to help me negotiate my contract with WCW. And I remember, Vince, I was pretty close with Vince and like in a fatherly kind of way. It was a period there I actually had my lawyer. I talked to my lawyer about it. He goes it’s not a good idea to do it that way. I said Vince will negotiate for me with Bischoff and work. He goes, let’s not go near that. But the real story, what happened is that it was in San Jose. It was you, me and Triple H and a bunch of guys in a triple threat match. And Shawn was the referee. And I found out that day that we were wrestling in Montreal for the Survivor Series. And Shawn came up to shake my hand, which me and Shawn had a little fisticuff a few months before that.
And he came into the dressing room to thank me for the match, which is sort of customary. We shook hands and I said, hey, Shawn, I just found out today we are wrestling in Montreal. I just want you to know i’m always going to be a professional in the ring and you don’t need to worry about like me going off the rails or doing something to you or trying to hurt your or anything like that. Because we had some friction. I have no problem putting you over, I have no problem dropping the title to you or doing anything you want. And the big problem between me and Shawn started right there. And he said, I appreciate that, but I just want you to know that i’m not willing to do the same thing for you. And then he turned around and walked out of the dressing room. I don’t know anybody that would every say that to somebody that’s offered to put them over.
And to me, I reached out with, you know, like a peace sign. So then it was the very next day, I saw Vince and I think it was Tulsa, Oklahoma for Monday Night Raw. And he tells me that they are likely going to switch the belt and all that stuff. But didn’t know whether I was going to stay in the company or leave the company. He also told me I could leave any way I wanted. And plus it was in my contract that I had creative control over the last 60 days because in WWE they tend to screw you just before you leave all the time and try to bring your value down. So I was kind of leery to that. So when Vince asked me about dropping the belt to Shawn, I said I can’t do it. I said I can’t do that for somebody that’s not willing to do the same thing for me.
Steve Austin: But was that a personal thing or you had worked yourself into a shoot? Because many years ago I refused to do a job for Brock Lesnar because it was an unadvertised match and it was no build up, no nothing. I’d be happy to do the favors for anybody. But there was no reason behind it and I said no. I got on an airplane and I went home. It was a bad way to handle business, but that’s the way I did that. I worked myself into a shoot is my point from where I was. But for man to man, was it like that? You had worked yourself into a shoot.
Bret Hart: It was more of an honor thing, like someone not having respect for me and then someone wanting me to respect him. That was the line. When I talked to Vince, I told him that night in Tulsa, he asked me about dropping the belt. I said I can’t do it and I said this is why. And I told him why. It just happened like maybe the night before or two nights before and he couldn’t believe it. He almost fell off his chair or pretended to. Then said, I want you to tell me the same story in front of Shawn. He went to go get Shawn. As it turned out, he couldn’t find Shawn. It was about two hours later we end in up Vince’s office in the building there. I remember sitting there and it’s like we’re going to ask Shawn about this together. I was waiting for Vince to lead into it. And Vince started off right away with, Shawn, we’re going to put the belt on you. And I was like, I didn’t agree to that. I stood up and said, look, i’m not agreeing to anything. I’ll wait to see what’s happening with me and you in relation to my contract.
From that point on, I didn’t see Shawn until Montreal. Basically, Vince was going to break my contract and basically encourage me to sign with WCW. I remember I called Vince even the night before I signed. I said I don’t want to go. I’m happy with the contract i’ve got. I’m not asking for more money or anything else, but I just want to know what you have in mind for me over the next year. Like where am I going? And he basically laid out to me in short form that I was going to do jobs for the next year for Shawn. I was going to lose to Shawn in every conceivable kind of match you can think of. I remember the way he laid it out to me, that’s pretty much telling me I should get the heck out of here. The writing was on the wall. Obviously i’m on the other side now, so I signed with WCW and Vince called me the next day and gave me a very friendly call, like we’re all buddy-buddy and everything. Which to me was sad because I never ever wanted to go anywhere else. I was never a trouble maker or a guy that wasn’t business.
