Induction: The softer side of Stone Cold — Hugs are better than drugs, except the ones these writers were taking

60 Submitted by on Thu, 04 September 2014, 20:00

WWE, 2001

On April 1st, 2001, Steve Austin made one of the most shocking heel turns in wrestling history, joining forces with the hated Mr. McMahon to take back the WWF title. Having evolved over the course of his Federation career from a cold, ruthless grappler to a foul-mouthed anti-authority badass, to a beer-swilling everyman, Austin’s deal with the devil meant turning his back on everything he had come to stand for.

hug01

Soon, Austin was in cahoots not only with Vince, but with Triple H, the man who (sort of) ran him over just a year and a half earlier, forming the Two-Man Power Trip. Together, the two heels stooped to such depths as calling in a fake accident report on the Undertaker’s wife to viciously beating Lita in a segment that will forever keep Linda McMahon out of political office.

hug02

But when Triple H tore his quad, Austin had to look deep down in his heart and reconsider the path his career and personal life had taken. That would mean no more shaking Vince’s hand and sharing a beer with the boss!

hug03

After all, why ruin the fun with alcohol when a simple hug would do!

hug04

Somehow, during all those years of Austin vs. McMahon, nobody noticed the sheer sexual tension lying just under the surface.

hug05

At first, fans didn’t know what to think about the very-un-Stone Cold embrace with the chairman of the board. Vince didn’t know, either. Fortunately for this website, he expressed his concerns the same uneasy way a woman might discuss her and her date going “a little too far” the night before.
hug06

Not *that* far, though.

hug07  How serious was Vince’s heart-to-heart with Austin? He said, “and then from there” not once, but twice. But there was no reason to feel uncomfortable, assured Steve. It was, after all, just a good old-fashioned hug.
But there was trouble in paradise, however, when Vince wouldn’t repeal his estranged wife’s decision to put Austin in a Triple Threat match for his title. That’s when Steve did what any heterosexual man would do and delivered an ultimatum to Vince: either his wife, or him. hug08 
hug09 Austin tried to sweeten the deal over the next weeks by showering Mr. McMahon with gifts like this lovely framed photograph…
…the world-famous Debra cookies… hug10
hug11 …and hunting gear. All of this was an attempt to get Vince to go the other way, so to speak.
Plus, he even threw in a few bars from the Dionne Warwick-Elton John collaboration, “That’s What Friends Are For.” hug12
hug13 But after Austin savagely beat up Michael Cole (for calling Mr. McMahon, “The Devil”), Vince was fed up and promised to break up with Steve if he lost his big match.
He wouldn’t even let the man hug him, that’s how pissed he was!
hug14

Jeez, Steve. No means no.

