(originally posted at TSM and Cawthon's site)
Bret Hart vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin
November 17, 1996 - Survivor Series
Madison Square Garden - New York City
The Tale of the Tape
Bret ?Hit Man? Hart
Weight: 234 pounds
From: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
WWF Career Highlights (up to that point) : Three-time WWF Champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion, two-time Tag Team Champion, 1993 King of the Ring winner, co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin
Weight: 252 pounds
Finisher: Stone Cold Stunner
From: Victoria, Texas
WWF Career Highlights (up to that point): 1996 King of the Ring winner
The match begins with a staredown. Austin flips off Bret, leading to an exchange of blows. The match quickly shifts to wrestling, with Hart and Austin exchanging hammerlocks and working the arm. Austin switches gears and returns to brawling to take the advantage. Hart briefly manages to make a comeback, but Austin stops it with the Stun Gun. A slugfest ensues with Austin gaining the edge.
Bret rallies back, hitting an inverted atomic drop and clothesline. Bret rolls up Austin from behind for a two count. Bret follows up with a Side Russian Legsweep for another two count. Bret goes for a bulldog, but Austin counters, sending Bret chest-first into the turnbuckles. Austin sets Bret on the top rope and attempts a superplex, but Bret counters by driving Austin face-first to the canvas. Bret hits the elbow from the top rope, instead of the middle rope like usual, for a two count. Bret attempts a pendulum backbreaker, but Austin counters by raking the eyes.
Austin sends Bret to the outside, then rams him into the ring post. They brawl into the crowd, with Bret gaining the upper hand. Austin regains control by slingshotting Bret onto the announcer?s table. Austin climbs onto the table and pounds away relentlessly. Austin slams Bret onto the table, then drops an elbow from the ring apron. The elbow from the apron works well here, since Bret?s upper body had been weakened earlier by Austin?s Stun Gun and the bulldog counter. Austin suplexes Bret back into the ring, then hits an elbow from the second rope for a two count. Austin continues to work on Bret?s upper body and locks on an abdominal stretch. Austin uses the ropes for leverage, but referee Tim White catches it and forces a break. Austin, displaying his disdain for authority, shoves White. White responds by threatening to disqualify Austin. Austin backs off, which would normally be uncharacteristic. However, it works in this case, because it shows that Austin wants to beat Bret.
Another slugfest ensues, but this time, Bret comes out on top. Bret attempts an Irish Whip, which Austin counters, but Bret counters again and nails Austin with his own Stun Gun. Bret follows up with an Oklahoma side roll for two. Bret hits a nice piledriver for another two count. Bret hits a backbreaker and goes to the top rope, but Austin stops him. Remembering what happened earlier, Austin weakens Bret with a series of chops. Austin climbs to the middle rope for a superplex, but changes his mind. Austin releases the suplex position, then further weakens Bret by pounding on him. Austin climbs to the top-rope and hits a superplex. With both men laying on the mat, Bret cradles Austin for two.
Both men get back up and Bret walks up to Austin from behind. Austin reaches back and hits the Stone Cold Stunner out of nowhere. Bret?s close to the ropes, so Austin pulls him into the middle of the ring and hooks the leg...for a two count. The few seconds Austin took to pull Bret away from the ropes may have cost him the victory. However, Austin?s rationale in pulling Bret away made sense. Austin felt the Stunner would be enough, but he realized that Bret was too close to the ropes, so he pulled him away. However, Austin didn?t count on Bret kicking out, because no one had ever kicked out of the Stunner before.
Austin pounds Bret and covers several more times, gaining a few near-falls. Frustrated at his inability to pin Bret, Austin switches to a new strategy: make Bret submit. Austin locks on a Texas Cloverleaf, but Bret manages to get to the ropes. Austin whips Bret into the corner, but Bret?s legs give out, sending him under the bottom rope and back-first into the post. Austin pulls him towards the middle of the ring and scores another two count. Bret fights out of a bow-and-arrow and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Austin gets to the ropes before the hold is locked on.
