Shattered glasses and broken skulls: The early years
They say heroes are born and legends are made. We’ve heard how champions have it in their blood, how people are destined for greatness. That cannot be further from the truth. No matter how much we glorify someone’s accomplishments, the truth lies behind their dedication and hard work. And when you reach the epitome of greatness, the amount of success that is unparalleled, things are bound to be taken out of context. In a business like Pro Wrestling, success can be found only in two ways.
a) The hard route, where you grind for decades, honing your craft and the art of pure Wrestling and showmanship, shedding blood, sweat and tears for the business. Even then, you’re not guaranteed success. It’s a one in a million shot.
b) You can take the easy way, by sucking up to people, cheating, backstabbing people and being in it only for yourself. Success is much easier, and that’s what most of the guys try to do.
Cue the man who single handedly changed how Pro Wrestling worked for so many decades. The one guy who is considered to be the single most greatest influence in North American Wrestling. One guy even greats like Flair and Hogan look up to. The one guy who took a sinking ship and made it the biggest Entertainment company on the Planet. Enter the Glass shattering, beer drinking, middle finger flippin’ red neck, Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Steve Williams had anything but an easy start. I remember watching an old match of ‘Stunning’ Steve Austin against ‘Punisher’, aka The Undertaker, in USWA. And I thought ‘How could THIS guy be the guy millions of fans adored around the World’? And the answer was quite simple. He worked his butt off to get to the top. I know many articles, make it millions of articles, have been written by millions of fans throughout the last decade and half praising Steve’s contributions to the Wrestling business. It’s not easy to overtake Hogan’s drawing power of the past 2 decades in just 5 years, but Austin did it. Let me take you through the history when Austin made his way into the Big league.
Cut to the early part of mid 90s, and Austin was in the WcW. WWF was still the major player, but with Eric Bischoff in WcW, Ted Turner had a massive Wildcard. And what happened? Guys like Hogan, Flair, Randy Savage etc. jumped ship to WcW, making it a global juggernaut. And what was Austin doing? He was in the tag team division with another colourful character, Brian Pillman, and together, they were called the ‘Hollywood Blondes’. But something wasn’t right; Austin and Pillman were getting tired of Eric’s preferences. Bischoff was in the middle of creating a rival for the WWF. And his plan featured the likes of Hogan and Flair, but not Austin. So what happens next? Eric calls up Steve one day, and fires him over the phone! And what does Steve do? Cuts a brilliant promo on Eric Bischoff!
That one magical promo elevated Austin’s stake as a free agent. And whose genius work was it to hand over the live mic to Austin? Oh yeah, forgot to mention, Austin was a Paul Heyman guy! Austin vented his years of frustration on live TV, and that was when we saw the glimpses of perhaps the biggest name in Sports Entertainment history. That was when the Rattlesnake was born. And what happened after that? Vince McMahon signed him up. And if you’re wondering what followed, it was arguably the best promo in the WWF History, when Austin won the King of the Ring tournament, and Austin 3:16 was born.
A lot of things happened to Austin, but a free pass was not one of them. He gave his blood and sweat, and when you pay your dues, you normally end up being the top dog of the Company. And for a guy as smart as Steve, he took the ball and ran, ran harder than anyone else. Sold gates in millions, became THE guy in the Wrestling World.
Most of us are unaware of what it takes to be that guy. Broken neck, years of pain, embarrassment and years of hard work later, Austin became the biggest name in the WWF. And that is why Austin is regarded as one of the best to ever walk through the curtain. And that is why Austin is always ranked above the rest.