Details You Never Knew About Stone Cold Steve Austin

Professional wrestling may arguably be more than just a niche form of entertainment nowadays, but there have only been a few wrestlers whose popularity was so transcendent that even non-fans instantly recognize their names. Similar to the likes of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Dave Bautista (aka Batista), and John Cena, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is a certified mainstream celebrity, and much of it has to do with his status as arguably WWE's biggest star of the Attitude Era of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He didn't tell young fans to say their prayers and take their vitamins; instead, he had no qualms about drinking beer in the ring, flipping the bird, peppering his promos with swear words, and showing no respect whatsoever for authority, especially if that authority was WWE's real-life chairman and on-air evil boss extraordinaire, Vince McMahon.

Thanks to Austin's persona as an edgy, foul-mouthed anti-hero, as well as his undeniable charisma, his pop culture relevance remained well after his wrestling days were over. And while he'll occasionally pop up on WWE programming these days for a special appearance, you're more likely to hear him interview his fellow wrestlers on his podcast or promote his own brand of beer, Broken Skull IPA (via El Segundo Brewing Company).

Many people may be familiar with his in-ring career and what he's up to nowadays, but that's not quite the "bottom line" when it comes to the Texas Rattlesnake. Here are some details about "Stone Cold" Steve Austin that you might not know.

Stone Cold Steve Austin played college football for North Texas

It's not unusual for professional wrestlers to have backgrounds in college or pro football, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is no exception. Back in the mid-1980s, he suited up for the University of North Texas Mean Green as a linebacker and defensive end, though as he admitted in a 2021 interview with 97.1 The Ticket's The DA Show, he was aware even then that he wasn't quite NFL material.

"It was a fun experience," Austin recalled. "I had dreams of being a pro football player but just couldn't quite make the grade by a long-shot on that. I was a good player at the local or regional level. Beyond that, those guys had too much talent."

Additionally, Austin shared that his father had a college football career of his own; he played running back for Rice University and scored his team's only touchdown in a loss to Navy at the 1958 Cotton Bowl. The wrestler revealed that his dad tried to convince his alma mater to give him a football scholarship, only to be turned down.

Football may not have worked out for Austin as well as wrestling did, but he did, at least, get to show off the skills he had as a high school running back when he played prison guard Dunham in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.

The origin of his ring name

The future "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was originally known as Steve Williams, and it goes without saying that could be anybody's name. As he told USA Today in 2016, he was apparently okay with using his real name when he was getting started in the wrestling business in the late 1980s, though as he was soon told by Memphis-area booker Dutch Mantell, there already was a wrestler with his name who was far more established — "Dr. Death" Steve Williams.

After the young grappler failed to come up with a ring name he liked, Mantell decided to call him Steve Austin, though as expected, he had his doubts at first — that was, after all, the name of Lee Majors' titular character in the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man.

As for Austin's "Stone Cold" nickname, wrestling fans all over the world should be thankful that he hated his original WWE ring name, "The Ringmaster," as he admitted in his DVD autobiography, Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time (via Pro Wrestling Stories). After watching a documentary about contract killer Richard "The Iceman" Kuklinski, Austin decided he needed a similarly cold and vicious new nickname. WWE officials had all sorts of laughably bad ideas — Ice Dagger, Otto von Ruthless, and Fang McFrost were a few — but thanks to Austin's wife telling him that he had to drink his tea before it went "stone cold," an iconic in-ring moniker was born.

Stone Cold Steve Austin's real-life beef with Owen Hart

Despite usually being portrayed on WWE programming as Bret Hart's jealous, scheming little brother, Owen Hart was, in real life, beloved in the locker room for being a devoted family man with a great sense of humor, as noted by Pro Wrestling Stories. One wrestler was an exception: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.

As recapped by Sportskeeda, Austin was challenging Hart for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam in 1997 when, toward the end of the match, Hart prepared to land a piledriver on Austin but lost his grip on his opponent. This resulted in Austin breaking his neck and suffering temporary paralysis, leaving him unable to land his finishing move, the Stone Cold Stunner, as scripted. He did pick up the win with a roll-up, but it was clear to everyone in attendance that the Texas Rattlesnake was seriously hurt.

