August 22, 2004
Sheldon Kane III
A PERSONAL NOTE, SON!
Stone Cold Steve Austin helped renew my faith in WWE. Before his 1996 arrival, I was starting to tune out from World Wrestling Federation programming, disgusted with the kid-friendly "New Generation" product Vince Jr. and company were shoving down the fans' collective throats. It seemed as if the McMahon family was totally oblivious to the changing world around them. In the world of the Federation, wrestlers still wore mullets, good guys and bad guys were clearly defined, and campy 1980s-style gimmicks were still in vogue. Meanwhile, in the real world, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was starting to mount a serious challenge for the top spot in wrestling, and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) was successfully tuning into what the wrestling fan of the 1990s wanted. All the while, the Federation was floundering, providing "wholesome family entertainment" (eyes rolling big time here) while Bill Clinton impersonators and guys dressed like hockey players or dentists were stinking up arenas nationwide. Seriously, if it wasn't for the Undertaker, I probably would have stopped watching WWE long before I threatened to.
I was all set to give up on WWE for good, something I never thought I would do. I still watched faithfully, but it was slowly becoming an excerise in self-torture, as Todd Pettengill almost drove me to madness and World Wrestling Federation Magazine featured a comic strip called "Scoop Sullivan, Squared Circle Superstar." Then something started to happen. Little by little, ever so slowly, the Federation was starting to get just a bit edgier. You had the arrival of Goldust, an androgynous type. There was the increasingly more revealing promos of Sunny. Acts of extreme violence were starting to pop up here and there. It seemed the Federation wanted to bust out of the bubble they locked themselves in, but couldn't quite get out out it. That's where a man named Stone Cold Steve Austin came into the picture. Originally billed as The Ringmaster in the Federation, with Ted DiBiase as his manager, Austin didn't seem to be anything special when he first arrived. But after he successfully campaigned to have his character changed to the beer-drinking, bird-flipping, ass-kicking machine he became so well-known for, he became more than just the Federation's hot new Superstar; he was a breath of fresh air for WWE, the key component to help them change with the times and inject some "Attitude" into a stale product.
This review is for what I feel to be the best Steve Austin video ever produced: 1997's 'Cause Stone Cold Said So. It captures the spirit of the Austin character better than any other production ever has, and features all of the greatest moments of Austin's first year in the World Wrestling Federation. This video, at first, was not released in stores, and was only available through mail order and at live Federation events. The original cover of this video was a black box with Austin's bloodied visage from WrestleMania 13. It also carried a "TV-M" rating for its coarse language and extreme violence. It was later re-released with a white cover and the Smoking Skull logo replacing Austin's crimson-covered face. The rating was changed to "TV-14" with most of the swear words bleeped out, so they could sell it through retail stores.
So sit back, pop the top off a Steveweiser, and find out the bottom line according to Stone Cold Steve Austin.
"You think you know the man behind this video? You ain't got a clue! All you got to do is grab a chair, cause you're about to learn something real fast!" With this chilling voice over from Stone Cold, we head into a clip-filled introduction, showing examples of how recklessly violent Stone Cold was back in the day. Nice introduction to the video. Austin then appears on screen to tell us, "If you're looking for someone runnin' around dancin' to a bunch of sparklers and music, you bought the wrong damn video!"
After a quick message, Austin takes us into our first segment: the night "Austin 3:16" was born. We see footage from King of the Ring (6/23/96), starting with Austin's semi-finals match with "Wildman" Marc Mero. The match is heavily clipped--in fact, there are no complete matches at all on this tape--but from the highlights seen, you can see this was actually a decent match. Sable is ringside for this match, in full "shrinking violet" mode. At one point, the late Owen Hart, who is on commentary with Vince and J.R., says he feels Austin will beat Mero in this match, to which an Austin voice over responds with, "And that's the smartest thing that jackass ever said!" Austin wins this match by using the Hot Shot, followed by the Stone Cold Stunner. A gruesome close-up of Austin with a bloodied mouth (which required 18 stitches) is shown, and then we go straight to footage of the tournament final, Austin vs. an over the hill Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Roberts had his ribs injured by Vader earlier in the night, so he was selling the injury to the hilt. Jim Ross pulls off the cheesiest line of the night: "Jake Roberts, a DDT away from realizing his dream!" Gee, all those years he was in the business, all he wanted to do was win a silly tournament? Who knew? Anyway, Austin wins this one easily with the Stunner. After the match, Austin gets on the interview platform and tells Roberts, who had become a religious man at this point of his career, "You come out here and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get your anywhere! Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16...Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!" And with those words, the era of Austin 3:16 was born.
Before our next segment, we see Austin threaten to open a can of whoop-ass on some poor guy counting him down. We then head into an entertaining clipfest, one of the true highlights of the video, featuring Austin raising hell on anyone and anything he sees fit. Among the clips seen: Austin threatening a makeup lady and telling her "You oughta hit the streets in that outfit!"...Austin attacking "neighbors" of the late Brian Pillman...Austin arguing with police escorting him out of the USA Network studios, telling them "Dunkin' Donuts is just over there, take two blocks and hang that right!"...Austin and the New Blackjacks ganging up on Doink the Clown at the Slammy Awards...awesome footage of Austin intimidating Todd Pettengill and Sunny on an edition of LiveWire (anyone who shuts down Todd Pettengill is an instant favorite of mine)...Austin beating down the Brooklyn Brawler backstage on RAW...and ending with Austin and then-Federation President the late Gorilla Monsoon having a heated argument, with Monsoon throwing him out of the building.
