Steve Austin Remembered, The Boss vs The Best, & Flair

Mark Madden

Mark MaddenSTONE COLD BEFORE HE WAS STONE COLD

In the early days of my employment at WCW, I used to host a live 900# backstage at pay-per-views. It was like a radio talk show, the precursor to WCW Live! Fans would dial in, listen, and ask questions. Wrestlers would often join me.

We had one wrestler who was continually underused, and he’d join me on the live 900# quite often. He seemed to be burning away a little frustration. He was a great performer on-camera, but on the live 900#, he was even more captivating and charismatic. Why? Because he was just being himself, that’s why. There probably weren’t more than a couple hundred people listening at any given time, but this guy put everything he had into his stints on the live 900#. He provided some of my fondest wrestling moments.

Those who listened to those live 900# segments got to meet Stone Cold Steve Austin a bit earlier than everybody else. They were lucky. Me, too.

Seeing Austin inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame brought a lot of great memories flooding back. There aren’t any wrestlers I respect more, and there aren’t many men I respect more, either. I wouldn’t call us close, but whenever Steve and I run into each other, we fall back into that easy sort of banter you have with people you like.

Steve’s just a hell of a guy. We were both close to Brian Pillman. We both took that loss very hard. I still consider the Hollywood Blonds the best tag team ever. Even when Steve got buried in WCW, and when he debuted in WWE as the very forgettable Ringmaster, I always kept the faith on his behalf. Talent always tells. I knew he’d make it big.

But I never thought he’d make it THAT BIG. Nobody makes it THAT BIG. But Steve deserved every bit, every dime, every second. If I had to pick one guy to sell out an arena, it would be Stone Cold Steve Austin. You can take Hogan, Sammartino, Andre, whoever. I’ll take Stone Cold, with Ric Flair as his opponent. Can you picture Stone Cold Steve Austin, in his prime, torturing the Four Horsemen, in their prime? MONEY.

Steve totally got the business. The more he got his hands on the rudder, the richer everybody got. "Sellin’ tickets and cuttin’ promos." Steve understood.

I haven’t talked to Steve in a couple years, but I don’t think he’s ever going to wrestle again. He doesn’t need the money. I think he wants people to remember Stone Cold Steve Austin at the zenith, at his absolute peak. Those were amazing times.
Maybe Steve and I could get together and do one more live 900#. We drew a little money then. I bet we’d draw a lot more now.

THE BOSS VS. THE BEST

"The old school play-by-play role is considered obsolete in WWE these days as the broadcasters are more storytellers than play-by-play people or color commentators. I look at this repositioning as a challenge and one that I look forward to refining." – Jim Ross, WWE "storyteller," on jrsbarbq.com.

What a load of crap. Ross knows it is, too. The action in the ring is supposed to tell the story. The announcers provide narration and clarification. If the match doesn’t manufacture heat, no amount of yelling "THIS IS PERSONAL! THIS IS PERSONAL!" is going to save it, as WrestleMania 25 proved several times over.

Vince McMahon doesn’t like Jim Ross. If Vince had any testicles – and he may not, due to reasons I would think are fairly obvious – he’d fire Ross instead of continually redefining his role and/or reshuffling his deck of announcers. Problem is, WWE has no one even half the quality. Michael Cole isn’t one-tenth the quality. If anyone could replace Ross, he’d be long gone.

No matter how many times McMahon demeans, demotes or diminishes Ross, Ross keeps on spewing excellence. His call of the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker bout at WM25 was as good as the match itself, and that’s saying something. McMahon keeps moving the goalposts on Ross, but Ross keeps splitting the uprights. BOOMER SOONER!

I used to bust Ross’ chops myself, but I was whistling past the graveyard. Ross is, by far, the very best ever at his profession and, as if to rub it in, he married one of my high school classmates, a hot babe who never gave me a second look. If anyone deserves to finish his career on his terms, it’s Ross. McMahon was a crap announcer. Who’s he to tell J.R. how it should be done? McMahon’s the boss, but Ross is the best.

HEY, I THOUGHT THAT WATCH WAS BROKEN!

I admire Ric Flair for sticking to his retirement pledge. But when Flair gets as physical as he did in the buildup and execution of the Chris Jericho vs. the Legends feud/match at WrestleMania 25, he might as well wrestle.

When a 60-year-old man bounces around like a rubber ball, cuts his head off and gets his skull cracked by the ringside bell, he should take things one step further and get a wrestler’s paycheck (not that Flair left Houston broke).

I understand the concept of honoring his WrestleMania 24 match with Michaels by making it his last, but Flair is still a damn good performer who obviously still has the itch. Why should Flair’s retirement be the only one that takes when he still has something to offer wrestling? One thing is certain: People still want to see Flair.

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