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How Steve Austin Changed From 'Unmarketable' To The One Of The Greatest Ever

How Steve Austin Changed From 'Unmarketable' To The One Of The Greatest Ever

What a journey.

Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan

Stone Cold Steve Austin is instantly recognisable in the wrestling industry. He's the man who crossed the boss, the Texas rattlesnake, the baddest S.O.B in the WWE. The list goes on.

However, before he got his infamous reputation as the tough, bald-headed, red neck, which prompted fans to hold up '3:16' signs, shout "WHAT?" and flip the middle finger, his gimmick was very different.

In the beginning, he wrestled under his real name, Steve Williams, before adopting Steve Austin as a way to avoid confusion with future team-mate "Dr. Death" Steve Williams. Prior to joining WCW, he became Stunning Steve Austin, which was the name he'd take to the promotion where he'd form The Hollywood Blondes with Brian Pillman.

His run in WCW would never quite reach the heights to which he aspired. This was mainly because then owner Eric Bischoff didn't see him as a marketable character. No wonder the company went out of business.

He then spent a year under the wing of Paul Heyman in ECW, where he changed his ring name to 'Superstar' Steve Austin.

After developing mic skills and learning to cut a promo, Jim Ross convinced Vince McMahon to bring him to WWE (then WWF), where he would eventually debut in 1996 as The Ringmaster.

At the time he had hair (I know) and no famous goatee. He was originally managed by Ted DiBiase and was the first ever Million Dollar Champion, but the man himself thought the entire gimmick was weak and requested a change.

Creative heads at the company offered him the names Otto Von Ruthless, Ice Dagger, Fang McFrost and Chilli McFreeze, which, let's be brutally honest, are all a big pile of wank. The suggestions came about after he'd seen a TV show called The Iceman and wanted a similar character, which was 'a hit man type guy', according to his then wife, Jeanie Clark.

Obviously none of the proposed names were going to work, so more ideas had to come. In time, his former wife accidentally came up with 'Stone Cold', and the rest, as they say, is history.

"One day he was just kind of pensive, a little bit worried-looking, and I just said, 'Drink your tea before it gets stone cold'. I went, 'There it is, Stone Cold'. He got a big smile on his face, and he liked it, so that's how it started, over that cup of tea," she said.

So, the wheels were in motion, but the car wasn't really going anywhere. It wasn't until the 1996 King of the Ring that the phenomenon would begin.

Austin won the KOTR tournament, defeating a born-again Christian Jake 'The Snake' Roberts in the final. In his post-match interview he patented the phrase 'Austin 3:16', which ending up selling a fuck ton of merchandise. The interview has also been credited as kick-starting the Attitude Era.

Credit: WWE Network

"You sit there and you thump your Bible, and you say your prayers, and it didn't get you anywhere. Talk about your psalms, talk about John 3:16... Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!"

It's a good job all the other gimmicks eventually came to an end, because can you imagine a world without Stone Cold Steve Austin? He also deserves heaps of praise for creating the Attitude Era, which was a time of every young lad's life that was infinitely enjoyable.

Featured image credit: PA/WWE/WCW

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Topics: Wrestling, WWE