The Mean 6.22.01: Scott Steiner


First things first: the Widro thing. Funny that after a little over a month of writing this column and getting a pretty decent response (thanks again to the folks who have let me know, I appreciate it), a silly little column I decided to do on this site’s webmaster would garner me the most heat both from readers and other people here at 411. I’ve been called a suck-up innumerable times and told that I’ve “shamed” myself with this blatant display of ass kissing.

I think people are missing the point here. I wrote the column on Widro for a few reasons: first because I thought it would be kind of funny (something many people concurred with), second because Widro legitimately works his ass off and I figured he deserved a moment in the spotlight for once, and third just because I figured people might get a kick out of something a bit different. Fact is I have no reason to suck up to Widro. I turn my column in on time and it gets the site some hits; I’m not expecting to be given some “columnist of the year” award and at the same time I’m not expecting to be fired anytime soon, so what would be the point of sucking up? For those of you who enjoyed the column, I’m glad and appreciate your feedback; for those who didn’t like it, you’re entitled to your criticism, but nobody is holding a gun to your head forcing you to click the link. Frankly, when Dave Gagnon, the only guy I feel I really bashed in the column (and one of my favorite writers from back in the day) e-mails me that he enjoyed it, that’s good enough for me.

But enough about all that, I’ve got a column to write (by the way Daniels, I’m thinking of copyrighting this opening now)

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that everything in life could be broken down into two extremes: excess and deficiency. He believed that if a person could find the medium or mean between the two extremes in all that they did in life, they would travel down the path to happiness and virtue. With pro wrestling fans, the two extremes are clear: the deficient “mark” enjoys watching wrestling more than anybody but has very little knowledge of anything not on TV, while the excessive “smart” knows every backstage dealing, but as a result can become highly bitter and cynical, losing their ability to enjoy the show. These two extremes view each wrestler differently, often disagreeing with each other. Each week I look at both perspectives and then attempt to find “The Mean” between the two. This week, let’s take a look at Scott Steiner

Today, he’s seen as a monster, a genetic freak, and an out of control lunatic. In the waning days of WCW, Scott Steiner was seen as one of the few guys over enough to be seen as a legitimate superstar and possibly the guy who would carry the promotion into the next century. Ironically, fans and WCW alike viewed Scott Steiner in much the same way about a decade ago, but not for any of the same reasons. Confused? Well let’s look at the history of “Big Poppa Pump ”

The history of Scott Steiner in professional wrestling really begins with the history of Scott’s brother Rick Steiner. Rick was the first to enter the business in the mid-80s, initially with Bill Watts’ UWF promotion. For years, first in the UWF and later in the NWA, Rick played the role of generic heel henchman for Eddie Gilbert and later Kevin Sullivan. It was in 1988 in the NWA, that Rick suffered injuries from a car accident, and the NWA decided to tweak his character. Now he was a lovable buffoon who was still part of Sullivan’s Varsity Club stable, but was constantly berated and picked on by Sullivan and fellow member Mike Rotunda. Finally, Rick had enough and left the group, turning babyface. Rick defeated Rotunda for the NWA Television title at Starrcade ’88, but the reign was short-lived and soon Rick faced overwhelming odds as the Club added Steve Williams to their ranks in 1989. Rick was in desperate need of backup; enter Rick’s younger brother Scott.

Scott made his NWA debut seconding Rick in the match in which he lost the TV title back to Rotunda. From there, Scott and Rick became a regular tag team, initially settling Rick’s score with the Varsity Club in a series of matches against various combinations of Sullivan, Rotunda, and Williams. Both Steiner brothers had been tremendous amateur wrestlers at Michigan University, and the NWA played up on this heavily, having them wear Michigan varsity jackets and amateur style wrestling tights, albeit with more colorful designs (and in Rick’s case, amateur headgear as well). The duo got over tremendously as “All-American boys” and their natural chemistry, with Scott playing the intense but level headed one and Rick playing the lovable buffoon, made them so popular with the fans that they were moved up to main events almost immediately.

The Steiners were initially given Missy Hyatte as a manager, though this didn’t last long. The other manager that the Steiners were given was “Robin Green,” a bookish Rick Steiner fan who ended up becoming his girlfriend. In reality (in terms of the storyline), “Robin” was actually Woman (Sullivan’s real life wife Nancy), who only pretended to be interested in Rick in order to get close to the Steiners and ultimately betray them. Following the betrayal, she introduced the team of Doom (Ron Simmons, later Faarooq, and Butch Reed), who dealt the Steiners an upset loss at Halloween Havoc ’89.