hug15  Needless to say, Steve was crestfallen.
Fortunately, Stone Cold retained the title and the warm embrace of Vinnie Mac, but soon there was competition for the boss’s welcoming bosom. hug16 
hug17  The jealousy was palpable as Austin was now forced to compete with Kurt Angle for Vince’s affections, with a would-be brawl between the two devolving into a hug-off.
Things only got worse when WCW’s Torrie Wilson tried to squeeze herself into the picture and meet the chairman in private for some “contract negotiations… hug18
hug19 …leading Vince to once again give Steve the cold shoulder when it came time to express their love physically.
Austin’s gift of matching cowboy hats seemed to seal the deal with Vince… hug20 
hug21  …and not even Kurt Angle could come between the two…
 …until a distraught and divorce-addled Vince found solace in the arms of William Regal. hug22
hug23.5 Steve and Kurt couldn’t even watch.
hug23 hug22.5 
And then from there (Ooh, I like the sound of that! No wonder Vince used to say it so much on commentary), the dreaded Alliance of WCW and ECW, led by the fruit of Vince’s own loins, came to threaten to topple the WWF (by winning wrestling matches, or something). Austin had the cure for Vince’s anxiety, soothing McMahon’s restless soul with his melodious tones. hug24 
hug25 It was more than just a pick-me-up; it was chicken soup for the billionaire’s soul (which remarkably has yet to be published). Austin said this with as much or more conviction than any promo he ever cut before.
But Vince had other ideas; as much as he liked the new, sensitive Stone Cold, it was the old, ass-kicking Stone Cold whom Vince needed to defeat the Alliance. Austin refused, however, once again attempting an embrace before McMahon spurned the advance. hug26
hug99 Steve walked off with his head hung low as Vince begged him to do that thing he used to do to him, to stun him.
The next week on Raw, Austin spent the whole night drinking before driving his truck back into the arena (which would be impossible to get away with now that Raw airs those Drive Sober PSAs during Raw)… hug27
hug28 …and single-handedly beating up the entire Alliance.
Stone Cold later smashed his guitar over Vince’s head, which McMahon, now liking it rough, actually enjoyed. hug29
hug30  Just in time for the Invasion pay-per-view, it was clear that Austin had shaken off his touchy-feely side and reverted back to being the toughest SOB in the World Wrestling Federation, thus closing a bizarre and embarrassing chapter in the Rattlesnake’s career.
That is, until he sold out to the Alliance (over hugs) and immediately went back to such buffoonery as sing-alongs… hug31
hug32 …crying…
…flopping around in a kiddie pool… hug33
hug34  …and pretending to like his wife, Debra’s crappy cooking.
 

 

If you look up “Character Derailment” on TVtropes.org…

…you’ll probably end up opening ten different tabs and getting totally distracted from reading the rest of this induction, so I don’t recommend it.

Just take comfort in the fact that if you tune in to WWE today, you will never, ever have to be reminded of the 2001 heel run, that ridiculous footnote in the career of Stone Cold.

hug35

I said the career of Stone Cold.

hug36The Texas Rattlesnake.

hug37

The Bionic Redneck.

hug38Oh, go hug yourself, Steve.

Written by

A wrestling fan ever since the days of Wrestlemania IX, Art graduated from college in the same building where Art Donovan called King of the Ring 1994. He also runs the "How Much Does This Guy Weigh?" blog, where he reviews New Generation-Era Monday Night Raws. Follow him on Twitter @Art0Donnell. Email at: art@wrestlecrap.com
60 Responses to "Induction: The softer side of Stone Cold — Hugs are better than drugs, except the ones these writers were taking"
  1. ChrisV says:

    I found that “What?” chant period to be the most annoying thing in the history of wrestling.
    The fact that fans thought it was the coolest chant ever and used it long after Austin made it so much worse.

    • WrestleTrekker says:

      And assholes are still doing it.

    • Cuthbert says:

      Yeah, the “What” garbage was pretty much the worst thing to happen to the fed in the whole time I’ve been watching, up until the current camera shooting style made the show unwatchable.

      I figure that the only reason that WrestleCrap hasn’t inducted “What” is because the entry would be too short. Just put the word “What” and everyone would know what you mean and why it was so bad. Doesn’t make for a good article.

      • 314 says:

        I’m glad someone else hates the stupid camera close-ups/angles they use now. Completely takes the surprise out of the show because you know when they do those angles, someone off-screen is about to do something.

  2. Raging_Demons says:

    Yeah that was crap but during all that we got Kurt Angle singing “Jimmy Crack Corn” so that’s a bonus for me!

  3. Hulk6785 says:

    Kurt Angle in a tiny cowboy hat made up for all that touchy-feely crap.

  4. Christopher Olsen says:

    I agree, I HATE the “What?” thing. The only time I enjoyed it was during the Undertaker/Flair promo. You could tell about 1/2 the audience “whated” before they realized what they were admitting to.

  5. RD Reynolds says:

    There were parts of this that were wildly entertaining. That said, even Austin himself has said that this was a really big mistake.