Given the consequences of that in-ring accident, Austin saw Hart's attempts to apologize as perfunctory at best. "Owen almost paralyzed me," he said. "He called me only once to apologize while I was in the hospital. If I almost break someone's neck, I'm calling them 25 times to apologize. ..."

After Owen Hart died following a botched ring entrance at the Over the Edge pay-per-view on May 24, 1999, Austin was nowhere to be found at his funeral. In an interview with WrestleZone, Austin's ex-wife, Jeanie Clarke, alleged that he never forgave Hart for what happened at SummerSlam and might have even felt that the Canadian wrestler deliberately injured him.

Austin's domestic abuse allegations

The year 2002 wasn't good for Austin. He had become dissatisfied with his character's creative direction, to the point that he was missing tapings. He was removed from WWE's active roster and blasted on live television, with announcer Jim Ross memorably saying that Austin had "taken his ball and gone home," per 411 Mania.

Those "career-sabotaging" actions, however, were just a prelude to the far more serious accusations he would be facing in the summer of 2002 (per Entertainment Weekly). On June 15, Austin's wife at the time, WWE on-air personality Debra Marshall, called San Antonio police shortly after he left the house. When the police arrived, they found her with a welt underneath her right eye — evidence that she had been physically abused. Almost two months later, Austin surrendered to authorities, and that was only after a judge issued an arrest warrant for misdemeanor assault charges.

Speaking to Fox News' Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes in 2007, Marshall accused Austin of physically abusing her on a regular basis, claiming that his actions were the result of his steroid use. She also accused WWE of covering up the abuse because of Austin's status as a top-tier star and merchandise seller. Austin was eventually fined $1,000, given a year's probation and community service, and asked to attend counseling, but that wasn't the last time he faced such accusations.

On March 29, 2004, The Smoking Gun reported that police were called after Austin purportedly threw his then-girlfriend, Tess Broussard, to the ground and injured her right hand during an argument.

Austin is rebuilding his relationship with his three daughters

Although "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has three adult daughters, it's not every day that you hear him talk about them. Per Sportskeeda, Austin and his second wife, Jeanie Clarke, have two children — Stephanie, who was born in 1992, and Cassidy, who was born in 1996. Additionally, he adopted Jade, Clarke's daughter with her late ex-boyfriend, wrestler Chris Adams, as noted by the Miami Herald. As of 2014, Stephanie and Cassidy were living in England with their mother, while Jade was based in the U.S. with her husband and son.

As quoted on his Biography page, Austin admitted that he once had a "strained" relationship with his kids because of how he had to spend so much time away from home focusing on his wrestling career. However, he added that he is constantly trying to make things right with his three girls. "Through all the BS that has happened, we're talking now," he said. "The relationships, as strained as they were, they're better now, but it's still a building block because, truly, after all these years, we still don't know each other as well as we should."

(A&E's Biography kicks off its "WWE Legends" series Sunday, April 18, with an episode devoted to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin.)

He once went by the name Stunning Steve Austin

In the world of wrestling, a wrestler will go through several gimmick changes. Not many performers can claim to have played the same character throughout their careers, as they need to adapt to what the business and fans demand. In the case of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, he wasn't always the Texas Rattlesnake or the beer-swigging brawler with two middle fingers firmly raised to the sky. When he joined WCW in 1991, he was set up as an arrogant and showy heel, who went by the moniker of "Stunning" Steve Austin, per Inside the Ropes. The irony was that Austin never knew what made him "stunning" in the first place.

Appearing on Talk Is Jericho (via Inside the Ropes), Austin explained how he struggled to explain to fellow wrestler Tom Pritchard what the meaning was behind the gimmick. "I couldn't commit to 'Stunning' Steve because I didn't know who and what the guy was, and I didn't really take the time to really learn who and what he was," he said. "I was more focused on mechanics and psychology." Ironically, Austin's biggest success came when he didn't have an over-the-top wrestling gimmick and wrestled in simple black trunks.

