Steve Austin (born Steven James Anderson; December 18, 1964, later and formerly Steven James Williams), better known by his ring name "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, is an American actor, retired professional wrestler, and WWE Hall of Famer. After debuting in 1989, Austin wrestled for promotions such as World Championship Wrestling, Extreme Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment. He is often regarded as one of the most popular superstars of all time and even regarded by some as the biggest wrestling star in the history of the WWE and has become well known for his disrespectful, beer drinking, tough guy attitude and his defiance of Mr. McMahon. Austin was forced to retire from the ring in 2003 due to a variety of chronic injuries.
Professional wrestling career
In late 1995, Austin joined the WWF after Kevin Nash and Jim Ross helped convince WWE's owner Vince McMahon to hire him. Initially, Austin wrestled as "The Ringmaster" and was managed by Ted DiBiase, who awarded him with the Million Dollar Championship. He defeated Savio Vega at in his first WrestleMania appearance, at WrestleMania XII. During this time, Austin shaved his head bald and came to be known as "The Ringmaster" Steve Austin; the prefix would soon be disbanded and he would simply perform under his own name. At In Your House: Beware of Dog, Austin lost a "Caribbean Strap match" to Vega. In accordance to the pre-match stipulations, DiBiase was forced to leave the WWF, giving Austin the opportunity to forge his own path. Austin later told announcer Dok Hendrix that he had purposely lost the match in order to rid himself of DiBiase. Austin took on the new moniker of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.
Austin's genuine rise to superstardom began at the 1996 King of the Ring. Austin began using his trademark finishing maneuver, the Stone Cold Stunner; with this new technique, he won the King of the Ring tournament. After defeating Marc Mero in the semi-finals, Austin defeated Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the finals. At the time, Roberts was portraying a born-again Christian, so after the match, Austin cut a now famous promo during his coronation, telling Roberts,"You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere! Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!" "Austin 3:16" ultimately became one of the most popular catch phrases in wrestling history, and subsequently the slogan became one of the best-selling t-shirts in WWE merchandise history. It is also credited as the iconic moment that began the WWF's "Attitude Era", along with the Montreal Screwjob.
Austin spoke about Bret Hart constantly and taunted him relentlessly. Hart finally accepted Austin's challenge and returned to the WWF in October 1996. At Survivor Series, in a match to determine the number-one contender to the WWF Championship, Hart pinned Austin in a match which helped create the foundations for the eventual year-long feud between the two. The match came hot on the heels of an incident broadcast live on Raw, which saw Austin "break into" Brian Pillman's house, with Pillman holding a gun. During the 1997 Royal Rumble match, Austin was originally eliminated by Bret Hart, but the officials did not see it, and he snuck back into the ring and eliminated Hart by throwing him over the ropes, winning the match himself. This led to the first-ever pay-per-view main event of Austin's WWF career at In Your House 13: Final Four, after Shawn Michaels suffered a knee injury and left the WWF Championship suddenly vacant. Austin was eliminated early from the four-way match at In Your House 13 for the title after injuring his own knee, but was involved in the finish which saw Hart win his fourth WWF Championship, which he lost the next night on Raw to Sycho Sid due to Austin's interference, continuing his feud with Hart. At WrestleMania 13, Hart defeated Austin in a 'Submission' match with Ken Shamrock as a special referee. During the match, Austin had been cut and was bleeding profusely from his face, but he still refused to tap out when Hart locked in his Sharpshooter. Austin finally passed out from blood loss, still held in the Sharpshooter, and lost the match. Hart, after the bell, continued to assault Austin, who despite his wounds refused any assistance back to the locker room, thus turning Hart heel and Austin babyface in a rare double-turn. Austin eventually got his revenge on Hart in the main event of In Your House 14: Revenge of the 'Taker, in a match to determine the number-one contender to The Undertaker's WWF Championship. Austin won when Hart was disqualified due to assistance from The British Bulldog, earning him a title match against The Undertaker at In Your House 15: A Cold Day In Hell. Austin faced Hart once again in a street fight on the April 21 episode of Raw, injuring his opponent's leg with a steel chair during the bout. The match was ultimately awarded to Austin when Hart refused to tap out of the Sharpshooter. He proceeded to beat Hart while on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance. At A Cold Day In Hell, Austin had The Undertaker down with the Stunner, but while distracted with a timely interference by Brian Pillman, Undertaker nailed Austin with a Tombstone Piledriver and achieved the victory.
