World Wrestling Entertainment hasn’t always been known for safety. It has often been far from it, in fact, but the latest episode of the Steve Austin Show, wrestling legend and WWE Hall-of-Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s podcast, revealed a gimmick that almost killed him before he ever made it to the ring.
During the 90s, when the WWE (then WWF) was in full-scale conflict with rival wrestling promotion WCW, the whole angle turned towards who could put on the better show and pull the most viewers. During this time, known as the Monday Night Wars and often referred to as the “Attitude Era” of WWE, stars like Steve Austin were the main attraction and the promotion reached for some of the more ridiculous of any gimmick it could capitalize on. According to a report on Sportskeeda, Steve Austin’s latest podcast episode speaks to one gimmick in which he was to drive a monster truck over fellow WWE Superstar and then-rival “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson’s car before a confrontation on the April 19, 1999 taping of RAW.
“So there we are, we go live. I get my cue and off I go running up and down that car, crushing the s*** out of it. Then there’s going to be a deal where I drive the truck into the arena. So I go into the back door of the arena and I’m in a holding room with a couple of curtains in front of me. The monster truck was loud as f*** and that 1800 horsepower motor is churning out exhaust fumes.”
In the podcast, Austin explains that he was parked near the arena and positioned in a room where he was to appear following a three-minute commercial break. During this time, the engine of the monster truck was left running and exhaust fumes from the truck began to fill the room in which he was positioned.
“the whole time the people back home are watching commercials, I’m in a room, inside a truck, breathing methanol/alcohol fumes,” Austin explains. “if they hadn’t of cued me when they did- I was about to die.”
Often considered one of the more over-the-top stunts among many in Steve Austin’s career, it also could have been the most dire. Austin claims the gold-painted Lincoln Town Car that was destroyed for the stunt was an actual $30,000 showroom floor model Vince McMahon ordered purchased that night for authenticity’s sake. It goes to show just how far Vince was willing to go to push the limits of his product when its dominance was challenged, but the lavish stunt almost had consequences far more serious than the destruction of a fancy car. The story in Austin’s recent podcast is also one of a few where improper preparation almost (or did) turn a bit into a death sentence.
Infamous stories inside and outside the ring mark the WWE’s history in this regard. Many will remember Undertaker versus Mick Foley (then Mankind) in the first Hell in a Cell cage match on June 28, 1998, in which the Undertaker chokeslammed Foley on top of the cage and the cage gave way, causing Foley to hit the ring below. Unscripted and unexpected, Taker and Foley were both shocked by the events and Foley would later describe it in a memoir as the best and worst chokeslam he had ever taken, yet they managed to finish the match.
Likewise, Steve Austin’s recent podcast draws to mind the tragic events surrounding the death of Owen Hart in Kansas City’s Kemper Arena during a pay-per-view taping on May 23 in 1999. Scripted to zipline down to the ring on a harness, the release on the harness was accidentally triggered causing Hart to fall 78 feet and hit the top rope of the ring, killing him almost instantly.
The stunt spoken about on Steve Austin’s podcast seems far less physically demanding compared to some of these other costly gimmicks, yet the danger was very real. We often hear about real injuries, botched moves, formerly dangerous practices, and other troubling stories out of the WWE from previous decades, but Austin’s podcast speaks to how a lack of planning and a simple misstep in calculations almost forced a dire price for WWE and Austin. The business is certainly a different and safer landscape than it was in previous decades, but there’s certainly no way to take all the danger out of the situation and account for every unfortunate and unforeseen possibility even now.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]