Steve Austin (born Steven James Anderson, December 18, 1964; later Steven James Williams) is an American television host, actor, and retired professional wrestler who is better known by his ring name “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential professional wrestlers of all time, Austin was integral to the development and success of the Attitude Era in the WWF, an industry boom period in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Austin started his professional wrestling career after playing college football at the University of North Texas. He became “Stunning” Steve Austin in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) from 1991 to 1995, using the character of a handsome man who relied on his good looks and flowing blond hair, and during 1993 he made up one half of the tag team The Hollywood Blonds alongside Brian Pillman. After a brief stint in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in late 1995, he signed with the WWF as The Ringmaster. The following year, having grown a goatee and shaved his head, he was repackaged as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, a trigger-happy “Texas rattlesnake”. Under this gimmick, Austin gained prominent status and significant mainstream popularity as a brash, brazen, blindsiding, beer-drinking antihero, given to disparagingly foul language, mannerisms and shamelessly vulgar acts. Central to this gimmick, Austin routinely defied the establishment and showed the utmost in disdain for his boss, company chairman Mr. McMahon. Austin thus became the “poster boy” of the Attitude Era. He was forced to retire from in-ring competition in 2003 due to multiple knee injuries and also a serious neck injury. Throughout the rest of 2003 and 2004, he was featured as an on-screen authority figure of Raw.
Austin held 19 championships throughout his wrestling career. In WWF/E, he is a six-time WWF Champion, a two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, a four-time WWF Tag Team Champion, and a one-time Million Dollar Champion. In WCW, he was a two-time WCW World Television Champion, a two-time WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, a one-time WCW World Tag Team Champion, and a one-time NWA World Tag Team Champion. In addition, he was the fifth WWF Triple Crown Champion, the winner of the 1996 WWF King of the Ring tournament, and a record three-time Royal Rumble winner. Austin headlined multiple WWF pay-per-view events, including three WrestleManias (XIV, XV, and X-Seven), and he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
Following his wrestling career, Austin started a podcast named The Steve Austin Show and released an IPA beer called the “Broken Skull IPA”. Austin hosted a reality competition series, Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, from 2014 to 2017 and has been the star of Straight Up Steve Austin since 2019. He also has video interviews with other wrestlers called the Broken Skull Sessions that are available through WWE on the streaming services Peacock and the WWE Network.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Early life
Austin was born Steven James Anderson in Austin, Texas, on December 18, 1964. His parents, Beverly (née Harrison) and James Anderson, divorced when he was around a year old. His mother moved to Edna, Texas, where Austin would spend most of his childhood, and she married Ken Williams in 1968 Austin adopted his stepfather’s surname and legally changed his name to Steven James Williams, though he would legally change it again to Steve Austin later in life. He has three brothers (Scott, Kevin, and Jeff) and a younger sister, Jennifer. Kevin is less than a year younger than Austin, leading Austin to theorize in his autobiography that their father may have left because he could not handle another child so soon. After finishing his education at Edna High School, he got a football scholarship to Wharton County Junior College followed by a full scholarship to the University of North Texas. Austin played originally as a linebacker before suffering a knee injury, prompting him to switch to play as a defensive end.
The first wrestling events he watched were those produced by Houston Wrestling and run by Paul Boesch, and Austin would later say “I fell in love with the business when I was 7 or 8 years old. All I ever wanted to be was a professional wrestler. Wrestling was the biggest thing in my life”. When Austin moved to attend university, he was living approximately 30 miles from the Dallas Sportatorium, a building he describes fondly as a “magnificent shit hole of a building”, where World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) ran shows on a Friday night.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Professional wrestling career
Early career (1989–1990)
Deciding to become a wrestler, Austin joined “Gentleman” Chris Adams’s school in the Dallas Sportatorium, where Adams also wrestled for WCCW; the first seminar cost Austin $45. Adams’s training was purely technical, teaching Austin the moves, but nothing relating to kayfabe (still somewhat a guarded secret at the time) or business. Austin would later describe Adams as a “conman” who “didn’t try to smarten me up or teach me the real deal when it came to wrestling”.
His first lesson in that came from Tony Falk, the referee in his 1989 televised WCCW debut against Frogman LeBlanc, who called the spots to lead him to a pinfall and a $40 payday. Early influences on his career were the Von Erich family, Dusty Rhodes, and Ric Flair.
