The Stunner, A History
Updated: Apr 27
The sound of smashing glass fills the room.
A boozed up Texan, covered in skulls and leather strides confidently towards his boss, a sharp suited man in his mid-50’s who is beckoning towards his security outfit to surround and protect him.
His aggressor is paces not 5 feet away smashing beer cans and glugging back their contents.
On lookers howl in support as the tall, strong Texan continues to show the middle finger to small children and the elderly, which seemingly garners his even more adulation.
The brash attacker pushes effortlessly through the crowd of security to stand and confront his boss face to face.
He extends his leg, a swift kick to the gut followed by a brief pause. The room’s anticipation swells.
The older man is doubled over, a look of fear seen deeply into his eyes – he know’s what is coming.
On 22nd of September 1997 on WWE’s Monday Night Raw.
Stone Cold Steve Austin hit his now world famous Stone Cold stunner on Vice Mcmahon and a move that will live in fans memories for a long time was born.
The impactful stunner has a history in wrestling that extends before Stone Cold’s use.
In Japan, Johnny Ace (known is the rest of the world as John Laurinaitis) had a widely different version of the move known as the Ace Crusher which he invented at the start of the 90’s.
Though the evolution of the Ace Crusher now more closely resembles a cutter similar to Randy Orton’s RKO.
In Extreme 90’s Philadelphia promotion ECW. The move was adapted by Mikey Whipwreck a wrestler with a self-destructive style fitting with the hardcore blood-lust of the promotion.
Whipwreck coined The Whipper Snapper using his body’s weight to pull his opponents chin onto his own shoulder – the move was quick and unpredictable and could be used from a variety of locations around the ring, off the ropes or whilst running.
In modern times – Ember Moon a popular wrestler in WWE’s women’s division has been successful in claiming championships with her stunner variant where she athletically flies from the top rope over her opponents head, falling down whilst grabbing their head and ending on the mat in the stunner position.
HOW TO TECHNICAL
Technically names the three-quarter facelock reverse sitout jawbreaker – I’m sure you can see why wrestlers prefer to rebrand the move when they pull the stunner out in the ring.
I would say the three-quarter facelock reverse sitout jawbreaker, better known as the Stone Cold Stunner, is the most famous move.
As Austin explained, the Stunner is versatile. There were entirely different ways to sell it that would still garner positive reaction.
Wrestlers could act like they were legitimately injured; the crowd would freak out. Someone like Hall or The Rock could ham up their responses, bringing viewers to the point where they thought they were watching a cartoon; it still worked.
There is probably no other wrestling move that had as wide a range of outcomes as the Stunner.
"I guess the year was 1996. We were in Fayetteville, NC. at a Monday Night Raw. It was just a normal Monday. I was hanging around the arena killing time before the show started, minding my own business when Michael P.S. Hayes came up to me and said “Hey, Kid…You got a minute? I wanna show you something”. I said “Sure” and followed him to the ring. As we walked he started explaining to me that he had maybe come up with a better finishing move for me than the one I was using at the time. I had been using the Million Dollar Dream, H.O.F’er Ted DiBiase’s old finish that I had been given when I first came into WWF, with Ted as my manager. It had been a great finisher for Ted, and it was working well for me too, but I needed something a little more explosive that fit my personality. Michael explained that Johnny ‘Ace’ Laurinaitus had been using a version of the this finish in Japan with great success." - Steve Austin
"I needed some type of setup maneuver ala Jake “The Snake” Robert’s signature short arm clothesline that he delivered before unleashing one of the most devastating finishers of all time…The DDT. An easy, and quick solution to this was the kick to the gut, which perfectly set the victim into an effective ‘ready position’. Not only was the kick effective as a weapon to neutralize my opponent, it was also a visual ‘signal’ to the crowd that the Stunner was next…Or was it? Any kind of curveball could be worked into the equation at that point, but from a storytelling standpoint, the Stunner was ‘supposed’ to happen next." - Steve Austin
Austin’s entrance theme started with the sound of glass breaking; his entire persona was brash, a metaphorical kick to the gut. The Stunner was a perfect representation of him, and of all the things that have ever been great about wrestling.
The stunner was used as by the most popular performer in wrestling’s history, during the industries peak period from the late 90’s known as the attitude era, where weekly shows were regularly watched by almost four times as many people as today.
At the time, wrestling was at the forefront of popular culture in the US with children regularly ignoring the ‘don’t try this at home’ mantra to debilitate their classmates with their version of the Stone Cold Stunner.
For fans who grew up watching the attitude era and the supposed glory days of wrestling in the late 90’s, the stunner will always be synonymous with destruction, victories and a certain level of cool.
Today, while glancing through rose-tinted spectacles we regularly overlook the bad sides of this period and ignore the racism, sexism and homophobia that was prevalent back then.
One thing that nobody can deny about the 90’s is that there is no need to view the period with rose-tinted glasses to appreciate Stone Cold Steve Austin and his iconic stunner.