During this time, Austin found a way to win the WWF Tag Team Championship on two separate occasions. On May 25, 1997, Austin and Shawn Michaels defeated Owen Hart and The British Bulldog for the title. They held the title until July 14, before Michaels was forced to vacate due to an injury. That same night a tournament was held to determine who would face Austin and a partner of his choosing for the vacant championship. Hart and Bulldog won the tournament, with Austin refusing to pick a partner and choosing to wrestle the former tag team champions by himself. Late in the match, a debuting Dude Love came out to offer assistance and Austin became a two-time tag team champion. Austin continued his feud with the Hart family, becoming embroiled in a heated rivalry with Owen Hart, who pinned a distracted Austin and secured victory for The Hart Foundation in the ten-man Tag Team match main event of In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede, where Austin was partnered with Ken Shamrock, Goldust, and The Legion of Doom.
At SummerSlam, Austin and Owen Hart faced each other with Hart's Intercontinental Championship on the line and an added stipulation that Austin would have to kiss Hart's buttocks if he lost. During the match Hart botched a piledriver and dropped Austin on his head, resulting in a legitimate broken neck and temporary paralysis for Austin. As Hart stalled by baiting the audience, Austin managed to crawl over and pin Hart using a roll-up to win the Intercontinental Championship. A visibly injured and dazed Austin was helped to his feet by a number of referees and led to the back. Due to the severity of his neck injury, Austin was forced to relinquish both the Intercontinental Championship and the Tag Team Championships. Austin was sidelined until Survivor Series. However, in the interim he made several appearances, one being at Bad Blood where he was involved in the finish of a match between Hart and Faarooq, which was the final match in a tournament for the Intercontinental Championship. Austin hit Faarooq with the Intercontinental Championship belt while the referee's back was turned, causing Hart to win the match. Austin's motive was to keep the Intercontinental Championship around Hart's waist, as demonstrated when he interfered in Hart's matches on the October 20 and 27 episodes of Raw. Austin regained the Intercontinental Championship from Hart at Survivor Series.
With Hart out of the way, Austin set his sights on The Rock, who stole Austin's belt on the November 17 episode of Raw after Austin suffered a beating by his Nation of Domination stablemates. In the weeks to come, The Rock began declaring himself to be "the best Intercontinental Champion" ever. The Rock kept possession of the belt until D-Generation X: In Your House, when Austin defeated him to 'retain' the title and get his belt back. As Austin had used his pickup truck to aid in his victory, McMahon ordered him to defend the title against The Rock the next night on Raw. In an act of defiance after forfeiting the title to The Rock, Austin tossed the belt into a New Hampshire river.
On September 22, 1997, on the first-ever Monday Night Raw to be broadcast from Madison Square Garden, Owen Hart was giving a speech to the fans in attendance. During his speech, Austin entered the ring with five NYPD officers following, and assaulted Hart. As it looked like Austin was going to fight the officers, Vince McMahon ran into the ring to lecture Austin about why he couldn't be "physically" able to compete. After telling McMahon that he respects the fact that he and the WWF cared, Austin attacked McMahon with a Stone Cold Stunner, leaving McMahon in shock. Austin was then arrested on charges of trespassing, assault, and assaulting a police officer. This marked the beginning of the Austin-McMahon rivalry.
With Bret Hart's departure from WWF, Austin and Shawn Michaels were the top superstars in the company. Austin won the 1998 Royal Rumble, lastly eliminating The Rock. The next night on Raw, Austin interrupted Vince McMahon in his presentation of Mike Tyson, who was making a special appearance, over the objection of McMahon referring to Tyson as "the baddest man on the planet." Austin flipped off Tyson, which led to Tyson shoving Austin much to McMahon's embarrassment, who began to publicly disapprove of the prospect of Austin as his champion. Tyson was later announced as "the special enforcer" for the main event at WrestleMania XIV, although he appeared to be aligning himself with WWF Champion Shawn Michaels' stable D-Generation X. This led to Austin's WWF Championship match against Michaels at WrestleMania XIV, which he won with help from Tyson, who turned on DX by making the deciding three-count against Michaels, and later hit HBK with his knock-out punch. In fact Shawn Michaels had suffered two herniated discs and another completely crushed at the hands of The Undertaker in a Casket match at the Royal Rumble.
