There are few wrestling fans who can deny that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is one of the biggest names in the history of the wrestling industry.
After winning the WWF Championship six times over his career and becoming one of the main reasons the wrestling industry thrived during the Attitude Era—not to mention the fact he was arguably the biggest draw in the sport—Austin is now dominating the airwaves as a television host and a podcaster.
Not only is Austin stealing the spotlight once again with The Steve Austin Show on PodcastOne, but he is also keeping busy with entertaining reality television shows like Redneck Island and Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Ranch Challenge.
While many wrestling fans will always think of him as Stone Cold, Austin’s life after wrestling still consists of entertaining people. The only difference now is that he is making his impact outside the ring.
Featured columnists Donald Wood, Mike Chiari and Brandon Galvin sat down for an exclusive interview with Austin and talked about a potential return to the WWE, his dream matches, his podcast, his television work, Tough Enough, Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania 30, CM Punk, the new crop of WWE Superstars and so much more.
Here is the interview with WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin.
Donald Wood: You are one of the biggest names in wrestling history and you are now making waves with your podcast The Steve Austin Show on PodcastOne. With a long list of exciting guests, how have you found the transition from wrestling and movies to the podcast medium?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: Well, you know, it’s interesting. Asking people questions, carrying on conversations, you certainly develop a rhythm and a style. I learned early on that one of the mistakes I was making early on was trying to cram too much stuff in an interview. I’d talk to guys who had 20- to 40-year careers and try to condense that into a two-hour session, and it just doesn’t happen like that.
So now, I just have bullet points and we start talking and it ends up just being a conversation. I don’t paint by numbers anymore. I just go by how I feel and try to take the conversation in different places and just go with the flow.
It has been an interesting transition. I enjoy doing it. It allows me to use some of the creative energy that I put into Monday Night Raw way back in the day and it gives me a way to maintain communication with my fanbase and to just simply and purely entertain them. I don’t talk about religion, politics, none of that bulls--t; it’s just audio whoop-ass for the working man and the working woman to take their mind off the task at hand.
Mike Chiari: You've already interviewed many of the biggest stars in wrestling on your podcast, but who's the one person you haven't had on the show yet who tops the list in terms of desired guests?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I’d like to talk to Hulk Hogan, of course, because he’s one of the biggest names in the history of the business, if not the biggest. So, obviously I’d like to talk to Hogan. "Superstar" Billy Graham. I’d like to talk to Dusty Rhodes face-to-face, in person. I had a chance to talk to him on the phone in the early stages like some of the people who I’ve already interviewed. It’s always different talking to someone on the phone, of course. I’ve talked to Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels on the phone, but a one-on-one conversation is the best.
I’ve actually just connected to Kevin Von Erich the other day; we’ve been trying to get together for a while and I’m actually going to make a trip out to Hawaii. The wife has been trying to con me into going to Hawaii forever. That’s one place that I have not been, so while we go to Hawaii to satisfy my wife’s desire to go and lay on the beach, I’ll be interviewing Kevin Von Erich, so he’s a guy I’m really looking forward to talking to. Hopefully, I get a chance to talk to him in the next few months.
I talked to [Mark "The Undertaker" Calaway]. I asked him if he wanted to do the show; he said he would, and that’s a matter of me getting out to Austin, Texas, and talking to him one on one, but he’s another one I’d love to talk to.
Brandon Galvin: You're the host of Redneck Island, which, correct me if I'm wrong, will air this summer in the United Kingdom. In wake of the success of WWE's Legends' House, have you ever thought about doing a version of the show with former or current wrestlers?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I haven’t thought about it, but I mean, it’s not up to me to come up with ideas for the network. I haven’t pitched them anything. I don’t know what they’re looking for. I know they just rolled out the network and I just finally subscribed to it the other day, so I definitely think there’s room for something like that, but it all depends on how far they want to go with it.
