Steve Williams (wrestler)
|Birth name||Steven Williams|
|Born||May 14, 1960|
Lakewood, Colorado, U.S.
|Died||December 29, 2009 (aged 49)|
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
|Cause of death||Throat cancer|
|Alma mater||University of Oklahoma|
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Steve Williams|
|Billed height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Billed weight||285 lb (129 kg)|
|Billed from||Norman, Oklahoma|
|Trained by||Bill Watts|
Steven Williams (May 14, 1960 – December 29, 2009) was an American professional wrestler, former collegiate football player, and amateur wrestler at the University of Oklahoma. Williams was known as "Dr. Death", a nickname he acquired in junior high school.
Williams was a three-time professional wrestling world heavyweight champion, having won the UWF World Heavyweight Championship twice and the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship once. In addition to his singles success, Williams achieved notoriety in Japan in tag team competition, winning the World Tag Team Championship eight times with notable tag team partners Terry Gordy, and Vader. He also achieved great tag team success in North America, winning tag team titles in the Mid-South(UWF), World Championship Wrestling, and NWA United States Tag Team Championship as well as winning the World's Strongest Tag Determination League twice with Gordy and Mike Rotunda.
Williams was born and raised in the Denver suburb of Lakewood, Colorado. Williams attended Lakewood High School, graduating in 1978. He was the youngest of four children born to Gerald (died 1985) and Dottie Williams (died 2016). He grew up in Lakewood where he also was living at time of his death with his mother. He was on the track & field team, played football, and wrestled all four years. Williams graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981 where he played football and also competed as an amateur wrestler, where he was a four time All American, finishing 6th as a freshman, 5th as a sophomore, 3rd as a junior and 2nd as a senior. His senior year, he lost in the finals of an NCAA tournament to future Olympic medalist Bruce Baumgartner. Already interested in professional wrestling, Williams had a ready-made nickname that dated back to an incident in junior high wherein he had to wrestle in a hockey goalie's mask due to shattering his nose and was jokingly labeled "Dr. Death" by one of his school's coaches and his sister.
Williams started every game in 1982 for the Oklahoma Sooners at right guard. He was named to the UPI All-Big Eight first team and played in the 1983 Fiesta Bowl. He was also a member of the Sooners 1980 Orange Bowl and 1981 Sun Bowl squads. Williams played both guard positions while at OU.
Williams was selected by the New Jersey Generals in the 1983 USFL Territorial Draft on January 3, 1983. He signed with the Generals on January 31, just prior to the opening of training camp. Williams was converted to a defensive tackle in training camp and was a teammate of RB Herschel Walker. During camp, Williams suffered a bruised knee and was placed on injured reserve for the first six games of the Generals 1983 season.
After being activated for week #10 vs. the Birmingham Stallions on May 9, Williams was the starting nose tackle for the Generals in a 22–7 loss at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. The game was telecast live on ESPN. Williams started at nose tackle the following week on May 16, in a 31–24 loss to the Michigan Panthers at the Silverdome in Pontiac, MI – a game also shown on ESPN.
Professional wrestling career
Early years (1982–1987)
Williams, trained for professional wrestling by Bill Watts and Buddy Landel, started wrestling in 1982 in Watts' Mid-South Wrestling. In 1985, he formed a team with Ted DiBiase and feuded with Eddie Gilbert and The Nightmare. In 1986, Mid-South was renamed the Universal Wrestling Federation and Williams went on to win the UWF Heavyweight Championship from Big Bubba Rogers. When Jim Crockett Promotions bought the UWF in late 1987, he was one of the few UWF wrestlers to receive an initial push in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). During this time he also worked for Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, World Class Championship Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
World Championship Wrestling (1987–1990)
Williams became involved with Jimmy Garvin's war with Kevin Sullivan's Varsity Club in 1988, often teaming with Jimmy and Ron Garvin or Ron Simmons in various matches, including a Triple Cage "Tower of Doom" match at The Great American Bash in 1988. Williams, however, turned heel and joined the Varsity Club in late 1988. He and Sullivan won the NWA United States Tag Team Championship at Starrcade. They feuded with The Road Warriors and he and Mike Rotunda won the NWA World Tag Team Championship in the process.
