The name Stone Cold Steve Austin is well known. There are many people who have felt the wrath of the "Stunner," and will say that it isn't a pretty feeling the next morning.
One of those people is Triple H.
I do, however, find it rather intriguing that Stone Cold would not be anything without the help of Triple H and the Kliq. Still don't know what I am talking about? Let's go way back to 1996 when the Austin Era began without realization of it.
Backstage, Bill Banks was running a AOL chat session. In the early 1990s AOL was in works with WWF and the superstars would do "interviews" with the fans after their matches. This particular night, WWF stars Diesel and Razor Ramon signed with WCW, so the announcement had been made to all of Madison Square Garden that this would be their final appearance on WWF Television.
Earlier in the night, Triple H (then Hunter Hearst Helmsley) defeated Razor Ramon (Hall). In the main event, Shawn Michaels defeated Diesel (Nash) inside a steel cage. It was after the main event that "The Kliq" broke an unwritten cardinal rule in wrestling by going outside of the storylines.
Shawn helped Nash to his feet and the two hugged and posed for fans. A few moments later they were joined by Hall and Hunter. "The Kliq" was giving a curtain call to the fans without management's permission.
The fans loved it—but the reaction backstage was far different. Jim Cornette yelling backstage, obviously irate that no one was stopping them. Vince and Shane McMahon were watching from behind the entrance curtain. Shane wanted to go out and stop it himself but Vince kept a cool head about it.
There had to be repercussions from the incident, but Hall and Nash were gone and Michaels was one of the top stars in the company. So, the punishment was handed out to Triple H, who for the next several months was relegated to losing every match.
The reason I write all this is for one reason—prior to the "Kliq" incident, Triple H was slated to win the upcoming King of the Ring Pay-Per-View tournament, considering a stepping-stone to a top spot in the WWF. However, those plans were scrapped. As a result, Steve Austin was picked instead to win the tournament that June. Austin finally had his opportunity and he certainly made the most of it.
After beating Jake Roberts in the finals, Austin was interviewed by Dok Hendrix on the live Pay-Per-View, an interview that officially marked the birth of "Austin 3:16" in professional wrestling.
"Jake Roberts—you can thump your bible all you want, but Austin 3:16 says I just kicked your ass!"
The "Stone Cold" phenomenon snowballed from there. At SummerSlam two months later in Cleveland, Ohio, Austin was scheduled to face Yokozuna on the pre-show for the Pay-Per-View. Bill Banks was standing out in the audience with Vince Russo watching fans fill the arena and we both noticed many of them brought "Austin 3:16" posters. Russo turned to Bill and said "You see that? He's about to become the biggest thing in this business."
The rest was history…