He was a part of the The Hollywood Blonds tag team

After debuting as "Stunning" Steve Austin in WCW, the wrestler lingered around in the mid-card scene throughout the early '90s. He was paired with a few valets before finding some notoriety as part of Paul Heyman's (then known as Paul E. Dangerously) Dangerous Alliance (per Pro Wrestling Stories). After the Dangerous Alliance split, he found himself in a bit of a conundrum in the company, since no one knew what to do with him. Legendary booker Dusty Rhodes decided that he and Brian Pillman should form a tag team known as The Hollywood Blonds. Austin wasn't convinced by the idea at first, but Rhodes insisted that there was something special there.

Rhodes turned out to be right, as The Hollywood Blonds went on to capture the WCW World Tag Team Championship. Austin and Pillman dazzled as a tag team before being broken up by the powers that be after 10 months. On Talk Is Jericho (via Inside the Ropes), Austin admitted that he still doesn't know why that decision was made. "I'm still searching for the answer today," he said. "I don't sit here and dwell on it because I don't live in the past. But they broke us up for no reason and they put us together for no reason because they didn't know what to do with either one of us."

The meaning of Austin 3:16 explained

When Steve Austin arrived in WWE in late 1995, he was given The Ringmaster gimmick and introduced as Ted DiBiase's new Million Dollar Champion. However, DiBiase departed to WCW a few months later, so Austin was forced to find a new gimmick as "Stone Cold." Austin's no-frills, all-toughness approach impressed both the fans and his peers, but the 1996 King of the Ring tournament was the moment that signified the turning point in his career and truly announced his arrival as a superstar.

In the tournament finals, Austin wrestled the returning Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Instead of portraying the dastardly heel from yesteryear, Roberts had adopted a new persona as a religious man who believed in the power of redemption. Austin beat him in the final, then cut a now-iconic promo at the crowning ceremony. He mocked Roberts' religious beliefs and said, "Talk about your Psalms, talk about John 3:16 ... Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your a**!" After that promo sent shockwaves throughout the industry, the phrase Austin 3:16 became a fundamental part of Austin's entire persona, and was even turned into a best-selling t-shirt that reportedly sold over 12 million units in a year (via Forbes).

His last official match was against Dwayne The Rock Johnson

The late-'90s marked a pivotal change in the WWE's approach. The company moved away from the campy cartoon gimmicks from before and embraced the more adult storytelling of the Attitude Era. At the forefront of this dominant period of wrestling were two men: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The two titans traded titles and barbs on television, building one of the most legendary rivalries in the history of sports entertainment.

At WrestleMania XIX, the two faced off for the last time. Austin had struggled with major neck and knee injuries, having already cut down on his wrestling schedule leading up to that point. According to DraftKings Nation, Austin had been hospitalized a day before WrestleMania XIX, and there were fears that he wouldn't even be able to make the show. Ever the pro, however, he battled through his ailments and showed up the match, which The Rock won in the end. Austin quietly retired from in-ring competition thereafter. However, he returned to the ring for a No Holds Barred contest against Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 38, but it was clear that this was a special once-off event and not really a match per se.

He tried his hand at an acting career

Much like other popular wrestlers of his era, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin made a transition to Hollywood at one point. He might never have achieved the level of success as Dwayne Johnson or Dave Batista, but he still appeared in some big-name productions such as "The Expendables" and "The Longest Yard" (via IMDb). However, don't expect him to show up in many more films, as he prefers to stick to podcasting and the occasional appearance as "Stone Cold."

Speaking to, Austin explained the reasoning behind his decision. "I just find that I'd rather be me than be a character in a movie," he said. "I don't have anything against it, I don't find it pleasurable and I don't want to do it just for the money." Austin added that acting was simply a job for him, but it helped to open doors to avenues such as hosting, which he much prefers. And that's the bottom line, 'cause "Stone Cold" said so.

He planned on becoming a gym teacher

Many wrestlers have spoken about their childhood dreams of becoming world champion. They have known that a life inside of the squared circle is what they have truly desired from the moment they first discovered wrestling. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin revealed to Chron that he harbored the same ambitions, too, having fallen in love with the sport at a really young age. However, there was a point where he was pulled in a different direction, and he could have ended up with an entirely different and unexpected career.

