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CIRCA
1996: Brian Pillman Whips It Out
October 7, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com

 

Note: This is another gem from the Circa archives, originally published on WrestleLine.com on December 12, 2000. Please enjoy an encore presentation of the time Brian Pillman said "fuck" a bunch of times on live television while brandishing a shotgun!

I look back to 1996 for this column, and one of the most controversial episodes of WWF Monday Night Raw ever. 
 

Rest assured that if the WWF were to try a stunt like this today, at the peak of their mainstream visibility, the troubles brought on by the Parents Television Council would pale in comparison to the fury the WWF would face for promoting such gratuitous violence. And yes, this too happened during an election year, where anyone 

who was paying attention could easily have used the incident to take a popular stance against the wrestling industry.

On November 4, 1996, the WWF moved Raw back an hour to 8 p.m. That way, the entire hour-long Raw could air before Nitro, which aired from 9-11 p.m.

In the prime time family hour, and with a golden opportunity to steal back some of WCW's momentum in the Monday ratings battle, the WWF aired the Steve Austin-Brian Pillman home break-in episode. The final minute of the show featured Pillman screaming profanity at Austin and wildly waving a handgun in his direction, WWF announcer Kevin Kelly pleading to the camera for someone to call the police, and a parting shot of Pillman's wife Melanie crying.

THE SETUP: STONE COLD, ULTRA-HEEL

Steve Austin was at beginning of what would become one of the most successful pushes ever. On the October 28, 1996, edition of Raw, he paced like a caged tiger in a studio while Vince McMahon asked him questions about Pillman - whom Austin had just "re-injured" on WWF Superstars in an angle designed to give Pillman more time to heal his ankle. Austin debuted one of his catch phrases in response.

"Brian Pillman forgot - DTA, brother. Don't trust ANYBODY. You thought I was your friend? You were the biggest puppet in the world!" Austin said, making an imaginary string puppet with his hands. "And I had the strings, and there you were."

Vince McMahon - playing the innocent announcer in the days before his status as WWF owner was common knowledge to most fans - asked the villainous Stone Cold why WWF President Gorilla Monsoon had not stopped him yet. Stone Cold gave a quasi-shoot answer.

"Because that Gorilla Monsoon is just a puppet. YOU know. YOU'RE the one that's pulling all the strings here! YOU'RE the boss! Why don't YOU do something to me? NO - SHUT UP! I'll tell you why. Because you're a greedy, selfish promoter. And you know Stone Cold and Bret Hart are gonna get it on in the biggest match of the decade [Survivor Series 1996]. And you don't wanna miss out. You're gonna fill your back pocket full, son!"

After that somewhat prophetic statement of the future Austin-McMahon "conflict," Austin, in a split-screen, would go on to continuously interrupt and run down Bret Hart during an interview from his home in Calgary. He told Hart he would have to kill him to get rid of him, then assaulted a WWF stagehand for trying to "count him down." After destroying the set, much was made of the fact that Brian Pillman would be interviewed live from his home in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, next week.

And Austin had promised to show up at Pillman's house and assault him there. See you next week - new time, 8 p.m. eastern.

AND OH YEAH... THE ROCK DEBUTS

It was a noteworthy Raw even without the Austin-Pillman break-in angle. In the first match, Goldust (Dustin "Rhodes" Runnels) squared off against Barry "The Stalker" Windham. Both men had their respective Survivor Series teams at ringside. Windham's team included newcomer Rocky Maivia, who I believe made his first on-camera Raw appearance this night. Ironically, his soon-to-be-longtime rival Triple H was at ringside for the other team, palling around with "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and wearing his "Connecticut Blue Blood" outfit.

Incidentally, the Rock nearly slipped off the tope rope in the process of performing what was, in my estimation, his first move ever on Raw. Rocky dove off the turnbuckle and delivered a flying bodypress to Goldust and Crush (Kronic's Brian Adams in his dreadlocked, tattooed ex-con gimmick) simultaneously. Also on the program: the current Rikishi Phatu as "The Sultan" versus Alex "The Pug" Porteau, and the fake Razor Ramon versus Marc Mero (fake Diesel, Glen "Kane" Jacobs, was prominently displayed at ringside). The show was a virtual jackpot for seeing current stars in their past gimmicks.

But all that would be secondary to the Austin-Pillman spectacle.

"I GOT A SIX PACK OF WHOOP-ASS RIDING SHOTGUN WITH ME, SON!"

At the top of the show, Kevin Kelly introduced the angle with a live scene from outside Pillman's house, which the graphic said was in Walton, Kentucky. McMahon was calling the show with Jerry Lawler and both were enthusiastic at first, hyping the fact that Stone Cold might show up at the house.

In the middle of the Goldust-Windham match, Dok Hendrix appears in a split-screen window. He informs McMahon that he's on the phone with Stone Cold. He's in a rental car, he just left the Cincinnati airport, he's on his way to Pillman's house, and he wants to speak to Vince. In a more serious tone, McMahon asked Austin what he was up to. Austin responded with a variation of Samuel Jackson's Bible verse from Pulp Fiction... the one he recited before killing people. As Jackson said in the movie, when you heard him say that verse, "that meant your ass."

"[Pillman] inspired a new verse out of the Book of Austin," he quipped. "Austin 25:17 - I will strike down upon your ass with GREAT VENGEANCE and FURIOUS ANGER. And that's what's gonna happen." McMahon informs Austin that several of Pillman's friends are surrounding the house to protect Brian. Austin is unwavering. "And I got a six pack of whoop-ass riding shotgun with me, son!"

