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Steve Austin turns heel


tiger_rick
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What did you make of Austin's heel turn at WM17? Both then and with the benefit of hindsight?

I hear it a lot now that people put that moment down as the end of the boom or the start of the decline. I think Meltz on that lapsed fan podcast said he thought it was the worst booking decision ever.

At the time, I read a lot of opinions from people who thought he was stale as a babyface or tha The Rock has superceeded him during his injury and he needed to move out of the way. Others were saying that him turning heel opened up more potential top matches which the company badly needed. Personally, I'd loved 2000 until he came back. It wasn't the same. He was sluggish in the ring and shitting over things they'd built while he was out. The Rikishi feud didn't help because it robbed them of a great mid-card babyface, shit on a potentially good angle and dragged Austin down. I bought into the stuff I was reading and wanted to see Austin turn heel. Though I will add - I didn't know The Rock was leaving. I did think we'd get great matche with Jericho and Benoit particularly though which excited me.

With hindsight, I think I was wrong. Things were never really the same after that. I'm not convinced the heel turn was to blame entirely though. I think the alliance with mcMahon was far more damaging. I know why they did it, because Austin would probably still be a baby by proxy otherwise but it shit over his character. Then that character took a further bashing when he became a comedy guy and often a chickenshit heel. I often wonder if regret over this is why they didn't pull the trigger on a heel turn for Cena. You can't get the magic back in the bottle.

Edited by tiger_rick
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I disagree when you say the alliance with Vince ruined him. I think if it was just those two, the paranoid stuff would have been fine. But the very start of the angle showed him joining up with Trips, who he'd spent all of November-January beating the hell out of and we all knew they hated each other. To show him with two big 'changes of heart' was weird. 

I think the fact that The Rock wasn't about as well made it even more of a struggle - he was up against upper midcarders for the most part and none of them ever got the edge over him, so as a heel, he didnt make a great baby to go againt, bar Angle, who in reality was already made really.

They could have made Benoit, but granted, even he got injured. They could have pulled the trigger with Jericho but didnt want to. Neither Taker or Kane got a definitive win. To my memory, it was only Angle who managed to get one over on him until Rock came back and ended the Alliance.He then awkwardly became a face again.

 

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I liked it at the time - I dropped out of watching wrestling in around '98, picked back up in mid-'00. I was never a big fan of the "Attitude Era" style, and it took me years to really appreciate just how good Steve Austin was.

When he came back as a face, I just found him dull. He'd missed a step in terms of his in-ring work, and just had utter dogshit feuds to work with - heel Rikishi as the pay-off to an interminably long and nonsensical mystery angle, followed by a feud with Triple H that, as well as ret-conning the whole point of the Rikishi feud, it - if I'm remembering correctly - involved Triple H dropping Austin's car off a forklift, only for Austin to show up to the next show with a plaster on his forehead in some real Hogan/Giant level bullshit. I may be making this up, but I seem to remember that segment actually using a Point-of-View shot for Triple H when he was trying to find Austin in the car park, too, which is unforgivably dreadful.

The Wrestlemania match with The Rock was more than enough to prove that Austin could still go at a top level, but even with having been out for a year, he was absolutely dead in the water as the top babyface, because he'd either done it all before, or he just had no one on his level worth working with.

Logically, for me, the heel turn made sense - Austin was obsessed with the belt, and would do anything to win it. That he would even go so far as to side with McMahon if that's what it took showed how desperate he was. Love the idea, love the angle. I'm not sure they really adequately explained what was in it for Vince, though.

But then we're back to the same problem...who does he work with? You can get away with turning your top face heel if you've got another guy waiting in the wings...but their other top guy was The Rock, and he fucked off. So you're left with him teaming with Triple H - I love the idea of the "Two Man Power Trip" as the two baddest guys on the roster just dominating together, and would love to see it repeated with a heel Cena & Orton before they pack it in, but I agree that it was way too soon after a blood feud for those two to just be happily teaming together - feuding with the Undertaker and Kane, who were hardly drawing the big money as main event talents, and then Jericho & Benoit who, with all the will in the world, were never going to draw money as the babyfaces in that equation.

Maybe they could have recovered from that - maybe a babyface Kurt Angle could have really caught fire, or a Triple H face turn to end the team if he'd not get hurt could have seen them repeat their earlier feud with the roles reversed - but what killed it for me was the Invasion.

You had all the hype of Vince wanting "the old Stone Cold" back, after Austin had been reduced to a paranoid comedy character (which had it's moments, sure, but wasn't "top heel" material), only to keep him heel and have him lead the Alliance.

Whole books could be written on the failures of that angle, but there's just not a drop of logic behind a heel Stone Cold Steve Austin leading the charge against the WWF and for WCW, aside from possibly as an extension of Austin's hatred for Vince - but he and Vince had been buddies for months beforehand, and as far as I can remember, this isn't a story they ever told, or even alluded to.

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I didn't think that it was the smartest of moves to make. Austin was never really a baby face, he was much more so a tweener but the whole Anti authority thing got over huge.

Him siding with Vince, his arch enemy made no real sense. Rock also was never really a classic clean cut baby face in that period. He was much better as the trash talking cocky heel. So him turning back into the Corporate champ and doing Vinces bidding seemed more likely. I can't recall too many mrmorable moments from Stond Colds heel run, only the two man power trip with Hunter.

Outside of that he was very hit and miss. When you build a guy on the hatred of his boss and got the fans to rally behind him then him doing a 180 and turning his back on them seemed to be a mistake since they bought into the DTA attitude and his persona.

 Maybe they were hoping for a similar shock value to when Hulk turned but with Austin in the whole story arc, again to me, it made no sense for him to buddy up with Vince.