While at the University of North Texas, Austin studied for a degree in physical education, per The Philadelphia Inquirer. However, he quit before he could graduate so that he could pursue his wrestling dreams. As revealed by Fox Sports, Austin would have become a gym teacher if wrestling hadn't worked out for him. The question is, would he still have been dishing out Stone Cold Stunners to his bosses if he disagreed with them?

He is not Jamie McBride's half brother

The Internet is an interesting and fascinating place. Despite the age-old advice of "don't believe everything you read," a lot of people tend to take any crumb of online news as gospel. That's what happened when Jamie McBride — an LAPD detective and actor — claimed "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was his half brother. McBride's biographies across the web state this relationship as trivia, and most people tend to believe it's as true as the fact that Bret "The Hitman" Hart is the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be. After all, McBride and Austin do share an uncanny resemblance with their bald heads and goatees.

Per The Los Angeles Times, McBride revealed that Austin isn't related to him at all. In fact, he stated it was only a joke. Austin's real-life brother, Kevin Williams, actually appeared in the ring with him at WrestleMania 38 (via Sportskeeda). After Austin KOed Kevin Owens, he invited his brother into the ring to share a few cold ones with him — in typical "Stone Cold" fashion.

He walked out on WWE

While CM Punk might have made headlines for walking out of the WWE, he wasn't the first wrestler to do so. More than a decade before Punk took the first flight home, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had done the same, too. 

According to Sports Illustrated, Austin walked out and no-showed an event after a disagreement about his booking in 2002. The Texas Rattlesnake was unhappy about being asked to lose to the up-and-coming Brock Lesnar in a match that had virtually no build-up, believing it to be disrespectful to someone of his stature at the time. At that stage, the WWE was extremely high on Lesnar, and had plans for him to become the new face of the company.

Nonetheless, Austin called it the lowest point of his career. Opening up to Sports Illustrated, he admitted that despite disagreeing with the creative direction presented to him, he should have behaved differently and acted more professionally. "That walk out was still total stupidity and hard-headedness on my part," he said. "I should have shown up, and that is my biggest regret in the business of pro wrestling. Life is hard, and it's even harder when you're dumb."

The origin of the Stone Cold Stunner

When Steve Austin debuted in WWE, he utilized Ted DiBiase's Million Dollar Dream as his finishing move. Per a now-deleted blog post on the Broken Skull Ranch website, Austin revealed that he didn't mind using the finisher, but he acknowledged that he required something more dynamic to fit his on-screen persona. However, the transition to the Stone Cold Stunner wasn't his idea to begin with, as it was WWE producer and former wrestler Michael "P.S." Hayes who introduced him to the move.

Hayes explained how John Laurinaitis (then known as Johnny Ace) used a move called the Ace Crusher in Japan, and had shown it to WCW's Diamond Dallas Page who had dubbed it the Diamond Cutter. Instead of dropping flat to the mat like the original move, Hayes suggested that Austin land in a sitting position when he executed it. Austin experimented with the move and was sold on it, employing the Stone Cold Stunner in his arsenal going forward. Initially, Austin would perform the move out of nowhere, but he added the little kick as a setup to give it more of a natural flow later on.

His eyes are extremely sensitive

As a main event star, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin performed at the biggest arenas and under the flashiest lights. However, the brightness might not have been his favorite thing in the world, as he revealed to Men's Journal that he suffers from light sensitivity. In fact, his eyes suffer if he doesn't wear a pair of shades. He proclaimed that he isn't wearing sunglasses to go unnoticed or to try and act like an uptight celeb, but because he has to.

"My eyes are light sensitive, and I cannot stand bright light," Austin explained. "If it's the morning, and I had a late night, the worst thing in the world is a bright light." He added that he always makes sure to pack a pair of sunglasses when he travels, but if he loses them, the first thing he'll do is buy another pair to ensure his eyes don't suffer too much.