There are greats, there are legends, there are icons, and there is Stone Cold Steve Austin. His brash, no-nonsense style in the ring and on the microphone resonated with fans for more than a decade and changed professional wrestling as we knew it. Austin, in a nutshell, succeeded on the premise of being himself, or at the very least an extension of himself and created a lot of moments in his career, some of which you can play now with the new 2K Sports release, WWE 2K16, in stores now.
But what's the greatest Steve Austin moment ever?
Last week, we asked you, the Cagesiders, and needless to say, you've responded overwhelmingly. But before we get to the best of the best, here are...
3 honorable mentions.
Wait. Only three? Chill, Cagesider. It will all make sense in a minute. Even though there was a tie for the third spot, I used my executive power to break it. And I don't think there will be any disagreement on it.
1. The moment that not only kickstarted the road to Wrestlemania XIV, but began the WWF's resurgence to respectability in the mainstream, Stone Cold's shoving match with Mike Tyson is one of the most replayed moments in WWF history, and an important flagpole moment in the Monday Night Wars.
2. These days, Stone Cold has taken his talents to podcasting, and once a month, his podcast airs on the WWE Network. In August, Stone Cold interviewed one of his biggest fans, professional wrestler Paige, who blew. His. Mind. Seriously, look at this GIF.
3. The show that produced the infamous "IT'S ME, AUSTIN!" also produced the announcement that Stone Cold replaced Linda McMahon as the WWF's CEO. Of course, it was kayfabe and it only lasted two weeks, but it provides a lesson for us all: never, ever give your plan away to your archenemy, no matter how close you are to winning.
With the honorables out of the way, here they are, as chosen by you...
The top 16 Steve Austin moments ever.
Now it makes sense, amirite? I'm right. Admit I'm right. Anyways, don't blame me if your favorites didn't make it. Blame yourselves. Cool. Cool. Off we go.
16. Stone Cold double stuns Scott Hall.
Steve Austin main-evented three Wrestlemanias in four years. He was also in a featured bout at Wrestlemania 13, making him a spotlighted player four out of five years. But despite his popularity being as high as ever, Austin was in an otherwise meaningless bout at Wrestlemania X8 against the nWo's Scott Hall. It may be Stone Cold's least-memorable Wrestlemania bout were it not for this.
That's a Wrestlemania Stunner. With cheese. And extra bacon. And probably one of my favorite stunner sells ever.
15. Stone Cold fills a Corvette with cement.
Protip, kids: you get on Steve Austin's bad side and retribution will come. In late September 1998, Vince McMahon with the help of the Undertaker and Kane screwed Stone Cold Steve Austin out of the WWF Championship. Austin was not going to let this slide by any means. The night after the screwjob, Austin got in the building on a zamboni and dropped McMahon where he stood. Though he got arrested, he made a vow to get McMahon no matter what (we'll revisit this later)
The next week, Austin got McMahon again despite the fact he was laid up in a hospital bed. (We will also revisit this later.) So you think cooler heads would prevail with McMahon now confined to a wheelchair thanks to a broken ankle.
The next week, the one-time forklift driver got in the building (this time on a McMahon invite, unlike two weeks prior) in a cement truck. He then aimed the pourer of the cement truck at the hood of McMahon's brand new Corvette. A Corvette that somehow had its hood open. In Long Island, New York. In October. (In McMahon's defense, the high that day in Long Island was 75 degrees.) Then the cement started pouring. And pouring. And pouring. And pouring. Then... crash. And more pouring. There goes the car. $50,000 down the drain. Probably peanuts to McMahon, but principle and all that. And it still wasn't the worst thing to happen to him that month.
14. Austin Deconstruction.
Steve Austin is probably a kid at heart. I mean, let's be honest. When you were young, you probably liked tearing things down than building them up, amirite? Of course I'm right.
Anyways, on the Smackdown before Backlash 2000, Steve Austin, making his first appearance on WWF programming since he got run over by a car (something that wouldn't be addressed until his full-time return a few months later), was a wanted man, as he was to be in The Rock's corner for the WWF title match on the PPV. But the McMahon-Helmsley Faction couldn't find him.
Which kinda sucks for them because it turns out he was out of the building the whole time. With a crane. And a steel beam. A steel beam that was trained on a certain bus parked outside for some reason. Oh, the bus? The DX Express, as it was called, was also somehow rigged with explosives (don't ask, WWF logic), went up against a fast falling steel beam, and spoiler alert: Austin and the steel beam won.