Initially working under his real name, he was renamed Steve Austin by Memphis booker Dutch Mantell during the merger of WCCW and the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) into the United States Wrestling Association (USWA). The name change occurred to avoid confusion with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, a well-known wrestler during that time. Austin later returned to Dallas, managed by Percy Pringle and accompanied by Jeannie Adams (Adams’s ex-girlfriend and Austin’s girlfriend at the time) and feuded with Adams and his wife Toni. Austin then left the USWA in 1990.
World Championship Wrestling
I was by no means an overnight success. What success I eventually did attain was the result of hard work. I always had a competitive nature. I learned the mechanics of wrestling really well and really fast. I learned how to have a good match, but I didn’t have the right gimmick.
—Austin discussing the lack of success he attained early in his career
The Dangerous Alliance (1991–1992)
Arriving in WCW, he was now nicknamed “Stunning” Steve Austin, a name and gimmick he later said he couldn’t commit to. Austin was originally paired with a valet named Vivacious Veronica but was later joined by Jeannie Adams, known as “Lady Blossom.” Just weeks after his debut, Austin defeated Bobby Eaton for his first WCW World Television Championship on June 3, 1991, and later that year joined Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance. Austin lost the WCW World Television Championship to Barry Windham in a two-out-of-three-falls match on April 27, 1992, but later regained the championship from Windham and enjoyed a second lengthy reign as champion, before losing the championship to Ricky Steamboat, while The Dangerous Alliance disbanded shortly thereafter. At Halloween Havoc, Austin replaced Terry Gordy, teaming with “Dr. Death” Steve Williams to wrestle Dustin Rhodes and Windham for the unified WCW and NWA World Tag Team Championships. The teams wrestled to a thirty-minute time limit draw
The Hollywood Blonds and The Stud Stable (1993–1995)
In October 1992, Austin formed a tag team known as The Hollywood Blonds with Brian Pillman, at the behest of lead booker Dusty Rhodes. Austin would later say that he wasn’t excited about being placed into a tag team, as he was earmarked for a run with the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship with Harley Race as his manager. Initially billed under their individual personas, Pillman decided the pair needed their own finishing move, ring gear and team name, with travelling partner Scott Levy proposing The Hollywood Blonds, used in the 1970s by Buddy Roberts and Jerry Brown. The pair adopted an “old-style movie camera hand gesture”, and informed opponents they had experienced a “brush with greatness”.
On March 27, 1993, the team won the unified NWA and WCW World Tag Team Championship by defeating Ricky Steamboat and Shane Douglas, and held the championship for five months. In the main event of Clash of the Champions XXIII, the Blondes defended their championship against Ric Flair and Arn Anderson in a two-out-of-three-falls, where despite losing the first two falls, retained the championship as the second fall had been determined by a disqualification caused by Barry Windham. At Clash of the Champions XXIV, Austin and Pillman were scheduled to defend their championship against Anderson and Paul Roma but a legitimately injured Pillman was replaced by Steven Regal, with whom Austin lost to Anderson and Roma.
With Pillman still injured, Austin joined Colonel Robert Parker’s Stud Stable. After Pillman returned, the team was broken up when Austin turned on him, a decision Austin describes as a “mystery”. Austin defeated Pillman in a singles match at Clash of the Champions XXV. At Starrcade, Austin defeated Dustin Rhodes 2–0 in a two-out-of-three-falls match to win the United States championship. Austin lost the championship to Ricky Steamboat and was scheduled to face him in a rematch at Fall Brawl; Steamboat was though unable to wrestle due to a legitimate back injury and Austin was awarded the championship by forfeit. His second reign with the championship ended just five minutes later when he lost to Steamboat’s replacement, Jim Duggan, in a match that lasted 35 seconds. Austin unsuccessfully challenged Duggan for the championship at both Halloween Havoc and Clash of the Champions XXIX. The influence of Hulk Hogan and the Hulkamania era was beginning to take hold in WCW, with vice president Eric Bischoff saying this was likely the reason Austin lost to Duggan, who had been a popular figure during that period of time. Around this time, Austin pitched a storyline idea to Bischoff, wherein it would be revealed Austin was a family member of Hogan, a proposal which was quickly turned down on account of Bischoff’s belief Hogan would not work with somebody who wasn’t a proven name such as Austin.
