Stone Cold Steve Austin's Best, Worst and Most Outrageous Moments in WWE Career
The name "Stone Cold" Steve Austin carries with it fond memories of chaos, destruction, scathing anti-authority promos and acts of insubordination the common man could only dream of.
It also inspires vivid imagery of epic encounters featuring the greatest wrestlers of all time and an Attitude Era that fans still long for today.
Austin was, and is, without a shadow of a doubt one of the most iconic stars in the long and illustrious history of professional wrestling, and moments like those he was responsible for during his WWE career prove why.
From Stone Cold Stunners to unsuspecting big wigs to five-star battles with The Rock, Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, The Texas Rattlesnake firmly cemented his status as one of the most beloved Superstars the industry has ever produced.
But which of the hundreds of moments he was responsible for are the 10 most essential to his story?
These are the wild, outrageous, worst and best moments from wrestling's most unforgettable hell-raiser, ranked according to historical and career significance.
10. WrestleMania X-Seven, the Rock and a Deal with the Devil
The greatest pay-per-view event ever produced by WWE is WrestleMania X-Seven, and it is not even all that close.
The 2001 event, home to superb in-ring action from one of the most talented rosters WWE has ever touted, was headlined by an epic encounter between Stone Cold and The Rock. Two industry giants who transcended the wrestling business, they elevated their intense rivalry in a match that would go down as their absolute best.
Building on spots and moments from previous encounters, they put together a masterpiece of a match that ended with the shocking heel turn of Austin and his even more unbelievable alliance with Vince McMahon.
And therein lies the one problem with the entire ordeal.
Austin's character was deeply rooted in the idea of DTA: don't trust anyone. His character had been defined by that line of thinking for the better part of three years. Suddenly having him set that aside to form a partnership with McMahon just so he could win the WWE Championship was in complete contrast with everything we knew about the Texas Rattlesnake.
If anything, Austin should have used McMahon to help him win the title, then dropped his ass with a Stone Cold Stunner the first opportunity he got. In the 2011 WWE Home Video release, Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time, Austin admits that he would have taken that approach if he had the opportunity to do it all over again.
And rightfully so.
9. Pillman's Got a Gun
One cannot talk about Austin's most outrageous moments without mentioning the gun incident from the November 4, 1996, episode of Monday Night Raw.
Austin had previously attacked his former tag team partner, brutally assaulting him and breaking his ankle.
Not finished with the man who helped him win tag team championship gold during their days in WCW, Austin went to Pillman's house in Walton, Kentucky, beat the ever-loving hell out of his closest friends and broke into his home.
Waiting for the Texas Rattlesnake was Pillman, a nine-millimeter Glock in his hand.
Viewing audiences were taken aback. Fans had long wanted a more realistic product from Vince McMahon's cartoonish company, but making the leap from wrestling garbage men and plumbers to a Superstar pulling a gun on another was a bit too much.
USA Network was appalled by the incident and issued warnings and threats to WWE and its programming in the wake of the angle—suddenly, McMahon had an idea of which boundaries he simply could not test.
8. SummerSlam 1997
Austin's rise to the top of the industry nearly never happened.
At SummerSlam 1997, he was in the middle of challenging Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship in one of the night's marquee bouts when he was caught in a tilt-a-whirl and set up for a Tombstone Piledriver.
Rather than dropping to his knees, Hart sat out, driving Austin's head into the match without any protection. The full weight of the bald-headed badass came down on his spinal cord, temporarily paralyzing him. He meekly rolled Hart up and won the title, but his future was in doubt as referees helped him to his feet and into the locker room.
The match was secondary to the potential crisis that faced management. Austin was the company's greatest hope to return to sports entertainment dominance. If he was hurt, there was no Superstar ready to step up and become the face of the promotion for years to come.
Toughness and determination kept Austin off the operating table and allowed him to return to the squared circle and become the iconic Superstar that Vince McMahon would both feud with and lean on to lead his programming into a new era.
Still, it is clear in hindsight that Austin's injury affected his ability to have a longer, even more prosperous career than he ultimately did.
7. One Last Round
Few knew that as Steve Austin walked the aisle in Safeco Field in Seattle that his 2003 match with The Rock would be the last of his illustrious career.
Like a valiant gunslinger who recognizes his last duel is upon him, he put up a courageous fight just 24 hours after being hospitalized for rapid heart rate, as revealed in the 2004 documentary, The Mania of WrestleMania.
For nearly 20 minutes, Austin and Rock traded finishers and dramatic near-falls that had fans leaping out of their seats with excitement.
When Rock brutalized Stone Cold with a third Rock Bottom, the greatest Superstar WWE had ever known bowed out with grace and dignity, his shoulders pinned to the mat as he put over his most significant in-ring rival.
Taking to the stage and saluting the audience with one last flip of the bird, it was a fitting and respectful way to wave goodbye to Austin the wrestler.
6. Walking Out
Undoubtedly the worst moment in Austin's WWE career came in 2002, when frustration with his body and the creative direction of both the company and his character caused him to walk out.
Refusing to work with and lose to Brock Lesnar in a match with zero build on an episode of Raw that would be forgotten moments after it ended, Austin packed his bags and left Atlanta. The decision created a schism between him and Vince McMahon that would last until February 2003, when he returned to the business he had been so instrumental in strengthening.
