Steve Austin, whose net worth is around $45 million, was once declared the most profitable wrestler in WWE history. And that is with no coincidence. He became the foundation of the WWE’s Attitude Era and thought to be the most vital superstar when the company beat WCW in the Monday Night Wars. Almost twenty years after he joined the WWE, it is fair to say he helped save the McMahon’s business in the mid-1990s and then bring it to unprecedented heights thereafter.
However, like many wrestlers, Austin had his share of troubles with the WWE. In the early 2000s, Austin was nearing the end of his full-time wrestling gig. Injuries began to catch up with The Rattlesnake, and new superstars were on the rise, but he did not fade away easily. Instead, he chose to walk away from the company multiple times to protest his differences.
The McMahon/Stone Cold rivalry was real. Their in-ring drama was just a snapshot of the differences both shared outside the ring, as well as Austin’s loathing of the company’s creative team. Austin was often a difficult person to work with, however, he was also considered the hardest working athlete in the WWE, which likely gave him a slight sense of entitlement when it came to the direction of his character. And rightfully so.
His rise to WWE fame was unique, and his stay on top of the wrestling world was iconic. Here, we look at what made Stone Cold the blue-collar wrestler who did what he wanted when he wanted; and thus, came to symbolize everything his wrestling audience likely wanted to be in their own lives.
10 Austin Is an Under-the-Radar Movie Star
In the late 1990s, Austin starred in six episodes of the television show Nash Bridges and was a fixture on the popular TV series, Celebrity Deathmatch. In 2005, Austin played Guard Dunham in the remake of the 1974 classic, The Longest Yard, where a group of prison inmates form a football team to challenge the guards. His most successful movie was The Expendables, released in 2010. However, if you are in the mood for a laugh, check out Grown Ups 2. He plays Tommy Cavanaugh and more than holds his own.
9 Austin Has Married Four Times
Austin not only had a few tag team partners in-the ring, but also outside the ring. During his professional career, he married Kathryn Burrhus (1990-1992), Jeannie Clark (1992-1999) and Debra Marshall (2000-2003). His marriage to his first wife, Burrhus, was annulled. Clark was Austin’s valet in WCW for several months, and Marshall was former WWE star Jeff Jarret’s ring-side companion. Austin met Marshall when she was Jarret’s valet in the WWF, and the wrestler had two children, Stephanie and Cassidy, with Burrhus.
After his last divorce with Marshall, Marshall interviewed with former WWE star Chyna on the latter’s pro wrestling online show. In the interview, Marshall mentioned how jealous Austin was of Jarrett. In August 2002, Austin turned himself into authorities after a domestic dispute between himself and Marshall. He was released on a $5,000 bond.
He is currently married to Kristen Austin, who he married in 2009.
8 Stone Cold Has Some Surprising Best Friends
Because of the way his in-ring character treated most WWE’s superstars, it may surprise many to learn that one of his best friends was his greatest in-ring rival. Another was an almost direct clone the WCW created to piggyback off Austin’s success. Three of his best friends include The Rock, Bill Goldberg and Mick Foley.
Out of the three friends listed, Austin’s had his most intense bouts with The Rock. Their rivalry began when Austin successfully defended his Intercontinental Title against Rocky Maivia. In 1999, Austin again feuded with The Rock after Vince McMahon eliminated Austin from the Royal Rumble. The Rattlesnake won his third WWE championship over The Great One when he defeated The Rock at WrestleMania XV. In the years to follow, the two would battle for WWE supremacy. However, outside the ring, their respect and admiration ran deep.
7 From Humble Beginnings
After dropping out of college and working on a loading dock, Austin became seriously interested in professional wrestling. In 1989, he joined Chris Adam’s wrestling school in Dallas, Texas and upon graduating, joined the United States Wrestling Association. In 1990 he performed in his first wrestling match. Now one of the most lucrative wrestlers in the world, Austin was once making only $20 per match and living out of his car.
In 1991, Austin moved onto more promising settings with the WCW and in 1993 won the WCW United States Championship. Only four years later, he’d sign with the WWE.
6 Stone Cold Never Beat The Hitman
While Austin may have never pinned Bret “The Hitman” Hart, Hart may have done more to push Austin’s career than anyone else in the WWE. In the mid-1990s, Austin controversially won the 1997 Royal Rumble, even though he had already been eliminated. The result was overturned and if his win would have counted, he would have qualified as the Number 1 Contender for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania XIII. Instead, Austin fought Hart in an Iron Man match. While the match had no belt implications, the WWE Universe connected with Austin’s grit and determination after he passed out from Hart’s sharpshooter. A year later, Austin won the Royal Rumble and went to WrestleMania.
Although Austin never beat Hart, one could also say he never truly lost to him in their four encounters. In each of their bouts, Austin lost due to some kind of stipulation and won one bout due to a technicality.
5 Enemies Unite at WWE’s Hall of Fame
In 2009, Vince McMahon inducted his most famed nemesis Stone Cold into the WWE Hall of Fame. Their bouts were legendary. Their segments unforgettable. McMahon’s decision to “push” Austin in 1996 and then become the wrestler’s greatest rival helped propel the WWE past its own rival, the WCW, in the Monday Night Wars.