In May 1989, Williams and Rotunda were stripped of the title, and the Varsity Club disbanded. Not long after, Williams turned face again and had a short feud with Rotunda over who was responsible for the Varsity Club's breakup, before entering a feud with Lex Luger for the NWA United States Championship. Williams was scheduled to face Luger for the title at WrestleWar '90 on February 25, 1990. When Sting, who was scheduled to face Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, suffered a legitimate knee injury, Luger turned face and was moved from the US title match to the World Title match in Sting's place.
Williams went to All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990 where he found success with Terry Gordy in a tag-team called The Miracle Violence Connection, which they formed prior in 1987 in Jim Crockett Promotions. They went on to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship from The Steiner Brothers in 1992. One week after winning the WCW World Tag Team Title, Williams and Gordy won the vacant NWA World Tag Team Title, defeating Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham in the tournament final. Their NWA title win, however, went unrecognized by the NWA. They held onto both titles until September 1992, when they lost them to Rhodes and Windham. At Starrcade, Williams substituted for the injured Rick Rude to challenge Ron Simmons for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship, but lost by disqualification. He left WCW shortly thereafter.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1990–1998)
In March 1990, Williams began to work for All Japan Pro Wrestling with Terry Gordy, initially as part of the The Miracle Violence Connection team. They established themselves on the card and had notable matches against the likes of Giant Baba, Stan Hansen and André The Giant.
Over time Williams gradually got traction and fanfare from the Japanese audience. Baba booked him to be a main eventer for the company. After, Williams became one of the most successful foreign athletes in Japanese wrestling history, especially in reference to the 90s and early 2000s. On July 28, 1994, he defeated Mitsuharu Misawa for the AJPW Triple Crown Championship, holding it for three months before dropping it to Toshiaki Kawada. Williams became a mainstay gaijin on AJPW television along with Stan Hansen, Terry Gordy, Johnny Ace and Gary Albright. He would either team with them or fight them in singles from 1994 to 1998 in a variety of feuds during a wrestling boom in Japan, comparable to that of WWF's Attitude Era.
On August 31, 1997 Williams won the tag team titles with Gary Albright. Williams' last TV appearance for his 1st run was on the June 5, 1998 edition of AJPW TV. He fought Jun Akiyama before going to the WWF.
World Wrestling Federation (1998–1999)
In May 1998, Williams was signed by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) prior to the "Brawl for All" competition, which was set up in legitimate fights. WWF took interest in signing him due to his success in All-Japan. Before entering the Brawl for All and signing a contract, he had only one in-ring match with the WWF, which was against 2 Cold Scorpio on a WWF Shotgun taping dark match (April 28, 1998). According to house show cards and recaps, Vince McMahon introduced him to the ring for this dark match.
On the July 20 edition of Raw is War, Williams entered the Brawl for All tournament, making his first WWF television appearance. He was expected to win it due to his reputation as one of the toughest men in the wrestling business. Williams was the contestant that the WWF management wanted to win. He was being groomed by Vince McMahon and head of talent Jim Ross as a possible contender for the WWF Championship that was in the possession of Stone Cold Steve Austin during the Brawl for All tournament. However, after beating Pierre Carl Ouellet in the first round, he faced Bart Gunn in the second round. Gunn took Williams down, tearing his hamstring, then knocked Williams out. Williams missed several months following the injury. Upon healing in January 1999, Williams worked dark matches on Heat/Shotgun/Raw is War tapings, mainly against Bob Holly to open up the tapings.
Williams was involved in a brief angle where he was managed by Jim Ross in early 1999 before Williams was released. During his time with Ross, he would attack people with suplexes, debuting on the February 22, 1999 edition of Raw is War as the masked man who threw Bart Gunn off a stage during a match of his. This story was played-off on WWF television as Williams getting revenge against Gunn for his Brawl for All loss. After, Williams was involved in two storylines, one where he was pursuing the WWF Hardcore Championship from Hardcore Holly, and another where he sought revenge on Tiger Ali Singh for making fun of Ross on live television.
While injured with a bad hamstring Williams decided to wrestle at the Giant Baba Memorial Show on May 2, 1999. Despite wrestling injured he didn't want to miss out at this event due to not wanting to let his friend and mentor Giant Baba down, who died at the beginning of the year.
In Williams' autobiography, as well as in his RF Video shoot interview in 2001, these midcard storylines were meant as a way to build his character up on television before entering a main-event feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. Williams was released in mid-April for needing further time to rehab his injury and for refusing to work for FMW, a Japanese promotion with which the WWF had talent exchanges. He was scheduled to compete against Snow and Holly at Backlash: In Your House for the WWF Hardcore Championship, but he did not appear due to his release.