While Austin was right in his argument that wasting a match with Lesnar on a meaningless episode of Raw was stupid and inconsiderate of the bigger picture, there were better ways to go about handling the disagreement than walking away.
It did damage to his legacy, for sure, but also demonstrated just how passionate about his work he was.
In the end, Austin looked worse for having left, but he returned just in time to wrap up his in-ring career on the biggest stage known to professional wrestling.
5. The Stone Cold Stunner Heard 'Round the World
In the fall of 1997, Austin was garnering even more heat from fans for his Stone Cold Stunners to various on-screen personalities, such as Jerry "The King" Lawler, Jim Ross and commissioner Sgt. Slaughter. Tension built with every passing week, and when Raw returned to Madison Square Garden for an electrifying broadcast on September 22, it felt like the right time for Austin to drop the owner of the company, Vince McMahon, with his increasingly dangerous finisher.
And he did.
Austin executed the Stunner heard around the world on that night, leaving McMahon writhing on the mat, his gaze fixated on the ceiling.
That one moment forever encapsulated what the Austin character would represent going forward: the rebellious antihero that raised hell, kicked ass and never once worried about taking names. He was a man of the people, putting hands on a boss in a way the common fan could only ever dream of.
It resonated at that time, and now it is no surprise he catapulted into the realm of popularity that he did and still does enjoy.
The moment's placement on this list was hurt only by the sheer number of times Austin would go on to stun McMahon in the years to come.
4. "Austin and Tyson! Austin and Tyson!"
The January 19, 1998, episode of Raw was one of the most notable and unforgettable in WWE history.
At the end of the night, Vince McMahon was to introduce Mike Tyson to the fans, reveal his involvement with WrestleMania XIV and shake his hand in a grand gesture of respect. Instead, Austin made his presence felt, taking exception to Tyson's "Baddest Man on the Planet" nickname.
"Right now, you've got your beady little eyes locked on the world's toughest son of a bitch!" he exclaimed as he came face to face with a man who struck fear in the hearts of boxing's elite.
Austin would flip Tyson the bird, and a brawl between the two erupted, giving way to chaos.
The moment would kick off a monumental road to WrestleMania that saw increased media attention and the hottest storyline the company had created for its signature event in years—much of which could be credited to Austin's gruff exterior and take-no-prisoner personality.
3. The Beer Truck
On the March 22, 1999, episode of Raw, just six days from WrestleMania XV, Austin interrupted a promo involving Vince and Shane McMahon and the self-proclaimed "corporate" champion, The Rock, driving a beer truck into the arena.
Standing atop it, he cut a scathing promo on all three men and promised to burn the SmackDown Hotel to the ground at The Showcase of the Immortals. After wrapping up his promo, Austin disappeared beside the truck, then suddenly emerged with a hose that he used to spray down the three most prominent members of The Corporation.
The imagery of Vince "swimming" in the beer while Austin mercilessly doused him and his cohorts in some ice cold Coors Light is burned in the memories of those who either watched it live or have seen it replayed countless times in documentaries and top-10 countdowns.
That is the sign of an effective moment, especially when it stands the test of time, as the beer truck does.
2. "The Austin Era Has Begun!"
"The Austin Era has begun!" Jim Ross exclaimed as Stone Cold stood on the ropes, the WWE Championship high overhead, the thousands in Boston's FleetCenter erupting in support of the rebellious Superstar.
It was an iconic call by Ross that the company still utilizes in video packages today, but for Austin, it was the culmination of eight years of hard work and dedication. After working through injury and professional frustrations in World Championship Wrestling, Austin had reinvented himself and become the hottest star in the sport.
His unwavering dedication to his craft led to the top prize in the sport and one of the greatest runs by any Superstar ever. Austin channeled his WWE Championship win into mainstream notoriety as the face of WWE's Attitude Era. He was the top draw, the star around whom the entire show was booked and a rare industry icon.
The championship was a symbol of the trust Vince McMahon had in Austin to lead him and WWE out of the abyss and back to relevance. Little could the boss have known that Stone Cold would help the company triumph over WCW in the Monday Night Wars.
1. Blood from a Stone
There may be no more iconic image from the long, illustrious and Hall of Fame career of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin than that of blood pouring from his forehead and over his face before settling in a puddle on the mat below while The Texas Rattlesnake was trapped in Bret "Hitman" Hart's vaunted Sharpshooter.
Austin, enduring tremendous pain but unwilling to quit, instead passed out and lost the match via referee's decision.
In defeat came victory, though, as the WWE fans became so enamored with the never-say-die attitude of the relentless badass that they cheered him over celebrated babyface Hart. As Austin made it to his feet and dropped a compassionate referee with his Stone Cold Stunner, the company successfully executed a rare double-turn in which Austin became the rebellious hero and Hart the bitter heel.
T-shirts emblazoned with Austin's bloody mug, video tape covers and 8-by-10s were available for consumption by a fanbase all too eager to buy up any and everything associated to ol' Stone Cold.
The match itself was a classic, easily one of the best ever presented on WWE television. The end, though, transcended wrestling and created an unforgettable character that would ultimately define an entire era of the industry.