"Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels & Bret "Hit Man" Hart talk WWE Network
As much as WWE Network will be a godsend to WWE fans who have dreamed of having the entirety of sports-entertainment at their beck and call, it holds an even greater significance with the Superstars who made it all possible.
In the weeks leading up to WWE Network’s Feb. 24, 2014, launch, WWE.com's Joey Styles spoke with three integral pieces of the WWE puzzle — “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Shawn Michaels and Bret “Hit Man” Hart — to better understand the impact this milestone achievement has had on them.
WWE.COM: Shawn and Steve, you were there for the announcement of WWE Network in Las Vegas. What was that like for you both?
“STONE COLD” STEVE AUSTIN: I was actually a bit [ticked] off that I had to be there, because I had just gotten back from Texas, I was out of shape, I hadn’t really unpacked my bags from being at the ranch for two months. But I was so proud and happy that I went. Way back in the day when I started out in 1990, I would have never envisioned that the business would ever turn to this or someone would have the vision to do it. Vince McMahon was standing right in front of me, about two feet away, and I slapped him on the back two times and I said, “That’s impressive.” And I left that thing being extremely impressed with what WWE has come up with now.
SHAWN MICHAELS: Every time you think that the business can’t expand any more than it has, here we are again talking about something that’s going to be in perpetuity. Long after we’re dead and gone, WWE Network will still be up and people will be able to look back and watch us. That was big for us.
AUSTIN: As [Shawn, Triple H and I] parted ways back in the dressing room, it was three guys with tears in their eyes. We were proud of WWE and the sacrifice and the bodies of work that all the guys before us put in to make this happen.
WWE.COM: Bret, what was your reaction when you first heard about WWE Network?
BRET “HIT MAN” HART: I think this is one of those things that nobody could have ever imagined. It may be the greatest gift to fans that WWE has ever given.
WWE.COM: What’s the first thing you’ll watch when WWE Network launches?
HART: To be honest, I’d love to go back and watch a lot of [King Kong] Bundy’s matches. I miss guys like Bundy. There’s just not a guy like Bundy in wrestling today, you know? Even guys like Jake “The Snake” [Roberts]. I look back at my career and I go, “What a shame, I never wrestled Jake “The Snake” one time.” It’s too bad we never got to work at least one match.
MICHAELS: Like a lot of people, I’m curious to see WrestleMania XXX and how that will work. That’s a big moment. Live, streaming video of our biggest event. After that, I’ll probably go back and look at stuff that I’ve forgotten about. Every now and then, people will tweet, “Do you remember this?” or “What happened when this happened?” These are events that I’ve totally forgotten about. There’s a lot that I’ve taken for granted or sincerely forgotten about and I need to go back.
HART: I want to go back and look at a bunch of my SummerSlam matches. For me, those were some of my best matches.
AUSTIN: Oh man, there was a match that I had with the guy who trained me, Gentleman Chris Adams. It was a “Comes As You Are” Match where you would go into your background and bring that to the ring. Well, Chris had a background in Judo, so he wore a gi. I just got done playing football at North Texas State University, so I wore my wrestling tights, shoulder pads, my jersey from North Texas State University and helmet. And I’ll be damned if we didn’t have the most entertaining match in The Sportatorium. And although I can look back at it now and pick it apart, I’m really proud of it for having such a creative and fun match with a guy who broke me in and helped me out so much. And that helped me win Rookie of the Year in Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 1990.
MICHAELS: One that I particularly like that doesn’t get a lot of fanfare was my Intercontinental Title Match with “Double J” Jeff Jarrett in Nashville [at In Your House 2: The Lumberjacks]. I thought it was a good, fun match. Another one that I think about is the one I had with Randy Orton where I couldn’t use Sweet Chin Music [from Survivor Series 2007]. Not being able to use my signature move caused me to wrestle in a way that I didn’t traditionally wrestle. It’s one of those things that might mean more to me than anybody else, but the psychology going into that one was pretty cool. And I’ll always talk about the one with Mick [Foley] at [In Your House 10: Mind Games]. That one gets a fair amount of talk now, but it flew under the radar for a long time.
