1997 Rumble and Plans for WM13


Was watching the 97 Rumble on the network in honor of the upcoming Rumble in San Antonio. Even though Austin won the Rumble, it seems they were going to set up the HBK/Bret rematch at WM13 – w/ Bret winning Final Four and HBK reclaiming the title over Sid. The announcers kept talking about Bret’s journey during the match.

Obviously Shawn losing the smile threw those plans into disarray and we got what we got. My question is what were the original plans for Stone Cold? It seems Sid and Taker were destined to fight as well. Would he have been thrown down the midcard for a match vs. Owen or Bulldog? Or someone else?

It’s crazy to think the impact of that one lost smile. Austin was headed towards mega stardom anyway, but the WM13 match really pushed him into the stratosphere.

​Yeah, Shawn really messed them up good there. I believe it was planned to be Austin-Bulldog or something like that, but regardless, yeah, he would have been pretty far down the line there. I still think that talent would have won out because he was on an upward trajectory anyway, though. ​

  • Empian

    This is the most speculated on period ever as nobody seems to know what the plans were.

    Bret/Shawn 2 is the most banded around Main Event – although it is unclear whether they would have switched the title to Sid/Taker and just had Bret/Shawn as non title.

    Bret’s adamant Shawn/Bret was what the plan was but Shawn says it was never confirmed or anything. So really it appears as though Vince was telling the talent what they wanted to hear.

    What I would say for that match as that both men were clearly heading to heeldom. Bret with his whiny character and Shawn starting to show signs of the degenerate character. Neither were exactly red hot babyfaces at the time (unlike the year before) – so for me the match would have been a hard one to promote and I could understand if Vince got cold feet and went elsewhere.

    Taker/Sid looks like it was set in stone though – whether that was always going to be for the title or not is debatable.

    Austin was the clear winner though as there wasn’t really anything for him until Shawn lost his smile.

    • Matt Johnson

      I wish we’d have gotten that Bret/HBK hair vs. hair ladder match that Bret says Vince pitched to him.

      • Empian

        As both guys still have long hair now (just about in Shawn’s case) I doubt either guy goes for getting a hair cut in 97.

        • Bret went into business for himself and ripped Shawn’s hair out in 97.

          • Empian

            Haha – yeah that was the final straw for Shawn.

            No wonder literally everybody moved on to Austin from these two was it.

          • FriendshipIsTheBest!

            They were working the boys. Why? So Bret could jump to WCW, dog it and still make millions, give Hall and Nash a pay hike, and bankrupt the company. Bret and Shawn were/are best friends! Shawn even slips up and says so on podcasts every now and then.

        • Matt Johnson

          Yeah I don’t know how Vince would’ve gotten either of those guys to job in that situation. It was likely just something Vince said to placate Bret.

      • GoodOldRoz

        And even that was only going to happen after HBK defeated Bret on PPV *three* times in a row.!!

    • Shawn always sounds nervous talking about the past so either he doesn’t remember or he’s lying whereas Bret always sounds pretty factual when discussing the past.

      • Empian

        Good point but I always got the impression (particularly towards the end of his run) that Vince told Bret what Bret wanted to hear as well.

        • HartKiller_09

          From Bret’s own book it comes off like Bret suggesting he win the title back and Vince just telling him what he wanted to hear.

      • Stan Ford

        I’m, like, 99% sure the reason Shawn sounds super unsure and nervous when discussing the late 90s is because he was so high 24/7 that he legitimately doesn’t remember most of it.

        Like, in his RF shoot, you can see him grab onto whatever reliable nuggets of memory he has of that timeframe and then frantically patch together the rest of the story in real time.

    • TheWWFSpellsDanger

      Google search “WWF Magazine WM 13.” Or watch the Raws from as far back as Dec. 96. It was really clear that the top 2 WM matches were Sid vs Taker & Bret vs Shawn.
      Austin vs Bulldog, HHH vs Goldust & Mero vs Rocky also all seemed really obvious too by February.
      Then Shawn got hurt, Mero got hurt and a whole lot of plans got shuffled.
      Or so it would seem.

  • Matt Johnson

    That Sid/HBK match has one of the most annoying fucking fans ever whistling throughout the entire goddamn thing. It’s so distracting. I’m surprised no one around him told him to shut the fuck up. Just this really shrill whistle. There’s no way I’d sit next to someone doing that for like 30 minutes nonstop and not say anything to them.

  • AnInternetToughGuy

    It’s poetic that Shawn’s refusal to return the job to Hart accelerated the rise of the man who would snatch his spot.

  • I don’t agree with Scott’s statement that a guy’s true talents would shine through bad booking so Austin still would have become a megastar no matter what. WWE has shown time and time again that if they’re determined to make a hot guy cold they’re going to do it and nothing is going to stop them.

