It’s not every day a wrestler gets mowed down by a car during a live show. At the time, fans wondered who could have run over Steve Austin. Who was driving? WHO? However you feel about it in retrospect, the moment lives on due to the memorable way Rikishi delivered his confession almost eleven months later!
Steve Austin Gets Run Over During Survivor Series 1999
On November 14th, 1999, seventy minutes into the thirteenth edition of WWE’s Survivor Series in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, Stone Cold Steve Austin was interrupted by Triple H, and a chase ensued.
A car soon barreled out of nowhere and ran Austin down.
As tough as ol’ Stone Cold was, he wasn’t getting up.
He was soon loaded into an ambulance, leaving a hole in the main event of the evening – a spot that The Big Show would soon fill.
At the time, it was unclear who could have run over Austin.
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The Confession: “I did it for The Rock!”
Now we know Rikishi was behind the wheel.
However you feel about it in retrospect, the moment, for many, lives on due to the memorable way Rikishi delivered the confession almost eleven months later, on October 9th, 2000.
Mick Foley was the commissioner at the time.
“I ran over Stone Cold Steve Austin. And to tell the truth, I’d do it again.”
This was Rikishi’s heel turn, his “come to the dark side” moment.
(We’re going to ignore that his nationally televised confession led to multiple career opportunities and not jail time!)
However, the conclusion to this very long, drawn-out “whodunit?” left a lot to be desired for some.
Vince McMahon’s Reaction to the Man Who Ran Over Steve Austin
“This is a prime example of what happens when you don’t start with the finish,” Bruce Prichard explained when discussing one of the most infamous storylines of the Attitude Era.
The initial intended idea was to write Steve Austin off television for a while as he underwent neck surgery. However, things didn’t go to plan.
Prichard continued, “When you write a book, or you go to a movie, no matter what it is, if you are creating it with an ending in mind, you have to know that this is going to be the way to end it. So everything from the beginning, middle, and end gets to the big finish.
“When they ran Steve Austin over, they had no clue whether to get rid of Steve. They figured that we would figure it out when we got there.
“When we got to the point of [Austin] getting hit with the car and who it was who ran him over with the car, everybody had an idea. I don’t even remember who came up with Rikishi. Vince McMahon loved it and thought that no one was going to guess that.”
Prichard concluded, “Well, of course, nobody was going to guess that because it makes no sense for Rikishi to be the guy who ran over Steve Austin! We then force-fed the whole storyline.
“It was not a bright spot during our creative tenure during this time.”
Reaction aside, this kicked off the most significant portion of the career of Solofa Fatu Jr.
The Creation of Rikishi and the Stink Face
Solofa Fatu Jr. was a journeyman wrestler until then, bouncing around from gimmick to gimmick.
First, he was on The Samoan Swat Team and The Headshrinkers. Next, he worked as “Make a Difference” Fatu and The Sultan until finally landing on Rikishi Fatu on the November 13th, 1999, episode of WWF Metal, defeating Julio Fantastico.
Speaking on the creation of the Rikishi gimmick, Bruce Prichard had this to say:
“I knew in the back of my mind that Vince loved the Yokozuna gimmick and was looking to recreate [that]. But I know one of the regrets Vince had with Yoko was that Yoko wore the long tights and covered up his a**. Vince wanted him in the regular sumo garb.
“He wanted him to be a real sumo. Vince says one day, ‘You know, I am looking at [Fatu’s then-gimmick] The Sultan, that a** is getting bigger every day! Now, he can be a great sumo. He can be better than Yoko because he is not as big as Yoko, and my God, it would be great, but he has to have those a** cheeks out!’
Prichard continued, “Vince McMahon saw that a** bump in the corner and Rikishi shoving his a** in their face. The Stink Face was something that evolved from that. Vince’s whole description of what he should look like and do, a version of the Stink Face, was always involved.”
“The Stink Face.” is one of, if not the most iconic elements of the Rikishi character. Of course, everyone remembers The Rock shoving Vince McMahon’s face into it.
Too Cool Enter the Picture
The teaming of Rikishi with Scotty Too Hotty and Grand Master Sexay was integral to getting to Rikishi running over Stone Cold Steve Austin.
That team was wildly popular. As a result, a portion of the Royal Rumble in 2000 was devoted to them, and the crowd embraced them.
The Royal Rumble breaks down to Rikishi, Grand Master Sexay, and Scotty Too Hotty. They start talking to Rikishi and talk him into dancing. The crowd is right there the whole way. The Madison Square Garden audience, one known for brutal honesty, is beyond excited by three men dancing. Then they were upset when Rikishi ruined it.
There’s no way to underestimate what Too Cool did for Rikishi’s career.
But unfortunately, Rikishi didn’t mention them in his WWE Hall of Fame speech.
Scotty Too Hotty was hurt by this, Tweeting out, “In December ’99, three guys that were pretty much obsolete in the wrestling biz came together and made each other. One apparently doesn’t remember that.”
Running over Austin was the moment that cemented all that work. It was the moment that pushed Rikishi to the main event level.
Sadly, the third member of their trio, Brian Christopher, son of Jerry Lawler, passed away in 2018.
One can only hope the two remaining members of Too Cool are on better terms.
Big Man, Big Bump: Undertaker Chokeslams Rikishi off Hell in the Cell
Who could forget Rikishi’s bump off the Hell in a Cell at Armageddon 2000?
There was something unique about how Rikishi fell, even if it came off as overly rehearsed.
Jim Ross explained, “I wasn’t overwhelmed with the stunt just because of stunts in general. Mick Foley going off the top of the cell in Pittsburgh in 1998 was not something that had been talked about for weeks that you were gonna do it. I had no idea what they were gonna do. It scared the s*** out of me.”
Ross summed it up by saying, “The bottom line is, you just didn’t envision somebody doing that. You just didn’t. It had such an impact when Foley hit that table. It was spontaneous.
“[Rikishi doing it] seemed to be more contrived, which took away some of the effect it had on me as an announcer and wrestling fan. So, I wasn’t crazy about the stunt.”
Rikishi: Solidifying His Status as a Legend
There’s a lot to consider when you think about Rikishi being the driver of the car that ran over Steve Austin.
But was Rikishi being revealed as the assailant the most effective choice? Probably not. Sure, Triple H could have been the cruel driver behind the assault. Or it could have been someone in DX. Even The Rock. Those were all fine choices that would’ve worked well enough.
But this was a thrown-together plot to account for Stone Cold’s injury. Now we have several moments that’ll last a lifetime. It managed to cement a new legend.
Without this development, where would Rikishi have gone in his career?
The one thing we do know is this gave him some main event paydays and a ton of extra life to his career.
And Rikishi made it memorable simply by being Rikishi.
He solidified his status as a legend with six simple words: “I did it for The Rock!”
These stories may also interest you:
- Triple H’s Return in 2002: A Hero’s Welcome at MSG
- Ric Flair and Triple H: The Greatest Short Story in Wrestling
- The Rock and The Hurricane Create the Unexpected in 2003
- 2001 Royal Rumble – A Match That Defines the Attitude Era
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