Despite the loss to Doom, the Steiners remained a hit with the fans, and the NWA decided to put their World Tag Team titles on the boys, having them upend the Freebird duo of Michael Hayes and Jimmy Garvin. The initial reign was short-lived, as the NWA decided to try another experiment and put the titles on Doom in mid 1990. But more importantly than the Steiners’ success as a tag team, Scott was beginning to get noticed for his singles wrestling abilities. In 1990 and then again in 1991, Scott had some matches with NWA World champion Ric Flair that were some of the best Flair put on in the final days of his first NWA/WCW run. Flair openly acknowledged that he would be willing to lose the World title to Scott, but Scott refused out of loyalty to Rick and the team. Scott also had superlative matches with The Great Muta and others. While Rick was a decent power wrestler and suplex master, Scott combined a great streamlined physique (nothing like the monstrous one he sports today) with both the power to perform great suplexes, and the speed and agility to pull off visually spectacular moves like the Frankensteiner (the Mexican hurracanrana which Scott popularized in the U.S.). Combine that with a great intensity and link to the crowd, and Scott was being touted by the NWA as the superstar who would lead them in the ‘90s and beyond.

During 1990, as the NWA was becoming WCW, the Steiner Brothers held the U.S. Tag Team titles and had a hot feud with the Nasty Boys. At Starrcade ’90, Rick & Scott represented the United States in the Pat O’Connor Memorial International Tag Team tournament, defeating three teams (including Konnan & Rey Misterio Sr. and The Great Muta & Mr. Saito) to win. The Steiners also went on their initial tours of Japan in 1990 where they were instant sensations thanks to their hard-hitting power style and innovative moves.

When 1991 dawned, the Steiners held both the U.S. Tag Team titles and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s IWGP Tag Team titles, and WCW was ready to once again ready to place the World titles on them. At the inaugural Superbrawl, the Steiners defended the World titles against fellow babyfaces Sting & Lex Luger in one of the best tag team matches of all time. The match in particular highlighted Scott, who was being groomed for a singles push in the near future. Then, an injury occurred that changed the entire course of Scott’s career. At a Clash of the Champions, following a routine title defense, the Steiners were attacked by rivals Dick Murdoch & Dick Slater, but during the course of the attack, Scott suffered a bicep injury that would put him on the shelf for months.

Scott had always worked hard to keep up an impressive physique, but during his recovery from the bicep injury, he stepped up his efforts considerably. When he returned in the latter half of 1991, Scott Steiner was looking considerably larger, and immediately questions about steroid use that would plague him the rest of his career arose. The Steiners finished up 1991 and began 1992 in unspectacular style before defeating Arn Anderson & Bobby Eaton in the spring of ’92 to once again win the World Tag Team titles.

In the summer of 1992, Bill Watts took over WCW, and immediately shifted the tag team focus to a team composed of two of his old UWF wrestlers, Steve Williams & Terry Gordy, collectively the Miracle Violence Connection. The MVC was put over the Steiners twice in convincing fashion and Rick & Scott were clearly not the focus of the division anymore with Dustin Rhodes & Barry Windham being positioned as the babyface team that would unseat the MVC. At the same time, Scott was seemingly getting bigger by the day, and as a result was beginning to sacrifice some of his mobility in the ring, unable to hit moves like the Frankensteiner as easily as he was once able to. The ego of Scott Steiner was also growing; no longer in his formative years, Scott was recognizing how much of a commodity he was and demanding more from WCW. Bill Watts attempted to appease Scott with a brief Television title reign, but it was not enough, and when their contracts ran out at the end of 1992, Rick & Scott left WCW for Vince McMahon’s WWF.

The Steiners made their WWF debut at Royal Rumble ’93 defeating The Beverly Brothers in a decent match, but not up to the level of what Rick & Scott had been doing only a couple years before. Rick was beginning to get sloppier in the ring, and Scott was no longer able to carry the load as his physique was getting out of control. Nonetheless, based on reputation alone the brothers were still popular, and following a win over The Headshrinkers at Wrestlemania IX the Steiners were programmed into a feud with World Tag Team champions Ted DiBiase & Irwin Schyster (Schyster interestingly enough was actually old Steiners rival Mike Rotunda) and after a few months of chasing, won the belts.

The Steiners reign was short as they dropped the titles to the new and over heel Quebecers tag team, building on the U.S. vs the World atmosphere the WWF was setting up (the World title picture saw old Steiner friend Lex Luger taking on Japanese champ Yokozuna). At Survivor Series ’93, The Steiners teamed with Luger, and The Undertaker to defeat Yokozuna, Crush, Ludvig Borga, and Jacques Rougeau of the Quebecers (Pierre had been injured prior to the show).

