Where Are They Now? Rick Steiner

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April 17, 2013

Inside the squared circle, there isn’t too much that Rick Steiner hasn’t accomplished. A multiple-time Tag Team Champion in both WWE and WCW, the former grappler known as “The Dog-Faced Gremlin” is now focusing his efforts on a new endeavor outside of the ring: improving the schools in Cherokee County, Ga.

Education has long played an important role in Steiner’s life. He and his younger brother Scott were stars on their high school wrestling team, eventually heading to the University of Michigan, where they starred on the Wolverine squad. Rick placed second at the 1983 Big Ten Championships, and holds two of the fastest pinfalls in Michigan history at 14 and 15 seconds. Although he was an amateur standout, Rick had never thought about pursuing professional wrestling as a career.

“I never really watched it that much,” he told WWEClassics.com. “I knew a little bit about it because of Dick The Bruiser, but I never really had an interest.”

That all changed at a coaches’ conference hosted by legendary Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler. Steiner, who was substitute teaching and coaching wrestling after earning his degree in education at Ann Arbor, had a chance meeting with a WWE Hall of Famer that changed everything.

Rick Steiner videos | Classic "Dog-Faced Gremlin" Photos | Current photos

“One thing led to another and I was introduced to George ‘The Animal’ Steele,” Steiner explained. “He said if I was interested, he could set me up with Verne Gagne’s school in Minnesota.”

Steiner took a few weeks to think about it, eventually deciding that he wanted to give pro wrestling a shot. He sent a resume up to Gagne, who recommended he come up to Minnesota, where his AWA promotion was based, for training. After learning the ropes from famed trainers Eddie Sharkey and Brad Rheingans, “The Dog-Faced Gremlin” traveled through the territories to hone his craft. He made a stop in Montreal before heading down to Louisiana and Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling. At first, the transition from the mat to the ring was tough for the collegiate great.

“You had to learn the psychology,” Steiner explained, “which was a hard thing for me to grasp at first. I wanted to go out there and wrestle everybody like an amateur and beat ’em. But that’s not the name of the game.”

As he learned from veterans, Steiner picked up the little things that made professional wrestling different from the amateur game. That helped him in spades in 1987, when Jim Crockett Promotions bought Watts’ territory, bringing Steiner and a few others into the fold of their promotion based out of the Carolinas.

After arriving in the Carolinas, Rick was paired up with some fellow amateur wrestlers. Managed by the devious Kevin Sullivan, The Varsity Club consisted of Steiner, Syracuse’s Mike Rotunda and Oklahoma’s “Dr. Death” Steve Williams. “The Dog-Faced Gremlin,” while every bit as talented as his teammates on the mat, was often mistreated by them for not being as smart or conniving. Their bullying led to Steiner becoming a beloved hero when he finally stood up for himself, eventually defeating Rotunda for the NWA Television Title at Starrcade 1988.

“It was a lot of fun,” Steiner said. “It was my first real big gig and it was enjoyable.”

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