August 30, 2003
Fans opened real birthday gift

Fans in the America West Arena in Phoenix were treated to a classic unscripted moment when the cameras stopped rolling at Summerslam last Sunday.

After the show went off the air, Stone Cold Steve Austin strutted to the ring for his obligatory beer-drinking routine, but instead of knocking back a six pack (or four) as he usually does, the Rattlesnake invited WWE owner Vince McMahon to come out from backstage. McMahon hesitantly came down the runway as Austin announced the night was about far more than just Summerslam -- it was also Vinnie Mac's birthday.

The events that followed were ad libbed and, from what I understand, McMahon had no idea it was going to happen.

The locker-room emptied into the ring and all the wrestlers (heels and faces from both rosters) broke character to celebrate the boss' special day. The referees and agents filled out the ringside area as Austin led the crew and crowd in a 20,000-strong rendition of Happy Birthday.

Then the real fun began.

Austin asked McMahon to tell the crowd how old he was. McMahon answered he was 50 but Undertaker interrupted and pointed out Vince has been claiming that since the early '90s. McMahon eventually admitted he was turning 58.

Austin then tried to convince McMahon to sing a Frank Sinatra song for the audience.

McMahon said he'd do it but only if the Undertaker performed a Taker-roonie (there's been a long-standing behind-the-scenes quest to get 'Taker to attempt Booker T's trademark move), which the Phenom managed to worm his way out of.

With the audience going wild for the rare out-of-character exchanges, Austin announced he wasn't leaving until someone sang a song. A rendition of Mary Had A Little Lamb by Triple H went horribly awry but eventually Pat Patterson saved the day by belting out a karaoke number while the rest of the roster swayed along.

The impromptu celebration wrapped up with a speech from the birthday boy himself, in which the WWE boss thanked the wrestlers and the audience, before closing the night in true Vince McMahon fashion -- cackling into the mic and yelling, "I'm going to outlive all you people!"

I realize this whole incident may sound pretty trivial but in a business where breaking character is still widely frowned upon, an exchange like this is something an audience will remember long after the winners and losers of the matches are forgotten.

It's not something you can ever buy tickets for or hope to find on DVD.

The crowd witnessed a side of the wrestlers few people ever get to see and that was worth the price of admission alone.

The TV cameras actually did record the birthday celebration (it was shown to the Smackdown crew backstage at the Tuesday tapings) but seeing as it was probably the largest-scale breach of standard conduct to take place in front of a live audience, I highly doubt the footage will see the light of day.

CANOE.CA SLAM!