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Posts Tagged ‘Steve Austin’

Oh, hell yeah: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin named host of WWE’s “Tough Enough”

January 28th, 2011 4 comments

Austin had no comment at the Hollywood press conference announcing his new hosting gig.

USA Network and Vince McMahon must have backed up a Brinks Truck–and most likely a beer truck–to his Malibu home, but somehow “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has agreed to host the newest incarnation of “Tough Enough,” the reality (and I use that term loosely) show about unknown wrestlers/would-be sports entertainers trying to secure a WWE contract.

Reports Entertainment Weekly:EW has learned exclusively that “Tough Enough,” the back-from-the-dead WWE reality contest series, has its new host: Stone Cold Steve Austin. The show will premiere April 4, after Monday Night Raw. Sigh. I was so hoping there’d be some way to get Al Snow back, but I guess I will just have to, er, toughen up. Steve Austin is one of the WWE’s crossover stars — even non-wrestling fans like me are pretty familiar with him, and he obviously has plenty of on-screen experience. What I liked so much about Snow as the mentor, though, was his ability to turn off that in-ring persona and be a strict teacher, a focused father figure, and occasional goofball. I’m hoping Austin has that same knack, and isn’t just Stone Cold Steve AustinTM with his mentees; I hope sometimes he’s just a regular dude.”

Not me. I personally hope Austin stuns all their sorry asses in the first episode, fills their cars with cement before crushing their vehicles with a Monster Truck, and then hoses all those losers down with beer. Seriously, though, this is intriguing. As someone who has never watched a single episode of “Tough Enough,” I’ll definitely tune in for at least the premiere with Austin as host. And as for the writer’s comments about Al Snow…yeah, that’s a bummer. I’m sure he would have been a far better ratings draw.

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Bret Hart gets a leg up on Vince McMahon

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

Capping off the long, painful swerve that everyone but Vince McMahon apparently saw coming, Bret Hart revelaed on RAW last night that he staged a freak car accident, with help from the RAW cameramen and production team employed by the Chairman of the Board. It’s really a shame the Hart/McMahon program took this turn, which was fascinating initially because of its inherent realistic nature playing off the bitter feelings of both men that have been simmering for 13 years. Tricking heels into a match has been a staple of the business for years, and if executed correctly, can build the fans’ anticipation for when the bad guy finally receives his comeuppance. I’ve seen it used with mixed results in Memphis over the years. Often, in many Southern promotions, the local heel or manager would be tricked into signing a contract to wrestle a bear. (Dutch Mantell sheds some light on this inhumane practice in his entertaining book.)  Perhaps the most memorable such scenario was the ruse Jerry Lawler and Lance Russell pulled on Bill Dundee in November 1985 to goad the Superstar into one more Southern title defense before NWA champion Ric Flair returned to Memphis to face the region’s titlist–this was incredibly hokey, even by Memphis standards. (Apparently, some fans were fooled, as several mothers in Memphis flooded the WMC-TV studio switchboard complaining of the example Lawler had just set for the little Kingers.)

 

Bad casting: No way Hart should have touched McMahon until WrestleMania.

I like the idea of Mr. McMahon being afraid of Hart, showing a contrast to the bravado that he’s routinely displayed heading into high-profile matches over the years with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. It’s just the execution that was flawed here. Given the Hart family’s personal tragedies over the years, it would have been far more believable had Bret claimed to have experienced a gym accident or developed lingering complications from his stroke that would cause him to rescind his challenge to McMahon. Fans have largely been programmed to tune out backstage antics and accidents as “part of the show,” which hurt the effectiveness of the injury angle. The reveal last night was OK, though McMahon agreeing so passively to Stu’s induction into the HOF as part of the contract terms was too quickly glossed over my taste. I was also surprised that Hart physically assaulted McMahon, belting him with the cast twice before exiting to the cheers of the fans. However, I loved the smirk on Hart’s face when McMahon swiveled around to find the cast on and crutch on the desk, and the Hitman was strong on the mic after.

