“Stone Cold” Steve Austin revealed he made a crucial mistake in the 1996 Royal Rumble.
Since the Royal Rumble is the WWE’s most chaotic event, involving 30 wrestlers all competing for a spot in the main event of WrestleMania.
Since the Rumble is planned out thoroughly in advance, wrestlers enter the match every 90 seconds and are supposed to remember when they’re set to be eliminated. It often involves an elaborate routine, which changes constantly as the match builds to its dramatic climax.
Still, it doesn’t always go according to plan.
Austin had only recently arrived in the World Wrestling Federation (now Entertainment) and was yet to assume his “Stone Cold” character.
The wrestler was performing then as “The Ringmaster,” but during the ’96 Rumble, he showed he wasn’t quite the master his gimmick suggested.
Austin entered at number 24 and was meant to be heavily involved in the finale of the event, but it all went horribly wrong after he made a crucial mistake, inadvertently eliminating himself from the match.
“I was supposed to be the fourth guy left, and my first year in the company, that’s a pretty good push,” Austin revealed. “I was doing a spot. I believe it was with Fatu [Rikishi], one of the Samoans. Man, he had a lot of baby oil on and all the guys were oiled up so the ropes were very slippery.
“I was going to do a deal where he does something to me and I was going to take a bump over the top, hang onto the top rope and come back in the bottom [rope]. Well zip, zip, boom, I lost my grip and fell out on my butt by the guardrail. I thought ‘Oh man, I’m the new guy in the company. They’re trying to give me a little bit of a push here by being the fourth-last guy and I blow it.’”
The mistake caused chaos. The match had been painstakingly planned out in advance with each wrestler knowing how they were to be eliminated and in what order, but Austin had accidentally thrown a wrench in the process. He then had to remedy the situation, while ensuring the millions of fans watching didn’t catch on to the fact the whole event was planned.
“I’m sitting there out on my ass and I believe Shawn [Michaels] was going over [winning the match], and this is live. This is at the San Diego sports arena in front of 20,000 people. It’s on pay-per-view,” Austin said. “I got to let [Michaels] know that everything I got to do to help him with the finish of the match, I’m gone.
“So I’m sitting there on my ass and, as I’m on the floor, I get up and I make eye contact with Shawn and I sort of held up my hands and gave him the cue like, ‘Dude I’m out. I screwed up.’ I don’t know how Shawn fixed that. I don’t even remember the finish to the Royal Rumble, but sometimes things happen that you can’t control and the rest of the guys have to just go on the fly.”
Luckily for Austin, the mistake didn’t prove too costly in his career. Later that year, he switched to his famous “Stone Cold” persona and went on to win three Royal Rumble matches — his first coming just a year later in 1997.
Note: The article was originally on published nypost.com