Adored, admired, envied, vilified, loved, hated, adulated and castigated: Steve Austin had more than a fair share of all these and yet emerged unscathed, standing tall and fully deserving of the “Stone Cold” moniker. Yeah, this guy is truly one in a million, a legend who has carved out his own path in life.
During various times of his life, Steve Austin aka Steve Williams was a champion wrestler and then an actor and a TV producer and then a transformative power behind the WWF in the Attitude Era. He is The Man.
Shy as a Child but Not Lacking in Purpose
Steve was born Steven James Anderson in in 1964. He was shy as a child but somehow managed to overcome his humble beginnings and go on to become a world-famous WWF star and a name to be reckoned with in the World Wrestling Entertainment.
Steve played football in college and earned a scholarship to play as a linebacker for the University of North Texas. However, an injury led to his being repositioned as a defender. With just 17 hours to go before graduating with a degree in physical education Steve quit.
Steve Joins Wrestling Classes and Trains to Be a Wrestler
He joined a wrestling class run by “Gentleman” Chris Adams in Dallas Sportatorium, for $45. He worked as a dock laborer at $12 an hour in order to pay for the wrestling classes. He would take part in wrestling matches from which he earned $15 to $20 per night.
Steve survived on tuna and potatoes. When the tuna ran out, he would pare down and eat potatoes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for several months. However, he reveled in his life as a wrestler. He had found his true calling in life.
Dutch Mantell Suggests Steve Williams Change His Name to Steve Austin
Steve made his way into the Dallas Sportatorium known for World Class Championship and earned $40 from his first match. He had the makings of a star, a fact that coaches and managers recognized. Steve had good support from well wishers.
One such fan was Dutch Mantell who recommended that Steve change his name to Steve Austin in order to avoid being confused with the then more famous “Dr. Death” Steve Williams who went on to earn fame in Japan as part of a tag team with the name of “The Miracle Violence Connection.”
Steve Signs Up With World Championship Wrestling
Steve signed up with the World Championship Wrestling in 1990 as part of the Hollywood Blondes team that included “Flyin” Brian Pillman. He adopted the persona of Stunning Steve Austin. However, this association did not last long due to an injury and frustrations eventually leading to his dismissal.
Steve was unceremoniously fired over the phone. After that he worked in Extreme Championship Wrestling and then he was hired by the World Wrestling Federation where he earned the moniker “The Ringmaster,” a henchman for the notorious Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar
Steve Austin Gets the Moniker “Stone Cold”
The Ringmaster was just one of the many monikers that Steve Austin wore. He was tired of that appellation and wanted something “cold” to his name, probably influenced by the emotionless hitman Richard Kuklinski known as The Ice Man. The WWF team came up with several names.
One was Fang McFrost and the other was Otto von Ruthless. He discussed this with his wife, Jeanie Clarke who also doubled up as his valet, Lady Blossom. She pointed out that if he did not drink his tea, it would go Stone Cold. He adopted that name.
Stone Cold Steve Austin Shaves His Head
Steve Austin had long blond hair, a standard look for wrestlers in the 1980s and the 1990s. However, his hair began to thin, and he worried about this, but an inspiration led to a change in his looks, one he retained after that decision.
Probably inspired by Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, Steve decided to go for a short buzz cut for a few months. He then decided to shave off all the hair from his head. Only the goatee remained, conferring an iconic look that we all are so familiar with.
Stone Cold Steve Mouthes New Catchphrases
Good as he was at wrestling, Steve was even better at promos and always made it a point to promote himself before and after a match. All the chest thumping did him good by turning the spotlight on him.
Austin defeated Jake Roberts “The Snake” in June 1996 and launched a post match promo in which he came up with an impromptu line “Talk about Psalms, talk about John 3:16—Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your a**!” followed by “And that’s the bottom line because Stone Cold said so.”
The Steve 3:16 Connection Explained
Austin mentions Psalms and John 3:16 from the Bible, which has very little to do with this “3:16” being associated with him. There is another reason for the catchphrase which is explained below.
3:36 stands for the date March 16, significant to WWE fans and Steve’s fans since it was on this date that he won the King of the Ring Tournament by defeating Jake “The Snake” Roberts in the finals. If someone says, “I’m going to do a 3:16” you now know what it means, don’t you?
