Written By: Keven Undergaro
The G.O.A.T. The Greatest Of All Time. Each sport and profession has its share of candidates. However, while we can all argue back and forth ad nauseam who those GOATs are, for certain sports, in our heart of hearts, most of us know the truth. Michael Jordan (basketball), Muhammed Ali (boxing), Serena Williams (tennis), Wayne Gretzky (hockey), Tom Brady (football) and Steve Austin (wrestling) are the G.O.A.T.’s of their respective classes.
If you disagree with the latter, that Stone Cold Steve Austin is not professional wrestling’s G.O.A.T., you can take it up with Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, who, as recently as last week, asserted the notion on Instagram. If you disagree that pro wrestlers are on par with all professional athletes, you should probably stop reading this now. For the rest of you, who rightly know the extreme athleticism and endurance required of a professional wrestler, not to mention their ability to improvise, remain in character and perform live, with zero offseason, you may further concur with my next assertion: Stone Cold Steve Austin is not only Pro Wrestling’s G.O.A.T., but also the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.s, as in the greatest of all the greats.
The realization of Austin’s greatness came to me watching him on this year’s Monday Night Raw Anniversary Show. Austin closed out the show to the biggest ovation with fans chanting his catch phrases some 15 years after his last match. I’m not sure how many other athletes could claim such relevance 15 years removed from competing. While that surely makes Austin a G.O.A.T., that’s not what brought me to the realization that he is the G.O.A.T. of all the G.O.A.T.’s. That epiphany came upon observing the manner in which Austin conducted himself on the anniversary show and the words he spoke. Austin expressed gratitude to the organization, to the profession, and to the fans. I’ve seen other G.O.A.T.s behave in the same manner. Not many, mind you, but enough of them have been thankful to their teams, their sports, and their fans.
What I have not seen from other G.O.A.T.s, ever, was the overwhelming gratitude, love and support Austin gave and continues to give to his fellow competitors. Whether it was a potential rival G.O.A.T. like Hulk Hogan or a lesser known performer like Charles Wright, aka The Godfather, on the live broadcast, Austin took the time to mention their names and his admiration for them as well as numerous other performers. Referring to fellow competitors as his “brothers and sisters”, Austin also offered publicly to return to Monday Night Raw every year for the event. Let it not be lost that this statement more than likely costs Austin money as the less Austin makes himself available to the WWE, the more money he can command from them. With current rival wrestling promotions challenging the WWE in a manner not seen in two decades, he could command even more. However, that’s not what motivates a G.O.A.T. of G.O.A.T.’s. They are beyond that.
Even to those who know Austin is wrestling’s G.O.A.T. and professional wrestling is every bit as worthy to stand on equal ground with other athletes and entertainers, the assertion that Austin is the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.s may still be a stretch. Let me offer then a firsthand account of Steve Austin to further support the notion, from the 2016 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony. Austin was not being inducted or honored that year. He was merely present to support the new class of inductees. While leaders often support their teammates, Austin’s behavior during the entire five hour ceremony was much more.
The annual WWE Hall of Fame ceremony tends to run very long. Feeling it’s their last chance to be heard, most inductees speak several minutes longer than they probably need to or even should. At the ceremony, the first ten to 20 rows of seats are filled with professional wrestlers and their families. In 2016, Austin sat in the first row with my wife and I having the privilege of sitting directly behind him. The more each inductee droned on, the more wrestlers and their families in attendance grew restless, complained, or left their seats or the show entirely. I confess even my wife and I left for a lengthy bathroom break. However, can you guess who didn’t leave? Can you guess who sat in his seat for nearly FOUR STRAIGHT HOURS, eyes locked on each speaker, with perfect posture no less? Good old Stone Cold Steve Austin. He made sure to give each and every inductee the utmost respect and his fullest attention.
Give Austin’s podcast a listen and, along with great insight on wrestling and life, you will hear him continually supporting and promoting the wares of other wrestlers and performers. Many of these athletes’ best earning years are behind them, yet Austin builds them up. This should not be overlooked as his podcast commands some of the highest ad rates, based on its enormous popularity. Off air, Austin does the same, even with an admitted reclusive side to his nature. He doesn’t appear to be someone who needs attention or to always be the center of it, making his actions even more admirable.
One of the cooler things I see in Millennial and Gen Z cultures, particularly in sports, is the camaraderie and support they offer one another. Thus, I believe the next class of G.O.A.T.s will behave more like Steve Austin, exhibiting gratitude and using their power to uplift and support fellow competitors. However, until they do, I’ll raise my beer to Stone Cold Steve Austin, while listening to his podcasts and watching his new show on USA, Straight Up Steve Austin.
A man among men. A G.O.A.T. among G.O.A.T.s.