Steve Austin, the Battle for Christmas and a History of Santa Claus in WWE

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterDecember 24, 2017

Credit: WWE.com

For laughs, for fun, for Christmas cheer, Santa Claus has been a frequent presence on the WWE stage.

Steve Austin has both clobbered a Santa in the ring and dressed as Old Saint Nick. WWE hosted a battle for Christmas where two wrestlers in Santa suits slugged it out. The range of WWE acts to slip into that famous red outfit is long: Bobby Heenan, Festus, Mick Foley and tons more. 

Christmas time has long been a reminder of the company's sillier side.

Suddenly blood feuds give way to Christmas-themed slapstick. Intense competition moves aside for images of Santa in the squared circle.

It's hard to imagine Santa Claus showing up in the cigar-smoke-filled arenas that housed WWE shows in the '60s. The medium was too gritty to take on such inanity. It was still presented as more sport than sports entertainment. 

Not until Vince Kennedy McMahon took over for his father and painted the product with a cartoon tint that Father Christmas began showing up on WWE programming.

Capt. Lou Albano donned a Santa suit. Gorilla Monsoon also dressed the part. These were merely cases of window dressing of performers putting on a costume, not affecting the happenings of the WWE world.

In 1991, a Santa suit-clad Bobby Heenan pulled the ultimate heel move and told kids watching on TV that the North Pole native wasn't real. That led to the comedic announcer riling up Roddy Piper and Heenan trying to weasel his way out of a beating.

The '90s saw St. Nick grow more prominent during the holidays, and he began to move into the ring.

The bruiser who became more famous as Balls Mahoney wrestled as an evil Santa named Xanta Claus in 1995. The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase managed this twisted version of the character and oversaw a beatdown on Savio Vega.

And when the Attitude Era began to take off and Stone Cold liberally dished out Stunners, Austin confronted Mr. Claus on Raw in 1997 for pushing around a kid. An interrogation didn't satisfy The Texas Rattlesnake that the fat man was the real deal. Predictably, Austin nailed Santa with his famous move.

This was a means to play up Austin's take-no-nonsense attitude and have a bit of Christmas fun at the same time.

He was far from the last wrestler to clash with Kris Kringle. Foley tangled with a swarm of Santas in a Boiler Room Brawl in 1999. Tajiri upset Bubba Ray Dudley in a 2001 battle where both men dressed as St. Nick.

This Santa stuff was becoming a bonafide tradition.

As the century turned, the Claus-centered moments kept coming. Any Raw or SmackDown that fell near Christmas was bound to feature the big guy with the big bag in some fashion.

Santa Claus on Raw.
Santa Claus on Raw.Credit: WWE.com

In 2004, even a pay-per-view followed suit. Kurt Angle wrenched Santa Claus' ankle until he tapped out in a brief bout at that year's Armageddon event.

The rest of the card was normal fare, but WWE decided to throw in a bit of Christmas-themed comic relief. It wouldn't be the last time by any stretch.

At Armageddon 2005, in Santa garb, Vito LoGrasso got a mouthful of worms courtesy of Boogeyman. Festus beat Deuce in a clash of Superstars in Santa suits in 2007. Dolph Ziggler trounced Mr. Claus (Charlie Haas) a year later on Raw.

Many of these matches and moments were quickly forgotten, though. That wasn't the case with Vince McMahon's encounter with Santa.

Mr. McMahon made the mistake of berating the jolly old fellow at the first Tribute to the Troops show in 2003. The villain pushed over the beloved figure who revealed himself to be Stone Cold, McMahon's archenemy. A memorable Stunner soon followed.

The Tribute to the Troops event's proximity to Christmas has led a number of Superstars stepping into the ring as Santa, including John Cena, R-Truth and JTG.

One of the other more famous Santa-in-WWE moments came in 2012 when Alberto Del Rio flattened the poor guy with his car on Raw. St. Nick writhed on the floor as a Christmas tree fell on to his face.

Del Rio may not have been booed more loudly than right then.

Foley played Santa that night, something he's done loads of times. That shouldn't come as a surprise, because the Hall of Famer loves the idea of Santa. He's written books on the subject and starred in a documentary about it.

Foley fought as Santa against John "Bradshaw" Layfield at the 2005 Tribute to the Troops event. He's acted as a WWE Shop salesman while in Father Christmas gear. And in 2013 on Main Event, he encountered Ryback and Curtis Axel with the beard, hat, bag and whole shebang in tow. 

But like Doink the Clown and Suicide, the character never remained attached to a single person for long. If WWE needed a cheap bit of humor at or near Dec. 25, somebody was getting in a Santa suitbe it Vader or Santino Marella.

In 2013, both Damien Sandow and Mark Henry got that call. The two rivals met in a Street Fight that was set up as a battle between the good Santa and the bad Santa dubbed the Battle for Christmas.

It was no Ricky Steamboat vs. Ric Flair.

Henry throttled Sandow in and out of the ring, stuffing him into a toilet and smashing him with whatever props were handy. It was dumb. It was campy. It was par for the course on Christmas.

WWE has dedicated much of every year to showcasing personal rivalries and vicious tests of will. Around Christmas time, those elements get a rest and Santa takes the stage.

The tradition remains alive. Rusev is fresh off trading blows with The New Day on SmackDown while his muscular frame burst out of a Santa suit.

And he won't be the last to do so. As long as WWE shows run near Christmas, and as long as WWE's sense of humor remains largely juvenile, more St. Nick moments are on their way. 

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