Stone Cold knows pain of success
By TIM BAINES -- Ottawa Sun
STEVE Austin lay flat on his back, in the middle of a wrestling ring in East Rutherford, N.J., 20,000 screaming fans yelling for him to rise.
But he couldn't.
The man they call Stone Cold, the merciless mercenary seemingly impervious to pain, couldn't move a muscle. Helplessly he looked up at the lights, wondering why he couldn't twitch, why there was no feeling in his body.
The cold, calculating devious caricature of brutality was afraid, for his wife, for his two young daughters ages five and one, for his 16-year-old stepdaughter ... and for himself. It was an emotional moment for a character created without emotion.
The telephone rings. On the other end of the line is Steve Austin, the "rattlesnake" whose venomous words and actions have left a battered trail of bruised bodies and feelings throughout the World Wrestling Federation.
But it's a more subdued Steve Austin speaking into the phone's receiver. This Austin is not the comic-book character created for the rabid wrestling audience, but an intensely proud man, articulate and supremely confident in his own abilities. This is a man who never says never. And he's not about to now, even with a potential career-ending injury suffered not so long ago when he was slammed head-first into the mat, the victim of a piledriver gone awry, delivered by Owen Hart.
It was an anomaly. These things aren't supposed to happen in professional wrestling, a mosaic of showbiz and athleticism. But with all the training, all the choreography in the world, they still do get hurt, for real. Muscles twist like they shouldn't. Bones break. Blood sometimes flows for real. Can it hurt? Just ask Steve Austin.
"There's not a day when I don't think about how fortunate I was," says Austin. "I was lying there helpless. I was paralyzed for a minute. My shoulders felt like they were on fire. It was a scary thing."
Austin's tone of voice is much less intimidating than the bullhorn which resounds each week on TV.
"Stone Cold is a little more hepped up for TV," he admits. "But there's some truth in the character. What we do in the ring can be an extension of ourselves. It's the same with the Undertaker, the same with Bret Hart and the same with Shawn Michaels."
With all the pyrotechnics of pro wrestling, painted faces, masks and flashy outfits, Austin is a throwback. With passions which include hunting and fishing outside the ring, he's all business inside the squared circle.
"What you see is what you get," says Austin, who left World Championship Wrestling when the powers-that-be stagnated his career under the persona of Stunning Steve Austin, a member of the Hollywood Blonds, teamed with Brian Pillman. It was during those days his wife of four years, Jeannie, acted as his valet, Lady Blossom.
"It's like Arn Anderson said: `You can't put mag wheels on a dump truck. When I was in WCW, I went out there in my black boots and my black trunks and they told me they couldn't market me.
"I told (WCW boss) Eric Bischoff I could be the best in the world.
"Every time I see an Austin 3:16 shirt I think about what Bischoff said to me."
Ah, yes. Austin 3:16, a brilliant ad-lib catch phrase Austin introduced after pummelling Jake Roberts, at the time on a huge Bible kick. "Here's Austin 3:16," said Stone Cold. "It says I just whipped your ass."
Austin pauses for a breath. He's asked about his feelings on the death of his former tag-team partner Pillman, who died of a heart attack in his sleep last month
"Brian and I were very close. We were very good friends and in this business you don't have very many close friends.
"I miss the hell out of him."
Austin has been told to curb his personality. But that wouldn't be Stone Cold.
"Someone told me to stop flipping people, to start using less of a vulgar tongue," he says. "But I like to raise hell."
For those who don't already have their tickets for tonight's Ottawa RAW IS WAR show, for those too skeptical about a showcase of loud music, grunts, groans, pseudo violence and more twists and turns than a rollercoaster, take Austin's advice and be there.
Why? Because Stone Cold says so.