Stone Cold Steve Austin is arguably the biggest superstar in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Austin ushered in the biggest boom period the company has ever seen, one even more profitable than Hulkamania in the mid-to-late 80s. WWE was at a low point when Austin arrived in 1995. Not only was the company struggling to find a new Hulk Hogan (Hogan had left the company in 1993), but World Championship Wrestling had also just launched Monday Nitro to go head-to-head with Raw.
Vince had tried to go with Bret Hart, Diesel, and Shawn Michaels as the focal point of the show and the company’s “new generation” but as good as those guys were they were not the draw he needed to distinguish his product as better than WCW.
Enter “Stone Cold,” who got over with the fans by being a nasty heel and became the company’s feature performer for the majority of the Attitude era.
WCW had fired Austin earlier in 95 after a series of injuries kept him from performing. Austin would spend some time in ECW before debuting in the WWF as “the Ringmaster,” managed by Ted DiBiase. Over time Austin would come into his own, and a feud with Bret Hart that culminated in their famous WrestleMania 13 submission match solidified Austin as a fan favorite. His popularity unmatched by anyone else in the business.
After defeating HBK for the WWF Championship at the following year’s WrestleMania, Austin and Vince McMahon would embark on arguably the most revered feud in wrestling’s history. Austin’s rise to super-stardom was the catalyst for WWE winning the Monday Night Wars and staking its claim as the best wrestling company of all time. After his retirement however, Austin also has kept busy. Here are 10 things that Austin has been up to since his last match.
10. Film Career
Many wrestlers have attempted to make a second career out of acting after their in-ring career concluded; few have been successful in this endeavor. The Rock and Roddy Piper are really the only two to achieve more than a mild amount of success on the big screen, with all due respect to Hulk Hogan and his cinematic gems such as Santa with Muscles.
Austin has faired better than most other ex-wrestlers, with his most notable film being 2010’s The Expendables. The movie was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone with the intent of being a throwback action flick in the likeness of Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and others.
9. Redneck Island
Austin had numerous nicknames over the years, one of which being “the Bionic Redneck.” It should come as no surprise then to learn that Austin was something of a role model to people who also identified with the term, minus the bionic part.
Country Music Television decided to capitalize on the redneck community’s reverence for Austin by casting him as the host of a reality television show on their network aptly named Redneck Island.
The show has many similarities to Survivor, but with a real down-home redneck twist, and Austin’s presence serves to enhance that feel. The show has been a success for the network since its debut in 2012, now in its fifth season.
8. He Makes Beer
Steve Austin is a guy who likes beer. Many of Austin’s career-defining moments either involved beer directly, or had an exclamation point put on it by Austin cracking a few “Steve-weisers” in the ring afterwards.
Possibly one of Monday Night Raw’s most iconic moments occurred when Austin drove a beer truck down the entrance ramp, then pulled out a hose and proceeded to spray Vince McMahon and his Corporation with beer.
Austin really does love beer, enough so that he is now making his own. Broken Skull IPA is the result of Austin’s partnership with El Segundo Brewing, launching in late 2015. So far the partnership has been an overwhelming success, with the brewery stating that they aren’t able to make enough of the product to meet the public’s demand for it.
7. Tough Enough 2010
The original version of WWE’s reality competition show “Tough Enough” managed to produce a few notable wrestlers: Ryback, John Morrison (Mundo), the Miz. It also produced its fair share of non-notable names such as Maven and the ever-annoying voice of TNA Wrestling, Josh Matthews.
Chris Nowinski, who spearheaded the Sports Legacy Institute, was also an original cast member of Tough Enough, and quite possibly has been the show’s alumni who has had the biggest impact on the business, albeit not in a wrestling role.
In 2010, the WWE decided to go back to the idea and revived the series. This version of Tough Enough would oddly be referred to as the show’s first, and would make no references to the previous incarnation. Austin, now over seven years into his retirement, served as the show’s host.
Three of the cast members of the 2010 Tough Enough class are now wrestling in Lucha Underground: Son of Havoc, Marty “the Moth” Martinez, and Ivelisse. Current NXT competitor, and former “Funkadactyl” Cameron also competed on the show.
6. Multiple-Time Special Guest Referee
Many stars come back to be the special referee of a big match after their retirement, but few have made more of a habit of this than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The only possible exception to this is Shawn Michaels, who has probably played the special referee role as often as Stone Cold has over the years. Still a big draw even though he can no longer wrestle, placing the black and white stripes on Austin is an easy way to make a match feel like a bigger event.
Austin has served as referee numerous times at WrestleMania, including the “Battle of the Billionaires” at WrestleMania 27 which pitted a wrestler chosen by Vince McMahon going up against a wrestler picked by Donald Trump. McMahon and Trump each put their hair on the line as well, so the stakes were big and the match needed a special referee to ensure it was on the up and up. Much to McMahon’s chagrin, his longtime rival Austin was picked to be that person.
Sure enough, Bobby Lashley (Trump’s pick) would defeat Umaga (McMahon’s pick), and Vince McMahon would have his head shaved bald.