Steve Perfects the “Stone Cold Stunner” Move
One of Steve’s signature trademark moves was the “Stone Cold Stunner” based on a similar “Ace Crusher”move used by another wrestler, Johnny Ace. That move earned Steve many wins, modified by him from a sleeper hold to a sit-down version.
Credit goes to Michael Hayes of the Fabulous Freebirs for showing Austin this trick. Michael advised Steve to modify it from the way Johnny Ace used it while flat on his back. Steve practised it a few times with Hayes and made it a regular part of his moves by the summer of 1996.
Jim Ross Popularizes the “Stone Cold Stunner” Steve Brand
Jim Ross, also known as “J.R.,” can take the credit for branding Steve as the “Stone Cold Stunner.” Jim Ross was a legendary commentator known to make up monikers as he went along. His emphasis on the use of Stone Cold Stunner boosted Steve’s branding quite significantly.
Jim Ross also used other nicknames for Steve such as the “Texas Rattlesnake.” This name was featured on T-shirts, posters and other accessories and memorabilia under the WWE licence. Steve feels eternally grateful to Jim Ross for going out of his way to promote him.
Steve Quaffs Beer and Then Gets His Own Beer Brands
Steve is known to quaff beer by the can after completion of matches and he then pours the suds on his vanquished opponents. He used to drink Budweiser, Coors Light and Miller Lite and fans were used to his ritual and even applauded him for his showmanship.
It was only natural that Steve the beer lover should go on to become Steve the beer maker. He joined up with El Segundo Brewing Company in 2015 to launch his first brand, Broken Skull IPA, followed by another brand, Broken Skull American Lager in 2022.
Steve Austin and His First Wife, Kathryn Burrhus
What is more normal than a school student falling in love and then eventually going on to marry? It happened to Steve Austin. While in school he fell in love with Kathryn Burrhus and then married her on November 24, 1990.
It was around this time that Steve’s wrestling career was gaining traction. The marriage did not last since he got involved with his wrestling manager, Jeanie Clarke aka Lady Blossom, her ring name. Steve’s marriage to Kathryn was annulled in August 1992, and by December 1992 he married Jeanie Clarke.
Steve Austin Owes a Lot to Jeanie Clarke
Though their marriage did not last long, owed a lot to Jeanie Clarke. It was she who came up with the Stone Cold moniker that replaced the distasteful Ringmaster appellation and launched Steve to popularity. She allegedly came up with the moniker after battling addictions herself. She suggested Stone Cold, and he loved it.
Sadly, what seemed a perfect union came to an end. His marriage to Jeanie Clarke did not last long. They got divorced in 1999. The couple had three daughters: Stephanie, Cassidy and Loren. He adopted Jade, Jeanie’s biological daughter.
Steve Marries Debra Marshall, Wife No. 3
Once divorced, Steve was on the prowl again and he did not have to look far for a love interest. He happened to meet Debra Marshall who, incidentally, happened to be a WE diva before divas were all the rage.
As a matter of fact, he had met Debra in 1998, before his divorce. They married in 2000. Debra gave up her tendency to seek popularity and she teamed up with Steve, becoming known as Mrs. Rattlesnake for hitting people on the head with a tray of cookies if they spoke unkindly about the treats.
Steve Turns Wife Abuser
It was rough times for Steve in 2002. He was missing tapings and was removed from WWE’s active roster and was blasted by Jim Ross on TV. Ross allegedly referred to Austin “taking his ball and going home” since he didn’t get his way. The situation became worse as he faced allegations of being a wife abuser.
Debra alleged that he regularly abused her to the point that she could not take it any longer and called in the police. They found her with a bruise under he right eye. Steve surrendered after two months but only after a judge issued an arrest warrant for assault.
Steve and Debra Divorce in 2003
When two hotheads get together, there are bound to be sparks. Debra was not one to take it lying down and Austin even hit her several times. The third time he did it, she called the police to put an end to this domestic violence.
Steve and Debra were divorced in 2003. She found that the abuse had affected her career and she retired for a short while. She auctioned off her wedding ring on eBay and donated a portion of it to an organization that helps domestic abuse victims. Meanwhile, Steve went on with his life before finding his fourth wife.
