'Stone Cold' Steve Austin: A Stunning Inductee
By Bill Apter, with an introduction and transcription by Bradley Craig
One of the premier talents to lace up a pair of boots, the career of Steve Austin took him from life in the small city of Edna, Texas to the height of the professional wrestling world. Crucially, he was its biggest star at the apex of the industry’s popularity in the United States during the celebrated ‘Attitude Era’. Trained by ‘Gentleman’ Chris Adams, the rookie ‘Stunning’ Steve showed immediate promise before being picked up by WCW, where he would win multiple singles championships and even Unified NWA/WCW World tag team gold as one half of The Hollywood Blonds with Brian Pillman.
As his career led him to the WWF, Austin jettisoned a shortlived ‘Ringmaster’ moniker with a name change suggested by his wife at the time, former manager Jeanie Clarke. It was this beer-swilling ‘Stone Cold’ persona which captured the attention of the public. His sheer hard work in the ring, coupled with the huge appeal of feuds against a variety of luminaries including Bret Hart, Vince McMahon and The Rock, led to an incendiary run of live
event box-office, pay-per-view revenue and merchandising success. Many of these records remain unparalleled in the business, as Austin crafted a Hall of Fame portfolio which included six reigns with the WWF Championship. Documenting his progress from the beginning was renowned reporter Bill Apter, who speaks with ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin about his induction into the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2022. (Full interview can be seen below.)
Bill Apter (BA): Steve, with your busy schedule, I know you can’t be in attendance, but I wanted to be the first person to welcome you to the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Steve Austin (SA): Well, man, the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is a long way away from where I’m at and I couldn’t be there in person, but I wish that I could be. I’m so proud to be talking to you Bill, after all the years that we go back, and I’m very excited to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
BA: This Class of 2022 has some guys you may have heard of: Jim Londos, Joe Stecher, and Karl Gotch who a lot of people may not remember, but back in the pre-WWWF days of Capitol Wrestling – once wrestled for Vince McMahon, Sr. as Karl Krauser.
SA: I didn’t know that one, but [Karl Gotch] was pretty crafty in the ring, one of the shooters.
BA: I remember his [innovative German] suplex. I killed about four hundred of my pillows, trying to do that suplex on my bed!
SA: You know you’re not to attempt that stuff at home! (laughs).
BA: And Billy Robinson [is another inductee this year].
SA: Man, one of the greats. A catch-as-catch-can guy and shoot wrestler, Billy Robinson was tough as nails.
BA: A really tough guy, but when you would meet him in his suit and tie, and [he had] this wonderful British air about him, you never would know that he was so tough.
SA: I would have loved to have been in the ring with him. You know, I’ve heard so many stories about him and watched a lot of his videos on YouTube, and he was really amazing. I would have enjoyed working with Billy Robinson.
BA: I’m sure you would have. And you know Dory Funk, Jr. too, right ‘Stone Cold’?
SA: I have so much history with the Funk family, of course with me being from Texas, and them coming out of West Texas. And so many people coming out of the Funkin’ Dojo. Dory [Funk, Jr.] is a legend and I’ve always admired his body of work.
BA: Last year [Dory’s brother] Terry Funk was inducted into the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
SA: You know, [Terry Funk] was a guy who influenced so many careers. Here was a guy who was a second generation wrestler, and after twenty-odd, maybe thirty years in the business, gets on the top of the turnbuckle and starts doing moonsaults – so he kind of went the other way with it! And again, if you are one of the Funks, you can be as scientific as you want to, and Terry could brawl with the best of them.
BA: Oh absolutely, he could. And, from Japan, we have [Genichiro] Tenryu and Riki Choshu.
SA: Ah man, I have many memories from back in the day of going overseas to [wrestle in] Japan. I wasn’t really a Japan guy, but Riki Choshu and all those guys were on fire back then.
BA: They sure were. It’s funny but it’s great that the fans here in the United States have such a love for wrestling in Japan, even today.
SA: Well, yeah, I just love the technical aspect in which the [pro wrestlers in Japan] work, they are all very proficient and really protective of the business, and I enjoy that style very much.
BA: [IPWHF President] Seth Turner and Mike Lanuto have asked me to welcome you into the 2022 Hall of Fame class. What you may not know is that, during last year’s Hall of Fame, JJ Dillon and I co-hosted the event, and we were made honorary [IPWHF] tag team champions. The word went out that the reason you were busy is because you were asked to find a tag team partner who JJ and I could defend these belts against, and you couldn’t come up with anybody. Is this true?
SA: Man, if I could find a partner tough enough, we would give you guys a run for your money. Y’all might have retained, but then again you might have dropped them as well. We’ll never know – I couldn’t find a partner tough enough to mesh with my own brawling style and [contend with] your combined technical proficiency (laughs).
BA: You’ve never seen me put on the six second figure-four leglock!
SA: It’s a scary thing, and I’ve got to stay away from a guy like you, a real stretcher and a shooter, and I’ve got these bad wheels. So, if you lock something on me, I might be prone to tap, but then again, I am ‘Stone Cold’ and I don’t tap - who knows what would have happened? Maybe [we could face off in a match at] WrestleMania 39 in L.A.!
BA: Maybe, you know what, I might see you there! Anyway, a little levity there, but I’m just so thrilled as I’ve known you since day one, I just wanted to be the guy to tell you that you are inducted into the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. And that’s the bottom line, son!
SA: It’s truly an honour to go in, and I’m in several Hall of Fames, but this is one [of the Hall of Fame establishments] to be in, so I’m very proud to finally get inducted. I wish I could be there in person, but with all the headaches and hassles and everything else that the last two years have been [due to the global COVID-19 pandemic], I’m not travelling very much - I’m stuck right here in Nevada. I wish I could be there with you, but I’m super proud to be a part of the [International Professional Wrestling] Hall of Fame, so thank you all very much.
If you enjoyed this article, checkout the rest of the Class of 2022 inductee pages and order your copy of the limited-edition commemorative magazine by visiting the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame Shop or by clicking here.