Ding! Ding! Ding! A&E’s Biography profiles eight of professional wrestling’s most revered — and, in some cases, reviled — Hall of Famers.
We preview the WWE Legends’ jaw-dropping reveals, notorious rivalries, and most fun facts.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin
This tough-as-nails Texan kicks off A&E’s eight-week Biography event, recounting his journey from high school football star and fledgling regional wrestler surviving on tuna fish and raw potatoes to the WWE’s biggest, baddest star of the ’90s.
What’s in a Name?
Everything: It dictates the persona. As the Ringmaster, this future pop-culture icon was deemed unmarketable by WWE mastermind Vince McMahon. So in 1996 Austin rebranded to embrace his natural intensity, wisely nixing names like Chilly McFreeze and Fang McFrost before then-wife Jeanie Clarke told him, “Drink your tea before it gets stone cold.”
Injuries are common, but hearing the WWE Legend’s play-by-play of the temporary paralysis he experienced after bruising his spinal cord during a 1997 title match is chilling. He gets emotional revisiting his 2003 farewell match with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson too: Hospitalized with alcohol-and-caffeine-induced dehydration the night before, Austin feared he might pass away center ring at WrestleMania XIX with his friend. “You can’t plan a better death than that,” he says in the doc. The pair share the words they each whispered after the count: “I love you.”
Premieres Sunday, April 18, 8/7c
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper
Growing up with an abusive father and living on the streets as a teen fueled the Canadian-bred Piper, who was already playing his signature bagpipes and wearing a kilt in the ring when he was 15. His ability to smack down heroes on the microphone as well as on the mat made him one of the all-time great villains — and the person whom opponent Hulk Hogan credits with making 1985’s inaugural WrestleMania possible.
The One You Love to Hate
Angry fans tried to kill him! Fellow hard-partier Ric Flair (airborne above, with Piper) recalls someone once threw a rattlesnake into the ring. Piper’s son, Colt Toombs, reveals his dad wore a leather jacket lined with Kevlar because he’d been stabbed three times. “These stories are truly insane,” says Susan Levison, senior vice president and head of WWE Studios.
King of the Mic
Piper’s zingers seemed off the cuff, but he’d jot down great lines as he thought of them. The habit served him well when he starred in the 1988 action flick They Live. He handed his notepads over to writer-director John Carpenter, who lifted this one: “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I’m all out of bubble gum.” (Piper died in 2015.)
Premieres Sunday, April 25, 8/7c
“Macho Man” Randy Savage
This WWE Legend’s juicy ’80s and ’90s story, largely intertwined with rival Hogan’s, deserves a TV movie. And judging from the number of people who imitate Macho Man’s trademark gravelly voice (“Oh, yeah!”) in his Biography, casting would be no problem! The Ohio-born son of wrestler Angelo Poffo struck out as a minor league baseball player before proving himself as a top-tier wrestler and a fashion icon. Michael Braun, outfitter to Jimi Hendrix and ’70s pimps, designed those fringed ensembles; McMahon says Savage footed the bill.
Beauty and the Beast
A possessive storyline played out on- and offscreen between Macho Man and his first wife/manager Miss Elizabeth, and it did not age well. (She died of a toxic mix of drugs and alcohol in 2003, he of a heart attack in 2011.)
What remains timeless is Macho Man’s epic 1987 Wrestle-Mania III match with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Ricky details how they quizzed each other on the order of the 160 moves. A highlight reel, accompanied by a cinematic score, is thrilling—you’ll see wrestling as an art. “That’s something the documentaries deliver: insight into how matches are created and executed and how much thought goes into them,” says WWE Studios’ Levison.
Premieres Sunday, May 2, 8/7c
You won’t find a more inspirational — or entertaining — subject than charismatic Booker T. After serving 19 months’ jail time in his early twenties for robbing Wendy’s restaurants in Texas, the teen dad focused on his future. His boss at a storage company paid $3,000 for him to attend wrestling school in 1990. The natural went on to become a two-time Hall of Famer, as a singles wrestler and as part of the tag team Harlem Heat with older brother Lash.
Power of the Spinaroonie
As Black wrestlers starting out in front of a predominantly white crowd in Dallas, the siblings felt like Rocky Balboa fighting in Russia, Lash says in the doc. But Booker T’s signature move, the break-dance-inspired spinaroonie, won fans over. When the duo, then known as the Ebony Experience, got the call to leave Texas, fans “had a parade for us in the parking lot. They were crying,” Booker T tells TV Guide Magazine. “The spinaroonie did that, made those people change.”
Booker T’s classic 2001 fight through the aisles of a grocery store with Austin (estimated damage: $10,000!) befits the mindset he passes on to upstarts in his Reality of Wrestling promotion today: “No matter what [the match], we got to make history here.”
Premieres Sunday, May 9, 8/7c
Best of the RestShawn Michaels
The enduring ’90s villain has been open about the drug addiction that nearly killed him. Now he helps train WWE NXT superstars. “It’s fascinating to see him take his decades of knowledge in the ring and apply it to the next generation,” Levison says. Sunday, May 16, 8/7c
“A guy who gave 100 percent of his soul to this business” is how Booker T describes the creator of three legendary ’90s characters: Cactus Jack, Mankind, and Dude Love. “His willingness to take all sorts of bumps in the ring is just one part that defines him,” Levison says. “He’s also had a wonderful career post-WWE as a children’s author. He’s obsessed with Christmas. He’s just a hoot.” Sunday, May 23, 8/7c
The first man to be both the WWE Champion and the Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion after he defeated Hogan at 1990’s WrestleMania VI, he died of a heart attack in 2014 — days after being inducted into the Hall of Fame. An award was established in his honor. Sunday, May 30, 8/7c
Bret “Hitman” Hart
Because he’s a member of a multigenerational wrestling dynasty, it’s no surprise this ’90s WWE Legend is considered one of the great technical athletes. As Levison explains, “There are some superstars whose talent lies in cutting promos, and some who have mastered the technique of wrestling. His moves are so beautiful to watch.” Sunday, June 6, 8/7c