Debra, Debra, Debra — The female face of the Attitude Era
It’s all about the puppies!!!
Debra Gale Marshall (born March 2, 1960) (formerly McMichael and Williams) is an American actress, and retired professional wrestling valet. Well known by her ring name Debra, she is notable for her appearances with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as Queen Debra between 1995 and 1998 and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as Debra between 1998 and 2002. She began her career in professional wrestling in 1995, accompanying her husband Steve “Mongo” McMichael to the ring in World Championship Wrestling (WCW).
She joined the WWF in 1998, where she managed the tag team of Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart, until the evening of Hart’s in-ring death in May 1999. She won the WWF Women’s Championship from Sable in an Evening Gown match in 1999. She later appeared on-screen with her second husband Stone Cold Steve Austin until 2002, when the duo left the company. Marshall has also attended the prestigious Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York. She graduated from the University of Alabama with honors (Cum Laude) and as of 2013 was pursuing her master’s degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama.
Raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Marshall became a track-runner, cheerleader, and Homecoming Queen in high schoolbefore attending the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York City. She then became a flight attendant. Before her involvement in wrestling, she competed and won the title of 1987 Mrs. Illinois America in Elgin, Illinois and went on to compete in the Mrs. America pageant that same year in Las Vegas, Nevada. She later competed and won in the 1992 Mrs. Texas USA pageant held in Houston, Texas and went on to compete in the National Mrs. USA pageant. Marshall also attended the University of Alabama.
Professional wrestling career
World Championship Wrestling (1995–1997)
Marshall first appeared in WCW in late-1995 and early-1996, making occasional unnamed appearances as an audience plant, and as part of a group of valets for the team of Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. In April 1996, she began appearing regularly as a valet for her husband announcer Steve “Mongo” McMichaelas he transitioned to competing as a wrestler. Based on her real-life participation in beauty pageants, Debra took on the role of a beauty-pageant queen character, giving herself the nickname “The Queen of WCW” and often making remarks about other wrestlers and valets in kayfabe interviews.
At The Great American Bash 1996, Steve McMichael and his partner Kevin Greene competed against two of the Four Horsemen (Ric Flair and Arn Anderson). Flair won the match after Mongo and Debra turned on Greene by hitting him with a steel briefcase, joining the Horsemen. The briefcase later became one of Debra’s signature objects. At Bash at the Beach in July 1997, Debra turned on Mongo during his WCW United States Heavyweight Championship match against Jeff Jarrettby handing Jarrett the steel briefcase, which he then used to knock Mongo out and thus to win the match. Next, Debra briefly managed Goldberg and Alex Wright. On the November 24th, 1997 edition of Nitro, Wright fired Debra after she accidentally distracted him, causing a loss to Prince Iaukea. After her divorce from McMichael, Debra joined the WWF.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
Manager of Jeff Jarrett; Women’s Champion (1998–1999)
In 1998, Marshall rejoined Jarrett in the WWF. At the beginning of her WWF career, known simply as Debra, she played the part of a shrewd businesswoman, wearing business suits. She also played the part of Jarrett’s girlfriend. In late 1998, Jarrett began a feud with Goldust that culminated in December at Rock Bottom: In Your House in a “Striptease match.” During the match, Debra hit Goldust over the head with Jarrett’s trademark guitar, enabling Jarrett to win. WWF Commissioner Shawn Michaels, however, disqualified Jarrett, and Debra had to strip due to the match’s stipulations. As she stripped, The Blue Blazer and Jarrett covered her up. Debra, however, began utilizing a new strategy during matches, distracting Jarrett’s opponents by unbuttoning her blouse. She would willingly take off her blouse to show the crowd her “puppies,” a nickname originally bestowed upon her chest by wrestler Road Dogg and later utilized by commentator Jerry Lawler.
