The more I read about the WWE career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the more I realize his massive success was absolutely all his own doing. The WWE had no idea what to do with Austin, a veteran by the time he signed with the company in 1996, and his debut as The Ringmaster makes that blatantly obvious. The company would continue to screw up with Austin, as evidenced by their idea to rebrand him with the worst wrestling name of all time.
Austin eventually learned to be himself (turned up a couple notches) and the Stone Cold character percolated from within. The bigger Austin got, the more he asserted himself outside the ring, and maintained in complete control of his career — even when Vince McMahon wanted him to dial it down a little.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Extra Mustard, Austin explains a slight confrontation with Vince over his repeated use of the middle finger on TV. Stone Cold explains what happened when McMahon asked him to come up with an alternative to his middle finger salute.
“When I started turning the character up, I started flipping people off,” said Austin. “That was right about the time ‘Diamond’ Dallas Page started doing the ‘Bang’ sign, and everybody in the crowd would throw up that sign when Dallas would do it. He was kind of running a parallel with me, and then Goldberg came on our heels, and we were all running parallels as far as getting over. Me and Dallas were in the business for so long, but Goldberg was just a rocket on fire.
“So Vince goes, ‘Steve, when you’re flipping everybody off and using that finger, USA is complaining. Is there another sign that you can use that everybody can do?’ And I said, ‘No, there’s not.’”
Austin’s “Stone Cold” character worked–and still resonates with people–due to its authenticity. Austin’s character was genuine; tested, true, and unadulterated in the make-believe world of pro wrestling.
“I told Vince I was not going to change s—,” said Austin. “Vince goes, ‘Well, OK.’ And, of course, the cash register was ringing, we kept flying the middle fingers, and it was what it was.
“I’m not going to change shit.” I’m putting that on a coffee mug to use at work.
Austin explained that it was his past experiences in the business — being fired from WCW over the phone while he was injured — that brought him to this point of not being willing to back down.
“After struggling to get a break in WCW and USWA, and then getting a break and having your legs chopped off from under you by another booker who took control,” Austin explained, “I was a little bit frustrated, a little bit pissed by the time I got that green light. I’d be damned if anybody was going to take anything from me. I’m going to run over you and we’re going to the top–or I’m going to the top, and you’re going to come along for the ride.”
That ride was a money train that chugged on for years.
[via Extra Mustard]