At this point Vince McMahon, long known for his love for big power wrestlers, was beginning to see the potential of Scott Steiner and following the Quebecers feud planned to make Scott one of his next big stars. Alas, neither the feud nor the push came to pass, as Scott suffered in early 1994 the first of what would be many back injuries. The back injury (and the ones that would follow in the future) was a result of the tremendous upper body musculature Scott had been cultivating and the inability of the rest of his body to support all the new muscle. When Scott returned in late ’94, much of the Steiner Brothers heat was gone, and as their contracts were up, the WWF decided their services were no longer needed.

The Steiners returned to Japan for the remainder of 1994 and much of ’95 where they were met with the usual success they had in that country. But Scott was still plagued by back problems and began to wrestle far less frequently. In 1995, the Steiners returned to the States for a brief run with the up and coming ECW which caught the eye of WCW Executive Vice President Eric Bischoff who was rebuilding the company on the strength of former WWF stars of the ‘80s such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. The Steiner Brothers due to their time in the WWF and connection to the NWA’s glory years, proved once again a commodity and were brought back into WCW in early 1996 to feud with their old pals Sting & Luger, now the World Tag Team champions.

For the spring of 1996, the Steiners were programmed into brief “dream” feuds with two legendary WCW tag teams that the Steiners had never wrestled before: The Road Warriors and Harlem Heat. The Warriors left before a decisive series of matches could take place, but the Heat beat Sting & Luger for the titles, triggering a long term feud. At the same time, the nWo invasion was taking place, and while initially the Steiners only played a minor role in defending WCW, their role would grow later on.

The feud with Harlem Heat was, like so many others, aborted when Scott went down with another back injury in August of 1996. He would not return until January of 1997 and immediately the Steiners were programmed as the top babyface team to challenge new heel champions The Outsiders (Scott Hall & Kevin Nash) of the nWo. Unbelievably, Scott was once again even bigger than when he left and now saw his mobility reduced even more to the point where he seemed to be moving in slow motion in comparison to his earlier self. At Souled Out ’97, the Steiners seemingly beat The Outsiders for the belts, but the decision was overturned by Bischoff (now an on-screen ally of the nWo). The Steiners spent the spring and summer in pointless, time-wasting feuds with Harlem Heat and others while Hall & Nash wrestled singles matches. At Road Wild ’97 in August, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Steiners would finally, at long last win the belts, but the best they could do was a disqualification win. By the time Rick & Scott finally claimed the belts, it was from Hall & Syxx (Nash was injured), and because the title victory had been so far delayed, there was very little heat.

The Steiner Brothers’ latest reign as Tag Team champions was unremarkable and it was becoming clear that after a decade as a team, the Steiners were losing steam. It was decided that after so many false starts, it was finally time to push Scott Steiner as a singles wrestler, though at this point his back and in-ring skills were incredibly deteriorated and he was no longer a young man. Nonetheless, WCW decided to go through with it, and furthermore rather than push Scott as a babyface, they decided he would make a better heel. At Superbrawl VIII, Scott put a violent end to the Steiner Brothers tag team, turning on Rick in a title match with the Outsiders and joining the nWo.

Scott completely changed his look, cutting his hair and dying it blond and assuming many of the mannerisms of the legendary “Superstar” Billy Graham. Scott’s first pay per view match was a loss to Luger, and it was decided to hold off on the inevitable Steiner Brothers singles match to build momentum. In the mean time, Scott was paired with Buff Bagwell, another well-muscled nWo member who had the mic skills necessary to serve as Steiner’s mouthpiece as he developed his own interview style. Steiner and Bagwell had a great natural chemistry and built heat for the Steiners feud in tag matches with Rick & Luger; then, as seemed to be the pattern for Scott’s career, injury intervened.

First, Buff suffered a horrible neck injury in a match with Rick that would keep him out for over a year. Then, Rick and Scott both suffered injured that would keep them out until late in the summer. Scott & Buff returned first, though with Buff strictly in a managerial position. When the Steiner vs Steiner match finally occurred at Fall Brawl ’98 in September, the breakup of the team was nearly forgotten in the eyes of the fans, and a sub-par match and boring angle involving a fake re-injury to Buff killed the feud from the gate.

