Reliving Best Moments from Epic Stone Cold vs. Vince McMahon Feud 22 Years Later
For more than two decades, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Vince McMahon have captivated audiences with a rivalry that sparked WWE's comeback in the heated Monday Night War and carried the company to unforeseen success during its much-heralded Attitude Era.
That program kicked off on the September 22, 1997, episode of Raw, aired 22 years ago Sunday on the USA Network, with Austin's first monumental Stone Cold Stunner to the Chairman of the Board.
The moment, previously unthinkable because McMahon had simply been the voice of the company, sparked the rebellious employee vs. ruthless dictator storyline that still exists in one form or another in today's WWE.
Their rivalry spawned years of unforgettable angles, matches and experiences for wrestling fans, the best of which you can relive with these defining moments.
Honorable Mention: The Bald Billionaire
It only made sense that, on the night of the evil Mr. McMahon's greatest humiliation, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin would be front and center.
At WrestleMania 23, in front of 80,103 fans in Detroit, Austin served as the special guest referee for The Battle of the Billionaires in which McMahon and Donald Trump chose representatives to do battle on their behalf. The loser would have his head shaved in front of a worldwide audience.
When Austin found himself on the receiving end of an assault by Umaga, he answered as The Texas Rattlesnake tended to, dropping The Samoan Bulldozer with a Stone Cold Stunner and counting the three as Bobby Lashley picked up the win for The Apprentice host.
Stone Cold joined Trump and Lashley for a head-shaving unlike any ever witnessed on WWE programming. McMahon, the most powerful promoter in sports and entertainment, was disgraced on the stage he created.
And then dropped with a Stone Cold Stunner for his troubles.
The indignity Vinnie Mac suffered proved that no time, space or injury-enforced retirement could prevent Austin from making his life a living hell on wrestling's most prestigious night.
10. 2 Decades of McMahon vs. Austin
Raw 25 was a three-hour salute to WWE's flagship show, so it made sense that the broadcast kick off with yet another confrontation between the evil billionaire owner of the company and his No. 1 antagonist.
After Stone Cold arrived to a thunderous ovation from the Barclays Center audience, Austin dropped Shane McMahon with a Stunner and proceeded to join Vince for a beer. The truce was short-lived, however, as Austin delivered a boot to the gut and once more delivered his signature maneuver, leaving the boss lying in a heap on the mat.
Not only did the moment serve as a representation of the feud that won WWE the Monday Night War, but it also proved that the chemistry between Austin and McMahon was such that two decades after its start, the performers could still captivate the audience with their magical dynamic.
9. 'It Was Me, Austin! It Was Me All Along!'
There was a moment in the spring of 1999 when it appeared as though the evil Mr. McMahon had changed. Confronted with a threat to his family by the demonic Undertaker and his Ministry of Darkness, McMahon began developing a sympathetic side.
When his daughter, Stephanie, was abducted and set to marry The Phenom in a dark wedding, Austin came to his aid, rescuing the Billion Dollar Princess from a lifetime of misery and suffering.
On the June 7, 1999, episode of Raw, Austin and McMahon prepared for the revelation of The Deadman's "higher power," a force of nature so dangerous even the iconic Superstar answered to him. When the cloaked figure threw back his hood and revealed himself to the world, Austin realized he had been duped again.
"It was me, Austin! It was me all along!" McMahon exclaimed in pure joy, having lured Austin into a false sense of security by utilizing his own family as pawns.
While the mystery angle remains one of the biggest duds in WWE history thanks to the lazy conclusion, it also made a ton of sense within the context of the storyline and proved McMahon was willing to sink to any depths to get one over on the toughest S.O.B. in WWE.
8. Bang 3:16
Just 24 hours after being fired by Mr. McMahon at the conclusion of the Judgment Day pay-per-view, Austin arrived at the October 19, 1998, episode of Raw seeking revenge. Coldly and calculatingly awaiting his opening, Austin stalked the arena until he abducted McMahon and took him to the squared circle.
Clad in camouflage and carrying a crossbow, Austin threatened his former boss' life while humbling him in front of the WWE Universe. McMahon begged and pleaded on his knees while Austin vowed to send him to hell. Then, pulling out a pistol, Austin prepared to do the unthinkable. He pulled the trigger...and a flag emerged from the weapon reading "BANG 3:16."
