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Michael Burnside

What would the WWF do if Austin’s career ended at Summerslam 97?

Rating: 5 votes, 4.00 average.
On the 23rd September 1992 ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin had a match with Masahiro Chono which ended kinda badly for Chono. A botched piledriver from Austin nearly put Chono on the shelf permanently.
Ironically 5 years later the same thing happened again with Austin except this time it was him receiving the botched piledriver from Owen Hart. Despite feeling numb for a short period of time, Austin was able to finish the match but the damage was serious. Although it didn’t stop Austin’s career completely, it definitely affected it. He changed his style to more of a brawling style and eventually retired several years earlier than he would have, had the accident not happened.
He was lucky. All you have to do is look at Droz, who as a result from a badly executed move, was confined to a wheelchair. But what if Austin hadn’t recovered from Summerslam? What if that match with Owen was his last match?

Alternative Universe 7
What would the WWF do if Austin’s career ended at Summerslam 97?

It must have been a scary moment for Austin, lying flat in the ring and unable to move. Although the school boy pinfall victory at the end looked weak, it is totally understandable. It did help to add to the Stone Cold never say die attitude despite the seriousness. Just watch the 1997 Survivor Series video promoting the rematch between Hart and Austin where it recaps the accident (“It’s not how many times you get knocked down that count……. It’s how many times, you get back up”)
Austin would go on a few months later to win the 1998 Royal Rumble and defeat Shawn Michaels for the WWF title at Wrestlemania. Then he would have the legendary McMahon feud which basically made the WWF a shit load of money and help them to finally beat WCW in the ratings as well as creating some of the most memorable moments and matches from the Attitude era.
So would it be fair to say that without Austin, the WWF would fail to catch in viewers, lose more ratings to WCW and eventually fold? It’s possible. But then again, its possible that the McMahon’s and the WWF might actually just have pulled through despite the dire financial difficulties. There’s no doubt that without Austin, then the WWF wouldn’t have made as much money as they did during the Attitude era. Also the massive 84 week consecutive beating Raw took from Nitro would have been a lot longer. Much much longer.
If you trace the comparasion rating graph
(located here from wikipedia
/commons/c/c6/Monday_night_wars_ratings.gif ),it does seem that the permanent fall of WCW began in the first half of 1999. The question is, could the WWF survive until then and how?

The incident with Austin happened at Summerslam 97 so we’re looking at a good 18 months until then. Who would be pushed in Austin’s place? The Montreal Screw job which ultimately resulted in Bret Hart, Bulldog and Neidhart leaving happened a few months later so it wouldn’t be Bret Hart. Shawn Michaels also wrestled his last match for 4 years at the following Wrestlemania so we could rule him out carrying the torch. Also both men had their run in the early Nineties so it would be time for something new.

The Undertaker held the WWF title during the first half of 1997 then began his first feud with Kane around the end of the year, which cumulated in a match at the 98 Wrestlemania. It would be entirely possible that Taker could reach Wrestlemania as champ and Kane could win the rumble. Remember Yokozuna debuted and won the rumble in the same time frame as Kane appeared so it wouldn’t be totally unprecedented that a new character would be pushed as quick.
As for the Mr McMahon character, without Austin it wouldn’t work or possibly been inspired. Or on the other hand, Vince could have seen in WCW how Eric Bishoff’s evil authority character was working and stole the idea. The protagonist to replace Austin would possibly be the new line up of Degeneration X (out with Shawn Michaels and Rick Rude and in with the younger and ‘hipper’ X Pac and New Age Outlaws). A DX/Corporation feud could quite easily be played out for the most of 1998. Which would help to buy time for the Rock to get over with the fans, from a cocky heel that gets booed to the cocky face that the fans can’t help but cheer. His heel turn at the Survivor Series in 1998 would never take place and he would remain face and grow into the superstar that he has become. He would either pick up the title at the end of 1998 and defend it at wrestlemania, or more likely go down the hero route by winning the Rumble 99 and taking on (and beating) the top heel WWF champion. Possibly HHH during the DX/Corporation feud would betray his own team and become Vince’s corporate champion? Essentially we are bringing the Rock/HHH rivalry from 2000 forward by a year.
And lets not rule out Mick Foley. Mankind feuded with the Undertaker many times and gave us in 1998 (King of the Ring to be exact) a Hell in a Cell match that people still talk about today. In fact, when people mention KOTR 1998, it’s what people always think of. Not the Austin/Kane first blood match or that it was Ken Shamrock who won the tournament.
So with Undertaker, Kane, DX, Mick Foley, the Corporation and then later the Rock, it’s likely the main event scene of the WWF will still be entertaining and thriving. Providing that is, the fans take to them as they did originally when the attitude era had Austin building it up.

