WWE – The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin – DVD Review

World Wrestling Entertainment / 2008 / 540 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: February 12, 2008
List Price: $34.95 [Buy it at Amazon.com]


World Wrestling Entertainment knows how to create stars. Some have been nurtured in farm league-type promotions like Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) or the United States Wrestling Association (USWA). Brock Lesnar gained seasoning in Ohio, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson wrestling under the name Flex Kavana competed in Jerry Lawler’s Memphis promotion. But WWE has also excelled in taking wrestlers that have been fired or released, retooling them and making them marketable commodities. There is no formula for this kind of success. The writers can feed the talent material, but it is up to them to entertain and captivate.

Like that big-hair glam metal band Cinderella and its hit song “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone),” Vince McMahon made millions off of wrestlers that World Championship Wrestling (WCW) thought were easily expendable. At WCW’s Great American Bash 1990, U.S. Champ Lex Luger tangled with Mark Callous. Later that same year, at the fourth annual Survivor Series, Callous made his debut as The Undertaker. And he’s been the “dead man” for seventeen-plus years. A few years later, two wrestlers by the ring names “Vinnie Vegas” and “The Diamond Studd” became WWF stars “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel (real name Kevin Nash) and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall). In 1994, Jean Paul Levesque lost to “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright at Starrcade. After getting his walking papers because WCW didn’t see potential in him as a singles competitor, he found a home in Stamford, Connecticut as Hunter Hearst Helmsley (a.k.a. Triple H).

Those who follow this sports-entertainment spectacle know of the amazing accomplishments these men have had. But the success they have achieved is incomparable to the greatest WCW castoff turned WWE icon: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The antithesis of your typical “babyface” (good guy/hero) character, Steve Austin wasn’t always “Stone Cold.” He tried to break into wrestling as Steve Williams, but “Dr. Death” had the market cornered with that name so a promoter gave him the moniker Steve Austin. Okay, so he shares his name with a character made famous by Lee Majors on The Six-Million Dollar Man. Funny it is, then, that the “Million-Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase was his manager when he entered the World Wrestling Federation in 1995 and competed as “The Ringmaster.” Think Val Kilmer in Top Gun – only he wrestles with no mistakes.

The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin I assumed was going to be the definitive Stone Cold release; however, it seems more like a companion to The Stone Cold Truth, which was released in February 2004. That DVD had a retrospective feature on the “Texas Rattlesnake” plus a few extra matches and vignettes. With six Steve Austin DVD releases already (some of which are out of print) – Hell Yeah, Austin 3:16, Austin vs. McMahon, ‘Cause Stone Cold Said So, Stone Cold Steve Austin: What? and The Stone Cold Truth – I had a feeling that certain Austin moments could be omitted, mainly because they are available on other WWE DVD releases. But we do get some interesting odds and ends.

Considering that this title is supposed to be about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and not about him being “Stunning,” little time is spent on his stints in WCW and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). For this three-disc digipak release, we get comments from Austin combined with classic matches and interview segments. For WCW, his stint as TV champion is overlooked as we go straight to his teaming with Brian Pillman. Together as The Hollywood Blondes they achieved as a thrown-together team. Their best feud was against the team of Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and Shane Douglas. Unfortunately, the only Hollywood Blondes match we get is a Steel Cage encounter against Dos Hombres (Steamboat and Tom Zenk – replacing Douglas) from Slamboree 1993, and that match is already a part of the Brian Pillman DVD.

For his singles career, we get the Battle of the Blondes – his grudge match with Pillman at Clash of the Champions XXV – and his United States Championship match against Steamboat from Clash at the Champions XXVII.

Once Eric Bischoff gave Austin his walking papers over the phone, Paul Heyman with ECW came a calling. Heyman is somewhat instrumental in bringing the “Stone Cold” character to fruition. In ECW, Austin did a series of promos where he spoofed the likes of Hulk Hogan and Bischoff, and as “Superstar Steve” he tried to prove just why he was better than everyone in the ECW locker room.

In less than six months, Austin was in the World Wrestling Federation as “The Ringmaster.” Austin will be the first to admit that the gimmick sucked, but it did give him his first memorable feud in the promotion. With Savio Vega. In May of 1996 they had a Caribbean Strap Match at the In Your House: Beware of Dog PPV. Because of power failure, which affected most of the PPV, a rematch was booked two nights later. This match at Beware of Dog 2 is one of the forgotten gems of the In Your House pay-per-views, and goes with other forgotten classics like Bret Hart vs. Jean Pierre Lafite and Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart.

