The biggest star in wrestling to come out of the Monday Night Wars was Stone Cold Steve Austin. Born Steve Williams in Victoria Texas, Williams wrestled under the name “Stunning Steve Austin” for a stint in WCW before the Monday Night Wars began. A rising midcard talent, Austin had ideas about working with Hogan. He pitched to Bischoff ideas of Austin being a long lost relative, and going his own hulk like gimmick of Steve 0-Mania. Bischoff had Hogan working with Ric Flair, WCW’s long time top star, and dismissed Austin’s idea. After an injury in Japan, he was fired over the telephone. Feeling slighted by the company, Steve accepted an offer from ECW’s Paul Heymen, who hired Steve knowing he couldn’t wrestle, but put him on the mic to cut promos.
ECW’s Hardcore #127 was Steve Austin’s first appearance at ECW. He was featured in a backstage skit mimicking Hulk Hogan while wearing a yellow shit. He then breaks character saying “this lame ass shit” won’t get the job done.
At the time the ECW champion was the Sandman, who came to the ring drinking beer, something Austin would borrow from in his later WWF run. In a match that aired on 9/23/1996 from the Sportsland Cafe in Middltown NY, the Sandman defended his title against Mikey Whipwreck. Before the match Austin came to the ring saying “This place is a complete shit hole. I’m (Bleeped) horrified to be here. World Championship Wrestling wouldn’t take a (Bleep) in this building, much less book a god dam wrestling match here. (At this point the crowd chants ”Bischoff sucks.”) The fact of the matter is I appreciate the fact you (The Sandman) had to whip somebody’s ass, you had to kick somebody’s ass, not lick it, to get a god dam championship belt. Down in Atlanta you couldn’t get shit because I didn’t operate the right way.” Austin then wishes the Sandman luck, “But you’re name’s not Hogan so I can whip your ______ ass. Good luck.”
The following week, on October first, Hardcore TV opened with an Austin promo. He talks about how before Bischoff fired him Austin suggested programs with Sting, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Hogan, and even putting his old tag team the Hollywood Blondes back together. Without saying his name Austin mocks Dusty Rhodes, explaining how Austin was told to just wait, and soon he’ll get the US title, then get a world title shot. “All that _____ never happened.” Austin continues “The politics in WCW kept the biggest potential superstar in wrestling on the god dam ground.” He goes on about how he ate garbage in WCW, but stayed for Ted Turner’s checks. His former “Stunning Steve” gimmick he “tossed it out the window.” He was now in ECW, where Hogan, Savage, Dusty Rhodes, and Bischoff aren’t around to hold him down.
The following week Sandman again retained against Whipwreck, before which Austin comes out again. Sandman canes him, calling him a Hulk Hogan wanna be.
The 10/31 Hardcore TV opens with Austin dressed like Bischoff, wearing a suit jacket and a black wig, but without pants. He refers to his show as “Monday Nyquil where the big boys play with each other.” (Later the 12/5 episode would open with the graphic “Where the big boys don’t play, they fight.”) and pretends to fires people over the phone “I’m not very brave man, and that’s the bottom line.” He talks about giving away results but doesn’t duplicate a bottle of Jeritol on a pole match. He refers to the old talent “trying to keep their dentures in” and finally “If I don’t put you to sleep, the matches probably will.”
The wrestling in this episode includes a ladder match between the Sandman and Whipwreck. Austin comes out again complaining that with his long blond hair fans called him a Hogan wanna be. He’d been crapped on for four years and deserves a break. He mocks the Sandman for smoking and drinking, (ironic in hindsight), and calls both Whipwreck and the Sandman “jabronies,” a term The Rock would popularize years later. Austin leaves and Whipwreck becomes the new ECW champion. The night ends with the locker room hoisting the new champion on their shoulders.
Weeks later on 11/21 Austin beats up the Sandman on the way out to a rematch with Whipwreck. Austin gives him the Stun Gun (His signature move he used as “Stunning Steve Austin” in WCW.) Joey Styles remarks that he’s not sure if it’s still called that now. It’s noted that in WCW Austin had the Tag, TV, and US title belts, but never the World title. Styles says “Even Ric Flair wouldn’t wrestle Steve Austin.” Steve, still carrying his anger at WCW, says that Mikey’s name tonight is Eric Bischoff. The fans chant Hogan to get at Austin, and Austin obliges the crowd by giving the Hogan big boot and leg drop. Mikey kicks out however, as Styles says “That lame ass crap aint gonna get it done here.” While on commentary Joey also calls Austin “Stevester” to Hogan’s “Hulkster.” Mikey later kicks out of the Stun Gun and eventually wins the match.
Other notes on that show were the last ECW match for the tag team Public Enemy, consisting of Rocco Roc and Johnny Grunge. The crowd gave them “Please don’t go” chants, and Styles said that both WCW and WWF were calling them. Joey referred to both organizations as “much easier competition.” Also episode ended with the return of Sabu.
ECW’s special event, December to Dismember (12/9), had a triangle match between Austin, Whipwreck, and the Sandman. Austin came to the ring with a crue cut, a look he would keep the rest of his career. The fans chanted “Where’s your hair.” During the match Steve pinned Mikey after hitting the Stun Gun. Austin then did the Hogan putting his hand up to his ear bit, and mocked how the Sandman drinking beer (which again is ironic looking back on it).
Sandman wins the match. His manager is Woman, (Nancy Sullivan), who also managed 2 Cold Scorpio, the ECW Television Champion, and 2 Cold and Sandman were also the ECW Tag Team champions. At this event it is noted that Woman now manages all three ECW titles. Woman would soon sign with WCW. On the 12/24 episode the ECW hotline is plugged to get news on the controversy of Woman going to WCW. Woman was said to have denied this, but the apparently Pittsburgh Post Gasette journalist Mark Madden reported that then WCW champ Macho Man Randy Savage wanted her services. Woman was said to have denied this, but she did end up going to WCW the following year.
December 19th was the last appearance of Austin in ECW. He cuts a promo where he mockingly calls Biscoff “One of the best announcers in the sport.” He sarcastically begs Bischoff for his job back and goes on about how he’s better than everyone in ECW and better than the people that buy tickets and watch it on TV. uses the phrase “that’s the bottom line.” He talks about how during his last match people were chanting Hogan, Goldust, and Forest Gump, and he ends with saying he’s taking some time off.
Austin would go on to the WWF the following year under the Ringmaster gimmick, but soon would develop the Stone Cold Steve Austin persona and become one of the biggest superstars in the history of the business. Undoubtedly the Stone Cold character had it’s roots in ECW. That, if nothing else, will forever cement ECW’s role in the Monday Night Wars.