Steve Austin had a rollercoaster of a wrestling career.
Austin sat down with ESPN recently to discuss the highs and lows of his career. While most fans remember him fondly as the beer drinking, no-nonsense rattlesnake from the Attitude Era, he donned more than a few gimmicks. The worst, according to Austin, was The Ringmaster.
Austin said he didn't know who he was while wrestling as The Ringmaster.
"When you're The Ringmaster, and you've been 'Stunning' Steve for about four or five years, and you're a pretty damn good mechanic and you can go pretty damn good and all the sudden you don't have that anymore, you're The Ringmaster, you don't know who you are," Austin said "You're the stranger in a strange land and you don't have anything to base your existence on, and so that was the hardest time, I think, when I was The Ringmaster, and that's why after six months or however long it was I said, 'Hey man, I can't do this anymore because I got bigger plans for myself and I got a better gimmick.'"
Austin eventually struck gold with his "Stone Cold" gimmick, most notably in his feud with Vince McMahon. The feud dominated Monday Night RAW during the Attitude Era and provided many classic moments and matches.
Austin said McMahon's in-ring skills were a bit awkward, but he loved working with McMahon because of his character and crowd work.
"Those matches were kind of put together in a fashion where, you know, you kind of know what's up," he said. "So we're on the same page, you know, pretty much 99 percent of the time. There might be an ad-lib or something put in there, but you kind of know what's going on.
"From a mechanics standpoint, you know, Vince is pretty awkward and you know he's jacked up, he's strong. The stuff he does in the ring, everything feels pretty good. He'll sling you, when he's going to throw you, he's going to throw your ass, but he's kind of clumsy. The thing I love about working with Vince was his character was so over. As a heel, that guy is a natural born performer. He is probably the greatest promoter that the sports world, or sports entertainment, has ever known, but as a worker, as a performer, he knows how to work a crowd... Vince can read a crowd and he plays to that crowd and he just loves to be, as a heel, he would love to be hated so much."
Austin said his feud with McMahon transcended the wrestling business and helped define his career. Austin reaffirmed the fact that, "Vince won't ask anybody to do anything he won't do himself," and mentioned that both Vince and Shane McMahon's passion led to them both taking major risks in their matches.
"If it's coming down to trying to entertain a crowd, whether it's the live house or millions of people watching worldwide, he is going to go to the end of the world to make sure they get every single pennies worth out of that PPV or off that viewing on that brand new TV they just bought," he said. "He's trying to give it to you. Same thing with Shane, he has the same mentality. I don't know if they were out to prove a point, I just think they are very, very hungry about the business, and very passionate about the business."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit ESPN with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.