Steve Austin in his own special way demonstrated what would happen if anyone tried anything funny with him. Pretty sure what would really happen didn't involve things blowing up, but you get the idea.
13. Bang 3:16.
So, remember when Stone Cold lost the WWF Championship? He was a little bit incorrigible when that happened. The next night, he drove to the ring in a Zamboni and got a few free shots on McMahon. Then the Undertaker and Kane broke McMahon's ankle. The next week, a disguised Austin beat up a laid-up McMahon in his hospital room. The next week, Austin filled McMahon's new Corvette with cement. But McMahon was intent on screwing Austin, one way or another, forcing him to referee a WWF Championship match with the Undertaker and Kane at Judgment Day, under the caveat that if Austin didn't raise the hand of the new champion, he would be fired. Austin called McMahon's bluff--or what he thought was a bluff. McMahon had the winning hand, and he fired Austin.
But wrestling 101: retirements don't stick, and neither do firings. The next night, McMahon said that firing Stone Cold was "better than sex". Little did he knew that Austin was in the building. With murderous intentions.
Vince tried to escape, but the fired Austin got to him first. With the latest hunting accessories of the day, Steve was fixing to kill him straight dead in front of an audience of millions. McMahon begged and pleaded for his life, but it wasn't to be. Austin had his mind made up. He pulled the trigger. One shot.
Then a flag popped out. Bang 3:16.
McMahon was trolled. And in said trolling, McMahon peed his pants. Humiliated with the world watching by an unemployed man. And he got stunned to end the show. Twice. That sucks. I wonder if they ever made that T-shirt, "McMahon 3:16 said I just pissed my pants".
12. Austin stuns McMahon in the Garden.
At Summerslam 1997, Stone Cold Steve Austin was temporarily paralyzed in his match against Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship. The bout went to an immediate finish, with Austin winning, but that's trivial. Austin suffered a career-altering neck injury that would keep him out of action for a few months, which sucked because Austin at this time was WHITE FUCKING HOT, you guys.
The time away turned out to be a bit of a blessing for Austin, as it gave him time to develop his character. Plus create this classic moment: Austin was out to get the man that damn near killed him, Owen Hart. Despite being surrounded by some of New York's Finest, Austin got to the "Black Hart" because if Austin wants to get you, he will. Especially that, you know, his livelihood was taken away from him. That was about enough for Vince McMahon, who got up from the commentary table and tried to talk sense into Steve Austin.
Talking sense to Steve Austin. That'll end well.
Austin seemingly agrees to quit putting his career in jeopardy for the sake of revenge. Then he drops Vince on that stack of dimes he calls a neck. Congratulations, Vince. You just took your first Stone Cold Stunner. How did it feel? Well, his body went into involuntary convulsions before going into dead with eyes open mode. Not exactly the best way to sell a Stunner (and far from the worst... looking at you Linda McMahon in 2005), but the good news for Vince is he would get plenty of practice, taking Stunners from Steve for a full decade.
But as the kids say, you never forget your first. I'm sure Vince would though.
11. Stone Cold's stunner party '98.
Long before two guys named Jackson made "superkick party" a thing, Stone Cold Steve Austin celebrated the start of 1998 the Stone Cold Steve Austin way: by stunning anyone and everyone that is entering the Royal Rumble match. Austin made it real clear: he may have been a marked man, but he was gonna be the aggressor. Ken Shamrock, The Rock, Mark Henry, Jeff Jarrett, and Marc Mero all felt his wrath that night, with four of the five men getting stunners and Mark Henry put through a table. You don't come after the Rattlesnake and not get bit. Needless to say, Stone Cold went on to win the Royal Rumble for the second straight year two weeks later, so his plan clearly worked, thank you very much.
10. Stone Cold and Kurt Angle cheer up Vince with song.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was for the better part of his career--and I'm including WCW and ECW--a badass. But Steve Austin in the spring and summer of 2001 was... weird.
Austin went from foul-mouthed, beer-drinking ass kicker to foul-mouthed, beer drinking, pouty six-year old in constant need of attention and validation. And it couldn't have come at a worse time. Around the time Austin went needy and whiny, WCW stars came to the WWF and they were hell bent on killing the WWF dead. With Triple H on the sidelines and The Rock making movies, it was on the shoulders of Steve Austin and Kurt Angle to rally the troops. Steve Austin's solution: a song.