Steve Austin wasn’t supposed to win the King of the Ring tournament that June – supposedly it was to be Hunter Hearst Helmsley. But because of politics, Austin got the call. It was a blessing in disguise as Austin, who suffered a busted mouth earlier in the evening, came back to win the tournament and delivered a promo that would define his transition from The Ringmaster to Stone Cold. “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.” And for Raw the next night, fans adorned the arena with Stone Cold and Austin 3:16 signs.

Over the next five years, the legend of Steve Austin would re-write itself. From his feud with Bret Hart and the Hart Family to Mr. McMahon (which defined the “Attitude” Era and was instrumental in WWF winning the Monday Night Wars against WCW), Austin had great encounters with a number of different competitors.

Just take a look at the remaining matches in this collection:

Disc 1

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “Hit Man” Hart at Survivor Series 1996 – About time this match got a release on DVD. Just a great match between two of the best. While their submission match at WrestleMania 13 was great in defining their blood feud, it was this match that laid the foundation and showed that Austin could match Hart hold for hold. Well, except when it comes to sleeper holds.

Disc 2

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker at A Cold Day in Hell (WWE Championship match) – I didn’t like this match nearly as much as some of their other encounters, but with Hart and Michaels injured, McMahon wanted to do a program with two of his biggest stars at the moment. An okay match that is highlighted with a Hart Foundation gangland attack on both Austin and The Undertaker.

Stone Cold Steve Austin & Shawn Michaels vs. Owen Hart & The British Bulldog from Raw, 5/22/97 (Tag Team Championship match) – Very good TV match with the makeshift team of Austin and HBK against the established tandem of Hart and Davey Boy Smith. The outcome of this match and the succeeding storyline would predate Matt Hardy/M.V.P. for nearly a decade.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels at King of the Ring 1997 – Much better than their championship match at WrestleMania XIV, mainly because Michaels wasn’t working with a severe injury. Austin sums it up best that when wrestling with Michaels: “You better pack a sack lunch” as Michaels is the type of wrestler that makes few mistakes, if any, inside the squared circle. Surprisingly, Austin admits that their best matches against one another were at house shows where there were no television cameras. Man, if only we could get some handheld footage.

Stone Cold Steve Austin & Dude Love vs. Owen Hart & British Bulldog from Raw, 7/14/97 (Tag Team Championship match)

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997 (Intercontinental Championship match) – this is the infamous match in which Austin suffered an Axial Load injury to his neck. For about 90 seconds Austin didn’t have any movement in his extremities. The ending of the match had to be a spur of the moment decision as Austin manages enough strength to do a poor roll-up pinfall to win the title.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Dude Love at Unforgiven 1998 (WWE Championship match) – the feud with Dude Love in part stemmed from Austin not wanting to be Vince McMahon’s corporate champion. As his first program after winning the heavyweight title, Mick Foley proved to be the perfect villain. On the mike or in the ring, Foley was a worthy adversary. Granted this match isn’t nearly as good as their rematch a month later at Over the Edge, but it still remains the best match on the PPV card.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane at King of the Ring 1998 (First-Blood Match for WWE Championship)

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane from Raw, 6/29/98 (WWE Championship match)

Disc 3

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at Backlash 1999 (No Holds Barred Match for WWE Championship) – Better than their WrestleMania XV championship match. Austin was going through some personal stuff and couldn’t deliver the performance he had wanted to give at WWE’s most-heralded event. Heck, he even forgot his famous black vest in San Antonio and had to come to the ring in a Stone Cold T-shirt.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Eddie Guerrero from SmackDown, 11/16/00 – Austin’s return match from being out of action for nearly a year.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H at Survivor Series 2000 – Austin considers Triple H to be a ring general, and like Michaels he also wants to have the best match on the card. Unfortunately, Austin was still suffering from ring rust, so this match did not reach the potential it could have.