On the Raw after Austin won the WWF Title, Vince McMahon presented him with a new title belt and warned Austin that he did not approve of his rebellious nature and that things could be done "the easy way or the hard way." Austin gave his answer in the form of another Stunner. This led to a segment a week later where Austin had pledged a few days prior in a meeting to "play ball" with McMahon, appearing in a suit and tie, with a beaming McMahon taking a picture of himself and his new corporate champion. The entire thing was a ruse by Austin who in the course of the segment proceeded to tear off the suit, tell McMahon it was the last time he would see Austin dressed like this, punch his boss in the "corporate grapefruits," and take another picture of the two of them while McMahon was doubled over in pain. In April 1998, it appeared Austin and McMahon were going to battle out their differences in an actual match, but the match was declared a no-contest when Dude Love made an appearance. This led to a match between Dude Love and Austin at Unforgiven: In Your House, where Austin hit McMahon with a steel chair, then the following month they had a rematch at Over the Edge: In Your House for the WWF Championship. Austin managed to retain the title despite McMahon acting as the referee and his "Corporate Stooges" (Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson) as timekeeper and ring announcer.
McMahon continued to do everything he could to ruin Austin, and he finally scored a big victory for his side at the 1998 King of the Ring tournament. There, Austin lost the WWF Championship to Kane in a First Blood match after the Undertaker intervened and hit him with a chair while the ref was incapacitated, despite Stone Cold having knocked Kane unconscious and thwarted an earlier intervention by Mick Foley. Austin further infuriated McMahon by winning back the championship the next night on Raw. Austin also emerged victorious against The Undertaker at SummerSlam. In response, McMahon set up a Triple Threat match at Breakdown: In Your House, where The Undertaker and Kane pinned Austin at the same time. McMahon decided to vacate the WWF Championship and award it based on a match between The Undertaker and Kane, in which Austin was the guest referee. Austin refused to count for either man and attacked both towards the end of the match. McMahon later fired him, although Austin got revenge by kidnapping McMahon and dragging him to the middle of the ring at "gunpoint," which ended up being a toy gun with a scroll that read "Bang! 3:16." Also the segment was very "embarrassing" to McMahon as it showed he was so scared that he urinated his pants. Stone Cold was later re-signed by Shane McMahon. In the semifinals of the Survivor Series tournament to award the vacant WWF championship, Austin lost to Mankind, after Shane double-crossed Austin. The next night on Raw, Judge Mills Lane ruled that The Rock had to defend his newly won WWF Championship against Austin that night, as stipulated in the new contract Austin had signed two weeks earlier with Shane. The Undertaker interfered and hit Austin with a shovel, earning Austin a disqualification victory, but The Rock kept the championship. At Rock Bottom: In Your House, Steve Austin defeated The Undertaker in a Buried Alive match after Kane Tombstoned The Undertaker into the grave. With this victory, Austin qualified for the 1999 Royal Rumble.
Austin's next definitive chance to exact revenge on Mr. McMahon came during the 1999 Royal Rumble match. On Raw, McMahon drew Austin's entry number with the obvious intention of screwing him over. Austin drew entry number one, while McMahon drew number two thanks to WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels. During the Rumble match, McMahon slipped out of the ring and into the crowd as Austin chased him down. It turned out to be a trap as McMahon led Austin into the lobby restroom where he was ambushed by members of The Corporation. Austin was injured and taken away in an ambulance. With Austin gone and not in the Rumble match, McMahon joined the announce table in calling the match. Later on, however, Austin returned in an ambulance and re-entered the Royal Rumble, delivering a Stunner to the Big Boss Man and eliminating him. With the assistance of the Corporation and a last minute interference from The Rock, Austin was eliminated by McMahon himself, and McMahon won the 1999 Royal Rumble. With McMahon turning down his number-one contender spot against The Rock, WWF Commissioner Michaels awarded Austin the title shot during Raw the next night. At St. Valentine's Day Massacre, Stone Cold got a one-on-one match against McMahon in a Steel Cage match, with the WWF Championship opportunity at WrestleMania XV at stake. During the match, Paul Wight made his debut, breaking through from under the ring and attacking Austin. Wight's attack propelled Austin into the side of the cage forcing the cage to give way and dropping Austin to the floor first, making him the victor. Austin defeated The Rock at WrestleMania XV for his third WWF Championship.