    But yeah, it seems Austin’s career was in doubt in early 97. He had a good solid spot as an upper midcarder at least so Vince did see something in him, just not being “the guy” at the time and after Austin’s loss to Bret at Survivor Series 97 he was kind of sent down to the midcard again before getting the unexpected Rumble win to heat him up again.

    • Things were a lot different in 1997. If they didnt make a star in Austin, there would not be a WWE today.

      Vince’s best ideas have always come when he’s under pressure. The pressure is gone, so the product has gone downhill.

      • Stan Ford

        This. There are zero parallels to be drawn between the in-full-control-of-his-mental-faculties and driven-by-competition Vince McMahon of 1997 and the syphilis-ridden, senile Vince McMahon of 2017.

        1996 Vince turned to Jim Cornette post-KOTR and said, referencing the Austin 3:16 signs, “I think we’re onto something here.”

        2014 Vince turned to… someone after seeing the “YES!” signs and said “let’s run Big Show/Orton at Survivor Series.”

        There’s no comparison. It’s two different people.

        • johntcole

          There’s also the fact that Vince still has a certain body type in mind for top guys. And Daniel is even smaller that Bret and Shawn.

          • Stan Ford

            Sure, no doubt. That’s why the idea that Vince automatically buries any guy who doesn’t fit his idea of a “main eventer” is absurd. I get it, but there are still some neurons in there that connect.

  • nintydayfiance

    Austin v Pillman was SIGNED until January when it was learned that Pillman wouldn’t be ready, so they quickly switched to Austin v Bulldog in a “Toughman Competition”, which is what they were calling heel v heel matches in early 97. Once Shawn lost his smile Bulldog quickly veered towards a feud with Owen with Austin moved up to the main event.

  • The Hollywood Ace

    On the “Something to Wrestle With” podcast bruce prichard confirmed that the plan was shawn bret 2 for mania but after Russo went out on a fan call in show and said absolutely bret is going to win the rumble without even really knowing that was the plan Vince got pissed and changed the finish to the Austin win because the Brett win was so predictable.

    • I’ve heard this, too.

    • Kevlar Moneyclipz

      yep I was gonna say just dip into the SWW episode.

    • wnyxmcneal

      Bruce Prichard is known as being full of shit

  • They were building up this issue between Austin and Bulldog in late 96/early 97. His primary feud was still Bret, but they were definitely laying the seeds for something there. This was around the time that Bulldog was starting to lean babyface and butt heads with Owen, so I guess they were set on keeping Austin heel? Who knows. That entire 6 month period is just absolute booking chaos.

    • Manjiimortal

      Austin was clearly used as a tool to ensure that Bret Hart would have a great match on his comeback and little else, Austin was just a means to an end before chaos broke and everything started changing every other week.

      • I think they had plans for Austin as an upper midcard/B PPV main event heel, but certainly nothing to the extent that he became.

        • Manjiimortal

          Definitely not, just look at the way they tried to move Shawn into a feud with Bret every time it seemed he was coming back rather than having Austin/Bret keep going. The ending of the Canadian Stampede match was done precisely to move Austin into a feud with Owen, and let Bret open for Shawn.

          • Rick Ross

            The Owen feud was in order to lay the groundwork for the babyface push. It’s clear the plan was always for Austin to win the title at Wrestlemania 14. I think it would have been against Bret.

            Even when Austin and Shawn teamed up, Austin was always announced afterwards implying he was the bigger star.

          • Manjiimortal

            I’m not so sure about that, I just don’t see Bret and Shawn bowing down for Austin like that.

          • markn95

            I think once those Austin 3:16 shirts began breaking every merchandise record in the books shortly after WM 13, the plan was always to make Austin the champ at Mania XIV.

      • He was getting undeniably over and you could tell that Vince enjoyed the character. He got a lot of leeway to do his schtick. He was always on TV, they were shoehorning him into anything (guest commentary, etc.) because they knew he was gold.

  • Fat, Ugly Inner-City Sweathog

    If Bret takes the title back from Shawn at WM13, I bet Austin is still the big challenger afterward. He still gets to that top level, even if the Bret-Austin matches are happening at B ppvs instead

  • Stephen

    All I know is that the WWF Magazine was REALLY HEAVILY implying that the main event of the IYH that became Revenge of the Taker was going to be Bret and Sid vs Shawn and Austin.

  • Stan Ford

    I always thought the plan for WM13 was a WM12 rematch, Bret “breaks” Shawn’s ankle via gimmicked boot, Shawn takes a break and then both guys patch things up and run as faces.

    Now, how they get THERE when Shawn and Bret wanted to kill each other and neither one would ever have played second banana to the other, I have no idea, but that was Bret’s story and I don’t think anyone ever denied/contradicted it.