Steve Austin: I don’t think you were either. I mean, but he was trying to trade you down for a younger horse?
Bret Hart: Yea, probably. I think what it really was, he had to pick between me and Shawn because there was so much tension between us. And I always think that was unfortunate, too, because all I wanted to do was do business. When I came back, when I had that break after the Iron Man Match, I wanted him to go like that was the best investment I ever made. He delivered me these great matches. That’s all I wanted to do, was to deliver these matches and prove to him I was worth it and earn that money he signed on for me. It bothers me when people suggest or try to pretend that I was not business or professional. I never refused to do a job my whole life for anybody.
Steve Austin: I have read that. And you felt like this time you were standing up for yourself.
Bret Hart: I think that any wrestler that has any respect for himself and his work would have done the same thing I did. And anyway, he called me up on that Sunday before the screw job and said, so we’re going to do the same thing that we were talking. Shawn is going to — he started to lay out how Shawn was going to beat me. I said, Vince, I told you, i’m putting Shawn over. I said give me Steve. I’ll drop it to anybody in the company anyway you want. I even offered to drop the belt to Shawn the next day on Monday Night Raw.
Steve Austin: But what difference would that have made?
Bret Hart: It would have just proved that he had respect for me.
Steve Austin: Okay, I gotchu. You were still backed in that corner. It was the respect thing. He dissed you and that was going to be the way it was.
Bret Hart: He wasn’t going to honor me, so I wasn’t going to honor him. Until he proved that was not what it was, I told Vince, I said Shawn has to prove to me that he has enough respect to put me over before I put him over to make this work. And that wasn’t going to happen.
Steve Austin: Fast forward. When you guys decided, okay, it wasn’t going to be a shmaz because y’all headed to the ring. Shawn goes out there and he’s cocky as hell. And then you go out there and you’re determined as hell and you’re in Montreal. And Montreal, as you say, was kind of like a second home for you. What were you thinking? Because as you go out there, I mean there’s four referees ringside, there’s one in the ring. Vince is there. Pat Patterson is there, Brisco is there. When you were going to the ring, what were you thinking?
Bret Hart: I was thinking shmaz. I wanted it to be the best match possible, even when I went out to the ring with Shawn, Shawn was quite chummy with me in the dressing room and he didn’t want any problems. He was being quite agreeable to everything. I wanted to give a really good match because Montreal was a good town. I wanted to just deliver that final match for the company. I worked with Shawn all the way through it. There was no potatoes or anything like that.
Steve Austin: No, dude, it was solid. Badass stuff.
Bret Hart: And I had seen Earl Hebner in Detroit the night before and he had just finished refereeing our match. I don’t know who I worked with. Might have worked with you for all I knew. He came up to me in the shower after. And I said, Earl, you know they are going to ask you tomorrow to screw me in the match, you know that? And he got tears in his eyes and he said I swear to god on my kids, I would never let that happen. I would never do it under — it would never happen because I would never do it. We talked about it and I remember he got very emotional. And I said all right. And to me, it was like I just hope — I remember saying that to myself that night.
I said I just hope Earl is the referee. Of course, when I got to the building, they go Earl is the referee, so like i’m safe. Pat comes up to me. I believe now that Pat was not involved in the whole scheme of it. But Pat came up to me and he said, you know, that spot with the sharpshooter where you reverse it, he goes that’s such a beautiful spot. That looks so great. He goes why don’t you do it? So I said okay. I knew in my head my mistake was letting anyone put any kind of a hold on me and trusting Earl. But they got Earl just before he walked out through the curtain and kind of got him and said you’re going to do it.
Steve Austin: They really put him between a rock and hard place.
Bret Hart: I never blamed Earl. I gave Earl a pass. If I had been in the same shoes, I would have done probably the same thing that he did.
Steve Austin: Dude, you guys are out there. The classic ironman match y’all had for 60 minutes was outstanding. But this because the stakes were so high and you go out there. When that bell rings, it turns into one of the best brawls in the history of the business.
Bret Hart: That brawl and that fighting in the beginning of the match was all planned out. So, that was all set in motion.