As 1999 began, Steiner was beginning to gain some momentum as he won the Television title from Konnan and was made interim leader of nWo Hollywood by a “retiring” Hulk Hogan. Still, after so many years of anticipation, the Scott Steiner singles push was something of a disappointment so far. In late January, the nWo reformed itself, paring down its roster to only Hogan, Nash, Hall, Steiner, Bagwell, and new addition Luger; Steiner was recognized as a legitimate main event star.

The turning point for Scott Steiner came in a feud over the TV title with Diamond Dallas Page that culminated at Superbrawl IX. Steiner altered his interview style, becoming a highly aggressive cross between a cocky Rick Rude ladies man, and a Stan Hansen like wild man. Steiner “stalked” Page’s wife Kimberly while creating catchphrases hyping his sexual prowess and giving himself a new nickname: “Big Poppa Pump.” At Superbrawl, Steiner absolutely destroyed Page, using an aggressive offense and a lead pipe to get the upset win. Steiner was now clearly being pushed as both an off the hook madman and a controversial loose cannon, a combination that seemed to work well.

At Uncensored ’99, a screwup by Bagwell cost Steiner the TV title to Booker T effectively dissolving the team as Steiner brutally attacked Buff’s weak neck, further establishing him as a man with no friends who could snap at any time. The next month at Spring Stampede, Steiner defeated Booker in a tournament final to win the vacant U.S. title. The nWo had quietly dissolved and Steiner was able to develop even further as a psychotic loner.

While he was gaining great success on camera garnering both face and heel heat, Steiner was beginning to gain an ego as long as his bicep backstage, and his off-screen temperament was beginning to echo his on-screen persona. Steiner had a poor match with Bagwell at Slamboree ’99, but fans were no longer watching Scott Steiner for great wrestling, they were more into the character. At the same event, the Steiner Brothers reformed, but as heels, when each helped the other win or defend a singles title.

Now more over than ever, Steiner suffered you guessed it a back injury. At first he simply stopped wrestling, but still accompanied Rick to his matches, but then was stripped of the title and taken off TV altogether. For the remainder of ’99 there was real question over whether or not Scott would be able to return at all. He rehabbed religiously and did return in January of 2000 to join a short-lived new version of the nWo that included Hall & Nash as well as Jeff Jarrett and Bret Hart. But Steiner was taken off TV once more within weeks, this time not due to injury, but due to insulting comments he made about Ric Flair.

Steiner returned to help Jarrett in a match at Uncensored ’99 in March and beat up Hogan. But big changes were in store for WCW as Bischoff and Vince Russo, both former WCW creative directors who had been fired, returned and completely revamped WCW from the ground up. The entire promotion now centered around a massive feud between the established, older main eventers (Hogan, Flair, Nash, Sting, Luger, Page, etc.), called the “Millionaire’s Club” and the younger, “held down” wrestlers (led by Jarrett, Billy Kidman, Shane Douglas, Bagwell, Vampiro, and others) called the “New Blood”. Two odd things happened at the onset: first, the “held down” New Blood were programmed as heels, and second Steiner, despite being the same age as Sting, Luger, and others, was made a premier member of the New Blood.

At Spring Stampede 2000, Steiner beat fellow New Blood members The Wall and Mike Awesome, as well as Sting, to regain the U.S. title. In the coming weeks, Steiner picked up right where he left off, now aided by a beautiful valet (one of his “freaks”), Midajah. Within weeks it was established that Steiner did not care for following the orders of Bischoff & Russo and he quickly broke away from the New Blood, becoming a loner, and then teaming with Nash against his former teammates. At Bash at the Beach 2000, Steiner refused to release his Steiner Recliner (Camel clutch) from Mike Awesome, though New Blood commissioner The Cat had banned the move, and had the U.S. title stripped from him. Later in the night, Steiner attacked Nash during his match with Bill Goldberg, again establishing him as a loner with no friends or allies (with the exception of Midajah).

A big three way feud was built between Steiner, Nash, and Goldberg that ended with Nash winning a three way match at New Blood Rising. Only a week following the show, Steiner was once again in an alliance with Russo, Nash, Jarrett, and his brother Rick opposing new World champion Booker T, Sting, and Goldberg; yet despite the frequent and abrupt changes of allegiance (Russo trademarks), Steiner was able to stay over and gain even more momentum. Attacking random people from referees, to announcers, to planted fans and crew members, Steiner was being seen as a monster; and the fact that his biceps were now the size of baseballs didn’t hurt that image. The announcers put him over huge as a guy that everybody was terrified of and people reacted in kind.