As mentioned earlier, one thing we can be sure is that the WWF would not be quite as rich without Austin. That we can safely say. The question is, would they be rich enough to buy the assets of WCW when it did as well as the video libraries of WCW and ECW? If they failed to do so then we wouldn’t have gotten the Invasion storyline (as perhaps disappointing as it was) and we wouldn’t have the comprehensive DVD documentaries which feature footage from both major organisations.
We may still have a rival promotion to WWE to this day if someone other than the McMahon’s bought WCW in 2001. Of course whether this newly owned WCW would be a strong rival or merely a TNA sized rival is anyone’s guess.

In conclusion –

A very hard one to predict how the WWF would survive without Austin. Probably a lot harder than I first thought when I began writing this blog. WCW had a great angle with the New World Order and it struck a powerful blow against the WWF programming. However it had many flaws with the way it was ran (over reliance on aging stars, bad booking, newer talent not getting pushed enough etc).
The WWF is a family run business that belonged to Vince’s father and he was going to fight a lot harder than somebody who was working for someone else. When people leave work in the evenings and at the weekends, they (hopefully) forget about work until they return. But not for McMahon, who would probably be thinking 25 hours a day, 8 days a week on how to keep his livelihood and legacy from going down the toilet. The attitude era was not all just the Austin/McMahon feud. There many other very over superstars up and down the card that the fans cared about. And maybe, that might have been enough to keep WWF afloat through the difficult times.

Next Time, Alternative Universe 9 – What if the Warrior and Bulldog didn’t leave in 1992?

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  1. Pearl River Plunge's Avatar
    glad to see you back, always like these.
  2. Kajmere's Avatar
    I think it would've been a shame if fate had robbed the world of 6 or so years of Stone Cold following the pile driver.

    However, based on the fact that WWE ran itself better as a business and as a quality product, it seems safe to say that they still would have won the war against WCW. It may have taken a little longer, but who knows, maybe they would've done it earlier with some other breakout idea. Most will favor the former.

    Interesting blog.
  3. anaconda_vice's Avatar
    I might not be a wrestling fan, among others.

    Austin brought me back every week as a kid. I dont want to even imagine him not being there.

    The WWF still would have been successful though, who knows how much less.
  4. Stevenhigney's Avatar
    That got long, lol, but I've always been intrigued by the what if's in wrestling when plans change and history reinvents itself. Past events where WWE had one plan and reason changed due to whomever Vince ended up listening to. WM4 where DiBiase wins the tournament to then fued with Hulk. WM7 with Hogan vs Zeus! Yikes! Hogan beating Flair for the belt at WM8. Shawn beats Bret for the IC title at Summerslam 92. Hogan winning the tag titles with Beefcake at WM 9. Hogan dropping the WWF title to Bret at Summerslam 93! Luger wins the WWF title at WM 10. Bam Bam Bigelow gets his pomised WWF title reign (instead of HBK! Shawn didn't like that, bye bye Bam Bam). Hell WM13 was Bret beating for WWF title. No Hart Foundation or Austin vs Bret I Quit match.
  5. BECCA_IS_AWESOME's Avatar
    nice read its very sad to think of what could of should of would of because Austin made the business for me i couldn't imagine him not doing what he did best whoopin ass beating up the boss ...WHAT? WWE as a business would have survived but history would now read a whole lot differently again good job

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