What If… Austin’s Career Ended at Sumerslam 1997?

Hey Folks, we are back once again with a ‘What If’ scenario for the ages. So, hop in your DeLorean, jump in your hot-tub, find yourself a phone booth or […]

Hey Folks, we are back once again with a ‘What If’ scenario for the ages. So, hop in your DeLorean, jump in your hot-tub, find yourself a phone booth or break into Skynet’s HQ. Whatever you want to do to alter a timeline, and come with us on a journey through time and space.

If you got all five of those references, you should probably get out more.

This time we are asking the question, What If Austin’s Career Ended at SummerSlam 1997?

There is no denying that the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin is an impressive one, not only that but the storylines he is involved in weave their way through three eras of WWE history.

Steve Austin is easily one of the most loved wrestlers in WWE history, and his career involved almost everything you can achieve in the universe of WWE. He is a six-time WWE Champion, two-time Intercontinental Champion, four-time Tag Team Champion (with Shawn Michaels, Dude Love, Undertaker and Triple H), one time Million Dollar Champion, 1996 King of the Ring Winner, 1997, 1998 and 2001 Royal Rumble Winner and WWE Hall of Famer Class of 2009.

The year was 1997 and Austin was in the middle of a heated rivalry with The Hart Foundation. Austin’s stock was on the rise after he won the 1997 King of the Ring. After Austin stepped up and was looking to gain the WWE Championship whilst feuding with Bret Hart, during this time Austin would capture the Tag Team Championships and become entangled in a heated rivalry with Owen Hart.

At Summer Slam 1997 Austin faced off against Owen for his Intercontinental Championship with a stipulation that would see Austin ‘kiss Owen’s Arse’ if he lost. During the match, Hart botched a piledriver (a now banned move in the WWE) and dropped Austin on his head. Austin was legitimately temporarily paralyzed in the ring. Austin managed to crawl to Owen and roll him up for the pin to win the match and Intercontinental Championship. A clearly dazed and injured Austin was helped to his feet and led to the backstage.

Although Austin had to relinquish the Intercontinental Championship due to the injury, we all know that he would be fine to wrestle again and would become one of the biggest names in wrestling, and play an integral in the ‘Monday Night Wars’ and subsequent demise of WCW.

What if Austin wasn’t cleared to wrestling again, what if he had been injured so bad that he couldn’t step foot in the squared circle again? Could WCW have won the war? Who would have had the era defining rivalry with Mr McMahon? And who would have feuded with The Rock over three Wrestlemania main events?

We ask @TomRobinson5199 (Armbar Analysis), @mrnebarry (Old Skool View) and @Tybo_SLTD (Tybo Talks) their thoughts on what the landscape of WWE would look like without ‘The Rattlesnake’.

@TomRobinson5199 (Armbar Analysis)
‘Stone Cold was a major part in the WWF’s comeback and eventual victory over WCW. He became the thorn in the backside of the boss that all the viewers could relate to, leading to an eventually resounding change of audiences for Nitro viewers, who had constant heel dominance bombarded their way thanks to the New World Order. Going into August 1997, WCW were still the dominant company heading into Hogan vs Sting at Starrcade. With Austin out of the picture, I would imagine that Vince would panic backstage. Bret Hart was on his way to WCW and his main guy to lead the company into a new direction was out of the picture. I’d imagine that Vince would resort back to placing all his bets back on Shawn Michaels as the man to lead him forward, further pushing his need for the screwjob. Bret Hart would still be screwed at Survivor Series, as Bret winning the match before going to WCW was a big no-no.

As bizarre as it sounds, I think Vince and Shawn would be played up as the good guys on television. Think about it. When the entire Screw-job went down, Vince was initially cutting babyface promos burying Bret for not following proper tradition in terms of dropping the title. In the end, Vince just accepted the hate and turned heel and the same would happen here. I think Shawn would turn babyface and go up against a new corporate chosen one at Wrestlemania. If Shawn was still a babyface, a butterfly affect could prevent Michaels from doing a casket match with the Undertaker. Taker would be busy with Kane while Michaels would feud with someone like The Rock or Mankind going into Wrestlemania. Michaels would be the “Stone Cold” trying to push a new edgy program.

However, if this were all to go down, I think it would have taken A LOT more time for WWF to eventually beat WCW in the Monday Night Wars. WCW, no matter what happened to WWF, would still be their own worst enemy. They were the ones that screwed up the Starrcade 1997 finish, they were the ones that had Kevin Nash break Goldberg’s streak and they were the ones that scarred off 600,000 viewers by revealing the WWF RAW results in January 4th 1999.

I think if anything, Austin being injured would prolong the inevitable. At the end of the day, the WWF were building towards the future while WCW was building their company around relics of the past like Hulk Hogan. In the end, stars like The Rock would take up the Stone Cold mantle and lead the WWF to eventually win the war.’

@Tybo_SLTD (Tybo Talks)
‘The thought of Austin not being such an influential figure in the history of WWE is a strange one, I guess you can’t miss what you never had but would WWE what it is today without him?

Don’t get me wrong I don’t think we would be sitting here talking about a WCW PPV but it is a possibility that WWE would not be the number one company in the wrestling world. WCW was doomed from the start, but without Austin being the other side of the Mr McMahon character I’m not sure all the fans who switched over to Nitro would of switches back to Raw.

Austin was the number one guy in WWE for a long time but who would take that spot? I think it should be mentioned that there is a huge possibility that Vince would have tried to keep Bret Hart in the WWE, but ultimately, he wouldn’t be the top guy because of the direction the company was heading. So, for that reason I could see everything reverting to Shawn Michaels being the main man. This could mean that Owen Hart could have been a number one heel. If this worked and Owen became a top guy it’s also possible that Owen would have never been the ‘Blue Blazer’. With Shawn Michaels as the top guy there is the potential for D-Generation X to never have been what they were and the whole idea nixed far too soon.

The wave that would pass over the whole of WWE for a solid ten years would be insane, there would be no Austin vs McMahon, no Austin vs Rock, No Power Trip, no Sheriff Austin, and no WHAT!’

@mrnebarry (Old Skool View)
‘If Austin’s career ended with that piledriver from Owen Hart, I could easily see the following happening.

Firstly Vince caves in and gives Bret Hart what he wants to keep him as the guy in the WWE. Nobody else was close to being a breakout star like Austin was. Bret would have consolidated his place alongside HBK as the guys in the company, and WCW would be left finding someone else to break the bank for.

Secondly Owen Hart would have become the #2 heel behind HBK in the company. The heat Owen would have soaked up for injuring Austin would have been enormous. Owen would have stepped into that role that would eventually have become Austin’s, and would have no doubt had a World Title run he deserved.

Thirdly, there would be no massive breakout Mr McMahon character. The character was built around Austin. Without Austin it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. Sure we may have seen someone else used in a similar role but it wouldn’t have had the same impact.

Finally we probably wouldn’t have the WWE we have today without Austin. Austin was probably the main reason why during the Monday Night Wars WWE got back on top, and the WWE went the more edgy route. Without Austin the war would have still happened but maybe it wouldn’t have played out like it did. We probably wouldn’t have gotten that Attitude Era style edgy product, it would have stayed with larger than life characters for a while longer before the cycle changed. Sure we may have still got a PG Era, but maybe not as watered down as it is now.’