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.)