Steve Austin: But the punches, the sell, just the sense of urgency or the sense of not knowing what was going to happen, it was a badass match. Putting in the time. And then, all of a sudden, you get in the ring. And then everything turned south. Sharpshooter, you go over belly down. And he starts doing that classic hand signal that he uses and they start ringing the bell. And Vince is there, ring the bell and the match is over and then Shawn is the champion after taking it from you. Shawn says he wasn’t part of it. Clearly, he was. There you are. You spit the loogie right in Vince’s eye, you know. And then Brisco is escorting him out of there. He goes, get the F out of here. And they are walking, fast walking down that aisle. And then it’s like you are painting WCW up in the air because you’re going now. What are you thinking at that point?
Bret Hart: I’m thinking, you piece of shit. You know, I felt so betrayed. I really worked so hard for Vince and gave him so much. I never complained about anything. 14 years, 300 days a year and never complained about anything.
Steve Austin: The finish goes down. You spit in Vince’s eye. You are breaking monitors. You walk to the back. I think at first you are pounding on his door and he wasn’t opening it. You go in your dressing room. And there you guys are in the dressing room, it was you, Taker, Davey, Owen, Rick Rude was there. And then finally, Taker says fuck it, I’m going to find Vince and find what the fuck was going on. Because Taker was mad. He was one of the old school guys. I mean not as old school as you because you were there longer. But he was like, hey, man, I want to find out what the fuck is going on here. He brings Vince back in there and Vince is going to go in there and either takes his shot, settle the score, see what’s up. Take me through that. Because that seems like a very tough setting
Bret Hart: What I think honestly happened was that I remember Taker and a few of the different wrestlers that were in the dressing room at that time — I remember Taker kicking a big garbage can over and a lot of wrestlers breaking stuff and throwing stuff around. I came back to the dressing room. Shawn is sitting in my dressing room, which is so strange. If you ever watch that Wrestling With Shadows, I came out with my bag I open up the dressing room and Shawn is changing in my dressing room. He never changed in my dressing room before. Suddenly Shawn is in my room. I don’t know how any of that ever happened. And right away I asked Shawn, he goes I swear to god I had nothing to do with it. Shawn, I think, was scared for his life. Once something like that happens, you can only get so mad. I calmed right down. I was almost like in a jokey kind of mood now, so it’s done. There’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do is get on a plane, go home tomorrow and lick my wounds for being made a fool of in front of everybody kind of thing. I end up in the shower.
That’s when Rick Rude and Davey Boy came in and said Vince is right outside and he walks to talk to you. I remember I told Rick, just tell him to go. There’s nothing he can say to me to make it nice. The safest thing for him is to leave right now before something bad happens. Just tell him to get the hell out and leave me alone. And so then I come out of the dressing room, out of the shower into the dressing room area and Vince is right there. He’s got Sergeant Slaughter, Shane. He had about five guys sort of lined up to kind of back him up, I guess. And over against the wall is Undertaker on the far side, Shawn is in the corner crying. He was in tears the whole time. And Owen, Davey, Rick Rude and everybody were to my left down this side and I remember walking past Vince naked. I was so mad at Vince, that part of me was like I should just rush him right now naked. And I remember thinking that would look really bad in the movie someday. I remember thinking about it and it’s like nah, I’m mad but that’s not going to happen. Me jumping on Vince naked and punching him out just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. So I sat down and me and Vince exchanged different things.
He kept talking about this is the first time he ever lied to me and i’m like please stop lying to me. I believe that Vince came to that dressing room after Undertaker got him to confront me and to stand me down. Either in the sense that he thought I would just do the right thing and not punch him. Like I ought to punch you, but then I just get my stuff and walk out and make a bit of a verbal scene or something like that. So I think it was a calculated guess that he wanted to stand up to me in front of the wrestlers that were left at the building that night. There were still quite a few left. And that was a mistake because I was too mad. And I remember I told him, as soon as I get finished dressed, I said if you are still here, i’m going to knock you out. I don’t know why I said that. And I didn’t really — whoever thinks i’m going to knock somebody out. And he just stayed there talking to me. I remember when I tied my shoes laces, I one had left to tie because I wasn’t going to put a shirt on. I didn’t have a shirt on. I didn’t want anyone grabbing me. So I remember when I tied my shoe laces, I just stood up. It was like I guess we’re going to do this thing, you know. Vince and me actually walked towards each other.
