Today i’d like to take a trip back down memory lane to a feud that literally changed the face of wrestling.
Back in the years of 1995-96 Shawn Michael’s was WWE’s biggest hit, he was the guy they wanted to put the companies back on after Brett Hart left. Lets just say HBK never drew so much as a dime then and change of direction was a must. The WWE product was becoming stale and repetitive. It didn’t really work the way they’d like, so WWE needed to do something different and fast.
It started way back in WCW when Steve Austin and Brian Pillman had became good friends after forming a tag team called the Hollywood Blondes. While both were very good wrestlers, Pillman would do most of the promos and microphone work as Austin had yet to develop that side of his game. If anything, it would’ve appeared that Austin was the weak link of the team at the time. To keep with tradition Bischoff and co split the tag team up which culminated in their first feud.
In 1995, Austin was fired by WCW Vice President Eric Bischoff, after suffering a triceps injury shortly after, while wrestling on a Japanese tour, Bischoff and WCW did not see Austin as a ‘marketable’ wrestler, and Bischoff thought Austin was hard to work with. Austin described his opinion on being fired over the phone as Bischoff having taken the coward’s way out. Whilst Bischoff in a round table discussion claimed he fired Austin after he refused to do a taping in Atlanta.
Austin was cruelly shut off from the business that he’d grown to love, not knowing where to go or what to do as all he knows is wrestling. Frustration was building inside, Austin knew he still had plenty left to give to the business, he was frustrated with the booking, politics and the drama behind the scenes. Steve sat at home knocking down beers, wracking his brain and pondering about where his life was leading.
Out of the blue Austin was contacted by Paul Heyman of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), who had managed him in WCW. Heyman reached out to Austin and hired him to do in-ring interviews and shoots on WCW politicking ways as Austin had not recovered from his injury enough to wrestle.
Austin asked Paul what he would like him to say, Paul replied let your emotion and feelings all out, Heyman made Austin wait until 5am to cut his behind the scenes promos, as he knew this would get the best out of Austin.
Austin shoots on WCW:
Steve Austin was born.
His ECW tenure was short lived after these great vignettes. Heyman would later state that he had wanted Austin to win the ECW Title, but Austin had refused because he felt he was more effective “as the hunter, rather than the hunted.
Austin receives a call from Vince Mcmahon to come aboard WWE, Brian Pillman jumped ship near-after and signed a contract with WWE. He was the first wrestler to sign a guaranteed contract with the WWE, indicative of the period in which Vince McMahon began to protect the company from abruptly losing talent to WCW.
Brian was known as The Loose Cannon and shortly before his WWE debut he proved why. Brian crashed his Hummer into a tree at 70 miles per hour. Pillman fell asleep at the wheel, the car crashed and he was ejected over 40 feet from his vehicle after it flipped. It is said that if Pillman would have been wearing his seatbelt, he would have been killed. He would be in a coma for a week while suffering from numerous facial fractures, and a shattered ankle that doctors would have to fuse into a permanent walking position.
Less than two months later while recovering from his ankle injury, Pillman would take a spot as a color commentator for WWE until his injury healed.
Stone Cold Steve Austin/Pillman Full Circle
Pillman was scheduled for an in-ring interview with his former tag team partner, Steve Austin. Austin had been picking up steam with his new Stone Cold character. Pillman initially aligned himself with Austin upon his debut. He began to act strangely, complementing Bret Hart over Austin. So as you would imagine, things got heated quickly between Pillman and Austin.
While Pillman tried to excuse his actions as being “caught up in the moment,” Austin wasn’t buying it. He said everybody knew that he carried Pillman to tag team gold, and he was going to kick Bret Harts ass. As Pillman tried to wrap up the interview, calling Hart the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be, Austin pounced and re-broke his ankle. Feud ignited.
Pillman returned after surgery with a vendetta and took things to a level, never seen before by wrestling fans. Brian Pillman did a shoot and said he needed a defense mechanism to defend himself and his family from Austin, who had continued to make threats against him.
That defense mechanism? A gun…..A fricken gun!!! (remember! wrestling fans only know tom&jerry wrestling at this point) This was all new. So, we hear reports suggesting Austin had been seen in the area where Pillman and his family lived. (wwe was in uncharted area) Austin would arrive at Pillman’s home, beat up Pillman’s friends and family then break in the house through the back door. At this point, the feed from the camera cut out. WTF ?
WARNING: Graphic Viewing
While an on-scene director would contact Vince McMahon, letting him know that he heard a couple of explosions, Kevin Kelly would report minutes later once the feed had return—that once Austin saw the gun he left, and no shots were fired. However, Austin would again return. Pillman pointed the gun at Austin and screamed at them to let him go.
As RAW went off the air, Pillman claimed he wanted to “kill that son of a bitch!” Viewers sat watching, gasped with what they had just witnessed, mouths wide open with shock. This is the part that split wrestlers/wrestling fans worldwide. Some disgusted, some confused/bemused, some welcoming.
The reaction of viewers worldwide:
“This is disgraceful to wrestlings history” ” was that suppose to happen ” “what the hell is going on” “Great this is awesome”
Vince Mcmahon had finally changed the face of wrestling and viewers started tune in
the following weeks in droves. The real version of the Attitude Era Was Born. Old fans left, new fans emerged.