SummerSlam 2004 was a mixed pay per view. Dull in parts, very good in others. The highlight was the main event. One which if you haven’t seen then you really must. At the time Chris Benoit was living his eighteen year odyssey as World Heavyweight Champion and even though his reign hadn’t been the box office smash WWE had hoped it would be, when Benoit made Triple H tap out at Wrestlemania 20 to secure the gold, it was still a success because it was different than a Triple H Championship reign which by April 2004, we’d all had enough of.
Dropping the WWE Intercontinental Championship to Edge at Vengeance 2004 in an outstanding match, it had become clear to all in WWE that Randy Orton’s time had come. Month after month of great matches, including a well fought effort against Rob Van Dam at Armageddon 2003, an absolutely mesmerizing match against Cactus Jack at Backlash 2004, a sterling effort against Shelton Benjamin at Bad Blood 2004 and the previously stated Intercontinental Championship Match against Edge at Vengeance 2004. Looking for a replacement for Triple H when it came time for Chris Benoit to drop the gold, the only real candidate was Randy Orton, despite the fact WWE had failed to give the soon to be ‘Viper’ a real push into the main event scene.
The outcome of the main event at SummerSlam 2004 was never in doubt. Chris Benoit was going to drop the World Heavyweight Championship to Randy Orton and the aftermath was going to make sure that Randy Orton became the new fan favourite in the eyes of the WWE Universe. Only it didn’t. But that’s another story for another time.
Seeing as Randy Orton was a heel who was twenty four hours away from turning face and part of the hottest group of the decade so far – Evolution – it was expected that Orton would fight as a heel and snipe his way to the World Heavyweight Championship. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. The main event of SummerSlam 2004 was an exciting, heated match which displayed the very best of both men. It was the first time in his career, even through all of the great matches leading up to the biggest party of the summer, that Randy Orton had shown that he could hold his own with the World Champion and in the main event scene.
And that’s why this match will always be Randy Orton’s biggest victory. As the match drew to a close, Benoit and Orton exchanged fall after fall, move for move until ‘The Legend Killer’ got the upper hand and hit a lightening quick RKO for the clean victory in the middle of the ring. It was an unprecedented victory and the start of Randy Orton’s climb to the top of the mountain. As Benoit and Orton shook hands in the middle of the ring after a blistering encounter Randy Orton looked like a superstar. In truth, Chris Benoit did more for Randy Orton in those twenty minutes than Triple H did for him in their never ending feud in 2004 – 2005 and 2009.
Becoming a Father
Alright, bare with me now. You might think by the above heading that this has nothing to do with wrestling but you couldn’t be more wrong. Anyone who knew Randy Orton in WWE before his first child was born would know that Orton was an erratic and irresponsible jerk outside the ring and backstage. Even if you didn’t know Orton then somewhere along the line you heard the stories.
The stories of Randy Orton trashing hotel rooms and being fined for the damage by WWE. The story of Randy Orton throwing a television out of a hotel room window and damaging property below. And the wince inducing stories of how Randy Orton thought it was fun to make Divas lives hell and run them out of the company. These weren’t stories that were fabricated for the advantage of anyone in WWE. Vince tried his hardest to cover them up but Orton didn’t make it easy for the company that signed his pay check.
The most outlandish yet true story that came out of ‘Orton-Gate’ was that in the process of running a WWE Diva – who shall not be named – out of the company, Orton defecated into said Divas luggage and thought it was funny. When you add that to the numerous suspensions and fines Orton received for his wholly inappropriate behaviour.
Suddenly though, after Orton’s first child was born everything began to change. Reports from WWE were that Randy Orton had cut out most of his nonsensical behaviour and began to tow the company line. Apart from a few incidents when fan interaction went awry and his two suspensions for violating WWE’s Wellness Company, Randy Orton seemed like a reformed man. And indeed he was.