I would certainly be willing to engage in conversation about doing something like that, and I’m looking forward to Redneck Island finally getting over to the UK because I have so many listeners to my podcast over there in the UK and I’m very excited about them getting the show over there and seeing it. I’m surprised that Redneck Island hasn’t gone to Canada because they have CMT Canada, but it’s not even over there. It’s a great show, and I think they’re going to enjoy it and it’s certainly a different cup of tea than what they are used to on their programs.
Donald Wood: Another interesting addition to the WWE Network is a new season of Tough Enough. For many fans, your presence on the show was the highlight of the program. Are there any plans of having you back on the show and is that something you would be interested in?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I’d certainly be open to it, but I get my Google Alerts and I read that they were bringing back Tough Enough, but then there have been delays in it. I would consider doing something along the lines of Tough Enough because that was my first endeavor into reality television and that is a world I know and love, and that’s why I was on that show.
I’m not going to blow smoke up my ass. I love the business of pro wrestling and it is something I know better than anything else I know about. So if I get a chance to do that show or they offer that spot to me and we could make it work, I’d love to do that show.
Donald Wood: You are also now working on a new show called Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Ranch Challenge on Country Music Television. For the fans excited about the new program, will you explain exactly what should be expected from the series?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: The thing about the Broken Skull Challenge is that there’s really nothing else like it on television. I was talking on some interviews the other day that kind of brought up American Ninja Warrior, but that kind of plays more to the parkour-type athlete and crossfitting as well. Those men and women that do American Ninja Warrior are badass in their right, no doubt about that. They’re badass. But they’re competing on a course and competing against the clock.
At the Broken Skull Challenge, each week I bring participants to the ranch. We did 10 episodes—five episodes with guys, five with gals. It’s head-to-head competition for three rounds, and if you win, you go to the next round. If you lose, you leave the ranch immediately.
At the end of the day, we narrow it down from eight to one individual, and that individual will take on my personal obstacle course. It’s a half-mile course, 10 badass obstacles that you must overcome.
I made my course the skullbuster because it is specifically designed to whoop a man’s ass. You beat my course, I’ll give you $10,000. If someone has already beaten my course and you beat their time, I give you $10,000 and you will be my returning champion, and until someone beats your time, you will get that $10,000.
It’s nothing fancy; it’s down and dirty and you need strength, stamina, determination, will power, a lot of heart and determination to beat my course and to win and succeed at my competition. It’s badass and we had some hellacious athletes come out to the ranch. On Redneck Island, a show I love, there was a lot of drama and storylines going on because someone’s always voted off the island through process of elimination. Here your fate is in your own hands. I set the stage for these athletes to come out here and put on the best performance of their lives or they have to go home—simple as that.
Donald Wood: Have you tackled the obstacle course yourself?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I tackled it. I didn’t do it at full speed because I had some knee issues, but certainly I’ve been through the course. I know how rugged it is and once you watch it and you see how this course breaks down these individuals, piece-by-piece, body part by body part, then it starts getting in their head and messing with their brains and they start doubting themselves. To see the course in a wide shot is one thing, but to see all of the elements in effect and how it affects the men and the women, it’s pretty badass.
Mike Chiari: A lot of people were buzzing when on your podcast Paul Heyman brought up the idea of a potential future match between yourself and Brock Lesnar. Have you 100 percent closed the door on having another match or is it something you would consider if the right situation arose?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I’d consider anything if the perfect situation or opportunity arose and it would be more than a million-dollar question. I don’t want to sit here and promote a match, sell a match or talk about making a comeback. The dirt sheets, or whatever you call them, and I talk to Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller all the time and they’re nice guys and I would consider them friends. I see Dave at almost every MMA fight, but I don’t want to stir any pots or hint or tease anything.
People get their panties in a wad and say, "Stone Cold, either do it or not." So, anything can happen, but I’m not going to endorse, promote, sell or tease anything in regards to a match.
Donald Wood: You have accomplished damn near everything a wrestler could ever imagine in the business. Is there anything now looking back that you wish you had a chance to do? Maybe a certain match or feud?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: Well, I wasn’t in the right place, mentally, when they wanted to do Hogan. As far as what would draw money, hell that would do a ****pile of money, but I didn’t figure the match would be what it could have been if it had happened sooner. That would have been one that would have been cool if it happened.