McMahon's face contorted in a look of horror. He wet his pants. He had been utterly and unabashedly humiliated by Austin.
The moment featured some of McMahon's greatest over-the-top facial expressions and capped off one of the best nights of WWE television ever. While some will argue the use of a weapon was unwarranted, it proved a harmless, fun way for Austin to further torment his greatest rival while continuing the company's roll in the Monday Night War.
7. The 1999 Royal Rumble
For the first time since the April 1998 match that never was, Austin and McMahon were slated to compete in a sanctioned match at the 1999 Royal Rumble.
Entering the event's titular contest at No. 1, Stone Cold relished in the opportunity to unload on the man that made his life so miserable for the past year. Austin stomped away at McMahon before being lured through the stands and into the arena concourse, where he was attacked by The Corporation.
Loaded into an ambulance and driven out of the arena, Austin returned later in the match, looking to avenge the beating by further stomping a mudhole in the billionaire's ass and walking it dry. He did just that, paying off the fans' patience and loyalty, only to be distracted by the interfering Rock.
The Great One's appearance allowed McMahon to recover and do the inconceivable: send Austin over the top rope to the floor.
McMahon celebrated the win as if he had earned it, mocking Austin's beer bash celebration alongside son Shane and stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco to send the show off the air and leave fans thinking The Texas Rattlesnake may never get another WWE Championship opportunity.
6. Zamboni 3:16
On the heels of a Breakdown pay-per-view that saw Austin defeated for the WWE Championship by the united front of Undertaker and Kane, Stone Cold sought revenge on the corrupt authority figure that put him in the unenviable position of defending his title in a Triple Threat match in the first place.
Flanked by police in Detroit, McMahon was braggadocios, having finally figured out a way to get his company's top prize off the greatest thorn in his side. All of the police presence in the world could not have prepared him for what was about to unfold.
A vengeful Austin rolled into the Joe Louis Arena on a Zamboni, raising hell and destroying things in the backstage area before heading toward the ring. He ran across the top of the vehicle and blasted McMahon with a barrage of rights before being dragged off by the on-duty officers.
Even handcuffed, he managed to bring McMahon back down, his fury knowing no limits.
Eventually, Austin was escorted out of the arena and into a waiting police car.
Despite the entertainment value of it all, it was yet another example of the significance of the WWE Championship to the company's biggest star, something the rivalry never lost sight of, no matter how ridiculous and over the top it may have become.
5. St. Valentine's Day Massacre
After a year of highs and lows, unforgettable angles and teases of a one-on-one war between boss and employee, Austin and McMahon finally brought their differences to the squared circle, as they headlined the St. Valentine's Day Massacre pay-per-view on February 14, 1999, inside a steel cage.
The battle began outside of the structure, though, as Austin brawled with his boss around the ringside area. When McMahon scaled the cage, seeking the sanctuary of the ring, The Texas Rattlesnake followed him up. He sent McMahon face-first into the cage, knocking him off and through the table below.
The bump resulted in a genuine broken tailbone for the Chairman of the Board, who also sported the proverbial crimson mask. Beaten and battered, it appeared as though McMahon might still win the war when the debuting Big Show emerged from underneath the ring and attacked Austin.
Too strong for his own good, the giant tossed Austin into the side of the cage, breaking it and allowing Stone Cold to drop to the floor for the win.
Austin cashed his ticket to a WWE Championship shot at WrestleMania XV that night, much to the dismay of his boss, and guaranteed his journey back to the title and his feud with McMahon would continue.
4. A Deal with the Devil
WrestleMania X-Seven saw the culmination of Austin's improbable return from significant neck surgery to the main event of wrestling's premier event. The Texas Rattlesnake entered the Houston Astrodome the overwhelming favorite despite challenging the equally popular Rock for the WWE Championship in the night's marquee bout.
The match, arguably the greatest of the Attitude Era icons' many encounters, saw desperation set in for Austin as he pulled out every maneuver in his arsenal to try to put away The Great One. Late in the match, both men beaten and battered, McMahon inexplicably made his presence felt.
