I wanted to present a topic before you and your loyal Blog of Doom-ites. I'm doming some WWF 2001 reviews for my website (kingsrecaps.wordpress.com in cane you're interested) and naturally I'm talking about the Steve Austin heel-turn that failed. I think one problem that doesn't get pointed out enough was the way it was first presented, and you know how important first impressions are. We've grown used to see Ausitn as the gruff tough-guy, but once the heel turn happened as Wrestlemania, he suddenly had to follow the WWF rulebook which states "All WWF heels must be cowardly". Suddenly Austin's stalling, running from battles, begging off during matches, and the biggest kicker occured on the May 10th Smackdown.
If you remember on that show The Undertaker wet into Austin's lockerroom where his stuff is and waited for him to arrive. So what does Austin do? He whines to Vince McMahon about it. Read that again: Austin whines to Vince. The guy who ususaly beats everyone up is complaining to the authority figure. That's what really killed the heel turn right there.
Anyway I wanted to bring this up for a discusson with your readers. Keep up the good work and all that.
Yeah, there was a lot of problems with the Austin heel turn, and that was among them. Although the character itself wasn't bad -- an insecure Austin who had to turn to his biggest enemy for help because of failing health or mental state was a really clever one. But they totally changed the guy in too short of a span, and not in a good way. Having him get mixed up in the Invasion didn't help either.
If we'd just seen "Paranoid Steve Austin" without ever seeing Stone Cold before, we'd all hail it as a completely brilliant character. It made sense that Austin had to totally abandon his old character in order to get the fans to boo him (and even then the boos were half-hearted since we all wanted the old Stone Cold back), and it makes sense that becoming a paranoid wreck was a natural heelish extension of the "don't trust anyone" ethos.ReplyDelete
Scott and the e-mailer are right, however, that going from asskicker to paranoid suckup within the span of about four weeks just didn't mesh. I will say that Austin seemed to fit better into the heel role post-Invasion PPV after he took over leading the Alliance. "Exasperated boss" Steve Austin (almost acting like the Alliance's Vince) was a better heel character since he'd still be willing to fight, but only on his terms and if you waded through a few WCW/ECW guys first.
I completely understand the issues that some people had with the turn, but I really dug the Austin heel character. I thought he played the paranoid, obsessive, insecure champion perfectly, and the fact that he was formerly such a badass made it even better.ReplyDelete
His reliance on the support and presence of Vince was really jarring, in a good way. I remember at the beginning of the triple threat match against Benoit and Jericho at KOTR '01, Vince was late arriving to the building or something like that and Austin kept anxiously looking back to the entranceway as he made his way to the ring, distracted to the point that the Chrises jumped him in the aisle to start the match.
Yeah, I thought heel Austin was great.
If the ass-kicking Austin is a face, then isn't it obvious that being the opposite of what the fans want is the formula for turning him heel?ReplyDelete
Ass kicking Austin would have never been booed at that point. If they needed him as a heel, then whiny bitch Austin was the only way to go.
That dude writes for a website?ReplyDelete
Yeah man, the guy who runs the web should totally fire his ass.ReplyDelete
Mr. Google I think his name is.
Yeah, Austin was a brutal vicious badass as a face. That's WHY he was a face. If you keep the brutal viciousness, how would you expect him to be booed?ReplyDelete
Disagree with the email. While the execution may have been a little rough, the whole idea and set-up was brilliant.ReplyDelete
Austin comes back to see a lot more talent than when he left.
Austin tries to get revenge against the guy that took him out and he loses, cleanly.
Austin cuts the "I Need This" promo. And it's true, Austin isn't secure enough in himself to win, which he needed to do to validate himself as the best wrestler in the world.
Austin allies with Vince, but because he's got the whole DTA thing, he assumes Vince (quite reasonably) is going to screw him over.
I dunno, the whole thing made sense and played off each other. Really tight writing. It may have been short-lived but post-Russo to Invasion was the best overall era of wrestling in WWE's history.
