Debra Gale Marshall (March 2, 1960) is an American actress and former professional wrestling manager and WWE Diva. Arguably best known by her ring name, Debra, she gained recognition for her appearances with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) 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, up until the evening of Hart's in-ring death in May 1999. Weeks prior to the accident, she had won the WWF Women's Championship from Sable in an Evening Gown match. She later appeared on-screen with her second husband Stone Cold Steve Austin until 2002, when the duo left the company. In addition to her wrestling career, Marshall has had small acting roles and formerly competed in beauty pageants.
Raised in West Blocton, Alabama, Marshall became a track-runner, cheerleader, and Homecoming Queen in high school before attending the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in New York. She then became a flight attendant. Before her involvement in wrestling she competed in beauty pageants, winning Miss Illinois.
Professional wrestling career
World Championship Wrestling (1995–1997)
Marshall was first seen 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. She was first acknowledged by name in April 1996 as Debra McMichael, the real-life wife of Nitro announcer Steve "Mongo" McMichael, and soon began appearing regularly as a valet for her husband as he transitioned to competing as a wrestler.
Based on her real-life participation in beauty pageants, Debra was portrayed as a beauty pageant queen character, giving herself the nickname "The Queen of WCW" and often making bitchy comments about other wrestlers and valets in (kayfabe) interviews.
At The Great American Bash 1996, Steve McMichael and his partner Kevin Greene competed against 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 Jarrett by handing Jarrett the steel briefcase, which he then used to knock Mongo out and thus win the match. Next, Debra briefly managed Goldberg and Alex Wright. After her divorce from McMichael, Debra joined the WWF.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment (1998–2002)
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 (Owen Hart) 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 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.
Meanwhile, the marriage became incorporated into on-screen storylines, and on an episode of Raw, Stone Cold and Debra took on Matt Hardy and Lita. Debra and Lita fought outside the ring until Stone Cold pinned Hardy to win the match. She appeared sporadically thereafter, and left 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. She also appeared in Just Another Romantic Wrestling Comedy as "Jenny". 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 ten 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 6 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 pled 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 and donated a portion of the proceeds ($27,100) 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 Stone Cold 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. Marshall told Fox News that WWE put a gag order on her so she would not reveal that Stone Cold hit her, as it would cost the company millions of dollars.
- Finishers & Signatures
- High Speed Slap
- Stunner (adopted from " Stone Cold" Steve Austin)
- Wrestlers managed