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Monday, October 25, 1999

SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column

Austin and ego

By DON LEBARBA -- For SLAM! Wrestling

There is a great story about the former NWA champion and Canadian legend, Gene Kiniski. I'm paraphrasing the story, so don't judge me too harshly if you've heard a slightly different version.

It seems Kiniski was booked to wrestle in a small town somewhere in middle America, perhaps in a tiny convention hall or even a state fair situation. Kiniski arrived only to learn that his opponent hadn't shown up. Instead, a local wrestler had been hustled in at the last moment. The crowd wasn't sure what to make of the young upstart -- he seemed no match for Kiniski, a grizzled brawler who had spent years busting heads for a living.

To their surprise, the rookie roared out of his corner and gave Kiniski several minutes of hell, flipping and slamming the NWA champion with ease. Kiniski, who was as rough and tough as they come, eventually spotted an opening and pinned the local fellow. When it was over, a friend of Kiniski's asked him why he hadn't pinned the local boy right away, instead of letting the match go for as long as it did.

Kiniski replied, "It's always good to let the other guy get a few licks in. He might have family in the audience."

Gene Kiniski is fondly remembered by people in the business because of stories like this. He held titles in two seperate federations, including a three year stint in the NWA (unheard of in an era where titles change from one pay-per-view to the next) but was never bothered by letting someone else share his spotlight, even the lowliest man on the roster.

This makes me wonder how a certain WWF superstar will be remembered. I'm referring to a certain rattlesnake who is supposedly reluctant to step into the ring with anyone other than a select few. If you've followed this business on the internet for any length of time, you've no doubt heard the following -- Stone Cold Steve Austin didn't want to pass the torch to Triple H so Mankind had to act as some sort of interim champion. Stone Cold would't work a program with Jeff Jarrett -- he never felt Jarrett was over enough with the fans. Stone Cold only wants to work main events.

Internet gossip is not always a hundred percent reliable but where there is smoke there is fire, and the smoke surrounding Steve Austin is a surprise.

Could the toughest S.O.B. in the world be a bit of a prima donna?

It's understandable if Austin wants time off to heel his knees, or to be with his family, or to tape some episodes of Nash Bridges. Hopefully, when he comes back he will have had a change of heart and start getting in the ring with guys like Jarrett (a little late now, however). A career spent wrestling Vince MacMahon over and over again won't be particularly memorable. As it is, Austin will be remembered as a guy who sold a lot of t-shirts, but not as a fighting champion who took on all comers.

It's also interesting that Ken Shamrock has never been in there with Austin since The Rattlesnake has been the number one man. It's been widely rumored that Shammy is scheduled to leave the WWF and return to his UFC roots. Wouldn't it be great to see Shamrock challenge Austin just once before he leaves? But noooooo....the WWF can't book a match unless there's an angle involved. And Austin would probably turn his nose up at the thought, anyway. So while we do see a lot of fine action in the WWF, there's an awful lot we'll never see because of ego.

Austin should take a page from Gene Kiniski's book and start sharing his spotlight. We are already three quarters into the year and Steve Austin's list of opponents has been restricted to only a few wrestlers and a 53-year-old promoter. Drink all the beer you want Steve, and give us all the finger if you like, but don't abuse the unique position you've found yourself in.

Don LeBarba lives in the Boston area. He contributes to many wrestling websites. He can be reached at
He wrote for SLAM! Wrestling once before:

Wrestling's mystique - gone for good?

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