And it was like we actually tied up. It’s funny how we tied up. And I had done the thing a few months before where I just remember I grabbed Vince at the table. And grabbed him the same way you do kind of in a tie up and Vince grabbed me. He had my arm in a where I I couldn’t throw any punches. He blocked me from being able to do anything and was just more kind of a jostling thing we did. And I remember, don’t fall for that. I remember thinking i’m going with an overhand right punch. But everybody, Brisco and Slaughter and all these guys are getting ready to pounce. They are going to pounce and break this thing up right away. So it’s going to be a little pull apart, me and Vince scuffling with each other and me trying to punch him and never quite get my arm over. And I thought about it for a second. I thought no, don’t go for that right hand punch, overhand punch because they are going to grab your arm. I remember dropping my arm almost to my foot. I remember thinking to myself 14 years, 300 days a year. I have given this guy everything, you know. Christmases and everything I could ever give to a man, I gave Vince. And I uncorked like Mike Tyson. It was like a beautiful uppercut punch.
Vince had the shiner the next day, but it wasn’t from an overhand punch. It was from an uppercut. I only hit Vince one time. I hit him with an uppercut, broke my right hand here, broke a bone in my hand and knocked him completely out cold. And which then I remember sitting in the dressing room like everyone is just sitting. We’re all looking. Everyone is liked stunned, including me. I’m going, I can’t believe I just knocked out Vince McMahon, I would have done anything for this guy, you know. I loved this guy like a father. He just called my bluff that day and I think that was a mistake. As soon as Vince was out cold, I remember I had kicked out the documentary crew guys and told them to get out. They had left the room. And thought, I hope they get some of this or something like this for the documentary. So I remember I stood up and picked up my knee brace and I threatened — I said get him out of here.
And Shane goes, let him get his bearings. They sat him up. He was sitting on his ass in the dressing room kind of like bubbling. He could hardly even, he was not functioning. I said get him out. They stood him up and pulled him up and he walked out the door. You know the thing about that was that Shawn, who was in the dressing room now all by himself and there’s Owen, Davey, Rick Rude and it was all my guys there and just him by himself. I remember I walked over to Shawn. He was sitting there and he was like where he had his face in his hands and his face bent over and I think he was scared for his life because the gig was up. Maybe I was going to come over and we were all going to beat him up or something. But I remember I walked over and I tapped him on the shoulder. I said, Shawn, thanks for the match. I shook his hand. And we shook hands. I remember thinking, I should have just kicked him in the face and gone for like a 50 yard field goal.
Steve Austin: You know what? The way you handled it and you took the high road to thank him for the match, to be in the swerve, you got fucked. To go over and thank for the match, that was about the manliest thing you can do. And after he didn’t want to do the favors for you, to still after you get screwed and have a handshake.
Bret Hart: I thought that was the right thing to do because he had swore that he never had anything to do with it. I remember saying, I’ll judge that by how you behave tomorrow on Raw. And, of course, he went out on Raw and buried me. And then it was like no, that momentary truce between me and Shawn was over, which was not healthy for me. I think it was a lot of baggage to carry around for a long time.
Relationship With Vince McMahon
Steve Austin: But all these years later, man, I have still held on to some of the things that I got involved in. I’m really bad about holding a grudge. Where are you and Vince now? It’s been many years — when you take as you take the business serious and you are second generation and you have been in it longer than I have, i’m kind of in that same trench with you as far as the realism and everything that goes with it. What’s your relationship with Vince now?
