Tampa's Steve Keirn writes book on 44 years in the wrestling business
ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - Wrestling Superstars of the WWE are bigger than life. They come into living rooms on TV and draw thousands to arenas, but how did those famous wrestlers learn their unique craft?
Steve Keirn was in the wrestling business for 44 years, as a wrestler, teacher and show producer. Some might say he wrote the book on wrestling, and now, it’s being sold on Amazon.
It’s called the "Keirn Chronicles: The Fabulous Wrestling Life of Steve Keirn, Volume 1."
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Long-time fans will recognize the word fabulous as a nod to the Fabulous Ones. It was the wrestling tag team of Keirn and his partner Stan Lane in the 1990s.
But, Keirn’s wrestling story started years before, and it continues even now.
The 71-year-old Keirn says the mark of a pro is someone who can emulate a fight without hurting the other performer in the ring. He also says kindness was what worked best as he navigated decades in a business that’s part athletics, part theater and part traveling carnival.
Years ago he made friends with the late wrestling icon, Andre the Giant. Keirn was new to the business when they first hit it off.
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"I had his boots on. He wore size 22 shoes," laughed Keirn.
There’s also the story of Keirn and a former schoolmate who kept bugging him.
"He was like, ‘hey Steve, get me into the wrestling business.’ I told him he would never make any money in it," Keirn said.
The schoolmate, Terry Bollea, would later become Hulk Hogan. They still laugh about it today.
"When everything gets relaxed he’ll go. ‘Go ask Steve if I’m going to make any money doing this,’" smiles Keirn.
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He was hired first by Eddie Graham, who ran Championship Wrestling from Florida. CWF’s heyday came in the 1970s with stars like Dusty Rhodes and Jack Brisco.
They traveled almost constantly by car to venues around the state.
A life in the wrestling ring was where Keirn landed as he tried to find his way in life. His father, an Air Force pilot, was shot down over Vietnam and spent years as a POW.
"From 13 to 21, I went without a dad. It wasn't until I was 50 and accepted Christ as my savior that I realized I had a dad the whole time. Jesus carried me on his shoulders," said Keirn.
He says he never set out to be a father figure to the dozens of young wrestlers he taught in a developmental school for WWE. Still, many say Keirn’s guidance was key.
"Steve would always say strip down to your underwear and look in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, figure out what to work on," says TJ Wilson, a former wrestler and student of Keirn's. Now, he's in charge of WWE’s women’s matches.
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"Steve was a guiding force," says WWE Superstar Natalya Neidhart. "He made such a difference in our lives,"
Keirn says he could have taught his students a thousand wrestling holds, but that wasn’t the most important thing.
"I taught them about respect, I taught them about appreciation, I taught them about taking care of others," Keirn said.
For the guy who wrote the book, the real championship belt wraps around respect for the people in the unique business like no other.