Steve Gets Off With a Fine but Has a Besmirched Reputation
Debra says that Steve’s temper tantrums were caused by his use of steroids, and she accused the WWE of betting for Steve since he was a star and a merchandise seller. Austin got off with a $1,000 fine, a year’s probation and community service.
Debra was not the only woman assaulted by Steve. The Smoking Gun reports that in 2004 Austin threw his girlfriend, actress, media personality and glamour model Tess Broussard to the ground and injured her right hand after an argument, leading to the police being called in.
Steve Finally Marries Again, the Fourth Time
After almost a decade living as a single man, Steve decided to tie the knot for the fourth time. This time he found his love in Kristin Feres. No one knows much about her. She has kept her life private and under wraps although she has made a few appearances on the red carpet and accompanied Steve to some WWE events.
The couple got married in 2009 and, surprisingly, both have been happily married 11 years since then with no sign of stormy clouds on the marital horizon. They have no children of their own out of their marriage, but Steve looks after his daughters.
Steve Austin Almost Gets His Neck Broken
In 1997, Austin challenged the late Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at the SummerSlam 1997. The match was proceeding along normal lines when something unexpected happened, something that put Steve in grave danger.
Owen Hart started to land a piledriver on Austin but lost his grip, with the result that Austin fell head down, broke his neck and suffered temporary paralysis. That kept him out of action for almost a year, a long time for any wrestler to be out of the ring. Incidentally, Owen did apologize to Steve.
Steve Does Not Have a Forgiving Nature
Apparently, Steve felt that Owen Hart deliberately injured him because, when Owen died after a botched ring entrance on May 24, 1999, Steve did not even go to the funeral. Death, they say, wipes the slate clean but not so for the famous Stone Cold Steve.
Jeanie Clarke said that Steve had never forgiven Owen Hart for the incident at the summer Slam, and he harbored a grudge. He also felt very badly that after he was injured and was recuperating, Owen did not apologize as many times as he expected.
A Chequered Love Life, a Chequered Career
Steve’s love life has been a chequered one that intersects with his profession. There is this incident when he trained with , a British expat who was one of the top stars in since 1993. Adam’s second wife Toni served as his valet, while living in the same building as Jeanie Clark, his first wife.
Adams decided to make Jeanie Austin’s valet and was infuriated when he found out about their relationship. However, he hid Steve’s weakness and Steve improved under his tutelage. Steve did brag that he had ’s previous wife.
Steve Austin Debuts on WCW Television
Around 1991, Steve got his break and joined WCW television in the beginning of June. He went on to win the WCW World Television Title within days, putting an end to the reign of Bobby Eaton with bigger things to follow.
It was around this time that Steve had a temporary valet named Vivacious Veronic who was soon replaced by Jeanie as Lady Blossom debuting during the Eaton match. Steve Austin turned into an upper mid-card wrestler, dominating the TV title during 1992. He went on to get the tag title win and held the US title reign for nine months.
Steve Austin Becomes the Best Young Wrestler at WCW
Steve was part of the team comprised of Paul Heyman, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko and Bobby Eaton. He also teamed up with Brian Pillman and his matches with Steamboat generated a lot of excitement.
However, after winning the title by forfeit due to Steamboat suffering a freak back injury, Steve went on to lose to surprise opponent Jim Duggan who was brought in by Hulk Hogan, the new top WCW star. This led to his being pushed down the rankings. Incidentally, according to Bleacher Report, Duggan felt he was sandbagged by Austin.
Injuries Worsen the Situation for Steve
Injuries further worsened the situation for Steve at WCW. In fact, the knee braces he wore were out of necessity and not just ring gear. He had suffered knee injuries earlier on while playing football, and they worsened while in the ring. Disputes with the WCW chief Eric Bischoff further exacerbated the situation eventually leading to WCW firing him. Steve was at loose ends for a while.
He became a free agent for a while and attracted the attention of WWE and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Heyman, his former manager, who ran ECW, invited him to diversify and experiment on promos.
Steve Turns Into a Great and Compelling Promo
Steve was not quite unfamiliar with promos since he was always promoting himself. It was a natural progression for him to turn from a solid talker to a compelling promo. He did a few matches for ECW while he was recovering to sign up with WWE.
The WWE signed him up and rebranded him as The Ringmaster. Ted Dibiase managed him, and Steve went on to become the new Million Dollar champion, getting a good cut from the promo. Steve hated the Ringmaster moniker, but this turned out to serve as a transitional period for Austin.
