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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Austin’

Final piece of puzzle in place for Randy Orton to become next Stone Cold: facial hair

May 11th, 2011 3 comments

Stone Cold's 'hair-apparent'?

WWE desperately wants Randy Orton to become the next anti-hero babyface a la Steve Austin; capturing that kind of Stone Cold magic is like capturing lightning in a beer bottle. It doesn’t come along every day, and it sure as hell won’t come with forced material from WWE TV writers who, while they have a general idea of what the Stone Cold character was about, they don’t understand is that Austin was a product of the territory days, when you were encouraged to speak your mind, say you want as an extension of yourself with the volume turned way the hell up. No one fed Austin that 3:16 line directed at Jake Roberts at King of the Ring, which ended up selling more T-shirts than Hulk Hogan ever dreamed and helped create a pop-culture phenomenon that made wrestling “cool” again.

Two years ago, Orton was a heel who was beginning to hear cheers despite his dirty deeds–once again, a classic case of the fans deciding whether a character is a babyface or a heel. WWE Creative thought they had the next Stone Cold. (Overheard at TV meetings: “First the Rattlesnake, now the Viper!” and “Orton wears black trunks and black boots too!”) But the execution of the Legacy breakup was pathetic, in part because Ted DiBiase and Cody Rhodes were never elevated past the level of Orton’s flunkies, and the storyline was convoluted, even by TNA standards. What should have been a slam-dunk scenario to turn Orton never had a chance because no cared about DiBiase or Rhodes, with the latter only now emerging as a character while the former is floundering to find his identity despite having one of the hottest Divas on his arm. The biggest problem is that Orton doesn’t resonate with the fans in the same vein as Stone Cold–his delivery during promos is the same as a face or a heel, and he simply doesn’t have that blue-collar connection with the crowd that the boss-beating, beer-drinking SOB did.

The recent feud with CM Punk reinvigorated Orton, as the best heel in wrestling brought out the best in “Randal,” giving his character a shot in the arm and much-needed momentum. With that feud’s inevitable end and Orton’s move to SMACKDOWN!, he’s poised to be the top dog on the lower-teir brand. Along with new surroundings and a rushed World title win over Christian, Orton’s beard is also finally coming into full bloom after a six-month process. A-ha! So that’s what he’s been missing all along. After all, the clean-shaven RIngmaster didn’t get over, but that goateed son of bitch Stone Cold sure as hell did! Look out, world. The era of Orton has truly finally arrived! (Or not.)

There are no small roles–especially for Giant actors

April 21st, 2011 4 comments

For the record, even Steve Austin could not body slam Andre the Giant, brother.

As a kid, I loved it when my worlds collided–like Darth Vader, Kojak, Spider-Man and Frankenstein wrestling in Memphis, “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant recording a rock song, the group Kiss getting their own Marvel Comic Book, and The Fonz showing up on the season finale of “Laverne & Shirley.”

In today’s terms, think of The Onion meets Kentucky Fried Rasslin’–like last week’s fictional story on Donald Trump and Jerry Lawler buying the Mid-South Coliseum, a joke that fooled a lot of people. Channel 13 in Memphis actually called the King for a quote on “the story.” I apologize for any confusion; however, I did graduate from the Bill Apter School of Wrestling Journalism.


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So, anyway, I was thrilled when wrestler Andre the Giant appeared as “The Sasquatch Beast” (Bionic Bigfoot) in a two-part episode of “The Six-Million Dollar Man,” my favorite TV show in 1976.  (As a chubby kid, I longed to be better, stronger, faster.) It was the ultimate dream match to a little boy, in the same vein as Andre vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. And really, the fight-scene clip posted from YouTube below has wayyyy better action–look at Andre move! Then again, Hogan and Andre didn’t have the benefit of those awesomely cool bionic sound effects and dramatic slow-motion shots. If you have to question how much of a bad ass the Six-Million Dollar Man is, look at how he rips apart the Giant with a mere armdrag.

It would be the greatest size challenge Steve Austin would face…until Stone Cold wrestled the Big Show on WWE Monday Night RAW in 1999. The best part of casting Andre is that not only did he have the perfect size for the role, but little makeup was required as well.

Usually, when you think of Andre in Hollywood, you think of “Princess Bride,” especially if you’re Terry Funk, who claims to have watched it dozens of times at the big man’s request when the two were traveling together.

