Jim Ross

Jim Ross Claims Steve Austin’s Infamous Heel Turn Hurt His Overall Legacy

Just in time for WrestleMania Season and coming off “Stone Cold Week,” AEW commentator Jim Ross reflected on a big turning point in the career of the fellow WWE Hall Of Fame legend.

During a recent edition of his Grilling JR podcast alongside Conrad Thompson, “Good Ole’ J.R.” reflected at length on the infamous heel turn that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin executed during his WrestleMania 17 showdown with The Rock.

Featured below are some of the highlights from the episode where J.R. talks about this particular topic.

On not being a big fan of the heel turn: “Well, again, Heyman and I had to navigate some tricky waters there. You had to protect The Rock and not acknowledge that he was getting booed out of the building for losing the title. I just thought it was a knee-jerk creative decision. It was change for change’s sake. I’m not a big change for change’s sake guy. I never was sold on it. That was one of my biggest worries – would I be able to get to an emotional level to get this over because honestly, I didn’t believe in it. One of the reasons I think I was always able to enhance Austin’s TV persona was because I believed so strongly in the character – the man, the persona, the image.

On working hard to sell what he was seeing in the moment as it was going down: “I really worked hard to sell what we were seeing, but I cheated a little bit because I directed the heel angst towards Mr. McMahon. He’s the reason for this. Steve, look, he finally agreed, but he should’ve called an audible and hit Vince with a stunner, and boom, we’re good. If he had hit Vince with a stunner after Vince helped him, he had shown that he outsmarted the top heel. Folks would’ve loved his creativity. But that wasn’t the play that was called, and obviously, it didn’t work. In a few weeks, we had Kurt Angle with a cowboy hat on and him and Austin singing. Did that work for Stone Cold? I don’t think so.”

On the turn hurting his character overall in the long run: “It was simply a matter of getting another heel hot. That’s not challenging or some mystery formula. It’s what you do. I think it was worry about who the successor to The Rock was gonna be because think about this, they waited two years to put them back together. But in the meantime, had Steve remained a babyface all that time, it would’ve been up to the company to create more heels that were hot. You get some steam on Austin, and all of a sudden, you’ve got a reason for another match. We had guys there that could’ve filled that bill – Triple H, Kurt Angle, and there were others. Get them hot. They may not be The Rock, but neither would anybody else. It just felt wrong.”

On whether or not WWE would make a different decision today: “I think so. Some may not admit it, but yeah, it was just a blown opportunity. You think back to why – it was ill-timed. You’re losing the charismatic guy you’ve ever had in The Rock going to make his movie, and we were gonna do everything we could to help make that happen to help build Rock into a bigger star. But we also lost our top babyface. We lost our two top babyfaces – one to make a movie, and one to become a heel. Think about that. It was not good strategy and planning.”

Check out the complete episode of the Grilling JR podcast at WestwoodOnePodcasts.com. H/T to 411 Mania for transcribing the above quotes.


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