When Steve Austin was asked by Vince McMahon to stop using the middle finger, he said that he wouldn’t change sh*t and claimed “I’d be damned if anybody was going to take anything from me. I’m going to run over you and we’re going to the top–or I’m going to the top, and you’re going to come along for the ride.”
If that doesn’t symbolize the kind of man Stone Cold Steve Austin was in WWE, I don’t know what does.
Steve Austin’s career is not only marked with championships but with the attitude that he brought to the entire company. With countless iconic moments that probably peppered the memories of your childhood, it was hard not to become a fan of Austin. But did you know he only shaved his head because he was balding?
You may have loved the wrestler, but do you know much about the man? About the time he refused to work or shutdown ideas with no solutions? How about arguably his toughest battle with retirement, and the domestic abuse charge that came against him in 2002?
Austin had a tumultuous relationship with McMahon on screen, but do you know how they feel about each other now? Below you’ll also get some inside looks into the man, such as why he refused to go off the top rope, what he was always muttering to himself as he entered the ring, which wrestler he had a serious vendetta against and his history with broken necks that also includes Sylvester Stallone. And just in case you’re unaware, you’ll even receive all the backstory necessary to understand Austin 3:16 and in the process learn why he became the legend that he is today.
The news you’re about to read about Austin isn’t all positive, but it definitely helps paint a complete picture of just who Austin was, and who he is today.
16. Austin Broke Stallone’s Neck
When you look at the cast list for The Expendables, there must have been a ridiculous amount of testosterone flowing on that movie set. With so many tough guys, everyone was vying to prove their worth, which may be why Stallone was insistent that Austin continue to hit him harder during the filming. Things got to a whole new level when Austin ended up causing Stallone a hairline fracture in his neck. The result of which required surgery and the placement of a metal plate in his neck.
Stallone ended up having to spend 3 weeks in the hotel recovering from the injury because they never wanted him to be seen with a neck brace. Austin admitted that he wasn’t aware of the extent of the injuries until the reports started coming out well after the injury had healed. Austin is a strong guy, but you can imagine he still doesn’t want to be on Stallone’s bad side. Have no fear though because Austin said “Sly left me a message saying it was all cool. There were no hard feelings.”
15. He Walked Out On The Company In 2002
There are a lot of moments in Austin’s career that he probably wishes he could do differently. One that has to stand out is in 2002 when instead of losing to Brock Lesnar in a cold match on Monday Night Raw, Austin decided to walk out on the company. Austin talked about the experience in 2015, saying “ I was drinking a lot of whiskey, and then [Ross] laid out the finish for me and I was laying in the hotel room. I said, ‘if that’s creative, I ain’t going to be there’ and he told me to call Vince [McMahon].”
Austin then called McMahon who reiterated the same message as Jim Ross, leading Austin to tell McMahon to f**k off. While talking about the experience, Austin admitted “It was basically career suicide for almost anybody! I lost a lot of money. The company lost a lot of money. It was just a bad part of my life that I handled in a horrible fashion. I blew that one and it was on me.”
14. His Depression After Retirement
It’s unfortunate to always read about athletes that struggle to adjust to normal life after retirement. But when you consider how popular Austin was, are you really surprised? Imagine going from hearing your name chanted on a weekly basis, to nothing at all.
This is especially evident considering how Austin left the company in 2002 on such negative terms. When talking about the adjustment post-wrestling, Austin admitted “My neck wasn’t in a good way. I was living pretty fast. I hunted, I fished, and I drank. And not specifically in that order. It took me three years to get the business out of my system and really come to grips with what was going on. Retirement always sounds good, but man, it’s boring as hell.”
13. His Issues With WrestleMania 30
Austin’s beef with Lesnar would not be the only time he felt slighted by the company. When Austin was first approached with the idea to come and help open up WrestleMania XXX, Vince McMahon promised Austin that he would come out 3rd after Hulk Hogan and The Rock had already hit the ring and dropped a promo. The appearance of all 3 legends was unexpected, so you can understand why Austin would have wanted to go 3rd. When talking to The Rock backstage the day before however, it became apparent that The Rock was promised the same thing and when they looked at the lineup on Sunday, it confirmed that Austin was #2.
