Stone Cold’s Heel Turn Could’ve Worked By John Brecko
In the main event of the greatest Wrestlemania of all time, Wrestlemania X-Seven (17 for those that are not wrestling fans). The Rock faced off against Stone Cold Steve Austin for the WWF Championship. This was a “face vs face” matchup (good guy vs good guy), which is interesting because fans will struggle who to root for in that situation.
Fans did not know who would win this match and they certainly did not expect what would happen during the match.
Stone Cold Steve Austin turned heel on The Rock during the match by aligning himself with one of the men he had been feuding with for years. That man was his boss and the Chairman of the then World Wrestling Federation, Vince McMahon.
Stone Cold Steve Austin would go on to win that match thanks to his newfound alliance with the Chairman and become the WWF Champion once again.
The fans in attendance did not even realize that Stone Cold had turned heel on them because Austin had been the “anti-hero” of the WWF for years at this point. This meant that him winning by any means necessary did not come as a shock to the fans and did not warrant boos from them either.
However, those watching on pay-per-view knew how drastic of a shift this would be thanks to “Good Ol’ J.R.” Jim Ross being on commentary telling us how he thought he knew Stone Cold and exclaiming “Why Stone Cold?! Tell me WHY!” J.R. truly made it sound like he and the WWF we falling apart at the seams when Stone Cold turned heel that night.
In real life, Steve Austin thought his character had begun to grow stale and needed a change. Both Jim Ross and Vince McMahon seemed to believe that it was still too early for him to turn heel, but they were willing to try and went through with the turn at WWF’s biggest show of the year.
The turn is recognized as a flop. Stone Cold would begin his turn as an evil heel and align himself with Triple H, becoming the “Two Man Power Trip” and they would win the WWF Tag-Team Championships. Triple H would also win the Intercontinental Championship, meaning that these two men would hold all the major belts the WWF had to offer at the time, which was almost unheard of back then.
However, Triple H would tear his quadricep muscle and plans would change. Stone Cold would once again align himself with Vince McMahon, but he would be involved in comedy skits as well, sing kumbyah and giving the Chairman hugs. It felt like a 180 degree turn the badass rebel who went against the system that we were used to seeing.
There was a segment where a brawl went outside an arena and Stone Cold was almost thrown off a bridge, but cried and begged Kurt Angle not to throw him off that bridge. The promo where “The Old Stone Cold” came out and beat up everyone from WCW during the Invasion angle worked for a great pop, but the character would have the same credibility, especially after turning heel again and aligning with WCW.
It could have worked, but the execution did not go well and the right story was not told.
Instead of Stone Cold Steve Austin becoming part of the system, why not just have him take over Monday night Raw? Dress him up in a suit and tie instead of a t-shirt. Have him drink champagne instead of beer and have been be all about staying on top of the WWF at any costs. Have him get lawyers to throw Vince McMahon or anyone else he needs to under the bus if a title defense does not go his way. Have him align with WCW because some eventually takes him down, so he tries to take down the company he succeeded with in response.
Instead of having him go from being a man of the people to giving hugs in comedy skits, have him be ruthless and not just inside the squared circle when wrestling another person. Stone Cold has a legacy in wrestling that can never be torn down no matter how hard anyone would try to with his take no prisoners, beer drinking, middle finger throwing character that was the face of WWF’s Attitude Era. No one could diminish the importance of the Steve Austin/Vince McMahon feud and how it possibly saved the WWF from going out of business to WCW in the 1990s.
Those comedy skits were funny, but Stone Cold is one of the best main eventers in the history of WWF/WWE. He proved he can do comedy as well, but he also proved he was meant for more then just comedy skits and giving hugs in 2001.