Exclusive interview: 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin on his popular podcast and if he'll ever wrestle again
It’s been 11 years since “Stone Cold” Steve Austin — arguably the most popular Superstar in WWE history — wrestled his last match, but The Texas Rattlesnake is still “taking a swig of beer for the working man” in the form of his popular podcast, “The Steve Austin Show.” He’s traded Steveweisers for Sierra Nevada IPAs, and has charmed a whole new generation of fans with his uniquely addictive cadence. “Stone Cold” is still telling people the bottom line, but now it’s about deer season at the Broken Skull Ranch, 316 Gimmick Street in Marina del Rey, Calif., and Hershey the Wonder Dog.
On Dec. 1, 2014, Austin will interview his longtime boss and rival Mr. McMahon during a live podcast on WWE Network. But first, WWE.com turned the tables by asking “Stone Cold” the questions. In an exclusive conversation, Austin speaks about the favorite episodes of his podcast, what questions he wants The Chairman to answer, and the one thing everybody wants to know: if he’ll ever wrestle again.
WWE.COM: How did your podcast, “The Steve Austin Show,” get started?
STEVE AUSTIN: Man, I tell you what. I’d wanted to start a podcast for about a year or so, but I’m not very good with technology and made no progress. The folks at PodcastOne called my agents. They were looking for someone to start a show that could move a needle. For all those years doing Monday Night Raw every week with WWE, that was my creative outlet. I had a blast living life on the road and being a man of the squared circle and telling stories, but I missed engaging with the fans that I worked so long and hard to entertain. So I started the podcast not for the money, but as a creative outlet for whatever goes on inside my brain.
WWE.COM: How do you decide on the format for your show?
AUSTIN: I’m Type A and a little bit ADD, so my show is very loosely formatted from one day to the next. It’s a clustermuck, to put it in a family-friendly way. I do two shows every week. The Tuesday show is family-friendly and the Thursday Unleashed show is explicit content. I never know what it’s gonna be, because I don’t make long-term plans. I don’t have this thing booked out three months in advance. Sometimes I’ll call a guy the day before the podcast drops and ask them if they wanna do it. That’s how my brain works, so that’s how the show works for me. If I’m on the go, I take my mobile recorder and I carry two microphones with me at all times. It’s very easy to facilitate.
WWE.COM: What has surprised you about the podcast medium?
AUSTIN: I went into the studio for my first test podcast with nothing, because I’m a guy that can ad-lib at just about anything. I thought I could fill up 60 minutes of content with no notes. We hit the record button, I started talking, and I hit the wall at eight minutes. I was like, “Holy [crap], this is a little bit different than I thought it was gonna be.” So I did some research, put some thoughts together and did a 45-minute rant throwing everything at fans, including the kitchen sink. It’s like “Enter Action with Boldness” from “The 48 Laws of Power.” I’ve followed that up every single week with the attitude, swagger and presentation that “Stone Cold” had during my run in WWE. I’m Steve Austin and I tell it like it is.
WWE.COM: How is doing a podcast different than talking on a microphone in WWE?
AUSTIN: Interviewing somebody is a lot different than being handed a stick in a 20,000-seat arena and trying to sell tickets. You’re very green when you start. I’m still learning things to this day. I’m decent at interviews now, but man, getting people to buy tickets is the easiest thing in the world for me. We’ve already set the hook, so I’m on cruise control. For the openings of my show, I’m sitting at my house with a Zoom H4n Recorder and a Shure microphone and I stop and start up to 15 or 70 or more times, because I didn’t feel like the material was good enough. What I love about podcasting is it’s guerilla radio. I don’t have to stick to anybody’s protocol or format. I can operate my show just like I want to, but at the end of the day, it’s just a can of audio whoopa**. My show is built to entertain.
WWE.COM: Was there one particular interview where you felt like you were really getting the hang of interviewing a guest and were getting your stride?
AUSTIN: Mick Foley came by the house, and he’s a longtime friend of mine. We used to travel together in WCW and a little bit in WWE. Mick’s a talker anyway, but he’s a guy who’s genuine and we actually are friends. We’re both very frugal with the dollar, both like to work our a**es off and we both like to laugh, so it’s just pure organic conversation. I’ve been very proud of a lot of interviews, but that was one that I’m most proud of.
WWE.COM: Was there one particular interview that was particularly enlightening for you?
