Let’s flashback to June 23rd, 1996 for a bit.
The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) was holding their annual King of the Ring PPV. During that time period, top stars Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left for the rival company… WCW. Meanwhile, Shawn Michaels continued to reign as the top guy in the company, and Triple H was being punished for an incident involving the four wrestlers mentioned above in what was known as “The Curtain Call”.
It involved the four wrestlers breaking “kayfabe” and hugging in the center of the ring after a match. That type of act back then was unheard of, and WWF chairman Vince McMahon was furious.
Due to HHH suffering the brunt of the punishment, he was no longer booked to win the King of the Ring tournament.
That decision turned out to change the course of wrestling history forever.
Instead, a wrestler known as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin became the man booked to win.
After defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Austin walked up to throne (literally), and in front of the thousands in attendance, said a speech forever etched into the minds and hearts of wrestling fans. It should be noted that Roberts was portraying a “born-again Christian” gimmick at this time, which Austin alluded to in the promo.
Here it is:
“The first thing I want to be done is to get that piece of crap out of my ring. Don’t just get him out of the ring, get him out of the WWF because I’ve proved, son, without a shadow of a doubt, you ain’t got what it takes anymore. You sit there and you thump your bible and you say your prayers and it didn’t get you anywhere. Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16 … Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.
All he’s gotta do is go buy him a cheap bottle of Thunderbird and try to dig back some of that courage he had in his prime. As the King of the Ring, I’m serving notice to every one of the WWF superstars. I don’t give a damn what they are, they’re all on the list, and that’s Stone Cold’s list, and I’m fixing to start running through all of them. As far as this championship match is considered, son, I don’t give a damn if it’s Davey Boy Smith or Shawn Michaels.
Steve Austin’s time has come, and when I get the shot you’re looking at the next WWF Champion. And that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so.”
Immediately following the event, the company started selling “Austin 3:16” merchandise like crazy. And today, the “Austin 3:16” t-shirt is one of the company’s highest selling items, with fans still wearing them to wrestling events worldwide.
The birth of “Austin 3:16” helped catapult the WWF over WCW (along with other factors) as time went on; they continue to be the biggest wrestling promotion in the world to this day.
What’s funny about this? World Championship Wrestling (WCW) actually fired Austin back in the early 1990’s. Less than a day later, Paul Heyman called him and he joined ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling). Of course, his greatest success came in WWF/WWE.
And the “Austin 3:16” promo can be thanked for a lot of it.