Austin faced The Rock in a rematch at Backlash, in which Shane McMahon was the referee. During the match, Vince McMahon approached the ring, only to hand Austin back his 'Smoking Skull' belt and take Shane out of the proceedings. Austin won the match when another referee made the count. The Undertaker, however, won the WWF Championship from Austin at Over the Edge. Due to events revolving around Vince McMahon, Stephanie and Linda McMahon made Stone Cold the Chief Executive Officer of the company. Vince and Shane McMahon challenged Austin to a Handicap Ladder match at King of the Ring with the CEO title on the line, which the duo of father and son won. The next night on Raw, however, Austin made it clear that while he was the CEO of the company, he could have a title shot at any time and place to be determined by himself. Austin made the WWF Championship match that night on Raw and defeated The Undertaker to win his fourth WWF Championship. However, after he won it, The Undertaker came and hit him with the title belt, leading to a First Blood match between the two at Fully Loaded where Mr. McMahon stipulated that if Austin lost he would never be able to wrestle for the WWF Championship again, and if Austin won, he would never see McMahon again. Austin won after interference from X-Pac, hitting The Undertaker with a TV camera and gave McMahon a goodbye Stone Cold Stunner. Austin held on to the WWF Championship until SummerSlam when he lost it to Mankind in a Triple Threat match also featuring Triple H. Austin would get his rematch at No Mercy against Triple H but lost after The Rock accidentally struck him with a sledgehammer that was meant for Triple H. When Survivor Series rolled around, Triple H was still champion. Austin was booked into a Triple Threat match for the WWF Championship against Triple H and The Rock. However, Austin was run down by a car in the parking lot. The Big Show would replace Austin in the match and would win the WWF Championship. What followed was neck surgery by Dr. Lloyd Youngblood and a nine-month rehabilitation with the car angle as his reason for leaving.
Austin appeared at Backlash 2000, attacking Triple H and Vince McMahon to help The Rock reclaim the WWF Championship. At Unforgiven, Austin made his official return. The company, meanwhile, tried to find out who ran him down at Survivor Series the previous year. Rikishi finally admitted to being the driver because "he did it for the Rock." Rikishi felt that Austin occupied the top spot in the company and with him gone, Rock, a fellow Samoan, would be able to ascend to the top of the company. At No Mercy, Austin was back to face Rikishi in a No Holds Barred match. During the match, Austin motioned he was going to drive his truck into Rikishi, who by that time was a bloody mess. Before he could, he was stopped by officials, the match being deemed no-contest and Austin was (kayfabe) arrested and later bailed by Commissioner Mick Foley. During a handicap match against Rikishi and Kurt Angle, Triple H came down with the apparent intention of teaming with Austin. After clearing the ring, Triple H smashed his sledgehammer over Austin's head, and revealed it was actually him behind the whole scheme, devised to shield the WWF Championship from Austin and end his career. At Survivor Series, Triple H had plotted to run Austin down again during their match (thus repeating the events of the previous year's Survivor Series) but his plot failed when Austin lifted Triple H's automobile with a forklift, then let it drop 20 feet. Also, in the year 2000, Stone Cold Steve Austin competed in a 6 man Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon for the WWF Championship, against Triple H, the Undertaker, Rikishi, Kurt Angle and The Rock. In the end, Stone Cold Steve Austin gave The Rock a Stunner and was about to pin him when Triple H came in the way and got a stunner. But Kurt Angle took advantage of the situation and pinned The Rock and picked up the victory, hence retaining the WWF Championship. After the match, Stone Cold Steve Austin delivered a stunner to Kurt Angle, while he was celebrating his victory.
Austin won his third Royal Rumble in January 2001, last eliminating Kane. His rivalry against Triple H ended at No Way Out in a Three Stages of Hell match, with Triple H beating Austin two falls to one. Then, at WrestleMania X-Seven, Austin faced The Rock for the second time, turning heel by hitting Rock with a steel chair several times provided to him by an interfering Vince McMahon, a man he once considered his arch-nemesis, to win the WWF championship. With the victory, Austin became a five-time WWF Champion. The next night on Raw, after teasing a quick face turn, the heel turn continued. He also altered his character considerably over the next few months, in a deliberate turn from the rebellious and anti-establishment character beloved by the fans, Austin became a whiny, temperamental primadonna who would complain incessantly when he felt he was not getting the respect from the fans and wrestlers that he deserved. He also developed an infatuation with McMahon, going to great lengths to impress him and even going so far as to hugging him and bringing him presents. McMahon, though visibly uncomfortable and wary by the attention, was still grateful to have Austin with him instead of against him. During a cage match with The Rock in a rematch for the title, Triple H came down to the ring with a sledgehammer and together with Austin viciously attacked The Rock and put him out of action. Austin further cemented his heel turn the following Thursday on Smackdown! when, during an interview with Jim Ross about his actions at WrestleMania, thought Ross was denouncing their friendship and then proceeded to attack and brutally assault Ross. Austin and Triple H became a team and called themselves The Two-Man Power Trip.
