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What did you want from Austin's return in 2000?


tiger_rick
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One of my most despised periods in wrestling history is the autumn of 2000 after Austin returned, Rikishi turned and the hottest year ever turned to shit.

What did you want to see or would you have done differently to maintain the momentum?

HHH was on the verge of a babyface turn after the Angle/Steph angle. I recall being quite excited about the possibility of an Austin/Rock/HHH union for a couple of months. Something like the reformed Radicalz and Angle with Vince as a motivator could have been a great foil for those last couple of months. Vince would have added credence to Angle's title win and you could still have done the 6 man at Armageddon and the Rumble with this mega-babyface alliance in tact.

it would have given a fresh combination of matches, particularly multi-man matches on TV and would have saved us the hideous Austin/Rikishi, then Rock/Rikishi and then the abysmal Austin/HHH feud with the fucking ridiculously over the top angles and then the stupidity of them teaming up after WM. Then when you turn Austin on the Rock, he's got HHH to feud with immediately while Rock pisses off.

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I've just been watched this period actually. Austin does a run in and wipes out Edge, Christian, Jeff and Matt Hardy, X-Pac and Jericho with a chair during his "oh he's not happy" run after he returned. If you'd watched the last few months and all the sheer stars that Edge, Christian, the Hardy Boyz and Jericho had became (not X-Pac he was dreadful at that point), its amazing they allowed this to happen. Just put the thumb on them. Jericho especially was so over with people. Nobody wanted to see Austin plough through them.

Its amazing to see just how old hat the likes of X-Pac and Road Dogg were at the time. I didnt realise it as much back then, but seeing them still in their DX gear while Triple H was palling up with the Radicalz is pretty sad. Nobody tried to hold onto a gimmick until the very end like those two.

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What did I want from Austin's return? I didn't actually want Austin to return! It was in his absence when I got well and truly hooked on WWF and I loved it. I didn't know of him from 97-98 and what I'd seen of 99 Austin, I didn't like. The idea of this guy coming back and, as Ian's mentioned, plowing through all the guys I did like, was not something I appreciated. To me, in my 2000 mindset, he was a relic of a bygone age. Rock, Triple H, Angle, Jericho, the Radicalz, Hardys, Dudleys, E&C, Undertaker, Kane, Commissioner Foley... they were my WWF, not Austin. I'd have been cool with him not turning up at all that year. 

Edited by HarmonicGenerator
Can't spell commissioner
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I dipped out of wrestling during the Attitude era - I want to say sometime around early '98 - and only really picked back up after playing the first Smackdown game; first PPV I watched back was around Summerslam 2000, I think.

I got really into the "Who Ran Over Stone Cold?" angle, because I loved the mystery aspect, and the amount of fantasy booking it inspired amongst my mates; with no knowledge of backstage politics, or of the idea that anyone would just be stuck in midcard purgatory forever, it seemed like nobody was off limits. I was convinced it was Billy Gunn after someone said the driver had blonde hair - because that's obviously the thing you'd remember about the driver when it's Rikishi behind the wheel.

Then when Austin turned up, it just kind of turned to shit. I didn't even object that much to Rikishi being the driver - I thought the "I did it for The Rock" explanation wasn't the worst idea in the world - but even as the casual fan I was at the time, their actual match was just utter bullshit, I hated it. While I probably enjoyed the "Three Stages of Hell" match at the time, Triple H/Austin did nothing for me as a feud after that either.

 

Like @IANdrewDiceClay alluded to, it's amazing how quickly wrestling moved on in those days. You see guys like Dolph Ziggler now, doing more or less the same schtick for a decade, you forget how short a lot of the Attitude Era lot's iconic runs really were. With Austin gone, plenty of other people started getting over, and you just forgot that Stone Cold wasn't around, because you had a crop of new guys you liked. When he came back, he was suddenly the most important thing on the show again, and I just didn't want that. The wrestlers I liked started playing second fiddle to Austin, and I resented that. A lot of people point to the heel turn as where the rot set in, but honestly I think Austin was passed his sell-by-date as the main attraction before that, it just took the heel turn for everyone to take notice.

 

As for how I'd have booked it differently...I honestly don't know. It was such a massive angle, I'm not sure there was a good way out of it. I don't think there was anything inherently wrong with Rikishi as the driver, or his stated motivation, or with Triple H having masterminded it - like Triple H said, while everyone was looking at The Rock, it was actually him who benefited most from Austin's absence, and there's a decent story in that. But none of it added up when it came time to tell it.

If not Rikishi, if not Triple H, who? The Rock? Undertaker? Big Show? The McMahons? None of it particularly fills me with excitement. It would have been completely the wrong time to turn The Rock - just a little too early to really play up the Hollywood heel character, and tonally a "Corporate" Rock wouldn't have been a good fit with the WWF as a whole at the time - but maybe Undertaker could have worked, with a fast-forward to the heel version of the biker gimmick that he'd do a few years later, but then 'Taker had only been back a few months, and the gimmick was still reasonably fresh as it was. Not to mention that the Austin/Taker matches after Stone Cold turned heel hardly set the world on fire.

