TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Steve Keirn’s career in professional wrestling spanned four decades – a total of 44 years associated with the best in sports entertainment.
On Friday a group of his contemporaries – led by former Hillsborough County Commissioner/wrestler Brian Blair – honored the Robinson High graduate with a ‘Legends Luncheon’ in north Tampa.
It was in Tampa after all where Keirn was first introduced to professional wrestling.
“Any time you’re being honored, it’s an honor,” joked the 65-year-old former grappler. “I consider myself blessed to be recognized by these guys.”
The son of an Air Force fighter pilot – Colonel Richard Keirn – Steve’s family moved around a lot. They set up roots when Colonel Keirn was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, Steve was in 6th grade. He soon became fast friends with Mike Graham, the son of the local wrestling promoter Eddie Graham.
“My dad was shot down over Vietnam and was in a prisoner of war camp from the time I was 13 until I was 21,” Keirn recalled. “Being friends with Mike and being around him a lot, Eddie kind of took me into their family, gave me odd jobs.”
Among those in attendance for Friday’s event names and faces familiar to anyone that watched Championship Wrestling from Florida with Gordon Solie in the 1970s and 1980s. Wrestling legends Buddy Colt, Cowboy Ron Bass, Ronnie ‘Hands of Stone’ Garvin, ‘Leaping’ Lanny Poffo, The Cuban Assassin, Rusty Brooks and Fred ‘Tugboat’ Ottman – the son-in-law of the late great Dusty ‘The American Dream’ Rhodes.
Blair hosted the gathering and served as the emcee and talked about how Keirn helped him get started in the business.
“I would carry his bags into the [Fort Homer Hesterly] Armory,” Blair explained. “I didn’t have much money, so Steve would get me in with him and then tell me to scram so I didn’t have to pay.”
During his career in the ring, Keirn flourished as a part of several well-known tag teams. He and Mike Graham paired up to win a slew of regional titles in the Southeast. He also teamed up with the likes of Jimmy Garvin, former WWE champion Bob Backlund and Kevin Sullivan.
Tampa native Mike Davis – AKA Bugsy McGraw – was a well-established performer in the industry when Keirn first arrived on the scene.
“Late 70s, early 80s he was a real up and coming star,” McGraw said. “He and Mike Graham spent a lot of time together in those days and they both did very well for themselves.”
Keirn eventually took his skills to Memphis, Tennessee where he hooked up with Stan Lane to form one of the most successful and popular tag teams of the ‘80s – the Fabulous Ones. The allure of the ‘Fabs’ was Keirn and Lane’s matinee-idol good looks, charisma, athleticism and precision teamwork.
The pairing lasted for seven years.
“I look back at those days, the videos, the ring attire and it’s like looking at your old high school yearbook pictures,” said Keirn. “Some of the things we did with the ‘Fabulous Ones’ were considering kind of edgy for the times……it was a roll of the dice where they were either going to love us or they were going to hate us.”
A few years later Keirn joined Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment where he performed under the monikers ‘Skinner’ and ‘Doink the Clown.’ When he retired from active ring duty, he began training the WWE’s future stars – guys like John Cena and Bray Wyatt.
Back when he started did Keirn have any idea his career would last as long as it did?
Keirn:”Like any young person doing crazy things, you wonder I am going to make it to 30, then it’s am I going to make it to 40, then 50 and now here I am 65 and I feel great.”
He still watches the matches but he’s spending a lot more time with his four grandchildren and in order to ‘keep his mind sharp,’ Keirn is learning a foreign language and is taking electric guitar lessons.