Well, at least he tried. Austin's singing didn't cheer Vince up, so Kurt Angle stepped up to the plate... with Jimmy Crack Corn. This also didn't cheer Vince up, but it did display a comedic side that many fans didn't think they had. Or wanted for that matter. As the old saying goes in the wrestling business, funny don't make money.
9. Austin versus The Rock at Wrestlemania X-Seven.
Plug most shameless: read BIGPALE's breakdown of the classic here. No, seriously, read it. He did it more justice than I ever will.
One of the greatest matches in WWE history went down on April 1, 2001. The event was Wrestlemania X-Seven, regarded by many as the greatest supercard the company's ever put on. It pitted WWF Champion The Rock against #1 contender and three-time Royal Rumble winner Stone Cold Steve Austin. I know what you're thinking: their rivalry goes back to 1997 (you know, the whole Intercontinental belt in a river thing), we've seen this match already. But three years of chemistry and polar opposites playing off each other perfectly can create for some magic that only a few matches in the history of the business can deliver.
The near half-hour war (at 28:07, it's actually one of the longer bouts in Wrestlemania history) saw chairs, bells, exposed turnbuckles, stolen finishers, moves not used in years, and Vince McMahon. And the Houston crowd ate it all up. Probably right up to the ending when Austin goes full on raging redneck with the chair, beating Rock until he stayed down for three. Austin would be the WWF Champion for the fifth time. Then, in an act that's still shocking more than a decade later, he shook the hand of his longtime rival, Mr. McMahon.
It was a goodbye to an era we would never see again. It was a swan song to the greatest period in wrestling history, with three of the men that made it possible.
8. Austin, Edge, and Christian's jam session.
So, Steve Austin, Edge, and Christian are three pretty awesome guys, and I'm not just saying that because I'm an uberfan of the Attitude Era; these three are pretty awesome guys. So when one of the greatest tag teams in wrestling history get together with one of the greatest wrestlers in history, hijinks would ensue. So Austin offered Edge and Christian to play his classic theme on kazoos. They accepted, but only if Austin joined in on ukulele.
The result was funny if nothing else. But just saying, WWE. If you put out an album with these three playing classic themes with ukuleles and kazoos, I'd probably buy it.
7. Stone Cold Zamboni.
I believe it was rapper Xzibit that once said in the movie XXX: State of the Union that if it has wheels, it can be jacked. That movie was in 2004.
Steve Austin learned this lesson in 1998.
Ornery that he had lost the WWF Championship the previous night to either Kane or The Undertaker or both, Steve Austin, none too happy that he didn't get an invite to the championship celebration, got in the coronation party anyway. Because nobody tells Steve Austin no, by God. Steve rolled into the party, not in his custom truck, but in a Zamboni, because if I'm crashing a championship ceremony, I'm rolling up in there in a Zamboni, and you are too, amirite?
So Austin (to a monster pop, by the way) momentarily kills the audio (the audio goes mono for about five minutes on the original broadcast), shifts the ring about six inches upon parking, then (and I swear, you have to see this to believe it) runs off the top of the Zamboni and hits a diving clothesline on Mr. McMahon. This may have been the first time I've seen him do a diving clothesline on anyone. Austin would get in a few more free shots before being hauled off in handcuffs. As he's being carried away (after getting a few headbutts in on Vince on the way out), Austin had an ominous message:
"I ain't through with you, Vince! I ain't through with you yet by a long shot."
And thus began the worst month of Vince McMahon's life.
6. Stone Cold helps Mankind win the WWF Championship.
By the start of 1999, RAW is WAR had largely become about evil Vince McMahon finding ways to screw Steve Austin. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, every show needs a main plot. But by the beginning of that year, more players were weaved into the Austin-McMahon drama. Two of them were The Rock and Mankind, who were in a heated feud over the WWF Championship (it hadn't quite reached nuclear levels yet).
The Rock was McMahon's perfect ideal for a WWF Champion: clean-cut, strong, good-looking, and willing to play ball. Mankind: not so much. He wore a mask, tattered shirts, sometimes dirty ones, had sweats instead of tights, and he was a little pudgy. To say he was rough around the edges would be an understatement.
I fully broke it down in the January 4, 1999 RAW recap thing I did last year, but I'll summarize it for you: Mankind fails to qualify for the Royal Rumble, but takes Shane McMahon hostage, threatening to break his shoulders unless his father Vince caved in and gave Mankind a shot at the Rock for the title in a no-DQ match on the show. Standard title match fare... until the glass broke.
