Austin vs. McMahon was a popular feud in the World Wrestling Federation, starting in 1998, that pitted Stone Cold Steve Austin against WWF Chairman Vince McMahon. The end to the feud is unknown. Some claim it ended during the Invasion Angle, while some insist that it is still going today, just in an inactive role, since Austin is incapable of wrestling due to problems with his neck.
Regardless of when it ended, when it was in its prime, it was one of the most popular feuds of the day, and arguably one of the greatest feuds of all time. Some believe it was this feud alone that kept WWF alive during the Monday Night Wars (see “legacy” below). One thing is certain, however: It was one of the most commercially successful storylines of the 90's, and is regarded as one of the greatest and most important wrestling feuds of all time.
When Stone Cold Steve Austin won the WWF King of the Ring in 1996, he coined the phrase "Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!" He then went on to feud with Bret Hart, who took great exception to his raunchy antics. The feud culminated in a match at WrestleMania XIII, in a submission match with Ken Shamrock as the referee. The match ended in a no-contest when Austin passed out from a combination of blood and pain from Hart's signature sharpshooter submission hold, but never tapped out. Following this match, he and Hart engaged in a rare double-turn, causing Steve Austin to become a face.
After this, Steve Austin went on to feud for the Intercontinental Title, but forfeited it prior to the 1998 Royal Rumble, saying he had “bigger fish to fry.” The fans knew immediately that this “bigger fish” was the WWF Title.
Austin won the Rumble, which guaranteed him a title shot at the main event at WrestleMania XIV.
Beginning of the feud
Leading up to WrestleMania and Austin's title shot, Vince McMahon (who, up until then, had the kayfabe job of merely a commentator), announced that he did not want Austin to become champion, which shocked the audience. This set the stage for a feud that would arguably change the wrestling business forever.
To help ensure that Austin would loose at WrestleMania, Vince solicited the help of legendary boxer Mike Tyson to be the enforcer for the main event. However, at WrestleMania XIV, Tyson double-crossed McMahon and made the count for Austin on Shawn Michaels.
After winning the WWF Championship, McMahon presented Austin with a new, Attitude Era title belt, and told him to tone down his behavior. Austin responded by stunning McMahon. The next week, Austin agreed to side with McMahon, as he appeared in a suit and tie. However, at the end of the promo, he low blowed McMahon, ripped off his suit to reveal his normal attire, and said that this would be the last time he would dress like this.
After that humiliation, McMahon became obsessed with getting the WWF title off Austin. His first attempt to do so was at In Your House 21: Unforgiven, where Dude Love challenged Austin for the WWF title. However, this ended in a no contest when the referee was knocked out and required medical attention; Austin pinned Dude Love and made the three count himself, which was not accepted by WWE records. To rectify this issue, McMahon booked a rematch at In Your House 22: Over the Edge, only this time, Vince McMahon himself would be the referee. Austin nevertheless prevailed, by knocking out Vince McMahon and using Vince's limp arm to make the three count.
McMahon would continue to throw curveball after curveball at Austin, eventually getting the title off of him at King of the Ring (1998), when he solicited Kane to face Austin in a first blood match. Kane won, but only because the Undertaker interfered. The next night, Austin, insisting that it was the Undertaker who busted him open, challenged Kane to a rematch, so that Kane could “make it count.” Kane promptly accepted the challenge (via nodding, since he did not speak at the time), and Austin went on to reclaim the WWF title.
Still persistent, however, McMahon devised a plan to put Austin in a triple-threat match at In Your House:Breakdown against both Kane and the Undertaker for the title. However, the match was a “triple threat” only in name, as Kane and the Undertaker were forbidden to fight each other. In the end, they had both incapacitated Austin, but could not decide on who got the pin. In a compromise, they both pinned Austin simultaneously.
To solve the confusion, McMahon declared the title vacant, and had Undertaker and Kane wrestle each other at Judgment Day: In Your House for the vacant title. In an attempt to humiliate Austin, McMahon named him the referee for the match. However, Austin betrayed his duties, and refused to make the count for either one.
