What’s the Story?
On June 10th, 2002 Stone Cold Steve Austin walked out on the WWE after the creative staff asked him to wrestle Brock Lesnar on Monday Night Raw. It’s been fifteen years since that historic moment, and many insiders and fans are still talking about it.
In case you didn’t know...
Fifteen years ago, WWE creative met with Stone Cold Steve Austin to propose a match between him and Brock Lesnar, who was touted to be the next big thing in WWE. It’s unknown what was said but talks were heated and Austin ended up going home two hours before Raw went on air. WWE responded by essentially burying their Attitude Era star, pulling all SCSA merchandise and taking him off of the opening of Raw.
Pro Wrestling Torch broke the story back then:
McMahon was right, as it would take almost a whole year before Austin would step foot in a WWE ring again, in February of 2003. It was a difficult point in WWE history, with the creative staff having to rewrite more than a fourth of Raw mere hours before they started live.
The heart of the matter
Austin’s sudden departure left a lot of people, fans, wrestlers, and management alike, heartbroken and frustrated. Even fifteen years later, we are still learning about the immediate responses the men felt in the back on that fateful day.
Bruce Prichard on his podcast, “Something To Wrestle With,” discussed Austin’s walkout and also mentioned two high-profile names and what they felt during that time.
“The Undertaker was pissed off. I think everybody was just pissed off and upset cause, you know. They felt like he walked out on them.”
“Brock had no idea of the proposed match or that he was supposed to go over Steve or anything. So, I don’t know if Brock had any reaction whatsoever because it never got to that point with him. They had pitched Steve, and Vince was still going back and forth with Steve at that point.
“I’m sure Paul probably let Brock know what the proposed match was, but no I don’t think Brock was anywhere in a point of; I don’t wanna say not caring one way or another but, it wasn’t to that point for it to matter.”
Parallels from history
Frustrated walkouts are part of the business. Austin leaving wasn’t the first time something like that happened, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. Many of us still remember the most recent walkout in the WWE, when CM Punk left WWE a few hours before Raw in January of 2014.
After not showing up in the next Smackdown taping, WWE removed Punk from all advertising and promotional videos. He would silently be moved to the Alumni section of WWE.com after his contract expired in July.
Walkouts were somewhat common during the 90s, when frustrated workers would leave the, then, WWF for WCW. Lex Luger, Rick Rude, Macho Man Randy Savage were among many talents to jump ship without any warning.
Fifteen years have passed since that day, and many people are split down the middle on whether or not it was the right move to make. On one hand, to leave the entire company and the road family like that seems like an extremely selfish move. On the other hand, some agree that Austin being fed to Lesnar on RAW would have been, at least, a waste of a PPV selling match.
Why give Stone Cold vs Lesnar away for free when you could put that on Summerslam or Wrestlemania? Seems like they might have lost money with that move. I also think it would be an odd move to let Lesnar break Austin’s legacy by mowing through him like he had been doing with other talents, especially if it were on RAW.
However, the way he left was very unprofessional. Austin has come out publically about the incident, claiming that he felt remorse for leaving the way he did, but also feeling like it was a hill worth dying on.
Whether that’s true is up to him. Luckily Austin and the WWE were able to move past the incident, and he now he’s sitting pretty with a Hall of Fame ring on his finger and a few special appearances on the WWE Network a year.