If they really wanted to get Austin over as a heel in 2001, they should have had him working for Osama Bin Laden, not Vince McMahon.ReplyDelete
Except that that was before 911...ReplyDelete
You can make him insecure without making him cowardly. Undertaker, Kane, Brock and HHH are a few examples of guys who could go from face to heel without losing the butt-kicking part of their persona. WWE is/was making the same mistake with Ryback, turning him into a cowardly heel when he just needed a tweak as insecure.ReplyDelete
heel Austin was great. He couldn't get it done anymore, at least in his mind, so he joined with Vince, started taking shortcuts, and was cowardly. It fit. And remember he was a bit of a cowardly heel when he was first Stone Cold even up through KOTR. I would say it was only when he worked with Bret that he was pushed as a tough guy. While his run in the 97 Rumble was awesome, ultimately he won by being a sneaky heel not running roughshod over the top guys. It took passing out with blood running down his face to turn him into the ass-kicking, never back down character that came to dominate the next 4 years.ReplyDelete
To me it is similar to Hogan in WCW. Yeah Hogan had the added motivation of the fans not being receptive to him, but he also was older and not as confident in his abilities. Being a coward worked for him and ultimately I think it would have worked for Austin but Vince panicked with the invasion stuff and HHH's injury.
I will say I absolutely loved goofy Austin in 2001. His stuff with Angle and Vince was the best comedy in WWF with the possible exception of Edge/Christian and some of Foley's stuff.
Agree with this. I think one thing they needed to do and I don't really remember them doing properly is explaining all this in a video package a la the kind they were doing around 97. Something along the lines of the "life isn't fair" promo from Wrestlemania 13 that explains the genesis of Bret's turn would have been great.ReplyDelete
Here's why the change of character in the heel turn didn't quite work, and why he wasn't as effective as other heels.ReplyDelete
The WWF Championship was to Austin as the ring was to Gollum. He desperately needed it as any other heel did and just like them he became paranoid (Triple H, Kurt, Flair), however he didn't quite make people want him destroyed by the faces. Kayfabe-wise it was almost pathetic that the greatest, most badass face had become so weak that you almost feel sorry for him. Remember, Bilbo didn't kill Gollum because he felt pity and sympathy. Likewise, on some level, we didn't really begrudge Austin for being the champ despite acting like a piece of shit. I didn't completely "hate" him because he actually did earn the belt, however you look at it.
With anybody else, the same character would have been a smash hit and he pulled it off perfectly. We just couldn't accept it given his history. Again, there was something more unsettling with Steve Austin yelling "goddamn it, I'm the champ!" than it was intensely unlikable.
I enjoyed him as a heel quite a bit, but it wasn't the same as Kurt Angle's first reign where as a mark, I couldn't wait for that unworthy dipshit to be pummeled.
Matter of fact, go back and watch Steve vs. Kurt at SummerSlam. His whole run as a heel should have been booked along the lines of that match, because Steve Austin was a brutal, sadistic piece of garbage and there was nothing morally redeemable about him. It made Kurt look that much more awesome for fighting back from the depths of an ass-kicking and being stronger than him.ReplyDelete
YOU WANT STONE COLD TO FLY A PLANE INTO THE TWIN TOWERS, GIMME AN ALLAH AKBAR!!ReplyDelete
The idea for the story was great. The direction they took the character was great. I just think they ran too quickly with it.ReplyDelete
It's like Bobby Roode's heel turn on James Storm. James Storm was his best friend and essentially brother and he went from CONSIDERING cheating to win championship to spitting on him and standing on his near unconscious body within a minute and a half.
Austin went so far over the edge so quickly that it never felt like he turned against the audience in a meaningful way.
He was just a guy who snapped and lost it.
There was nothing morally redeemable about the original heel Stone Cold, but fans cheered him so much he had to turn face.ReplyDelete
In actuality, that match with Angle was the moment when his heel turn was damaged beyond repair.
I agree. Austin's heel run was outstanding.ReplyDelete
When he was a heel initially, the character wasn't a pushover and had great confidence in himself. It transitioned into being a face character quite well, whereas his later heel character could have only transitioned into a face if the goofy meter was turned up above all the other attributes.ReplyDelete
Come to think of it, the fans went from being pro-Bret to pro-Austin the same way a girl leaves the nice guy for an asshole. In turn, Bret became a bitter asshole himself.
How did the Angle match damage the turn? I think it was a matter of factors beyond his control racking up. HHH's injury fucked the Power Trip angle, Benoit's injury meant the show lost a strong protagonist, and the Invasion angle was the death knell.
Thankfully, Austin's workmanship was outstanding. I still like everything he did, in and of themselves.
