Austin vs. McMahon
1997 - Present
Written by Canadian Bulldog
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon is one of the most iconic rivalries wrestling has ever seen... partly because of great timing, and partly because of what it meant to the industry.
In 1997, wrestling was ready for a major overhaul, and with the WWF losing to WCW, the ball was clearly in McMahon's court to make a move. With Austin beginning to hear cheers everywhere he went, the company needed to accelerate his journey to the top - and what better way to do that than by involving arguably the biggest heel in wrestling history?
Austin stunning McMahon on the September 22, 1997 edition of Raw was more than just a typical TV angle - it was a sea change in terms of the WWE's willingness to blur reality and fiction. By laying his hands on the company's real-life owner, WWE was able to separate Austin from the previous corporate-endorsed champions of the past (e.g. Hulk Hogan, Diesel, etc.).
And while the storyline slowed down for a couple of months while the WWF dealt with the fallout of infamous The Montreal Screwjob, things came back in a big way by early 1998.
Austin's in-ring brawl with Mike Tyson was not only a huge event in and of itself, it also further Stone Cold's issue with Vince McMahon, who claimed Austin had purposely ruined the big, money-making announcement that Tyson would appear at WrestleMania XIV. As we got closer to the big event... McMahon became uncharacteristically biased against Stone Cold, suggesting he wouldn't necessarily be the best face of the company.
Following WrestleMania, Austin was then said face of the company, thumbing his nose and raising his middle finger in the face of tradition. McMahon took his disdain further than ever before, actively campaigning against the biggest babyface in the company and playing the evil and scheming character that many fans thought he really was behind the scenes.
This led to some of the most compelling storytelling in wrestling history, as Austin became more indignant as McMahon became more evil and scheming. By the time WrestleMania XV rolled around, McMahon had assembled an entire army of villains to do his bidding... and Austin had turned back all of their challenges. The world was even given an actual Austin-McMahon match... something that had been seen as impossible even a year earlier given the Chairman wasn't actually, you know, a wrestler.
To their immense credit, Austin vs. McMahon persisted through the entire Attitude Era, finding new twists and turns to always keep it interesting. They even paired up for the better part of a year during Austin's ill-advised heel turn... and of course that ended up with McMahon eating a stunner.
Throughout the Ruthless Aggression Era, Austin would return every once in a while, specifically to make The Boss' life miserable. He would take special referee assignments, assist other wrestlers and interrupt interviews, usually with the expressed purpose of making McMahon's life a living hell..
The rivalry even started up again as recently as 2022 (more than two decades after the opening salvo) when Austin stunned Vinnie Mac at WrestleMania XXXVII for old times' sake.