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“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.


WWE All Stars Accessories

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.