In a surprising revelation, wrestling veteran Kevin Sullivan has openly questioned the WWE's decision to turn "Stone Cold" Steve Austin into a villain at WrestleMania 17, a move that remains one of the most debated plot twists in the annals of professional wrestling.
The monumental heel turn saw Austin align himself with his long-time arch-nemesis, Vince McMahon, leaving fans and wrestling insiders equally stunned. "For nearly three years, Austin and McMahon had been the epitome of bitter rivals, so seeing them collaborate was a narrative shockwave," Sullivan remarked during his podcast "Tuesday with The Taskmaster." "Honestly, it felt like the WWE misstepped creatively.
Austin quickly reverted back to being a babyface, which speaks volumes about the impact of the heel turn."
Kevin Sullivan's Critique
Sullivan also criticized how Austin's character was mishandled post-heel-turn, specifically when he was made to engage in comedy skits as part of the McMahon-led faction.
"Stone Cold as a goofy banjo player? That's like casting Clint Eastwood as a court jester," Sullivan quipped. "Steve Austin is an outlaw; he's a rebel. To deviate from that core character was a cardinal sin." This perspective aligns with Austin's own self-assessment.
In a 2014 appearance on "Talk is Jericho," the wrestling icon himself conceded that the heel turn was "a bad idea." Legendary announcer Jim Ross also expressed reservations, suggesting that the move left both fans and the WWE locker room bewildered, as it seemed the promotion had written itself into a narrative corner.
According to Sullivan, such seismic character shifts can have far-reaching implications not just for the wrestler but for the brand as a whole. "Certain things in storytelling are sacrosanct. You simply don't take a cultural icon like 'Stone Cold' and alter his DNA.
You risk alienating your fan base and diluting your brand equity," he cautioned. Kevin Sullivan's critique raises pertinent questions about the wrestling world's storytelling calculus, contributing another layer of insight into an event that, more than two decades later, still provokes strong opinions.
It's a conversation starter that adds fuel to the ongoing debate surrounding WWE's creative decisions, and one that could serve as a cautionary tale for wrestling promotions in the years to come.