At Fall Brawl ’00, Steiner won a brutal brawl against Goldberg, proving that he could still put on decent matches, albeit completely different than the good matches he had been putting on a decade earlier. While not the best interview in the world, Steiner knew how to garner heat. He was clearly the most over man in the company, and with Russo once again on the way out and the creative team in a state of flux, WCW finally made the move they had been teasing since 1990: they put the World title on Scott Steiner.

At Mayhem ’00, Scott Steiner finally won the World title, defeating long time rival Booker T. Unfortunately Booker was injured during the match, Sting had just been injured, and Hogan, Flair, and others had left the company; WCW was more or less in the hands of Scott Steiner. Ten years earlier many had predicted that Scott Steiner would be the man to lead WCW into the 90s, he was now getting the chance to lead them into the 21st century; instead he lead them into oblivion.

Despite all the injuries, the bulking up, and the changes Steiner had experienced over the years, one thing had not changed: his work ethic. Even when he was hurt, as WCW World champion for the final four months of the promotion’s existence as a separate entity from the WWF, Steiner worked a match just about every show. They weren’t great matches, but it was more than some other World champions or top stars could say. At the same time, the attitude continued to develop. Now the World champion, Steiner was nothing less than a backstage stick of dynamite. He fought with other wrestlers, most notably starting a brawl with Diamond Dallas Page, and made inappropriate comments on air about other wrestlers (Page again) and issues that were not to be discussed. He got in frequent fights with management and was generally in a foul temper; completely different from the cheerful young man who entered WCW in 1989.

In the last few months before WCW came to an end so to say, Steiner was part of the Magnificent Seven stable, led by a retired Ric Flair (ironically enough, the man who had said he would willingly give Steiner the World title back in 1990 and also the man Steiner was suspended for insulting in 2000). He remained a hard-working professional to the end, defending the title and even losing it back cleanly to Booker T on the final broadcast of Nitro despite suffering yet another back injury.

Scott Steiner, like so many other top WCW stars, is currently sitting out his Time Warner contract as the WWF prepares to start a new WCW. Steiner however, unlike some of the others, has expressed interest in accepting a buyout and coming to the new WCW. Certainly Steiner’s charisma and work ethic are assets, but Vince McMahon and company must also consider his recent attitude problems. Let’s take a look

THE MARK: Why wouldn’t Scott Steiner impress the Mark fan? The man is as he says “a genetic freak.” His musculature and his look are one of a kind and frankly awe-inspiring. There is nothing technically outstanding, precise, or intricate about Scott Steiner’s in-ring style, it is simply bone crushing and brutal. There aren’t many casual fans (or even mart fans) that don’t watch a stiff Scott Steiner clothesline or suplex and can’t help but say “wow.” He also has the old-school Memphis heel act down to a science; it may not impress every Smart fan, but Steiner’s crass insults will get any Mark crowd riled up and angry.

THE SMART: Most Smart fans will agree that Scott Steiner is incredibly over, marketable, and deserving of a push, but after that they will probably shake their head in mourning of what could have been. Smart fans long for the high-flying dynamic Scott Steiner of the early ‘90s and curse the day Dick Murdoch and Dick Slater performed that ill-fated sneak attack. Smart fans are (as the name implies) smart enough to overlook Steiner’s current limitations and see what he brings to the table, but above that they look at Scott Steiner and see a sad reminder of the great matches the man once put on and the countless more that were sacrificed.

And finally

THE MEAN: In 1991, Scott Steiner made a decision that for better or for worse changed his career, and his life, forever. Perhaps he felt that adding the extra muscle would prolong his career, and perhaps he was right. Perhaps as spectacular as he was in the ring, the smaller Scott Steiner would always in the end have been overshadowed by his more charismatic brother in a business that was (and continued to) shifting from sports to entertainment. He has suffered, in the form of injuries, but he has also prospered. It is not hard to see why Scott Steiner has an attitude: to get the success he has attained in the wrestling business, Steiner has had to spend much of the past decade in tremendous pain. Scott Steiner is a hard worker and has always done whatever it has taken to succeed in the wrestling business. It doesn’t give him a right to his bad attitude, but it is at least understandable if not excusable.

I do believe that what Scott Steiner can give to the new WCW is worth it for Vince McMahon. I also believe that under the WWF management of the 21st century, Steiner is smart enough to know that he will have to leave the bad attitude at home. Furthermore, Steiner does not deserve to be forced out of the business he has sacrificed so much physically for; and the professionalism Steiner demonstrated on the final Nitro can not be ignored. As I said, Scott Steiner made a choice a long time ago; it will only be once his career comes to an end that we can speculate whether or not the decision he made was worth it.

In the mean time, thanks for reading.