According to a radio interview from November 1999, Williams was originally planned to have some of Triple H's storylines before his release. Most notably, the segment on the October 4, 1999 episode of Raw is War when Triple H attacked Jim Ross was the moment when Williams was going to start his feud with Austin. Because the angle was originally planned for Williams, this storyline was supposed to be how he would become a heel, as Ross was going to manage him as a babyface until that point later in the year. Williams stated in his book that his main-event push was going to start after the debut of WWF Smackdown! on UPN.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1997)
He also sporadically wrestled in the U.S. on the independent circuit. That run was brought to an end during one of his appearances in Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). After defeating Axl Rotten in approximately 2 minutes, Williams had an impromptu ECW World Heavyweight Championship match, but lost after being pinned by then-champion Raven. The loss happened in February 1997 at Crossing the Line Again, thus ending his unpinned streak in North America, which lasted since March 26, 1987.
Return to WCW (1999)
In November 1999, Williams healed from his hamstring injury and appeared briefly in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) again, with Oklahoma as his manager in a feud with Vampiro. As a result of this feud, he wrestled against Jerry Only from the Misfits on the November 29 edition of WCW Monday Nitro in a steel cage match. Very shortly after, the announcement that he would return to All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) was on December 26, 1999.
Return to AJPW (2000–2003)
He went back to AJPW and had a second full-time run from 2000 to 2003. He held a tag-team title reign with Big Van Vader when they captured the tag team titles in February 2000. They split in early April when Vader left the company. Williams then notably feuded with success in singles against Akira Taue in the spring, Jinsei Shinzaki in the summer, Scott Norton in the fall at NJPW Do Judge!!, and Mike Barton again at the beginning of 2001 in a revenge match.
In later 2001, 2002 and early 2003 Williams often teamed with Mike Rotundo and Mike Barton. He would have sporadic singles feuds against Keiji Muto and George Heins, since with his wearing hamstring he couldn't compete in singles like he used to. Staying in the tag division was safer for Williams' longevity in AJPW's upper-midcard and main-events, as well as the popularity of tag-teams in Japanese wrestling at this time.
Cancer, return to wrestling, and retirement (2003–2009)
After leaving AJPW full-time, he wrestled a couple of matches for WWE in 2003 against Lance Storm. In late 2003, he was involved with the independent promotion Major League Wrestling (MLW) and also wrestled for the new NWA Mid-Atlantic, where he won their title in one of the first professional wrestling events in China. On March 14, 2004, Williams faced Belarusian kickboxer Alexey Ignashov in a mixed martial arts bout in the K-1 promotion and was knocked out 22 seconds into the fight. According to Williams he was tested positive with throat cancer a couple days before the match. This was his first and only professional fight.
In 2004, Williams underwent surgery for throat cancer and was declared cancer-free the next year. His return match was against King Kaluha, who he defeated on August 27, 2005 at WrestleReunion 2. According to promoter Sal Corrente, Williams was initially hesitant to work with King Kaluha but was ultimately appreciative about the choice of opponent.
Williams made an appearance at a SmackDown! brand house show on March 11, 2006, in Alexandria, Louisiana, after which he was signed to help train up-and-coming WWE wrestlers in its Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW) developmental territory. While acting in that capacity, he made a few appearances on OVW television, where he helped fellow Oklahoma wrestler Jake Hager and briefly working as his tag team partner. He also made an appearance at an August 30 Raw house show, during which he addressed the crowd and announced how happy he was to be cancer free for four years.
After the death of longtime rival and friend Mitsuharu Misawa in June 2009, Williams made the decision to retire from wrestling after 27 years. Williams's final match took place August 15 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for Asylum Championship Wrestling. He defeated Franco D'Angelo for the ACW Heavyweight Championship, which he vacated after the match.
The throat cancer eventually returned and Williams's health gradually worsened. His last public appearance was at the K&S Wrestlefest Wrestling Convention on December 12, 2009, in Carteret, New Jersey. On December 29, 2009, Williams died at St. Anthony Central Hospital in Denver from throat cancer. He was 49 years old.