My biggest pet peeve about his heel turn was that he never really gave s money promo explaining why he did it. The night after WM 17 he came out and did the old "I dont owe you fans an explanation" schtick. If he would have given an awesome promo explaining exactly why he turned, why he was working with Vince, and told the fans to stick it, his turn would have worked better. Fans were just fucking confused because they wanted to cheer him but never got the explanation why they shouldnt. Who did he feud with post WM 17?ReplyDelete
Hardys on raw for a bit(he beat up lita a lot) and then undertaker and Kane for a couple of ppvs, then benoit and jericho until the invasion.ReplyDelete
I give WWE a SHITLOAD of credit for having the balls to try and stay ahead of the curve by turning Austin at the near height of his run. The layout of his turn, along with the subsequent "paranoid cowardly" Austin in theory should have worked well. The most obvious problem was that nobody was quite ready to boo him yet. I always thought they should have waited until he wasnt in the super face stratosphere anymore, maybe do it at WM 18, although the set up wouldnt have been as perfect.ReplyDelete
Steph and the rest of the jobbers singing "Wind beneath our ring" pretty much sums up that trainwreck.ReplyDelete
Let me get this straight. You want people to boo one of the biggest babyfaces in history. So you're idea for him is to be exactly the same, but start beating up babyfaces instead? Do you think maybe that would lead to your babyfaces getting BOOED THE FUCK OUT OF THE BUILDING? Kudos to most of you pointing out how invalid this email was.ReplyDelete
YOU HEAR WHAT MOHAMMAD IS SAYIN'? WHAT?ReplyDelete
He regularly dropped Stunners on faces during his big run and got cheered like crazy.ReplyDelete
Another terrible part of this run was Austin using the superplex every match and letting Benoit and Angle suplex the shit out of him. He was back on the injury list in no time, never to return.ReplyDelete
I don't see why "badass shitkicker" and "cowardly bitch" are the only two options. Somebody can still seem like a cheap, unlikeable heel without begging off in matches and acting afraid of their opponents. If they cheat, use sneak attacks, act cocky and over impressed with their own ability, and otherwise do things that are unlikeable (like insulting the fans; sorry, Punk heel turn haters) then they can still get over without looking like pussies.ReplyDelete
Figuring business immediately went into the toilet with this hell turn and has never recovered, I believe the writer has a point.ReplyDelete
I thought the same thing about Hogan's turn. Guy's been running over people for 15 years -- now, suddenly, he's begging off?ReplyDelete
That was awesome. Especially with Austin's head bouncing from word to word on the Titan Tron.ReplyDelete
The turn probably would have been more successful if there was a babyface the fans clearly and distinctly would have preferred to Austin. That's not a knock on Kurt but let's face it, he's a natural heel and not a strong enough babyface to combat a heel like Austin who the fans weren't ready to boo.ReplyDelete
I don't know if Trips turning babyface would have allowed him to be that guy, but it was probably worth a shot. It would have been better than the Austin+HHH vs. Taker+Kane program they ran with for a couple of months until Invasion.
Hogan's turn was different because it played on for years. In the beginning of his heel turn, him and the outsiders were destroying people.ReplyDelete
Austin did a complete 180 almost immediately. It made no sense.ReplyDelete
The first time I ever watched Monday Nitro, Hogan was on his needs begging FLAIR of all people for mercy. It felt like bizarro world.ReplyDelete
He was paranoid and obsessed and had a breakdown. Made perfect sense.ReplyDelete
So three on one beat downs aren't cowardly? Oooooookay.ReplyDelete
It's like they never booked a dominant heel before. You know, like that Triple H guy who never acted like a coward.ReplyDelete
I never got the point of turning him heel. It happened the same week Rock left for several months to film some movie. So in the span of one week, WWF went from having two of the most popular babyfaces of all time at the top of their organization to having Bikertaker as the top babyface. Didn't seem very well thought out at all. Austin was still getting massive pops and selling an insane amount of shirts. So why would they want to fix what wasn't broken?ReplyDelete
Austin was feeling like he was a little played out as a face, so he wanted to turn heel.ReplyDelete
The one two punch of fail with Austin turning heel was two-fold:ReplyDelete
1. He needed to be fundamentally changed from top to bottom. They really needed to have retired the whole "Stone Cold" aspect of the character and gone back to the whole "Stunning Steve" persona with Austin, in pure desperation, making the deal with the devil with Vince and Vince getting his money's worth by turning Austin into the corporate champion he always wanted. Which would have underscored Austin's desperation in a way that made fans not want to cheer for him by way of having Austin effectively sell out and sell out shamelessly for the sake of staying on top.