  6. Bonesaw Shaw says:

    “I feel like a real cowboy”-Kurt Angle, I remember watching that with my dad and laughing so frigging hard at seeing the sheer enlightenment on Angle’s face as he put on that Buckaroo cowboy hat, I dont think that promo was crap, I thought it was gold

  7. Downtown OPC says:

    The “What?” chants would later be used GREATLY…during Khali promos.

  8. Drew says:

    This storyline was hilarious. Steve and Kurt competing for hugs. I remember during this time TV Guide said WWF had the best writing on TV and no one was noticing.

  9. Sir Thomas says:

    I’ve always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Heel Steve Austin. It’s bad by all means, but I still ended up enjoying it when him and Kurt started competing for McMahon’s attention. But yeah, Even Steve Austin himself hated it. I’m pretty sure he spent the better part of a chapter in The Stone Cold Truth talking about how horrible of an idea it all was in the grand scheme of things.

  10. Andy says:

    I’m definitely in the kind crowd with this one (as I admittedly am with a lot of Invasion-era stuff, either out of nostalgia or because of their sheer campy entertainment value). Aside from the dodgy “WWE rules all” implications, I thought the segment where Stone Cold returns from the bar to single-handedly beat up all the WCW and ECW guys was really cool (preceded by Freddie Blassie giving a rousing speech, in a wheelchair piloted by the Brooklyn Brawler!). Although the Stone Cold character was treated very haphazardly at this time, others like Angle and Regal just couldn’t stop being entertaining. Focusing on the wrestling, I think the resulting Austin-Angle matches are well-regarded too.

    Probably still deserves a mention here though for withering a character that had not only become hugely popular in pro wrestling, but a pop culture phenomenon in its own right! It feels like the next year or so was characterised by Vince and Co scratching their heads and wondering why they weren’t so popular anymore, on the back of stuff like this.

  11. Jimbolian says:

    If Austin 3:16 says “I just whooped your ass”, I’m guessing Austin 3:17 says “I just hugged your ass”?

  12. White Goodman says:

    In my 10+ years of reading WrestleCrap, I have to say this is the first induction I ever disagreed with.

    This was such a wildly entertaining period for Austin, especially once Angle came into the mix. It’s probably the only time I’ve watched wrestling where I preferred the backstage vignettes to what was going on in the ring.

    To this day I would watch a sitcom about Vince, Austin, and Angle living in a house together… especially if Angle wears the little cowboy hat.

    • RD Reynolds says:

      Again, parts were very funny.

      It was also a very bad move for Austin, who himself said he lost millions doing it.

    • Justin says:

      I agree – I loved Austin’s 2001 heel run. You could tell he was having a lot of fun with it, and his 1999 babyface schtick had gotten so stale it was nice to see him do something different.

      The “What” chant when he invented it as a heel was designed to piss off the audience and it was hilarious. It was only after Austin turned face again but continued saying it, that the chant got annoying.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe this took so long to induct.

  14. Dennis Castro says:

    Vince needs to wear more Hawaiian shirts.

  15. Rose Harmon says:

    Kurt Angle was probably the funniest thing on WWE TV at that time. The tiny cowboy hat was gold!

  16. Brians says:

    Like RD said about Hall and Nash, just because something’s pretty funny and entertaining doesn’t mean it’s good for business. This whole thing was hugely damaging and really set the tone for a god-awful Invasion angle.

    Instead of having Austin become a prissy crying idiot, what they should have done is have him start doubting himself and feeling bad for Triple H getting injured. It would still be a major stretch but it would have made a little more sense than what we got and would also have played into the whole thing with him returning from self-pity at the bar to fight off the invaders a lot more profound. Then, at the Invasion PPV, Jericho turns heel and joins the Alliance instead of Austin.

    The rest of the angle is booked a lot more evenly and a larger effort is made to bring Goldberg, Flair, Hogan and Sting into the company, and failing that the ECW championship is introduced on the same level as the WCW title and becomes something else to fight for. Eventually we have a situation where all the major world titles are held by people outside that organization (e.g. Jericho is WWF champion, Van Dam is WCW champion, and DDP is ECW Champion) but crucially none of them are held by WWF guys, meaning they have a real disadvantage but are watching the alliance start to distrust each other as they’ve gone for each others’ titles. Then either RVD or DDP loses their belt to either Stone Cold or The Rock and gets WWF back into it.

