Talking Texas

Over the years, some of sports-entertainment's all-time greatest stars came out of wrestling territories in Texas. Those who have worked in those territories can all share stories of the impact people like the Von Erichs, the Funks and the Guerreros had on today's sports-entertainment. And after talking to Stone Cold Steve Austin, it's clear that many of them also shared the same passion for drinking beer and having a good time. Stone Cold recently sat down with to talk about the legendary Texans that helped make the Lone Star State a "Wrestling Hotbed" and much more:
: It's been a long time since WWE fans have seen you on television, what have you been up to?

Stone Cold Steve Austin: I moved to Malibu, Calif., about five months ago. I bought a house out here and spend a lot of time working on a lot of different projects, taking a lot of acting classes -- that's been going real well. So I'm learning a lot of interesting stuff. I've been doing a lot of firearm stuff too. I'm shooting with a national champion, a guy named Teran Butler. It's a lot of tactical shooting and speed and accuracy and walking through houses and stuff like that. A lot of shooting targets and recognizing no shoot situations and hostages and so on. And of course, I'm training like a banshee for the movie "The Condemned." I ship out for Australia in the middle of April, and start shooting in May. I'm also looking forward to going out to Chicago to induct Bret Hart into the Hall of Fame in April. Can you tell us about the movie, "The Condemned?"

Austin: I'd like to do that at another time. How did you get involved with inducting Bret Hart into the Hall of Fame?

Stone Cold: Well, I got a call from WWE Headquarters, and they asked me if I wanted to induct Bret into the Hall of Fame. I thought about it for a little bit, not that I really needed to. Then I thought it would be a great honor to induct such a great wrestler into the Hall of Fame. I thought it was a perfect fit, because I had so many classic battles with Bret "Hit Man" Hart. I had an unbelievable chemistry with the guy and I just have so much respect for him and for how he conducts himself in the ring and out of the ring. It's no secret that the match at WrestleMania 13 between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret "Hit Man" Hart was one of the biggest matches ever. It was the biggest match in my career, as far as putting me on the map. Other things helped solidify me on the map. But that really helped put me on the map.

The thing I respect so much about Bret was that it didn't matter who he was going up against, whether it was me or the Undertaker or anybody else, he was going to work his ass off to have a great match. It wasn't about being selfish. He was never selfish in the ring. It was about having a great match. So I'm just looking forward to being able to spend some time with Bret and induct him into the Hall of Fame. Bret's induction will obviously happen on WrestleMania weekend in Chicago. Coincidentally, it's the same city where you and Bret had your classic WrestleMania 13 encounter. What goes through your mind this time of year, especially since you have so many great WrestleMania moments of your own?

Stone Cold: I'm just excited for the guys and girls that are still in the ring. And hopefully, everybody will go out there and have a hell of a match. And I hope these kids enjoy the experience and take it for what it is. Don't just go and hang out. I think there's big piece of the business that's missing. I think some of these kids don't really know what professional wrestling really is. Call it sports-entertainment, call it whatever you want, but it is pro wrestling and I don't think some of them get that yet.

Myself, I'm looking forward to going to WrestleMania because I love Chicago. It's my favorite city to work in. Rosemont is my favorite building to work in. I always had a great time working for that crowd. They're always rowdy, it's always sold out and they're always looking for a good time. So it's really easy to perform great in that building. And hopefully some of these young kids and some of the guys that have been around a while can showcase their talents and make a big name for themselves and say "Hey, I'm the next sumabitch that needs to be pushed. And pushed really hard."  That's the way it happened for me. Maybe a light will go off in someone's head and they'll find out what the hell this business is all about. As you know, we are starting a new feature on called Wrestling Hotbeds. Our first territory will be Texas and there's no better person to talk to about the Lone Star State than the Texas Rattlesnake. There's a pretty impressive list of Texas wrestlers. Why is it such a hotbed?

Austin: There were some classic territories down there. You had Houston Wrestling, which I grew up watching with Paul Boesch. Anybody who's anybody came through that territory. I can't remember if it was black and white or color, but it just hooked me. Then up the road in Dallas, you had World Class Championship Wrestling with the Von Erichs. Those were the two big territories in Texas.

There's Minnesota, Florida, California and Texas -- there's not any one that's going to be any better than the other ones, but just the fact that they had the territories and the bad-ass wrestlers that paid dues, went up and down the road and told stories and sold out buildings, drank beer and had a damn good time doing it. And Texas was lumped in with those territories. Who were some of your favorites to watch while in Texas?

Austin: I remember watching guys like Jake Roberts, Wahoo McDaniel, Gino Hernandez, Jose Lothario and of course Dusty Rhodes. Dusty was one of my favorites of all time to go through Texas. And of course you had the Funks. The Funks went wherever the hell they wanted to go. I never really had the opportunity to see Dory, Sr., but I saw Dory, Jr., and Terry Funk and god dang, they were the wildest, craziest guys ever. Dory was the technician of the two and Terry had the killer promos, talking trash and backing it up and he could be scientific or he could brawl with anybody. His style was one that I really enjoyed.

And of course, you had Dick Murdoch go through Texas. Dick was one of the greatest wrestlers you ever saw. I just loved his mannerisms. And the stuff that he did in the ring, the stories that he told.

