When the glass shatters, everything changes. Professional wrestling is the way it is today because of those who came before the current crop today. But no one may have had more of an effect on the landscape of wrestling than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. And today we celebrate the man who not only kept WWE alive but remains the most popular wrestler in the history of the sport. Happy 3:16 Day everyone!
“Austin 3:16 Says I Just Whipped Your A**!”
There are some promos in the history of wrestling that are never forgotten. CM Punk‘s Pipebomb, Dusty Rhodes‘ “Hard Times”, and Randy Savage‘s “Cream of the Crop” are among those that will never go away no matter how old they become. But it was at the King of the Ring 1996 where Steve Austin, freshly off becoming “Stone Cold” in a rebrand for himself, won the tournament. Austin defeated Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the finals and walked over to take his throne. Michael P.S. Hayes would be standing there to interview the new king and it was at this moment that everything changed. “Stone Cold” showed the world who he was, being himself turned all the way up. Steve Austin delivered one of the most famous promos in history.
“You sit there and you thump your bible and you say your prayers,” Austin said. “And it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16! Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your a**!” And from this moment, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin exploded, becoming what many call the most popular wrestler of all-time. At least when it comes to the WWE.
A WrestleMania All-Timer Tilts Austin From Heel To The Face
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a brawler in the ring. He’d stomp a mudhole and utilize the Stunner to get plenty of his wins in his storied career. WrestleMania XIII was a different situation. The rivalry between Bret Hart and Austin brought them to the ultimate stage in the perfect culmination between them. A submission match. This bout between these two remains one of the greatest matches to ever go down at WrestleMania, but it was the double turn that happens during this match that helped it even more. Fans were getting behind Austin’s demeanor and the fact that he did not care and would do what he want, while Hart was the perfect babyface that no one would boo. Or so we thought.
One of the most iconic images in the history of pro wrestling also went down in this match as Hart locked in the Sharpshooter. As “The Hitman” wrenched back on Austin, blood was pouring down the man’s face before he eventually passed out from the loss of blood. Hart won, but the next face of the company was made. After the match was the most iconic double turn in wrestling, Hart continued to attack Austin, making him a heel and Austin a face in the process. Without this match with Hart, which many believe to be his best in his career, who knows if Austin would have got to the height that he did. Perfect wrestling magic.
Crowning Moment: WrestleMania XIV
Shawn Michaels was the WWE Champion heading into WrestleMania XIV and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin won his second Royal Rumble to earn a shot at that championship. The curveball in all of this was Mike Tyson, who sided with D Generation-X and Michaels, giving Austin a distinct disadvantage heading into the main event. Tyson would play enforcer in the match and eventually become involved. Now, years afterwards, we know what this one was all about. It became the crowning moment for “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as he won his first world title.
The moment Tyson ripped off his DX shirt to reveal he was actually wearing an Austin 3:16 one underneath was yet another moment involving Steve Austin to go down in wrestling history. A Tyson right hand setting up a Stunner was the perfect end to Austin’s biggest career moment when it comes to accolades.
The War Winning Feud: Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon
While much of the success of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin can be credited to the man himself, it would have been nothing without Vince McMahon. The love for the beer-drinking SOB came from him being the man to stand up to his boss week in and week out. Fans tuned into the Attitude Era to see what was next in this rivalry. Austin brought pain to McMahon in a new, exciting way that fans could not even imagine at times.
The memorable bedpan to the head of Vince is one that does not go away and nor should it considering the number of laughs that come with it. The beer truck as he soaked everyone in the ring, including Vince is a moment that finished first all-time in the Raw countdown on the WWE Network. Austin used a Zamboni to jump over a row of men just to begin a beat down on Vince.
A Never-Ending Story
The story goes on between these two and even continued when they eventually came together. By no means was that the right choice, but it gave more comedy to remember. Austin and McMahon is the most well-known rivalry in history and for good reason. The number of things people can talk about, whether it was the ratings war that made this combination so incredible, the moments they had, or the legacy that they left in this rivalry overall. Vince was the perfect antagonist to the Austin story. A story that is among the best in professional wrestling history. A story that most recently occurred at Raw 25 in 2018 when he would give McMahon the last possible Stunner between the two.
Feuding with a personality was one thing Austin did well, but another was the next topic of discussion that blends right in with this.
The Rivalry Of True Superstars: Austin vs. Rock
McMahon gave Austin a perfect rival when it came to weekly ratings, but on PPVs, you needed to sell your biggest match possible. Especially at WrestleMania. That wasn’t Austin vs. McMahon in that aspect. It was anytime “Stone Cold” went one-on-one with The Rock. People were spoiled to have someone like Austin during the Attitude Era. Add in The Rock and you can simply never top that star power again. Making it even more perfect was that they fed off each other tremendously. Three times these men went head-to-head on the grandest stage of them all and they delivered the box office match that they needed. Each told a wildly different story, making these two and even better matchup for each other.
At WrestleMania XV, it was about Austin getting his championship back. A chase that was a year in the making considering his rivalry with The Corporation. The Rock was the champion because of being in The Corporation and was the representative to try and stop Austin once and for all. In one of the most memorable WrestleMania main events in history, Austin pinned The Rock in the middle of the ring to become WWE Champion once again.
The second time they met was at WrestleMania X-Seven. It became a no disqualification match right before and by the matches end, you knew exactly why. Vince McMahon has his head in this one, not letting The Rock win at times that seemed he would. It was the final sequence when Austin took the steel chair from McMahon and smashed The Rock across the head, becoming a massive heel turn that no one saw coming. Austin got the best of “The Brahma Bull” again.
Their final match in their historic rivalry was the one that would be Austin’s final. WrestleMania XIX saw The Rock finally pin Austin on the grandest stage, as “The Texas Rattlesnake” went out on his back against his greatest rival.
These two will forever be linked, even if their paths after wrestling went in different directions. They remain two of, if not the biggest stars in the history of the WWE and can very well be considered the greatest rival of one another.
“The greatest WWE superstar of all-time,” Vince McMahon stated as he introduced Austin at his WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2009. March 16 became Austin’s day the moment that he dropped that promo in 1996. The legacy this man left behind is one that will never be topped. And even more incredible is the fact that his run on top was the shortest when it comes to “faces of the company.” Roman Reigns has now had a longer run on top than “Stone Cold”. That’s how incredible Austin truly was when it came to the squared circle, being on the mic, and telling the story inside the ring. The lasting legacy of Austin is the connection he had with the fans. The rivalries that he had with The Rock, McMahon, Hart, Michaels, Mick Foley. A list that could go on forever.
Austin’s pop when he enters the building remains the loudest in existence, with only his rival The Rock ever coming close to the moment the glass shatters and the arena explodes on impact. It’s a run on top that no one will replicate for years to come. Long after we are gone, 3/16 will still be celebrated by wrestling fans as 3:16 days for the man who changed pro wrestling forever. And that’s the bottom line, because “Stone Cold” said so.
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