The strategy helped Jarrett and partner Hart defeat The Big Boss Man and Ken Shamrock to become World Tag Team Champions in January 1999. In February, Debra feuded with female professional wrestler Ivory, and Jarrett and Hart retained the tag title in a tag match against Ivory’s associates Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In March, the team lost their tag title to the team of Kane and X-Pac. As Debra continued to manage Jarrett and Hart, a potential storyline developed where Hart and Debra would have an affair, but the creative team vetoed the idea before it played out on-screen. A team name was also in the works — Debra favoring “Talent and Attitude” (T&A) — but Hart died in May 1999 at Over the Edge. Later in the event, Debra and Jarrett lost a mixed tag team match against Nicole Bass and Val Venis. Debra and Jarrett were interviewed moments after Hart’s fall from the rafters at Kemper Arena, where Debra was noticeably shaken and fighting back tears of concern for her friend, and was unable to stay in her persona.
On May 10, 1999, Debra won the Women’s Championship from Sable in an Evening Gown match. Usually, in an Evening Gown match, the woman who forcibly removes her opponent’s dress wins. Because Sable removed Debra’s dress, she therefore should have been the winner. Commissioner Shawn Michaels, however, ruled that he considered the woman who had lost her dress the winner, crowning Debra the new Women’s Champion. Debra lost the Women’s Title to Ivory on June 14, due to interference from Nicole Bass.
At SummerSlam in 1999 Jarrett faced D’Lo Brown. During the match, Debra and Brown’s former tag-team partner Mark Henry interfered on Jarrett’s behalf, allowing him to win both the European Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. The following night, Jarrett awarded Henry the European title and gave Debra an assistant, Miss Kitty. At Unforgiven on September 26, Debra turned on Jarrett and hit him over the head with a guitar in the middle of his match against Chyna for the Intercontinental Championship. Chyna pinned Jarrett, but referee Tom Prichard overturned the decision due to Debra’s involvement.
Sporadic appearances (1999–2002)
Debra appeared sporadically thereafter, but she participated in an eight-women Sudden Death match at Survivor Series in 1999 where she teamed with The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, and Tori. Debra stayed off television while her new real-life husband Stone Cold Steve Austin recovered from neck surgery. She reappeared in April 2000, acting as a guest ring announcer at Backlash. In the fall of that year she played the role of Lieutenant Commissioner, the assistant of Commissioner Mick Foley.
Debra resigned as Lieutenant Commissioner on the March 5 episode of Raw to pursue managing again, while it was revealed on-screen that she was the wife of Stone Cold. Mr. McMahon gave her the duty of managing The Rock, who at the time was feuding with Stone Cold. In 2001, she appeared sporadically thereafter, leaving the company in June 2002 with Austin.
Before becoming involved in wrestling, Marshall studied acting in Texas. Her first acting jobs involved commercials and two music videos for country musician George Strait. She also had a small role in the 1994 film Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation as a policewoman. The producers originally offered her the lead in the film, but when the director’s first choice changed her mind and accepted the role, Marshall was given the small role instead.
On March 10, 2002, Marshall appeared on an episode of The Weakest Link alongside several other members of the WWE roster. In addition, she has a role in the 2010 film Gathering of Heroes.
Marshall’s marriage to National Football League alumnus and professional wrestler Steve McMichael lasted thirteen years. McMichael’s mother, whom Marshall met on an airplane, set up their first meeting as a blind date. They divorced on October 12, 1998.
Debra met Steve Williams, known on-screen as Stone Cold Steve Austin, in 1998; they moved in together in 2000. On September 13 of that year, they married at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, and she changed her name to Debra Williams. On June 15, 2002, police responded to a call to the couple’s residence in San Antonio, Texas, and found Debra with bruises and a bloody nose. On August 14, the authorities arrested Austin and charged him with misdemeanor assault. He pleaded no contest on November 25 and received a year’s probation, a $1,000 fine, and an order to carry out eighty hours of community service. Austin filed for divorce from Marshall on July 22, 2002, and the divorce was finalized on February 5, 2003. Marshall later auctioned her wedding ring off on eBay for $27,100 and donated a portion of the proceeds to “Safe Place,” an organization which assists the victims of domestic abuse.
In June and July 2007, Marshall made several appearances to discuss the Chris Benoit double murder and suicide.
She described steroids and drugs as the cause of Austin hitting her in June 2002 and suggested links between such substances and the death of Benoit and his family. She also alleged that Austin beat her three times.