Steve Austin's unparalleled reign as WWE's top star came to an abrupt end during the summer of 2002. As injuries and frustrations mounted for the banner member of the Attitude Era, Austin infamously walked out, creating one of the biggest scandals in WWE history.
This was not the first time Austin responded to creative differences by failing to appear despite being advertised, but it was the final straw. Unlike his no-show following WrestleMania X8, Austin would not be seen on WWE television for the rest of the year.
Over the next several months, WWE would never miss an opportunity to educate its fans on how its generational star "took his ball and went home."
During an angle that strongly teased Austin's return, The Rock would be revealed as that payoff. Rocky would go on to infuse WWE's "get the F out" catchphrase to chastise Austin.
The relationship seemed beyond repair. Austin had broken WWE's cardinal sin. Their top draw was advertised to appear before his loyal fans and his refusal to do so created measurable backlash.
It was erratic behavior similar to Austin's that curtailed The Ultimate Warrior's white-hot WWE run. A hatchet job of a DVD on Austin was sure to follow in the years to come.
But as time healed all wounds, a Steve Austin return once thought of as unlikely became imminent. During Raw's 10th anniversary show, Austin was named Superstar of the Decade. From an on-camera standpoint, this set the wheels in motion for Austin's heralded return.
The glass would break at No Way Out in 2003, eight months after the no-show heard 'round the world. Austin's squash of then-Raw general manager Eric Bischoff was just part of a feel-good return passionately narrated by Jim Ross.
It would be the beginning of the end for Steve Austin as a major WWE star, as he amicably and officially retired following a WrestleMania XIX loss to The Rock.
Few WWE Superstars, if any, would have found resurgence following the stunts Austin pulled to the chagrin of his employer. WWE's ability to forgive is a testament to Austin's unmatched star power. He was just too big to fail.
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