In honor of the Texas Rattlesnake's 50th birthday, it's time to look back on the golden moments of his career. What a life he's lived and what an abundance of memories he's given us wrestling fans. A list like this could be eternal. From an in-ring career spanning two decades, Steve Austin has definitely left his mark on the pro wrestling world. An influential component of the WWE’s Attitude Era, a holder of numerous titles across multiple promotions, and being claimed by many in the business as the “biggest superstar in the history of the WWE,” the Hall of Famer's career definitely is worth many looks.
From famous promos to memorable feuds, Austin has become an integral part of pro wrestling history. A couple weeks back we published an article on the most memorable moments of Hulk Hogan’s career. It's now time to look back on the man who many view as the Hulkster's successor as the WWE's money machine that was Stone Cold Steve Austin. Portraying a beer swilling, profanity firing, blue collar brawler, Austin would tap into a huge part of pro wrestling’s audience and come across as the hero that fans needed against the likes of characters like the evil billionaire Mr. McMahon. It was his take no prisoners attitude and ability to get the crowd on his side at a moment’s notice that made him a standout in the Monday Night War between WCW and the WWE, but it was also his ability to flip the switch and either show his intense side or his humorous side that endeared him to fans. While it may seem easy to choose 15 moments that define a career like Austin’s, it was incredibly consuming trying to find the best 15 moments to encapsulate Austin’s career as a wrestler and on screen performer, but here are those moments. So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think if there are any moments you feel we missed.
14 Austin Debuts in WWE as "The Ringmaster," Becomes Stone Cold
After being let go by WCW and a short stint in ECW, Austin was eventually hired by the WWE. He was given the moniker "the Ringmaster," "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase as a manager, and awarded the Million Dollar Belt by DiBiase. Austin would defend the belt on a few occasions, even using DiBiase's Million Dollar Dream as a finisher, but he felt the nickname was not working for him. Numerous new nicknames were offered to him by WWE Creative, all of which Austin hated, including Ice Dagger, Chilly McFreeze, Fang McFrost and Otto von Ruthless. Thankfully, he was allowed to come up with his own nickname, which Austin finally decided was "Stone Cold" after a conversation with his wife. The nickname stuck and the rest is pro wrestling history.
14. Austin Has First "Match" with Mr. McMahon, Beat WCW in Ratings
After going back and forth with each other, it was finally going to happen; Steve Austin and Vince McMahon were going to fight each other in a wrestling match. The whole angle was preempted with vignettes of McMahon preparing for the match by having Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco training him on how to block the Stunner and other maneuvers that he could use to beat the Rattlesnake. Then right as both men in the ring, McMahon declared that Austin would have one arm tied behind his back after Austin said he could beat McMahon in such a condition, further stacking the odds against Austin. Yet just as the match was about to start, Dude Love made his way to the ring and attacked Austin in retaliation to fans only caring about Austin and not Love, making the match a no contest. The "match" was incredibly important to the WWE in that despite not happening at all, the idea of Austin and McMahon finally fighting allowed the WWE to beat WCW in the Monday Night ratings for the first time in almost two years. The ratings win would help the WWE slowly pull away from its longtime competitor and eventually WCW would fold in 2001.
13 Co-GM and Sheriff of Raw
After retiring from in-ring work as a wrestler due to numerous neck and back injuries, Steve Austin was brought back a week later by Linda McMahon and named the Co-General Manager of Raw to combat the power plays being made by other Raw GM Eric Bischoff. Austin would eventually lose that position after his team lost a traditional Survivor Series match to Bischoff’s team. He would then come back as the “Sheriff” of Raw, who apparently had power that rivaled Bischoff’s. The roles were important to Austin’s career in that it was the start of the next phase of his career after wrestling in-ring, but that he could still be vital to the WWE product overall.
12 The Hollywood Blondes win WCW Tag Titles
After the Dangerous Alliance disbanded, Steve Austin would bounce around the WCW midcard before finally being teamed up with Brian Pillman to form the third iteration of the Hollywood Blondes. The duo would get over as obnoxious heels who, after a match, would tell the fans “your brush with greatness is over” along with mock filming each other with an invisible camera after successfully hitting a maneuver on an opponent. They would win the WCW Tag Titles from Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas only a couple months after pairing up and would go on to successfully defend the belts against the former champions on a few separate occasions.