    The feud lasts until AT LEAST Wrestlemania X8 and probably until Summerslam 2002, by which time Lesnar has debuted for ECW under Paul Heyman and wins the WWF title from the Rock who won it at Wrestlemania, and Michaels represents the nWo who are basically their own faction who fight everyone and has his return match against Triple H, blurring the heel/face lines as the crowd is completely behind Michaels.

    Or something. Couldn’t be any worse than this crap, anyway.

    • Guest says:

      Yeah Jericho leading the invasion and bringing in the ECW Title…..is dumb.

    • Evan Waters says:

      An entertaining angle may be bad for business but that doesn’t necessarily make it Crap-worthy. After all a good movie that bombs at the box office is still a good movie.

      It was simply a question of pulling the trigger too soon.

  17. Kurt says:

    I agree the What? chants have gotten annoying, but Austin’s heel turn is anything but WrestleCrap. That stuff was HILARIOUS.

  18. Captain Ron says:

    Art, Art, Art….in mentioning the Triple Threat match at King of the Ring, how dare you not mention Austin’s two opponents. I am, of course, referring to Chris Jericho and Stevie Richards.

    That Austin vs. Rock match is my all-time favorite match. It’s just a fun, great match between two guys who are at their absolute peaks. It told a great story and every move meant something. Unfortunately, the follow-up just completely wrecked Austin’s character and, as a result, the WWF as a whole. I was REALLY hoping for Austin to go back to that ruthless, cold-hearted killer that he portrayed when he was feuding with Bret Hart. Like so much of the WWF from 2001 onwards, they completely dropped the ball.

  19. D-Unit says:

    I disagree, this wasn’t Wrestlecrap, this was highly entertaining.

  20. Jerichoholic Ninja says:

    To be fair, the match that preceded his heel turn was amazing, without a doubt one of the greatest WWF Title matches of all time. It’s too bad that some look down on it because the fallout lead indirectly to a big drop in business.

    I have mixed feelings about this. There were some great moments (Angle with the small cowboy hat), but it’s hard to disagree when it pissed off so many fans. If Austin had not been the top guy at the time this would have been perfectly fine, but the fact that they were doing this with their top draw at a time when The Rock was on a sabbatical was not the best idea.

  21. inlimboed says:

    I’ve never commented on wrestlacrap before because I’m usually either thoroughly entertained or it’s some movie I’ve never heard and I’m entirely indifferent., However, this is the most inappropriate induction you’ve ever done. Fine, Austin retrospectively hated it and it damaged the Stone old character, but it was exceptionally entertaining and in a year when the Invasion let everyone down it was by far the most amusing storyline in the WWF of 2001. Considering that Austin’s heel turn had pretty much already failed they either did this or a quick face re-turn that would have sucked and nullified the huge wrestle mania moment. This was a far better option.

    Thanks

    Jamie

    ps. I’ll star writing comments more often to reflect the fact the majority of your inductions are awesome

  22. Adam says:

    I didn’t think the heel turn was that bad in hindsite. It had bad moments but you can’t argue that it had some epic moments too. The face Steve is making in that first hug picture is epic and will be forever remembered.

  23. Nick Nutter says:

    The Raw after the Invasion PPV where Austin said the reason he sold out to the Alliance was “Vince didn’t give me enough hugs” was the first time I swore off wrestling. The only reason I started watching again was there was NOTHING to do on Monday nights in semi-rural Wisconsin back then. (We didn’t have the internet yet.)

    Also, “Chicken Soup For The Billionaire’s Soul” would have a demographic of only 1,645 (assuming it’s published in all languages), so each book would have to cost a an F-ton to make a profit.

