Andy: Ready when you are, ya Long Island Rattlesnake …nevermind, that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Nick: I can’t figure out macros. It’s making me sad. I wish I had paid attention in AP Comp Sci instead of flirting with the pretty girl in the class.
Andy: The pretty girl is worth it, even if the payoff is far more temporary.
Nick: Speaking of which, while Stone Cold week was fun, finding matches for today’s Essential Viewing (the Matches) was harder than I thought it was going to be. It’s not that his matches are bad or anything, but that outside of the “greatest matches ever” everything else kind of just runs together.
Andy: Thanks a lot, WWE Network
Nick: If anything, the WWE Network makes it easier. Because I can just look up Stone Cold Steve Austin and go from there.
Andy: Austin’s “Essential Viewing” really is a highlight reel for the one of the greatest periods of professional wrestling.
Andy: The ‘Mania match with Bret, where he never tapped, but passed out? Awesome. The 3:16 promo. Mania with Shawn Michaels and Mike Tyson. EVERYTHING with Vince McMahon… It’s really a statement on his place in pro wrestling history.
Nick: But, outside of that stuff, it’s kind of like “oh, remember this entirely forgettable match with the Undertaker?” or “Man, Stone Cold was super over”. The stuff that is great is GREAT, but the stuff that isn’t is surprisingly unsatisfying. It feels indicative of the era, which I think we may disagree on the quality of.
Andy: Maybe I’ve just got an exceptional pair of rose-colored glassed, but my Stone Cold memories are pretty satisfying.
Nick: How do you feel abou the Attitude Era, specifically, then? Because as I’ve made it clear, I think it was important, but also the dribbling shits.
Andy: I think the difference between the Attitude Era, and everything that followed, is midcard utilization and the depth of the main event. I loved how deep the Attitude Era’s main event roster went.
Nick: Is Val Venis’s quest for the mid-card title really “depth” though? Or, are you saying, just by virtue of having a quest makes it better than it is now, where guys are just kind of out and space, occasionally colliding in a vast wasteland?
Andy: You don’t have to love everyone involved, but at least the guys in that lower tier had some purpose, and an obvious motive. When Zack Ryder shows up now, it’s more “Hey, did you know he still works here?” than “Ryder is trying to work his way back into the US title picture.” And that’s what gave Austin a chance to rise above the midcard.
Nick: Do you think, without the cursing and beer drinking of course, that Stone Cold could work now? Or do you think he was too much a perfect time and place type of thing?
Andy: He’d be CM Punk, with significantly less tattoos.
Nick: So, you think he was transcendently good? Despite him not working anywhere else other than a specific time and place in WWE?
Andy: Austin would still connect on that “I’m a blue-collar redneck who hates my a-hole boss” level. That’s what clicked and was given a chance to really flesh out, and made him a star. His wrestling was good long before he made it to the WWF. His WCW ring work was good. His ECW mic work was an amazing preview to “Stone Cold.”
Nick: Yeah, I wish he could have stayed longer in ECW, because that was revolutionary in the exact same way that Punk’s pipebomb was.
Andy: He got over when he was given an opportunity to be more than just some guy wrestling in the middle of the pack
Nick: But in order to get there, you think you need to have the pack to begin with, is what you are saying? Like, if all the people are background characters and extras, at least having them be there for a reason makes it better?
Andy: Yes. Every (good) TV show has its B-characters. But those B-characters still get episodes and stories that revolve around them. It gives the fans a reason to care about what’s going on and spend money accordingly, and it gives WWE and its workers a chance to tell better stories and MAKE MONEY. Because the John Cena train will eventually come to its last stop, just like Austin’s. So at some point, guys need to be given their shot to rise up and become the next big thing. And I don’t mean Lesnar.
Nick: Which I guess brings me to my next point: what effect on his legacy, if any, do you think him taking his ball and going home has?
Andy: It’s definitely a strike against him, but I don’t think it’s enough to tarnish his legacy. He did it at a point when, honestly, his star was on the decline, and others were rising to the top of the business. And, much like Punk’s departure now, it opened the door for others to rise to the top.
Nick: Does that mean you condone what either of them did? And do you think they are different? Punk’s seems WAY worse.
Andy: I don’t like it by any means. I think it’s a bad move in both situations. That said, both situations have an upside.
Nick: But separate from the upside — which seems obvious for Punk and less so for Austin — they just feel like fundamentally different things. Austin’s seems to have at least nominally made sense. I get not wanting to get your ass legit kicked for free with no buildup when you are one of the biggest stars in history.
Andy: Correct. Austin just wanted there to be a reason for him to put the new guy over. Build it up and put it on PPV. Punk left his own guys high and dry.
Nick: So, if you don’t think it effect his legacy, where then do you have Austin all-time? Not necessarily a ranking, but do you have him in the all-time greats discussion? OR was his run too short to be considered?
Andy: He’s up there. He’s definitely not my top guy, and might not be in the top 5, but he’ll always be important for the way he drew fans back to pro wrestling.
Nick: Is it weird that he’s one of the reasons I stopped watching? Not that I had in issue with him per se, but he’s peak was a time I stopped watching following like WM XV. I don’t know if it was because it had become too popular, or whatever, but Austin’s era has always created the same feelings for me that ECW does: I get why people like it, but it is not my thing at all. Also, for all the talk about SuperCena, wasn’t Stone Cold basically Superman too?
Andy: A lot of guys in that era were, even if Triple H is the only one people fault for it.
Nick: Why do you think those two have such differing legacies, then? Is it just because one is a heel and the other is a face?
Andy: Yes. People related to Austin. The adults loved him for being what they wish they could be… and the kids loved an ass-kicking every-man.
Nick: And what about the Rock? Who to you was the bigger star? Not objectively, per se, because that’s obviously the Rock, but in terms of his impact on the long-term health of business as well as its popularity boom?
Andy: I think Austin was the star that drew them in, and Rock was the one that kept them…if that makes sense.
Nick: “Come for the public celebration of alcoholism, stay for the public celebration of homophobia and misogyny!”
Andy: Well when you put it that way, I’m 100% right.