When talking about it, Austin also provided some nice insight on how he viewed his own legacy, saying “My run cannot be touched. If you want to talk about longevity, you can speak the name Hogan. If you want to talk about white-hot, selling tickets, and taking the business to a height it’s never been – and, with a hell of a supporting cast, I might add – you’re talking about Stone Cold Steve Austin.”
12. Why He Was Fired From WCW And Refuses To Go Off The Top Rope
From 1991-1995 if you wanted to check out Steve Austin, you’d have to check him out in WCW. Now the fact that he was in WCW is probably not all that shocking, as many wrestlers were there before hitting it in WWE, but the story behind Austin’s firing impacted his entire career.
In an informal setting, Austin admitted that the reason why he never went off the top rope was because he tore his tricep while jumping off the top rope when he was wrestling in Japan, and that he had learned to keep his dumb ass on the mat. It’s definitely a lesson that was burned into his mind, as that injury was one of the big reasons behind him being let go from WCW.
But that was far from the only reason, and WCW Vice President Eric Bischoff admitted at the time that Austin was not a marketable wrestler and was also difficult to deal with.
Back in 2014, Bischoff appeared on Steve Austin’s podcast where the situation got cleared up a little bit more. Bischoff claimed that Tony Schiavone (who worked for WCW) called Austin and said that he wanted him to come in and cut some promos to keep his interest up while Austin was recovering from injury, but when he called Austin’s wife picked up the phone. It was reported that Austin was told to appear at the tapings, but in the background Austin was heard yelling that he wasn’t going to the tapings.
As a result, Tony Schiavone told Bischoff that he wasn’t coming. Bischoff obviously felt this was some bullsh*t, and it led to Austin’s dismissal.
11. What He Would Say To Himself/Think As He Went To The Ring
If you’ve seen Steve Austin perform, especially perform matches that are a great deal of importance, then you’ve probably seen him talking to himself as he started to walk from backstage to the ring. It became such a trademark of the man, that Austin was asked about it during an interview where he replied that “I was extremely energized by the crowd reaction and at my competitive best, I was a laser guided missile that went out to do one thing- ENTERTAIN THE CROWD AND KICK ASS…MAKE PEOPLE GLAD THEY SPENT THEIR MONEY ON A TICKET, GOT THEIR MONEY’S WORTH…AND WANTED TO COME BACK NEXT TIME WE WERE IN TOWN TO SEE IT ALL AGAIN.”
10. His Heat With Jeff Jarrett
Steve Austin first became accustomed to Jeff Jarrett when the two were working together on WCW. Jarrett allegedly upset Austin one day after Austin was looking at his paycheque (which was significantly smaller than Jarrett’s) leading Jarrett to come up and slap him on the back and joke that staring at it won’t make it get any bigger. At the time Austin was forced to live off of a diet of boiled potatoes, and it was Jarrett’s dad who was the boss which further added salt to the wound.
The heat continued when the two started working together in WWE and Jarrett delivered a promo in which he made fun of Austin’s 3:16 speech and called him out as just using it to make money. Upon returning from the promo, Austin ripped into Jarrett. According to Vince Russo, one of the top promoters in WWE (and the man who was responsible for part of the promo, just not the anti-3:16 part), Austin then told Russo to “NEVER book him with that Son of a Bitch”.
9. His Ex-Wife Came Up With “Stone Cold”
When it comes to being a successful wrestler, you’re only going to be as good and strong as your best gimmick. For Austin when the time came to change his name in WWE, he was given several potential names including Otto von Ruthless, Ice Dagger and Fang McFrost.
Austin was sitting at home with his wife, Jeannie, who made him a cup of tea and the two were venting about potential wrestling names causing her to say “Ah, don’t worry about it. You’ll think of something. Go ahead and drink your tea before it gets stone cold. That’s your name, Stone Cold Steve Austin.”
You can imagine the fact that she was responsible for it is something she probably never lets him live down. Austin said the character was also based on the serial killer Richard Kulklinski who was nicknamed “The Ice Man” and that on this day he was watching an HBO special on him. We can be thankful both that Austin never killed anyone, and that he didn’t go with FANG McFROST. Like seriously?!