Bret Hart: We have a good relationship. I’m not sure. I can’t speak for him, like how it affects him whether there’s real forgiveness. I think there is. Although I’ll never probably ever get over what happened to me. As far as our relationship today, there is part of me that forgives Vince because I loved what I did for the company. I’m so proud of my career. I’m proud of my matches. I couldn’t have wished for more when I got in the business.
Steve Austin: You know, before the screw job happened, you were the first guy to every lay hands on Vince McMahon. I’ll never forget the promo and it came out of the blue. I was in the back, I didn’t know what was going on. And you were out there just raising a ruckus. Frustrated isn’t the god damn word for it. That whole promo, when you pushed him on his ass in the ring and that altercation between you and Vince, when you got physical with him, everybody in that god damn dressing room knows i’m the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be, it was a shoot. Did you realize at that time or do you realize now you were basically the guy that was creating the Mr. McMahon character?
Bret Hart: No, I didn’t realize it at the time. It was such a crazy time. It’s funny, you talk about all that swearing. The truth is, they told me to — Pat was there and they came in and said, say whatever you want. I remember they said, you just go off. Don’t worry because we’re going to bleep it on the TV. It will only be for the house show. The people in the building heard me swearing and all that stuff. Saying that stuff was not acceptable even then. I hope they are bleeping this. I threw it all out there. They were going, what were you doing? You were live and all that. You guys told me to do that. They were kind of like, okay, we did. It’s not your fault. That’s why I never got in the trouble for that. I didn’t realize any more than anyone else that I was building Vince to become Mr. McMahon.
Going To WCW
Steve Austin: I didn’t either. In essence, you were kind of setting the table for Stone Cold versus. Mr. McMahon. And, you know, you would go off to WCW. The Monday Night Wars would ensue. And they didn’t know what the hell to do with you. And yeah, it was money. But you’re a worker’s worker. And you belong on top of the card and in the mix, but they weren’t ready for you.
Bret Hart: You know who told me that before I ever went? You. I remember you talking to me and you said they didn’t know what the hell they are doing down there. Guys that had been there including Kevin Nash and different guys that had been there before said don’t ever go there. They are the dumbest idiots in the world. I kind of knew that before I went. But I mean they really proved that to me that they were the stupidest people that could ever run a wrestling business. There was so much talent that I could have worked with, Booker T, Hogan. I should have worked with Hogan right away. I should have had Hulk Hogan in a Sharpshooter and done some big numbers with him and then it was red hot. I went into WCW. I had more heat. I had wrestled you at WrestleMania 13. I had beat Undertaker at SummerSlam. I knocked Vince out. I didn’t really lose to Shawn. I had so much heat. And they just didn’t know what the hell to do with me. Eric Bischoff didn’t know shit.
Steve Austin: If you look back in the WCW days to tie it all up, I mean disappointing? Something to do? Opportunity squandered?
Bret Hart: The opportunity was squandered. Same thing I could hear your voice in my head and different wrestlers that had been there, all the wrestlers saying it’s the most screwed up and disorganized and it’s chaos. They didn’t know anything. I never had a plan. I never ever knew. Sometimes they would fly me all the way in. I’d sit in the dressing room all day. At 5:00, they’d go you’re off. I said you flew me down here first class. I rented a Lincoln Continental and staying at a first class hotel for nothing. It would count as a day. It got where it was hard to care.
I remember having a conversation with Goldust, I think he had left Vince and gone to WCW. He talked about how much he loved the business. I was so sour after (the screw job) I was like what’s to love anymore? Just go out there and take your money and sit in the dressing room. It’s not what it used to be. I admired him. He almost got a little teary. He said I still love this business and I want to go out there and deliver every night. That’s how I used to be. But WCW can kill any spirit that you’ve got.
The Bret Hart Character
Steve Austin: When you say that, that’s tough. You’re a guy that paid his dues and learned the art form of the business. When I think about, you know, Stone Cold Steve Austin, I think, okay, hell raiser, BMF, don’t trust anybody. When you think about who and what Bret The Hitman Hart was, describe the character to me.
Bret Hart: Well, I was really the hitman from the time I was 4 years old.
Steve Austin: How so?
