The Texas Rattlesnake was born Steven James Anderson on December 18, 1964 in Austin, Texas. The now 52-year-old won a scholarship for football to the University of North Texas. He received his in-ring wrestling training from the late “Gentleman” Chris Adams and made his debut in World Class Championship Wresting (WCCW).
Performing under his real name, Anderson later earned his chops under Memphis booker Dutch Mantel (later Zeb Coulter in the WWE) who dubbed him “Steve Austin” to avoid confusion with the late Steve Williams (aka Dr. Death). The name was inspired by Lee Majors’ portrayal of the 6 Million-Dollar man on the popular 70’s television series.
After an unremarkable period in WCCW, Austin made his way to WCW (World Championship Wrestling) in 1991 with his girlfriend Jeannie Adams (aka Lady Blossom) as valet. As a heel, he was part of Paul E. Dangerously’s (Paul Heyman) faction “The Dangerous Alliance” which led him to trade the WCW World Television Championship with Barry Windham.
In 1993, Austin (who was now calling himself “Stunning” Steve Austin) formed a lucrative tag team with the late “Flyin’” Brian Pillman known as the “Hollywood Blondes”. The two would win the WCW World Tag Team Championship and hold it for 5 months, later dropping the belts to the team of Arn Anderson and WWE jobber Paul Roma after Pillman had to be substituted with Steven Regal (William Regal) due to injuries.
Austin would capture the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship from Dustin “Goldust” Rhodes and later drop it to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Due to injuries, Steamboat had to forfeit the title and it returned to Austin. Regrettably Austin dropped it minutes later to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan in an embarrassing 35-second loss. Due to the fact that he “couldn’t put asses in seats”, WCW head honcho Eric Bischoff fired Austin in what was probably the worst move of Bischoff’s career.
In 1995, old manager Paul Heyman recruited him and his tenure in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) gave Austin the opportunity to develop his skills on the microphone. After some failed attempts to capture the ECW Heavyweight title, Austin left and changed history when he joined the WWE.
He debuted in 1996 as “The Ringmaster”, a protégé of “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase who awarded Austin his coveted Million Dollar Championship belt.
While he felt his Ringmaster gimmick was not getting him anywhere, a dejected Austin tried to think of ways to re-invent himself and while he was brooding, his English ex-wife Adams made him a cup of tea and told him to drink it “before it gets stone cold”. Austin shaved his head, donned a goatee and became his signature “Stone Cold” character.
He made his WrestleMania debut in 1996 with a victory over Savio Vega. After losing a later strap match to Vega, DiBiase departed from the WWF to WCW and Austin forged his own path from there on in.
Austin would win the 1996 King of the Ring tournament by defeating born-again Christian Jake “The Snake” Roberts and creating the now infamous “Austin 3:16” line. From here he became involved in a feud with old partner Pillman which led to a controversial angle where Pillman awaited for Austin in his home brandishing a handgun.
Austin also started a rivalry with Bret “Hitman” Hart that would spill over into the next year. He eliminated Hart in controversial fashion to win the 1997 Royal Rumble, but would later lose to Hart in WrestleMania XIII where a bloodied Austin passed out during the application of Hart’s Sharpshooter submission hold.
Austin, while technically a heel, started getting cheers from the fans when he defeated Bret Hart to become the number 1 contender for the WWF heavyweight Championship held by The Undertaker (Mark Calloway). During his title shot, Austin lost owing to interference against him by old partner/enemy Pillman.
Austin would the win the WWF Tag Team Championship twice. The first run was with partner HBK Shawn Michaels who later had to forfeit the belt due to injuries. The second run came with the unlikely pairing of Austin with Mick “Cactus Jack” Foley, then under his “Dude Love” persona.
Austin would continue his feud with the Hart family, this time focusing in on the late Owen Hart’s Intercontinental title. Hart would botch a piledriver on Austin, breaking his neck and causing a temporary paralysis in his upper limb. Austin would nonetheless defeat Hart, but would later have to forfeit both the tag titles and IC title owing to injuries.
