On his uber popular podcast, Something to Wrestle With, former WWE executive Bruce Prichard, dedicated a recent episode to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The dialogue focused mainly on Austin's departure in 2002, but Prichard was asked a few broader questions. The most compelling:
Was Steve Austin the most demanding wrestler in WWE history?
"Absolutely. You have to put him over when you're talking about this because the son of a bitch drew more money, made more money for the company. So he was demanding in that you had him going out on every appearance, you had him doing every Make-A-Wish, you had him making every event, every television, every radio. So with that, he came back to you and he wanted the best of the best from everybody at all times"
Prichard would expand:
"Steve went harder than anybody else at that time. And he was run hard and put up wet. And with all of that, he wanted the best out of everybody. He wanted the best creative. He wanted to be catered to. He didn't want to have to worry about anything else. He wanted his s**t done. He was demanding but he wasn't that hard to deal with. For me, he was straight forward, no bulls**t. You knew where you stood with him and that was it. Sometimes you didn't like it. But you didn't wonder where the hell you stood with him. So that's demanding, but at the same time, I'd rather have that than trying to read the tea leaves with somebody wondering what they want."
The context of "demanding" needs some attention. For most, demanding has the connotation of being high maintenance, even obnoxious. But from Prichard's quote, Austin's brand of demanding is similar to the one of Michael Jordan or Steve Jobs.
The Stone Cold Era was an explosion, if not a miracle. WWE was clinging to life as WCW and their own cash cow, the nWo, were running away with the Monday Night Wars. If not for Austin, the wrestling world would look very different today.
So when Austin 3:16 caught fire, WWE took the concept full throttle. For the rest of the decade as well as the early part of the 2000's Austin was the figurehead of WWE en route to becoming the most popular wrestler of all time. Looking back, WWE had no choice but to ride Austin's wave.
This by no means is a criticism by Prichard, but rather praise of a man who recognized the stakes at hand. Without Austin's fire, we would have missed out on some of the best moments wrestling ever produced.
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