Fatherhood did to Randy Orton what it should do to every father in the world. It made him see everything in a new light. Orton knew that he had to provide for his baby and his wife and being fired from WWE wouldn’t sit well on his CV. It was irrefutable that Orton would find work elsewhere but no amount of employment would have curbed his erratic ways. The man born Randall Keith Orton took a stance and the last opportunity that WWE gave him and changed his life.
It may have been a blessing that Orton became a father when he did, otherwise right now, we may be talking about Randy Orton as one of WWE’s failed projects. Like we do with so many other wrestlers. I have no doubt that to send a message to the rest of the company, Vince would have fired Randy and let’s be honest, the whole company would be a much darker place without him. Inevitably WWE would have hired him back again a while later, by that time though it would almost certainly have been too late to do anything with him. It’s no secret that Vince takes great pleasure in punishing those who wrong him. We saw it with Bret Hart, we’ve seen it in 2012 with Randy Orton himself. Upon his return to WWE, had he been fired, Orton would have been stripped of any credibility and doomed to the curtain jerker position until WWE deemed he’d learnt his lesson and either fired him again or made a mockery of him.
The point I’m trying to make is that fatherhood sobered Randy Orton. It made him see that he had to cut his foolish ways and man up. And that’s what we’re seeing still in 2012. Randy Orton since becoming a father has grown in stature, in talent and in popularity. He’s now looked up to by many in the locker room and respect by most. And if that isn’t classed as the greatest victory of his life then I don’t know what will be.
Vs Christian – SummerSlam 2011
Without a shadow of a doubt, Randy Orton’s greatest match came once again at a SummerSlam. The Viper seems to have an affinity with the summer spectacular, he’s always shone even id he didn’t win. At SummerSlam 2003 Orton put in a great effort in the Elimination Chamber. At SummerSlam 2004 Orton took the next step to stardom by defeating Chris Benoit for the World Heavyweight Championship. At SummerSlam 2005 Orton defeated the Undertaker in a superlative encounter. At SummerSlam 2006 Randy Orton threw himself around the ring in a grand one man effort to make the aged Hulk Hogan look a million dollars once again. SummerSlam 2007 the then ‘Legend Killer’ looked at the lights for John Cena in which Orton made Cena look first rate. SummerSlam 2009 Orton once again made Cena look virtuous in their WWE Championship encounter which ‘the Viper’ prevailed in and SummerSlam 2010 Randy Orton did he level best to put a flailing Sheamus over.
It was SummerSlam 2011 when Randy Orton contested his greatest match to date in WWE. For months Orton and Christian had been trading great match for great match on pay per view and television. Randy Orton defeated Christian in an outstanding match at Capitol Punishment, which by far, was the best thing on the card. At Money in the Bank 2011 Christian took the World Heavyweight Championship from Randy Orton by disqualification – the rules were that if Orton got disqualified then he’d lose the World Championship – in an awe-inspiring contest when Christian spat in Orton’s face and Orton booted Christian in the crown jewels.
The bare was high for their Falls Count Anywhere rubber match at SummerSlam. We expected a lot from the two as we had a right to do. Once again I don’t think the outcome was ever in doubt, seeing Randy Orton was the face looking for revenge and in Vince McMahon’s eyes, Christian will never break through the proverbial glass ceiling. Which is why Christian’s World Heavyweight Championship reigns have been so brief.
The two fought an outstanding affair. Trading high spots, foreign objects, near falls which all got the fans on their feet. It was the first time in a very long time your Wrestling God has seen a crowd on their feet for a World Heavyweight Championship match. Usually, as you well know the audience know what’s going to happen and just go through the motions waiting for it all to be over. Not this time. There was a feeling of electricity in the air.
It didn’t matter to anyone that the match seemed to go on for ages. Because it was that damn good. The match also brought about one of the best finishes in WWE in a decade. As the ring steps were placed in the ring and Orton had been pelted with Singapore Cane shots. Christian rebounded off of the middle turnbuckle looking for the rollup only to be met with a flying RKO onto the steel steps. I know I can go on a little but it really was sublime to watch. The only shame was that the feud was over. WWE could have done with a few more pay per view matches between the two. If they’d have kept the World Heavyweight Championship on Christian for a few more months then WWE could have built something unforgettable.