However, a better scenario might have been for one of McMahon’s henchmen from last week, (e.g., Jack Swagger), to hit the ring after the “cast-off” reveal only to be subdued by the

An Attitude Era Gone By: The Rattlesnake slithers back into the picture with the Chairman and the Hitman.

Hitman, who would proceed to ensnare the All-American American in the Sharpshooter as Vince scooted away in horror as the camera faded out. Again, it’s all bout whetting the fans’ appetite to see Hart get his hands on Vince , so the less actual physical interaction between the two until WrestleMania the better. Plus, it would remind older fans and help educate new ones of just had badass a finisher Bart Hart has in his repertoire.  

It was pretty damn cool to see Steve Austin, Hart and McMahon in the same ring again. Stone Cold was amazing on the mic all night and illustrated just how little charisma the majority of current WWE stars have in comparison. The fans’ reaction to Austin was remarkable–almost like they were starving for a character of his personality. Funny how guys like Austin (and Shawn Michaels in 2003) physically look amazing when returning to WWE after years of a more stable lifestyle off the road, as the Rattlesnake looked lean and mean. Austin did a nice job of putting over his bouts with the Hitman over as some of the best mathes of his career, incuding the character-defining moment at WrestleMania XIII.

File under Bret Hart, Vince McMahon and Steve Austin.

12 days of Christmas Chaos: (Day Five: Get down and dirty with Dutch Mantell)

December 15th, 2009 2 comments
dutchcover

The Dutchman cometh: Finally, the official textbook for the University of Dutch is released.

Arguably the greatest athlete ever to come out of Oil Trough, Texas,  Dutch Mantell thrilled fans for years as the lone wolf of Memphis wrestling—an anti-hero more concerned with winning titles and kicking butts than kissing babies. Prof. Mantell has guided “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane and other students of the University of Dutch through the school of hard knocks on the road to success. Pick up his new book, The World According to Dutch, to find out what his graduates already know: the Dirty Dutchman is one of the shrewdest, sharpest minds in wrestling today.

I first met Dutch in 1989, my freshman year in college. He was booking Memphis, and had built an angle involving longtime African-American mid-carder King Cobra and Lawler, who was playing a racist heel. (Some would argue the role wasn’t a stretch for the King.) As the main event of the Christmas Chaos card at the Mid-South Coliseum, Cobra shocked Lawler and the approximately 3,000 fans in attendance by pinning the World Unified champion to win the title. As the crowd popped huge for the upset, Dutch walked out from the dressing-room area to observe his handiwork. My friend and I, two marks who thought we were smarter to the business than we really were, motioned Mantell to come over, and he obliged. I told him, “You booked a good angle!” Dutch kayfabed me, acting like he had no idea what the hell I was talking about. (In hindsight, I’m surprised he didn’t grab “shoo-baby,” his bullwhip.) 

I believe it was the following Monday night, on January 1, 1990, that a greenhorn from Texas, who been trained by “Gentleman” Chris Adams, showed up at the Coliseum expecting to work that night. Apparently, he’d been given a start date by Jerry Jarrett, who somehow forgot to inform Dutch of this new member to the CWA roster. After introducing himself as Steve Williams, the young man didn’t exactly take kindly to it when Dutch told him to think of another name–and quick–to wrestle under: “Why the hell not? …It’s my real name!” In his new book, Dutch writes, “I informed Mr. Williams in my kindest, sweetest voice that he couldn’t be Steve Williams…for one f’n reason…because there’s already a Steve Williams in this business, as in  DR. DEATH STEVE WILLIAMS….and there can’t be two Steve Williams in the same f’n business at the same f’n time. That would be like having two Willie Nelsons.”

After Williams failed to come up with anything, Mantell christened him “Steve Austin.” And history was made. (The way I see it, Austin owes Dutch at least a million in cash in royalties.)

Better...stronger...faster: Steve Austin is unleashed.

Better...stronger...faster: Steve Austin is unleashed.

