As previously noted, 'Badass' Billy Gunn stopped by 317 Gimmick Street for a wide-ranging interview with WWE Hall Of Famer Steve Austin on The Steve Austin Show. During the podcast, Billy and Steve talked about their neck injuries. Also, Billy and Steve discussed their past drug use and Billy opened up about his opioid addiction.
According to Billy, he had neck surgery in 1995 following a match between the Smoking Gunns and The Bodydonnas.
"It was in the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California." Billy recalled, "we were working Tom Prichard and [Chris] Candido. We were doing that thing with Sunny. It was kind of weird getting in the groove, doing the thing with Sunny. We were doing this spot, she jumps up, I hit the ropes, and accidentally knock her off and go, 'oh my God!' I go down to the floor. I go check on her because it's me and I was supposed to be in this infatuation spot with her, and Tom comes right off the top, and hits me in the back of the neck, and I hit the ground, and a lighting bolt shot from my ass clear across the building. Stuff like that normally doesn't happen to me, stingers and stuff. I just get knocked out before that happens, so I never feel them. I felt that and went, 'oh, whoa, it wasn't supposed to feel that bad! Something's not right.' So I work two [or] three more days, and then my left side kept feeling worse and worse and worse. Yeah, the whole thing. Then I went home and saw a neurologist or whatever and they literally took me right then and went, 'you've got to go, like, right now' because he said it was so [badly] shattered that there was a piece pushing on my spinal cord. He said, 'you could just step off the curb and it'd go.' And I go, 'oh, well, maybe we go and fix this then.'"
Billy suggested that he returned to WWE prematurely, partly out of fear of losing his spot with the company.
"It was just about six months because I wasn't allowed to stay gone that long. It was '95 and the company hadn't really gotten hot yet and didn't do anything, so it was like, 'if you want to keep your job, we get it - you're neck's hurt, but you might want to come back.' I didn't get any paychecks."
Along these lines, Steve talked about his neck injury he sustained from wrestling the late great Owen Hart. Like Billy, Steve did not get paid while he was out of action.
"Back in the day, when I got dropped on my head, the thing with Owen, God rest his soul, and so anyway, that jacked me up. I mean, it was heavy duty, but I was like, 'I've got to finish this match,' but nothing would work! So anyway, you know the deal, I rolled him up, called it in the ring, and got out." Steve said, "I didn't [get paid] either, not on my surgery in 1999, 2000, whenever I got fused up. This was before they would start paying guys. Let's just say it was like the stone ages compared to now. These days, everything's all covered. Back in the day, dude, when I had my neck surgery, I was gone for about a year. Zero. I got a royalty check every quarter, but I mean nothing."
Apparently, no one from WWE accompanied Steve to the hospital following his SummerSlam (1997) match, so he got a ride from three fans who followed the ambulance from the arena.
"There I go, I get x-rayed and there were no MRIs. Nothing's broken. I bruised my spinal cord. I've got a bunch of stuff going on. I walk outside the hospital, [and] ain't nobody from the company come with me. I'm sitting there, I'm all messed up, and three girls had followed the ambulance to the hospital. I walked out to no support there! 'Steve, do you want a ride back to the hotel?' 'Yeah!' I got in the car with them. They took me by the liquor store. I got my 12-pack of Budweiser. They took me back to the Holiday Inn right by the Newark [New Jersey] airport there. You stay there, dude. And I remember, I was effed up." Steve continued, "dude, I was traumatized! I just sat there and drank that 12-pack of beer. I'll never forget it. I thought a lot of things about my career, but I drank that dang 12-pack and I was thinking, 'holy s--t! That was a rough ride!'"
On the subject of road vices, Billy shared that he is a recovering addict and has been clean for seven years now. 'The One' stated that he was abusing all kinds of opioids to "mask" pain.
"I'm a recovering addict, so I've been clean for seven years, but when you hurt, you don't think about it too much and there are easier ways to do it. If I just take this, I don't have to worry about going and getting a massage or going to a chiropractor or going to a doctor. I just mask it with this. So then you mask it so long and then it catches up with you. But now, nowadays, that's not an option." Billy explained, "you doctor hunt, you have scripts all over the place, you buy them from people you don't even know and hope to God that they work because it was really bad. I had left the company. It was just everything was going awry. Like, it was one thing and all going downhill. All addicts do, in my case because that's all I talk about, is I'm just trying to cover things up. I don't want to think about them, but when I come out of that, they're still there, so you just keep covering and they never go away and then it's worse and worse and worse till your consumption goes more and more and more. I couldn't keep pills around for [anything], like going through 100 somas in three days. That's insane."
While Steve never developed an addiction to pharmaceutical medications, he arrived at a level of recreational use that he would know what drugs a pro wrestler would have on them by the sound the pills would make bouncing around in his fanny pack.
"Dude, back in the day if a guy had a backpack or a fanny pack, he could take his s--t off and by the rattle, back me on this, by the rattle of what he had in his bag, you could tell what he was carrying." Steve recalled, "oh yeah, Ambiens had a rattle, somas, Vics, Percs, they all had a different rattle!"
Steve said he never got into pills till he was introduced by pro wrestling.
"I never got spun off on them. I was lucky in that regard. Alcohol was my thing. That's what I had a good time with." Steve added, "all-of-a-sudden, you're in the [pro] wrestling business and you're getting s--t thrown at you!
Billy concurred that he had a similar experience.
"I never did any drugs growing up, like, at all because I was always terrified my dad would find out and he'd beat the life out of me. For me, it was kind of the same thing. You get in the business and Halcions were a big thing and when you take them, and you're out for days. I mean, the first time I tried that was at an overseas trip. I couldn't wake up the entire two weeks I was there, so I was like, 'that's not going to happen.'"
Open a can of audio whoop ass here. If you use any of the quotes from this article, please credit The Steve Austin Show with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Source: The Steve Austin Show