“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is widely regarded as both the biggest singles draw in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment and as the face of the early days of the “Attitude Era” that helped WWE get past and then defeat World Championship Wrestling in the professional wrestling war of the 1990s. Austin's feud with the Mr. McMahon character played by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was revolutionary for the company and the industry, so much so that the WWE, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling and other organizations have repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to recreate the magic of the original angle.
It is easy to understand why the Austin character became as popular as it did during a time when wrestling fans wanted an edgier product. Austin was an “every man” who drank beer, cursed out his bosses and neither had nor required friends. Fans were able to live through the Stone Cold character that beat up his boss again and again without receiving any serious punishments. Even Austin's iconic theme song, which features the sound of glass shattering at the beginning, leads fans in attendance to leap to their feet because that sound usually means that something entertaining is about to occur.
As great as Austin has been for the wrestling business and the WWE, there remains plenty about Stone Cold that fans would like to forget. Some of that has to do with portions of his career that were not the most flattering to his characters or to the fans who adored Austin. Then, there are the outside-of-the-ring moments and accusations that should not be ignored or forgotten when discussing the legacy of one of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history. Austin has not always been the best of men, something that he would probably admit if he was being honest about himself and about portions of his past.
15 Stone Cold vs. CM Punk
This one is different than the other things fans would like to forget about Stone Cold because it is a matter of what could have been. Austin and CM Punk were brought together for a segment that was meant to promote video game WWE '13. The big story coming out of the clip, however, was that both Austin and Punk teased that the two could have a match at some point down the road. That, of course, never happened. Austin is, by all accounts, retired from in-ring action and Punk has moved on to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Oh, what a great feud that could have been had Punk and Austin been able to work together.
14 Stone Cold's Last Match
Steve Austin had many great matches with foes such as Bret “Hitman” Hart, Triple H and The Rock during his great WWE career. What is, to this day, the last official match of Austin's career occurred at WrestleMania 19, fittingly against The Rock. This was not one of the classic encounters of either man's career, in part because Austin was so banged up due to years of injuries wearing him down. The two did what they could to tell a decent story and the match was not an insult to either great wrestler. Still, it would have been a better sendoff for Austin to have had one final great match.
13 Pillman's Got a Gun
Plenty about the Attitude Era that is beloved by wrestling fans who grew up watching the product in the 1990s does not live up 20 years after the fact. The infamous “Pillman's Got a Gun” angle is one example. Austin and Brian Pillman were involved in a feud that left Pillman injured in storyline following a Stone Cold attack. Not happy enough with merely sidelining Pillman, Austin attempted to break into Pillman's house to finish the job during an episode of Raw. The segment ended with Pillman pointing a 9mm at Austin before the screen faded to black. While it was memorable, it was also an absurd angle that is not routinely mentioned on current WWE television.
12 Disturbed Entrance Theme
The Austin character is easy to present to audiences. Fans hear the glass shatter before Austin's theme hits and Stone Cold then forcefully walks toward the ring to a standing ovation. Done and done. The WWE managed to even mess this up for a portion of time, however, as the company linked Austin with a Disturbed song that had sampled the wrestler's theme. It just, simply put, wasn't the same and the WWE eventually went back to Austin's theme that is used to this day. One note to this: The theme Austin had while he was a member of the Alliance was pretty good and it fit the “paranoid” Rattlesnake perfectly.
11 The Cowardly Rattlesnake
The Austin heel turn that will be mentioned later in this piece was rejected by fans in many ways. Looking back at it now, diehards who followed Stone Cold since his first days in the WWE would probably rather just forget that it ever happened in the first place. Not only was Austin turned into a cowardly heel that was a complete 180-turn from how he had been presented since he was The Ringmaster. Austin's storyline best friend was none other than Vince McMahon. This idea should have been scrapped even before the night of the actual turn, an event that was such a negative for the WWE that it deserves its own spot on the list.
10 Austin Stuns Women
The WWE was a different company in a different universe during the 1990s and early 2000s. Male wrestlers hitting finishing moves on female performers was not at all uncommon. Fans even popped when Stone Cold hit the “Stunner” on women such as Stephanie McMahon and Linda McMahon. There are a plethora of reasons why you won't see anything like this on Raw or SmackDown in 2016 and all of them are valid. As awkward as it is to remember Austin hitting the “Stunner” on such women, the next event on the list is downright disturbing.
