The 10th of June 2002, WWE Raw is due to be aired live to the world from the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. Stone Cold Steve Austin is scheduled to go one on one with the hottest up and coming prospect in the wrestling industry Brock Lesnar in a King Of The Ring qualifying match. This match never took place..….
The general conception is that Austin did not want to do the job for Brock which in a small part is true. However this issue stems back serveral months before the incident. In fact it was prior to Wrestlemania 18 in March 2002.
In February 2002 Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall returned to the WWE as the New World Order in time for the showcase of the immortals, Wrestlemania. Hogan took on The Rock after Hogan and Austin couldn’t work out their creative differences, which ironically created one of the most iconic Wrestlemania matches of all time.
This left Stone Cold to take on Scott Hall with Kevin Nash in his corner. Nash was carrying a slight injury at the time of the event & more importantly was put in place should Hall need to be removed from the match at short notice due to personal issues. Nash was the ideal guy to slide right in should he need too.
Austin had no personal issue with Scott Hall but had an issue from a creative perspective. He felt that with Hall only being in the WWE for a month it wasn’t long enough to bring him up Austin’s level. Ironically the original decision was for Scott Hall to win the match with interference from the newest member of the n.W.o, X-Pac. This was changed after WWE Creative asked Vince McMahon to reconsider the decision following a poor outing from Hall in the main event on the 11th March episode of Raw. Vince actually agreed to change the finish to an Austin win but did not tell Austin, Hall, Nash or X-Pac…..
Hall spent the evening before Wrestlemania 18 drinking with fans & turned up to Wrestlemania 18 with a hangover. Austin was fuming & demanded that the finish to the match be changed, which it already had been. Vince had made Austin think that he had influenced the change to the finish of the match…. After Wrestlemania Austin no showed the following 2 shows and thought a better use of his time would be to go home.
Austin would be invited as a guest on the 31st May episode of WWE Byte This and ended up airing his grievances with the company on air which included the following quotes
- “The bottom line is everything sucks. I’m not happy with the way Stone Cold Steve Austin is going”
- “The writing has been pretty substandard. I’ll go one better and say its been Piss Poor”
- “I Guess it could have been a hell of a lot better creatively. It’s been pretty sh*tty, I wasn’t happy before Wrestlemania 18 & I wasn’t happy after Wrestlemania 18
WWE management proposed to Austin on Sunday 9th June 2002 that he loses to Brock Lesnar in an unadvertised King Of The Ring qualifying match. Austin did not agree with the fact that they were using his career reputation that he had spent years building up for a throwaway Raw match to try and pop the ratings. He thought this was a bad decision by creative and was covering for poor story writing in recent months. Austin felt that this is a match that should have been built up to, not a match given away on Raw for free.
Austin flew into Atlanta on the 10th June but stormed out of the Philips Arena, heading back to the airport to fly home.
In His Biography he would go on to say “I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin, I’ve drawn more money than anyone in this business. I’ve reportedly sold more merchandise than anyone in this business, I’ve sold more PPV’s than anyone in this business so Stone Cold is not the first one in line to do a job to Brock Lesnar. I had no problem putting him over but I should have been the last in line not the first. It made no sense to me. I thought it was poor planning.”
Vince & JR weren’t in the Philips Arena when Austin walked out. Once they found out JR called Austin several times, leaving several messages. By the time JR got through to Austin he was already boarding the plane home. RAW had to be re-written on the go.
On the 13th June 2002 WWE.com (oh the early days of the internet) report “On Monday June 10th 2002 Stone Cold Steve Austin again failed to appear for the scheduled Raw in Atlanta instead choosing to return home to San Antonio without notice and without company approval. Although Steve was unhappy with his characters creative direction, Steve made the personal and unprofessional decision not to report to work and address his concerns, therefore Stone Cold Steve Austin is no longer an active member or WWE’s talent roster”
On the same day Vince & JR recorded a segment for WWE Confidential saying that Austin was not welcome back to the WWE. Commenting that “It was impossible to build storylines around a character that never shows up”. During this show Vince came up with the infamous line “Steve Austin took his ball and went home”
I’m glad that Austin got to return in 2003 and have his final marquee match against The Rock at Wrestlemania 19. It was the least he deserved after carrying the company through the through its toughest period in history.
Should Austin have handled his business a bit smarter? Probably yes but I think he’ll be the first person to admit that. Having said that, I do agree with Austin. Why give away a match against Brock with no build up. The could have built a story round the hungry young lion taking over the pride making a Brock a huge deal in his early career