A look at the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin
Now for those of you who don’t know, Steve Austin’s career is officially over as a full-time active wrestler and the assumption that WWE was under was that Austin’s match at WrestleMania against the Rock was in fact, his unofficial retirement match. The retirement is as official as Michael’s was, meaning that he could return at any time, only loosely based on his condition, because this is the wrestling business. Dr. Llyod Youngblood, who was originally optimistic, is now reacting to level of deterioration that has set in on Austin’s spine and neck and calls it the worst neck injury he’s ever seen. As a result, no doctors are supporting him ever having anymore matches and at 38, his career, which saw great peaks and great valleys, may be over. The biggest part of Austin’s career came after Austin came to the company and two separate gimmicks failed. When Austin one “King of the Ring” in 1996 and created a catchphrase that caught in, Austin was swept up into a fury that was a mixture of being based on his talent, the direction of the company, the character that was written for him, and his feud with Mr. McMahon. During his peak time between 1996 and 1999, Steve Austin sold more merchandise than most anyone in the company and was an extremely successful draw. At the same time, the WWF was popular for its edgy appeal among teen males and adult males. McMahon may have been a genius for cultivating and satisfying a group of people who spent the most money in stores. Toys, video games… they sold like crazy. Cable ratings on the USA network were at highs that USA had never seen before. Then, in 1999, Austin became the first wrestler to undergo significant neck surgery and despite the fact that he was slated to return, and seemingly-inevitably be back on top, the injury marked the end of the good times. When Austin came back to the WWF a year later, things were different. The hierarchal development in the company was tremendous and the changes sweeping but led to an environment that perhaps was not suited to the wrestling industry. It was certainly not what Austin had been used to being a veteran to the business at this point. The WWF became more corporate, down to its writing staff… and their were problems. Creative problems ensued and Austin could not even work out differences with Vince at the top. “What has happened here,” Austin must have asked himself. “This used to be a creative environment, I could talk to Vince and we would walk through things and think of them. What happened to the creative parts of giving promos. Now all this is scripted move-for-move, word-for-word and I can’t even talk to Vince.” Things got worse. Even more booking changes and the Austin character took turns for the worse. Fast forward to Spring 2001. WCW folds, ECW folds. The WWF fails miserably with an Invasion angle that was sure to work, perhaps because of Vince McMahon’s unwillingness to make WCW anything good because of a genuine hatred. At WrestleMania, Austin almost commits career suicide by turning heel which failed at the box office and sullied Austin’s reputation. It wouldn’t be long before we realized that the bad angles that 2001 brought – and Austin weathered – would only be contributing factors to what was building up. It was inevitable, but no one knew that at the time but Austin himself. Fast forward through a lot of other strain and tension into 2002. The WWF is sinking and sinking fast with business doing badly, mostly due to horrible decisions made at different levels. Austin was a very disgruntled employee come WrestleMania where he had a mid-card match with Scott Hall and felt the company was treating him like nothing, even though he was at the top through the best times and felt he had always supported the company and now they were turning their back on him. He was nowhere to be found at the traditional post-WrestleMania party and people knew something was wrong. Austin exercised the right in his contract to walk out on the company. Problems were never solved but rather smoothed over. As things moved on, a boiling point was reached. Sunday, June 9, 2002 – Steve Austin answers his ringing cell phone to hear a matter-of-fact Jim Ross on the other end “warning” him “before-hand” that it was decided that he would job to Brock Lesnar the next night on RAW. An angry Austin heard the final straw break. Vince McMahon, having talked to Ross, called Austin and told him to come to the show. Sure enough, he didn’t and his personal life fell into a well-documented and depressing spiral through the next few months. In 2003, the company came to terms with Austin and he made a popular return to the company. His return drew poorly after a small spike. The news of his medical condition was not a mystery for long.
Steve Austin’s contract expires this September.
The angle to remove Austin began on Raw. Bischoff found Austin’s medical records and dismissed him because of the fact that he’s injured. Bruce Mitchell summed up my feelings well: “In case you don’t get it, that means the good guy is the independent spirit who is willing to risk paralysis or death to ‘entertain the fans’ and make his company money. The bad guy is the manager who won’t him risk his life against doctor’s orders. What sports entertainer dares take time to rehab a serious injury when Kurt Angle risks it all and has a four star match anyway? I don’t know who is going to end up with more blood on their hands, the selfish fans who don’t care as long as they’re entertained, the short-sighted performers who are willing to gamble their health and the health of the people they work with for a pay day and a pop, or Vince McMahon and the rest of WWE management, who are willing to pimp out people’s lives to slow down their slide down America’s pop culture ladder. This is reprehensible, like watching a car wreck develop a hundred yards ahead of you on the interstate, except any number of people could stop it but instead we all get our cameras out.”
I’m not happy about Goldberg coming to WWE. Comments this week further confirm that he is not committed to the business, yet and still, he jumps into the company, gets paid a ton of money for no more than a 100 day commitment, jumping ahead of people more talented and able to draw.
While many are quick to point out that Goldberg could mean big money for WWE, a true statement, so could Scott Steiner… but he didn’t. If WWE can’t use their Booker Ts and their Jerry Lynns well, what is it that makes you think that Goldberg will be treated with any good booking. People want to see Bill Goldberg, but they want to see Hulk Hogan too – but Hogan doesn’t draw. The time to build new talent is now, but covering up the problem with high-paid and useless talent is meaningless. It’s WCW-esque. And if WWE doesn’t watch out, they will be the next lesson to learn from, instead of the ones unwilling to learn from the original ones.
