Where Are They Now? Rick Steiner
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.
“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.
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.”
Although he was more than capable as a singles wrestler, Rick Steiner found himself as part of a team once again in 1989. This time, the partner was a little less likely to push him around.
“They brought Scott in from Memphis [Tenn.],” Rick said. “I tried to get him in earlier, but it didn’t work out.”
Rick and Scott Steiner teamed up almost immediately after the younger brother’s arrival in the Carolinas and dominated the tag team scene. They quickly captured the NWA Tag Team Titles, wowing crowds throughout the South with a quick, hard-hitting style that let everyone from the cheap seats to the ring apron know that they meant business. For Rick, having someone similar in mindset to him was a big help in the team’s success.
“We drove up and down the road thinking of new stuff to do,” Rick said of he and his brother’s relationship. “We were always thinking about it. We took a lot of pride in what we did.”
The pride The Steiner Brothers took in their work showed, as they steamrolled over opponents, suplexing them from pillar to post while making it look easy. The two Michigan grads barely broke a sweat, while their opposition lay in shambles.
The Steiners were the centerpiece of WCW’s tag team division for three years, before they decided to make the jump to WWE in 1993.
“We thought it would be a great experience for us both, so we made the switch,” Rick said.
Rick and Scott quickly noticed differences between the Atlanta-based promotion and WWE.
“The first thing I noticed was the structure,” Rick told WWEClassics.com. “They were in control and knew what they wanted. In WCW, you had to come up with your own stuff. WWE had their vision, told you what was going on and you geared everything toward that.”
The brothers adapted just fine, defeating “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Irwin R. Schyster for the World Tag Team Titles within six months of their WWE debut. They won the championships again later that summer. By 1994, however, The Steiners were ready for another change of scenery.
Soon after their return to WCW, though, officials had an unusual idea: splitting the successful team up.
“They brought us in and said we’d done everything as a tag team,” Rick said. “We think it might be a good time for you guys [to split up],” the officials told the brothers.
“I started out doing singles, I knew my brother could do it, we both could.”
While Scott quickly joined up with The nWo, Rick found a rather unusual rival: Chucky, the crazed doll from the “Child’s Play” movies. The possessed toy interrupted an interview with Steiner to plug his latest film and show his support for Scott in the rivalry between the two brothers. While many fans saw this as a low moment in WCW’s history, Steiner didn’t take the segment too seriously.
“I was always open to doing different things,” Rick said. “Like a lot of things [at WCW], it started with good intentions, but Chucky never showed up again. It never had an ending.”
“The Dog-Faced Gremlin” remained with WCW up until the bitter end in 2001, when the company was bought by WWE. Before the company closed, he captured the Television and United States Titles. After WCW’s sale, Steiner waited out the remainder of his contract with Time Warner, before heading to Japan, where he competed for a few years. While in the Far East, Rick began to tire of the constant grind and spending time away from his three sons at home in Georgia.
“One day, I just said, ‘What the heck am I doing? I need to go home and take care of my boys,’ ” he said. “After that tour was over, I never went back.”
Although he eventually tired of it, Rick told WWEClassics.com that getting to see the world was one of his favorite parts of his legendary career.
“Being able to see what’s out there, what’s not, different cultures, different people,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I’d have sat back and took a little more time to experience things, but when you’re on the road, you take the fastest way possible.”
After settling down at home in Georgia, Steiner got back into another industry he had started on the side during his in-ring career, real estate. He and The Big Boss Man had done some business together in the mid-1990s, but Rick had to reactivate his license before getting back into the field.
Today, he runs Rick Steiner and Associates, a real estate firm that deals in both commercial and residential property.
The business also gives him plenty of time for his family.
“It gives me a lot of flexibility to be part of my boys growing up,” Steiner said.
In addition to his real estate business, Rick also took on a position that might seem surprising when put in contrast to his gruff in-ring persona. The man once known as “The Dog-Faced Gremlin” now sits on the Cherokee County Board of Education.
The opportunity came about when Steiner was talking with a few friends who were teachers. One was a retiring board member leaving his post, who recommended Steiner to take his seat for the rest of the term.
“The last thing I thought I’d be doing in my life was being on the school board,” Steiner said.
The transition from performer to board member was a little rough for Rick.
“For 20 years, I played a character,” he explained. “This was one of the first times I actually had to be myself. There’s no retakes or trying again. It was the real deal. I’m responsible for a school system that has 40,000 kids. The decisions I make involve a lot of kids and their futures.”
Rick has served on the board since 2005, and was appointed as chair for a year. Out of all the accomplishments he has achieved both inside the ring and out, Steiner’s work on the Board of Education is what he’s most proud of.
“It lets me be involved in the educational process,” he said. “It gives me a chance to give back to my community and to try to leave Cherokee County a better place.”
For more information on Rick Steiner's real estate company, please visit www.callricksteiner.com.