Stone Cold's breakneck win

Stone Cold's breakneck win

On Aug. 2, 1997, it really wouldn't have made any difference where you were sitting inside the sold-out Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. You could have been perched in the very last seat, atop the highest row, and you still would have heard's No. 2 SummerSlam Moment: The sickening crunch of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's skull crashing straight into the canvas, breaking his neck.

It was an inverted piledriver from Owen Hart that forced Stone Cold's head into the mat at the tenth annual Biggest Party of the Summer. None of the more than 20,000 fans in attendance, or the countless multitudes watching on pay-per-view, will ever forget watching the Texas Rattlesnake's bid to capture the Intercontinental Title from Hart appear suddenly snake-bitten. The sound of bone and cartilage impacting against the canvas floor was akin to some plastic spike being driven into winter-frozen soil. Unfortunately, almost tragically, something broke in that instant…and it wasn't the canvas.

Owen had wanted only to counter Austin's own attempted piledriver, pin him, retain his title and force Austin to live up to an earlier-made promise to kiss his posterior in defeat. Instead, he momentarily shared the same shocked look on our fans' faces, who watched a very concerned ring official watch over the clearly incapacitated Austin. But then the King of Harts, remembering his nature, decided to revel in a seemingly assured victory the only way he knew how: He swaggered around the squared circle and declared himself the victor—without pinning his adversary.

To this day, no one watching this historic match-up can explain how Stone Cold had the fortitude to will himself semi-upright, crawl behind Hart and roll him up for the three-count. The Continental Airlines Arena's capacity crowd rose to its collective feet in jubilation, even while WWE's new Intercontinental Champion still lay prone in the middle of the ring, barely able to hold onto his first WWE singles title.

On that hot August night in New Jersey, the Austin era of "3:16" had grown stronger than ever…though victory had come at the heaviest of prices. Owen Hart's inverted piledriver literally took years off Stone Cold's career in the ring, and quite nearly paralyzed him. Amazingly, however, Austin would ignore doctors' stern advice to "get out of wrestling" and battle through two more years of what was diagnosed as central cord compression. He'd also Stunner his way to four of his six WWE Championships until late 1999, when several vertebrae in his neck were surgically fused together, keeping him out of ring action for an entire year.

Thankfully, the successful operation enabled the Texas Rattlesnake to enjoy not only two more WWE Title reigns, but to still "arrive, raise hell, leave" whenever he sees fit. More important, it has given our fans the opportunity to spontaneously chant "Au-stin! Au-stin!" or "What?" throughout WWE-filled arenas around the world…where they continue to appreciate an immortal SummerSlam memory.

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