Because of this, McMahon fired Austin. However, Austin would return later on, and point a toy gun at McMahon's head that, instead of bullets, shot a sign that said “Bang 3:16.” Austin then pulled out an envelope that had in it a contract that guaranteed at least one title shot, claiming that it was Vince's son, Shane McMahon, who had signed him. Outraged, Vince demoted Shane to a lowly referee.
McMahon decided to give Austin that title shot in a tournament for the still-vacant title at Survivor Series 1998. In the quarterfinals of the tournament, Austin faced Mankind. After the normal referee had been knocked out, Shane McMahon came out to apparently make the count for Austin, but instead flipped Austin off, revealing that the entire contract was just a way to get Austin back into the WWF and screw him once more. The winner of the tournament was The Rock.
Austin, enraged by the deception, demanded a spot in the 1999 Royal Rumble. Surprisingly, McMahon gave it to him; however, he named Austin #1 in the match, meaning that to win, Austin would have to survive for more than an hour.
Shawn Michaels, however, who had recently been named commissioner of the WWF (and given an iron-clad contract, meaning he couldn't be fired), decided to throw a monkey-wrench into the project, and named McMahon #2 in the Rumble, meaning that Vince would have to square off against Austin.
To combat this, McMahon offered one hundred thousand dollars to whoever eliminated Austin in the Rumble. Despite this, Austin lasted until the final two (the other one was Vince himself) and was only eliminated due to a distraction from the Rock.
The next night, on Raw, Vince relinquished his title shot. This turned out to be a huge mistake, as Shawn Micheals and Austin appeared on the Titantron. According to Micheals, “If the winner of the Royal Rumble is unable or unwilling to face the WWF Champion at WrestleMania, then the runner-up takes his place.”
Austin, who was still hungry for Vince's blood, offered to put up his title shot to the The Big Boss Man (who won third place in the Royal Rumble) if Vince could beat him at St. Valentine's Day Massacre in a steel cage match. McMahon agreed, but pointed out that the contract that Shane had signed him to forbade him to so much as lay a hand on Vince outside of a sanctioned match. For the rest of the month, Vince tried to goat Austin into hitting him, so he could be fired once more, even visiting Austin in his favorite bar in Texas. Austin showed incredible restraint, and, as a last resort, Vince spat on him during the heat prior to the PPV. Austin merely said he would leave the spit there and use McMahon's blood to wipe it off later that night.
During the cage match, Austin showed complete dominance over McMahon. However, Vince played a trump card when the Big Show made his debut in WWF and attacked Austin. However, Vince's plan backfired, as Show threw Austin into the cell wall so hard that it gave way, causing Austin to fall to the ringside floor and get the win via escape.
Leading up to WrestleMania XV, Mankind asked to be the special guest referee for the main event. Vince agreed on one condition: That Mankind could beat Austin in a match with Big Show as the referee. If he lost, however, Big Show was the referee. Mankind won the match via countout, but still had to beat Big Show at WrestleMania XV. Big Show got disqualified when he chokeslammed Mankind through two chairs; however, Mankind was injured and was rushed out of the arena in an ambulance. Vince then declared that he would be the referee.
However, when it came time for the main event, Shawn Micheals intervened once more, with a deus ex machina that only the commissioner could appoint of a referee for the main event at Wrestlemania, even when it conflicted with the Chairman for some reason. Whatever the logic behind this arbitrary rule, the bottom line was that, with an impartial referee officiating the match, Austin prevailed over the Rock.
Austin would later lose the title to the Undertaker. However, in a major swerve, Stephanie and Linda McMahon announced that they too were part owners of the company, and kayfabe relinquished Linda's position of Chief Executive Officer to Austin. In an attempt to rid the McMahons from his life forever, Austin offered to put up his fifty percent of WWF ownership against Vince and Shane's fifty percent in a winner-take-all handicap ladder match at King of the Ring 1999; on top of that, no interference from McMahon's stable (the Corporate Ministry) would be allowed, otherwise the match would be immediately stopped and the McMahons would be disqualified (a rare occurrence, when disqualification is possible in a ladder match). However, the McMahons tricked Austin in an unforeseen manner, by having the briefcase rise up to unreachable heights when Austin climbed the ladder, but lowered back down when the McMahons climbed up.
