Steve Austin: The Dusty Rhodes Connection

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Steve Austin: The Dusty Rhodes Connection
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

“Stunning” Steve Austin was a talented tag team wrestler in WCW who was decent on the mic and pretty good in the ring.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the toughest man in the WWE who could talk a streak and destroy everyone who entered the ring with him. 

The difference, of course, was the gimmick.

In this business, gimmicks make or break a wrestler.

It doesn’t matter how good of a worker a guy is, or even how respected he is by his peers, if his gimmick does not go over with the crowd, then he’s not going anywhere.

For me, a good example of this was Dean Malenko —a great worker, but no real gimmick to speak of to get him over.

If not for the Four Horsemen, Dean may not have gone anywhere in WCW .

Austin was in the same boat.

We all know the story.

He was running heel, with Paul E. Dangerously as his manager, and then later partnered with Brian Pillman .

The Hollywood Blonds were a good team, with a WCW and an NWA World Tag Team Title run to their credit.

Despite Austin’s talent and work ethic, at the end of the day it wasn’t enough for Eric Bischoff to decide Steve just wasn’t marketable.

Austin, of course, went on to ECW , where he was pretty entertaining.

Finally getting the opportunity to show his sense of humor, ECW was just a stepping stone to the big dance–the WWE .

Austin became The Ringmaster in his first gimmick in WWE, a talented wrestler who was decent on the mic and pretty good in the ring.

What was past had become present.

Austin was going nowhere fast, and it looked as though he was destined to have just a mediocre career.

That is, until King of The Ring in 1996.

Austin won the KOTR tournament, and after defeating Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the final match, he was interviewed by Michaels Hayes.

An interview that would change his career and the face of the WWE was then given, and with nine little words, Steve Austin turned the wrestling world upside down.

“Austin 3:16 says I just whooped your ass!”

I remember thinking, "man, that’s big talk coming from a guy who’s never really done anything."

That’s right, while some fans jumped out of their seat, proclaiming Austin as the next big star, I just sat there.

To me, it was just another interview.

But then the Stone Cold identity was born and Austin took over world.

God, this guy was over.

The infamous Road Warrior pop had officially been challenged, as the roof began to blow off the building every time his music hit.

Austin 3:16 t-shirts and signs started appearing everywhere.

Crowds were getting flipped off by a grown man as he drank beer in the ring and they loved every minute of it.

Steve Austin had arrived.

I have to say, though, as an old school wrestling fan, this was all a little new to me.

Austin was a heel.

No matter how you look at it, the Stone Cold gimmick was not meant to be a face gimmick.

He threw the Stunner on anything that moved.

Any preconceived notions about right and wrong, good or bad, went flying out the window with Austin.

Stone Cold’s character was in business for himself, he backed down from no one, and God help you if you got in his way.

It blew my mind.

A face just didn’t act this way.

At least when The Road Warriors were baby, they played the part and worked only heels.

This guy hated everybody. It was amazing to me.

It was almost as if Austin’s character was daring the crowd to cheer for him.

And they did, me included.

Why exactly did the Stone Cold gimmick work, and work so well?

To me, the answer is easy.

Simply put, Austin had found the Dusty Rhodes connection.

Aside from the heel aspect of his character, Stone Cold was very similar to The American Dream Dusty Rhodes in the NWA years.

Think about it, here was a regular looking guy, who was tough as nails in the ring and could keep an audience riveted with every word he spoke.

He was relentless, with fierce determination and not an ounce of fear in his eyes.

Much like Dusty, Austin told you what he was going to do and then he went out and did it.

The fans responded.

That’s what people want.

Bright lights, big pyro , and loud music are great and add to the presentation, but no amount of high dollar production or flashy entrance videos can replace a good old fashioned brawl.

A brawl, instigated by a no-nonsense hell raiser. That was Dusty Rhodes.

And the torch had been passed; the vein that Rhodes had possessed for so long had been tapped by Austin and he owned it.

He owned it with everything he had.

The wrestling world had not seen this type of character since Dusty—of that I’m sure.

But make no mistake; Steve Austin was an original.

As much as I can see the similarities in the two, I can also say that Austin had carved his own niche and created a new edgier type of face that the business had never seen before, and has been copied a thousand times since.

Some might say that Steve Austin was in the right place, at the right time, with the right catchphrase; anyone could have pulled off the Stone Cold gimmick.

Hard to believe, but I suppose it’s possible.

However, though I agree that Austin struck a nerve with the fans and presented something new and fresh, I also feel that he is the reason it worked in the first place.

Steve worked hard to get to the level on which he had arrived.

He worked in a struggling promotion for a guy like Bischoff who was all about the money, and was held to mid-card status, never getting a real break at the big time.

Austin paid his dues, he was a good worker, and he deserved to finally get his shot.

Steve Austin took the crazy notion of "just get in there and do it" to a whole new level. He was the reason for his success. He earned it.

The Stone Cold character was one of the final original concepts that has come out of the WWE in the last fourteen years.

While everyone takes a few minutes to debate that one, I will end by saying not only do I believe that statement now as I always have.

And to tell you the truth, I miss Stone Cold.

It’s a shame these guys have to get older and move on with their lives. A real shame.

But, at least I have the memories, and until someone new comes along and finds the Steve Austin connection, I guess that will have to be enough.

And that’s the bottom line.

 

 

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