WWE Missed Opportunities: Steve Austin's Mystery Attacker

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Featured Columnist IVOctober 17, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

At the 1999 WWE Survivor Series, Kurt Angle made his WWE debut and Big Show won a Triple Threat match that brought him the WWE Championship.

But neither of those things made the biggest news of the night. This was the event when the infamous hit-and-run attack on "Stone Cold" Steve Austin took place.

Originally, Austin was scheduled to compete in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship against both Triple H and The Rock. As Austin was giving an interview, however, Triple H intervened, forcing Austin to go after him.

Shockingly, Austin was then struck by a moving vehicle.

Not only was Austin removed from the Triple Threat match, he would go on to be out of action for the next several months as part of the storyline.

Someone had just taken out the company's top star, and it had the wrestling world buzzing. Who could have done such a thing? WWE fans would be guessing for the next several months.

The way this storyline started out was excellent. It didn't dominate the show, but the writers built on it gradually, giving fans a big reason to follow the product. The best storylines are the ones that keep fans guessing and asking themselves questions.

This had success written all over it.

For the better part of 2000, the big question hanging over WWE centered around who ran over Austin. Who was responsible for putting the No. 1 Superstar in WWE on the shelf?

On each show, it seemed like WWE got closer and closer to revealing the attacker. It even went so far as to give a clue that the driver was seen with blonde hair. This led to speculation that the driver may have been a woman.

Though WWE had a plethora of worthy Superstars to choose from, it went in a very surprising direction. Rikishi revealed himself as the man who did it. But why?

Rikishi explained that he did it for The Rock, a fellow Samoan. Apparently, he felt that taking out Austin would help advance the career of The Rock.

Wait... what? You committed this act of violence for someone else? Someone who didn't even ask for your assistance?

The decision to make Rikishi the driver was a curious one to say the least, but could it work? The answer to that question was a resounding "No."

The reason this storyline failed miserably was because of the way things turned out. At one point, it was a huge point of interest in the wrestling world. But once Austin returned to action and got his hands on Rikishi, it raised even more questions.

Austin returned to the ring at WWE No Mercy in October 2000 for a highly anticipated encounter with the man who ran him down in a parking garage. What ensued was a completely one-sided affair.

Though the match officially ended in a no-contest, Austin dominated Rikishi with a serious beating that left him bloodied and bruised. At that moment, the storyline was dead.

Sure, WWE injected Triple H into the angle, saying that Rikishi was only following his orders. This continued the rivalry between Triple H and Austin, but it didn't save the storyline. It likely wasn't the original plan, either.

It felt like WWE turned to Triple H when it realized that Rikishi wasn't the right person for the role.

After nearly one year of intrigue, fans had to be let down by how this thing ended. It easily had the potential to be one of the best storylines in WWE history.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but here's one direction WWE could have gone in instead.

On the same night when Austin was hit by a vehicle, Angle made his debut. On the same night when Austin returned to the ring from his injury, Angle claimed his very first WWE Championship.

The timing would have been perfect.

After Angle won the title, WWE could have kept a tight lid on who the attacker was. Angle could have defended his title a few times to establish himself as a worthy champion.

In that time, Austin could have returned and chosen to get back in the ring to take his mind off things rather than focusing every ounce of energy on finding out who attacked him.

In early 2001, Angle could have come to the ring to cut a promo and then reveal to the fans a piece of video footage from the parking lot from an angle that hadn't been seen before.

Angle would clearly be seen behind the wheel of the car before slamming into Austin. Picture Angle saying, "That's right, Austin, it's true. I'm the man who ran you over." This would be Angle's way of announcing to the world that he was the true attacker and acted alone.

Angle's motivation would be simple. He wanted to be the top guy in WWE and wanted to make it clear he would stop at nothing to make that happen.

Once Austin returned and finally got his hands on Angle, it could have set up a match between the two at WrestleMania 17. Yes, that means we wouldn't have gotten the classic between Austin and The Rock, but if WWE had gone this route, Austin versus Angle would have been every bit as good.

WWE was really onto something when it began this storyline. It should have gone down as a piece of wrestling history that fans look back on fondly and still talk about to this day.

Instead, it's very easily forgotten.

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