Austin versus McMahon greatest rivalry in professional wrestling history
In today’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), many rivalries have taken place in the ring that bring fans to the edge of their seats, whether watching on television or in the arena. But in the eyes of many, one rivalry in particular wasn’t your ordinary one. In fact, it wasn’t even between two wrestlers, yet what it did do was change the landscape of professional wrestling as we see it today. That rivalry was the one featuring Stone Cold Steve Austin and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
What made the rivalry so epic was the dynamic of their relationship. Austin wasn’t your typical baby face (good guy) wrestler. He drank beer, put his middle finger in the air, and would cause havoc wherever he saw fit. McMahon portrayed himself on television as the corporate guy, doing things the right way, his way. They were polar opposites and when the two faced off with one another, it was absolute magic. Whether it was McMahon screwing Austin out of the heavyweight championship or Austin hitting McMahon with a bedpan over the head, it was something that had never been seen before.
Their rivalry came at the right time in the late 1990s when the World Wrestling Federation (what it was known back then) had its own rivalry with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and owner Ted Turner in what was called the “Monday Night Wars”. The WWF had many talented wrestlers on its roster and Turner began to acquire them with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Bret Hart.
Hart, one of the WWF’s popular wrestlers and heavyweight champion at the time of his departure, was a move that appeared to put WCW over the top.
McMahon and the WWF needed to evolve or swim with the fish. Austin was an up-and-coming wrestler, who came a long way from his time as the Ring Master with the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase. His WrestleMania 13 match with Hart showed he could hold his own in the ring and his promo of “Austin 3:16” after defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts and winning the Ring of the Ring tournament in 1996 displayed his talent on the mic.
With superstar Shawn Michaels leaving the company for a significant amount of time with back surgery and personal issues, Austin was the next man up to takes the reigns as the top guy. With having attributes that go more for being a heel (bad guy), McMahon needed someone that would bring the best out of Austin. As it turned out, what better person to go head-to-head with him than his boss.
The move was a brilliant one. People can’t defy authority because of rules, regulations, and laws in place. Sometimes, a person may be upset with their boss from time to time and would love to give a piece of their mind. Austin was able to do that. Seeing him occasionally get the best of his boss despite the odds stacked against him could only be done in the wrestling world.
WCW tried a gimmick that saw Bill Goldberg have an undefeated streak and clash with the clique known as the “New World Order”, but something like that had already been done before.
The Austin-McMahon rivalry was must-see television, keeping wrestling fans glued to the television sets. Adding the Rock to the mix to become McMahon’s “Corporate Champion” and bringing another dynamic to the fray, the WWF took over the ratings game. Eventually, on March 23, 2001, McMahon and the WWF purchased WCW from Turner and ended its real-life rivalry.
Two aspects came out of the rivalry: Austin is considered one of the greatest and most popular professional wrestlers of all time and McMahon’s WWE rules the industry and has no clear rival in sight.
What they produced can never be duplicated and will stand the test of time.