Mixed martial arts record
|Professional record breakdown|
|1 match||0 wins||1 loss|
|Loss||0–1||Alexey Ignashov||KO (knees)||K-1 Beast 2004 in Niigata||March 14, 2004||1||0:22||Niigata, Japan|
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Tag Team Championship (8 times) – with Terry Gordy (5), Johnny Ace (1), Gary Albright (1) and Vader (1)
- World's Strongest Tag Determination League (1990, 1991) – with Terry Gordy
- World's Strongest Tag Determination League (2000) – Mike Rotunda
- January 2 Korakuen Hall Heavyweight Battle Royal (1995, 2000)
- Asylum Championship Wrestling
- ACW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Lou Thesz Award (2008)
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2007
- International Wrestling Association of Japan
- IWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ryo Miyake
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling[a]
- Mid-South Wrestling Association/Universal Wrestling Federation
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Pro Wrestling This Week
- Wrestler of the Week (July 19–25, 1987)
- Universal Wrestling Federation
- World Championship Wrestling
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Match of the Year (1996) with Johnny Ace vs. Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama on June 7 in Tokyo, Japan
- Most Improved (1985)
- Strongest Wrestler (1987-1990)
- Worst On Interviews (1988)
- Rookie of the Year (1982)
- Tag Team of the Year (1992) with Terry Gordy
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)
- This promotion, while operating out of the same area and using some of the same regional championships, is not the same promotion once owned by Jim Crockett Jr. and did not begin operating until the mid-1990s.
- Gordy and Williams unified the WCW World Tag Team Championship with the NWA World Tag Team Championship after winning the NWA title in a tag team tournament. This happened nearly four years after Ted Turner's purchase of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling from Jim Crockett Jr. He renamed the promotion World Championship Wrestling, but it remained an NWA affiliate until September 1993. As a result, the two titles were separated once more and Gordy and Williams were then recognized as having two separate title reigns with two different titles rather than one unified reign.
- ""Dr. Death" Steve Williams". WWE.com. WWE. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
- "King Kaluha Profile". Online World of Wrestling.
- Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
- "Wrestling legend Steve Williams passes away". Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
- "Williams dies; was 4-time All-American". ESPN.com. ESPN. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
- Sherdog.com. "Steve Williams". Sherdog.
- Gerweck, Steve (December 19, 2009). "Steve Williams". Gerweck.net.
- Corrente, Sal (January 1, 2010). "A Piece of my Mind". RasslinRiotNews.com.
- Adam Lash. "Oklahoma Wrestling News and Results featuring Steve Williams vs. Butch Reed". Newswire. Indy Wrestling News. Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved May 25, 2009.
- "Check out Updated Q&A's.....Random Thoughts....Looks who's coming to JR's BBQ". JR's Blog. JRs Bar B Q. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
- Schramm, Chris. ""Dr. Death" Steve Williams dead at 49". Slam! Sports. Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
- Gerweck, Steve (December 30, 2009). "Dr. Death Steve Williams passes away". Wrestle View. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
- AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Title history] At wrestling-titles.com
- AJPW World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-01-03. Retrieved 2015-04-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- Johns, Fred (June 10, 2008). "In awe at my first Cauliflower Alley Club reunion". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
- Johnson, Steve (July 14, 2007). "Emotions run high at Tragos/Thesz induction". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
- IWA World Tag Team Title (IWA Japan) history At wrestling-titles.com
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- Mid-South Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- UWF World Heavyweight Title (Mid-South) history At wrestling-titles.com
- Meltzer, Dave (July 13, 1987). "Top Story". Wrestling Observer Newsletter (07.20.87).
- UWF World Tag Team Title (Mid-South) history At wrestling-titles.com
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI Years". Wrestling Information Archive. Archived from the original on 2011-07-07. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
- Pedicino, Joe; Solie, Gordon (hosts) (July 25, 1987). "Pro Wrestling This Week". Superstars of Wrestling. Atlanta, Georgia. Syndicated. WATL.
- NWA/WCW United States Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- WCW World Tag Team Title history At wrestling-titles.com
- Meltzer, Dave (October 20, 2011). "Thurs. update: Brisco, GSP updates, Hall feature, WWE drops announcer, TV show looks to be canceled". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
- Williams, Steve; Caiazzo, Tom (March 15, 2007). How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life. Foreword by Jim Ross, Special foreword by Barry Switzer. Sports Publishing L.L.C. ISBN 1-59670-180-3.