Bret Hart: In my life waking up, everything was wrestling. Had wrestlers down in the basement working out, wrestlers drinking beer and wrestling on the mats. Big guys, you know, sparring and friendly kind of shoot wrestling. And everything, all my brothers were into wrestling. I remember I can became a big fan of wrestling from the time I was about 5 years old. I studied wrestling without really realizing like this is what i’m going to do someday for a living. But I studied wrestling. And it was like now I know why that guy is good and why that guy is not very good. I had grasp of the business and I think from the earliest that you can have.
Steve Austin: As a babyface, what made people love the hitman? Or as a heel, what made people hate or despise the hitman?
Bret Hart: I think what they liked about me was that — I think I was just the right formula at the right time. Like I was such a contrast between me and Hulk Hogan. Hulk was the 6’6, you know, whatever he is. He can do a bear hug and a bodyslam, clothesline, and a leg drop. That was about it. I was always the guy that, I loved to tell stories. Even in Stampede Wrestling, I was working with Dynamite Kid and different guys and told great stories that came across as real. Like I remember a lot of situations and wrestling matches that people thought — like I can remember Adrian Street was a wrestler working for my dad in those days. He came up to me after I had a ladder match with Dynamite Kid. He said that is the greatest match I have ever seen in my life and I’ve watched wrestling for years. He loved that much. But I always brought out these very dramatic, I would say beautiful endings to my matches. I always had a believable style of wrestling. I think the way I worked made people believe that maybe there’s something real in some of these matches. Like it wasn’t all planned out.
Steve Austin: I like that. To me, you exemplified grit and determination and realism. And you could be in the throes of a match and look like you were dead dog tired, but you’re completely fresh because you’re a roar warrior. You had the ability to look dead dog tired and then fire back. And everything was always precise, but you had that uncanny ability just to look like you were in a real fight. That’s what I always appreciated about your matches.
Bret Hart: I think like going back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about the best wrestlers were wrestling fans first. I was a big fan. I loved wrestling. And I always thought my matches, I pretended in my head that i’m sitting in the front row watching myself. And this is the kind of match I would want to watch Bret Hart have. And what would I do to make that little kid that I was pop. That’s what I always tried to do. I was entertaining. I would always perform for myself. Like this is for me to watch. Like i’m sitting in the front row and i’m going to watch this match. I always wanted to just have the best stories, you know.
People use the term classic matches all the time. This guy had a classic and that guy had a classic and these guys had classics. You don’t just declare yourself having classic matches. A classic match is one that people talk about over and over again for years. Like I do appearances and stuff like that. I have people talk to me about the Roddy Piper match, talk to me about the Bulldog match. They talk about our match. They talk about Undertaker at SummerSlam and they talk about me and Owen at WrestleMania 10. They are all classics, like these classic matches. That’s all I wanted to do was give Vince a library of classics.
Rivalry With Stone Cold Steve Austin
Steve Austin: A semi-classic would have been our match at Survivor Series in 1996. You were coming back from a cleanup on your knee. And there’s a stare down right before the match. And this was in Madison Square Garden. And you could have picked anybody on the card because you are Bret The Hitman Hart. And you’ve got a lot of say. But for some reason, you picked my ass. I never forget I came into the territory. I might have still been The Ring Master or I might have been Stone Cold. We were working down at The Houston Summit and we had a pretty good house and I was working with Shawn. And I worked with Shawn and you saw my match. It went pretty much, you had a damned good match. You said, hey, man, I’ll work with you any time. I said thank you very much because that’s a hell of a compliment.
Bret Hart: I remember that. There were Texas towns. There’s like four of five towns that we all performed in and you worked with Shawn every night. I had a lot of respect for your work when you came in. So I was kind of, in my mind, I already knew eventually I would like to work with you. And I was hoping that they have would use you right. I couldn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t because they needed some fresh faces at that time. But I knew I could do great stuff with you.
