This rivalry has made an impact and helped define and bring in a new era. This feud is looked at as being one of the greatest rivalries in the history of the WWE. The impact that this rivalry had on the company was very beneficial. The company hero from Canada against the Texas Rattlesnake embarked on a feud that help make careers and cement legacies.
The Birth of Austin 3:16
At WrestleMania 12, Bret Hart lost the WWF Championship to Shawn Michaels. Hart would then take a hiatus from WWF television and only work some house shows as Shawn Michaels continued to lead the World Wrestling Federation as it’s champion. Bret Hart would also be in middle of negotiating with not only his WWF contract but with WCW who at the time were dominating the Monday Night Wars, in the end Bret Hart would resign with the WWF. In June of that very year, marked the beginning of Austin 3:16 as Stone Cold Steve Austin pinned Jake Roberts in the finals of the King of the Ring tournament to become the 4th prestigious King of the Ring winner. After that night, Steve Austin would become the rebellious, disrespectful, cold-blooded rattlesnake that we all know and love.
On an episode of WWF Superstars, Steve Austin would issue a challenge to The Hitman. Steve Austin would spend months taunting and mocking the Hitman and everything he stood for on WWF television. Bret Hart would accept Steve Austin’s challenge on an episode of Raw, Bret Hart vowed to beat some respect out of Steve Austin and prove that he was still the best wrestler in the WWF.
Pillman’s Got a Gun!
The moment Brian Pillman said “Best There Is” after interviewing Steve Austin, Steve Austin attacked Brian Pillman. Stone Cold would use a chair to re-injure the ankle of Brian Pillman, this would lead to the events on Monday Night Raw in what is considered to be the most infamous segment in Raw history. The Texas Rattlesnake went down to Brian Pillman’s house to ‘Finish the job’ and fought off Brian Pillman’s friends, inside the house waiting for him was Pillman with a gun. Steve Austin broke into Brian Pillman’s house and Brian Pillman fired off but Steve Austin left the house when he saw the gun.
The Return of The Hitman
Two weeks later, fresh off the hot segment came WWF Survivor Series. Stone Cold Steve Austin is red hot and his popularity is starting to grow week after week and he’s set to take on the returning Bret “Hitman” Hart for the first time on Television(As they’ve met on a couple of house shows prior) with a winner getting a title shot at the next PPV. The match was arguably the hottest on the card, the match was a nearly 30 minute technical masterpiece as Bret Hart would counter the Million Dollar Dream into a pin in similar fashion as he did in his match against Roddy Piper at WrestleMania 8.
The following night, Bret Hart faced off against his brother Owen Hart. Steve Austin would interfere and attack Bret Hart. He was planning on snapping Bret Hart’s ankle but British Bulldog stopped Steve Austin. Owen Hart didn’t agree with the British Bulldog’s actions causing an argument between the two partners and Steve Austin would strike British Bulldog with the chair, which didn’t sit well with Owen Hart causing Owen Hart and Steve Austin to argue. This would plant seeds for British Bulldog’s brief face turn before becoming the first European Champion, dissension between Owen Hart and British Bulldog and the formation of The Hart Foundation.
Bret Hart would meet Sycho Sid for the WWF Championship at In Your House 12: It’s Time, Hart Austin would come in and assault Bret Hart once again before being taken off Bret Hart by Owen Hart and British Bulldog. This and the involvement of Shawn Michaels caused Bret Hart to get powerbombed by Sid and lose the match. Bret Hart would then hit Shawn Michaels as a result as frustration of The Hitman starts to build. Bret Hart started to feel like the WWF started to get out of control and that everyone was out to get him.
Royal Rumble 1997 came around and Steve Austin would draw #5, Steve Austin was on a role in the Rumble match as he was eliminating opponents left and right and would at times end up being the only man in the ring. Fans loved it and wanted to see Steve Austin win despite him not caring for them at all. During the Rumble, Steve Austin eliminated names like Owen Hart, Jake Roberts, Marc Mero and Savio Vega.
Steve Austin would continue to roll until #21 came out and turned out to be none other than Bret Hart to the disbelief of Steve Austin. The Rumble would continue to roll on as it should, Bret Hart would eventually dump Steve Austin to the outside but the officials would not see this so Steve Austin would sneak back in. Steve Austin dumps The Undertaker and Vader out of the ring, after Bret Hart dumps Fake Diesel(Kane) out of the ring, Steve Austin stuck up behind Bret Hart and tosses him over the top rope to win the 1997 Royal Rumble. Bret Hart was furious and throw a huge tantrum on the outside before heading to the back.
New Side of The Hitman
An irate Bret Hart would come out the next night on Raw and cut a promo directed towards Vince McMahon. Bret Hart talked about the promises made to him. He then talked about the Royal Rumble, he said that he felt like Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Vince McMahon and the WWF have screwed him. Bret Hart “quits” the WWF and exit through the crowd in a sea of “We Want Bret” chants. As Bret Hart made his exit, Steve Austin made his way to the ring. After the microphone difficulties and threatening the folks over at ringside, Steve Austin calls Bret Hart a crybaby and that he needs to go back to Canada.
He then proceeded to insult WWF President Gorilla Monsoon. He calls out Undertaker but the match end on happening later. Monsoon and Vince McMahon would come out and talk about the events from the Rumble, they say that the refs decisions are final but that doesn’t mean Steve Austin would get his shot.Monsoon made a match for the next event, a four man elimination featuring Steve Austin, Bret Hart and the two guys Steve Austin eliminated illegally which was The Undertaker and Vader with the winner getting to main event WrestleMania. A pissed off Steve Austin comes out and says the match can’t happen as Bret Hart quit.
Bret Hart would come back out and says that he accepts but he wants Steve Austin immediately. The Undertaker comes out and Bret Hart is held back as Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker begins, as the match goes on, Bret Hart encounters Vader and brawls with him. Vader would come out and go into the ring before getting a chokeslam from The Undertaker. Steve Austin attacks The Undertaker and Bret Hart comes out and goes after Steve Austin and all men brawl as Raw goes off the air.