The Goldberg match, which was a no-brainer, but Bill decided to take the guaranteed money rather than jump into the WWE window, and that didn’t really work out because he didn’t exactly peak out in WWE like he was in WCW. So that never really happened, but it would’ve been a great match. And I’m not putting Bill down for taking that money; I’m just saying that’s the way he played those cards and I can appreciate that.
Just as far as key big guys off of the top, a match with Brock would’ve been badass, me and Punk would’ve been badass, and John Cena would’ve been a badass match. I think I could’ve gotten more out of Cena than anyone he’s ever worked with. I’m someone he can go out there with and have a come-to-Jesus meeting and get his ass fired up. I’ve got nothing but respect for that guy and a program with Steve Austin would’ve put him on another level that he has not been yet. He’s a top guy and going to go into the WWE Hall of Fame, so when I say all that I mean it in a positive regard.
Mike Chiari: You, Hulk Hogan and The Rock kicked off WrestleMania 30 in grand fashion in a segment that was just universally loved by wrestling fans. You've obviously had a lot of great WrestleMania matches and moments, but how does that one stack up to the rest?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: That was fun, you know. Hogan goes out there first and botches the Superdome, but he catches himself. So I go out there and say, "It’s great to be back here in the Silverdome," just kind of ribbing him and then The Rock comes out, which is great. It was interesting; you saw Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold and The Rock.
What was sold to me was Hulk Hogan goes to the ring, then The Rock goes to the ring, then Stone Cold goes to the ring. So what I was sold and what happened were two different things. Be that as it may, it turned out as it did, I had a hell of a lot more stuff that I wanted to say in regards to a promo, but they presented that on the day and I went with it because if you get to perform at WrestleMania, the time should go to the guys and the gals who are going to be working the matches in the ring, so that they can all tell their stories. So I went along for the ride.
I have a lot of respect for Hulk Hogan. The Rock is a friend of mine and I have a ton of respect for him, and when you get three cats like us in the ring, it was truly a good time, and I think everyone there enjoyed it. I actually pitched to Vince in the back that I wanted to sing "Jambalaya." It’s an old Hank Williams song and he shot that down. He didn’t think it would get over and I think there are some copyright issues or whatever, but could you imagine 70 to 80 thousand people singing "Jambalaya"? it would’ve been badass.
But what you should have heard was me singing "Jambalaya" to Vince in the dressing room with Triple H pacing back and forth getting ready for his match. It was pretty damn funny.
Brandon Galvin: WWE recently released their Best of RAW After the Show DVD and, as expected, you're featured heavily and quickly become the highlight of the DVD. You were also the focal point for some of the most entertaining segments in wrestling history. I'm curious to know if you had more fun during your career when you were in the ring wrestling or when you were cutting promos and interacting with other wrestlers and fans?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: The stuff that happens in the ring, that’s what you’re there for. That’s what brought the people to the building and that’s what you take pride in is the stories and the work you put in the ring and being able to take those people on a ride with your opponent. Whether you’re working heel or baby face, that’s the bottom line.
When I got a chance to turn heel and when the lights went down and the cameras seemingly stopped rolling and we were off the air, that was when you could, not break kayfabe, but certainly break your character and do all kinds of stupid s--t, from rolling down to the ring in the office chairs to singing and telling jokes and f---king with the crowd. It was an absolute blast.
The most fun, bottom line, is in a match, when the s--t’s on, and you have to deliver. The shenanigans and all of the haha stuff was very enjoyable, but it all starts and stops with what happens in the ring and on the air.
Brandon Galvin: You haven't been shy in weighing in on CM Punk's absence from WWE. If he were to make a return to WWE, how would you bring him back?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: Man, I don’t know. I haven’t made too much of it. I predicted he would make a comeback at WrestleMania 30 and obviously that didn’t happen. He left the company and whenever he comes back, that’s up to him.
