This segment was so controversial that WWE and the parties involved were forced to apologize.
20 years ago today, the then-WWF ran a segment on Monday Night RAW featuring Steve Austin, Brian Pillman… and a Glock 9mm.
The story at the time was that Austin had just turned on Pillman, breaking his ankle in the process. Austin then went to Pillman’s house in Kentucky, where Pillman was prepared to defend himself with the brandished weapon.
After Austin finally broke into the home, Pillman pointed the guy at Austin, and then the screen went blank as the WWE claimed that they had lost their satellite connection. In reality, they had cut it short to leave the viewers in suspense to if Pillman had actually shot his former tag-team partner.
From the Wrestling Observer’s recounting of the incident after it had happened:
All this controversy led to the USA Network, which was in on the angle from the beginning, trying to distance itself from the angle and apologizing, saying they’d never let something like this happen again and claiming to have had no knowledge as to the extent the angle was going to be taken.
Pillman and Austin were both on the show doing phone-ins, with Pillman apologizing for what happened and in particular for getting carried away with the language he used, although [Vince] McMahon down played Pillman having to apologize and again took all the blame.
The segment was a pre-cursor to some of the edgier content that WWE started using in the late-90s. This led WWE into an economic boom often called the “Attitude Era”, which saw Austin become the biggest star in professional wrestling.
Pillman died from a heart attack just a year later after the angle was shown on television.