Published on January 16th, 2016 | by Pro Wrestling Stories0
The Botch That Almost Left STEVE AUSTIN with a Broken Neck
August 3rd, 1997 is a day Steve Austin will never forget. An Intercontinental Championship matchup was lined up between two seasoned greats, Owen Hart and Steve Austin, two men who knew how to dance in the ring. What was supposed to be a reverse that fed into a pile-driver, led to an amazing gaffe that changed Steve Austin’s life forever. The original plan was for a Tombstone piledriver which is why many speculate Austin positioned his head so. Instead, Owen turned the move into his Hart Driver and the rest is history.
STEVE AUSTIN and OWEN HART Each Tell Their Version of What Went Wrong
Read about the infamous botch which resulted in a bruised spinal column and temporary paralysis for Austin, from the men involved.
(Side note: Despite what is often reported, Steve Austin did not actually break his neck during this match. Austin himself has cleared this up numerous times on his Podcast.)
“The crowd was right where we wanted them. Everything was perfect. I could do no wrong…
Everything [Steve] did, the crowd responded to. He was the fan favorite and I was the bad guy.
It’s like [having] a dance partner. You go out there and you do your stuff and everything is going well…and then all of a sudden in a split second…” [snaps fingers]
“I remember we went into the pile-driver deal…I picked him up and then we reversed that and he picked me up… “
“I saw his neck – there was a bit of a push; an impact on my thighs – and his neck is so vulnerable… I knew that Steve had a bad neck prior to us going in the ring. He’d had a trapped nerve for awhile…a few months…it was really bugging him. Even if you just shoved him from behind, if his neck kinked back he would get lightning bolts [of pain]…”
“My head was about, I dunno, six or eight inches below the bottom of his legs and he jumped up and spiked me.”
“I dropped him on his head. The match went from utopia to hell in a second. I knew right then; there’s something wrong…”
“As soon as my head hit that mat, I was thinking Christopher Reeve. Cause I thought I was never gonna walk again, ever.
I couldn’t feel anything from my neck down…”
“He said, ‘I can’t feel my fingers.’
All of a sudden my first concern became ‘Is he paralyzed?’
That twenty seconds…it felt like forever. Slow motion, you know? What do you do? Do I look at the promoter and tell him this isn’t part of the match? There’s a point where you’ve gotta say, ‘What’s more important?’ – The guys health, or satisfying this crowd and the cameraman and everybody else…”
“Man, I’m laying there…and now pain’s starting to set in…
I couldn’t use my hands yet but I could turn over and I could use my forearms to crawl. It took me a long time to straighten my knees to be able to… [but] there was no way I was gonna lay there and let some ambulance or bunch of paramedics carry me out of that ring.
And then finally, I can start using my hands…I hit him with the roll-up…it looks like shit…”
“My two-year-old daughter could have rolled me up better… he didn’t have the strength to do anything else. He grabbed me and pulled me down and pinned me 1-2-3…”
“It took about three referees to pull me to my feet.
I grab the belt, and I held it up in the air…and when I looked back at that footage, if you look at my eyes – the lights are on, but there ain’t nobody home. I’m… pretty fucked up, and I’m really hurt…but I did it.”
“It was shocking to me. I felt terrible. I didn’t want to hurt a guy. Probably it’s just hindsight now, [but] I would never have pile-driven him knowing what was going to happen.
I certainly didn’t mean for it to happen. I felt terrible that it did.”
“I remember going to the back, I sat down on a bench, and I was in a world of hurt. And I was confused…I didn’t know what was gonna happen to me.
When you come that close to almost being paralyzed for the rest of your life, it really fucks your head up.
And I just remember I had this intense burning in my interior-delts, like fire.
That would last for about two weeks. After about two weeks it kinda turned into a real dull itch and then finally it went away. But at that point, after the MRI’s, X-rays and visiting about 3 or 4 doctors, I was basically out of the ring for about 3 or 4 months.”
“When we went home from the pay-per-view, I told [Owen], I said, ‘You’ve gotta call him.’
And Owen…he went home and he never called.
When Owen went home, he was all about his family and didn’t think about wrestling once he left the arena. I don’t think he handled that well…and I think that did change the relationship that Steve had with Owen. And I think Steve was always a little bit…pissed off that Owen didn’t seem to care that he hurt him.”
“Owen almost paralyzed me. He called me only once to apologize while I was in the hospital.
If I almost break someone’s neck, I’m calling them 25 times to apologize…”
“People, they don’t know… they think wrestlers are superhuman, [that] this isn’t supposed to happen, there’s gotta be a catch – the guy’s gonna spring up and beat Owen…
We’re not magicians.
I watch it back and think, ‘There is no happy ending in this…”
“That incident really, really bugged [Steve], on so many different levels…”
“For a long time, I watched [the video] over and over…20 or 30 times a day. I still like to watch it every now and then…these days I watch it just to realize where I’m at. It just kind of keeps everything in perspective. I consider myself real lucky.”
Watch the moment Owen Hart injures Steve Austin’s neck (not for the queasy!):
Despite the hardships and pain Austin went through after the injury, some say it was a blessing in disguise for him. The Texas Rattlesnake was forced to turn more into a stone cold brawler as opposed to the technical wrestler he was pre-injury. This change in style can be attributed to one of the reasons why he became so popular.
A tragic irony: 5 years prior to this match, Austin was in Owen’s proverbial shoes when the exact sequence of events that caused Austin’s injury, caused Austin to seriously injure another wrestler’s (Masahiro Chono) neck using the same inverted piledriver sequence. A tragic yet ironic twist, is it not?
SOURCE: lam! sports/canoe.ca, documentary interview, Austin: 1998 interview, ‘Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time’, Bret Hart HOF speech, On The Hour
Quotes used in this article originally compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page