Stone Cold Steve Austin: Rich Freeda/WWF
July 18, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why Stone Cold is turning good again

Yup, it seems like only yesterday that the Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin, threw his lot in with Mr. McMahon, double-crossed the Rock, and embarked upon one of the most discomfiting and hilarious heel turns the biz has ever seen. In fact, it was three and a half months ago. And while a lot of fans just couldn’t stomach his crabby, wounded, guitar strumming bad guy, for some of us the fun was just getting started.

So the implication on this week’s ”RAW Is WAR” (Mondays, 9 pm, TNN) that Austin is on the way back to facedom is something of a good news, bad news situation, but, alas, an unavoidable one. The reason? ECW! ECW! ECW!

Having turned the wrestling world upside down last week, Paul Heyman and his Extreme legions have done what Shane McMahon’s WCW was supposed to — i.e., provide a credible, fearsome challenge to Vince and the WWF. It’s done that, and then some, as Heyman, in a series of bristling promos, has stolen Vinnie Mac’s evil-genius persona right from under him and brought a refreshing, old-school nastiness to the proceedings.

Now, with three promotions on the scene, the WWF’s four weekly hours seem hardly able to contain all the action? and comedy. Cognitive dissonance rules the day, making it difficulty to find the right pop culture metaphor to describe the controlled chaos that is the shows’ head spinning roster of characters, shtick, and loyalties. It’s like a collision between the Superfriends, the Fantastic Four, and the Justice League of America. Or maybe it’s more like ”It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World!” Or ”The Warriors.” Or, to attach an appropriately slapstick bent to it, ”The Wacky Racers.”

But if one thing is clear, it’s that ECW (in league with the now strangely back-burnered WCW) is the enemy, the brutal, devious upstart determined to take Mr. McMahon’s empire from him. What that means, at least for the short term, is that the WWF is, by necessity, a face promotion. Even Kurt Angle, probably the most hated man in the WWF, now has his malice channeled into comedy, as he, and Austin — who spent a dark night of the soul in a local barroom agonizing over whether or not to join the battered Team WWF — have joined the Good Fight.

All of it portends one of the most intriguing and promising pay per views in a long time. Who will YOU be cheering?

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