This week in WWE – Birth of Austin 3:16
Yesterday, we talked about how the Chris Benoit tragedy impacted the wrestling industry. However, this week is significant – not just because of what happened to the Benoit family, but also because one specific Superstar found his mojo two decades ago.
The Superstar we’re talking about is ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, and the event was King of the Ring 1996.
Stone Cold will go down in history books as arguably the greatest professional wrestler in the history of the business. Not only did The Rattlesnake help WWE thwart the challenge of WCW, but he also brought in ratings and gates like never seen before.
At a time when everyone thought Hulk Hogan’s credentials as a draw couldn’t be matched, Austin took the ball and ran beyond the finish line with it.
King of the Ring 1996 – Lead up to the single greatest promo in wrestling history
Going into King of the Ring tournament, it was speculated that Hunter Hearst Helmsley (now Triple H) was going to win the tournament. The Kliq had significant backstage ‘pull’, which saw the likes of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall and Shawn Michaels stay at the top of the mountain for a considerable amount of time.
However, the ‘Curtain Call’ incident inside the Madison Square Garden scuppered all those plans. Triple H, who was supposed to win the tournament, was eliminated fairly early by Jake Roberts.
Meanwhile, Steve Austin ran through the likes of Bob Holly and Savio Vega, to set up a showdown with Marc Mero in the semi finals, while Jake battled Vader at KOTR ’96.
Steve won his match with Mero, while Roberts defeated Vader to reach the finals of the tournament. Jake’s story at the time was inspirational – he battled his demons, and was on the verge of making history.
However, the man standing between Jake and his greatest moment, was the man who was ready to grab the wrestling world by the throat. In the finals of the KOTR tournament, Austin faced Jake Roberts, who was injured (kayfabe).
Austin proceeded to beat Jake Roberts with ease, but it was what happened after the match that kickstarted the era of Austin 3:16 in the company.
The promo that shook the industry
Steve Austin wasn’t a slouch on the microphone, and everyone knew it. His promo in ECW, where he targeted the likes of Hogan, Flair and Bischoff drew a lot of attention to the product. Paul Heyman, even then knew of Austin’s abilities. Heyman also knew that in ECW, Austin was a big fish in a small pond.
So once Steve got the opportunity to make the world sit up and take notice, he did what defined The Rattlesnake’s persona for the remainder of his run in the company. Austin verbally destroyed Jake, and in the process, gave the company the oomph it was clearly lacking.
The foundations for the Austin era were clearly being laid, as Vince McMahon found his ‘next Hulk Hogan’.
“You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere! Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16… Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!”
June 23rd 1996 witnessed the seeds being planted for the next 10 years, as Steve Austin spearheaded WWE into the next millennium. Austin, frustrated with the lack of opportunities made the most of his air – time after the KOTR PPV.
And boy did he deliver!