With fracases going on everywhere, the crowd roared (seriously, it was so loud, the camera shook on the original broadcast) when Stone Cold Steve Austin made an unscheduled appearance. He clocks Rock with a steel chair and pulls Mankind over him. One three-count later, and Mankind, again to a MONSTER pop, was the WWF Champion. Post-match, Austin threw his hat at McMahon, flipped him off, and walked away, proud of a job well done. Any day Steve ruins Vince's plans was a good day in his book.
5. The grocery store brawl.
In late 2001, Booker T incurred the wrath of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Wait... what? Weren't they in the Alliance together?
Yes, yes, they were. But with the WWF winning at Survivor Series, Booker T was on the outside looking in... until he cost Austin the undisputed title at Vengeance.
Over the next few days, Booker ran and hid from the eventual beatdown that would come his way if Stone Cold got his hands on him, and as we've all learned, kids, if Steve Austin has a vendetta against you, he's gonna find a way to carry it out. Booker hid in bingo halls and in supermarkets, but Austin would eventually corner his prey...in a supermarket in Bakersfield, California.
Of course, ass whoopings from Stone Cold come with a variety of condiments to suit anyone's taste buds. Like ketchup. Grey Poupon mustard. Flour. Or frozen pizza if that's your sort of thing. Basically, if it wasn't nailed down, it was a weapon. Evenutally, Booker traps Austin in a walk-in freezer thinking his supermarket trip from hell was over.
It was not. Austin emerges with milk from the freezer. Eventually, someone calls the cops, and Austin bails, but not before asking for a price check on jackass. My guess is Booker would be a pretty expensive one; after all, 250 pounds of anything isn't cheap.
4. The Corporation gets an unwanted beer bath.
So... Steve Austin. He's a beer drinker that loves his beer. A lot. I mean, the man really loves his beer. So leave it to Steve to celebrate The Rock's biggest moment of his career to date: getting to main event Wrestlemania XV with the #1 man in the business for the WWF title. But The Rock was in no celebratory mood. After all, Steve told The Rock that he was planning to roll right into room 316 of the Smackdown Hotel and burn that son-of-a-bitch to the ground. So the Rock tells Steve to take the truck and drive it down Know Your Role, hang that right on Jabroni Drive, and...
...and here's Steve to put that fire out with beer. Beer for everyone! You get a beer bath, Rock! You get a beer bath, Shane McMahon! Shot of beer for Austin (that apparently split his lip open because it was coming out with so much force). You get a beer bath, Vince McMahon! Stop trying to swim upstream, Vince! The current is too strong! Austin does get to finish his toast, but with a couple cans of Coors Light, which is infinitely more useful than a hose full of Coors Light.
3. Submission match at Wrestlemania 13 with Bret Hart.
When Bret Hart returned to the WWF in October 1996, it was very different from the company he had left just six months earlier. Everything seemed a little darker, a little edgier. A little more ruthless and a little less cartoony. He definitely wasn't in Kansas anymore.
Leading the charge of this "new WWF" was Stone Cold Steve Austin. He wasn't the typical heel of eras gone by, no. He had a chip on his shoulder. He was ANGRY. And that anger fueled him. And the crazy thing: people took to this guy, because even if he didn't seem real, it felt like he was. He had no filter whatsoever. He proclaimed himself to be the best in the world, and nobody was gonna tell him wrong, especially not Bret Hart.
That mindset drove one of the most underrated rivalries of the 1990s: Bret Hart versus Stone Cold Steve Austin. It peaked at Wrestlemania 13 in a submission match, where the only way to win was to make the other man submit, something that was unthinkable for either man.
For over 20 minutes, the two men, with famed MMA fighter Ken Shamrock looking on, tore into each other, using chairs, ring bells, loose electrical cords, guard rails, and pretty much anything in the nearby vicinity. But it's the end that began the legend of Steve Austin.
Trapped in the Sharpshooter, a bloodied Austin tried to power out of the Sharpshooter, then fight through the pain just long enough that Hart would have to give up on the hold altogether. Austin powered out.
OR DID HE?
Hart only collapsed, but he still had a grip on his legs. He righted himself and Austin was back where he started: in the Sharpshooter with a face full of blood and pain shooting through his body. Then, Austin goes limp. Despite Shamrock's repeated attempts to get some response, any response, Austin was unconscious. Possibly worse. The match had stopped, with Hart the winner. The story should have ended there, but it didn't.
