Over the course of his WWE career, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had no shortage of memorable feuds – though if he hadn't stepped in the ring with Bret Hart, there's a chance he never would've become the icon he is today.
For it was Austin's yearlong war with the Hitman, which reached its apex with their memorable submission match at WrestleMania 13 in 1997, that made him a star. The image of a bloodied Austin screaming in pain while Hart locked in his Sharpshooter submission is instantly identifiable to a generation of wrestling fans, and his refusal to tap out – or receive any help making his way back up the ramp following the match – only added to the burgeoning "Stone Cold" legend, and sent him rocketing up the WWE roster.
Hart would leave WWE later that year, paving the way for Austin to become one of the faces of the company's so-called "Attitude Era," though in many ways, the two wrestlers have remained linked ever since. Austin even inducted Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. So earlier this month, when Hart revealed he was fighting prostate cancer, Austin was one of the first people to reach out to the Hitman and offer his support.
"I know he's a very tough guy, and he's determined to fight this to the very end, and he's going in for surgery," Austin says. "I threw a call down to him, I got his voicemail and I left him a message. He returned my call and left me a message. We're playing phone tag right now, but I love Bret Hart, I respect Bret Hart and I wish him all the best as he goes into his surgery."
Austin – who can be seen on his CMT show Steve Austin's Broken Skull Challenge (Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT) – adds that he knows the fight ahead will be a difficult one, but if there's anyone capable of conquering cancer, it's the Hitman.
"Cancer has affected my family; my mother and father have battled cancer, I know how tough it is," he says. "I respect Bret; like I said, I love him, and I wish him all the best."