He was considered by many destined for an injury plagued career as a perennial mid-carder, but Steve Austin was determined to find greater success. Eschewing gaudy ring attire and fancy gimmicks, Austin became a no nonsense tough guy, with a take no prisoner attitude, and changed the wrestling industry.
Real Name: Steve Williams
Stats: 6′ 2″ 241 lbs.
Born: Dec. 18, 1964
Steve Austin is today’s version of the working man’s hero. His in-ring skills are not overwhelming, nor is his physical size necessarily intimidating.. What is most impressive is the dedication, hard work and tenacity that he displayed over the years to defy the odds to make it to the top of the profession.
Steve Austin was born Steve William in Texas in 1964. He grew up watching professional wrestling on Paul Boesch’s Houston Wrestling television program as well as going to the Sportatorium in Dallas to watch the Von Erich family perform in World Class Championship Wrestling. An excellent high school athlete, he pursued his athletic dreams on the football field, receiving a football scholarship from North Texas State University. After his scholarship ended, he worked on loading docks to earn money while he determined what career path he wanted to follow. On his way home from work one day, he saw an advertisement for Gentleman Chris Adams wrestling school and took a chance and entered as a new prospect. Under the tutelage of Adams, Williams’ natural athletic ability allowed him to progress quickly and he competed in his first match five months later.
Williams soon began a feud with his teacher Gentleman Chris Adams. In order not to be confused with another wrestler with the same name (“Doctor Death” Steve Williams) Williams took on the name of Steve Austin (the hero in the Six Million Dollar Man television show). The new Steve Austin would soon claim victories over his former mentor as well as Adams’ wife, Jeannie, as his valet (he would later marry Jeannie after she and Adams divorced). Gaining experience and confidence, Austin was now ready to move on to better things.
In 1991, Austin entered World Championship Wrestling. Over the course of the next five years, Austin would enjoy a great deal of success. Under the guise of “Stunning” Steve Austin, he captured the WCW TV title in 1992, defeating veteran Barry Windham. A year later, he defeated Dustin Rhodes to claim the WCW U.S. championship. After losing the title, he regained it by defeating Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat. Despite his success, many felt Austin was being lost in the shuffle among the big names of the promotion. His career seemed to lack the flash and glamour necessary to gain the attention of the fans – this would soon change as he soon teamed up with “Flying” Brian Pillman. Known as the “Hollywood Blondes,” Austin and Pillman defeated Steamboat and Shane Douglas to win the WCW tag team belts and emerge as prominent personalities in the professional wrestling arena. Irreverent and obnoxious, the team ridiculed their competition and kept the fans either hating them or laughing at their antics.
Despite this success, Austin was plagued with numerous injuries. The most severe was a torn tricep which put him out of action for months. While he was rehabbing the injury, WCW soured on him, thinking him plain, boring and non-compelling. They decided to terminate his contract and informed him of such over the phone. Injured, and furious with what he felt was disrespect in the way he was treated, Austin decided to enter ECW where he began changing his in-ring persona, adding a nasty edge and making direct, angry verbal attacks at the people in charge at WCW. His popularity soared with ECW fans and interest in him grew quickly. Suddenly the wrestler though of as being boring had become quite entertaining. At this point, Austin decided to take the next step to get back tot he big time and entered the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1995.
His entrance into the WWF was not exactly what he had in mind – he was presented as a character called the Ringmaster and was managed by the Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase. He feuded briefly with Marc Mero and Savio Vega, not finding the early success he had anticipated but he was taking gradual step to continue redefining his persona. His new persona was based on his infatuation with a movie about a serial killer. While discussing it with his wife one night, she prompted him to finish drinking his warm tea before it got “stone cold.” “Stone Cold” Steve Austin began focusing with a tunnelvision-like view of his career path. He was determined to enjoy success and to make it to the top and he would run over anyone in his way.
After DiBiase left the WWF, Austin with a shaved head and simple black trunks entered the 1996 King of the Ring competition. Despite suffering a cut lip which required more than a dozen stitches in a match with Marc Mero, Austin defeated Jake “the Snake” Roberts in the finals to become the “King of the Ring.” Mocking Roberts, a born-again Christian, Austin stated “you talk about Psalms, you talk about John 3:16… well Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” With one phrase, a star was born.
Austin became a roughhousing bad-ass, not afraid of any wrestler or of being hurt. He engaged in a bitter feud with Bret Hart which culminated an “I Quit” match. While he lost the match, he refused to quit, and the match was ended when he collapsed from a loss of blood. With his tough guy mystique quietly growing on the fans, Austin found himself teamed with Shawn Michaels and the duo grabbed the WWF tag team championship. After they lost the belts, Austin regained them by teaming with Mick Foley. As he entered the 1997 Summerslam event, Austin’s popularity was growing ore than anyone else in the business. He was posed on the verge of superstardom – and suddenly, it almost ended.
In his match against Owen Hart, Austin was temporarily paralyzed when Hart attempted a piledriver. Although he was able to make the pin, he was seriously injured and had to undergo serious medical treatment before he was able to reenter the ring. When he did return, he set his immediate sights on capturing the WWF World Heavyweight belt and did so by defeating Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania XV. Having achieved his ultimate success in the business, Austin would now face the biggest challenge in his career.
Vince McMahon, the owner of the WWF, declared that Austin was a poor choice to represent the WWF as its champion, calling him a vulgar, foul-mouthed degenerate and vowed to get the championship away from him. For the next two years, Austin faced a number of obstacles including Rocky Maivia, the Undertaker, Mick Foley and even McMahon himself. Although he was cheated out of the title, he cleverly fund ways to get it back, all the while doing his best to buck McMahon’s authority and make him miserable.
In 1999, Austin neck injury began hurting him more and more until it became unbearable. In early 2000 he underwent surgery and was forced to take time away from the ring. This did not stop him from finding his way into the homes of his fans as he guest starred on the Nash Bridges television show.
Steve Austin did what he intended at each step of his career. Not only did he become a champion but he also obtained enormous wealth through his merchandising and public appearance opportunities. He has set a new standard for wrestling intensity and microphone work and has solidified his place as one of the wrestling greats for the 1990s.