Austin and Triple H were the top heels in the company, and feuding with The Undertaker and Kane. After defeating Kane and The Undertaker for the WWF Tag Team Championship at Backlash, they held the Tag Team Titles, the WWF Championship (Austin), and the WWF Intercontinental Championship (Triple H) all at once. At Judgment Day, Triple H lost his Intercontinental Title to Kane. Then, the following night on Raw, Austin and Triple H wrestled against Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit with the Tag Team Titles on the line. Midway through the match, Triple H tore his quadriceps muscle. As planned, the team lost the Tag Team Titles at the end of the match when Triple H accidentally hit Austin in the stomach with a sledgehammer but the injury to Triple H, which kept him out for the remainder of the year, forced the WWF to go in another direction. Austin officially broke up The Power Trip on that week's SmackDown!, criticizing Triple H for his injury and for hitting him with the sledgehammer. He continued to align himself with McMahon and began feuding with Jericho and Benoit by himself, with Kurt Angle joining the group as Triple H's replacement. For most of the next month leading to King of the Ring, he constantly fell victim to a double submission involving Jericho's Walls of Jericho and Benoit's Crippler Crossface, Austin did not wrestle as he was nursing an injury but continued to feud with the reigning tag team champions, eventually costing them the titles on the SmackDown! preceding King of the Ring against the Dudley Boyz. Austin defeated Jericho and Benoit in a triple-threat match during the main event of the King of the Ring despite interference from the debuting Booker T.
After King of the Ring, Austin was left without a feud as Benoit was lost for the next year after neck surgery and Jericho moved on to other things. He began a small spat with Angle over who was McMahon's biggest supporter.
Finally, a frustrated McMahon called Austin out and demanded that he bring "the old Stone Cold" back, even going as far as asking Austin to give him a Stone Cold Stunner, so he could effectively captain a team of WWF wrestlers in a ten-man tag team match at the upcoming InVasion pay-per-view in July. A dejected Austin initially refused, but on the following edition of Raw he returned to his old ways and hit Stunners on every member of the Alliance. Then, at InVasion, Austin captained the WWF team consisting of himself, Angle, Jericho, and the Undertaker and Kane against the team of The Alliance's Booker T, Diamond Dallas Page, Rhyno and the Dudley Boyz. Late in the match, however, as Angle had Booker in the ankle lock, Austin turned on Angle by Stunning him and joined the Alliance. The reason why Austin did this was that he felt McMahon was grooming Angle to take over his spot, that he was trying to get in touch with The Rock to return, and that he himself was "unappreciated" when McMahon insisted he return to the old Austin. Austin was immediately made the Alliance's new leader and began to feud with Angle over his WWF Championship.
Austin lost his title to Angle at Unforgiven by submitting to the ankle lock, but began badgering Angle for a rematch after claiming his hand was under the ropes (which it was). Austin received that rematch on the October 8, 2001 edition of Raw and won the title after WWF Commissioner William Regal betrayed Angle and joined the Alliance. Austin then began feuding with Alliance member Rob Van Dam, who was the only member of the Alliance to be cheered by the fans despite the villainous tactics of the group. Austin faced Angle and RVD at No Mercy later that month and won by pinning Van Dam.
On the October 29, 2001 Raw Angle joined the Alliance and became the second most powerful wrestler in the group. Survivor Series was coming up, and it was ultimately decided to have a winner-take-all Survivor Series tag match with the winning team becoming the surviving entity. Austin was chosen to captain team Alliance, which consisted of Angle, Shane McMahon, RVD and Booker T, against Team WWF which was captained by The Rock, who had returned the week following Austin's betrayal of the WWF at InVasion. The Rock's team included Jericho, Kane, The Undertaker, and The Big Show. Before Survivor Series, Austin and Rock rekindled their rivalry at the UK-only pay-per-view Rebellion and Austin successfully defended his WWF title with help from Angle.
At Survivor Series, Austin was one of the last two wrestlers in the match, with The Rock being the other, and was the last remaining hope for the Alliance to survive. Late in the match, Austin attempted to win the match with the Rock Bottom, the Rock's finishing maneuver, but failed to earn a three count. He then kicked out of his own Stone Cold Stunner, which the Rock nailed on him, and attacked two referees including Alliance referee Nick Patrick. With the officials down, Angle ran to the ring and picked up Austin's title belt. He then entered the ring and struck Austin with it, betraying the Alliance and enabling The Rock to hit the Rock Bottom on Austin for the pin and the victory. With that, the InVasion ended, the Alliance was forced to disband, and Austin's future as its leader was in question.
Eventually, McMahon decided he was going to strip Austin of the title and award it to Angle for his actions. Just before he could, Ric Flair returned to the WWF for the first time since his 1993 departure and announced he was now half owner of the company. Austin returned moments after this announcement and attacked Angle and McMahon for their actions. He was then handed his title belt by Flair and celebrated with him in the ring, returning to the fans' good graces once again.
