WWF Needs Austin Back On TV

Steve Austin

Steve Austin

By Mike Mooneyham

Oct. 6, 2001

Steve Austin will return to Raw on Monday night to challenge Kurt Angle for the WWF heavyweight title. It’s about time.

Austin has been purposely kept off television the past two weeks as part of a storyline. It doesn’t make a lot of sense – from a ratings or house show perspective – to keep one of the company’s top two stars off the program. Storyline or not, Austin remains one of the few performers the fans specifically turn out to see, and as Eric Bischoff and WCW found out the hard way, the fans don’t like to be disappointed.

Surprisingly enough, Vince McMahon reportedly made the call to keep Austin off TV, while Shane McMahon was given added air time. Last week’s Raw sunk to its lowest level since June 18. Smackdown, the show most responsible for keeping UPN on the air, is no longer the network darling, having been passed in the ratings by “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and the new Star Trek show “Enterprise.” Sunday Night Heat, which consistently pulled in strong numbers for USA, has struggled since switching to MTV and taking on the live WWF New York format.

Even some of the WWF’s top stars seem to be denying the obvious – at least in front of the camera. Kurt Angle made the far-fetched claim last week on “Live with Regis and Kelly” that ratings were going through the roof. Angle also erroneously gave Austin credit for the cuts and stitches on his chin, lip and eye, all results of a Smackdown match two nights earlier with Rob Van Dam. Angle (two stitches in the eye, two in the lip and six under his chin) was the third wrestler in the past month to be cut hardway by Van Dam, who had a reputation in ECW for landing his share of potato shots.

_ Bill Goldberg, who along with Rick Steiner visited New York City on Sept. 26, has backed off of scathing comments he directed toward the WWF for allegedly not sending any of its performers to Ground Zero.

“I questioned the World Wrestling Federation’s support for the New York policemen and firefighters, based on the fact the New York policemen and firefighters who I spoke with had not had any contact and/or support from the WWF,” said Goldberg. “Well, I spoke too soon; and I am man enough to admit when I am wrong. Upon further investigation, I am happy to report that, yes, the WWF has supported the New York policemen and firefighters, among others, since the tragic attack on America. Some WWF personnel has visited New York City and other donations have been made, too; that I know for a fact. It’s good to know that the WWF stepped up to the plate big time in New York and, for that, I applaud them.”

_ The Mobile Register reported that members of the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department who flew home to Alabama after going to New York to help with the rescue and recovery at Ground Zero were on the same flight plane as Steve Austin and other WWF stars, who signed autographs, offered free tickets and gave their thanks to the firefighters. The article noted that Austin and other WWF performers were pretty much ignored by the dozen or so wives, children and friends who were on hand at the Mobile Regional Airport to welcome the firefighters home. Austin and his entourage walked past the welcoming committee without fanfare, but the group applauded loudly when the firefighters, clad in khaki pants and their dark blue Fire-Rescue T-shirts, came into view. Each brought back hard hats decorated with American flags. The WWF members boarded in Atlanta.

Capt. Randy Smith said Austin let down his guard and showed his warm side on the plane trip to Mobile. “They were all talking to us, Steve Austin and the others,” Smith said. “He signed a bunch of stuff, and they are wanting us to come to their matches. They want to give us free tickets and all of that. They appreciated what we did.”

_ Helen Hart, matriarch of one of wrestling’s most famous families, was hospitalized on Sept. 27 after suffering a diabetic seizure and momentarily stopped breathing. The 76-year-old wife of Calgary legend Stu Hart remains in critical condition. She was put on a respirator and has not regained consciousness, but doctors remained hopeful that she would come out of her coma.

“The doctors say it could go either way,” daughter Ellie Neidhart told the Calgary Sun last week. “She is a good, strong, fighting, gutsy person. We really just have to wait. No one really knows what’s happening.”

“She’s resting comfortably and is progressing slowly, though she hasn’t opened her eyes,” said son Keith Hart.

Family noticed subtle changes in Helen since she returned from a trip to visit her sister in San Francisco. Keith Hart told the newspaper that his mother’s condition was sparked by the many hours she spent at Los Angeles Airport after visiting her sister. “Extra security at the airport meant she was there for many hours and became dehydrated and her blood-sugar was way out of whack,” said Hart.

When she arrived back home in Calgary, her husband, Stu, realized she was sick and put her to bed, and the family scheduled a medical exam after she became groggy and irritated. “She wasn’t having clear sentences and we called the paramedics out,” Neidhart said. “It’s a good thing. In the emergency, she had a seizure and actually stopped breathing.”