Hart was not satisfied. He wanted to finish Austin. He wanted to hear Austin say he gave up. He submitted. When Bret didn't get that, he got pissed. He went after Austin's lifeless body until Ken Shamrock had to physically restrain him. With the whole world looking at him, Hart's true colors had come out.
In less than a half hour, Hart became the very man he was fighting against, walking away from a fight and flipping off fans on the way back. He'd lived long enough to become the villain, while the man he defeated, finally regaining consciousness, limped to the back a hero. Not a conquering one, mind you, but one that had earned the respect of anyone that watched that night. The successful double turn, about as rare as a Buffalo nickel, sent the two careers in opposite directions. Hart, while he would continue to win championships until his career-ending concussion in late 1999, would never reach the heights he was pre-Wrestlemania 13. Austin, well, he only went on to be the biggest star in the business.
2. Bedpan McMahon.
Said it a few times already, but I'm gonna say it again: if you piss off Stone Cold Steve Austin, you will pay for it on the back end. Vince McMahon in October 1998 still has not learned this, probably because he was dense. One week earlier, McMahon landed in the hospital after his ankle got broken, not at the hands of Austin, but The Undertaker and Kane, who were supposed to watch his back. Vince chastised the Brothers of Destruction for not doing their ONE JOB, and the big guys proceeded to take it out on the boss by crippling him. Because the Undertaker and Kane are reasonable people, AMIRITE?
Fast forward a week, and McMahon's laid up. One of Vince's last loyal soldiers, Mankind, paid him a visit to the hospital and tried to lift his spirits with chocolate, clowns, and a sock puppet who would go on to have its own place in wrestling history. Needless to say, that didn't work out.
A few moments later, a nurse and a doctor came in to check on the boss. Hey, remember when Austin said a week earlier that he wasn't through with Vince by a long shot? Austin, disguised in a male nurse getup, somehow got in Vince's room, and well, all hell broke loose. Steve put yet another beating on the boss, punctuated by a bedpan to the head. The sound alone makes this one of the greatest moments not just in the long history of the rivalry, but the long history of RAW. And wrestling in general. Because sometimes we all need to be reminded that wrestling's supposed to be fun and we're supposed to laugh at it once in a while.
1. Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
So... true story, you guys. Stone Cold Steve Austin wasn't supposed to be the 1996 King of the Ring. No, seriously. He wasn't. He wasn't even supposed to be in the tournament. That honor was to go to Triple H who was in the middle of a monster push since debuting with the company late the previous year. But a month before the event, H hugged it out with his BFFs in what was then a major breach of kayfabe and saw his monster push ripped from him. The man that benefitted the most: Steve Austin, who debuted around the same time Hunter did. But hell, it almost ended up not being him either.
In his semifinal match, Austin got kicked in the mouth by Marc Mero. Pretty badly too. He had to be rushed to a nearby hospital and get over a dozen stitches to close it up. Sometime between getting on the ambulance and the tournament final (when exactly depends on who's telling the story), Austin was told that his opponent, Jake Roberts, cut a religious-themed promo on Austin. Steve goes on to win the final and the tournament in short order, then in a memorable promo, Austin throws Jake's beliefs right back in his face and sends the warning shot heard ‘round the world:
The first thing I want to be done, is to get that piece of crap out of my ring. Don't just get him out of the ring, get him out of the WWF because I've proved son, without a shadow of a doubt, you ain't got what it takes anymore! You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16...
Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!
[Hendrix] Come on, that's not necessary...
[Austin:] All he's gotta do is go buy him a cheap bottle of Thunderbird [Vince: alright, stop it.] and try to dig back some of that courage he had in his prime.
As the King of the Ring, I'm serving notice to every one of the WWF superstars. I don't give a damn what they are, they're all on the list, and that's Stone Cold's list, and I'm fixing to start running through all of 'em.
And as far as this championship match is considered son, I don't give a damn if it's Davey Boy Smith or Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin's time is come, and when I get that shot you're looking at the next WWF Champion. And that's the bottom line, because Stone Cold said so.
It wouldn't be until near the end of the year Austin began to seriously get pushed, but that promo got the snowball rolling, and for all intents and purposes, the promo that launched not just a career, but an entire era. Without it, Steve is not nearly the legend he is today and WWE is probably not even around. That's why you decided that the Austin 3:16 promo is the greatest Steve Austin moment ever.
So, agree with the list? Give out about it in the comments below. Then check out these past Cageside Countdowns.