Then, in a moment that left the wrestling world in shock, he joined Austin in a relentless and brutal steel chair beatdown of The Rock. After several kick-outs, Austin finally put Rock away and hoisted the WWE title high overhead. Then, in a scene no one could have ever imagined, Austin shook McMahon's hand, with their master plan coming to fruition on wrestling's grandest stage.
While the follow-up to the moment was anything but stellar, that night served as the logical next step in the Austin-McMahon saga. After years spent warring with the Chairman, Austin had become so overwhelmed with desperation and desire to regain his title that he aligned himself with his greatest rival.
"I need to beat you, Rock—I need it more than you could ever imagine," he warned in a promo aired prior to the event. He was right; neither the champion nor the fans could imagine the relationship he would forge to make his championship dreams a reality.
3. The Beer Bath
Six days before WrestleMania XV, McMahon was joined by son Shane and WWE champion The Rock in the opening segment of WWE Raw. In total sales mode, looking to add heat to and build hype for the Showcase of the Immortals, McMahon talked trash about his rival.
Austin's retort? A giant Coors Light truck he drove right down the aisle and parked at ringside.
The Texas Rattlesnake vowed to roll right into Philadelphia, check into SmackDown Hotel and burn it to the ground in his final mic time before the event. Then, in a moment that would be named the greatest in WWE Raw history in a 2008 home video release, Austin pulled out a hose and proceeded to shower the boss, his son and his corporate champion in beer.
The fans in Albany, New York, erupted, watching as McMahon appeared to swim in the adult beverage.
The absurdity of the angle notwithstanding, it fit Austin's character to a T and was sold so spectacularly by McMahon that it overcame the ridiculousness of it all.
That, it turned out, was a common thread throughout the epic rivalry.
2. Austin vs. McMahon
Tensions between Austin and McMahon had mounted to such a point by the April 13, 1998, episode of Raw that there was only one solution to the intensifying rivalry between the rebellious WWE champion and his superior: a one-on-one televised main event.
The eyes of the wrestling world turned to WWE's flagship show, eager to see what the company's top star and its lead antagonist had in store. McMahon stalled, demanding Austin make good on his promise to fight with one arm tied behind his back.
The distraction allowed Mick Foley to return under his Dude Love persona and attack Austin, leading to their rivalry and pay-per-view title match.
While Foley's involvement robbed fans of the desired match, it did give WWE an indication of the enormity of the Austin-McMahon program. The next day, the company learned that, for the first time in 83 weeks, it had defeated WCW Monday Nitro in the Monday Night War.
Austin, McMahon, and WWE would ride the momentum of that night's broadcast to a more sustained lead in the battle for ratings supremacy while taking the industry to heights it had never before seen. Their non-match, it turned out, was as significant to the long-term health and growth of the company as anything it had done prior and an indicator of how rabid fans were for the rebel vs. uptight businessman angle.
1. A Stunning Beginning
September 22, 1997, is arguably the most significant night in the long and illustrious history of WWE.
Emanating live from Madison Square Garden in New York City, Raw featured McMahon embracing his role as the owner of the company on television and confronting a defiant Austin in the center of the ring.
Trying to talk sense into the former intercontinental champion, imploring him to take time off and do what was necessary to heal his neck while also looking to protect his company from any responsibility should Austin become injured further, McMahon expressed concern for his employee.
Stone Cold was defiant, unwilling to sit back and watch as the industry passed him by. He feigned understanding, but then in a moment that had been built to over the course of a month, Austin dropped McMahon with an ugly stunner that popped the fans in New York and jumpstarted a rivalry that would carry WWE to victory in the intense Monday night ratings war with WCW.
As Austin was led out of the arena by police, the landscape of WWE had changed. No longer was Austin the anti-authority rebel who shunned tradition and whooped Bret Hart's ass. He was now an unforgiving badass whose wrath knew no limits.
As for McMahon? He was firmly entrenched in the role of boss man, the evil authority figure around whom the next decade of Raw would be built and whose rivalry with Austin would create a storyline trope still featured prominently on today's WWE television.
Right, Kevin Owens and Shane-O-Mac?