To look back on it now, I almost laugh. I feel like Stone Cold Steve Austin is hiding in a blond wig and gym shorts. I want to say, Come on, Rattlesnake, you know you’re not going to make it as a wannabe Ric Flair. You’re too tall, too strong, too much a Texan, and far too rugged for that.
But in 1991, I didn’t know any of this.
I was nine years old and had only started watching wrestling that year. Steve Austin had only begun in WCW that year as well. A man of alliteration, Stone Cold Steve Austin was then Stunning Steve Austin.
His valet, Lady Blossom, had hair much like Steve Austin’s and liked to hide brass knuckles in her cleavage and dare the referees to find it.
Stunning Steve Austin was a heel much like all heels in those days. He took his playbook from that of Ric Flair. He cowered in corners, called time out when struggling, took low blows and cheap shots, and liked to win matches with his feet on the ropes for leverage.
Standard stuff for the time, but Steve Austin was never, ever standard. This is proven by how quickly he challenged for the WCW World Television Title, just weeks after starting with the company.
His opponent, Bobby Eaton, was called Beautiful, I’m guessing, solely for the sake of further alliteration. Despite the nickname, there were things about Bobby Eaton that were far from beautiful, like his mean right hand.
Beautiful Bobby Eaton, at the time Steve Austin started with WCW, was on what would be the greatest run of his singles career in WCW. He had defeated one of the greatest and most worthy TV champions, Arn Anderson, to win the belt.
After that, Eaton went for broke by challenging Nature Boy Ric Flair for the WCW World Title in a two-out-of-three falls match.
No pun intended, but it stuns me now to think about how quickly fans catch on. Though I was young and had only been watching wrestling for a couple of months, I knew Bobby Eaton was not supposed to be able to beat Ric Flair. Shocked, however, was I when Bobby Eaton got a pin on the Nature Boy.
Alas, Ric Flair would take two falls and Bobby Eaton would injure his leg in the process. Injured and downtrodden but still on the run of his life, Beautiful Bobby Eaton, who was still a newly crowned TV champion, would defend against a virtual nobody in Stunning Steve Austin on WCW Worldwide Wrestling in June 1991.
For fans who are accustomed to the supporting championships having little to no value, this was not the case for the silver title in 1991. It was a belt that Arn Anderson had worn proudly. It was a championship that had the potential to launch the singles career of either Bobby Eaton or Steve Austin.
Unfortunately, it could only launch one of them.
There is heavy foreshadowing in this match: a reference to Lady Blossom (who, for reasons unknown to me, was in the back when the match started) and many, many mentions that Bobby Eaton was working with an injured leg.
Still, this was Worldwide Wrestling, and Bobby Eaton was the champion and the regular; Steve Austin was unfamiliar and wet behind the ears.
Could Stone Cold have made it in WWE--with the same KotR build up--if he still had Stunning Steve's haircut?
Bobby Eaton had to be the favorite.
Despite playing the flamboyant and cocky Stunning Steve Austin, there are signs—between the big body slam and the bigger right hands—that there is a Stone Cold in him, even then, that would have liked to stomp a mud hole and walk it dry.
Despite the foreshadowing of the injured knee, Steve Austin would not go after it. Nor, sadly, would we get to see his finisher, the Stun Gun.
Lady Blossom, absent at the start, would appear mysteriously in the corner of the ring. This would be enough to distract Nick Patrick, who would take a less than convincing bump which would allow a rake to the eyes of Bobby Eaton and Stunning Steve would get the rollup and the pin (using the trunks like a proper heel, of course).
Not the most convincing put over, but Stunning Steve Austin, who had barely started with WCW, had beaten the man who defeated Double A, Arn Anderson. That, in itself, is no small thing. It speaks to the immediacy WCW saw in building this young man. It would later prove ironic that WCW once saw so much in Stunning Steve Austin.
Steve Austin had won his first TV championship that June, and he would still be in possession of that same silver title when the year closed.
His first title run in WCW would be 21 times longer than the reign of Bobby Eaton and almost triple the impressive reign of Arn Anderson. Almost an entire year later, Steve Austin would still be the best wrestler on TV.
But that is 1992; that is next week’s Flashback Friday.