Flair then decided that Austin would face off against The Rock, who was still in possession of the World Championship, at the upcoming Vengeance pay-per-view in December to unify the titles. However, since Austin was still feuding with Angle and Rock had an unresolved feud with Jericho over his own title, McMahon overruled Flair and said that both men would wrestle their respective rivals for their respective titles at Vengeance, with the winners to face each other and the winner of that match to be crowned Undisputed WWF Champion. Austin won his first match by defeating Angle with the Stone Cold Stunner and faced World Champion Jericho in the unification match. Austin lost the match after McMahon and Booker T interfered and lost his title. Immediately after, Austin and Booker T began feuding which would lead to various fights in strange venues, such as a church confessional, a bingo hall, and a supermarket.
Beginning 2002, although Austin's character remained with the WWF's most popular wrestlers as top face, his upcoming story lines in the build-up to WrestleMania were somewhat questionable compared to those of his previous years. In the 2002 Royal Rumble, Triple H made his long-awaited return from injury, with he and Austin two of the last four participants in the ring along with Kurt Angle and Mr Perfect. Austin was eliminated by Kurt Angle, however he shortly went back in the ring and hit all three with a steel chair. A few days later on Raw, he defeated Kurt Angle to earn a shot at Chris Jericho's WWF Undisputed Championship at No Way Out 2002.
In the build-up to No Way Out, McMahon had signed the New World Order, who started a feud with him after (kayfabe) Austin refused a beer gift. Problems in the backstage creativity were however then seemingly beginning to surface. Austin was reported as being unhappy regarding Hulk Hogan's return to the WWF, and was reported as refusing to lose to Hogan in a proposed match at WrestleMania X8, while Hogan reportedly told McMahon the same regarding losing to Austin. Consequently, the match was re-billed as The Rock defeating Hogan, whilst Austin defeated Scott Hall, climaxing his feud with the nWo.
In a surprise altercation the next night on Raw, Austin refused to show up and took a week-long break without the company's consent, claiming exhaustion. McMahon claimed his actions caused fury among fans who had paid to see him that night. Austin returned on the April 1, 2002 episode of Raw, the first of the new "brand extension" era. The show was centered on which show he would sign with, and he ultimately chose Raw. Austin entered a feud with The Undertaker that resulted in a number-one contender's match for the WWE Undisputed Championship at Backlash 2002, which Austin lost despite having his foot on the rope when he was pinned. He would later be betrayed by Big Show, who went on to rejoin the nWo, and Ric Flair. Austin then defeated Big Show and Flair in a handicap match at Judgment Day.
The WWE rehired Eddie Guerrero for Austin to feud with, while also prepping Austin for a feud with Brock Lesnar. Austin, however, vetoed any matches that would result in him losing to Lesnar and ultimately walked out of the company.
On June 3, following the dispute with Debra, Austin made his last appearance for WWE on Raw.
In February, Austin returned at No Way Out in a short match against Eric Bischoff. Austin would wrestle only one match between then and WrestleMania in another short match against Bischoff on Raw but was then defeated by The Rock at WrestleMania XIX, who returned about the same time as a smug, "sell out" villain, which, ultimately, became Austin's last official match in WWE. It was also revealed later in the documentary "The Mania Of Wrestlemania" (Based around the Wrestlemania 19 event) that the letters O.M.R were put on his jacket for his match against The Rock symbolically meaning "One More Round".
The night after on Raw, Bischoff (kayfabe) "fired" Austin on medical grounds.
The following week, Austin began his non-wrestling career with the WWE and began a fresh storyline when he was brought back by Linda McMahon as the Co-General Manager of Raw. He continued this storyline for the remainder of the year, still showing wrestling moves including the Stone Cold Stunner and several exchanges of punches and kicks, although limiting regularity of these being performed. On the November 17, 2003 episode of Raw, Austin was "fired" from Raw as the result of a stipulation in a match at Survivor Series where Austin's hand-picked team of wrestlers failed to beat Bischoff's team of wrestlers. Austin quickly returned to WWE television before the end of 2003 when he was part of the WWE Tribute to the Troops taped live in front of U.S. troops in Iraq, posing and stunning Mr. McMahon. He finally came back on Raw on December 29 as its "Sheriff", giving a Stone Cold Stunner to Eric Bischoff and rehiring Shawn Michaels, who had just been "fired" by Bischoff.
Austin appeared on and off as 2004 began, culminating in him being the special guest referee for the notorious match between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg at WrestleMania XX in which fans cheered for Austin and jeered both Lesnar and Goldberg due to both men announcing their departures from the company following the event. Soon after, he left the WWE again.
