3. Stone Cold Steve Austin
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
-Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight (2008)
Stone Cold’s heel run after Mania 17 is controversial, to say the least.
On one hand, it gave us, well, heel Steve Austin, which was brilliant because Austin is good at everything. It gave us countless hilarious segments between Vince, Austin, and Kurt Angle. It gave us the Two-Man Power Trip, Austin’s villainous team alongside Triple H, the two bosses of WWE aligned together to torment the roster and take all the gold.
On the other hand, many people argue that Austin was too good of a babyface for the people to ever boo him, he was too beloved to turn to the dark side. The fans needed him to be a hero and instead, he sold his soul to Satan himself.
And while it’s true that Austin’s heel run was probably not the best from a business standpoint, what’s undeniable is the fact that Austin was still as good as ever, he was very convincing as a heel, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering his career took off because of his heel persona, and also, Austin’s heel turn allowed new stars to be created. Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and many others benefited from going up against the Rattlesnake.
During this heel run, Austin held both the WWE and the Tag titles with Triple H, who was a great double champ in his own right.
Now, holding a tag belt with the world title is extremely difficult because the tag belts always feel like a novelty, like John Cena winning the tag titles with his opponents for seemingly no reason.
Austin managed to bring prestige to both belts. In fact, the Two-Man Power Trip’ loss to Jericho and Benoit on RAW for the tag belts is arguably the greatest RAW match in WWE history.
Austin, till the very end of his career, kept elevating titles, shows, and opponents. A true legend of the business.