2. Not having a major foil available who would have served as a legit counterpart for Austin. They could have mined gold off of the idea that, the moment Austin bended his knee to Vince, that HHH was utterly expendable and have Austin beat up HHH the Raw after the PPV and doing a bit where Vince fires HHH and tells him that now that he has Austin, he did not need HHH. HHH goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, with Austin refusing to fight HHH and going into Hulk Hogan mode, where he rarely if ever defended his belt.
That's... actually, that's pretty good.ReplyDelete
I thought he gave the big explanation promo the next night on Smackdown when he whipped JR?ReplyDelete
I think that the fact that he was playing second fiddle to Triple H in their duo was more damaging than the character he portrayed...ReplyDelete
No. It's a gang, dude. You gonna tell a gangster that he's a coward? He'll just kick your ass along with his other members.ReplyDelete
If it did, it would've made money. There's a reason why massive amounts of people tuned out after Austin turned heel. Making perfect sense wasn't one of them.ReplyDelete
Just because somebody doesn't like being called a coward, doesn't mean it isn't true.ReplyDelete
The peak was over. It was going to come down anyway. Fads die out.ReplyDelete
Hogan did develop as a coward over time but in the beginning he was a troll who was having way too much funReplyDelete
The peak might have been over but he was still a big deal. It was the wrong time to turn heel. Austin would admit to that.ReplyDelete
No it was the right time. Austin would agree with me.ReplyDelete
Ehh, honestly, they should've played more into it. The heel turn got the audience off-guard. Had they developed more clues to foreshadow his heel turn, I think the audience would've dug it.ReplyDelete
While this may have been going on, it was far from the main point of the storyline and the feud. If you remember, McMahon made Debra,The Rock's manager. That was the main storyline. Austin would constantly warn Rock that if she were to get hurt that it would be The Rock's ass.
I think it was Angle, who ended up giving Debra the Angle Lock. Austin showed up, cleaned house, and then attacked Rocky. Rocky paid him the favor the next Smackdown.
By the time Austin/Rock had that sit-down interview and said that if you take Debra out of the equation and it's about the belt; it just happened way too late into the feud.
Dude, he admits it in his book, so no, you're wrong.ReplyDelete
And his DVDsReplyDelete
Now you're trying to make me laugh.ReplyDelete
And it's working!ReplyDelete
And on interviewsReplyDelete
You're just a bad case of WRONGReplyDelete
I loved the Austin heel run. The fresh match ups were what made it awesome to me.ReplyDelete
It also led to Milkamania!ReplyDelete
that cause they were in torontoReplyDelete
'Austin tries to get revenge against the guy that took him out and he loses, cleanly.ReplyDelete
good observation, but did they really play off the 3soh loss as follow-up? i cant remember
Austin said something along the lines of, "HHH was sick enough to organize a plot to kill me, and beat me cleanly when I tried to get revenge. Why WOULDN'T I want him on my side?!" but that was pretty much it.ReplyDelete
gotta agree with Dougie. The SCSA character had gone as far as it could go and was tired, particularly with the strength of Rock as the top alternate face. With HHH, Angle, Jericho, Benoit, etc. they had a very strong roster that made it possible to see how stale Austin was. I for one applaud WWF for trying to be proactive instead of doing what is traditional in wrestling and riding something far beyond its shelf life until fans are hateful of the product (Hulkamania in both WWF and WCW, NWO, for examples).ReplyDelete
Man, I was an 8 year old mark at the time, and that shit pissed me off. I was waiting for Kurt Angle or someone else to come in and unleash hell on that circle jerk.ReplyDelete
except there were numerous other factors like the monday night wars excitement ending, the influx of WCW guys who the WWF fans didn't exactly take too (plus they were treated as jobbers), and some blame Jericho and Benoit's push as well.ReplyDelete
Ratings actually stayed high the 4 weeks after mania, then they dropped to a bit below the January 2001 average (4.9ish to 4.5ish). With the excitement over the invasion and ECW joining ratings went back up in July.
