Monday, September 28, 2020

RAW After Mania (April 2nd, 2001): It All Started Here

Oy... it's that show.

Wrestlemania X-Seven has been touted as one of (if not THE) greatest Wrestlemania card of all time. It had top to bottom great matches, all the big stars, some exciting moments, and was the first stadium show in a good long while... and then Steve Austin turned heel in the main event and that began the downward spiral of the McMahon sports entertainment empire.

A bunch of stuff happens that doesn't matter, but the main meat of the show is the furthering of the main event storyline. The Rock confronts Vince and beats him up... and then later on, Steve Austin cuts a promo where he doesn't do the Hell Yeah and calls Vince "Mr. McMahon" as he desperately tries to get people to boo him in order to justify this mistimed heel turn. And then Steve Austin beat the Rock in a steel cage match with an assist from Triple H... then the Rock gets suspended and we're stuck with Bikertaker and Kane as the "big babyfaces" while the rest of the folks people really cared about get buried twelve feet under.

There are a multitude of reasons why the Steve Austin heel turn didn't work and almost killed the business. Bad timing is one of them, nobody wanted to boo Steve Austin, no strong babyfaces on the other side, that sort of thing. But for me, as I'm watching some of these 2001 shows again, it sort of dawned on me that the biggest failing for this heel turn is that it was basically used as a device to turn someone who was one of the company's biggest money makers at the time into a side-kick for Triple H as they try (and eventually fail) to turn him into the company's biggest star. They took the WWF's MOST POPULAR SUPERSTAR and turned him into a flunkie for McSon-In-Law.

Everything that I have come to hate about the future WWE afterwards - the Reign Of Terror, the dumb babyfaces, the horrible and illogical storytelling, the bad dialogue - this is where it all began. This is where the ball got rolling with all the wretched storytelling and portrayal of popular wrestlers. This one, singular episode of RAW laid the groundworks for a period of creative bankruptcy that will never be over so long as the old man is running things.

Steve Austin became the biggest babyface in the WWF and turned the company's fortunes around to the point where they become a publically-traded company. Steve Austin turned heel and implanted the seeds that would contribute to the company's slow decline and eventually killing of the business.

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