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.
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.
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!
After all, why ruin the fun with alcohol when a simple hug would do!
Somehow, during all those years of Austin vs. McMahon, nobody noticed the sheer sexual tension lying just under the surface.
|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.|
|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.|
|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…|
|…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.”|
|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!|
|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.|
|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…”|
|…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…|
|…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.|
|Steve and Kurt couldn’t even watch.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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)…|
|…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.|
|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…|
|…flopping around in a kiddie pool…|
|…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.
I said the career of Stone Cold.
The Texas Rattlesnake.
The Bionic Redneck.
Oh, go hug yourself, Steve.