8. His Domestic Abuse Charge
You aren’t going to be able to create a list on Steve Austin and not get into the incredibly ugly side of his domestic abuse history with Debra Marshall. Marshall was Austin’s 3rd (of 4) wives who he was married to from 2000-2003. In 2002, Marshall called police after Austin allegedly beat her on the head, back and legs and then ran out of the house. When police arrived Debra was seen with a swollen cheek and eyes and several bruises. Austin was eventually arrested, charged with domestic abuse and given a year’s probation, a $1,000 fine and 80 hours of community service.
Marshall admitted this was a result of roid rage, and said that she had attacked him on 3 separate occasions. Marshall also said the WWE was well aware of this and that they would work hard to conceal her bruises so as not to break the company’s image.
7. What He Thinks The Problem With WWE Is
When Austin sat down for an interview shortly after WrestleMania 32 there were many things to discuss, including the fact that Austin thought it would be the last time he set foot in a ring. Given that Austin felt his time with the company was done, it allowed him to also open up about what the problem was with the current superstars on the roster. Austin shared the same complaint felt by many fans, which is that the wrestlers now-a-days lack the personality to really stand out.
Austin continued to rant, saying “They’re manufactured, micromanaged, they’re too produced, and it’s not organic. And so you can start with Roman Reigns and you can trickle that down to 99% of the roster, other than the Bray Wyatts of the world and they’re getting the same results. I would predict that almost the whole card would be more over than they already are due to how they’re booked if they would let these damn kids express themselves for a shoot!”
6. Austin’s History With Broken Necks
If you’re a big time fan of Austin, you’re probably aware of the injury that he suffered at the hands of Owen Hart on August 3rd, 1997. At SummerSlam, Hart delivered a piledriver to Austin and the result left Austin with a broken neck.
The two both talked about the event, and Austin explained “As soon as my head hit that mat, I was thinking Christopher Reeve. Cause I thought I was never gonna walk again, ever. I couldn’t feel anything from my neck down…”
You can imagine this scared Owen, who explained his first thoughts after hearing Austin couldn’t move his fingers, “All of a sudden my first concern became ‘Is he paralyzed?’ That twenty seconds…it felt like forever. Slow motion, you know? What do you do? Do I look at the promoter and tell him this isn’t part of the match? There’s a point where you’ve gotta say, ‘What’s more important?’ – The guy’s health, or satisfying this crowd and the cameraman and everybody else…”
Austin eventually realized he could crawl on his forearms, and rolled Owen up for a weak pin that Hart said his two-year-old daughter could have done better; not as a knock on Austin, but a true sign of how damaged he was. Austin admitted “There was no way I was gonna lay there and let some ambulance or bunch of paramedics carry me out of that ring.”
The injury crippled the relationship between Austin and Owen, largely in part due to Owen’s attitude to Austin after the injury. Austin expressed his frustrations saying “Owen almost paralyzed me. He called me only once to apologize while I was in the hospital. If I almost break someone’s neck, I’m calling them 25 times to apologize…”
Austin also opened up about how he used to watch the video 20 to 30 times a day, and even now, still watches it once in a while to keep things in perspective.
If you want a twist of irony, it was back on September 23rd, 1992 that Austin ended up breaking the neck of Masahiro Chono during a battle for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.
5. His Life Growing Up
You don’t get to be Stone Cold Steve Austin without first having a childhood. Perhaps you are not all that shocked to hear that Austin felt his mother is a spitting image of himself. In an interview when talking about his family, Austin said “I’m pretty much a reflection of her. If you piss her off, it’s all over. I am just like my mom. I’m very lucky to have her, and we still talk every week.”
Austin’s biological father left the family when Austin was still a young child, leaving his mother to make ends meet by working as a telephone operator. His mother then met Ken Williams, who Austin feels is his real dad.
Austin said that he only has one memory of his biological father; when he came to visit him after a wrestling show. While you can imagine Austin would have been angry, instead he shook his hand and walked away.
