THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE
I would like to talk about a man who thinks he is everything. A man who thinks he's bigger than the people who made him. A man who was supposed to be all the things other men, of his legendary status, were not. I speak of the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Forgive me, but I think he's a bitch. I totally understand work frustration, but there are little things in life that make Austin's strike a little bit hard to swallow. First of all, I think I'm correct in assuming that Stone Cold is working under something called a 'contract'. Now, a 'contract' is defined as 'a binding arrangement between two or more persons or parties, especially one that is legally enforceable.' (Britannica.com) Now what we have here, is Austin being pissed off, not liking the direction of his character, and then throwing a fit like a ten-year-old who doesn't get to go on the Superman ride at some theme park, and so Austin walks off the job. He has no right, legal or moral, to do it. Here's why.
Let There Be Green: Stone Cold Steve Austin has drawn more money for that company, you know, the WWF, than anyone else. He's been their biggest star since approximately 1997, at which point he was at the focus of an 'attitude' marketing campaign that deplored the old wrestling adages of good v.s. evil and now employed a new thesis of 'shades of grey'. Austin made millions upon millions of dollars in each of the years since then, particularly in 1998, where there was no star even close to him in terms of marketability, and in 1999 and 2000, when the company did it's best business of all time ratings and quarter-earnings wise. He made, according to the figures I was able to stir up, at least, repeat at least, ten million dollars during each of those years. He also made this money while being a below-average worker in the period between August 1997-November of 1999, where an Owen Hart mishap caused him to be injured. After taking a few months off he came back at a fraction of his former ability and instead relied upon superior bumpers like Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley to absorb his offence and make him into an even bigger star. During this period he also foiled a long-term writing plan to feud him with Jeff Jarrett who 'messed with his merchandise' somehow when he merely cut an in-character promo on a low-rated episode of RAW in 1997. He also failed to job to up-and-comer Triple H at Summerslam 1999 despite an entire summer's storyline arcs pointing toward the idea that he would. Once again, Mick Foley was undermined and brought it solely to do the job as the transitional champ. When Austin went out in late 1999 into late 2000 with a bone spur injury, he did it without jobbing and was taken care of by the WWF better than any injured performer in the history of the company. He still made millions of dollars on the injured reserve. He came back at the end of 2000 and was once again pushed over everyone who worked hard in the year he'd been off television and off the road (house show tours). He was pushed over everyone who had not only prevented ratings from falling in the absence of the Rattlesnake, but occasionally brought them to heights that they'd never been before with Austin (I refer, in particular, to the ratings of both Rock and Shane McMahon in a cage the night after Backlash 2000 which garnered near a 10 rating and the "This is Your Life" Rock/Foley promo which was in the 8's). He was pushed over Rikishi, a man who was finally trying to make it to the next level, was booked solidly until his pay-per-view squash with Austin (No Mercy 2000) and then deflated quickly. No room on the top of the card for him. Austin then went after the title in a 6-man Hell in the Cell match in which he took fewer bumps than anyone else in the match, which also included Rock, Triple H, Angle, Rikishi, and Undertaker. During this match, Austin met the Rock in a staredown and a brief spot run to gauge reaction for the following year's Wrestlemania. The reaction was awesome.
It's No Coincidence: That the workrate went up in the year Austin was off TV. That Rock became twice the star he was with Austin there. That Foley only became a top-ranked worker during Austin's absence. That Triple H rose to the next level only with Austin gone. That Kurt Angle was able to rise faster than anyone in the history of wrestling (bar Goldberg) in Austin's year off. That Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero found immediate spots in high profile programs in the year of Austin's injury. In two and half years with Austin as top dog, no one was elevated. Think about that. January 1998 to Nov. 1999, the years Austin was undoubtedly the man the company was behind. He worked with Foley, but Foley didn't stay high on the card and was teaming with Kane later that year. He worked with Rock, who knew his role and jobbed humbly, but was rewarded by feuding with Shane McMahon, Billy Gunn, and a mid-card Triple H and got nowhere near title match main events until long after Austin was put out. He worked with Kane and....Well, I hardly need to point out that Kane wasn't a big star after his program with Austin. Austin was fed Undertaker. He was fed Bossman. He was fed Vince McMahon. He didn't help make one star in that whole period. Then he's out, bang, and new stars crop up like dandelions. Hey, now that I think about it, the only man that's really been elevated since Austin's been back is Jericho. And unsuccessfully! Coincidence? I think not.
Back to the Story and To His Credit: Surprisingly enough, in the time between Armageddon 2000 after Austin returned, and Wrestlemania 17, a face Stone Cold starts to take flat-back bumps from a height higher than three feet for the first time in years. He does so in matches with both Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit who were both booked weak against Austin despite being booked strong against every main event talent they'd faced to that point, including the Undertaker and the Rock. A pattern begins to emerge. He goes through the motions until the big show, in his home state, where he knows he can't fail because every little thing he does will be cheered.
The Time Comes: At Wrestlemania X-7, credit is given. Austin and Rock wrestle a clinic for the ages in which they do all their spots and a few famous spots from their previous matches, including an Austin/Bret spot from 1997's Wrestlemania, which was, ironically enough, the show that turned Austin face and started the whole economic upturn in the first place. Rock is buried again during this match, but shows awesome range and charisma. In analysis of this match, Rock is booed at the start, booed for every major spot, but is gradually less booed as the match goes on due to hard work and uncanny, uncanny storytelling. He is never cheered louder than Austin, but he gets a partisan crowd behind him. Rock loses and Austin turns.