  24. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    This is one of my most favorite inductions you’ve ever done. Awesome!

  25. C. Peter Roberts says:

    The Two Man Power Trip was the only part of this induction I looked upon as crap at the time (didn’t quite see why Austin needed to be HHH’s lackey, as he was often depicted during their run.). All of Austin’s hugging, Kum-Ba-Ya phase entertained me more than anything else happening on Raw and Smackdown in 2001. But hey, to each their own.

  26. Mister Forth says:

    Apart from Austin showing his comedic ability, this was a mess. I laughed at how this was one of many things retconned out of existence when they rebooted 2001.

  27. Rob says:

    I have to disagree with this article. How do you go about making the anti-hero face wrestler a heel? He’s already beating down people left and right, just for being in the ring at times.

    With Hogan, his heel turn worked because he was a cookie cutter good guy who then went rogue and started beating up the heroes.

    With Austin, you have a rogue who can’t go rogue. The more sadistic he was, the more people cheered him.

    So what can you do? Have him cross the line with his violence, hence the attacking of managers like Lita. (But, as we saw with him giving a stunner to Stacy Keibler for not liking the taste of beer, he still got cheers).

    So, you wimp him out. You make him this attention seeking sadist. You make him needy, paranoid, and delusional. It worked. It made me want to see him get his butt kicked.

  28. RYan says:

    Epic Fail Art. This was not wrestlecrap. Boooooo!

  29. Lee W says:

    What? ’nuff said

  30. Huw Roma says:

    If this is WrestleCrap then maybe you need to reconsider the original intent of this website. This angle showed what a great talent Austin really was, with his ability to play any type of character. From ultra badass to a cowardly heel, he did it all. Watching this stuff now shows how superior Austin is to anybody on the roster now.

  31. Alexandru says:

    Yeah the What? thing got old quick. The Austin heel tanked in terms of ratings/ had no logic to it. Having said that Austin phase during WWE’s early Invasion Angle was funny and made sense in showing Austin was becoming a shell of his former self, and showed WWE might be in trouble

  32. Sean Bateman says:

    a hugging gimmick before NXT’s Bayley???? Best induction ever!!!!!

  33. Hashington says:

    The writing for this angle was crap, but the acting was brilliant.

    • Alexandru says:

      Very good point. Unfortunately if Angles are this absurd it doesn’t matter what even talented guys like Angle/Austin can do with it, as writing can make or break a storyline

  34. Anthony says:

    I couldn’t imagine in 98 or 99 them doing an angle in which Austin is hugging and saying how much he loves McMahon. Wasn’t it also around this time in which they were doing a thing in which Debra’s cookies were not supposed to taste good and it was becoming a joke? She and Austin got into an argument about it that ended with her flooring him with the cookie sheet! This was on smackdown. The following Monday on Raw they acted as if nothing happened. I feel wwe has gone downhill ever since the invasion angle.

  35. 80's Guy says:

    I personally don’t get all the “What?” hate. I actually thought it was funny, and fun. It still has shining moments, like when people did it to crazy, heel R-Truth (who should DEFINITELY make a return, as it was the only time I was a Truth fan) and he would say “don’t ‘WHAT’ me!”

    I think it still has good moments, even today, which shows its ability to have a lasting affect on the business.

  36. SCFNL says:

    Just when I thought this site had actually gone back to reviewing actual wrestlecrap again – I agree with a few others in that this wasn’t true wrestlecrap. When is the site officially being renamed Smarkysmarkssmark.com? Sort it out guys.

  37. hobu0 says:

    That heel turn was needed I think…It was a welcome break from the same ol same ol. Look how much Cena is hated because he’s been the same character for so long.

    • Jerichoholic Ninja says:

      You’re forgetting one important thing. When this angle was done, Austin had been a face since 1997, so four years (plus he was gone for a good chunk of 2000).

      Cena has been doing the same thing since 2005 (yes I know he turned in 2003, but he didn’t modify his character for a while).

