Behind every good idea is a great mind, as Kevin Kelly – the inventor of the legendary ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Mr McMahon rivalry – proves single-handedly!
The Attitude Era was, for many fans, the best period of their wrestling fandom. One of the leading factors behind this was the runaway success of the famed ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Mr McMahon feud.
When you think of this specific era, both Austin and McMahon are two faces who immediately spring to mind. They construed one of the greatest stories ever told in and around the squared circle, winning Feud of the Year awards from both the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and Pro Wrestling Illustrated.
One of the lesser-known facts surrounding the rivalry was its originator, that being Kevin Kelly! Kelly joined All Elite Wrestling’s Colt Cabana on the latest Art of Wrestling to discuss how his idea came to life:
“Vince Russo was sort of stuck for a big moment, a match or whatever it was for the upcoming week’s Raw. And it was the time that Steve Austin had won the belt from Shawn [Michaels] and Vince was doing the – you know he wanted a corporate champion. When a new champion was crowned, the next Raw show Vince would present the belt to the new champion and the champion cuts a promo.
Well, this time, with Steve, he wore the belt down to ringside, Vince did. And I came up with the idea while Vince Russo and I were at lunch at A&W Root Beer in the Stamford mall to – Steve Austin is annoyed Vince McMahon wore the belt and [Austin says], ‘McMahon keeps talking about a corporate champion, what you’re really talking about is you, Vince.”
Kelly continued, explaining how Dude Love got involved in the early arc of the story:
“Well, I’m gonna give you a shot and we can do this the easy way or the hard way. Easy way is you face me in the main event tonight for the WWF Championship, hard way is I beat your ass right here, right now. And Vince McMahon vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin is the main event, knowing they wanted to get to Dude Love [as Austin’s next challenger].
Dude Love comes down, ‘Whoa brothers, peace and love, peace and love,’ and he turns on Steve. Vince Russo was like ‘holy sh*t, that’s great,’ and we went back to the office and I say, ‘What are you gonna do?’ and he says ‘I’m gonna try and get in with Vince [McMahon] and talk to him about it’. McMahon finally called him up to the office, he sat down with Vince Russo, Russo came back down twenty minutes later, [I asked him] ‘How’d it go?’ ‘He went for it, holy sh*t!’”
Together, Steve Austin and Mr McMahon created pro wrestling magic, with their official rivalry officially coming to a close as they shook hands at the conclusion of WrestleMania X-Seven. They have, however, remained on-again, off-again rivals ever since.
They last shared a ring together on night two of WrestleMania, as Steve Austin performed Stunners on McMahon, as well as his on-screen protege Theory. ‘The Bionic Redneck’ had returned to the ring for one last match the night before, pinning Kevin Owens.
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