(Originally written for wwe.com, December 16, 2011)
Every hall of fame athlete has indelible moments.
They’re what you see in slow-motion on Sportscenter over and over.
But without exception, those moments were born of passion, unparalleled work ethic and debilitating emotional and physical setbacks that had to be overcome.
In the new WWE DVD release, “Stone Cold Steve Austin”, we get to see how the Texas rattlesnake was no different.
The broad sketches of the Steve Austin are already legend. The early days in Dallas, learning both the business and how to live on a budget. The tumultuous years in WC, extraordinary in-ring work combined with the ever-frustrating politics. The life-raft and free-reign of ECW that served as the turn from what was to what would be. And the misguided start at WWE (The Ringmaster…Fang McFrost?) until a cup of hot tea, and the years of lessons learned led him to find his voice…and change the business.
But the DVD tells us why.
History is concrete. But the moments that make are wet cement that could dry any number of ways. “Stone Cold Steve Austin, the bottom line of the most popular superstar of all time” takes us to the moment that very nearly changed that history, the tombstone piledriver that went horribly worng at Summerslam ’97.
All of it leading to the Stone Cold Era that even now fans of John Cena and C.M. Punk happily replay in the DVD machine in their minds.
All-time classic matches with Bret Hart, Mick Foley and the Rock, resonating with the sound track of Jim Ross.
And the unforgettable Raw history of the most unusual, and maybe most successful feud of all-time with Mr. McMahon, one of bedlam, bedpans and beer trucks.
We hear from the all the key players in the evolution, Paul Heyman, Mick Foley, Bret Hart, Vince McMahon, Pat Patterson and Jerry Brisco. All of whom played their parts perfectly.
But maybe the best part of the DVD is the constantly recurring theme. That while it’s ostensibly the story of one man, one hall-of-fame superstar, the lesson is what happens when a promotion rallies around a star, and that star shines bright enough to put everyone on the team in the light. In 1996 and 1997, WWE was in a life-and-death struggle with WCW. The Stone Cold phenomenon put the spotlight back on WWE where a roster of future hall-of-famers was already delivering a better product. The WWE and the roster helped make Stone Cold, and he in turn, made everyone on the roster better.
That’s how championships, and Monday Night Wars, are won.
And that’s when wrestling leaves its fans indelible images of an era they won’t forget.
I’ve been courtside for Game 7 of the NBA Finals, I’ve been lucky enough to call New Year’s Day bowls and national championship games. They were never louder than the moment before a Stone Cold match when the glass broke.
You can talk about Sammartino, Andre, Flair, Hogan and the Rock.
But on wrestling’s Mount Rushmore, they’re all fighting for the spots next to Steve Austin.
I’m not sure we’d be saying the same about Fang McFrost