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Written By: Mark Armstrong
Running Time: 188 Minutes
Number Of Discs: 1
Studio: Clear Vision Ltd/Silver Vision
Released: June 21 2004
Back in 2003-4 during the days when WWE DVDs were transitioning from character profiles during calendar years to in-depth looks at the entire careers of performers, the idea of a release dedicated to the life and times of Stone Cold Steve Austin seemed like an enticing prospect, especially in the early years after WWE purchased the rights to the WCW and ECW video libraries. However, The Stone Cold Truth (which shares the title and front cover as Austin’s 2003 autobiography, for some reason) is little more than a basic overview of Stone Cold’s highs and lows, with some pretty big chapters strangely omitted.
We do get a run-through of Austin’s upbringing, his rise in wrestling and his headline run, backed up by incredible popularity during the most successful period in company history. However, as noted, some pretty big aspects of his career are not included. We do get thorough coverage of certain key developments, such as the neck injury that he suffered via a tombstone piledriver gone wrong from Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997, but we don’t get anything on other pivot points of Austin’s career, a good example being his 2002 walk-out from WWE (the frustration with which is magnified by the fact that this DVD was released little more than a year after Stone Cold returned to the company from said walk-out). And while some light-hearted segments raise a smile, like the section on Austin’s head-shaving routine, they are hardly suitable replacements for key elements of Stone Cold’s story.
I should point out that the documentary feature, which only lasts around 45 minutes, was originally broadcast on American television station UPN in November 2003. The short running time explains the omission of some weighty events (but it doesn’t entirely reveal the reasons why some were prioritised and/or ignored), and the timing of the original showing probably explains the odd fashion in which the documentary ends. Austin’s last match was against The Rock at WrestleMania XIX in March 2003, and after a fun stint as co-Raw General Manager, a stipulation match involving two teams managed by the opposing General Managers (the other was Eric Bischoff) at Survivor Series 2003 led to Austin’s on-screen role in that capacity ending. He would return as Sheriff on the final Raw of 2003 but purely from the standpoint of that particular storyline, Austin was supposedly finished.
Fans knew, however, that deep down he would return someday. Therefore, it’s baffling that the documentary, which has an authentic and behind-the-scenes approach to most other scenes, chooses to end the main feature by giving the impression that this scripted defeat, which ended a non-wrestling position for Stone Cold anyway, was the final ever wrestling appearance for the Texas Rattlesnake. It’s one of those things where it kind of makes sense, but it really doesn’t; had the documentary concluded by highlighting what really was Austin’s last match at that year’s Mania, it would have been a lot more sensible.
While from the standpoint of the original transmission, there was a slight logic to finishing the documentary this way (kayfabe was still hanging onto dear life in the mid-noughties), by the time the DVD was released, Austin had returned in the aforementioned Sheriff role. Ironically, though, come DVD release date, Austin had actually left WWE for real (due to contractual differences), meaning that for all intents and purposes, at the time when fans first saw the DVD, it was in fact correct to state that Austin was done in WWE, even if the reasons weren’t quite the same as what the feature implies. Confused yet? Thought so, especially when you consider that Austin would once again return to WWE a few months later, and would leave and return again more than once in the future.
Fortunately for those fans who were disappointed with this DVD, or at least the main feature, WWE would return to the concept in 2011 and release the outstanding Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line On The Most Popular Superstar Of All-Time, which gives fans the complete, in-depth Austin documentary that his very large fan base wanted as well as his biggest matches and a suitcase full of memorable promos and segments (you can read the review for that DVD by clicking here). As for The Stone Cold Truth: it also boasts some extras, although if you’re not a fan of the pre-Stone Cold version of Steve Austin, then they may not be very appealing. Two WCW matches against Bobby Eaton and alongside Brian Pillman against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson are followed by Austin’s ECW debut against Mikey Whipwreck, and Austin’s WWF debut as The Ringmaster against Scott Taylor (the future Scotty Too Hotty) on a January 1996 episode of Superstars. The only match from the Stone Cold era is the aforementioned SummerSlam 1997 bout with Owen, another choice which is logical but questionable in terms of this being the only in-ring representation of Stone Cold as Stone Cold on the DVD.
There are some more extras: his very memorable ECW promos are here in full, as well as a couple of segments from 2003, mostly post-show, with Austin generally larking about and having a good time (which you will enjoy, believe me). Arguably the highlight of this release is a hidden Easter Egg, accessed by right-clicking the final chapter on the Extras list of the DVD menu, where we see a hilarious Austin promo prior to Royal Rumble 2002 where he explains his “strategy” to Michael Cole. This 5-and-a-half minute interview is superb, with many humorous moments (amongst them Cole’s struggle to keep a straight face), and literally hundreds of “What?” chants from the crowd on hand for that particular episode of Raw. However, this promo (and the ECW ones, for that matter) are also on the 2011 Austin DVD, so if these segments are your reason to buy The Stone Cold Truth (and they are arguably the best parts of this DVD), then save your money for The Bottom Line.
When I review DVDs in retrospect, I try to take into account the standards of the time when they originally hit shelves. However, in this case, even by 2003/4 standards, The Stone Cold Truth looked like it was lacking plenty, from omitted interview chapters to a brief and far-from-complete match selection. Even the promos, as entertaining as they are, are nowhere near being the perfect representation of Stone Cold’s mic work (besides maybe the ECW interviews). That being said, it is only one disc, and it is based on Stone Cold Steve Austin, arguably the most entertaining performer in wrestling history (some will argue that this title belongs to The Rock, you could vouch for either man, to be fair). Therefore, you should gleam a good chunk of entertainment from The Stone Cold Truth. Just don’t expect to be wowed by this DVD; if you take it for what it is – a fairly brief yet entertaining spotlight of the Texas Rattlesnake – then you should enjoy the release. Any fans expecting more from the DVD should probably steer clear and head towards The Bottom Line instead.
Overall Rating: 4.5/10 – Below Average