Needs must though and they needed Orton to be Champion for Survivor Series so they could further the John Cena vs Nexus feud. Yes folks. Once again WWE cut short a stunning feud so John Cena could take centre stage. And because they couldn’t bare Christian getting the plaudits for performances that really were above and beyond. They knew that if people kept saying so many great things about Christian’s performances in the Orton feud, then they’d have no choice but to bump ‘Captain Charisma’ up the card and in all probability reward him with another World Heavyweight Championship reign.
People might have said that Randy Orton’s match with Cactus Jack at Backlash 2004 was his best. But once again I disagree. The match with Jack was undoubtedly dazzling, for my money though Christian vs Randy Orton was the feud of 2011 and Christian vs Randy Orton at SummerSlam 2011 was Orton’s greatest match in a career that is destined to go on to greater things.
Will be Remembered For
Being something different in an ordinary time
Since Stone Cold Steve Austin ceased active competition in 2003, his final match being at Wrestlemania 19 against the Rock, WWE have been rigorously looking for a replacement. It’s no secret that Austin was one of the most popular superstars of all time and since his departure from full time ring duties WWE have lacked that zest a zeal of a true anarchic top liner who can draw the masses in with just one look or raised finger.
Don’t get me wrong, Randy Orton isn’t yet that man, even though WWE hoped he would be. If you noticed Randy Orton’s rise in 2008 – 2010 it was as if WWE were preening and grooming Orton to be the next Stone Cold. The rebellious nature, the ability to turn on anyone who got near him, WWE even patented Orton on Austin so much they gave them both nicknames derived from snakes. ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ and ‘The Viper’. To WWE’s credit, it almost worked. Almost but not quite.
Randy Orton, quite rightly didn’t want to be a Stone Cold Steve Austin replica. And neither should he have been made to be. Randy Orton has more than enough talent to break out on his own and make a name for himself which he has done. Undeniably, WWE have managed to leak through some Austin traits into Orton’s repertoire, mostly though, the bite of the Viper is as much different from the sting of the Rattlesnake as chalk is to cheese.
And that is what Randy Orton will be remember for. When he finally steps down from the ring to what should be a rapturous standing ovation – he’s earned it already – people should look back on the reign of ‘the Viper’ as a celebratory time. I go on about the dark side of WWE enough, we all know it and it’s not without good cause, underneath that dark cavity of WWE are a few shining lights trying their best to make us see the other side. And it’s not always easy to spot it. In this case, it’s glaring.
When Austin stepped down in 2003, Randy Orton knew it was his time to shine. Backstage conduct aside, when he stepped through the ropes there was no one quite like Randy Orton. Even when he was plying his trade on the undercard. He brought a fresh approach to what was rapidly becoming a decayed and monotonous promotion. If you were around WWE in 2005 when Randy Orton truly broke away from the heard and at Wrestlemania 21 took the Undertaker to the wire in their sterling match, then you’ll know that all the hype was the then ‘Legend Killer’.
Through the years, no matter how many moulds WWE came out with in the shape of his adversary here, Randy Orton came up trumps wit his own character. Fans appreciate originality in a character and not the same recycled material again and again. Judging by the overwhelming support for Randy Orton two years ago at Night of Champions 2010 and that which has continued to endure I think we can safely say that the WWE Universe will remember Randy Orton for. Being something different in an ordinary time.
Some people may read this and think it’s nothing groundbreaking or spectacular. Once again I disagree. For a creative person like myself or Randy Orton, then being remembered as something different, someone that didn’t conform when it was easy to do so and someone who forged their own path when everyone tried to muddy it, is possibly the greatest honour one can bestow and the best thing one can be remember for.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Defeated Jake the Snake Roberts – King of the Ring 1996
Now, there are many that will look at this and disagree. Some of you will think that Stone Cold’s biggest victory was against The Rock at Wrestlemania 17 or his moral victory against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13. Both victories were huge for Austin as they heralded changes in his momentous career. The Wrestlemania 13 moral victory was the point where everyone stood up and took notice of Stone Cold as he refused to quit and finally turned face. Wrestlemania 17 was a tremendous match in which Austin turned heel on the Rock and sided with Vince McMahon.