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I think buddying up to Vince would have worked better had they played the paranoid obsession angle - Austin was prepared to do absolutely anything to win, and keep, the belt, even if it meant working with his arch-enemy. But it should have always been an uneasy partnership of convenience, it never really made sense for Austin to suddenly want to be Vince's friend.

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At the time I thought it was genius. Until I realized Rocky was fucking off to do a movie, I thought heel Austin v face Rock was a fresh twist right when the top end was getting a little "everyone has worked everyone." Later on when I heard Hunter was going to be turned babyface properly, I thought that also sounded fresh. So turning Austin made sense to me at the time.

I was wrong, obviously.

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2 hours ago, BomberPat said:

Whole books could be written on the failures of that angle, but there's just not a drop of logic behind a heel Stone Cold Steve Austin leading the charge against the WWF and for WCW, aside from possibly as an extension of Austin's hatred for Vince - but he and Vince had been buddies for months beforehand, and as far as I can remember, this isn't a story they ever told, or even alluded to.

I think this is overlooked both when people talk about the failure of the Austin heel turn and the failure of the Invasion angle. Any big WWF v WCW storyline should have had all the main players in their classic Attitude era personas, at least at first. And Austin was the main player. A big part of the excitement for WWF v WCW was the dream matches babyface Austin could have with Goldberg, Hogan, Sting and the rest. Having him stuck as a chickenshit heel when the storyline began was a massive stick in the spokes.

People say they were running out of opponents for him as a face, but in theory they were about to bring in WCW's entire roster. Obviously it didn't work out that way, but babyface Austin against Booker T, DDP and Flair would've been a fine way to pad out the year. And then the nWo arrive.

Once the WCW purchase was confirmed they should have shelved plans for a heel Austin. Its mad that no one seems to have clocked this at the time.

Edited by Pinc
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Shouldnt have turned him, but the boom period was dying off in late 2000 anyway. I just think the Austin turn put a full stop on the end of it. For me its not like if Austin stayed babyface we were in for another few years of mega popularity. As big as it was, the Attitude era was a fad which loads of young people jumped on board. If you want to look in terms of television series, it lasted four seasons and a few Christmas specials and then people had their fill of it.

WCW dying and Austin turning heel the month before I left senior school was a fucking end of an era if there ever was one. Even Fergie announced his retirement that year as well. It seemed like the walls of comfort were closing in during that year. College, TNA and Sven Goran Erikson as the United boss were round the corner it seemed.

Edited by IANdrewDiceClay
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I dont think Austin's heel turn was the end of the boom period. It was the buyout of WCW that killed wrestling which happened a week prior. Things just wernt the same without any other company around. If WCW was still around i believe the Austin heel turn would have worked.

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I think my biggest grip during that period with Austin was when The Rock returned, after Austin and Triple H beat him up. I remember being excited about seeing The Rock return to get his revenge, but instead The Rock went after Booker T. Fair enough the Invasion was in full swing, but it felt like a massive disappointment at the time.

Even Austin admits he made a mistake, which tells you all you need to know.

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It wasn't the best but I really enjoyed a lot of it at the time. He was great at being the bully heel in his little mini TV angles with Spike, Tazz, Jim Ross, Michael Cole, Tajiri/Torrie etc. And I thought he was on fire in the ring for a lot of that heel run. I agree with people saying he seemed off form in ring when he came back in 2000 up until the Rock match at WrestleMania. But over the spring and summer of 2001 I thought he was well back in the groove and working as a heel seem to freshen his matches up a little bit to me and he seemed to be having fun with it. I think the only matches of his I didn't like around that time was his stuff with Undertaker but I've never thought their matches were that good at any point. 

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I loved it at the time. I was 17 and in the same phase of fandom as the "ROMAN SUX" kids are now, so I hated SuperAustin for his whole babyface run. The heel turn made me a fan of his.

Even looking back now, there are highlights from heel Austin that I reckon are better than anything we would have got if he stayed babyface.

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I really liked it at the time, because the six months of face Austin we'd had since Unforgiven 2000 were something I absolutely hated. I was never keen on Austin anyway but he did not fit in the WWE of 2000, it had moved on since he got injured. The heel turn gave me lots of fun character stuff - the McMahon alliance never bothered me because, again, I was never into their feud anyway - and he had more matches I liked in that little period than at any time previously. Angle, RVD, Benoit, Jericho, even Spike Dudley. Take it out of context and heel Austin is great entertainment. Then he went face again and I went right back to not really being bothered.

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20 hours ago, Pinc said:

I think this is overlooked both when people talk about the failure of the Austin heel turn and the failure of the Invasion angle. Any big WWF v WCW storyline should have had all the main players in their classic Attitude era personas, at least at first. And Austin was the main player. A big part of the excitement for WWF v WCW was the dream matches babyface Austin could have with Goldberg, Hogan, Sting and the rest. Having him stuck as a chickenshit heel when the storyline began was a massive stick in the spokes.

Vince McMahon's ego was the stick. And the puncture. And the head-on collision with a massive tree called Hubris.

If the Invasion was merely an asset-strip of talent it would've been better. If they stuck to making it about WWE vs WCW/ECW instead of the McMahon family it would've been better. If Austin had been the figurehead it would've been better. If they weren't so hellbent in making every last fringe guy look worthless it would've been better. And a few more ifs that could be thought of.

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Heel Stone Cold vs Spike Dudley is maybe my favorite mini-fued ever. If only for the following brilliant quotes:

 

Austin: You sign this petition and then pass it to your bimbo girlfriend.

Spike: What did you call her?

Austin: Molly? She's a bimbo, ain't you heard?

Spike: You can't talk about her that way!

Austin: Of course I can, I'm Stone Cold Steve Austin!

 

and

 

"YOU AIN'T GETTING NO TITLE SHOT, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!"

 

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