There May Be Hope: Austin actually puts in the best in-ring performances of his career during the spring, summer, and fall of 2001. As a heel, he shows some of the in-ring fire he had lacked since he became the bump-giver and blader we'd come to know as the OOOOLLLLLDDDDDD STONE COLD. He worked with everyone, bumped hard, went off the top rope on a regular basis, and showed he was willing to show some ass as a heel, and not always be the bad-ass (the kind of heel Triple H insists on being). He had unbelievable matches with Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho during the late summer and early fall.
Rome Wasn't Built in a Day: Austin is booked as a face, despite being heel, in June 2001. He is booked in a title match with Jericho and Benoit, who are faces but are made to look as if they need to team up to beat Stone Cold. When the match goes down, Benoit and Jericho have no face heat because of this strange booking move, and it is the first time Austin, as a heel, is booked to gain sympathy, but not the last.
You Are.......An Asshole: Austin shows he's a dick when he fails to cleanly job to Kurt Angle at the September Pay-Per-View, Unforgiven. He taps out to Angle's ankle lock with a hand under the bottom rope. The ref doesn't see it. He loses the belt anyway and the unjust means under which he does makes him a sympathetic heel, undoubtedly. At this point he immediately begins to garner more cheers again. The what catchphrase gets ever the more popular despite the fact he's still a heel. He gets the belt back in, count 'em, two weeks, (only one week more than Hogan got his belt back from Lex Luger) and rides things out half-assing his heeldom until Survivor Series, where the Alliance angle plays out, is blown off, Austin does a tag-team job to Rock (the best he's given the Brahma Bull so far) and he immediately is positioned as a face. Austin does nothing valuable from this point on.
Hey, I Used to be The World Champion: Austin becomes a face again, and his match quality dips immediately. He wrestles a heel Jericho and gives him nothing. He loses the unification match at Vengeance due to a ton of interference, more than he ever won a match with as a heel during the previous year. He loses the Rumble because a man who had a career-threatening injury and took a huge amount of time off, Triple H, was back and was being pushed to the moon. How could Austin have a problem with that? It's the same benefit he was given a year earlier! And of course....
In Comes the Poison: Austin is again cast aside when Hogan, Hall, and Nash come in. He turns down a program with Hogan so as not to get 'swerved' the way Rock did, apparently, since now Hogan's a top hand even after 'passing the torch'. Well, Austin got that one right. Any smart dirt-sheet writer will tell you Austin made the right decision. But if he made the right decision, why did Rock get to be part of a huge moment in wrestling history, while Austin got dicked in the mid-card? And am I supposed to feel sorry for him? So what if he didn't get to be in the main event? He's always in the main event. He always wins the main event. Maybe it's time for someone else to main event the biggest show of the year. He got the next man down the nWo line. The only decent worker of the crew. Hall's a drunkard, but he's a drunkard who wanted to have a great match in front of 68, 000 plus at the Skydome that night. He's a drunkard that wanted to build up slow, and put on a good one. Austin didn't want to do that. Austin wanted to angrily blow his load, kill any credibility for the nWo, any internal logic for the roster split, all so he could raise his arms and get the fuck out of town so he could go home to shoot a motherfucking gazelle he's not going to eat. Well whoop-de-fucking-do. Thanks for shitting on a huge crowd Austin. It's not like they put down the biggest gate ever for a wrestling show in North America to see you. You fucking jackass.
I'm Not Coming in to Work Today: Now, Stone Cold's on the ranch, eating grits, spittin' tabaccy, and shooting innocent animals. I can't say I miss him. He's got no right to be at home, breaching contract, screwing over house show fans who put down money to see his millionaire ass only to hear he's not going to be there. For all Hogan's bullshit, he still appeared when advertised. For all Bret Hart's being a mark for himself, he's still went out and worked his ass off every night. And for all Shawn Michaels' prima donna pussy-assing around, when the music hit and it was go time, Shawn went. Austin is a bitch, purely and simply, and when all is said and done, he's pulled more bullshit than Hogan, proven a bigger mark for himself than Hart, and been more of a prima donna pussy-ass than HBK. And I, frankly, haven't found him half as compelling as a top hand than any one of them. Welcome to real life, Austin. You can be replaced. You are not needed. Like any other working-man on Earth! It's not the end of the world. You are also stale. And hey, when a real man has a problem at a real job, he can't just 'not come in'. He has to do the job, especially if he puts his name and his word on the dotted line and says he will.
Not to be a mark for myself, but the people made Austin. If people don't buy it, it don't get sold, and Austin owes the people, the ones who made him, and Hogan, and Rock, and Hart, and all the rest of the legends. Each of them seem to have a better handle on who made them than Austin does. So do yourself and the storylines a favour, Steve-O. Stay home for another year. Come back in time for a program with Rock, for the title, at Wrestlemania X-9, lose cleanly, pass your torch since Hogan's burned out a long time ago anyway, and then get the fuck out of the WWF. This has been the irresistible force, and I, am the immoveable object. Thank you.