On a recent episode of Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard, they discussed Steve Austin’s rise to instant fame when he won the tournament to become the King Of The Ring in 1996.
Bruce Prichard said Steve Austin came up to him and asked him if it was okay if he poked fun at religion and mention drinking alcohol in his promo after King Of The Ring ’96. But nothing was planned when it came to merchandising. Bruce also said that while he might have given approval on the verbiage, he had no idea how it would be used and the promo was 100% Steve Austin.
Austin 3:16 wasn’t even supposed to be his catch phrase anyway. Bruce Prichard said the plan was to use another well-known Austin-ism as his biggest tag if they decided to make any merchandise for him.
“The next night when you showed up and we saw all these signs of ‘Austin 3:16’ and everybody’s going like, ‘oh good god we’ve got something here.’ I think that the — and plus he’s a heel. So you don’t do merchandising for a heel. Nobody’s gonna buy a heel shirt, who would buy that? So when Austin 3:16 took off the way it was if anyone was gonna plan anything it was ‘Cause Stone Cold said so.’ You know, that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so. That became his close, but Austin 3:16 became the brand.”
“[Vince] hated it, absolutely hated it,” Bruce says when asked if McMahon had an opinion of the Austin 3:16 shirt idea. “He didn’t get it, you know it was — my argument, but it was an old argument and it was something that I used to try to get across — and I’m going back to the 80’s. When they would do shirts your number one shirt was Hulkamania. And it simply said ‘Hulkamania.’ Randy Savage’s was a pair of sunglasses, you know with his image but it wasn’t a picture of Randy.”
“And Vince felt that the babyface t-shirts should be like pictures of the babyfaces. Cause people wanna support their favorite. My argument was, you’re gonna get more people to buy the shirt if it doesn’t have an image of someone on it […] a dude doesn’t wanna wear another dude on his shirt.”
“The pitch was, and god I remember the meeting sitting in Vince’s office — me and Jim Ross with the merchandise guy saying, ‘this is the shirt.’ This is merchandising, I guarantee you people will buy it. And the two pitches in that meeting were ‘Austin 3:16’ just simple white block letters on a black shirt. And the other one Sid’s eyes and there were two others — and again they were heels and he just didn’t see [it selling]. It was the Mankind mask, simply the mask, not Mankind’s face in it but the mask. And also one of Vader’s mask — just the mask. They were both kinda cool looking on their own. (While doing a Vince McMahon impression) ‘Heels don’t sell, god!’ But the overwhelming response for that Austin 3:16, he finally gave in […] it sold out everywhere, immediately.”
Bruce Prichard also said Vince Russo had absolutely nothing to do with Steve Austin’s famous King Of The Ring promo.
If you use any portion of the quotes in this article please credit Something To Wrestle With Bruce Prichard with a H/T to Still Real To Us for the transcription.