Why WWE Has Failed to Replicate Stone Cold Steve Austin's Success 16 Years Later

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2019

Steve Austin on Raw.
Steve Austin on Raw.Credit: WWE.com

Sunday marks 16 years since "Stone Cold" Steve Austin retired from in-ring competition, and while a lot of big stars have come and gone in that time, WWE has never been able to replicate The Rattlesnake's success.

A lot of factors led to Austin's rise to becoming one of the biggest draws in the business and one of the most popular Superstars of all time.

Let's take a look at some of the reasons why nobody has come close to the level of success Austin had during his WWE career.


The Attitude Era and Monday Night War

Austin had been wrestling for years before coming to WWE. Most fans knew him as one half of The Hollywood Blonds alongside Brian Pillman.

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When he arrived on the scene in WWE, things were beginning to change. The company was no longer focused on pushing colorful characters like Doink the Clown and Men on a Mission. It wanted to push the envelope.

The fierce competition with WCW led to WWE losing in the ratings for 83 weeks in a row, but during that time, WWE was rebuilding its roster.

After losing Hulk Hogan in the early '90s and the duo of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall a few years later, CEO Vince McMahon had to think on his feet to fill those top spots.

After he won the 1996 King of the Ring tournament and delivered the famous Austin 3:16 speech, McMahon knew he had a megastar on his hands.

With the product becoming edgier with each passing week, Austin was able to say a lot of things Superstars would be punished for repeating in today's PG environment.

Being able to perform without many restrictions allowed Stone Cold to win over the crowd, even if it meant parents stopped letting their kids watch the show.

Being in the right era is often the key to getting a character over with the crowd. Had Austin debuted today, he might not have fared as well under the current content restrictions.


The Right Opponents

It takes a minimum of two people to put on a great match. No matter how good somebody is, they will never be able to put on a five-star performance against someone who doesn't have a similar level of skill.

Austin had the luxury of being in the company at the same time as some of the greatest performers to ever lace up a pair of boots.

The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, The British Bulldog, Goldust and many more all had memorable matches against The Rattlesnake.

A Superstar is only as good as the person standing across the ring from them. With so many current and future Hall of Fame inductees as his rivals, it's not surprising Austin succeeded in the way he did.


A More Aggressive Strategy

When WCW was crushing WWE in the ratings every week, McMahon had to try whatever he could to tempt fans back to Monday Night Raw.

During an interview with The Steve Austin Show on WWE Network, McMahon surprisingly admitted the company tried harder during those years because its future was uncertain.

When WWE regained the upper hand and was able to buy its competition, McMahon tightened the reins and things slowed down considerably.

This is why so many people feel like the company has gone downhill since the Attitude Era ended early in the 21st century. If there is no serious competition, WWE doesn't have to try as hard.

This may soon change with the addition of All Elite Wrestling to the weekly lineup of shows wrestling fans have to choose from. If the Tony Khan-backed venture is successful, McMahon and Co. may be forced to revisit some of the ideas that made the Attitude Era such a big deal.

Austin was lucky enough to be in the company at a time when it was trying anything and everything to stay afloat, and that led to some amazing television.

Watching Austin drive a beer truck in the arena and pour cement into McMahon's Corvette are moments some people remember more vividly than Austin's matches.

Seeing Braun Strowman tear apart a Ford Mustang just so WWE could sell a new toy doesn't have the same impact.


The Perfect Storm

Austin deserves a lot of credit for his success. He was a great wrestler who was even better on the mic, but he also had the benefit of a set of perfect circumstances.

He was in WWE at the right time with the right character and was working with the right opponents. Had he been in WWE five years earlier, his story would be much different.

WWE has employed many incredible talents over the years, but none of them have been able to reach the same level because things haven't lined up in the perfect way.

This doesn't mean it can't happen again. If WWE is forced to fight for its life, as it was during the Monday Night War, we could see someone come along whom people refer to as "the next Stone Cold."


What do you think? Does WWE have anyone on the roster who is capable of reaching the same level of success as Austin?


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