I don’t know how I would bring him back. I just know that when I got out of the business for about six-to-10 months, I lost a **** load of money and I believe that if you have got some miles left in the tank, you should make your money while you can and don’t leave it on the table because you’ll never make that money back.
At the end of the day, you can say, "It ain’t about the money." Well, it is about the money because you need to make as much of it as you can before you can’t make that money anymore.
I don’t know how you bring him back. Certainly the fans would welcome him back because he was doing a great job before he left. And when he gets his head right and wants to come back, I believe he will. As far as me playing Mr. Booker, I don’t have a clue.
Donald Wood: You left WWE in a similar fashion. What are your thoughts on a superstar leaving the business the way CM Punk did?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: I totally get it. If it’s strictly burnout and not being thrilled with the storylines, I totally get it and understand it. You get to a point where it doesn’t matter about the money and I didn’t give a ****, but that’s me speaking now. Back then, I didn’t give a flying f--k. I was willing to forego the money because I didn’t care. I was fed up.
But now looking back and hindsight being 20/20, and I realize how much money I left on the table because all of the business deals dropped off the table because that was a big point in my life. So I can understand if it’s just strictly burnout or frustration; I get it. If it’s anything else, if it’s a health issue, I don’t know. It is what it is. If he feels like coming back, he will.
Mike Chiari: You were always viewed as a hugely talented performer throughout your career, but you reached unimaginable levels of success when you developed the Stone Cold character. Do you see anyone on the current WWE roster who may not be a featured part of the show right now, but has the potential to become the next top star and take a path similar to yours?
Stone Cold Steve Austin: Man, I think it could be any one of a pool of people. I can’t sit here and drop names because I haven’t paid that much attention to the roster. I’ve been trying to DVR the shows. I am several months behind. I just subscribed to the WWE Network and I watched half of the pay-per-view so far. Just from guys on the radar right now, I think all of the guys from The Shield have got big futures ahead of them. I don’t think they’re all carved in stone yet and there are still some missing pieces within each individual part of The Shield.
Antonio Cesaro still has a hole somewhere in his game, but he’s certainly there. I predict a lot of success for that guy. I think Bray Wyatt is starting to kick ass and do a lot of great things. When they put Cesaro with Heyman, that was an interesting move because there were a lot of people starting to get off on Cesaro, and so they put him with Heyman, which put him back as a heel. The rest of the roster, I don’t know enough about.
Here’s one thing that I will say; I remember watching some of my matches from Dallas on my email, and I was watching them back and I see an athletic body and a guy that’s stable, but the look was just not that great. So there are some guys down there that, as they go through the process and they’re not afraid to embrace making some changes and making some alterations to their gear, to their look to find the right gimmick and package to bring it all together.
Man, there’s probably two or three diamonds in the rough down there because they’re not close to an appearance that is going to be the final thing that actually helps them get over and be received by the crowd as a heel or a baby face.
Even at 49 years old, there is no doubt that hardcore and casual wrestling fans alike want to see Austin back in the ring for one more match. Austin has nothing left to prove in the industry, though, and his legacy will not be impacted at all if another marquee bout never comes to fruition.
Austin loves the wrestling business very much, but his desire to keep the fans entertained extends far past the ring. Whether it’s with his podcast or one of the many other projects he is working on, it is clear that Austin is still a major part of popular culture.
Some fans will argue that stars like Hulk Hogan or Bruno Sammartino made a bigger mark on the wrestling industry, but in my opinion, Austin is the biggest star that has ever graced the industry. The Attitude Era is commonly referred to as the most popular period in the sport’s history, and there was no bigger star during that period than Stone Cold.
Wrestling fans should be thankful they had the legend as long as they did and should be even more thankful the 2009 WWE Hall of Fame inductee is still trying to keep up with the people who helped make him a megastar.
If you haven’t checked them out already, do yourself a favor and invest your time into The Steve Austin Show on PodcastOne.com or watch his reality television shows Redneck Island and Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Ranch Challenge.
Donald Wood is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via first person interviews.
For more wrestling talk, listen to Ring Rust Radio for all of the hot topics or catch the latest episode in the player below (some language NSFW).