Full Book Review: The Stone Cold Truth

Cover - The Stone Cold Truth

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin is the most successful wrestler of all time. No one drew more money, sold more merchandise, and helped make wrestling as mainstream as it could ever hope to be, more than “The Texas Rattlesnake.” I, for one, was a huge Austin fan, in part mostly because I was privy to his entire career, for the most part. I started watching wrestling hardcore in 1989. I had seen a few events here and there before then, but 1989 was the true nexus of this wrestling beast. Austin began his illustrious career in that same year. And I was fortunate enough at that point to have a channel that broadcast WCCW matches from Texas. I also had all of the Turner networks, and, living in the Northeast United States, certainly had access to WWF programming. It was almost serendipitous that I was lucky enough to watch the greatest draw in wrestling history throughout his decorated career. From Chris Adams lackey to WCW TV Champion; from a member of the most underrated wrestling faction of all time, The Dangerous Alliance, to a member of the most criminally underused tag teams ever, The Hollywood Blonds; from being fired via phone by Eric Bischoff (and the subsequent burial of Austin by Bischoff on WCW programming) to Austin becoming, quite literally, in a wrestling sense, the biggest thing ever. It has been a fun ride.

Unfortunately, his book does not live up to the reputation Steve Austin carved for himself within the squared circle.

It is not that the book is actively awful or anything. Its just not very good. And for a man who reached the absolute zenith of the profession, with awesome matches and incredible promos to match unreal storylines, that is just a shame. “The Stone Cold Truth” should be the tale of, arguably, the greatest pro wrestler in history. Instead, it is just a disjointed mess with some revelatory tid bits spread here and there.

That’s not to say its all bad. Austin’s rise to wrestling is detailed well here. He never met his biological father, but his mother remarried when Steve Anderson was very young. Throughout his childhood and adult life, he never considered anyone but his stepfather as his real father, switching his given name from Anderson to Williams. I find that admirable, but I will leave that to you, the reader to decide if you read the book. Williams was a standout athlete in High School, particularly as a bruising running back. Even though he was recruited by several major Texas college football programs (quick aside: People need to realize ALL football in Texas is considered religion. That is far from hyperbole. Football is LIFE to most Texans) Williams wanted to stay close to home and chose to enroll in a junior college. He spent two excellent seasons there before enrolling at North Texas State. He played linebacker and defensive end there, but something else had caught his attention. The wrestling bug had hit young Steve Williams hard, particularly Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling. Williams, just 17 course hours from his college degree, saw a commercial for Chris Adams’ wrestling school, and decided to enroll.

Williams was Adams’ star pupil, and milked him for everything he was worth. This is where the book gets to its greatest depths, as Williams realizes that Adams was, to put it loosely, a total dickbag. Great grammar and wording, I know. Adams did train Williams, but to the most minimal of extents, never, EVER telling him the secrets of kayfabe. Luckily (and, trust me, I saw young SCSA, and this is gospel truth) the kid was a natural. Williams traveled for some seasoning to Tennessee and encountered “Dirty” Dutch Mantel. Steve Williams was still using his adopted name, but Mantel told him it was too dirty Mexican of a name. Shit, sorry, I was confusing some other shitty storyline there, he said I can’t employ you you dirty state border crosser. FUCK ME. Sorry, bad WWE programming is setting my memory back epochs. No, Mantel (Zeb Colter today, for the unwashed masses) told Williams he needed to change his ring name, as there was already a Steve Williams, Dr. Death, in wrestling at that point. Williams was gobsmacked and could not think of a new moniker. Mantel came up with Steve Austin. Not the Six Million Dollar Man, just from the fact that the newly named Austin was born, well, in Austin. Steve Austin had some middling matches in Tennessee, and Mantel was not happy. He told Austin, in no uncertain terms, one night that the only way to learn was to watch every match on the card. It was a lesson Austin took to heart, and he continued this practice through the majority of his career.

Tennessee was not a monetarily fulfilling territory. Never had been. So with his minimal salary, and out on his own for the first time in his life, Austin had a strange dietary habit. He ate cans of tuna (normal struggling wrestler diet) but he supplemented it by eating RAW POTATOES. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Austin returned to Texas and engaged in a “Teacher vs. Student” feud with Chris “Scum of the Earth” Adams. The feud benefited from the inclusion of Adams’ wife Toni, and his ex-wife, Jeannie Clark, who soon became the wife of one Steve Austin. The feud was actually a lot of fun, and I recommend you check it out on youtube. But bigger things were afoot for Austin. WCW was calling. Center Stage, Atlanta GA was his new home.