Now that you say it, I vaguely remember it. Kinda indicative that people barely remember if/when it occured; a money initial heel Austin promo should have been historic.ReplyDelete
Accuracy has *never* stopped me from making jokes in poor taste.ReplyDelete
Jesse Baker with a good idea...excuse me as I dodge the pig that just flew through my window.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure about that. I thought (but I'm not positive) that Nitro's first ever show in Toronto was the 1999 show where Bret Hart took out Goldberg with a steel plate. The Hogan/Flair thing I'm talking about was from late '96....early in the nWo run.ReplyDelete
wwe always call toronto 'bizarro world'ReplyDelete
you said it felt like bizarro world
thats why i said it was toronto
Heel Austin had entertaining moments, but it was done the wrong way. Vince should have not been involved. Sure Austin was insecure, but it just went totally against character to immediately team with Vince (and was against Vince's character to want to recruit Austin).ReplyDelete
Also, it was totally the wrong place to kick off the angle, Wrestlemania in freakin Texas. It would have worked a lot better if they'd done Mania in Miami and had Austin just blatantly cheat to beat him.
Then you have friends of Austin questioning his tactics and him turning on them. You could have JR interview him and him Stunning him for daring to question him.
Apropos of today being SummerSlam, but after all these years I still put The Mountie at SummerSlam 1991 pre- and post-Jailhouse Match as the funniest stuff they ever did.ReplyDelete
Coolest heels of the last 15 years...ReplyDelete
1. Hollywood Rock
2. Paranoid Steve Austin
3. Everyone else
Wouldn't it have to run to completion in order to make money? It never was, so you'll never know. Trips got hurt, the Invasion happened and they turned him back face on a dime on the "reboot" episode of Raw. The only way we'd know is if they kept him heel all the way to WM and had Trips face him for the belt.ReplyDelete
I agree that the execution was rough. But it was still a brilliant idea.ReplyDelete
Weird that they DIDN'T have a video package, Vince loves video packages.ReplyDelete
Wanted to portray Austin as unbeatable for the Mania match?ReplyDelete
I've long held that the issue with the Austin turn wasn't the timing or the abrupt badass to whiner character transition...it was who he aligned himself with when he turned that hurt the business.ReplyDelete
A vast percentage of wrestlings audience is the disenfranchised blue collar worker who dreams (rightly or wrongly) of sticking it to their boss. Heck that scenario applies to a ton of white collar people too.Austin allying himself with McMahon sends the message to that audience that in the end, the boss always wins.
It doesn't matter at that point who you bring against Austin as a face because no one in the primary audience at that time has as strong an identification with any other dynamic you can create, and once you've pulled the genie out of the bottle you can't really put it back the same way. I'd lay odds that if they had turned HHH face we would have only really had about three four good months and then the doldrums would have set in.
Allying himself with Vince might have been better if it had happened waaaaay after the initial turn.
I liked the idea behind the broken down veteran who might have lost a step or two who resorts increasingly to cheating or shady alliances to stay alive...just not at the cost of permanently deflating the audience. Just my opinion.
It is. Is Jesse turning face?ReplyDelete
Jesse, on point 2, that's EXACTLY where they were going with it, but they opted to slow-burn the story instead of pulling the trigger right away. In the era of Crash TV, we should have been PRAISING them for coming up with a long-term storyline instead of devolving into the usual book-week-to-week mindset. The only reason it didn't play out as planned was HHH's injury.ReplyDelete
My favorite RAW of all time is May 21, 2001, and it starts with Austin trotting down to the ring for a HHH-style promo and being booed out of the building. That's proof enough for me that the Austin heel turn wasn't the massive failure that people try to Monday morning quarterback it to be. The idea that "people weren't ready to boo Austin" was abject nonsense - because of his own paranoia, Austin sold out to Vince McMahon and the fans were rightly excoriating him for it.ReplyDelete
What derailed the Austin heel turn was two things: HHH's injury, and the initial failure of the Invasion angle. The former robbed Austin of the foil he needed for the heel turn to play out to its natural conclusion (in one of the rare instances where slow-burning the story instead of playing it out aggressively came back to haunt them), but even then, Kurt Angle might have worked to salvage it, especially given the temporary assist he got from current events. What really wrecked it was the latter, because when crowd reactions necessitated that WCW/ECW be turned heel collectively, they had to revert Austin to his previous ass-kicker character to help make the story transition work and then pigeonhole THAT into a heel role, which was a recipe for disaster because the only reason the fans were willing to boo Austin in the first place was because he had changed so much. Once he was Stone Cold again, there was no longer a real reason to hate him, especially since it NEVER made sense for Vince to cast himself as the babyface in the battle with WCW.
He didn't say the part after the comma, AT ALLReplyDelete