Over the next while, Austin would appear sporadically to attack Hart and WWF chairman Vince McMahon, sowing the seeds for the infamous McMahon/Austin rivalry. He would capture the IC title once again from Hart at Survivor Series. As champion, Austin became involved in rivalry with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson when Rocky was affiliated with the heel faction, the Nation of Domination. Johnson would steal Austin’s belt and claim it as his own despite never defeating Austin to get it. Austin would defeat The Rock and later throw the title into a New Hampshire river in defiance.
In 1997, McMahon had announced on Raw that boxing star “iron” Mike Tyson would be a special guest referee at WrestleMania XIV. Austin stormed out and got into a heated scrap with Tyson causing many officials, the police and other wrestlers to restrain the two. This also was the spark for the heated 2 year long rivalry between Austin and McMahon which caused the WWE to reach recorded highs in ratings.
Austin would win his first WWF Heavyweight Championship from Michaels as the main event of WrestleMania XIV with ironically enough, the assistance of Tyson. McMahon made Austin an opportunity to make peace and become his “corporate champion” to which Austin responded with his signature “stone cold stunner” (a move which he stole from Mikey Whipwreck back in his ECW days).
With the war with McMahon fully on, Austin would plow his way through former partner Dude Love and McMahon stooges Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco. He would eventually drop the WWF Heavyweight title to The Undertaker at the “King of the Ring” Pay-Per-View event. ‘Taker would end up dropping the belt to Austin the next night on Raw.
An infuriated McMahon created a triple threat match between Kane, ‘Taker and Austin where Austin was pinned by both giants at the same time, vacating the title. McMahon then arranged for Kane to fight ‘Taker for the belt with Austin as referee, but Austin would not count either man out.
McMahon would fire Austin for his actions (kayfabe), only for him to be re-hired by Vince’s son Shane. In the 1999 Royal Rumble event, Austin drew #1 with Vince drawing #2. The two fought in and out of the ring, eventually leading to an ambush on Austin from The Corporation, causing Austin to be taken away by ambulance. As this was wrestling, Austin returned and re-entered the Rumble, only to be eliminated by McMahon and his Corporate sidekick, The Rock.
Austin and McMahon would face one another in a steel cage at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Pay-Per-View event with a title shot against The Rock up for grabs. A debuting Big Show (Paul Wight) fresh out of WCW, broke into the cage from below and eliminated Austin, causing Austin to win the match but touching the floor first. Austin would go on to defeat The Rock at WrestleMania XIV for a third run as champion.
Austin would later drop the title to ‘Taker at the “Over the Edge” Pay-Per-View event. He would then be named CEO of the WWF by Linda and Stephanie McMahon. As CEO, Austin created a match between him a ‘Taker on Raw where Austin regained the WWF Heavyweight title for the 4th time. He re-faced ‘Taker for a victory with the stipulation being that if he won, he would never have to face Vince McMahon again.
In 1999, Austin started a feud with Triple H who was gaining heel momentum at the time. Austin would drop the title to Mick Foley as Mankind in a triple threat match also including Triple H as he felt that Triple H was not as deserving of the title as Foley was. Austin was later booked for a triple threat match against Triple H (the champ at this point) and The Rock, but Austin had to withdraw as in storyline, he had been struck by a car and was rendered unfit to compete. In reality, Austin need time off to undergo neck fusion surgery owing to various injuries.
Upon his return, it was learned that Rikishi Fatu was the driver of the car that struck Austin, instigating a feud between the two. Austin turned Rikishi into a bloody mess and was (kayfabe) arrested and later bailed out by WWF Commissioner at the time, Mick Foley.
In another triple threat match pitting Austin against Rikishi and Kurt Angle, Triple H interfered and struck Austin with his patented sledgehammer. Austin retaliated by later dropping Triple H’s car 20 feet using a forklift.
Austin would go on to win the 2001 Royal Rumble and would defeat The Rock at WrestleMania XVII to become WWF Heavyweight Champion for the 5th time. On conclusion of the match, Austin embraced Vince McMahon, turning him heel despite his popularity with the fans. In the weeks that followed, Austin tried his best to impress McMahon by buying him presents, hugging him and singing him songs. His heel tendency was solidified when he attacked old friend and
Raw announcer Jim Ross and forged a partnership with arch-nemesis Triple H.