In a sense, it’s only fitting that Mantell was so instrumental in hatching the Rattlesnake. Mantell originally wrestled under the name “Chris Gallagher” for Nashville promoter Nick Gulas. As Dutch tells it: “Chris Gallagher starved to death, so I buried him with a full funeral and then ‘Dutch Mantell’ was born.” I believe it was former wrestler Buddy Fuller who had the idea of the Dutch character, a rough-and-tumble, modern-day outlaw of sorts. Mantell certainly looked the part, with a dark mustache and beard—and even darker eyes. In many ways, Mantell, “the Dirty Dutchman,” as Memphis announcer Lance Russell often referred to him, developed a character that was ahead of its time. He set the standard for a worker like Austin, whose “Stone Cold” persona got over with fans initially as a tough-talking heel who gradually turned into an anti-establishment-type appreciated by the fans.   

Dutch’s initial turn from heel to babyface in Memphis was classic. Dastardly Japanese heels Mr. Onita and Masa Fuchi, managed by veteran Tojo Yamamoto, were running roughshod over the area in spring 1981, leaving a trail of bloody babyfaces (Eddie Gilbert, Ricky Morton, Steve Keirn, Dundee, the Dream Machine, etc.) in their wake. One heated Monday night, the foreign heels were ganging up on Dundee and the Dream when suddenly, and without advance warning of a turn, Dutch made the save.

In an emotional interview with Lance Russell the following Saturday, Dutch, a legit Vietnam veteran, spoke of serving his country. Mantell went on to explain that he saw the Japanese outnumbering two Americans. He then snapped when he noticed a little boy so shocked by the horror that the youngster dropped the American flag he had been waving in support of the babyfaces. When Dutch rushed the ring to attack Tojo, Onita and Fuchi, he was not merely making the save—he was defending the honor of the country. It’s easily one of the most memorable promos of the era…and that covers a hell of a lot of ground.

Even after turning babyface, Mantell was often the consummate “tweener,” all too willing to put aside friendships for a chance at a championship , which added a nice touch of realism to the otherwise nutty Memphis scene. This may not sound like anything groundbreaking today because we’ve all seen that scenario a million times now. But back in Memphis in the early ‘80s, the performers were almost always clearly defined as heels or babyfaces.

It's a dirty job, but....: Dutch poses with his two best friends in the Memphis territory.

The dirtiest player in the game: Dutch poses with his two best friends in the Memphis territory.

 

While Dutch was usually a babyface, he’d turn ever so slightly to feud with established area heroes Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee over the AWA Southern title and the NWA Mid-America title, respectively. Mantell’s blue-collar character often complained of being given the shaft by the establishment, in this case, the area promoters. Many hard-working fans in the South identified with that scenario, which is probably why Dutch was one the few wrestlers to feud with Lawler during the King’s prime babyface run and still receive plenty of cheers at the Coliseum. In particular, the three straight main events between the King and the Dutchman at the Coliseum in March 1982 were fantastic and have to be considered among Lawler’s best.

Years back, after I published a review of Lawler’s book, Dutch e-mailed me out of the blue. When I reminded him of our first encounter in ‘89, he shocked me by remembering it verbatim. He said he had even thought about that night several times since then and wondered just who the hell I was because “smart fans” who read the Wrestling Observer were rare in Memphis at that time. I think Dutch remembered me for the same reason he’s been so successful in the business: He pays attention; he notices things. He’s not too caught up in himself, or his character for that matter, to notice what’s going on around him. If those sound like qualities for a being a good booker, that’s because they are. And, as it turns out, the Dutchman’s a hell of good storyteller and author to boot. I hope to have an interview with Dutch down the road after I finish reading his book. Until then, check out his Web site, where you can check out a few free chapters online and order The World According to Dutch. Edited by Mark James (of the wonderful Memphis Wrestling History site) and Ric Gross, the book has 32 chapters covering 270-plus pages as well as dozens of never-before-seen photos—a virtual wrestling history lesson.