Stu, 86, was hospitalized earlier this year with pneumonia and heart problems.

_ Scott Steiner is still rehabbing his left foot and may not be able to join the WWF until early next year. Steiner’s guaranteed Time Warner contract expires at the end of this year.

_ Vince Russo, whose Time Warner contract expires next week, has stepped down as booker for the upcoming Australia tour and has told friends that he has retired from the wrestling business.

Russo’s retirement comes none too soon for Bill Goldberg.

“The only thing I can say about Vince Russo is, he’s a stain,” said the former WCW heavyweight champ. “That’s it, period. That’s all I can say. I can’t even go into it … I will say there’s no punishment in the world that is deserved of doing to him. There’s nothing devious enough, or conniving, evil, disgusting, vindictive that could be done to him that would even touch the surface of what I would like to do to him.”

_ Wrestling great Killer Kowalski has come out with a 112-page work of his excellent photography, “Killer Pics,” and an accompanying 50-minute video, “Killer Tales … Killer Pics,” in which he relates the stories behind some of his photographs, along with discussing some of his bouts and overseas adventures.

The price of “Killer Pics” (limited edition book) is $47.50. The video costs $19.95. Both are available from White-Boucke Publishing, 1-800-382-7922, by special order through (Internet) bookstores nationwide or via shopping cart: http://www.White-Boucke.com.

_ The Washington Times reported last week that Linda McMahon, president and CEO of the WWF, has been named to the board of the National Foundation for Women Legislators. McMahon said that she will continue to rally young people to register to vote though the WWF’s “Smackdown Your Vote” campaign.

_ NWA champion Steve Corino announced last week that he planned to retire from pro wrestling.

The self-proclaimed “king of old school” made the following statement on his Web site:

“I have always had a passion for professional wrestling and told myself that I would retire the day it wasn’t fun for me anymore. You may ask `Why isn’t it fun anymore?’ and the answer is actually quite simple
I am out of goals. “In 1994 I made certain goals and to be honest I surpassed everything that I could have ever dreamed of. I have lived a dream. There isn’t anything professionally that I would have changed if I had the chance to do it again.

“Will I be back one day? Who knows. Today I will say without hesitation NO. At least not in the ring. I would like to help out with the booking of the PWF still and I may do some color commentary for them. And I haven’t ruled out doing the occasional tour of Japan. I am looking very forward to an upcoming tour of the UK and the rest of my shows. I have NO plans on dropping the NWA world title on my way out either.”

“Tough Enough” winners Nidia Guenard and Maven Huffman are off to WWF developmental territories. Nidia heads to Ohio Valley Wrestling to work with Victoria, Jazz and Sharmel “Paisley” Sullivan, while Maven is off to the Heartland Wrestling Association.

_ Russ Haas, a WWF developmental wrestler, suffered a heart attack and seizure Sept. 24.

_ Rikishi, who has been recovering the past several months from shoulder surgery, is down to 350 pounds but must drop more before he can return to action

_ Chris Benoit is still several months away from his return after neck surgery.

_ Jerry Lynn, recovering from knee surgery, is about two months away from the ring.

_ Trish Stratus has been cleared for action starting Oct. 15. _ The female valet formerly known as Gorgeous George (Stephanie Bellars) is now working the strip club scene as George Frankenstein. Bellars, who recently married the lead guitarist for The Misfits band, has accused ex-love interest Randy Savage of being too controlling. She said she is working with her new husband to start her own band.

_ All Japan Triple Crown champion Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta) retained his title against Scott Hall in a reportedly lackluster match before a sellout crowd of 5,000 fans on Sept. 23 at the Osaka Namihaya Dome.

_ Dustin Runnels called former WCW creative chief Vince Russo “a snake in the grass” during a radio interview last week and said he respected Eric Bischoff for giving him a second chance in WCW. Runnels also called the five years he didn’t speak to his dad (Dusty Rhodes) the hardest period of his life and urged anyone who has a falling out with their parents to make up.

He listed Ric Flair, Harley Race and Dick Murdoch among performers he looked up to while growing up.

_ The WWF has announced two programming changes due to the recent tragedy. Raw is War will now simply be called Raw, and the 10 p.m. hour will be Changed from “The War Zone” to “The Raw Zone.” The December “Armageddon” PPV will be changed to “Payback.”

_ Torri (Terri Poch) reportedly has been released by the WWF.

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