Hi everyone. Today, I’d like to take you back in history to the WWF King Of The Ring PPV on June 23rd 1996 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The PPV decided the winner of the King Of The Ring tournament. According to sources, Hunter Hearst Helmsley was scheduled to win the finals but the “Curtain Call Incident” changed things, so it was decided he’d lose to Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts in the first round.
The PPV began with both semi-finals; with Steve Austin defeating Marc Mero via Stunner, and Jake Roberts advancing due to Vader being disqualified for using the referee as a human shield. Austin would face Jake Roberts to crown the King of the Ring. 08:00 for the speech.
“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 proved, son, without a shadow of a doubt, that 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 your Psalms, talk about John 3:16 – AUSTIN 3:16 SAYS I JUST WHIPPED YOUR ASS!”
“All he’s gotta do is go buy him a cheap bottle of Thunderbird and try to get back some of that courage he had in his prime. As the King of the Ring, I’m servin’ notice to every one of the ‘WWF superstars.’ I don’t give a damn what they are, they’re all on the list, and that’s Stone Cold’s list, and I’m fixin’ to start runnin’ through all of them.”
“As far as this championship match is considered, son, I don’t give a damn if it’s Davey Boy Smith or Shawn Michaels. Steve Austin’s time has come, and when I get the shot, you’re lookin’ at the next WWF Champion, and that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so!”
Let’s face it .. King Of The Ring ’96 was a messy tournament. Many big names went out in the early rounds (Ultimate Warrior, Owen Hart, Yokozuna), and unlucky as Jake Roberts picked up a legit injury against Vader so the final lasted four-and-a-half minutes to prevent further injury. Steve Austin took it on himself to make the victory and tournament memorable with a stunning speech.
What it proved is if something doesn’t work as expected, you can turn a negative in to a positive. Ultimately, Steve Austin knew what the fans wanted, and his message resonated because they could feel his passion through the heel persona. It wasn’t all about the “Austin 3:16” line (although it was certainly marketable), the speech moved Austin up the card regardless of reaction. He was a star for the new generation of wrestling fan, rough around the edges .. but with passion so bright it could not be denied any longer.
I consider it the most important moment in Steve Austin’s career, and the most influential in sparking the Attitude Era. Without Austin 3:16, there’s no telling how the Monday Night Wars would’ve played out. Two weeks later, WCW fired its first shot when Hulk Hogan shocked the world by joining The Outsiders. Luckily, the WWF had Austin 3:16 to rival WCW and the popular New World Order otherwise they may have struggled to keep up in the ratings.
The competition was about to grow stronger and Austin delivered just at the right time. Is there any promo in history that holds more significance than Austin’s speech? I don’t think so. No doubt there’s been lots of entertaining promos over the years, but none so necessary in creating a star and ensuring the promotion’s survival in a ratings war. On this basis, I feel choosing Austin’s classic moment as the first entry in this mini-series of articles to be the right one. Thanks for reading .. and that’s the bottom line cos’ Stone Cold said so!
I dedicate this piece to my grandfather who passed away on Saturday. RIP.