In early 2002, Vince McMahon vowed to kill his own creation as he injected WWE with a lethal dose of poison in the form of the NWO, a decision that did not sit well with Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall returned to WWE in 2002 bringing the black and white of the NWO that they had made famous in WCW with them. Nash and Hall were members of the infamous backstage group The Kliq that used their collective talent and bargaining power to ensure prime spots on the card in WWE in the mid-nineties.
Hulk Hogan was on a whole different level politically with his backstage maneuverings well known so much so that the phrase “that doesn’t work for me brother” has become part of the wrestling lexicon.
While McMahon planned to bring in these three stars en masse, it didn’t exactly have one of WWE’s biggest stars, Steve Austin, jumping for joy.
Speaking on The Kurt Angle Show, Angle revealed that Steve Austin was “hesitant” about the NWO trio joining WWE again because he didn’t want to deal with their political games:
“I mean, he wasn’t the happiest person in the world. We would talk every once in a while, and I think he was a little bit hesitant as far as getting all these guys in here at one time because they were very political in the past, and I don’t think Steve wanted to deal with that. And I think that was a little bit of the reason.
“But you know, when you have Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and everybody else coming in all at once, it’s kind of overwhelming. Like, ‘Okay, where am I going to be on the card?’ … I think that Steve was a little bit hesitant on the politics of it, what they would do politically to try to make their way up above him.”
At WrestleMania 18 while Hogan stole the show with The Rock, Austin found himself in the middle of the card facing Scott Hall. Austin won the match but within three months he was gone from WWE, having stayed home from an episode of Raw where he was scheduled to lose to a young Brock Lesnar.