How Steve Austin Became Stone Cold

When Steve Austin arrived at the WWF in 1996, he was the hottest free agent on the market. However, things would fizzle out quickly as “The Ringmaster.” It wouldn’t be long until a stone-cold cup of tea changed Austin’s life forever!

From Stunning to Stone Cold: Steve Austin over the years.
From Stunning to Stone Cold: Steve Austin over the years.

When Steve Austin arrived in the WWE in 1996, he was the hottest free agent on the market.

He was poised to become a major player in the business, but things wouldn’t go well under his initial nickname, “The Ringmaster.

However, it wasn’t long before Austin reinvented himself to become one of the most popular professional wrestlers of all time.

After being fired from WCW via fax, Steve Austin had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.

Soon, he would compose one of the greatest promos of all time during his short stint in ECW.

He was the hottest free agent on the market. However, things did not work out as Austin would have liked in the then WWF under the guise of “The Ringmaster.”

In his book, Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time, Austin revealed how he ditched The Ringmaster gimmick to become “Stone Cold.”

“I went up to Vince, and I said, ‘I’m not The Ringmaster,'” Austin remembered.

“[Vince] said, ‘Well, who are you then?’

“I said, ‘I don’t know yet… but I’m not The Ringmaster.’

Steve Austin as The Ringmaster in 1996.
Steve Austin as The Ringmaster in 1996.

“I went home, and I was drinking a few beers at the house.

“I was watching this special on HBO about Richard Kuklinski – he was called the Ice Man.

“The Ice Man was a hitman for hire for the mob [in the New Jersey and New York City area]. Totally remorseless, just a ruthless individual, a guy didn’t give a s*** about anything.

“He was very cold, no emotion about him, and I said, ‘Man, this guy… There’s something about this guy that’s really got my gears going…’

“So I pitched my idea to the office, and they said, ‘Okay, Steve, we’ll think about it.’

“They faxed me three pages of the worst names I’d seen in the history of my life.

“Otto von Ruthless, Ice Dagger, Fang McFrost…

“Man, it doesn’t get more suck-a**s than that!

“And so I’m thinking, ‘You kidding me? These creative geniuses are the guys that make superstars?’

“You know, back in the day, you’d just think, ‘If you go to WWE, soon as you walk in the door, they’ll put a gimmick on you, and they’ll make you a star…’

“No, that’s not the case. I mean, it’s a crapshoot at best.

“So anyway, I’m sitting there frustrated, and you know, my wife at the time, Jeannie – who was from England – makes me a cup of hot tea.

“She sets that tea on the table, and she goes, ‘Ah, don’t worry about it. You’ll think of something.’

“As she turns to leave, ‘Go ahead and drink your tea,’ she says, ‘before it goes stone cold.'”

And the rest, as they say, was history!

Steve Austin’s tenacity and hard work paid off, and as “Stone Cold,” he turned into a global phenomenon. His iconic nickname is now synonymous with the WWE.

Watch Steve Austin Get Referred to as “Stone Cold” for the Very First Time on March 11, 1996:

YouTube video

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JP Zarka founded Pro Wrestling Stories in 2015 and is the creative force behind the website as editor-in-chief. From 2018-19, he was the podcast host and producer for The Genius Cast with Lanny Poffo, brother of WWE legend Macho Man Randy Savage. His diverse career includes work as an elementary school teacher, assistant principal, and musician, notably as a singer-songwriter with the London-based band Sterling Avenue. Zarka has appeared on TV programs like “Autopsy: The Last Hours of” on Reelz (U.S.) and Channel 5 (U.K.) and has contributed research for programming on ITV and BBC.