“Stunning” Steve Austin (Stunning…also a Dutch Mantel brainchild) took the midcard of WCW by storm. You won’t get that information in the book, as Austin dismisses his WCW career off in about 20 pages. Including non-Austin quotes. I saw it with these two beady little eyes though, and the man was BIG LEAGUE to the bone. The man had that elusive “IT” that promoters drone incessantly about.

I could get into “The Dangerous Alliance” . I could get into one of the longest TV title reigns of all time. I could get into the farce JIm Duggan US title match. But I am reviewing the BOOK, not the career. Austin mentions barely a thing about the Dangerous Alliance, and nothing of the other two incidents. The Ricky Steamboat series? NOTHING. This is the most frustrating part of the book: Austin just glosses over most stuff in his career. I, for one, would have loved to hear his thoughts on the beginning of the Hogan regime and the Duggan 30 second loss, or the end of Steamboat’s career. Nope. None of that here.

What actually does get a few pages is the Hollywood Blonds. But not many. Austin was set to be paired with Harley Race as a single with a main event push. He was pissed when he learned he had been shunted back down the card in an instant into a tag team with Pillman. But, my word, did they make that tag-team work. Some younger fans point wistfully to Miz and Morrison (I weep for the future) as an underrated, underutilized tag team. The Blonds WERE the MOST underutilized tag team EVER. Great promos. Great matches. Great schtick. I was 12 years old through much of their prime, still a card carrying Hulkamaniac, but they were GREAT. Hulk fan that I was (Sorry), I was also a HUGE Hart Foundation fan, and no one, Christ, maybe even the Harts themselves, worked that formula better than the Blonds. This was at the apex of the Disney Tapings, so the Blonds were frowned upon on getting over. Guess what? I am getting too deep here. Austin does not mention jack shit about this era, even though we all know it is a HUGE point of contention with him. He does go into a rant about Pillman that is good, as Pillman was one of his best friends, but even that leaves something to be desired.

Austin was released by WCW after an Austin triceps tear received in Japan. Bischoff fired Austin by phone. Austin was livid (Listen, I have had to fire a person by phone before…not fun, but not the greatest indignity by FAR). He went to ECW and fashioned the “Superstar” Steve Austin gimmick, and began giving these amazing, amazing promos. That was the missing element in his WCW days. Don’t let anyone fool you, Austin was decent on the stick in WCW, but nothing special. Soon after, WWF started calling.

Well, not WWF. Jim Ross. Vinnie Mac had no use for another mechanic. So he thought. WWF signed him, but to a middling deal. He could just as much been Freddy Joe Floyd or Rad Radford. Easily. Once again, these points of the book don’t constitute much. It jumps to his first WM match with Savio Vega (savagely underrated, might I add) and then jumps to the WM13 Match with Bret Hart (The best and most influential match EVER, IMO). Austin had a career that spanned great feuds, great promos, great angles, and great money drawn, but his book just seems to gloss over everything. It is MADDENING. He barely explains the WM13 Submission match, he barely talks about HBK leading into WM14. I mean, it is frustrating.

What he does expound upon is his final match. Literally, that is all he expounds on. The heart problems, the epehdra, coffee, etc. Those are the endcaps of this book. Those stories are entertaining. He has a good chapter about Chris Benoit (book written in 2004)…that lasts 2 pages. There are many chapters that last literally two pages, many that stop short. It is so maddening that you will want to slam the book down like a meth head mother with her first born.

The most redeeming quality of the book is the final two chapters. Austin gives his opinion of the current (2004) state of affairs in wrestling. And these chapters are refreshing. Austin is a brilliant wrestling mind, and he proves it here. Slow the pace, sell, and, most importantly, LET THE GUYS DO THEIR OWN PROMOS. No scriptwriters. I am so sick of seeing some ass wipe like the Miz suspectly serenading us with Stephanie’s succinctly scripted shit. Let guys come with their own awesome, or own suck. Its simple. The final two chapter’s of Ausin’s book come across almost as “Wrestling Booking for Dummies.” Only Burt Sugar and Lou Albano are kept, mercifully, behind the velvet rope of tolerance. Austin comes across as someone who should DEFINITELY be booking, as opposed to any semen Vinnie Mac has dropped, or any man who has wed such human reproductive matter.

All in all, “The Stone Cold Truth” is massively disappointing. If you need proof, check out the 3 page chapter on Mick Foley. But it does offer some good within its pages. It is an easy read, one you can finish in about 2 1/2 to three hours, but, all in all, for a man who redefined the business like Steve Austin, it is massively disappointing.

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