Stone Cold Steve Austin was one of the biggest stars the WWE ever had. However, signing him after his release was not an easy feat. Despite being one of the best wrestlers in the world, Vince McMahon thought of the Texas Rattlesnkae as too brash and outspoken.
Ironically, these traits are what would held propel him to superstardom. The loud mouthed, take-no-shit Stone Cold Steve Austin dominated the WWE during the Attitude Era. He won multiple WWE Championships and main evented Wrestlemania multiple times, including a trilogy against long-time rivals The Rock.
Jim Ross, a fellow southerner, was the catalyst of Austin’s move to WWE. Austin was in ECW after his release from WCW, but not cleared to wrestle. As such, he cut promos each week on WCW and how much he was held down by the likes of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff. Whilst he may have been controversial, Jim Ross could see incredible potential in the 30 year old former WCW Television Champion.
“I think the reputation Steve had was that he was too outspoken. I just positioned it like this to Vince. If we have a great talent here, which I truly believe we have the potential of having a great talent in Steve. He’s 30 years old or something like that. I said he’s a huge diamond in the rough. To me, if I were in your position, I would do all I could to learn how to communicate with Steve and earn his trust because I think in the long run, it’s gonna pay off dividends. And we got lucky it did. It was just a matter of Steve fitting in socially. That’s not to say he wasn’t personable and fun to talk to. He only lets you in so far.” Jim Ross said, on his podcast Grillin’ JR.
Pairing with The Million Dollar Man
When he did sign with WWE, it wasn’t plain sailing from the get go. Austin was paired up with Ted DiBiase, known as the Million Dollar Man. DiBiase’s gimmick was that of a millionaire who used his vast wealth to get whatever he wanted. This was at odds with the personality Austin had cultivated thus far in his career, but he had to go along with what Vince McMahon wanted.
He was christened “The Ringmaster”, a technician in the ring who did not get to cut promos. Whilst a great wrestler, Austin shone when on the microphone, and taking that away from him was like taking the Sharpshooter away from Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
“We were hoping that two talented guys merged together would create magic.” JR said. “Ted DiBiase has a great mind for the business. He’s loaded with integrity and character and had come back in the game with a chance to pick up some real nice paydays. So, I think we were all pulling for both guys and hoping their team would gel. Steve always respected the hell out of DiBiase and would probably tell you today that Ted was one of his favorite talents of all time. Steve grew up watching Mid-South Westling out of the station there in South Texas. He was a Mid-South guy. He was a mark for DiBiase like a lot of us were. When Steve and I would go on a trip and shoot the shit, a lot of that was talking about Mid-South even though we were both in WWE. He was a big fan of that.”
The duo would later split up, with JR commenting on that also.
“[Steve] was not having any fun. He got a little taste of success and accolades and promo time and bookings and TV exposure, but he wasn’t having any fun. That was a smart move by Vince to move Ted somewhere else and let Austin go on his own. That’s why we were having those conversations about him being a babyface that he cussed me out about.”