Austin also had the misfortune to referee over one of the bigger debacles of a match in WrestleMania history when he was announced as the special referee for the Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar match at WrestleMania 20.
In somewhat of a bizarre decision, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was announced as the referee for the Jerry “the King” Lawler vs. Michael Cole match at WrestleMania 27. This match was the pinnacle of a long-running angle that saw Cole as a heel-announcer, and having at one point cost Lawler a chance to win the WWE title.
Despite Lawler seemingly having won the match, the decision was reversed to a DQ win for Cole by the anonymous Raw GM.
5. Broken Skull Challenge
CMT was happy enough with Austin’s work on Redneck Island that he was given another reality TV show to host: The Broken Skull Challenge.
Although considered a reality show, the Broken Skull Challenge tends to be more of a televised athletic competition of sorts. The show’s competitors are chosen from a variety of athletic disciplines and are put through a series of obstacle courses and challenges to determine a winner.
As subscribers to his podcast are aware, Austin really does own and operate a Broken Skull Ranch in Texas. However, this is not the venue the show takes place in. Rather, the show’s producers recreated Austin’s ranch in an area of California where the show is filmed.
4. He Got Married For A Fourth Time
Fourth time’s a charm!
In 2009, Austin married wife number four, Kristin Austin. In a mildly interesting twist to his current marriage, it is the first time that his spouse has used the last name “Austin.” The reason for this is that for most of Stone Cold’s life his last name was Williams, but he opted to have it legally changed to his wrestling name in 2007.
Austin’s first wife was his high school and college girlfriend with whom he married in 2000. The couple split after Austin began having an affair with former WCW manager, Lady Blossom. Austin and Blossom divorced in 1999 and it wouldn’t be long after that Austin would begin dating another former WCW manager, Debra Marshall – who wrestling fans will remember better by the name Debra McMichael.
Debra was once married to Four Horsemen member and former Super Bowl Champion, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, but would later sign with the WWE and manage Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart.
Debra and Austin would marry in 2000, but the relationship would encounter a fair bit of turmoil over the years. During Austin’s sabbatical from the WWE in 2002, there was an incident between he and Debra that resulted in Debra filing assault charges against him. Austin would file for divorce a week later, and plead “no contest” to the assault charges.
His latest wife appears from time to time on his podcasts, and they seem to be quite happy.
3. Raw General Manager
Austin didn’t waste anytime at all finding a new role within the WWE after his retirement in 2003. The night after losing to the Rock at WrestleMania 19, Austin was fired by Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff. To Bischoff’s surprise however, Austin was almost immediately brought back to the show by Linda McMahon, who appointed Austin as the new “Co-General Manager” of Monday Night Raw.
The role meant that Bischoff and Austin would have to work together, with Austin making life difficult for Eric. There was a real life element to the storyline between the two as well, as Bischoff had once fired Austin from WCW.
That year at Survivor Series, however, a traditional Survivor Series match pitted a team picked by Steve Austin against a team picked by Eric Bischoff. Whoever’s team won would get sole control of Monday Night Raw. Bischoff won and Austin was gone.
In 2013, Stone Cold launched two different podcasts: The Steve Austin Show, and The Steve Austin Show Unleashed. The difference between the two shows is that Unleashed carries an “explicit” rating on iTunes, so Austin and guests can swear as much as they want and talk about things that might be considered too risqué for the family friendly version of the podcast.
Austin has also filmed live versions of the podcast several times as a special on the WWE Network. Guests for those podcasts have included Vince McMahon and Brock Lesnar. The WWE has at times not been thrilled with some of Austin’s conduct during the Network specials, as there was speculation that several people were upset that Austin suggested former WWE Diva Chyna should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. The issue of Chyna is potentially a sensitive one in WWE, considering she is the ex-girlfriend of Triple H who is now married to Stephanie McMahon.
Austin was also reportedly in a little hot water after his podcast with Lesnar when he suggested the two might have a match against one another at WrestleMania. Shortly after the airing of the podcast, Austin announced that no such match would be taking place.
1. Hall of Fame
Stone Cold Steve Austin was honored in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009, almost six years to the date of his last match. Austin’s final match had been at WrestleMania 19 where he was defeated by the Rock, a man he had beaten in two previous WrestleMania main events.
There are very few wrestlers who have even come close to accomplishing all that Austin did during his career, with arguably no wrestler having exceeded him in terms of making such a positive contribution.
At the height of Austin’s career, he changed the tide of the Monday Night Wars between WWF and WCW when he became the focal point of Raw. His feud with Vince McMahon is widely regarded as one of the most popular in the history of the business. So it comes as no surprise that Austin was rewarded with the feature induction spot in the class of 2009 Hall of Fame ceremony.
With news that the WWE will be opening a physical location for their Hall of Fame in Orlando, one can only assume that nobody aside from perhaps the Rock or Hulk Hogan (possibly John Cena as well) should be featured more prominently there than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.