"Dr. Death" Steve Williams
Steve Williams
Birth name Steven Williams
Born May 14, 1960(1960-05-14)
Lakewood, Colorado, United States
Died December 29, 2009(2009-12-29) (aged 49)
Denver, Colorado, United States
Cause of death Throat cancer
Alma mater University of Oklahoma
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Steve Williams
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight 285 lb (129 kg)
Billed from Norman, Oklahoma
Trained By Bill Watts
Buddy Landel
Debut 1982
Retired 2009


Steven "Steve" Williams (May 14, 1960 – December 29, 2009), better known by his ring name "Dr. Death" Steve Williams, was an American professional wrestler, author and former star of collegiate football and wrestling at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Death was a three-time world heavyweight champion, having won the UWF World Heavyweight Championship twice and the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship once. In addition to his singles success, Dr. Death Steve Williams achieved notoriety in Japan in tag team competition, winning the World Tag Team Championship eight times with notable tag team partners Terry Gordy, Gary Albright, Vader, and Johnny Ace. He also achieved great tag team success in North America, winning tag team titles in the Mid-South, World Championship Wrestling, UWF and NWA United States Tag Team Championship as well as winning the World's Strongest Tag Determination League twice with Gordy and Mike Rotunda.[1][2]

Early life Edit

Williams attended Lakewood High School in Colorado, graduating in 1978. He was on the track team, played football, and wrestled all four years. Williams graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1981 after a football career that saw him named an All-American. He 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 and was jokingly labeled "Dr. Death" by one of his school's coaches.

Professional wrestling career Edit

Early years (1982–1987) Edit

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).

Unpinned in North America for a decade (1987–1997) Edit

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. Williams went to All Japan Pro Wrestling where he formed a tag team with Terry Gordy called The Miracle Violence Connection. They went on to win the WCW World Tag Team Championship from The Steiner Brothers. 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.

During the 1990s, Williams continued to work for All Japan Pro Wrestling and became a main eventer for the company, making him one of the most successful foreign athletes in Japanese wrestling history. 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. 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 ECW Crossing the Line Again, thus ending his unpinned streak in North America, which lasted since March 26, 1987.

Later years (1998–2004) Edit

In 1998, Williams was signed by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) prior to the "Brawl for All" competition which was set up in legitimate fights. He entered the competition and was expected to win it due to his reputation as one of the toughest men in the wrestling business. However, after beating Pierre Carl Ouellet in the first round, he faced Bart Gunn in the semifinals and suffered a torn hamstring. Gunn then knocked out Williams, who missed several months following the injury. Following the event, 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. Jim Cornette later said that because of how his WWF career had gone he had legitimate bad feelings toward his longtime friend Ross, whom he blamed for the entire thing; Williams was being groomed by Vince McMahon as a possible contender for the WWF Championship that was in the possession of Stone Cold Steve Austin during the Brawl for All tournament.

In 1999, Williams 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, 1999, edition of WCW Monday Nitro in a steel cage match. He went back to All Japan Pro Wrestling in 2002 and 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. This proved to be his first and only professional fight.[3]

Cancer, return to wrestling, and retirement (2004–2009) Edit

In 2004, Williams underwent surgery for throat cancer and was declared cancer-free the next year. He 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.

Later, he made appearances for Oklahoma-based independent federation Sooner World Class Wrestling (SWCW).[4] He also worked for Southwest Airlines in Colorado.[5]

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 American 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.[6] His final match was held on October 25 in Tokyo.

Books Edit

Steve Williams: How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life Sports Publishing LLC

Death Edit

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.[7] He was 49 years old.