Thinking about it though, none of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s victories will ever mean as much to wrestling history as his career and life changing victory over Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts at King of the Ring 1996. Up until that night Stone Cold had been a curtain jerker who had to make do with the likes of Aldo Montoya the dull as dish water ‘Mon O War’ and Savio Vega.
Taking the place of Hunter Hearst Helmsley as the victor of the King of the Ring Tournament (Triple H was on punishment detail for his part in the now infamous ‘Madison Square Garden incident’), Stone Cold knew that his time had come to step up to the plate and be the man that would change everything. Going through the round robin tournament, Austin landed in the final against Roberts, whose star was on the fall and existed in the WWE in 1996 to collect one last paycheque before wrestling lost interest in him completely.
It would turn out though, Roberts was the ideal choice of opponent for a rising Austin to go over at King of the Ring, Not only was Roberts portraying the recovering alcoholic, which he supposedly was in 1996, he was also the bible bashing avenger that a character such as Stone Cold’s would revel in destroying. Had Jake Roberts not have been Austin’s opponent that night then I believe history would have been completely different.
The match itself wasn’t great, Roberts had lost his knack by this time and Austin was never a great technical wrestler, brawling was always more his game. Austin’s greatest victory isn’t the match, it’s what came after it. After Stone Cold had beaten Roberts and left him laying in the ring, he casually swaggered up the ramp where the crown and sceptre awaited, disregarded them like no one had before and went straight to the interview.
In the interview Stone Cold Steve Austin cut the greatest promo in wrestling history and the promo that would launch his career and eventually save WWE from the oncoming Monday Night Wars.
“The first thing I want to be done is to get that piece of crap out of my ring! Don’t just get him out of the ring, get him out of the WWF, because I’ve proven son, without a shadow of a doubt – you ain’t got what it takes anymore. You sit there and you thump your bible and you say your prayers, and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about John. 3:16, Austin 3:16 says: I’ve just whipped your ass!! All he’s gotta do is buy himself a cheap bottle of Thunderbird, and try to dig back some of that courage, he had in his prime. As the King of the Ring, I’m serving notice to every one of the WWF superstars. I don’t give a damn what they are, they are all on the list, and that is Stone Cold’s list, and I’m fixing to start running through all of them. As far as this championships match is considered, son, I don’t give a damn, if it’s Davey Smith or Shawn Michaels. Steve Austin’s time has come, and when I get the shot, you are looking at the next WWF champion, and that’s the bottom line – cause Stone Cold said so!”
Had Jake the Snake not been the opponent then Austin couldn’t have cut this promo because it wouldn’t have made sense. The whole Austin 3:16 thing caught on and became one of WWE’s greatest marketing devices. Shirts sold by the millions and Stone Cold Steve Austin was catapulted into the spotlight. It’s still a mystery to this day whether the promo was scripted for Austin or made up on the spot. I’m sure Vince will tell you it was all part of his plan to get Austin over and Stone Cold will tell you it was his idea on the night. Whatever you believe, when you look at what that night and that moment means to the history of wrestling and what came out of it for Steve Austin, then I’m sure you’ll agree that King of the Ring 1996 was the most important and greatest victory in Stone Cold’s career.
Not Submitting to the Sharpshooter – Wrestlemania 13
After the pivotal King of the Ring speech and victory, it was all important for WWE to find something to define Stone Cold as 1996 turned into 1997. With the heel Bret Hart now bad mouthing America and becoming one of the most hated men in wrestling in the USA and one of the most heroic in Canada, WWE needed to look no further than the Excellence of Execution. The greatest wrestler in WWE during 1992 – 1997 Bret Hart was the ideal foil for ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ who wasn’t the best wrestler on the roster but was getting more and more popular by the week.