Stone Cold Steve Austin made his first appearance on WWE programming in a year at WrestleMania 21 where he was confronted by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in Piper's Pit until Carlito interrupted to insult both. This resulted in Carlito receiving a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin and Piper throwing him out of the ring. The segment ended with Stone Cold and Piper celebrating with beer until he gave Piper a Stone Cold Stunner as well. He then appeared on a few subsequent episodes of Raw.
At ECW One Night Stand Austin came to the ring following the show's main event. Stone Cold came to the ring to give The Sandman a beer which he had asked for. However, Austin invited the whole locker room to the ring for a Beer Bash. However, before the bash he demanded the WWE Crusaders come to the ring for a fight. Tazz came to the ring, which started the brawl. After Taz applied the Tazzmission to Kurt Angle the brawl ended. ECW stood alone in the ring after throwing all of the Crusaders out of the ring. Mick Foley (as Cactus Jack) then dragged Eric Bischoff to the ring. The Dudley Boyz gave him a Dudley Death Drop, followed by Chris Benoit giving him a Diving Headbutt, Rey Mysterio followed that with a 619. Stone Cold then gave Eric Bischoff a stunner. As the Dudley Boyz took Bischoff outside, and loaded him onto a Garbage truck, the remaining ECW Originals took part in a "beer bash" as the show went off the air. He was on Raw the following night.
Then, at WWE Homecoming, Stone Cold again returned to Raw, delivering Stunners to all four members of the McMahon family. An angle including Jim Ross being fired led to a match in which Stone Cold agreed to face Bischoff's replacement, Jonathan Coachman, at Taboo Tuesday, with the stipulation of Ross regaining his announcing job if Austin were to win and Austin losing his own job if he lost the match. Austin hurt his back prior to the match, and could not wrestle unless he was heavily medicated, so the match was cancelled. To explain away his failure to appear at Taboo Tuesday, Vince McMahon said on Raw that Stone Cold had been involved in an accident, thus preventing him from competing. Batista substituted for Austin defeating The Coach along with Vader and Goldust. The stipulation was dropped due to Austin not competing.
Austin returned to WWE briefly to face John "Bradshaw" Layfield in a beer drinking contest at the March 5, 2006 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event. Austin won by disqualification as he saw JBL cheating by pouring the beer down his clothes. JBL threw some beer in Austin's face and tried to run away, but Chris Benoit quickly threw JBL back in the ring. Austin gave a stunner to JBL and then celebrated with the Stone Cold beer salute. Austin then inducted Bret Hart into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 1, 2006.
Austin returned to WWE programming (appearing on Raw, ECW, and SmackDown!) in March 2007, partially to promote his starring role in the release of WWE Films' production, The Condemned. On March 31, 2007, Austin inducted his friend Jim Ross into the WWE Hall of Fame. At WrestleMania 23, Austin, as a special guest referee, officiated the match between Bobby Lashley and Umaga. The stipulation for the match was that if Lashley lost, Donald Trump's head would be shaved, and if Umaga lost, Mr. McMahon's head would suffer the same fate. In the course of the event, Austin delivered stunners to Umaga, Vince McMahon, Shane McMahon, and Donald Trump. Lashley eventually won the match, and Trump, Austin and Lashley then shaved Mr.McMahon's head on live TV. Stone Cold ended by stunning McMahon as well as Donald Trump and toasting beers. He then appeared in a video on the June 11 episode of Raw as part of "Mr. McMahon's Appreciation Night", where he shared his thoughts on his past feuds with McMahon.
Austin appeared on the August 18, 2007 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, as a possible illegitimate child of Mr. McMahon and stunned McMahon and Jonathan Coachman. Austin appeared at SummerSlam where he was the replacement for Matt Hardy to battle Montel Vontavious Porter in a Beer Drinking Contest. The match ended in a no contest after Austin handed a beer to MVP and gave him the Stone Cold Stunner. Austin made another appearance at Cyber Sunday, where he guest refereed a World Heavyweight Championship match between the champion Batista, and the challenger The Undertaker. Batista walked out the champion after delivering a Batista Bomb to The Undertaker. On the November 5, 2007 episode of Raw, Austin made an appearance to confront Santino Marella for criticizing The Condemned. The argument ended as Marella received a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin, who then walked backstage only to return with a Budweiser beer truck to hose down Marella and his valet Maria with beer. On December 10, 2007 during the Raw 15th Anniversary special, Austin returned after Vince McMahon received the mandible claw from Mankind and a chokeslam from The Undertaker for proclaiming himself "the greatest Raw superstar of all time." Shortly after, McMahon received a Stone Cold Stunner and Austin called out all WWE stars in attendance to the ring to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Raw. The show closed as Austin, Triple H and Hornswoggle poured beer on McMahon, who was knocked out outside the ring.