Mixed martial arts record Edit

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 0–1 Alexey Ignashov KO (knees) K-1 Beast 2004 in Niigata March 14, 2004 1 0:22 Niigata, Japan

In wrestling Edit

  • Finishing moves
    • Backdrop Driver[1] (Spike belly to back suplex)[8]
    • Doctor Bomb[1] (Gutwrench powerbomb)
    • Oklahoma Stampede[1][9] – Innovated
  • Signature moves
    • Belly to belly superplex[10]
    • Corner clothesline[9]
    • Front powerslam[8]
    • Military press slam[8][11]
    • Scoop powerslam[9]
    • Short-arm clothesline[8]
    • Spinning toe hold[8]
    • Three-point stance tackle[8][10]
  • Managers
  • Nicknames
    • "Dr. Death"[1]
  • Entrance themes
    • "Boomer Sooner" by Arthur M. Alden (WCW)[9]
    • "I Love It Loud" by KISS (AJPW)
    • "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen (NJPW)
    • "Bad to the Bone" by George Thorogood (UWF)

Championships and accomplishments Edit

  • All Japan Pro Wrestling
  • International Wrestling Association of Japan
  • NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling2
    • NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[17]
  • Mid-South Wrestling Association/Universal Wrestling Federation
    • Mid-South Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Ted DiBiase[18]
    • UWF World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[19]
    • UWF World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ted DiBiase[20]
  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated
    • PWI Most Improved Wrestler of the Year (1985)
    • PWI Tag Team of the Year (1992) with Terry Gordy
    • PWI ranked him #8 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the year in the PWI 500 in 1991.
    • PWI ranked him #78 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003[21]
  • Pro Wrestling This Week
    • Wrestler of the Week (July 19–25, 1987)[22]
  • Universal Wrestling Federation (Herb Abrams)
    • UWF SportsChannel Television Championship (1 time)
    • UWF World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • World Championship Wrestling
    • NWA United States Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Kevin Sullivan[23]
    • WCW World Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Mike Rotunda (1) and Terry Gordy (1)[24]
    • NWA World Tag Team Championship Tournament (1992) – Terry Gordy
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
    • 5 Star Match (1993) vs. Kenta Kobashi on August 31
    • 5 Star Match (1995) with Johnny Ace vs. Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi on March 4
    • 5 Star Match (1996) with Johnny Ace vs. Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama on June 7 in Tokyo, Japan
    • Match of the Year (1996) with Johnny Ace vs. Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama on June 7 in Tokyo, Japan
    • Most Improved (1985)
    • Rookie of the Year (1982)
    • Tag Team of the Year (1992) with Terry Gordy
    • Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2011)[25]

1 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.
2 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.

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 ""Dr. Death" Steve Williams". WWE. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  2. "Wrestling legend Steve Williams passes away.". Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  3. MMA profile on Sherdog
  4. Adam Lash. "Oklahoma Wrestling News and Results featuring Steve Williams vs. Butch Reed". Newswire. Indy Wrestling News. Archived from the original on May 28, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2009.
  5. "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.
  6. Schramm, Chris. ""Dr. Death" Steve Williams dead at 49". Slam! Sports. Archived from the original on November 17, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  7. Gerweck, Steve (December 30, 2009). "Dr. Death Steve Williams passes away". Wrestle View. Retrieved December 30, 2009.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 "Nitro report on December 6, 1999".
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Nitro report on November 29, 1999".
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Starrcade report on December 19, 1999".
  11. "Thunder report on December 2, 1999".
  12. (2009) WWE Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley, 287. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0. 
  13. AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Title history] At
  14. AJPW World Tag Team Title history At
  16. IWA World Tag Team Title (IWA Japan) history At
  17. NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title history At
  18. Mid-South Tag Team Title history At
  19. UWF World Heavyweight Title (Mid-South) history At
  20. UWF World Tag Team Title (Mid-South) history At
  21. "Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI Years". Wrestling Information Archive. Retrieved 2010-09-15.
  22. Pedicino, Joe; Solie, Gordon (hosts) (July 25, 1987). "Pro Wrestling This Week". Superstars of Wrestling. Atlanta, Georgia. Syndicated. WATL. 
  23. NWA/WCW United States Tag Team Title history At
  24. WCW World Tag Team Title history At
  25. 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.