Stone Cold Steve Austin, popularity aside, never had the greatest arsenal of moves in the ring. The Lou Thez press, the series of elbows and the uber popular Stone Cold Stunner was about all Austin had in the ring. Against opponents such as Yokozuna and Jake Roberts who couldn’t carry younger wrestlers, especially Roberts in the twilight of his professional career, Austin struggled hard. His matches weren’t the best and the King of the Ring 1996 victory and speech were followed by a series of truly horrendous matches.
It was puzzling however, that when Austin was slimmer and healthier, before he put on the necessary muscle to succeed at the top of WWE and injured his neck so horrendously (which came later at SummerSlam 1997 in a match with Owen Hart), Austin had sterling matches with Ricky Steamboat and the Four Horsemen as part of the Hollywood Blondes, teaming with Brian Pillman. When Austin’s WCW single’s and tag team matches are compared to his 1996 WWE matches, it’s night and day. To this day I have no idea why Austin could perform so capably in WCW and so mediocre in WWE before his inspiring Austin 3:16 turn.
Knowing this, WWE knew that to get Austin over and ready for a WWE Championship reign in 1998, 1997 had to be dedicated to one of the biggest pushes in wrestling history. And it started with the epic Austin vs Bret Hart feud which spanned late 1996 and early 1997.
Squaring off at Wrestlemania 13, it wasn’t clear if WWE and Austin could conjure up something magical to make transition of Austin heel to Austin face (which in truth had happened in the fans minds already). What they came up with was a standout moment in WWE history. In the no holds barred match, Austin and Hart bloodied and brutalized each other. As Austin began to lose strength, Hart locked his foe in the sharpshooter in which Austin, still playing heel, was expected to tap out.
With blood pouring from his face, Austin refused to quit. Screaming and shouting as he valiantly tried to reach the ropes, so special guest Ken Shamrock could break the hold. No one in wrestling was used to seeing a heel fight so hard once locked inside one of the most painful finishing manoeuvres. Every other heel, including the greatest heel of them all, Ric Flair, had tapped out when is said situation. Yet Austin refused. On the grandest stage of them all, Stone Cold Steve Austin fought like a warrior.
It was a heart warming sight and that’s not something you hear me say very often, right? Watching it today it still stirs the emotion. For those who witnessed it, it was a changing of the guard. A moment which we all knew Austin was the successor to Hart’s throne. As fans pleaded with their new hero to tap out (this was before the role reversal) Austin still refused. Finally, as Stone Cold passed out through loss of blood, Shamrock rang the bell and declared Hart the winner. Austin couldn’t continue.
That would have been enough. Enough to make fans believe that Austin was the future of the company. A heel that didn’t tap out. It was a rare thing in wrestling and still is today. As Hart refused to let go of the sharpshooter and then attacked a prone Austin after the match, WWE were handing us the keys to an era that would outshine all before it and all that was yet to come.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was a hero that night and every night after. That is how you make a star ladies and gentlemen. Not championship reigns that mean hardly anything right now. But sheer bloody mindedness and a willingness to show a different side to some. Overall. Taking a chance.
Wrestlemania 13 outweighs all other moments of valance in Austin’s career. From his one man fight against the Hart Foundation and Degeneration X, to his crusade and what will always be considered as the greatest feud in WWE history against Vince McMahon himself. For Stone Cold Steve Austin, Wrestlemania 13, even though he lost the match, will always be Stone Cold Steve Austin’s most victorious night.
Vs Bret Hart – Wrestlemania 13
Survivor Series 1996 marked the first ever match between Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin. One of the most hotly anticipated matches that decade. Which would soon be replaced the next year by their Wrestlemania 13 bout. Taking an extended and prolonged absence from WWE after Wrestlemania 12’s Iron Man Match against Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart was eased into a gripping feud with Austin, when, looking to make a name for himself and keep the heat on after King of the Ring 1996, Austin began to tirade on Hart.