Bret catches Austin in a sleeper, but Austin tries to counter by backing Bret into the corner. That doesn?t work, so Austin breaks the sleeper by countering into a jawbreaker. Austin gets to his feet first and sneaks behind Bret, measuring him up for an apparent submission hold. Austin pulls out the one hold he hasn?t tried yet...the hold that he used as his finisher upon entering the WWF, the Million Dollar Dream. Unfortunately for Austin, Bret?s been in a similar situation before. Bret walks to the corner, kicks off the turnbuckles, and lands on top of Austin for the pinfall victory. Austin made the same mistake that Roddy Piper did at WrestleMania VIII...he didn?t let go of the hold. Austin exits the ring and glares at Bret as if to say "You beat me this time, but it won?t happen again."
In my opinion, this is one of the best WWF matches of all-time. There weren't any blown spots, the crowd was into it, the psychology was sound, and it had a clean finish. Austin's persistence in beating Bret was played off pretty well, with Jim Ross noting that Austin's refusal to release the Million Dollar Dream cost him the victory. An absolutely tremendous match which I highly recommend to any wrestling fan.
Bret Hart vs Steve Austin (WWF Survivor Series 11/17/96)WWF WWE Survivor Series November 17 1996 MSG Bret Hart Steve Austin Hart vs Austin 4.5*
Posted 03 August 2005 - 10:19 AM
(originally posted at TSM and Cawthon's site)
Posted 14 February 2011 - 10:04 PM
Posted 01 April 2011 - 10:19 PM
Posted 01 August 2011 - 01:57 AM
Posted 23 July 2013 - 07:23 AM
Posted 05 September 2013 - 10:28 AM
Posted 28 December 2013 - 01:45 PM
Posted 06 July 2014 - 06:47 PM
A WWF MOTDC for sure.
It had a really strong buildup with a big match feel. The action nearly all took place in the heart of the ring with a technical emphasis. It was executed with aggressive intent and purpose. The action went back and forth, flowing organically. For 27m they had my undivided attention. I liked how they did what they wanted and didn't pander to the whims of the crowd. Strong performers know what the fans want better than they do. The famous finish was cerebral, as indeed was the whole bout. Bret's win didn't feel at all conclusive.
The only real downside was that there weren't enough mark out moments. It was high quality and fulfilling, just not thrilling. Top end WWF style, but the best bouts in Mexico and Japan at the time had unlocked higher plains of enlightenment.
Posted 28 April 2015 - 11:05 PM
I think Zenjo's final point is a sound one--this is *not* a Pat Patterson Special, or a Mick Foley Special, like the other high-end WWF matches of the year. It's a rough-and-tumble, meat-and-potatoes, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust struggle. It's not something normally seen in a WWF setting, but it does certainly play to both men's strengths. The big highspots here, and the spots that get the loudest crowd responses, basically revolve around frenzied punching exchanges. Austin is still being pushed hard as a technical wrestler who knows submissions, an aspect of his character that would be almost completely forgotten in a few months, perhaps to his detriment.
I don't have all that much else to add, but it's a fantastic match that makes you want to see more. It's a top-15-20 MOTYC, worldwide. That said...it's going to be hard to compare this to the other two candidates for WWF Match of the Year (Shawn/Diesel and Shawn/Mankind) because it is so different and they were setting out to accomplish something other than a thrilling PPV main event. If I had to vote now...I think my vote still goes with Mind Games. I'm sure that puts me in a minority, but that was pretty long on psychology itself in addition to some crazy and creative high spots.
Posted 02 March 2017 - 08:28 PM
I love this match. I had a really good time revisiting it tonight. I love when they start trading punches after Austin has been dominating so much of the match. Bret was selling so well, then his comeback kicks in, and they are throwing bombs. I also love the way Hart takes the stunner and sells the aftermath. It makes it look more painful than stunning with him grabbing his mouth. It's a nice touch. It adds value to the jawbreaker reversal Austin hits him with later. ****3/4
Posted 13 May 2017 - 11:30 PM
Excellent match. I don't know exactly how it compares to other great matches in WWF history, but it's up there. Austin's character development & attitude change over the previous months makes his basic wrestling approach a bit jarring. Especially in this match where he's been talking so much trash. He spent the two weeks prior to this practically trying to end another man's life & saying he'd whip Bret's ass in a pretty aggressive manner. I don't even know if that's a criticism, but it's something I noticed & thought about. I did love the opening stare down & Austin flipping the bird. That's character consistency. The wrestling is tremendous in the early going. Again, I'm a little taken aback by it since Austin has been so out of control the last few weeks before this. I really got into this once the aggression started to pick up. The ringside brawling is fantastic. The two moments I popped for the most were the barricade breaking & Bret winning the second slugfest. Austin does everything he can to put Bret away, but he just can't manage. The finish is brilliant & protects both guys. This match is all about Austin proving himself to be the best, but falling just short as Bret still has a lot left in him. Austin is dying to defeat Bret & maybe that's why he stuck to the basics approach at first because he had something to prove. This is certainly a WWF MOTYC & in the upper echelon of all time WWF matches. I'm glad I watched it again after not having seen it in nearly ten years.
