When you think of the Attitude Era, you think of Stone Cold Steve Austin, and when you think of Stone Cold Steve Austin, you think of the many wild stunts he pulled off. But all those stunts would have fallen flat if Austin hadn’t had a worthy antagonist to battle every week.
So when you think of Austin’s feud with Vince McMahon and the Corporation, images come to mind of him hosing down the Corporation with beer, filling Vince’s car with cement, and whacking the bed-ridden boss in the head with a bedpan.
And when you think of Austin’s feud with Ric Flair, the only image (if any) that comes to mind is the Rattlesnake urinating on Arn Anderson.
No, that regrettable segment didn’t come from some wrestling fanfiction from the darkest recesses of the web but was in fact an idea hatched in a meeting by professionals and presented on a cable network’s flagship program. Not only did it air on Raw, but it aired on the last Raw Stone Cold would appear on for eight months.
By 2002, Steve had pretty much done it all in the World Wrestling Federation, as Gorilla Monsoon would say. After the writers had finally run out of ideas for the Bionic Redneck (this included the writers in charge of coming up with nicknames, apparently), Austin turned heel and joined forces with Vince, and later, Shane and Stephanie.
When even that last-ditch effort ran out of steam, Vince McMahon thought he could turn back the hands of time, putting on another Austin vs. boss feud. This time around, it would be Ric Flair in the already-cliched role of the heel authority figure in this feud recycled from old material like so many cans of Steveweiser.
First, the Nature Boy pitted Austin against the nWo (did I mention that writers at the time had ran out of ideas?). Then, he benched Austin and forbade him from wrestling.
On June 3rd, 2002, Austin was fed up with Naitch and his rules, man, and showed up looking for a fight. Fortunately, Ric Flair had an insurance policy in the form of Arn Anderson, whom he could sic on Stone Cold if he got out of line.
Predictably, Arn Anderson would get the worst of that encounter, but, less predictably, this “beatdown” would occur off-camera (Anderson having been forced to retire years earlier due to neck injuries). In fact, by the time Austin even cut his promo on Flair via the Titantron, he had already conveniently dispensed with The Enforcer, whom he puppeteered, Weekend at Bernie’s-style.
Austin goaded Flair into wrestling him one-on-one; if Austin won, he would be re-activated. All that was left was for Stone Cold to celebrate, which on this night, looked something like this:
Yes, Austin went all R. Kelly on poor Arn. Mind-altering substances can have strange effects on people, I know; I’ve heard of LSD-users believing they can fly, but I didn’t know that plain old beer could drive a man to urolagnia.
Even with a good chunk of Austin’s 2001 spent on courting Vince McMahon with gifts and hugs, I can safely say that this act of male-on-male domination was the gayest moment in Steve’s career.
Plus, WWE never established that Arn even remotely deserved to be treated as a urinal except that he was Ric Flair’s buddy. The first we even saw of Anderson that night, he looked pitiful and disoriented like he’d been trapped in a closet all night. Next thing he knew, he was getting pissed on even worse than when the nWo mocked his retirement speech.
It didn’t help matters that Austin’s urine was mustard-yellow, just to make sure that the fans in the nosebleed section could see that the liquid was, in fact, urine.
Besides, Austin said he had spent the whole day drinking, yet his urine had the impossibly dark color of a man severely dehydrated.
An enraged Ric Flair decided to pile on the stipulations for his match that night. With his lawyer writing up the contract by hand, Flair dictated a series of rules, such as a ban on punching in the match, with the added condition that if Austin lost, he would have to become Flair’s personal assistant (though I wonder what kind of “personal assistance” Slick Ric needed that would require a man in drag). Both he and Austin immediately signed the freshly-inked contract.
However, we would later learn that Flair had employed the worst lawyer in the entire universe (WWE or otherwise), as Debra pointed out the flaw in the contract. See, even though Ric Flair had clearly stated that if Austin lost, he’d become Flair’s personal assistant (“Austin becomes my personal assistant… Austin has to do it all”), the lawyer had instead, somehow, recorded that whoever lost would become the winner’s assistant.
Not until John Laurinaitis signed the wrong one-legged wrestler the following year would such unbelievable incompetence be displayed in the handling of a WWE contract. Amused, Debra and Austin kept this new information on the down-low.
Naturally, Austin won the match that night, meaning not only that he would return to the ring permanently, but that Ric Flair would become his personal assistant, doing everything from making beer runs for Stone Cold to scrubbing Austin’s toilet…
…(by which I mean “Arn Anderson’s laundry”).
As fate would have it, though, not only would Flair never have to don Fifi’s old French maid outfit, but Austin wouldn’t wrestle another match all year.
The next week, Austin learned that he would be booked to lose against Brock Lesnar on free TV. The way Steve tells it, he thought hot-shotting the feud was a stupid idea, since it would cost the company untold bundles of money in pay-per-view revenue. Austin, incidentally, was not involved in the creation of WWE Network.
Steve walked out of the company, leading to the night’s hot-shot angle being replaced with an even bigger hot-shot angle, with Vince McMahon challenging Ric Flair out of the blue, winning back total control of the company, and abruptly eliminating the whole kayfabe reason for a brand split in the first place.
It would be bad enough that Jim Ross, The Rock, and the rest of WWE would metaphorically relieve themselves all over Stone Cold until he agreed to return to the company, but consider this:
If he hadn’t come back for Wrestlemania XIX, the last accomplishment of Steve Austin’s illustrious career would have been not a beer bath, but a golden shower.