Spouting his now famous “If you put an ‘S’ in front of Hitman you have my exact opinion of Bret Hart” speech, Austin ignited a feud between himself and WWE’s darling. A feud that would fire Austin to superstardom and begin the slow decline of Hart’s WWE tenure.
Returning at Survivor Series 1996 to face his tormentor, Hart and Austin traded blows in the match of the night. A heated and superb encounter that stole the show. If you haven’t seen it then you have to. It was Austin’s first match in WWE with a huge main eventer and Austin’s first match that actually meant something.
Sometimes in wrestling you get two people who don’t click. They can get into the ring and sparks don’t fly. The match stinks and you just don’t want to see a rematch at anytime. With Bret Hart and Stone Cold Steve Austin it was dynamite. WWE did the clever thing and kept the two apart during their feud to maximise their pay per view impact. It’s something that WWE should do more today instead for recycling the same old matches from Raw and Smackdown on pay per view.
At Survivor Series 1996 Austin and Hart put on a master class. WWE should be sitting down and watching matches like this one. They should also be making their talent sit and watch matches like this. Not only was it a first class lesson in storytelling, but Austin, the man coming up from mid card obscurity (Austin had been bumped down to the Free-For-All event that aired before SummerSlam 1996 in August – after his King of the Ring moment) was put over by the veteran and Austin actually looked capable of winning. In fact he almost did. Applying the million dollar dream to The Hitman, Austin refused to let go when Hart reversed the move, pushed himself backwards off of the turnbuckle and pinned Austin to take the match.
After the match, Austin was elevated by sheer performance alone. It didn’t matter that he didn’t win the match. What was important was that he was all set for another confrontation with the Hitman. The confrontation that would change the direction of WWE forever.
It was only natural that WWE would save such a hotly anticipated match for the biggest event of the year. Back in 1996, it wasn’t even a thought in Vince McMahon’s head that it would be a good idea to give matches of this calibre away on free television. The stage was set and WWE crossed their fingers that their plan to switch Austin and Hart would live up to the anticipation of their top notch Survivor Series bout. Fortunately it did and more than that, their Wrestlemania 13 match exceed what the pair did at Survivor Series and saved what was an average pay per view event.
The spark ignited and WWE reaped the rewards from what would be Stone Cold Steve Austin finest ever wrestling match. Austin in the years to come would have other great matches, most notably against The Rock at Wrestlemania 17 and 19 – neither though could surpass Austin’s scrap with Hart at Wrestlemania 13. When critics and people look back on WWE in a hundred years they’ll look at matches like this one above all others. And they’ll know that whilst the popularity of wrestling took a dip in the decade after this, Bret Hart vs Stone Cold Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 13 was wrestling at its very best in 1997. They’ll know by watching matches like this, just why we love this business and just why we spend so much of our lives defending it.
Will be Remembered For
Being the Man That Changed the Face of Wrestling Forever
We all want to be remember for something right? Being a nice guy, being a trailblazer. We want our names to be synonymous when we’re gone. When people look back on their history in the future we want them to know our names. The chances of that happening for most of us is rare, let’s be honest. But we all have to strive to make something of ourselves. For me in particular, being an actor and writer (you’ll know me in years to come) isn’t about the money or fame, never has been and never will be. For me, what I do is all about the legacy. That what we leave behind for the future to look back and remember us.
For Stone Cold Steve Austin, his legacy and his name will never be forgotten. After the ‘Texas Rattlesnake’ passes from this world and even today, he’ll be remembered as the man that changed the face of wrestling forever. You can argue until the sun goes down and the cows come trundling home that Hulk Hogan was the man that changed wrestling forever and there’s an argument there. In my eyes, Hulk Hogan was the man that revolutionized wrestling. Hulk Hogan was the man that along with Vince McMahon put wrestling on the map (just for the record, Hulk Hogan didn’t make Wrestlemania and what a stupid suggestion to even to say it. Had there been no Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan would be no one. McMahon brought Hulk to WWE and Hulkamania was McMahon’s idea. Hogan could never have come up with Wrestlemania, Hogan could never have funded Wrestlemania and to even suggest Wrestlemania exists because of Hulk Hogan is a slap in the face to every wrestler who ever stepped into the ring) Stone Cold Steve Austin was the man that changed the face of wrestling.