On October 26, 2008, at Cyber Sunday, Austin was the special guest referee during a match between Batista and Chris Jericho for the World Heavyweight Championship. In between the match Stone Cold told a fleeing Jericho that if he was counted out or disqualified, Batista would win the title. During the course of the match, Batista accidentally knocked Austin down. When Austin recovered, Randy Orton, who had come out as the third referee, knocked Austin back down, only to receive a Stone Cold Stunner when Austin recovered. Eventually Batista won the match by hitting his signature Batista Bomb on Chris Jericho, leading Austin to give the three count, making Batista the new World Heavyweight Champion.
On January 12, 2009, episode of Raw, Austin was announced to be the first member of the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009. He was inducted by his long-term on-screen rival Vince McMahon, who referred to Austin as "The Greatest WWE Superstar of all time." During the induction, there were "one more match" chants, to which Austin said he was officially closing the door on his wrestling career and starting a new chapter in his life. At WrestleMania XXV, Austin was introduced alongside the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2009. After the introductions, Austin's theme music hit, and he re-entered the ringside area wearing a vintage "Austin 3:16" shirt driving an ATV. He then enjoyed his trademark beer bash with the fans and with long-time friend Jim Ross.
Austin returned to the company on the March 15, 2010 episode of Raw as its guest host. On that episode of Raw he moderated a contract signing between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart for their match at WrestleMania XXVI. In the same episode Austin met up backstage with his longtime rival Shawn Michaels, who asked Austin whether he believed that Michaels could end the Undertaker's undefeated WrestleMania streak in their upcoming match. Austin replied "Hell yeah I think you can beat the Undertaker, but I don't think you're going to, The streak is going to go 18-0". Michaels lost the match extending the Undertaker's streak to 18-0 and forcing Michaels to retire.
On the 900th episode of "Raw"; which took place on August 30, 2010; the intro and theme for Stone Cold Steve Austin were shown. However, this was only a trick by fellow wrestler CM Punk who was attempting to prove a point about what the Straight Edge Society believed was a disturbing history of the WWE. Steve Austin did not actually make an appearance on this night.
In early 2011, Austin was announced as the head trainer and host for the revival of WWE Tough Enough. On the March 7 episode of Raw, Austin interrupted the contract signing of the special guest referee to the Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler match at WrestleMania XXVII, originally scheduled to be John "Bradshaw" Layfield. After stunning Layfield, Austin signed the contract instead and became the official guest referee for the scheduled match. Although Lawler won by submission, the anonymous Raw General Manager reversed the decision and disqualified Lawler, claiming that Austin had "overstepped his authority". He appeared on Raw the following night with the cast from Tough Enough, while also getting into an altercation with The Miz and Alex Riley.
On the June 6th episode of Raw, Austin appeared live alongside old rival Vince McMahon to declare Andy Leavine as the winner of Tough Enough. He also served as the Special Guest Referee in the evening's tag team main event, John Cena and Alex Riley vs. The Miz and R-Truth. The end of the match came as a result of Austin hitting the infamous Stone Cold Stunner on The Miz, which was followed by an Attitude Adjustment from Cena and then the pinfall victory. However, the Anonymous Raw General Manager chimed in and the GM's ringside mouthpiece Michael Cole announced that since Austin had abused his authority as referee, The Miz and R-Truth win via disqualification. Austin did not take kindly to the GM overturning his decision and Cole also received a Stunner, which was followed with another Attitude Adjustment courtesy of Cena. Austin and Cena closed the show, celebrating with a beer bash.
Austin appeared as the special guest GM on the WWE All-Star edition of Monday Night Raw. During the show, Austin destroyed the Anonymous Raw General Manager's laptop by running over it with his ATV.
On April 3, 2014, it was revealed on WWE.com that Austin would appear at WrestleMania XXX. Austin appeared with Hulk Hogan and The Rock in the opening segment.
Austin made an appearance on the October 19, 2015 episode of Raw, promoting the Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar match at Hell in A Cell and the WrestleMania 32 event. Austin again appeared on Raw the following week, where he promoted the WWE 2K16 video game.
Austin, alongside Shawn Michaels and Mick Foley made an appearance at WrestleMania 32 to confront The League of Nations, where Austin delivered a Stunner to Rusev and King Barrett. While Austin was celebrating with Michaels, Foley and The New Day, Xavier Woods tried to convince Austin to dance with them in celebration. While Austin reluctantly at first danced along, he later responded by hitting Woods with a Stunner.