Steve Reinvents Himself to Become Stone Cold
He was looking for other suitable titles and also drew inspiration from Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski, the Mafia hitman in the HBO documentary. He started doing promos based on this inspiration and his interpretation of an emotionless killer in the role of a pro wrestler.
WWE suggested various names all based on the ice-cold themes but ultimately it was Jeanie whose remark about the tea going “stone cold” that won the day and led to Steve deciding to adopt this moniker. Needless to say, his fans were enamored by his never-say-die attitude.
Steve Makes the Most of His Wins
Hunter Hearst Helmsley was tipped to win the King of the Ring tournament but lost for disciplinary reasons. Steve stepped in because he was a heel of a similar stature and went on to beat Bob Holly and Savio Vega on TV.
He then went on to beat Marc Mero and Jake Roberts at the PPV event. During the crowing ceremony he did a promo as the winner, and he did not lose the opportunity to make the most of it, particularly castigating Roberts with his famous quote on the Psalms John 3:16 and Austin 3:16.
Steve Loses Out to Bret Hart
The race was on to decide who the next big WWE star could be. Bret Hart requested a face-off with Steve Austin in his return program and Steve needled Hart on his promos prior to their first PPV match.
Hart had the last laugh. He defeated Steve by countering a sleeper hold with a roll-up. However, the crowd rooted for Steve, even carrying “ 3:16” placards. It was a long, drawn-out brawl which ended with Steve severely hurt and the referee stopping the match, though Steve attacked the WWE officials who helped him to his feet.
The Austin-Hart Feud Develops
Steve would feud for months with Hart and his Hart Foundation (comprised of Hart, his brother Owen and brothers-in-law Davey Boy Smith and Jim Neidhart as well as former friend Brian Pillman). Steve was determined to get to the top to win the Owen’s Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam ’97.
Owen and Austin agreed to a set of moves culminating in Owen hitting a Tombstone Piledriver whereas Steve insisted on a knees-first tombstone. Owen responded by saying that he would drop on his ass. This misunderstanding had disastrous consequences, leading to Steve breaking his neck.
Steve Returns at the Survivor Series ‘97
Steve was out of action for months during which time he would show up at the WWE, and he even went on to attack Vince McMahon at the first Raw held at Madison Square Garden. Steve vacated his title and helped Owen to win back a tournament final just so he could get his revenge.
He was not quite ready but appeared at the Survivor Series ’97 and regained the title in just four minutes. The next months were spent in fruitless efforts to get to the top. Eventually, he forfeited the Intercontinental title to The Rock.
Steve Wins at Wrestle Mania
1998 was a good year, with Steve winning the Royal Rumble match leading to a title bout with Shawn Michaels at Wrestle Mania. That night and that match was an eventful one as can be seen from what happened. It was a night where Mike Tyson jumped into the ring to do a very quick three count!
Shawn Michaels, unfortunately, suffered a spinal injury while taking a back body drop at the edge of a casket. Mike Tyson put in an appearance as a special enforcer in the title match. The next night Steve brawled with Tyson. McMahon screamed at Steve that he had ruined it.
Steve Stuns Tyson, Launching the Austin Era
They went at it hammer and tongs, each giving as good as they got despite suffering from severe pain. Even the referee was bumped. Earlier, when asked, McMahon admitted that he did not want to win the Championship.
Finally, Shawn Michaels tried the superkick to which Austin ducked and when Shawn Michaels did it again, he turned around, caught his foot and spun Michael around and hit him with the stunner. Michaels was out for the count. Steve won, and with that he signaled a new era.
Steve Austin Continues With Maverick Ways
McMahon tried to stack the deck against Steve. He roped in Mick Foley, Kane, The Rock and others to dislodge him. He changed stipulations with Foley in the match and also referred the match in which Kane took part in a leather mask and body suit.
Steve lost the fight against Kane that night but regained it the next night in which Kane wore a full body suit. This did not deter McMahon from his attempts to put down Steve Austin and he did seem to succeed as events showed.
Steve Loses the Title Long Term
Steve, unfortunately, lost the title long term in a Triple Threat match. Kane and The Undertaker pinned him at the same time. There was precious little that Steve could do against these two and he lost. Incidentally, in the Tag Team Championships, The Undertaker launched Austin through a glass window, which had the crowd on their feet.