9 Austin Attacking Lita
Diehard WWE fans wanted to reject the Austin heel turn that occurred in 2001, and so the company had to go out of the way to try to get audiences to boo Stone Cold. One such attempt occurred during an episode of Raw that featured Stone Cold, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and Team Xtreme – Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy and Lita. The segment ended with Austin destroying Lita with multiple chair shots to the back before he hit the Diva with a “Stunner.” It is a piece of video that is not easy to watch considering allegations that have been made about Stone Cold in the past.
8 Austin Going Home
Perhaps the most infamous portion of Austin's WWE career came in the spring of 2002. Stone Cold was said to be upset with the creative direction had for his character, most notably that he was going to have to put Brock Lesnar over clean without that match having a lengthy build. Austin surprised those running the WWE by walking out on the company, which understandably angered Vince McMahon and others. McMahon publicly told fans during a Raw segment that Austin “took his ball and went home.” The two sides eventually made up and the moment has now become barely a footnote in Austin's wrestling career.
7 The Ringmaster
The WWE was not yet all-in on the “Attitude Era” when the company decided to hire Steve Austin after Austin had spent some time in Extreme Championship Wrestling. Austin was turned into "The Ringmaster,” a bland wrestler who was managed by "The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and was given both the Million Dollar Championship and the “Million Dollar Dream” finishing hold. While Austin was crisp in the ring, he was just a guy on the roster while linked with DiBiase. The company quickly realized that the idea was not working and everybody was better off for a change being made.
6 The Invasion
There are so many things – really, everything if we are being honest about it – about the failed “Invasion” storyline that fans would like to forget. Stone Cold flipping sides and joining up with the WCW/ECW Alliance may top the list. Austin's real-life animosity towards the original World Championship Wrestling organization made it hard to believe that Stone Cold would actually link up with that faction, even in a fictional world. Having Stone Cold in the Alliance also watered down the non-WWE performers in that group and it played a role in the feud being a significant flop.
5 Hollywood & Vine
Well before he was Stone Cold and well before he was beating up on the McMahon family, Austin was a basic wrestler who was solid inside of the ring; except for one portion of his repertoire. Austin used what he referred to as “Hollywood & Vine,” a standing figure-four leglock that, more often than not, looked clunky and even awful. Austin himself has, via Twitter, admitted that he “forgot how to do the damn thing all the time.” Stone Cold fortunately got himself other finishing moves and he eventually settled on his famous “Stunner” that has downed many opponents over the years.
4 The Heel Turn
It is widely seen, in wrestling circles, as one of the biggest mistakes made by Vince McMahon and the WWE during this era. Stone Cold and The Rock faced off once again in 2001, this time at WrestleMania X-Seven. Austin turned heel on that night, aligning himself with McMahon and angering many wrestling fans who followed the WWE because of the anti-hero personality had by Austin's most famous character. This decision killed off much of the momentum that was had by the Austin character and things were never again the same. Wrestling journalists such as Bryan Alvarez and Dave Meltzer have repeatedly criticized this decision when speaking about it during podcasts and interviews.
There are certain lines that even the WWE will not be crossing anytime soon. One of them involves the use of ethnic and racial slurs. Hollywood has no such concerns, however, and thus Stone Cold was given a line in the movie The Longest Yard that featured Austin dropping the notorious “N-Bomb.” While it is not all that big of a deal because the movie is a work of fiction, there is still something a bit odd about the trash-talking wrestler from Texas using that particular word. We blame Hulk Hogan, mostly what we found out about the Hulkster in 2015, for feeling uncomfortable with Austin using the word.
Has any other one word haunted wrestling segments such as the one that Austin used during a period of his WWE career? The “What?!?” that Austin would yell out to interrupt other wrestlers and announcers was humorous for a time. It has been roughly 15 years since Austin debuted his “What?!?” and yet we continue to hear fans yelling it at WWE and even non-WWE events. The truth of the matter is that it would have been better off had Austin never yelled that one word during an edition of Raw. We would be so lucky if wrestling fans everywhere would forget about this period of Stone Cold's career.
1 Domestic Violence Allegations
It is no secret that Austin's ex-wife and former WWE personality Debra Marshall has, on multiple occasions, claimed that Austin got physical with her several times. Debra has also claimed that the WWE went out of the way to hide the abuse because the company wanted to product itself and the man who was such a massive draw for the organization. Those of us who weren't there do not know exactly what happened, but the incidents Debra has spoken about over the years are damning. Fans and also the WWE have done well to forget about all of this, because otherwise you wouldn't be seeing Stone Cold on shows such as Raw.