Jerry Lawler chimes in and mentions that Pillman threatened to have a gun ready for him. Austin, true to character, was still not shaken. After the shmozz ending of the Goldust-Windham match, we go live to Pillman's den, where Kelly sits next to Brian and Melanie.

"I'M GONNA BLAST HIS SORRY ASS STRAIGHT TO HELL!"

Kelly had no control of the situation from the outset. Even when he tried to ask questions, McMahon interrupted to speak to Pillman personally, saying things about vulnerability and being a hostage in his own home. Pillman answered everything seriously, but quickly snapped into "Loose Cannon" mode. Eyes bulging maniacally, Pillman began barking into the camera.

"Ha! Steve is a dead man walking! Because when AUSTIN 3:16 meets PILLMAN 9 MM GLOCK [brandishes weapon and loads it], I'M GONNA BLAST HIS SORRY ASS STRAIGHT TO HELL!" As Kelly, McMahon and Melanie Pillman panic, we go to a commercial.

Upon returning, we see Austin in Pillman's driveway viciously assaulting Pillman's friends with Pillman's children's toys, even slamming one guy's head in the door of an SUV. Austin then stalks around the house looking for a place to break in. After some very somber and serious commentary from Lawler and McMahon during the Sultan-Porteau match, the feed returns from within Pillman's house. We see Pillman with the gun, and Kelly is getting very nervous.

Then, the sound of glass shattering.

The camera moves around the corner and catches Austin smashing through the window of the door. Austin breaks the window in while Melanie shrieks in horror and Kevin Kelly shouts for someone to send help. Austin reaches through the broken-out window and opens the door from the inside, storms into Pillman's home with that heavy-footed Stone Cold stride, straight for Pillman. The camera turns to show Pillman aiming the gun point blank at the charging Austin. Pillman's crazed eyes get wider still. Then, suddenly, we lose the feed. Commercial break.

"LIKE A COUPLE EXPLOSIONS"

After this shocking scene, Raw would continue through a Shawn Michaels-Sycho Sid debate and the Ramon-Mero match with the feed still supposedly lost. At one point, WWF director Kerwin Silfies phones in to McMahon saying the crew would probably not be able to restore the feed, since the were so spooked by the incident. Silfies told McMahon the crew heard what sounded "like a couple explosions," but didn't actually say any shots were fired.

Jim Ross, in heel mode supporting his fake Diesel and Ramon, joined McMahon and Lawler for commentary and lambasted McMahon for irresponsibly endangering Pillman and Austin for ratings. McMahon came off like he was trying to control the spin of the situation while JR went on the offensive. Lawler uncharacteristically played the voice of reason between the two. McMahon, choosing his words carefully, said that some of the blame for what happened would indeed fall on the shoulders of the WWF. Good Ol' JR took it further.

"That's YOU!" Ross said. "YOU'RE the head muckety-muck here! YOU knew something was going to happen, sending that crew out there!"

"SOMEBODY GET THE GUN"

In the final few minutes of the broadcast, the feed was back (conveniently following a replay of the initial break-in). Pillman's friends were in the house restraining him. Kelly tells McMahon nobody was struck by any of the "explosions" (still not calling them actual shots, though Kelly was undoubtedly in a position to know for sure). Austin charged back into the house, and as Pillman's friends leave him to push Austin back out, Pillman once again aims the gun and begins shouting.

"Let him go!" Pillman screamed. "That son of a bitch has got this coming! Let him go! I'm going to kill that son of a bitch! Get out of the f*cking way!" (And yes, that last comment was uncensored and audible by viewers).

Kelly is auditioning for an Emmy in the background, shifting spastically from foot to foot and holding his microphone askew. "CALL THE POLICE!" he begged repeatedly, his voice sounding like that of an imperiled female.

Lawler tried to pull Kelly together, to no avail. "Kevin!" Lawler shouted. "Get the gun! Somebody get the gun!" Our parting shot shows Melanie bowing her head and crying. Copyright 1996 Titan Sports. Fade to black.

AFTERMATH OF THE AUSTIN-PILLMAN SPECTACLE

The WWF apologized for the angle the next week on Raw. They were in hot water with USA, sponsors and viewers alike for the excessively outrageous and violent show. The WWF would never air the footage again, except for an occasional snippet of Austin assaulting Pillman's cronies outside the house. I'm not sure if the footage ever made it to one of the Steve Austin "uncensored" WWF home videos as I've never seen any of them in their entirety. But the WWF knew they had crossed a line with that angle as soon as the next day, and quickly sought to make amends. Stone Cold and the "Loose Cannon" remained two of the most unruly WWF characters, but never again worked an angle quite as shocking.

Needless to say, the WWF would never get away with a show like this today. They are too big, too noticeable by the mainstream media, and they have too many critics. WWF sponsors today are much bigger names than in 1996, and would never have their products associated with a show where wrestlers waved around guns and teased the fact that a shooting might occur. The closest they have come was in 1998, when Steve Austin "kidnapped" Vince McMahon and ended RAW by pointing a toy gun to the frightened dictator's head and causing him to wet his pants. The gun discharged a flag that said, "BANG." Not nearly as edgy as the Pillman angle.

And the WWF is definitely better off that way.

 
E-MAIL DENNY
BROWSE THE CIRCA ARCHIVES


  
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