WWE doesn’t need names… WCW used names wrong and it got them nowhere. I don’t believe in covering the problem up, I believe in fixing them. Goldberg is children’s paste, not glue. People say that Austin, Hogan, and Rock aren’t there for the long run, so what’s needed is Goldberg to fix that. Newsflash: Goldberg isn’t there for the long run either. The Austin name popped the rating for several weeks, but soon, fans realized that beneath the name, they were only being given crap and ratings are back down. This past Monday’s RAW drew only a 3.7 even with Austin, Rock, the backlash from ‘Mania, and the Goldberg signing made public. There is no shortcut around good booking. NWA:TNA does a lot of money-wasting on big names to, but at least they don’t expect that in itself to draw money. Another creative superpower in the WWE is a death wish, for reasons that are obvious.
The way to gain WCW fans back for more than one week is not bringing Goldberg in, it’s giving a good product. Some WCW fans will never come back, no matter how good the product is, it’s that simple. The only way to ensure that people will like your product is to put a good product out there, simply. The people that have been “talking” about Goldberg are not former WCW fans… they are current WWE fans. It’s funny how the same people who complain about hotshotted angles talk about how good it is for Goldberg to be coming back.
People pay for wrestling, today’s fanbase is more wrestling-oriented than many in the past. When people pay for a PPV, they demand a strong workrate and when one can’t deliver (even the used-to-be-beloved Scott Steiner), they are doomed. They won’t stand for people who are protected (Nathan Jones and Big Show are two more examples) or who simply can’t wrestle at all.
WWE deserves credit for how they introduced Goldberg on Monday. While the show was somewhat ruined by the fans already knowing about Goldberg and chanting his name, I felt the way it built to Goldberg was great.
I have not been pleased with SmackDown lately either. The show has been mediocre and poorly booked and my personal belief is because it is due to the loss of Heyman. The return of Sable – who is now 40 – surprises me as well.
THE LIGHTER SIDEFamed superstar “Rowdy” Roddy Piper appeared at the WWE’s flagship PPV Sunday and interfered in a match between Hulk Hogan and Vince McMahon that was, according to a WWE press release, “twenty years in the making.”
After walking in, Piper stood in the ring for several minutes before hitting Hulk Hogan with a lead pipe. Hogan responded by falling to the mat, betrayed. A dazed Hogan then went on to pin Vince McMahon.
“I feel as if nothing has been accomplished,” wrote Piper later in the evening in an online diary. He continued, “I must admit, it’s very disheartening but as always, I will move on. One must respect the ebb and flow that life brings.”
On the criticism headed his way regarding working for NWA:TNA, WCW, and WWE and then going on to criticize them, and in the case of WWE, go back to again, he wrote: “I don’t care what you think.”
This is Piper’s 31st year of involvement with wrestling.
Random, faceless, voiceless comment-prompter from WWE Confidential caught up with Fred Durst of Limp Bizket after ‘Mania for comment on performing.
R.F.V.C.-P.: What was performing at ‘Mania like? FD: Well, our greatest CD “Crack Addict” will be coming out later this year. We hate television performances so we had to do something we really believed in, like pay-per-view telecasts because that is completely different from
R.F.V.C.-P.: What was especially special about performing at WrestleMania? FD: We like to be like old-school bands from the ’70s like with in-door pyro. Our music, on it’s own, stands for no-or, at least deplorable-life concepts and ideology so we like the whole experience to be something great so that while the content may be shit – in and of itself – the fans still think they’ve gotten their money’s worth. And WWE does that too so the relationship between us is inevitable if not intended by God himself.
R.F.V.C.-P.: Crack addict is the name of the new CD? FD: Yes.
R.F.V.C.-P.: Is that a reference to drugs? No, never. I meant as in, addicted to cracking the skulls of people if they don’t like our music.
MUSINGS, SWEET MUSINGSI miss tradition. There are some days that I prefer a Gordon Solie to an ignorant Jonathan Coachman, or a King of the Ring to a modern day WWE RAW brand “Bad Blood”. But I suppose as time moves on, tradition falls by the wayside. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
Foz’s comments in the latest Smackdown Showdown regarding HHH echo exactly what I feel and were phrased well. So instead of being creative and reiterating what was said there in a different way, I will just let those words speak for themselves and add a few notes. After watching Hunter’s match at ‘Mania and reading a few comments of others I have realized that not only is HHH after he is accused of, he is now
Piper’s return to the company and his version of history was the theme of this week’s WWE Confidential. He says that while he was once an arrogant jerk and absorbed in wrestling, he’s changed his ways. Isn’t that what every veteran wrestler says? Piper: “Did they come to see Hulk Hogan or did they come to see Hulk Hogan beat up Roddy Piper…. My contention is: I started WrestleMania.” I admit, I love Piper and he’s probably one of my favorite promo-cutters but there was a point where he became a crazy hypocrite in that one day he’s talking about how he hates and won’t work for WWE and then here he is. I am also sickened by the use of Owen Hart in his promo for NWA:TNA last year. They went down memory lane with “Piper’s Pit”. They also did a funny filler spot on Austin/ESPN. A segment on The Hardyz’ new book, Trish going around Axxess, and Limp Bizket as well. Really nice segment on Dwayne Mayhugh, who was one of the trapped cole-miners last year that were rescued and him being backstage with his family. Next week: a look at Sable. That should be fun.
That’ll do it for this week. Send your feedback, corrections, and random rants to THunnicutt@aol.com and include your name. I’ll be back sometime within the next week with the complete Leglock review of ‘Mania and whatever else so inspires me.
What do you think? Head over to The X-Forums to let your opinion be heard!