Steve Austin turned heel and joined forces with Vince McMahon, and Jim Ross revealed he was against the booking decision. WrestleMania 17 was held at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, and Steve Austin - a famous Texan - was naturally the overwhelming fan favorite heading into the match.
The Rock was heavily booed during the match, and Jim Ross was not surprised as Steve Austin was a bonafide legend in Texas.
"You've got the homegrown Texas product wrestling in his "home market" just down the road he grew up in Edna, advertised from Victoria. We had told that story. It was like a homecoming for the champion or for the challenger. So, who do you think they are going to cheer?"
Jim Ross explained that Houston fans were not necessarily angry at The Rock as they just chose to get behind Austin, their hometown hero. Jim Ross said that Austin helped WWE draw a record-breaking turnout at the Astrodome, and having him turn heel didn't make any sense.
"It wasn't that they were angry at Rock, you've got a Texas legend here, who is coming back and just drew the biggest house in Astrodome history over any event, and we're going to turn him heel."
Jim Ross explains why WWE's WrestleMania 17 plan was never going to work
Jim Ross used an interesting analogy to get his point across. The veteran announcer said that Austin turning heel was like a hypothetical scenario in which the iconic John Wayne was being portrayed as a Nazi in a war movie.
Jim Ross revealed that he even expressed his views to the WWE management and was told to shut up.
"As I've used this analogy before, to me, it was like making John Wayne, in one of his war movies, a Nazi. It didn't work. It was never going to work. Anybody who thinks, 'Well, we might have been able to get it over if we would have done...no! You tell me what you would have done to get it over, and I'd love to know that. I just don't think it was possible, and I expressed myself and was told to shut up for more than one occasion."
WWE officials were adamant about turning Austin heel, and the company specifically told Jim Ross to ditch the idea of Stone Cold continuing as a babyface. Jim Ross mentioned that the commentary team also had to be mindful about how they called the match.
The announcers didn't want to give away the forthcoming swerve of Austin's heel turn, and they chose to play off the live audience. The commentators were careful, as the plan was not to portray The Rock as a heel in the match.
"We're going that way; leave it alone. Okay. So, you've got to do the commentary sensitively based on what you're hearing and not make Rock a heel. That was a key thing, not making Rock a heel because we didn't want to expose what our creative is going to be with Austin. We couldn't make Steve force-feed him as a babyface. Just let the thing evolve. Let it go, and play off the audience. What are they buying, and what are those two guys selling? So, it was an interesting balance that we were walking."
What do you think about Steve Austin's memorable heel turn from WrestleMania 17? Was it the right call from the WWE?
Please credit Grilling JR and give a H/T to Sportskeeda Wrestling for the transcription if you use quotes from this article.