Up next, we take a glimpse into Austin's days in ECW, from 1995. In Stone Cold's introduction, he mentions he does an impression of, in his words, "the biggest piece of trash I ever laid my eyes on." I sincerely hope he was referring to Eric Bischoff, the man who fired Austin from WCW over the phone. First, we see "Superstar" Steve Austin cut a promo before a ladder match featuring The Sandman and Mikey Whipwreck, and also get a few digs in at Woman (Nancy Benoit) for "marrying a midget", referring to Kevin Sullivan. Then clips of Austin terrorizing Joey Styles with an impersonation of Hulk Hogan, and Austin imitating Eric Bischoff is also shown.
The focus now turns to Austin's history with the late Brian Pillman. A Pillman promo from King of the Ring 1996 is shown, with Pillman telling the audience, "While you crown a King of the Ring, the leader of the new revolutuion ascends to his throne." Hard to believe he was ever "Flyin' Brian." We move on to a clip from the old Superstars show from Cincinatti, in which Pillman was interviewing his former Hollywood Blonds partner about his feud with Bret "Hit Man" Hart. When Pillman started to describe Bret as "the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be," Austin lost it, and started to attack Pillman, who had an injured leg at the time. Stone Cold proceeded to further aggravate his injury by wrapping a steel chair around the leg, and jumping down from the second rope onto it. Classic ambush. Another clipfest follows, this time showing examples of what a can of whoop-ass is. We see Austin opening up cans on Mankind, Bart Gunn, Undertaker, Jake Roberts, Triple H, Billy Gunn, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Savio Vega, and Shawn Michaels.
This leads in to the 1997 Royal Rumble, at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, Texas. We see Austin eliminate wrestlers one-by-one; Bart Gunn, Roberts, Savio, Road Dogg, and Phineas I. Godwinn. Austin cuts in to tell us about how Gorilla Monsoon stripped Austin of his guaranteed title shot at WrestleMania 13 because of how he won it (Austin had been eliminated by Bret Hart, but officials didn't spot it. Austin then snuck back in and eliminated Bret for the victory), and the subsequent "Final Four" match at In Your House the following month to crown a new champion after Shawn Michaels vacated the title to go find his lost smile. The feud between Bret Hart and Steve Austin is covered in great detail, from the beginning of the feud to their 1996 Survivor Series classic (see Graham Cawthon's review of this match), to one of the greatest matches in WWE history, a submission match from WrestleMania 13 (3/23/97). A good deal of this match is shown here, including Austin's nasty head wound opening up after colliding with a ring barrier. Listen as the crowd slowly turns against Bret and sides with Austin, a perfect snapshot of the changing tides in the wrestling business at that time. The sight of Bret trapping Austin in the sharpshooter and a bloodied Stone Cold screaming his defiance will forever stand as one of the most unforgettable images in sports history. This is the match that cemented Austin's status as the Federation's most popular athlete.
Next up, we see highlights from the 4/21/97 RAW. This will always be one of my personal favorite RAW moments; Austin challenges Bret to come out and face him in a streetfight, which Bret eventually accepts after Austin traps him in his own dressing room. But it wasn't so much the streetfight that made it a highlight for me; it's what happened afterward. Bret was being taken out in an ambulance, but as the world soon saw, the Texas Rattlesnake was inside the vehicle with him. I think everyone can figure out what happens from here. Various clips of Austin beating Bret down are then shown, and then we jump to Austin's shot at World Wrestling Federation Champion the Undertaker, from In Your House: A Cold Day In Hell, 5/11/97. Austin had the championship won, but the interference of Brian Pillman--ringing the bell prematurely--cost Austin his title win. Undertaker eventually rallied to win and retain. One of the classic Austin moments follows this up, featuring Austin attacking Pillman during a TV promo, and sticking his face into a toilet. But then we get a look at a truly infamous moment from WWE history, the Pillman/Austin gun angle from 1996 on RAW. An unforgettable moment...albeit for all the wrong reasons.
Finally, we focus on Austin's shaky partnership with Shawn Michaels, which won them the World Tag Team Championship from Owen and the late British Bulldog. They played up the whole "Odd Couple" thing really well. While still World Tag Team Champions, Austin and HBK faced each other at King of the Ring, 6/8/97, a very good match which ended in a double-disqualification. The segment ends with the focus shifting back on Austin's feud with Bret, Owen, the Bulldog, and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, who by this time had joined Bret's Hart Foundation clique. We see Neidhart, Owen, and Bulldog triple-teaming Mankind, who is saved by Austin and Ken Shamrock. Shamrock still gets a Stunner for his troubles anyway, with Austin telling us, "Ken Shamrock, most dangerous man in the world, my ass!" Austin gives us a parting message, and the closing credits roll. The credits are funny as hell, listing his own name for every production credit, and throwing in such things as: "Hair: I'm Bald, Jackass", "Lighting: Whoop-Ass Inc.", and "Gaffer: I Whipped His Ass Too".
THE BOTTOM LINE
This video serves as the perfect introduction to any newer fans who may not be familiar with Stone Cold Steve Austin. For me, it holds a lot of personal sentiment. At a time when I was ready to turn WWE off for good, Steve Austin rekindled my interest in them, and singlehandedly drove a stake through the heart of the "New Generation" era. While I will admit the "Attitude" era went overboard at times with pushing the envelope, I will say I will take it over the "New Generation" every time. Stone Cold may be having his share of personal problems today, but in my opinion, that should not ever take away from his accomplishments. He became WWE's biggest name since Hulk Hogan, and deservedly so. And that's the bottom line.