When you move up to the Dallas areas, you had the Von Erich family. That was when I was going to school in North Texas State. We used to drive down to the Sportatorium and watch the Von Erichs fight The Freebirds damn near every Friday night. Now the Freebirds weren't from Texas, but the Von Erichs were and I can guarantee you that the Von Erichs were as close to god as you could get in a wrestling ring. It seems like Kerry was the lead one and it's just a sad and tragic story how all of them are dead now, except for Kevin, who seems to be doing really well from what I hear.

As for some of the other wrestlers, the Guerreros were out of Texas. Eddie was one of the most talented kids I ever saw in a wrestling ring. I remember watching Eddie wrestle and I'd and see a completely different match than the others were seeing because I knew exactly what Eddie was doing. I didn't work his style, but I saw what he was telling me in the ring by his actions -- the little things he did, the nuances, the mannerisms. He was just phenomenal.

I remember one time I felt like I was kinda getting stale in the ring, and I was watching Eddie and how good his matches were every night. Then something clicked and I said "hey, I want to work with Eddie Guerrero." I wanted to work with someone I could have fun with. We didn't get a chance to work too long. But I really enjoyed the time that I did spend working with him. The guy was so hard on himself because he never thought he was doing as well as he could, but he was one of the best I'd ever seen in the ring.

When you're talking Texas, you have to mention Blackjack Mulligan and Barry Windham. I had classic battles with Windham in WCW. Barry was a tremendous wrestler, while Blackjack was more of a brawler and a brute. Barry was a guy that could go out there and be one of the best in the business night after night. We'd always have fun going up and down the road. I'd drink his whiskey and read his hot rod magazines. I learned a lot from the guy.

Then there's Dutch Mantell. He's the guy that gave me the name Steve Austin when I rolled into Tennessee. I started out as Steve Williams, but because of some confusion, he gave me Steve Austin. And then later on when he was chewing my Redman Chew in the back, he gave me the name "Stunning" Steve Austin. So Dutch Mantell gets the credit for giving me my first two names. Is there anybody on the current WWE roster that you think can be considered one of Texas' all-time greats?

Austin: Shawn Michaels. He's old school. He's one of the greatest. One of these days, he'll absolutely be in the Hall of Fame. He's one of the greatest guys I've ever seen in the ring in my whole life. I've been watching him for a long time. He's never screwed up in the ring, ever. He's so consistent. He's got great timing. He's a great technician and mechanic, and he's got great psychology. He can do it all. I always enjoyed working with Shawn. Our match at WrestleMania XIV wasn't everything it could have been because he was working with a severe back injury, but we still torn down the house.

Then there's Booker T. He's a great kid and has done quite well for himself. There's not too many people that can say they held a world championship on five separate occasions. That's pretty impressive. What about JBL?

Austin: I think JBL is a good guy. He's funny. He's got a good sense of humor. But I wouldn't necessarily put him on the list of some of the greatest wrestlers to ever come from the state of Texas. He's been around a long time and he's come back from some injuries, but I don't think we can just throw him on the list of the greatest wrestlers from Texas. He is from Texas, so I take my hat off to him for that. But that's all I have to say about him. Who do you think is the best Texan you ever faced in the ring?

Austin: I worked with both Kerry and Kevin Von Erich. I didn't get a lot of offense in on Kerry back in the day because I was only in the business for about two months when I started wrestling him. I started to work with Kevin a few months after that. I got a lot more offense in with Kevin. I enjoyed working with Kevin because he was so popular at the time, just like Kerry. My offense was kinda limited back in the day. I would have loved to work with them at their peak and my peak.

And of course Shawn Michaels. He was incredible.

I learned a lot from Barry Windham. Which Texans would you have liked to compete against?

Austin: Jake Roberts never billed himself from Texas, even though he was. He was economical and a different kind of worker. I loved his psychology. But I never really got a good chance to work with him, outside of King of the Ring ‘96. I would have loved a chance to work with him every night.

Gino Hernandez was really popular in Texas. I would have loved to work with that guy.

Jose Lothario was another favorite of mine. I liked his style.

I would have loved to work with Dick Murdoch. He could go with anybody in the world any night of the week.

I would have loved to work with Dusty Rhodes, too. They used to say that he could talk ‘em into the building. He's one of the best all-time talkers in the business. A lot of people don't give him credit for being a working son of a bitch. People absolutely loved him, they believed in him. I think he enjoyed bleeding too.

I never got to work with Dory, Jr., or Terry Funk. I would have loved to work with them for a year or two straight.

Tully Blanchard, the son of Joe Blanchard, a San Antonio promoter, was a damn good wrestler.

Another guy is Bobby Duncum, Jr. I didn't get a chance to get to know him very well. I heard a lot of good things about him, though. If you had a vote, who do you think is the best Texas wrestler of all time?

Austin: You have some classics here. The Funks, the Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, Barry Windham, HBK, Eddie Guerrero, Gino Hernandez. There's unbelievable talent that came out of Texas, but if I'm looking at this list and my name is on it, I would have to say that Stone Cold Steve Austin is the best wrestler to ever come out of Texas. The timing of my run and everything that happened around it was unbelievable and I don't think it will ever be duplicated. Nobody ever lit it up as far as television ratings, pay-per-views and merchandise the same as I did.

And it's funny because they fired me from WCW because I wasn't marketable. So it wasn't like it was handed to me. It definitely wasn't story book. There were a lot of good times and bad times, but it was a great ride.


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