So I’m watching 96/97-era Raw and it’s amazing the slow build they gave Austin around this era from the moment he got over at the King of the Ring. Austin was still involved in curtain-jerkers or left off pay-per-views completely and even in his main event feud with Bret, Bret seemed to have the advantage over him every time, even in brawls. Hart beat Austin at the Survivor Series, seemed to pummel him in the random brawls they had on various Raws, eliminated him legally in the Royal Rumble and beat him to a bloody pulp at WrestleMania 13, yet Austin remained strong, possibly due to his vastly superior mic work, I guess. The only times Austin got the better of Hart was a win by disqualification and the street fight Raw… it’s amazing he didn’t lose any heat because of it.
Also shocking how Austin didn’t even earn any championship gold until about a year later as a throwaway tag champion with Shawn Michaels. Nowadays, if people get even remotely over, they’re booked as Intercontinental Champions almost immediately. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s fascinating what a slow build Austin got during this era compared to guys like Ahmed Johnson and The Rock who were forced down everyone’s throats. What do you think about this or slower builds in general?
Well, in the case of Austin they basically had no faith in him until Bret Hart went to bat for him in late 96 and then pretty much single-handedly built him into a superstar. Although to be fair, even the internet fanboys back in 96 were basically saying that Austin was a solid midcard guy in the mold of Arn Anderson and probably nothing more. I think it really shows the charisma that he had deep down that he was able to overcome those obstacles and basically get himself over every step of the way. Of course, once Vince DID decide that Austin was going to be a superstar, it was a whole different ballgame. It does show that, in general, you need to give guys time to develop. The personality shown by Stone Cold Steve Austin was totally different than the one shown by Stunning Steve Austin, for instance. That’s why it’s so frustrating when they bring up someone like Wade Barrett, as a totally random example, give him a month to get over as a superstar, and then bury him when he doesn’t immediately click. Or Sheamus. Who knew that turning him into a goofy babyface would be the piece of the puzzle that would get him over? Wrestling is all about repackaging and repackaging and repackaging until you find the gimmick that fits someone, and the current creative minds seem to think that if you fail with the first brilliant gimmick you shit out (CHRIS MASTERS!) then the guy is doomed to be a jobber forever and you might as well just give up.