Steve Austin: And we would go on to start this match. Back in the day, you know, this is 96 and everything is kind of changed as the generations have gone on. Work styles have changed and everything has sped up. Alright, here we go. Two gunfighters right there in the middle of the ring, Madison Square Garden. This is great. Fixing to give you the double birds. And it looks like i’m talking shit to you, basically i’m telling you what i’m about to do and we are kind of joking with each other. Dude, that was heavy duty in the garden to disrespect a guy like you. Here’s a little bit of action from the match. It was just a great bout. You are coming back from getting your knee cleaned up. I’m on fire, gaining a lot of traction as Stone Cold. I think i’m going to suplex you. No, it doesn’t go so well. There I am in the middle of the ring, about to come off of the elbow.
Bret Hart: I wasn’t the most agile coming off the top.
Steve Austin: No, but here’s the thing. You’re just coming from a knee cleanup. You drop that big elbow right there. Land on your knees, take the punishment. All right, here’s the thing. I’m about to catapult you into the table. Boom, there you go. I try to go over here to get some punches in on you, but watch what happens. I love the sell job. You’re one of the all time sellers I love working with. And you watch here. I’m trying to beat you up. I’m not in a real good position to get a good blow here. And so I go underneath that table and sneak me a drink of water. Here’s the finish. I go back to my roots, the Million Dollar Dream. Got it locked in, but i’m about to be outsmarted by Bret The Hitman Hart. Got you in the submission or a sleeper hold. Kick off the turnbuckle. Kick out at 3 and 1/8, but you got the win. Watch this. I’m frustrated. Guy outsmarted me. I blew your ass up. Watch your face here.
Bret Hart: I had been off for six months.
Steve Austin: For a shoot, I kind of had you a little bit gassed coming off a layoff.
Bret Hart: I got pretty tired in the middle of the match. We worked hard. I hadn’t seen that match in a long time. I give it four stars.
Steve Austin: It wasn’t the best match in the world, but it was really solid. And we had a great conversation at your place in Calgary as we set that match up. We’d go on to do Royal Rumble 97, when your music hits, i’m like, oh shit. Things would come out of that one and set a lot of other matches in place. But I wanted to talk to you about a match that will go down as one of the all-time classics in the business of professional wrestling. And a match that, you know, would be a double turn where the tides are starting to shift. I guess Vince got in your ear and said, hey, we’d like to turn you heel, but keep you baby in some of the foreign countries, but keep you a heel in the United States. Was that his concept or your concept.
Bret Hart: That was his concept. Vince called me kind out of the blue and said i’m going to talk you into turning heel. I said I don’t want to turn heal because a big part of my paycheck was my royalty check. I was the highest seller I believe at the time in the company with merchandise and all that stuff. Especially overseas, like in England and Europe and Indiana and all those things.
Steve Austin: Germany was crazy. You remember David Hasselhoff in Germany? That’s a compliment. For somebody to be super over there.
Bret Hart: That was true, I was really over in Germany and over in a lot of the markets and I was over in America too. Vince talked and goes give me five minutes and i’ll talk you into it. And the next day he drove up to I think it was either Springfield, Mass or New Haven or somewhere. He drove up from Connecticut and we met. And I remember he had a list of five guys that I could work with as a babyface and he had a a list of five guys I could work with as a heel. As a heel, there was lots of guys, I could work with you. And Shawn was a babyface, so I wouldn’t work with him. I remember that will finally separate me and Shawn and the issues that we’ve got. There won’t be any issues because i’ll be a heel now and Shawn will be a babyface. So I remember Vader was on the list. As a babyface, I would have to work with Vader. I remembered looking at that. I was like Vader, he was hurting me so bad every time he worked with me.
Steve Austin: Vader is no longer with us, but a great power big guy. But yeah, working with him would take its toll.
Bret Hart: You always felt bad that he beat on me the way he did. But it was like wrestling an out of control elephant.
