By reading the title, you may be wondering how a single maneuver can change a whole era. However, for those of us who enjoyed the Attitude Era, it was a move that changed Monday nights forever. In this article, I will break down how Steve Austin paved the way for an entire generation with just one move.
It was September 22, 1997. Raw was in the historic Madison Square Garden for the first time. The late Owen Hart was making a speech to the fans (pause for "nugget" chants). Austin, who was still pretty angry over Hart breaking his neck, made his way to the ring. WWE Owner and Chairman Vince McMahon told Austin he wasn't physically able to compete due to his neck. The Rattlesnake knew Vince and WWE cared about his well being; however, that wouldn't stop him from changing the employee/boss relationship forever.
With a boot to the gut and a swift three-quarter facelock jawbreaker, better known as the Stone Cold Stunner, Austin dropped his boss. There he lay, flopping like a fish. Vince may have looked like a total jackass trying to sell the move, but the symbolism of the moment changed the landscape of WWE forever.
It would begin one of the most historic rivalries in wrestling history. Austin versus McMahon defined an entire era in WWE. After Austin won the title at WrestleMania XIV, Austin expressed his displeasure with Stone Cold's attitude toward authority. McMahon famously told Austin that he could do things "the easy way or the hard way."
Guess what Austin picked? A stunner for Vince! McMahon would try to derail the Bionic Redneck many times, and Austin would always find a way to get his hands on the boss.
The fans went wild every time he nailed a stunner on McMahon and his son Shane. It symbolized what everyone in the crowd wanted to do to their boss. However, Vince would soon adopt the move himself and use it on his nemesis. While McMahon's version was quite as fantastic, it showed that not only can the boss take a beating, he can give one right back (maybe with a little help from the Corporation).
As the rivalry died down over the summer and Austin left to have surgery, the stunner seemed to have taken a backseat to the people's elbow as the most famous and powerful move in wrestling (as far as casual fans were concerned).
After Austin returned, his hatred towards Vince turned in a partnership (which was awkward for everybody who watched). No stunners would come Vince's way until Austin jumped to the Alliance. Sadly, the stunner would not become prevalent until his final rivalry with The Rock. The Rock would use the move against Austin, but it did not come close to getting the effect as giving one to the boss.
Many superstars followed in Austin's rebellious footsteps. The Rock, Undertaker, Kane, John Cena, Nexus and DX have crossed the boss by getting physical with him. Nowadays, Vince isn't around much to take a beating. I do have a feeling that before both him and Austin finally depart from WWE forever, Austin has at least one more can of whoop ass for Vince McMahon.
This isn't just a brief history lesson. It's a way of showing how the move not only defined a rivalry but an entire era in wrestling. The stunner was Austin's way of telling his boss what he could go do (aside from flipping him the bird of course). That first stunner on the boss Vince McMahon made it clear that in the WWE: Nobody is safe from getting physically abused. Not even the owner was safe from getting in the ring. DX broke the rules, Montreal showed the dark side and the Stone Cold stunner created a world where no matter what someone's status or how rich they are, they can always have a can of whoop ass opened on them.
Hopefully, I did a good job of making you all realize that with one move, one act of defiance and one disgruntled employee, a whole rivalry and a whole era was changed. Please feel free to comment below with constructive comments and memories of the stunner and Austin/McMahon rivalry.