AUSTIN: THE ROAD BACK
"That's it. He's over. He's done."
On message boards on this and other sites, such is the prevailing school of thought concerning Stone Cold Steve Austin. After his recent actions, everyone thinks his character, and thus his career, are dead.
The Outsider says, not so fast. There's still a way, ONE way, for Austin to resuscitate his career, and in so doing possibly become more popular than ever.
But before we discuss that, let's backtrack. As we all know, Steve Austin finds himself in his current situation because he deserted Raw one hour before showtime, then followed it up with a scary episode of spousal abuse. How does one explain such erratic behavior, especially from a popular veteran of the business of professional wrestling?
We've all heard the rumors of drug abuse, and certainly use of various painkillers by professional wrestlers is commonplace. In Austin's case, The Outsider can only imagine the pain he was in due to severe neck and knee injuries, and stories are told time and time again by athletes about how they became addicted to prescription medicines while recovering from injury (Bret Favre, case in point). Recent statements by Jim Ross and Vince McMahon alluded to Austin's "demons," which in the world of sports and sports entertainment is a code word for "drugs," pure and simple. So logic and common sense can lead one to assume that Austin, whether he was legitimately in pain or not, was probably taking more pills than he needed to.
In addition, one of the main traits of the character of "Stone Cold" is that he drinks beer, and he drinks a lot of it, day in and day out. As with other aspects of the Stone Cold character, this trait has its roots in the reality of the man Steve Williams, which is why the portrayal was always so convincing, and why fans loved the character so. Steve Austin wasn't playing a part; he really was that dangerous redneck, 24/7.
So we have a man possibly in some physical pain, and definitely taking painkillers. Add on top of that a steady consumption of alcohol, and you've got a recipe for disaster. An out-of-sorts and thereby out-of-control Steve Austin would see the world, make decisions, and take actions that a sober Steve Williams never would. Austin's escapades this past week sound like the kind of bender that Darryl Strawberry made famous time and time again.
But sad to say, all that we've just recounted is not all that unusual in the world of professional wrestling, so why is the public calling for Austin's head? It's the fact that he beat his wife, and the thought of such a big man pounding on such a small woman fills us with disgust, the kind of revulsion that gives birth to an unforgiving hatred of the person who would perpetrate such an act.
Fair enough. But let's not lose sight of two things: the American public has consistently shown a great capacity for forgiveness, and the fact (not the alibi) is, Austin was not himself when he committed those acts.
With that in mind, there's one way for Steve Austin/Williams to get his life, and his career, back.
First, he has to go to detox for a month.
Second, once he does that, Steve Williams has to hold a press conference. The Outsider doesn't care where he holds it, whether it's in front of the rehab, or some courthouse in San Antonio, or even right in the WWE ring on some Monday night in the near future. But Steve Williams has to hold that press conference, he has to talk to the public from his heart, and he has to say, I'm all screwed up, I've got a problem with drugs and alcohol and violence and I'm here to promise you that I'm going to change, because what I did was wrong, and in the very fiber of my being I'm sorry I did it, and I make a public promise to my wife and to my fans that I'm going to get the help I need to make sure it never happens again. And if there's anyone out there going through the same thing, you need to get help too.
Steve Williams has to stand before us like a man, clean and sober, alone and vulnerable and without the benefit of his make-believe character to lean on. He has to show genuine contrition and humility, meaning that he would have to not just SAY the words "I'm sorry," but really BE sorry, and exhibit that feeling and that emotion so we implicitly trusted that he was telling us the truth. And he has to stand up straight and ask for help, which may be the hardest thing of all.
It would take a lot of courage, especially for a man with a lot of pride. But when someone makes just such a public apology, rarely is he refused forgiveness.
Once that happens, it is entirely possible that he could ease himself back into the now-tweaked character of Steve Austin. The writers could have him continue to kick ass, but different asses, and for different reasons. People would love him all over again, and the love would be tempered with genuine respect.
The Outsider is reminded of Pete Rose, who once stood at a similar crossroads in his life, and who stubbornly refused to apologize for, or even recognize, his gambling problem, when that mature act of humility would have not only guaranteed Rose entry to the MLB Hall of Fame, but more importantly would have helped others like Rose who were addicted to gambling. But instead Pete Rose made the choice a petulant adolescent would make, and where did it get him?
Steve Williams has been given the opportunity to expose the harsh reality of drug abuse in wrestling, to raise awareness of alcohol abuse and spousal abuse, to actually serve as a role model for all the things that ironically go against the present character of Stone Cold Steve Austin. He can either make history, or find himself a bitter has-been, signing autographs in the parking lot of some dog track in Florida, probably at a table right next to Pete Rose.
Steve Williams has a golden opportunity to do some real good in the world. He should seize it.
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