Posted 30 May 2017 - 11:38 AM
Watched this twice in the past twelve hours and it is a classic match. Austin has a bit of a ground swell and just oozes confidence coming out. The opening matwork was really well done and they worked hard to get Bret over as the face. I appreciated the way that Bret was the more technician throughout the match and Austin was the heel with more punches and kicks. The table spot is well done and adds to the attack by Austin. I thought JR was spectacular on commentary and Vince tried his best even though he sprinkled in some 90's cheese. The finish works well in helping Bret win but putting over Austin huge. This was a big stage from him as even though he was getting cheers at Buried Alive, this type of marquee match is a far cry from opening vs. HHH. Austin delivered in spades and a star was on the rise. ****3/4
Posted 11 June 2017 - 10:15 PM
Bret Hart vs Steve Austin - WWF Survivor Series 1996
Love the build to this match. Remember when they would take 2.5 months to build to a match. Nowadays they shoot their wad in one week and have nothing for the next three weeks of TV. Great job all around. Austin is such a great rival for the consummate pro wrestler in the Hitman. He is the foul-mouthed asshole. Bret Hart is the well-respected pro.
I think everyone was so busy trying to get Austin over in this match they kinda forgot to get heat during this match. I am going against the grain big time to say I thought this match was a little flat. Austin flipped off Bret at the outset and then the ref. Where the hell is the righteous indignation from JR & Vince. That is incredibly tasteless and classless. They kinda just give him a free pass. A RAKE OF THE EYES gets a that's clever remark from Vince and JR had his head so far up Austin's ass throughout this match that he couldn't be even bothered to mention it. Austin was trying to get heat goddamnit but the announcing was not helping. In the ring, I thought Bret's selling especially initially was really flat. I thought that really hurt Austin's heat. This is an MSG crowd that lost their mind over fucking Sid and in Bret Hart's return match they are quieter. Just weird.
The match was built around who was the better wrestler with Bret calling Austin the best wrestler in WWF at the time, clearly a dig at Shawn Michaels more than anything else. I thought the opening matwork was fine. It is not the way I would have gone. I think they could have done a more high energy shine to get crowd invested and it is Bret's return match have him come out hot. It is story I have said before, people who try to grind with Bret will lose because he is the best. Coming into this match (had not watched in a while just really remembered the finish), I was think Austin is a grinder so it will be interesting to see how he fares with the best. I think the lack of highspots early did hurt the heat not just at the beginning but throughout the match because the crowd would have been more into Bret. The first highspot, Stun Gun, was an excellent transition. Loved it. Bret was killing Austin on the mat and that Stun Gun changed everything. Thought Bret was flat in selling, which is weird. He is usually really good. Where is the coughing during the choking. First slugfest woke up the crowd and me. Austin wins, but shortly thereafter Bret takes back over. Bret has great hard hitting offense. Since Bret is the clear face against a clear heel and they are trying to put Austin over, he does not have much time on offense, but when he does, I think they are the best parts of this match. Austin throwing Bret into the Bret Bump off the bulldog was great psychology and showing that he did his homework. Austin giving Bret the high ground going for the superplex was stupid (in a good kayfabe way) and Bret making him pay was great with his iconic elbow. Austin rakes the eyes on backbreaker and I have already bitched about the commentary.