      It’s also worth pointing out that fans were in no way sick of Austin. The thing with this angle is that it would have been worth a try in the right conditions. If the WWE still had Rock and Foley to carry the face side, then it would have softened any potential loss in business (and Undertaker was not having a great year). But losing Austin as the top face meant there was nobody even close to his level to fill that top spot.

  38. dennett316 says:

    Don’t agree with this induction at all. It’s only considered crap by some because some are completely inflexible and simply didn’t want to see Austin as anything but the same old ass-kicker he’d portrayed for years.
    Austin’s work throughout the heel turn was great stuff, and even when they went flat out comedic with it, it was hugely entertaining to watch. That look when he’s hugging Vince is so damn disturbing – he betrayed his principles in order to beat a guy he thought he’d have no chance of putting away, and when he did he realized he had no-one to turn to but Vince, and developed an obsessed attachment to him. It’s really good stuff, but I think the majority of the casual fans just didn’t really get it. I think Austin’s heel turn is one of the most criminally underrated angles in wrestling.
    It resulted in ratings drops and stuff, and while that sucks, that’s not really my primary concern when watching a wrestling show. I’m watching to be entertained, and this turn was immensely entertaining.

  39. Ed says:

    C’mon guys – this is an entertainment website, not an official Hall of Fame. This angle was fairly entertaining at times but ultimately a boneheaded move by WWE. Sure, it’s not on the same level as the Black Scorpion or the Gobbledy Gooker, but I have no problem with reliving the moment on Wrestlecrap.

  40. Jerm says:

    Hmm, I thought I clicked on WrestleCrap. My mistake.

  41. "The Big Cheese" Paul Kraft says:

    I think this was a great induction, and that it was well worthy of being put up on the site as an induction. Art, you did an outstanding job as always!

    • segaz says:

      it was a great induction.
      I enjoyed reading it.

      However, in the same way that the Repo Man is an enjoyable induction and character to watch. Austin’s soft side isn’t part of the same wrestlecrap as David Arquette winning the WCW title.

      It’s a light hearted induction.

      I do think that it is only looked on as ‘bad’ by certain fan groups. The audience at the time loved this Austin, and certainly while watching it you can see Austin gives his all in every performance. Remember the time he tried to bully Scotty Too Hotty?? That was some great entertaining from Austin there. I loved that!

      And let’s not forget Austin’s run-in with Spike Dudley and Molly Holly. Absolute Gold, and I am a little disappointed that these segments weren’t included. And the way he addressed the Alliance. “You’re Hugh Morris, what is that supposed to be funny Humorous?” lol

      So I don’t agree that this was a bad move for Austin. I loved it. I do agree that it SOUNDS like a dumb thing to do, and I always enjoy your inductions.

      One other thing, I crack up listening to that conversation between Austin and Vince the week after Austins hug. “I got a chill down my spine….I did like it and I didn’t like it….” Truly one of the most underrated parts of the WWE was Soft Austin/Bully Austin. The rest of the invasion angle sucked, but I don’t know if it’s fair to blame all that on Austin OR the character at that time.

      And if Austin himself dislikes it now, you can’t tell, because at the time he really does look like he enjoys it. In fact the part where he’s singing Kumbyaya to Vince they had to re-record because they kept cracking up so much.

      Personally I think it’s only ater this whole backlash from certain fans that Austin distanced himself from that episode. It’s the same thing with Arnold Swarchnegger in Last Action Hero, The movie is actually quite clever and enjoyable, but because at the time a lot of people disliked it, Arnold distanced himself from the movie. Makes me all the madder when I see the nostolgia critic tearing it apart for no good reason, and completely missing the whole point of the movie.

      Wait a sec where was I? Oh yeah, Austin. He always kicks ass. And he kicked it here.

  42. James says:

    It was (ducking) bad for business, but Austin salvaged it by being hilarious in the role. Sure it made no sense that his character would take a drastic 180, but still…I don’t think I liked him more after that run.

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