4. His Relationship With Vince
Austin is going to be the first person to admit that in the wrestling business, it’s easy to get your feelings hurt. This list is proof enough of moments where Austin was told one thing, and another happened. But in 2015, when he was asked about his relationship with Vince, Austin also made sure to throw some kind words his way, saying “At times he’s been like a father figure, a brother, a mentor, a best friend, and an enemy, there was a short window of time when I say enemy, but we were at odds every now and again. This is a high-stakes business that is extremely personal.”
When talking about his work ethic, Austin had nothing but praise for his long-time boss, saying “Vince barely sleeps, he will outwork anybody I’ve ever met. He’s built an empire and worked his ass off to do it. No one ever handed him anything. The vision and the guts that he’s had – I can’t say enough about the guy. I have total respect for him.”
3. The Complete Story Behind Austin 3:16
Having a fantastic gimmick is a great part of making it as a wrestler, but let’s be honest, having a witty catchphrase definitely doesn’t hurt. When Austin was interviewed at the King of the Ring Pay-per-view in 1996, a legacy was born when he exclaimed “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!”
Austin was teasing Jake “The Snake” Roberts, who had used “John 3:16” in a previous promo. When Austin sat down with WWE for an interview, they asked if he had planned his infamous speech or if it had just came to him, leading Austin to say “As I was getting my lip stitched up following my match against Marc Mero, I was told that Jake Roberts just did an interview about me referencing ‘John 3:16.’ I knew the verse, but I also remembered that at football games there was always a fan in the end zone holding up a sign that said ‘John 3:16.’ So it was a pretty famous quote to begin with, and after I won the tournament it just came to me on the fly. To me, it was pure luck that ‘Austin 3:16’ would become what it did.”
It was also Austin’s idea to make the Austin 3:16 T-Shirt which ended up becoming the number one selling T-shirt in WWE history.
Austin ended the interview by saying the phrase “Was prophetic, and it became a phrase that defined [his] career. It is still one of the most popular phrases in WWE history, and anyone who doesn’t like it can piss off.”
2. His Thoughts On People Taking His “Stunner”
You can imagine that Austin probably had a pretty solid sense of ownership over the moves that he made famous, which is why when stars like John Cena and Randy Orton started doing versions of it, you can understand why some fans thought Austin would be upset.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth, and when talking about that very thing, Austin also made sure to highlight how much he loves Cena, saying “Man, there’s not a bigger John Cena fan on Planet Earth than Steve Austin. There’s no one I respect more on that crew than Cena. If he wanted to use the ‘Stone Cold Stunner’ exactly as it was, I’d have no problem with it, and that’s the bottom line.”
Austin did admit that the only thing he had an issue with, was how often people would kick out of finishing moves and that it needs to be reserved for big moments like (in his eyes), when Austin and Rock both kicked out of finishers at WrestleMania 17.
1. How Much He Made And What He Accomplished
There are various reports on how much Austin earned when he was in the company, but when his ex-wife Debra Marshall was asked about it in 2007, she said that it was upwards of $12 million a year. Other reports say in 1998 Austin took home $1.2 million and also earned a large chunk of merchandising, but either way, there is little doubt that Austin is one of the most financially successful wrestlers of all time. Austin has also translated his success into an acting career and overall has amassed a net worth of $45 million.
It’s hard to argue that he wasn’t worth the money and Pro Wrestling Illustrated has decorated Austin with numerous accomplishments including: Feud of the Year in 1998 and 1999 (against Vince McMahon), Match of the Year (against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13), Most Hated Wrestler Of The Year (best heel) in 2001 and Wrestler of the Year in 1998, 1999 and 2001.
That’s from people who judge wrestlers, but when you look in the ring itself, Austin was a 6-time WWF Champion, a 2-time Intercontinental Champion, and held the Tag Team Championship 4 times (all alongside eventual or current Hall of Famers: Shawn Michaels, Dude Love, The Undertaker and Triple H). He also won King of the Ring in 1996 (which you now know is why we have Austin 3:16). Austin was also a 3-time Royal Rumble Winner and headlined countless major shows.
Austin also held the WCW World Television Championship twice, the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship twice and the WCW World Tag Team Championship.
Last but not least, as you are well aware, Steve Austin has been inducted into WWE Hall of Fame.
And that’s the bottom line because Alex Keobke said so (…please don’t come after me, Steve).