The team would then go on to feud with the newly reformed Four Horsemen, but an ankle injury suffered by Pillman would cause Austin to team up on-the-fly with “Lord” Steven Regal in a losing effort to Paul Roma and Arn Anderson who had already been filmed wearing the Tag Titles on pre-taped episodes of WCW programming. The injury would later help Austin and Pillman feud a number of times in both WCW and the WWE, including the infamous home invasion/gun angle from Raw is War.
11 ECW Promos
After being released from WCW while out recovering from an injury, Steve Austin was pretty upset to say the least. So when he received a call from former manager Paul Heyman to come to ECW, he jumped at the opportunity. Austin would begin to develop the early characteristics of his Stone Cold character while also using ECW as a way to get back at his former employer. Holding skits titled Monday Nyquil, Austin would wear a horrible black wig to look like Eric Bischoff and would do the promos with a pair of bongos as a dig against Steve “Mongo” McMichael. The promos were hilarious and it was incredibly helpful to Austin’s career as it allowed him to hone his promo skills and prepare him for when he would need to be talking more often once he made it higher up on the card.
10 Austin “takes his ball and goes home”
After the Invasion angle had ended, Vince McMahon was not ready to quit bringing in former WCW wrestlers, so when he brought in the NWO, fans were wondering what was going to happen, especially with the thought of the ultimate dream match between Austin and Hulk Hogan. Unfortunately egos got in the way of deciding on a finish and plans were changed to Hogan facing the Rock and Austin facing Scott Hall. Austin would then bounce around in various feuds before ultimately walking out on the company after being asked to lose clean to rookie Brock Lesnar and to be in a feud with Eddie Guerrero. The move ultimately became a dark spot in Austin’s career as it was made to come off as a star not wanting to give up the spotlight or help the next generation of wrestling. Fans did not seem to mind though as they continued to cheer whenever Austin was mentioned throughout the year and his “What?” catchphrase could be heard as much as the random “E-C-W!” chants.
9 Austin Pulls a Gun on Vince
A title match for the vacant WWE Title at Judgment Day between the Undertaker and Kane ended in a no contest when guest referee Steve Austin counted both men for a three count, which ultimately led to Austin being fired by Mr. McMahon. Austin would get his revenge though, by kidnapping McMahon, coming off as a disgruntled ex-employee with nothing left to lose. Austin would then drag McMahon out to the center of the ring and pulling out a revolver and aiming it at McMahon’s head. Austin would then pull the trigger on the terrified McMahon, causing a flag to pop out of the barrel revealing “Bang! 3:16” and causing McMahon to wet his pants.
8 Beer Bath for the Corporation
In the midst of his battle with Mr. McMahon, Steve Austin was at a severe numbers disadvantage going up against the rest of the Corporation. Yet numbers did not matter when on an episode of Raw is War Austin ambushed the entire Corporation who were in the ring, driving a beer truck up to the edge of the ring. Austin would get out and grab the hose attached to the side before climbing to the roof of the truck. He would proceed to douse the Corporation and the entire ring area in beer. It was a highly comedic scene that further cemented Austin as the anti-authority blue collar wrestler who would fight the odds against him, no matter how high they were stacked.
7 Inducted into Hall of Fame
After a career that spanned 20 years, Austin would be announced as the first name of the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame induction class. Inducted by his most bitter rival, Vince McMahon, Austin would be called by McMahon as the “greatest WWE Superstar of all time” because of everything he had done and accomplished in the WWE. Austin would also put to rest rumors of having one last match despite fans in attendance cheering for it, claiming that he was starting a new chapter in his life, though as of late it seems like there may still be enough gas in the tank for Austin to lace up the boots one more time.
6 Austin sells his soul to Mr. McMahon
After winning the 2001 Royal Rumble, Austin was scheduled to face off against longtime rival, the Rock, at Wrestlemania X-Seven for the WWE Title in a no disqualification match. The two had a back and forth match before Mr. McMahon came down to the ring to watch the match. Yet to the surprise of everyone in the arena, McMahon would begin interfering on Austin’s behalf, ultimately handing Austin a chair to beat the Rock with and win the title. The two would shake hands after the match and Austin’s character would change to that of a primadonna who whined constantly and always tried to get McMahon’s approval as his new friend. The switch would also lead to Austin teaming with Triple H to form the Two-Man Power Trip.