I hadn’t thought about Andre’s prime-time network TV debut with Lee Majors in years, until I stumbled across this gem of an ad below over at Plaid Stallions. (Hmmm…I’ll bet the Giant didn’t see a dime of royalties.)

Still, Andre must’ve done something right, as he also appeared as pro wrestler “Killer Typhoon,” on Majors’ “The Fall Guy” in 1982. (I love how the episode sort of protects the business when they say “the championship matches” aren’t fixed. )

Knowing how Memphis loved pop-culture gimmicks, I’d bet that Bionic Bigfoot vs. Lawler might have been a bigger draw than Andre the Giant in the late ’70s.

That appears dangerously close to a low blow. Then again, when you're up against Bionic Bigfoot, it's no DQ.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin dismisses contestant as not “Tough Enough”–and just plain clueless

April 7th, 2011 No comments

Tough as nails: Austin came from the school of hard knocks--namely, the Memphis wrestling territory.

Shortly after Steve Austin’s first bout at the Mid-South Coliseum, booker Dutch Mantell asked him backstage, “What the hell was that?! You call that a match?” Although blessed with natural charisma and athleticism, Austin was not exactly at the top of his game as a worker when he arrived in Memphis in 1990.

Mantell instructed the greenhorn to grab a chair and watch every single bout that night so he might learn a thing or two. A longtime fan, Austin quickly became a true student of the business and how it worked–and he was a quick study. Not only that, but he also picked Dutch’s brain constantly. The Dutchman even gave the rookie his ring name, “Steve Austin,” so he wouldn’t be confused with the “other” Steve Williams, whose “Dr. Death” character was established and known throughout the wrestling world.

Years later, as Austin’s lackluster Ringmaster gimmick was going nowhere in the WWF, he morphed into a “stone cold” outlaw interested only in titles and money; I immediately thought of Dutch’s “lone wolf” character in Memphis. I asked Dutch if perhaps he influenced a young Austin.

Recalled Dutch in an interview with Kentucky Fried Rasslin‘: “I saw how he [Austin] talked, and he’s just the type of guy that’s not gonna have a lot of close friends anyway. Hell, he would speak his mind in the dressing room, things like that. And I probably gave him, not necessarily the template for Stone Cold, because I think it was basically him anyway, but I think I fostered that belief that he could open up his options with that kind of character. Say you’re a straight-up babyface. And we’ve got 20 guys in the territory. With 20, then we probably have 10 good guys and 10 bad guys–funny how it always seemed to break down that way, ain’t it? So if you’re a good guy, you only had 10 guys you could work with.  But, if you were a ‘tweener, then you got 19 other guys to work with. If you were the only one there who was a ‘tweener, you were in a unique position to make money. Again, I may have put that idea in Austin’s head, but he took it and ran with it.”

With a combination of desire, good teaching, and numerous bouts with the Memphis territory’s ring veterans, Austin was having good matches with the likes of Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee and Jeff Jarrett by spring 1991. Living off $40 payoffs and raw potatoes, Austin paid his dues in Memphis before eventually catching his big break in WCW, and later, in the WWF.


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So it’s only fitting that Austin was tabbed as the instructor/judge on WWE’s reincarnation of “Tough Enough,” a reality (and I use that term loosely in this business) show that gives aspiring wrestlers (there I go again–sports entertainers) an opportunity to win a WWE contract. But first these hopefuls have to through not only Austin but also former WWE stars Trish Stratus and Booker T. The third instructor is Bill DeMott, a talented big man in WCW years back whose Hugh Morris ring name was unfortunately changed when Vince Russo took over. (No matter where Trish Stratus is, a Hugh E. Rection can’t be far behind. Russo is also the genius who temporarily changed Booker’s name to G.I. Bro.)

The first “Tough Enough” show of the season debuted after Monday’s RAW and was damn entertaining. The first casualty was a young woman who sealed her fate when Austin asked what her favorite match was while questioning her passion for the business.

Yes, the Alicia Fox vs. Melina showdown was certainly a modern-day Funk Jr. vs. Brisco, on par with Steamboat vs. Flair and the HBK vs. Hitman Iron Man match.

I’m surprised Austin didn’t deliver the Stunner on her sorry ass right then and there.

For more on the Rattlesnake’s Memphis days, when he worked under the name “Stunning” Steve Austin (and had a mop of blonde hair), click here.