In another match a month later against the same duo, the title went to a No Contest when Steve attacked both and was fired but then rehired the next night when he threatened McMahon with a fake gun. The title stayed vacant.
Austin Thrashes McMahon and Regains the Title
Steve finally got a match against McMahon and thrashed him all over the place on Valentine’s Day 1999. It was a sweet moment for him to regain the title at WrestleMania in the first of three matches with The Rock.
However, later that year, he lost to The Undertaker but also became the WWE CEO. He then won it again, lost it to Mankind who lost it to Triple H and the Triple H feud heated up adding excitement to viewers and fans, but Steve faced another problem, which lead to neck surgery.
Steve Needs Neck Surgery
The news of having to have neck surgery came as a shock, and he managed to explain it away by stating he was hit by a car. He was out for about a year. Meanwhile, there were a lot of changes at the WWE. Chris Kreski replaced Vince Russo, putting an end to the Crash TV era.
Chris Jericho, a recent arrival from WCW received a lift up leading to improvements in in-ring standards. Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko left the WCW. It was tough adapting to the changed circumstances.
Steve Returns and Wins the Royal Rumble
Steve recovered and became a stronger wrestler, taking on Benoit in his first match. He won the Royal Rumble leading to participation in WrestleMania X-Seven in Houston at the Astrodome. The Rock won the title at the next PPV event.
The Rock and Steve’s performance coupled with the WWE’s production team drew the biggest WWE domestic PPV audience. This record still stands and remains in what’s known as the Big Five PPVs. However, Steve could not subdue The Rock and got McMahon to get him a chair with which he beat The Rock and won the title.
The Beginning of the End for Steve
Steve morphed into a heel, and some say he even went insane, showing signs of paranoia. Not even the shenanigans of the WCW-WWE helped to boost Steve. He was definitely on a decline, as events would show.
Triple H was getting the babyface slot. The Rock was right next to him. Steve figured at number three. Triple H won the WWE from Chris Jericho at WrestleMania X8 in 2002, and The Rock beat Hulk Hogan in one of the most famous matches whereas Steve dumped Scott Hall in a put together match.
WWE Buries Steve
Steve was on a comeback trail but refused to compromise and started to feud. Steve buried WWE’s creative team on Byte This WWE Internet Radio Show. He was supposed to lose to Brock Lesnar but refused to do so on a random TV show and went home. Well, Austin did sell out arenas for years together, so it’s not surprising that he took that stand.
WWE buried him on TV and Austin did not return for eight months. A match with The Rock was set up at Wrestle Mania to avenge The Rock’s previous two losses. The Rock comprehensively beat Steve in one of the finest matches.
Steve’s Health Deteriorates and He Retires
Bischoff fired Steve for not being medically fit on the next night Raw. also said that his spinal tissues had worsened and that he also had a heart scare no doubt brought on by energy drinks and stress.
Steve ended up as a TV character but that has not laid to rest speculations about his return and whether he will take part in WrestleMania again. The Rock rose to fame and if he were to retire, then maybe or maybe not. Steve Austin did not wrestle for two decades after his final match with The Rock in 2003.
Steve Returns at WrestleMania 38
Steve was 57 and retired and did not take up the many offers that came his way to rejoin the wrestling world, but it seems he could not hold out forever. He took the lure and engaged in a match.
Steve took part in WrestleMania Dallas Texas where he fought Kevin Owens. It was his first match in 19 years. It was a hard-fought contest and Steve finally managed to overcome his opponent. Incidentally, Steve is believed to have decided to make a comeback to the ring because Owens kept insulting him and his home state of Texas.
Steve’s Current Worth and Life
Steve Austin is estimated to be worth $30 million according to Celebrity Net Worth. He earned his fortune from WWE pay per views, merchandise and shows. He has also acted in ten movies and television shows. His first film was The Longest Yard in 2005 alongside Adam Sandler. He also starred in The Most Dangerous Game, The Condemned and The Expendables.
From 2003 to 2004, he worked as an authority figure on World Wrestling entertainment. He also served as a special referee for the Wrestle ManiaXX match between Brock Lesnar and Goldberg. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. He has also made it to video games. It’s been a roller coaster life.