In 1997, the WCW had a strangle hold on its competition. Its Monday night showing, Nitro, consistently outranked WWE’s Monday night program, Raw Is War. However, with the quick rise of Stone Cold, as well as his eventual rivalry with McMahon, the WWE put forth competition even the WCW’s greatest in-ring group, the NWO, couldn’t match. In the spring of 1998, Raw beat Nitro’s T.V. ratings when audiences piled around to watch the first-ever match between McMahon and Stone Cold.
What might have happened to the WWE if McMahon and Stone Cold had never battled it out? In any case, it's both ironic and appropriate that McMahon made Austin the 62nd inductee into his company’s Hall of Fame.
4 Stone Cold The Teacher?
When you think of Stone Cold, you likely think of a tough SOB who drives beers trucks to the ring and sprays his bosses with gallons of beer. But did you know that prior to wrestling, he played an instrument in his high school’s band? That is right, Austin was a band geek. He was also inducted into the National Honor Society. So maybe he was just a geek in general.
While his post-high school education didn’t propel the “Texas Rattlesnake” into professional wrestling, it may have provided him with a sense of direction, even if he didn’t finish it. Just a few credits shy of earning a degree in physical education, Austin dropped out of college and began to work on a loading dock.
Imagine if Austin had finished his degree? Instead of raising World Heavyweight Championship belts, he might have been your high school gym teacher, and that’s an even scarier thought.
3 Stone Cold Received the “Push” Over Triple H
Soon after Austin had resigned with the WWE and reinvented himself as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, he went on a winning streak. He abandoned his old finishing move “the Million Dollar Dream” and created his own called the Stone Cold Stunner.
Originally, Triple H had been booked to win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament. Reports believed the wrestler would receive a massive push. Instead, Jake The Snake beat him in the opening round, which opened the door for Austin to receive the push. After beating Marc Mero in a twenty-minute duel, Austin beat The Snake in a much easier match to win the Tournament. While the match may not have been legendary, Austin’s post-rant speech was.
This punishment to Triple H was because he decided to meet with Shawn Michaels, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash in the ring in their last WWE moment before Hall and Nash moved to WCW. The 4 embraced and bowed to the crowd. A huge no no, especially considering that HHH and Michaels were good guys and Nash and Hall were heels.
With the victory and rant, Austin had finally earned his place in the WWE. He was on the path to stardom, and the WWE’s decision to give him the push over Triple H may have helped them win the Monday Night Wars with the WCW and ultimately save their business.
2 Austin’s Feud With McMahon Was Real
For years, Austin was the WWE’s go-to wrestler, but by the early 2000s, the company was bringing in new talent to challenge Austin for his throne. And like you’d expect he was ready to fight back. Due to creative differences, Austin first walked out on the WWE on March 18th, 2002 and failed to show for his scheduled RAW appearance in Montreal. Then, on June 10, 2002, Austin again walked out because the WWE writers had proposed that he lose to rookie Brock Lesnar on Monday Night Raw. Instead of showing up for his scheduled appearance in Atlanta, he flew home to San Antonio Texas.
At the time, long-time friend Jim Ross could not understand Austin’s methods to protest his disapproval over the company’s creative team. Fourteen years later, The Rattlesnake agreed. On an episode of Chris Jericho’s podcast, Austin admitted that he “handled the [Brock Lesnar] situation like a total ass.” He had no problem with Lesnar, but had a problem with how the creative team planned to use his character… now I love Brock Lesnar and he’s a monster,” said Austin, “…but for me to do a job for him without any kind of buildup? A match, but no two or three weeks talking about? A pay per view match is what it was.” He later admitted he should have dealt with the situation with more “responsibility and accountability.” “You’re packed with the boys and your job. So I should have showed up like a man, come up with a solution."
1 Austin Goes by Many Names
Before “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the wrestler had many names. Born as Steve James Anderson, Stone Cold later took the last name of his stepfather, Ken Williams, because he never knew his biological father.
Austin’s wrestling name also changed constantly to fit his always evolving character. While wrestling in the United States Wrestling Association, Austin went by Stunning Steve Austin. He might have chosen Dr. Death Steve Williams, but another wrestler already owned that name. Later, a promoter suggested he change his name to Steve Austin after the wrestler said he was from Austin, Texas. While a part of the WCW, Austin tagged with the late Brian Pillman and they were known as the Hollywood Blondes.
So where does the name Stone Cold come from? As Stone Cold’s wrestling persona evolved, he began to take a no-nonsense approach to his character and gimmicks. His last failed ring name, The Ringmaster, came on the heels of his WWE debut. Dubbed as weak, the WWE provided him with a list of new names that “took the word cold literally,” said Mick Foley in an interview with SLAM! Suggested names included Ice Dagger, Frosty McFreeze and Baron Von Ruthless.
There is a fun story behind how Austin settled on the nickname “Stone Cold," instead of those other ridiculous ones. One day, his ex-wife, Jeannie Clark, noticed Austin wasn’t drinking his tea and replied, “You’d better drink your tea before it gets stone cold.” And thus, Stone Cold was born over a quaint drink.