In the height of the Monday Night Wars, WWE were close to going out of business. Thanks to McMahon and Austin, they managed to create a phenomenon that even WCW couldn’t stop. The Attitude Era, the era of the ‘Texas Rattlesnake’ was defined by a foul mouthed, trash talking, finger flipping, beer drinking, redneck. Who would have imagined that?
Austin 3:16 changed the landscape of wrestling forever and to do that whilst not even being the greatest wrestler is an achievement that the man born Steve Williams can be very, very proud of for the rest of his life.
Stone Cold Steve Austin – the man that changed the face of wrestling forever. With a middle finger and ‘Hell Yeah’ that’s sounds good to me.
The pros and cons have been weighted up and everything taken into account. The first victory of our fantasy warfare series is about to be crowned.
Randy Orton outweighs Stone Cold Steve Austin on the wrestling front, emphatically. Stone Cold Steve Austin’s wrestling abilities were limited at best by the time he reached WWE. Even more so after the neck injury at SummerSlam 1997 which would ultimately end his career. In his WCW days ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin was a force to be reckoned with, contesting some of his greatest matches with Ricky ‘the Dragon’ Steamboat and in tandem with his ‘Hollywood Blondes’ Tag Team with real life best friend, Brian Pillman. When he departed WCW, the birth of Stone Cold Steve Austin came at a price.
The price Austin paid was the heavy schedule and the toll it took on his body. His neck above all. By the end of 1997 the injuries that Austin has accumulated had put a block on his ring work and therefore limited Austin to performing a very select move set for the remainder of his career.
Randy Orton, whilst under an even heavier schedule has managed to stay virtually injury free, despite several nasty shoulder injuries which put him out for a large proportion of 2008 and for a few months in 2010 and his much talked about suspensions for his unacceptable behaviour and violating the WWE’s Wellness Policy, Randy Orton has been able to evolve and adapt to life on the road, refusing to allow injuries to hamper his in ring work and much to his credit, Orton has been able to add to his repertoire making him one of the most diverse wrestlers in WWE in the last decade.
It’s impossible though to put aside the popularity that Stone Cold Steve Austin had during his magic spell as the leader of the attitude era. We’re now talking about a man who can be credited with some of the glory of bringing down WCW – the company that sacked him, citing that he’d never amount to anything. How wrong these people who are supposed to know everything are – and the most popular wrestler in WWE in the last twenty years.
I have yet to see, for popularity alone, anyone who can hold a candle to Austin. The Rock, Triple H, Undertaker, none of them on their best day could ever hold a candle to Austin. People would pack out arenas just to catch a glimpse of the man himself and hear that glass breaking. I personally, feel privileged to have experienced this on just one occasion when your Wrestling God attended a live WWE U.K event at the very beginning of Austin’s rise to power. Just to be in the same building as the man was a wholly intense experience.
Randy Orton, whilst he can boast an array of fans who will always be loyal to ‘the Viper’, will I doubt ever be as popular as Austin was in his heyday. It’s a shame in many ways because after breaking the mould which WWE tried so desperately to saddle him with, Randy Orton deserves as much if not more praise and popularity than Austin. For his endless sacrifice to the company that made him and for the fans that continue to love him, be he heel or face.
The RKO would be a formidable move for a battered and broken Austin to endure, witnessing though his herculean effort at Wrestlemania 13, I am in serious doubt if Austin would stay down should this match ever have taken place. The Stone Cold Stunner has felled many a formidable foe and whilst Randy Orton would be one of the best Austin would have ever fought, I don’t believe Randy Orton survive the move.
A leviathan match that would be worthy of a place at Wrestlemania and one which would undeniably be a closely fought contest, your winner, judged on his tremendous popularity and support of his time...
...Stone Cold Steve Austin.