Flipping the bird was a calling card for ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin in the Attitude Era, but he was almost stripped of the mannerism.
As one of the most polarising WWE Superstars, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin required something to set him apart from the rest of the roster in an era when everyone had their own unique identity. For ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’, he opted to stick his middle fingers up.
Typically performed before executing a Stone Cold Stunner or while stomping a mudhole, the idiosyncrasy quickly caught on with fans and, alongside D-Generation X’s crotch chop, became the symbol of the Attitude Era.
Despite this, Austin was allegedly asked by Vince McMahon to refrain from doing so. The Attitude Era was a time when close to anything was a possibility in the WWF but for the boss, flipping the bird was a step too far, as Steve Austin told Sportskeeda Wrestling’s Senior Editor, Bill Apter:
“It just turns out that the timing was right when I did it. And they asked me not to do it, but I said, ‘No, I’m gonna do it.’ They wanted me to come up with a whole different hand signal. Vince did, specifically, because Diamond Dallas Page was giving the diamond [hand signal], right? And everybody would go like that [hands raised] with it.
He goes, ‘Can you come up with a different signal that everybody else can do?’ I looked him dead in the eyes and said, ‘No.’ And I kept flying the middle fingers and we kept climbing up, we started whipping their [WCW’s] a** in the ratings, and we had a hell of a crew, and one thing led to another.”
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin would continue giving everyone the middle finger, leading the company to victory in the Monday Night Wars against WCW. ‘The Bionic Redneck’ was a six-time World Champion during this period, ultimately retiring following WrestleMania XIX.
Austin, almost two decades, finally returned to the ring on night one of WrestleMania 38 as he defeated Kevin Owens in a No Holds Barred match. With WWE now in a PG Era, he was reportedly told to keep his middle fingers down, a rule that Austin just about stuck to.