AUSTIN: Talking with Ken Shamrock was almost a one-way conversation. I knew Ken was a tough guy, one of the toughest in the world at one time and still tough as nails. I went to Ken Shamrock’s house right outside Reno, Nev., and was sitting in his living room when he started to tell me a story. I had heard he had a tough background, but there are two times in that interview when I teared up. I’m “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and I didn’t cry, but I teared up. Ken saw me, and he almost started tearing up, too. I’d never experienced anything like that. To hear some of the things that he went through, my jaw was on the floor. We tried to talk a little bit about UFC, but I was so devastated about what I’d heard about his upbringing, I was drained. It was incredible. Ken was so honest sharing that story with me.
WWE.COM: You talk a lot about performers that current WWE fans might not know, like Bobby Eaton and Doug Furnas. Is one of your goals with the podcast to educate fans on some guys they might not know?
AUSTIN: I talk about things I’m passionate about. I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to Bobby Eaton yet, but I want to. I talk about the wrestling business, because I love wrestling. I just love it. Ricky Morton was a huge star back in the day, but a lot of people don’t really know who he is, unless you’re a hardcore wrestling fan who knows The Rock ’n’ Roll Express should be in the WWE Hall of Fame. I love talking to him, or a guy like “Superstar” Bill Dundee, who drew money and was 5-foot-7, 210 lbs. They were big influences on my life and had a drastic impact on my career. If I can just have good conversation with a guy who was a bada** wrestler, we’re talking about something that’s very near and dear to our heart.
WWE.COM: On your show, you’ve done interviews and commentary on your most famous matches, and some more free-form episodes, like one where you wrestled a fly in a hotel room. What are your favorite types of episodes to do?
AUSTIN: I enjoyed breaking down my matches, because wrestling fans really like to know what I’m actually thinking, and why certain things needed to happen at a certain time. But when I wrestled that fly, I was down in Mexico filming season two of “Redneck Island.” I was in a five-star hotel and my room was 4,000 square feet full of marble and granite, but I did not have access to the Internet, because a storm had come through and it was down. I went down the lobby and a fly landed on my ear. And then it landed on my nose. So I thought, “Why don’t I do a show where the fly lands on my microphone and I start talking to it?” And then I went into Gordon Solie mode, and I did it all ad-libbed in one take. I don’t know where I’ll push the envelope next.
WWE.COM: No one in the WWE.com office called anybody a “cat” until we heard you saying it. When did you start doing that?
AUSTIN: [Laughs] Oh man, I’ve been using “cat” for people forever! I might’ve got that from my younger brother, Kevin. He’s the one who gave me, “Catch you down the road.” Kevin’s 10 months younger than me, and he used to drive to the Dallas Sportatorium to see me wrestle on Saturday mornings when I started. He’s my biggest fan.
WWE.COM: Is there a difference between the “Stone Cold” Steve Austin that fans know and the Steve Austin we hear on “The Steve Austin Show”?
AUSTIN: If there was an intensity scale, “Stone Cold” had the knob turned up to 10, but the podcast has enabled people to see an entirely different side of Steve Austin. When I go to a meeting in Los Angeles, people think I’m going to be mad or aggressive, because they think they know “Stone Cold.” But when Steve Austin is pitched an idea, I’m pretty damn quiet and listening intensely. By using my sense of humor, I’ve been able to break through a barrier that people thought I was always serious all the time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a very serious person, but I don’t take myself very seriously and I would rather laugh all day than argue.
WWE.COM: Now that you’re entering people’s eardrums with your podcast every week, chatter about your in-ring return has reached a fever pitch. Is there any part of you that wishes the rumors would die down?
AUSTIN: That’s all just chatter, because you never hear me on the podcast selling myself in a match. Hulk Hogan’s trying to stir a matchup, calling me a coward. A lot of what I say breaks over into the mainstream, but I don’t ever want to sell a match that I cannot deliver, because I wouldn’t be living up to my word.
WWE.COM: Point blank, is there any chance we’ll see the black trunks and black boots anytime in the near or distant future?
AUSTIN: As we speak right now, no.
WWE.COM: What is the one thing you want Mr. McMahon to have to answer on your live podcast on WWE Network?
AUSTIN: Nothing is off limits. There’s a line that I won’t cross, but that’s for my standards — nothing that WWE has told me. There are many things I’d like to ask him. I’d like to know what’s going on with CM Punk. I’d like to know how Daniel Bryan’s health is. I’d like to know whose idea it was in Atlanta [that made me] take my ball and go home in 2002. I reacted the worst way possible, but I want to know who came up with that masterpiece of an idea. Guys like me come along very seldom in the wrestling business. You can count ’em on a couple of fingers.