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I'll need to watch it again, but I do remember thinking "you've had all this time and this is the best you can do?" for most of it. That feeling was only furthered when bloody midcard 4 life Rikishi turned out to be a bad man - a swerve for the sake of a swerve, if there ever was one. Great new heel theme song aside, Rikishi was never going to be up to it; aye, he was super over as a midcard babyface, but going from dancing arse flasher, to super evil heel was always going to be a massive jump for fans. Particularly when standards were so high that year.

Also, Austin was clearly not match fit when he returned. He went from a bloke that could make things better, to usually always sucking. Fair enough, the booking wasn't amazing, but it took Austin ages to get going again, as a performer.

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In hindsight it would probably have worked out better for everyone if they held out on Austin's return til the Rumble and had him smash through that. Would have missed out all the pissing about with Rikishi and dropping Trippers car off a poxy forklift. I know Raw was switching to a new network and they were keen to have Austin back, plus Austin himself was probably paranoid as fuck about his spot, but that 3 month spell from September 2000-January 2001 did nobody any favours.

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One of the big problems for austins return was how the business had changed. 97 he was a standout in a weak undercard with Bret and Shawn having a breakdown on air. 98 it was Austin or nothing, and 99 wasn't much better. He stood out and it was safe to feed him anyone to make him look good in a flurry of stunners. 

By late 2000 and a year under rock things had changed. The card was stronger top to bottom and for a year people had seen mid card names playing side by side with main event names on TV 6 or 8 man tags, or having drawing power of their own. 

So him coming back and laying everything out in a quest for the truth didn't fit as well as it should have. Add that to the fact there are no key characters to put against him as behind it for a really good, hot run and it's under delivered. The funny thing is for all the unanswered questions in wrestling over the years this was one they couldn't leave unresolved and use as a call back now and then sadly. 

Edited by Tommy!
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Was Rikishi to be the guy who did it or was it a last minute change because it seems it wasn't really thought out properly. IIRC was Kane still loosely part of DX and buddies with X Pac or was he feuding with him over Tori.

Having Kane being the guy who did it would have made more sense but if I'm remember right he was the baby face during the Tori/Pac angle. But him being rejected could have been the catalyst for him to have turned and started Kane on the destructive path he went on later.

Taker would have been a good choice too, or had a member of his Ministry "brainwashed" and done it on his behalf. Like the nWo  tried to take over WCW I'd have had the Ministry try and take over. First part of their plan take out Stone Cold.

Also if they were more nWo like you could have reformed a stronger DX to take out Austin. I have a feeling the original plan was Hunter and Steph running down Austin so Triple H is the #1 heel to battle The Rock. You have Austin come back just as Rock is leaving and run a white hot Austin v Hunter feud. So with those options on the table going with Rikishi makes no sense.

As for Austin returning you have to have him go ballistic and stomp a mud hole through everyone. It's the whole part of his gimmick. Him coming back and doing nothing again makes no logical sense. Have Austin run in during matches, stun everyone, take over the announcing booth and say he's going to whoop everyone's ass would have been great TV. 

Then you slowly reveal it was Triple H and Steph who did it and to add a further twist it was all orchestrated by Vince to take Austin out of the picture altogether. So you have Austin v McMahon 2.0 too ramped up to the max. Then when Rock comes back he can be added into the mix.

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Now that tiger_rick mentions it, I guess there could've been some mileage in it being Jericho; simply explain that Vince hired him to do it, promising a WWF contract in return (he was still with WCW at the time, right? And the hit-and-run angle preceded the millennium countdown?).

I know they were probably still reluctant to pull the trigger on Jericho as a true main-eventer at the time, but this wouldn't have been a bad idea at all. Certainly would've been better than what they did do with him later on.

Edited by Carbomb
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3 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

Now that tiger_rick mentions it, I guess there could've been some mileage in it being Jericho; simply explain that Vince hired him to do it, promising a WWF contract in return (he was still with WCW at the time, right? And the hit-and-run angle preceded the millennium countdown?).

I know they were probably still reluctant to pull the trigger on Jericho as a true main-eventer at the time, but this wouldn't have been a bad idea at all. Certainly would've been better than what they did do with him later on.

Jericho faced Chyna for the IC title the same night Austin was ran down. He arrived in WWF a couple of months before the hit and run angle, so they'd need to retroactively explain why he waited so long to run him down.

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God, everything moved so fast then. Looking at WWF when Austin left and returned is like two totally different promotions, and it's less than a year.