HART: One for sure would be the Bob Backlund Survivor Series  match, where I lost the title with my brother Owen’s meddling. It’s such an interesting story to the match. All the intricacies of Davey’s part, my mom’s part, Owen’s part. It’s just a really great match that people forget all about.
WWE.COM: What former Superstars do you hope WWE fans will discover on WWE Network?
MICHAELS: Oh, my goodness, probably more than one that I can mention or even recall. When I was young, I imagined myself in the mold of guys like Eddie Mansfield, Austin Idol, Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham. Those guys, in my time, were remarkable.
HART: You know, Jerry Lawler is one of those kinds of guys. I don’t think people realize now, but Jerry was such a great villain. He was such a mastermind. I can remember the Kiss My Foot Match I had with him at King of the Ring . It was just kind of a thrown together — I don’t remember ever putting much thought into the match. But I remember it kind of saved the pay-per-view. I remember Vince saying, “If it wasn’t for the Kiss My Foot Match, we had nothing really, and you saved the show.” And I credit Jerry. He was just a masterful villain back then.
AUSTIN: Go back and look at some Michael P.S. Hayes stuff with The Fabulous Freebirds — one of my favorite teams of all time. I paid my hard-earned money going down to The Sportatorium and watching those guys wrestle The Von Erichs. And when Michael Hayes came out with that Confederate flag robe on with all those sequins and that blond hair and that beard just shining in the damn spotlight, it was worth the price of admission alone.
There's something to learn from each and every single match.WWE.COM: Do you envy the current generation of Superstars who have the entire history of sports-entertainment readily available to them?
HART: I don’t think they even know the power of that yet. For me, one of the key things to being a great wrestler is being a great fan. I was always a great fan all my life, and I continue to be a great fan.
MICHAELS: WWE Network is going to be a resource that’s practically bottomless. Before I retired, I can remember a person like Sheamus coming to me and asking me questions. I’ve never been a big guy, so I didn’t feel comfortable giving him one-sided advice. I encouraged him to talk to Arn Anderson, talk to Triple H, talk to guys who worked in that range of power. Those individuals aren’t always going to be around to ask, so WWE Network is going to be a big asset.
AUSTIN: You have to eat, sleep, live and breathe this business to be successful. That’s what I did and that’s what almost all the guys who were very successful did. For today’s Superstars, you’ve got 100,000 hours of the greatest matches and worst matches that ever took place at your fingertips. There’s something to learn from each and every single match you watch — the good stuff and the bad stuff.
MICHAELS: That’s one of the things I enjoyed when I first started out in the territories, you can watch so many guys and so many styles and take a bit from each one and all of a sudden you’ve got a style of your own. That’s something I think folks would argue is needed today. Now, you can go back and look through darn near anything, which I think is a valuable asset.
WWE.COM: This is a lot more than just a network to you guys, isn’t it?
HART: It really is. I remember thinking after the whole thing with Vince that my whole legacy, my whole history, every match I ever had, was going to get locked up in some little warehouse somewhere, and no one will ever see them. They’ll just kind of bury who I was, and over time fans will forget and they’d go, “Yeah, you remember Bret Hart. He was a guy back in the ’90s.” But now there’s such a trove of memories for me of great matches. I know that for wrestling fans that will be the thrill of it, digging up all the Bret Hart matches they can find. My career that was so important to me and I’m so glad they can have it at their fingertips.
AUSTIN: There are so many guys who have been left by the wayside. Their careers ended 10, 15, 20 years ago. With WWE Network being around, it may reinvigorate or at least create a demand for them and maybe they can go out and do some appearances, because their memories are fresh again. Maybe I came around and picked up the business when it was in the doldrums, but it wasn’t just my body of work that made this happen. You have to go back to ECW, because they have that library, they have the WCW library. It was all these bodies of work, laid down by everybody in all those different organizations, and that’s what the fan gets to enjoy.
MICHAELS: All of us are at an age now where we can look back on our careers and be in awe of accomplishing what we did. I think all of us far surpassed anything we thought possible.