After returning from a knee injury in early 1995, Austin took part in a tournament for the vacant United States championship, defeating Duggan via countout in the first round but losing to Randy Savage in the quarter-final. In June 1995, Austin was fired by Bischoff after suffering a triceps injury while wrestling on a Japanese tour—Bischoff and WCW did not see Austin as a marketable wrestler. Additionally, Bischoff thought Austin was hard to work with.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1995)
Paul E. gives me a call and gives me a free platform to start venting and cutting the promos and putting a microphone in front of my face. I get a chance to speak what’s on my mind and from my heart, and I find that is where the best promos come from, the ones that come from your gut and your heart — and from your brain, because you’ve got to feel them. Words don’t mean anything if you don’t mean them. So that was the basis for everything that Stone Cold was to become.
—Austin discussing his time in ECW
Austin was contacted by Paul Heyman of Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), who had managed him in WCW Heyman hired him to do promos and in-ring interviews as he had not adequately recovered from his injury, paying Austin $500 a night. Changing his nickname to “Superstar”, Austin debuted in ECW at Gangstas Paradise on September 18, 1995.
While in ECW, Austin used the platform to develop his future “Stone Cold” persona as well as a series of vignettes running down WCW in general and Bischoff in particular, most memorably in several promos that mocked his then-status as Nitro host by introducing Monday NyQuil, where he was joined by “Bongo” (a set of drums, meant to represent Steve “Mongo” McMichael) in promoting the show “where the big boys play with each other.” Several wrestlers have credited ECW as the place where Austin developed his microphone skills. Austin has credited Heyman as the man who taught him how to cut a promo.
Whipwreck, who was the ECW World Heavyweight Champion at the time, defeated Austin to retain the championship at November to Remember. The Sandman defeated Austin and Whipwreck in a triple threat match at December to Dismember for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship.
WWE CEO Vince McMahon hired him in 1995 as the “Ringmaster” character, which Austin later called a “bad gimmick.” After six months, while living in a log cabin on 10 acres outside of Douglasville, Georgia, Austin requested a character change. He says his then-wife made him a cup of tea, warning that he better drink it “before it gets stone cold,” and immediately suggested that be his new persona. Austin created a back-story that he was from Victoria, Texas, also shaving his head and growing a goatee to “appear more menacing.”
Triple H had been chosen to win the 1996 King of the Ring pay-per-view tournament, but after he broke character during a curtain call at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, the league chose Austin as the replacement winner as punishment. Austin defeated Jake “The Snake” Roberts to win the title at the June 1996 event, where he coined his catchphrase: “Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass.”
During his meteoric rise to fame, Austin suffered a bruised spinal cord during a match with Owen Hart at Summer Slam 1997 that left him temporarily paralyzed.
Attitude Era’ and Retirement
In late 1997, McMahon kicked off the WWE’s edgier golden age, known as the “Attitude Era,” marked by more violence, chaos, sexuality and blatantly over-the-top, more reality-based storylines. During this time, which became the height of his fame, Austin had a recurring storyline pitting McMahon as his main rival for several years.
When Austin learned that the WWE had scripted that he would lose a high-profile 2002 match with Brock Lesnar without explanation, he abruptly quit his job. After a few months, he and McMahon made amends, and he returned to the ring. As his past injuries started to take a serious toll on him and his nervous system, Austin made the difficult decision to retire from wrestling. He personally chose Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to be his final opponent at Wrestle Mania XIX in Seattle on March 30, 2003.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Post-Wrestling Career
After a three-year hiatus, during which Austin says he turned to heavy drinking, he traveled to California with the goal of beginning an acting career. He made his big screen debut in 2005’s The Longest Yard with Adam Sandler, followed by 2007’s The Condemned and 2010’s The Expendables. Austin says he quickly realized he “didn’t really want to” act.
Eventually, he says he found his “niche” in hosting, reality TV and podcasting, including a WWE Network interview segment called the Broken Skull Sessions.
‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Personal Life and Children
Austin has been married multiple times and has two daughters, Stephanie and Cassidy. He admits that his commitment to his wrestling career took priority over fatherhood, however, leading to a strained relationship with his children.” They knew I loved them, but I wasn’t there,” he explains. “Now that they’re older, we’re on the way to building better relationships. So now they’re pursuing their own things. I support them, if I can give them any advice, I do. Through all the BS that has happened, we’re talking now. The relationships, as strained as they were, they’re better now, but it’s still a building block because, truly, after all these years, we still don’t know each other as well as we should.”
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