Austin and Triple H would capture the WWF Tag Team titles by defeating Kane and ‘Taker, instigating a war between the two teams. Austin and Triple H would drop the straps to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit when Triple H accidentally struck Austin with his sledgehammer.
Triple H had suffered a near career ending quadriceps tear during that match, putting him out of action and causing Austin to face Benoit and Jericho in his own war. A debuting Booker T was thrown into the mix as well.
His battles with Booker T would continue after the whole botched “invasion” angle when McMahon bought WCW. Here, Austin affiliated himself with Team WWF and battled with the new WCW infiltrators led by Booker.
During this angle, Austin would betray Team WWF by attacking member Kurt Angle who was then WWF Heavyweight Champion. His also led Austin to inadvertently create a new catchphrase, simply the word “What?” that was repeated by the fans ad nauseum.
Austin would later defeat Angle on Raw and capture the WWF Heavyweight Championship for the 6th time. Austin’s team at Survivor Series would lose to Angle’s team and Angle would steal Austin’s championship belt. Later on Raw, it was learned that “Nature Boy” Ric Flair was returning as now half owner of the WWF. Flair awarded the title back to Austin, turning him face once again.
McMahon determined that the WWF Heavyweight title and WCW Heavyweight title (held by The Rock) should be unified to create an Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. At the “Vengeance” Pay-Per-View event, Austin, Angle, Rock and Jericho would face each other in a series of singles contests with the winner of the “tournament” becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion. Austin would beat Angle, but would lose to Jericho after interference from McMahon and Booker T. This led to a new feud with Booker T including a memorable match which spilled over in a supermarket.
Austin would lose the 2002 Royal Rumble, but would win a shot at the title held by Jericho by defeating number 1 contender Kurt Angle on Raw.
McMahon later recruited the nWo (Hulk Hogan, Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall and Kevin “Diesel” Nash) to invade the WWE with the hope that Austin would square off against Hogan. The match never happened as neither one wanted to fight and/or lose to the other.
Austin disappeared from television for one week without informing anyone owing to exhaustion. Around this time, Austin turned himself in to the San Antonio Police Department for domestic abuse against his third wife, the WWE Diva Debra.
He returned to rekindle a feud with ‘Taker and had a short run with The Big Show. After another brief run with a returning Eddie Guerrero, Austin was being primed to enter a feud with the red-hot rookie Brock Lesnar. Austin refused to fight Lesnar and walked out on the company. Fellow wrestlers as well as McMahon bashed Austin on air about his lack of commitment to the organization that made him great and his abrupt quitting of the company.
Over time, Austin did come to an agreement with McMahon to return. He fought a short match against old boss Bischoff on Raw and then main evented WrestleMania XIX against The Rock, which would end up being his final match. He officially announced his retirement due to nagging injuries and an overall dissatisfaction with the direction wrestling was headed in as the Attitude era came to a close.
From 2003 onwards, Austin would appear sporadically on WWE programing and Pay-Per-View events such as when he refereed the horrid match between Bill Goldberg and Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XX. Other appearances included Piper’s Pit, beer drinking contents against JBL and MVP, other refereeing gigs and a stint against Santino Marella who had criticized his film “The Condemned” to which Austin brought in a Budweiser beer truck and soaked Marella and his valet Maria.
Austin was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 and was also a guest host of Raw. He appeared on the WWE reality series “Tough Enough” and he showed up at WrestleMania XXX for a segment with Hogan and The Rock. His last WWE appearance was at WrestleMania XXXII where he delivered stunners to Rusev and Bad News Barrett and after the New Day tried to make him dance with them, he gave each member a stunner as well.
Austin currently has a podcast and makes grade B movies. He is the host of a reality series called “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge”. He is true maverick, a rebel, and a stand-out wrestler who became quite possibly the biggest box office draw the WWE has ever had alongside Hogan and The Rock. His contributions to the sport are phenomenal and he will forever be remembered as one of the leaders of WWE’s Attitude era that went tow to tow with WCW during the Monday Night wars and prevailed.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Balsky for contributing the above wrestler profile.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.