The best part of this match unsurprisingly is the brawl on the outside. These two are much better at brawling and that's why there Mania match is so much better. Bret's comeback on the outside is one of the few heated parts of the match as is Austin's catapult on Bret to the Spanish announce team and then him just leaping on Bret on the Spanish announcers. That was the chaos and energy the match needed. Austin is not a wrestler with a lot of offense. Which is fine, I have no problem with that. He was positioned to be wrestle on top for most of this match I really felt like he ran out of steam. I think there were ways where he could have tried to just get heat more often if he was going to run out of offense. The Ab Stretch but using the ropes is appreciated but the announcers and the crowd just did not seem to be reacting to usual heel tactics. I would have liked to see him ramp up the heat somehow. Bret winning the second slugfest felt electric. The match was great and I am nitpicking some stuff. It was just the match would go in and out of having a big fight feel. That second slugfest and Bret hitting the Stun Gun as revenge and piledriver made it have that feel. It just a lot of the stuff before it, didn't. Bret goes up top and Austin gets up there to stop him. Felt too quick. Loved Austin chopping the shit out of him though. That's what I mean everything was a little uneven for me. Superplex, great highspot. STUNNER! Kick out-> bold! Austin runs through a bunch of submissions so JR can finally exclaim how he was right from the outset that would be a submission match. Bret almost gets the Sharpshooter in a great spot. Austin goes for the Million Dollar Dream, but Bret kicks off the ropes and pins him in the hold. Which is a fantastic finish. Using Austin's tenacity against him.
All in all definitely a great match. You have two similar wrestlers in the sense that these guys like to grind. Bret clearly has the wider offensive arsenal. The thing Austin has going for him is that unbridled energy which I was reminded of when he broke Pillman's ankle in the lead up to this. He was like a rabid dog in there. His energy felt tempered here. It was missing that chaotic feel that he would bring to his matches. Austin clearly had Hart scouted which is great psychology. He was tenacious and was on Bret. His limited offensive range did hurt the match in my opinion because he was on top for so long. I thought he tried hard to get heat but when he was not getting it should have tried different things, maybe bumping or cheating more fiercely. I thought the heat was not at the level it should have been, but Bret's selling felt flat so he is partly to blame. I think Bret was selfless here by letting Austin get the majority of the match. He fought well from underneath. Ultimately it was the wily in-ring savvy of Bret that bested the tenacity of Austin, which is a great story. Just a match that has never really resonated with me even though lots of others really like it, but it is clearly a great match and an incredibly important one in Steve Austin's career. ****1/4
Posted 13 September 2017 - 03:53 PM
Not as good as the WM 13 all time classic but this remains an excellent match. Very minimalist match, reminds of Choshu/Hashimoto in some ways. Austin was the key figure here as the aggressive in your face rising star attacking with great focus while Bret added lots of cool little veteran touches. An outstanding, really clever finish with Bret pulling a Fujiwara and using Austin's bullheadedness to beat Austin. **** 1/4
Posted 17 October 2017 - 05:48 AM
Posted 05 March 2018 - 09:14 PM
I only watched this match once, several years ago, and didn't have so strong a recollection of it coming in to this viewing; and man, it's incredible. First off all the presentation is amazing, the video package and then the interviews before their respective entrances made this feel like a totally huge match, on top of very palpably being an "arrival" for Austin, this match cements him as feeling like a real top of the card star. And the work is just great. What I love about this match is it matches both Austin and Bret's characters; Austin is the brawler but has a lot of wrestling skill, Bret is the wrestler but is tough and can duke it out, and they mix the technical wrestling with brawling seemlessly, though really at its base it's a technical wrestling match. The whole match is good but once Bret recovers by winning a totally awesome punch exchange, and especially after Bret hits the piledriver, the match is really at another level. The drama, nearfalls and trading of big offense feels like a step above anything else going on in American wrestling. Bret's desperate struggle for the Sharpshooter right at the end was such a great spot. The flash roll up ending is one of the best flash roll up endings anywhere; those are usually booked as a half-measure to keep the loser from looking too weak and in doing so lessen the impact of the win for the winner and end up coming off pretty lame, but here it was perfect. Austin still looks great in defeat but it's not a cheap win for Bret at all.
Really hard to rank this vs. Foley/Michaels.
Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: WWF, WWE, Survivor Series, November 17, 1996, MSG, Bret Hart, Steve Austin, Hart vs Austin, 4.5*
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