    • J. Frizz

      That’s what Bret proposed. Whether Shawn ever agreed to it originally or not, who knows. He probably couldn’t even remember if he did at the time.

    • Empian

      Wasn’t Bret’s story that he pitched for the broken ankle gimmick and then to stand over Shawn saying “f*** you”.

      Now Shawn was wrong with a lot of stuff he did but I can kind of understand why he never went for the above idea (if true).

  • brocore

    I always thought there would have been more wiggle room for the company if they hadn’t fucked Vader over at/after Summerslam ’96. If he and Shawn had traded wins, Vader at Summerslam, and Shawn at the Rumble in San Antonio (using the story of the felled hero returning home to get his revenge), then they could have done the rubber match at Wrestlemania. That leaves you with the top of the Wrestlemania XIII card looking like:

    Sid vs. Taker for the WWF Title (Shawn drops the belt to Sid at February’s IYH due to interference from Vader, Taker wins the Rumble)
    Bret vs. Austin in the Submission Match w/ Shamrock as ref
    Shawn vs. Vader in some kind of gimmick match

    And an undercard which looks like:
    Ahmed & LOD vs. NOD
    Bulldog & Owen vs. Furnace & Lafon for the Tag Titles
    Rocky Miavia vs. Mankind for the I-C Title
    HHH vs. Goldust

    • I remember a rumor that Vince’s original idea was Vader beating Shawn at Summerslam, Bret beating Vader at Survivor Series, Vader winning the belt back from Bret at It’s Time, and then Shawn winning the belt from Vader at the Rumble. So Shawn and Bret head into Mania looking like equals, having both won and lost a match against Vader, and now you have a strong heel in Vader who can work Sid or Taker. I kind of liked it.

  • Charlie Owens

    So if HBK hadn’t lost his smile, WM13 would still have been a one match show, but that “one match” would’ve been Bret/Shawn.

    • redman

      It still ended up being a one match show

      • RG-Dallas

        Yep, Sid vs. Taker was fantastic.

        • Charlie Owens

          You’re being wiseass, but that was one of Sid’s better matches.

          • RG-Dallas

            No. Sid did the Hogan elbow drop in that match and Tsker did a leg drop. It was a great Hogan style match. Since I grew up on Hogan matches.

  • johntcole

    Still wish Vader won at Final Four and we got him vs Taker at Mania.

    • wnyxmcneal

      They had just faced off at RR

      • LScisco

        Even better! Undertaker seeks revenge against the dude that beat him there.

    • Converge241

      Vader lost out on his theme PPV Its Time after being bumped out for Sid too

  • GoodOldRoz

    I’m not sure about the chronology here. In his book – I know – Bret suggests that Vince soured on HBK/Hitman II because and I report-quote “it’s too predictable now, I’m changing it”. This definitely occurs before Shawn’s smile-loss.

    Was that match *really* a lock?

    • HartKiller_09

      I think it was certainly on the table and likely the working plan at one point but if you read Bret’s own book there’s no recounting of a conversation where Vince says yes, 100%, Bret’s getting the belt back from Shawn at WM13. Every time it’s mentioned it’s Bret saying that’s what he wants to do. I’m sure Bret was telling him what he wanted to hear to get him to come back but I really don’t believe Vince planned to give Bret the belt back before he even dropped it to Shawn.

      • GoodOldRoz

        I agree. It looks like ‘the expected plan’ rather than THE plan.

  • HartKiller_09

    I never bought Shawn/Bret, for the title at least, was set in stone before Shawn gave it up. Even in Bret’s own book every time he talked about a conversation about winning the belt back it was him suggesting it or him saying that’s what he planned to do. No doubt Vince led Bret to believe that’s what they were going to do but I don’t buy that it was 100% the plan for a year until Shawn faked an injury to get out of it.

    If Vince wanted Bret leaving WM13 with the belt, he leaves with the belt – Shawn or no Shawn.

    • FriendshipIsTheBest!

      It was absolutely the plan, because the Kliq only works together!

  • redman

    Shawn not losing the belt to bret at WM13 AND getting the European title from bulldog the way he did is why I’ll never blame bret for refusing to put him over at survivor series

  • JasonMK

    I thought the plan right before Shawn forfeited was for Shawn to lose the title to Sid on Thursday Raw Thursday, setting up the Sid / Undertaker title match, then Shawn losing to Bret to give him back the victory without a title on the line. Shawn balked at jobbing twice in a row in major high-visibility matches and suddenly realized his knee was injured.

    • ironmike1996

      He was also major depressed and losing the smile was related to his 9 month relationship w sunny ending as she dumped him to go back w candidio. He was brokenhearted over it

      • JasonMK

        Oh, so he lost his “vertical smile”. I wasn’t aware of that. Interesting.

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