I did want to see Austin back, but it was tough to see how he would fit in because there were so many new faces that weren't factors when he was last there. Angle, Tazz, Raven, The Radicalz, Jericho, RTC, Rikishi and Too Cool, T&A, Commissioner Foley, heel E&C and tons more were acts that either weren't formed, hadn't debuted, or weren't involved with Austin when he was last in the mix.

That was the exciting part to me. The LAST thing I wanted was for him to have anything to do with Taker, Kane or HHH. We'd had an age of that. Rock was the exception in that he'd got so hot that from the minute Austin returned, it was a dream match.

Unfortunately, it seemed like they used the new acts to feed Austin to build him up for those established acts as mentioned.

If you built up Raven as a player, there were some good potential brawls there. If RTC went from a midcard act to really becoming a threat to the WWF, where EVERYBODY hated them, Austin was the perfect guy to destroy them upon his return.

If the short lived stable of Shane, Angle, Benoit and Show (E&C too were involved for a show until they gave up on the idea) were still in tact, that could have been something for him to go against that would have felt like a fresh, fearsome challenge for Austin.

After Jericho lost to HHH at Fully Loaded, he was treading water for a year. You could have easily created a reason why he was the culprit that ran him over. In fact, when you think about it, everybody had a more plausible reason to run over Austin than Rikishi did.

Rikishi's reason - He did it for the Rock. Or not. Actually he did it for HHH. But Rikishi and HHH fought at the start of the year, there's no alliance there. So....?

Richards did it - His first act in trying to clean up the WWF. He was sick of the depravity Austin brought to the company, so he did it and laid low for a while. His true motivations have come out since.

Jericho did it - Debuted with momentum, floundered, and decided if he was going to get to the top, he'd have to wipe out the top dog. His career went up in Austin's absence.

Shane did it - Austin fucked with his Dad for years. Easy. He surrounded himself by Show soon after as insurance. They had their issues, but they're back together. Angle and Benoit have joined the ranks also.

Angle did it - Debuted on the same show as the hit-and-run, Austin goes against everything he stands for, polar opposites, easy story. Didn't want to be in the WWF if Austin's around because he didn't want to be associated with it. A wink and a nod to the smart marks who knew Angle walked out on ECW, but in a way that John Q. Walmart in Row ZZ can understand.

Shawn Michaels did it - Ended his career at Mania 14. Michaels was still having his problems at the time so it couldn't go far, but at least he had a motive.

Even if Raven did it - Tell a story that they were old friends. They were former road buddies, very good friends. They crossed paths in multiple companies, both had a lot of the same vices, a lot in common. Then, Austin went his way, Raven went his. Austin became a megastar and beloved. Raven became an outcast and a misfit, despite being practically the same person. Austin left him behind. What about me, and all that.

Even if Taz did it - Taz called out Austin countless times when he was ECW Champion because he was the baddest man alive, never answered. He kept hearing Austin was the baddest S.O.B in the business, so he took him out and came to the WWF to take his place. This works a lot better if he doesn't have trouble beating Bossman at No Way Out.

Even if THE ONE did it - Billy Gunn wasn't in the angle shot prior to the hit-and-run when it happened. Won KOTR in 99 but didn't get anywhere. Not lobbying for this, by the way.

ANYBODY DID IT - Because Vince paid them too.

Scott Hall did it - But he doesn't remember much about it.

You could have done almost anything else.

Edited by Liam O'Rourke
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Given that Foley twigged that Rikishi was the driver because Scotty 2 Hotty gave him a dodgy alibi, did they do anything to explain why Too Cool weren't also heels after the reveal? They must have been complicit, no?

Edited by Pinc
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8 minutes ago, Pinc said:

Given that Foley twigged that Rikishi was the driver because Scotty 2 Hotty gave him a dodgy alibi, did they do anything to explain why Too Cool weren't also heels after the reveal? They must have been complicit, no?

It wasn't a dodgy alibi was it? I thought it was Scotty mentioning hanging out with Rikishi when he wasn't on TV yet that alerted Foley?

Although he was on TV. I remember seeing him on Jakked or Metal killing a jobber with a sweet Rikishi driver. I was a fan instantly.

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1 hour ago, tiger_rick said:

It wasn't a dodgy alibi was it? I thought it was Scotty mentioning hanging out with Rikishi when he wasn't on TV yet that alerted Foley?

I'm sure Scotty said he couldn't have been the driver because he was in the locker room with Rikishi and Grandmaster when the vehicular assault occurred. Foley somehow inferred that the only reason Rikishi could have been at the arena was to run Stone Cold over, because he hadn't debuted on TV yet.

But Scotty's alibi can't have been true if Rikishi was behind the wheel.

I expected Too Cool to either be heels from the next week or somehow excuse their complicity in the attack, though I concede I may have carried this ennui for 17 years on a misunderstanding.

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