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H at No Way Out 2001 (Three Stages of Hell match)
– Now we are talking. This is without a doubt the best one-on-one match WWE put on for all of 2001. Other matches came close, like Chris Jericho vs. The Rock at No Mercy 2001 and Austin’s matches against The Rock (at WrestleMania X-7) and Kurt Angle (at SummerSlam 2001). Here we get a two-out-of-three falls match with three different stipulations. The first fall is a straight up wrestling match. The second fall was a street fight. And the last fall would be a steel cage match. The way the match progresses you figure it could only go a certain way, but they flip things around. I mean Triple H actually besting one of the best brawlers in a street fight? Come on, really?

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-7 (No Disqualification match for WWE Championship) – Electrifying. Simply put. Regarded by many as the best booked Mania of all-time, the Houston Astrodome was the venue that saw action like the second TLC match, The Undertaker (a Houston native) continuing his streak of WrestleMania dominance, and of course this WWE Championship match. Needing a reboot, the pro-Austin crowd gets the shock of a lifetime. And to steal a famous catchphrase of Vinny Mac: Unbelievable!

Looking at the matches that Steve Austin personally picked, there are some omissions that I wish he had included:

WCW

– Steve Austin vs. Barry Windham (2/3 Match for the WCW TV Title from 04/27/92)
– Any of the other Blondes vs. Steamboat/Douglas matches
– Ric Flair/Arn Anderson vs. Steve Austin/Vader (from WCW Saturday Night, 11/23/93)
– Ric Flair/Steve Austin vs. Sting/Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (from WCW Saturday Night, 8/6/94)

WWF/E

– Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (Submission Match from WrestleMania 13) – can be found on Bret Hart’s The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be DVD release and as part of the WrestleMania Anthology.
– Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (Championship match from WrestleMania XIV) – for historical significance. It is available on the History of the WWE Championship release as well as part of the WrestleMania Anthology.
– Steve Austin vs. Dude Love (Championship match from Over the Edge 1998) – can be found on the Mick Foley: Greatest Hits & Misses DVD.
– Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit (from SmackDown, 5/31/01) – I think we know why this match didn’t make the cut.

The DVD

A/V Quality Control:

We get a full frame 1.33:1 transfer for this release. The biggest hang-up would be the blurred WWF “Attitude” logo that was a staple from the late ‘90s to early ‘00s. It is all over the third disc and in quite a few matches on the second disc. Also, things like Austin’s one-finger salutes are blurred as well.

As for audio, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is serviceable in letting us experience WWE action in the luxury of our own homes. I will point out that there seemed to be some audio fluctuations on the second disc, but it is a minor issue, and in fact could be a problem with my audio setup. (It’s nothing like the audio sync problem found in the Submission Match on the Bret Hart DVD.)

Special Features:

There’s not much in the way of DVD extras, but we do get some special segments and comments. On the first disc, Steve Austin explains the origin of the “Steve Austin” name. There’s also a short, Free-For-All match from the 1996 SummerSlam with him taking on Yokozuna, the former two-time heavyweight champion. Prior to the match, Austin has some kind words to say about Yoko. The last extra on the first disc is an in-ring confrontation between Austin and Terry Funk on Shotgun Saturday Night, the night before Royal Rumble 1997.

On the second disc, Austin comments on what it was like to work with Mr. McMahon and how their feud struck a cord with mainstream audiences.

The last disc, its extras are incorrectly listed on the insert. The insert lists Redneck Triathlon from Badd Blood 2003. In reality, we get the special WrestleMania 21 commercial with Stone Cold as “The Gladiator.” To go with that commercial parody is the special “Behind the Scenes of the WrestleMania Commercial” (from the WWE Experience, 4/10/05). And finally is a segment from Saturday Night’s Main Event, 8/18/07. The big storyline going on is trying to identify Vince McMahon’s bastard son. Let’s just say it would be quite a shame if it turned out Austin had a jackass for a father.

The Inside Pulse:

The greatest non-homegrown talent WWE has ever had, that’s Steve Austin. It’s amazing the legacy he’s carved for himself. Austin will be the first to tell you that he was a mechanic in the ring – a skilled worker who was arguably one of the best brawlers. This collection goes a long way with six matches rating at four stars or better, two of which are absolute wrestling classics. The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin excludes some essential Austin matches, but this is still a nice set for those wanting to see some great action from the Attitude Era. If you are a die-hard Austin fan, chances are you already have all the Austin releases up to this point. So do yourself a favor and pick up this collection. Highly recommended.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
WWE – The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE FEATURE

8
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

3
REPLAY VALUE

8.5
OVERALL
8.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)