5 Owen Breaks Austin’s Neck
At Summerslam ’97, Austin was set to face off against Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Title with the added stipulation of Austin having to kiss Hart’s butt if he were to lose. Unfortunately, Austin would suffer a broken neck after a botched piledriver from Hart, but would still go on to win the match and the title. Austin would eventually have to relinquish the title along with the tag championship, but would continue to stay on screen in order to keep his momentum in the Hart feud going. He would return at Survivor Series of that year and would defeat Hart to again win the Intercontinental Title and a slew of new fans by showing a level of toughness rarely seen in wrestling. While the injury ultimately shortened Austin's career, the time away from the ring allowed Austin to grow as an on-screen performer, perhaps even more so than when he was wrestling.
4 Austin stuns Vince after winning the WWE title
After winning his first world title at Wrestlemania XIV, Steve Austin was confronted by Mr. McMahon about the direction he wanted his career to go now that he was the top wrestler in the company. McMahon wanted to reign in the Rattlesnake, but unfortunately he made a mistake when he gave the ultimatum “you can do this the easy way or you can do this the hard way.” With that Austin kicked his boss in the gut and hit the Stone Cold Stunner, laying out McMahon. This incident would lead to one of the most important and intense rivalries in pro wrestling.
3 Austin wins first WWE title
In a career spanning years of hard work within the three biggest promotions in the United States, Stone Cold Steve Austin would finally win the world title that had eluded him for so long when he faced off against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XIV. With Mike Tyson as the special enforcer and as a member of DX, the odds were stacked against Austin. Yet Austin would prevail and hit a Stone Cold Stunner on Michaels, with Tyson giving the three count to crown Austin the new world champion. The win would solidify Austin as the new face of the WWE and his win would lead to numerous memorable feuds over the next few years.
2 Wrestlemania 13 against Bret Hart
While Shawn Michaels may have been a thorn in Bret Hart’s side, Austin was definitely a pain in his backside. From cheating Bret out of a Royal Rumble victory to feuding with Bret and every other member of the Hart Foundation, Austin seemed there solely to make life difficult for Bret. So when the two were pitted against each other in a submission match with special guest referee Ken Shamrock at Wrestlemania 13, many felt it was the moment then-heel Austin would get his comeuppance.
The match was pretty physical with Austin eventually being cut open and bleeding profusely from his forehead. Eventually Bret would lock Austin in the Sharpshooter in the center of the ring with fans watching waiting for the tap. Yet to their surprise Austin never tapped, he continued to fight through the pain before eventually passing out in a pool of his own blood. Shamrock would call for the bell but Hart would not release the hold. Eventually the hold was broken up but the damage was done and in a split second the double turn had occurred to where Austin was now the valiant face and Hart the villainous heel. The match would begin Austin’s rise up the ranks to being the top face of the company while ushering out Bret and the previous generation of WWE wrestlers in favor of the new Attitude era.
1 The Austin 3:16 Promo
This is the moment that shot Austin’s star into the stratosphere. He had been on the cusp of main event level popularity since his switch from the Ringmaster to Stone Cold, but this is what tipped it over the edge for him. At the King of the Ring PPV, Austin would clash with the Cinderella story of the tournament, Jake “the Snake” Roberts who had unbelievably made it to the finals despite being injured earlier in the evening by Vader. Austin would ultimately beat Roberts and be named King of the Ring as he headed towards the throne on the entrance set. From there Austin would demand that “that piece of crap be removed from my ring” referring to Roberts who was being helped out by referees and then Austin would give the speech that would define his career, ending with the penultimate line, “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped you’re a**!”
The fans in attendance ate it up and the following weeks every arena was flooded with black t-shirts that simply said Austin 3:16. That simple phrase would help catapult the WWE past its rival WCW in the Monday night ratings war and would make Austin one of the biggest stars pro wrestling had ever seen.