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Opportunity Stage - Why cannot I remove it or set a default?

This is something that astounds me. Can someonn tell me if there is a way around?

Requirement: Opportunity Stage is set depending on bunch of 9 other picklist values (basically the rep picks the things that are done, and this in turn feeds/computes the stage).

Problem: Stage is a required field. Record cannot be saved without a value in it. Workflow field update and before triggers do not work.

Simple workaround: Set the default value of the stage on creation to the first stage. BUT this is not possible as stage default value cannot be set!!!!!Only scenario where an opportunity’s stage can be set by default is when doing a lead conversion. 

This is just unbelievable. Help!

PS: I have multiple record types for multple sales process.

Message Edited by witoutme247 on 01-13-2010 04:21 AM
Try a workflow rule which automatically sets the Opp stage to a particular value after the save is clicked. Hope it helps!!!
I've already tried that - it doesn't work. There is a standard validation rule that kicks in and stop the record from being saved. WIll I have to write a VF page just to do this? Anybody?
I'm having the same problem.  Please let me know if you've found a workaround over the last 5 years.  Salesforce refuses to listen to their user community on several issues including this one.