Steve Austin: So you got the list and got talked into turning heel. When did you know WrestleMania 13 was going to happen? Because when I found out about the match, I had busted my left knee and I was sitting on the couch in San Antonio. And I found out, hey, we’re in a Submission Match in the semi main, Bret Hart versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. I was like, what the fuck? I said a submission match? I’m not even a submission wrestler. I didn’t know any holds. I was mad as a hornet. I was happy to be working with you, but I was like this catches me completely out. It’s not my forte.
Bret Hart: I was the same. When we worked at Survivor Series and even though we had stuff going on, I saw like our next match was being SummerSlam, like quite a ways away. Like a rematch between me and you. We had lots of time to get to that. I was told in August when I met with Jim Ross that it was me and Shawn at WrestleMania 13. When Shawn came up with the, you know, he was going to retire because of his knee and I still don’t know what that was, whether it was like a legit injury, I assume it was. But it just seemed so made up at the time, I’ll say that. I didn’t really buy it.
Now I remember Vince saying, it was too obvious between me and Shawn, so we’re not going to go with that. It’s going to be Sid and Undertaker for the belt, which is the money spot. So they told me it’s going to be you and me. I thought it was too soon. We just wrestled at Survivor Series. I wasn’t very enthusiastic either about working with you, not that I didn’t cause I loved working with you, but I thought it was too premature. So when we showed up in Chicago, you were the only guy that came up to me and said I know that you are turning heel tomorrow. And we talked about that for a little bit. And then when we worked out our match, I remember just thinking about it like a school fight.
Steve Austin: We went to the finish room with Vince. It was you, me and Vince. All of a sudden, Vince says, all right, you guys are going to have the match that you lay out, whatever you do. In the end, you’re going to pass out in the Sharpshooter. All right, i’m working with a high profile guy in a crazy spot in WrestleMania. I say cool. You and me go to the ring. I saunter back in. Double check with Vince. Said, hey, man, are you sure this is going to work? He goes, oh god damn Steve. Oh, yeah, it will work. I go right back out to the ring. You and me are sitting on the damn apron. I said, dude, what do you want to do? You go, hey, if you are going to pass out in the Sharpshooter, you need to be busted open. At that time, there was a no busted open policy. I said you think? You go, yeah and I can help out if you need it. I said all right. So we go out there.
Bret Hart: I remember just talking to you about it. Like we talked — remember how we worked that match out? We just talked it through like real logical. I beat you at Survivor Series. You were going to be pretty mad. And the way everything was building, you had a ton of heat. Got to the Rumble when you screwed me over and threw me out. It was building really nicely, even though I was sort of, like I said I wasn’t expecting to work with you at WrestleMania so quick. But I remember we sat out there and we kind of pieced together a very logical match. The only thing I remember getting permission to do was that they gave you and permission to fight in crowd. Shamrock was going to basically be our bodyguard to protect us if a fan jumped in or anything like that.
I remember that being like the only thing we kind of had that would make the match a little different. And I remember you saying that submissions weren’t your specialty. I said, all I have is the Sharpshooter or the figure four leg lock. Submission matches are tough because you’ve got no false finishes. You’ve got no one, two, kickout and that’s critical to a match. Submission matches, I had one with Bob Backlund at WrestleMania 11 I think. It was the worst match I ever had in my career, no offense to Bob Backlund. Submission matches are hard. Yea, they suck. So when they put me in, I said you’re making it — we could have a great match, but by putting us in a submission match, this is going to make it harder for us to get reactions. I remember I was kind of struggling with the idea of having a submission match. Like what are we going to do?
And I think the best thing that we did do is we went to that psychology of, I see this like a school fight. I’m like the old standby guy, maybe the quarterback of the football team and the girls kind of like me and stuff. And you’re like the new guy at the school and you’re a badass. And it’s like everyone can see the fight happening before it ever happen until, all of a sudden, you are outside of the school grounds and you are like this fight is on. And that’s how I pictured the match. I remember kind of in my head, this should be like a street fight, like a school fight. Like it should be really — I think the match you and I had at WrestleMania 13, to me emulates any good UFC fight where you see it and you go this is real. Like he just broke that guy’s arm. There are things that we did in that match that were so real.
Checkout Episode 196 of The Hoots Podcast