An urban legend is that the Big Bossman was supposed to be the one who pulled the briefcase up when Austin climbed the ladder. Bossman had been ousted from the Corporate Ministry earlier in the month for a seemingly unrelated incident (and so his interference was not technically prohibited under the aforementioned stipulation), and Bossman was welcomed back into the Corporate Ministry the next night on Raw, so this would have made perfect sense. However, this was never confirmed on camera, and so the official identity of the one who interfered remains a mystery to this day.
The next night, however, Austin trumped the McMahons yet again, when he said that, when he was CEO, he wrote himself a five-year contract, and booked himself into a title match against the Undertaker. Austin would win the match and become a four-time WWF Champion.
In a last resort to get Austin out of his hair, Vince offered an “all or nothing” proposal: Austin would defend the WWF Title one last time against the Undertaker, this time in a first blood match. If the Undertaker won, Austin may never again get a shot at the WWF title, whoever the champion may be. If Austin won, Vince would leave WWF forever. This match was won by Austin. Vince left kayfabe ownership of the WWF to his son, Shane.
Months later, Vince would make an appearance once more (not for WWF business, but to defend his daughter's honor against the stalking Triple H). Austin offered to reinstate Vince, claiming that the contract they signed for Fully Loaded allowed him to do so, on one condition: Vince's first action back would be to grant Austin a WWF title shot (which Triple H had recently won). Vince quickly agreed, but did not specify a time or place. A few weeks later, Vince announced that the title shot would take place at Survivor Series 1999; however, before the match could take place, Austin was run over by a speeding car, shelving his career for nine months.
In his return at Unforgiven 2000, Austin embarked on a mission to find out who ran him over. Soon, Rikishi admitted to doing it. Austin and Rikishi would square off at No Mercy 2000, where Austin beat Rikishi.
After Armageddon 2000, Austin demanded that Vince place him in the Royal Rumble. Vince reluctantly agreed, citing “the interest of fairness.” Austin entered the Rumble at #27 and won, guaranteeing him a title shot at WrestleMania X-Seven, as well as making him the first person in history to win the Royal Rumble three times.
At WrestleMania X-Seven, the match was suddenly and surprisingly declared “no disqualification.” This ended up being the plan all along, as Vince came out and assisted Austin in winning the WWF title for a fifth time. After the match, Austin and McMahonn shook hands, forming an unholy alliance, to which Jim Ross remarked that Austin had “sold his soul to Satan himself.”
Austin quickly became soft, hugging Vince McMahon at random times. He would then team up with Triple H to form the The Power Trip strengthening his heel status.
During the Invasion Angle, where the team of WCW and ECW teamed up to form “the Alliance” to fight the WWF, Austin had briefly changed back to his old, rebellious self at Vince McMahon's begging, only to defect to the Alliance, reinstating the Austin vs. McMahon feud full force.
After the Invasion Angle, Austin was supposed to wrestle a match on Raw, but he legitimately no-showed the event, causing Vince McMahon to legitimately fire him. After he was reinstated months later by Eric Bishoff, he then retired full-time due to neck problems that he had been experiencing since Owen Hart had botched a piledriver on him in 1997, breaking his neck. Austin retired from in-ring duty; however, still being under contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF's new name), was contractually required to perform any “safe” things, such as be the co-General Manager of Raw and be referee for various matches.
In 2007, at WrestleMania 23, Austin was the referee for the Battle of the Billionaires pitting Vince McMahon against Donald Trump. The Austin vs. McMahon feud was referenced numerous times during this angle, leading some to believe the feud is still going.
Austin vs. McMahon was one of the most commercially successful feuds in recent memory. Some argue that, after the Montreal Screwjob, WWF would have gone out of business due to many outraged fans boycotting the WWF, had it not been for this feud. Many argue that this feud epitomized the Attitude Era, and many message board inhabitants regard this feud as one of, if not the greatest feud of all time. This feud helped make Stone Cold Steve Austin arguably the most popular superstar of all time taking him from a standard midcarder making a generic rise to the main event, to a bona fide wrestling phenomenon.