'Stone Cold' Steve Austin Shoots on WWE, Last Raw Appearance, New Career, More

Graham GSM Matthews@@WrestleRantFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2021

'Stone Cold' Steve Austin Shoots on WWE, Last Raw Appearance, New Career, More

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    'Stone Cold' Steve Austin has made a seamless transition to television since retiring from the ring in 2003.
    'Stone Cold' Steve Austin has made a seamless transition to television since retiring from the ring in 2003.Credit: USA Network

    "Stone Cold" Steve Austin can lay claim to being among the greatest of all time in the wrestling realm for his time spent in the squared circle alone.

    And almost two decades removed from his in-ring retirement, he still finds himself delivering at a high level, albeit in a different capacity to what made him famous.

    Since willingly stepping away from wrestling in 2003, Austin has reinvented himself as a world-renowned podcaster, interviewer and television host. His hit series, Straight Up Steve Austin, is coming back for a second season next week after Monday's Raw on USA Network, while his sit-down talk show, Broken Skull Sessions, has been a recurring highlight on WWE Network for more than a year.

    The Texas Rattlesnake always shone on the microphone, so the immense amount of success he's had as an interviewer should come as no surprise. He never ceases to bring out the best in his guests, which will be especially evident when he welcomes the likes of Charlotte Flair, Ice-T, Brett Favre and many more to Straight Up Steve Austin in the coming weeks.

    Austin is also known to make the occasional comeback on WWE TV, with his most recent being on the March 16, 2020, edition of Raw. With it being one of the first shows the promotion presented without anyone in attendance, though, his appearance wasn't nearly as memorable as it should have been.

    Despite that, fans eagerly await the WWE Hall of Famer's next return and can enjoy everything else he has going on until then. This candid conversation with the iconic competitor covers his seamless transition from wrestling to podcasting and hosting, if he feels he's hit his stride as an interviewer, his thoughts on the current product and much more.

    Check out the complete audio of the interview on the next slide and stick around for the highlights.

Favorite Interviews and Eventually Landing The Rock

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    Austin entered the ever-growing world of podcasting in 2013 with the debut of The Steve Austin Show on PodcastOne. He's since sat down with some of the most notable names in wrestling, sports and entertainment and has gotten great interviews out of every one of them.

    That hasn't changed with Straight Up Steve Austin, which has essentially taken those same conversations and brought them to life for the world to enjoy in a different format. Having premiered in the summer of 2019, the show features a myriad of activities typically tailored to his guests.

    Season 1 was full of fun moments with the likes of Becky Lynch, Baker Mayfield and Sal Vulcano of Impractical Jokers. Season 2 promises to be even better with stars such as Ice-T, Brett Favre and Charlotte Flair set to appear.

    When asked which episode was his favorite to film, Austin acknowledged that it's tough for him to single out just one because of how all of them had something special and unique to offer.

    "Ice-T, riding around with that guy and dropping some knowledge with his child who he basically raised himself, he's the O.G. of rap music," he said. "Tiffany Haddish, you can physically feel the charisma radiating from her and I haven't felt that off hardly anybody I've ever met. She's absolutely incredible.

    "Charlotte, we hit it off right off the bat and that was the most I've ever hung out with Charlotte and really get to know a lot more about her."

    "Brett Favre, football is my favorite sport in the world along with pro wrestling and UFC, so when you hang out with one of the GOATs, that's an awesome day at the office," he continued. "Each one of the people that I hang out with has something interesting to say, like Steve-O. Out of all the crazy stuff he's done, when you sit down and hang out with that guy, you realize how intelligent and how hardworking he is."

    The purveyor of Austin 3:16 was hesitant to reveal who he wants on his show in the future in case it isn't greenlit for a third season. However, he did note that he's reached out to his longtime friend and foe Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson about coming on at some point and would jump at the opportunity to make that interview happen given their well-documented history together.

    "We've extended an offer on Broken Skull Sessions, we've extended an invite to Straight Up Steve Austin on multiple occasions," Austin said. "Like you just said, he's one of the busiest human beings on the planet. We have a past and a shared brotherhood and a chemistry from all of our memories working in the ring with each other. Maybe one day, hopefully. I would love for that to happen."

What Went into Making Season 2 of 'Straight Up Steve Austin' Happen

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    When Season 1 of Straight Up Steve Austin wrapped in September 2019, it was more a matter of when and not if the show would be brought back based on how well it was received by viewers. Sure enough, it was officially renewed for a second season in January 2020.

    It wasn't long after that the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it was unknown when the episodes would air on USA Network.

    Austin revealed that although they were taped prior to the pandemic, everything shutting down in the springtime was what caused the premiere of Season 2 to be delayed until this year.

    "I was so thankful to get that in the can and we got pushed, production got slowed down because of everything that happened," he said. "Finally, they gave us the green light and a window to get it done and we were able to get it done in that window and observe all the precautions and all the protocols."

    For Austin, overcoming those obstacles to complete the season was well worth it. He was more than satisfied with what they produced and now can't wait for everyone to enjoy it when it starts airing weekly on USA Network after Raw on Monday nights.

    "It was challenging, but I think we made the most of it and operated safely and came out with a show that I'm very proud of," he said. "I had been sitting on my ass for so long waiting for this to happen. I was chomping at the bit like a lot of people to get back to work. It was a breath of fresh air for me."

If He Feels He's Hit His Stride as an Interviewer

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    Having hosted his own podcast for many years, Austin has arguably mastered the art of interviewing. He never hesitates to ask the hard-hitting questions, ones fans of his would want to know the answer to as well.

    Look no further than Broken Skull Sessions as an example of how far he's come as an interviewer since 2013. He'll do his research ahead of time and dig deeper into the more important subjects, all while maintaining a conversational tone with his guest the entire time.

    Austin was always on the opposite end of the mic in WWE and was normally the person being interviewed, but even with the roles reversed, he hasn't missed a beat. But he conceded he doesn't know if he's hit his stride as an interviewer as he's his own worst critic.

    He related it to starting off in the wrestling business.

    "You're green and you're trying to be a wrestler, so you learn it and then you are a wrestler," Austin said. "In the podcast business or even in hosting, you're trying to be a host and it's like, 'It's not about me, it's about the guest.' I think it's repetition and doing things over and over and over again and getting better at them."

    He also credited the cast he's worked with in recent years on his shows.

    "Specifically with Straight Up Steve Austin and Broken Skull Sessions, I have an excellent supporting cast who supports me tremendously," Austin said. "With the podcast, that was a one-man show. I turned it into my producer and he'd throw it to commercials, that was a real loose setting. I enjoy each of the three settings, but they're all kind of different and I'm doing my best.”

Podcasting vs. Hosting a Reality Television Show

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    The Steve Austin Show has been a weekly staple on PodcastOne as far back as 2013 and thus it would have been perfectly acceptable for the six-time WWE world champion to stick with that as his only endeavor post-wrestling considering its success.

    However, he decided to branch out into other avenues as well, including starting up The Broken Skull Challenge on CMT, Broken Skull Sessions on WWE Network, and now Straight Up Steve Austin on USA Network. All of those programs pose different challenges that the 56-year-old has had to overcome.

    Austin has put all of his focus this past year into making Straight Up Steve Austin as great as it can be and, by his own admission, he has neglected his weekly podcast that was once his bread and butter.

    However, he is looking forward to getting that going again at some point this year, acknowledging how its relaxed nature can be beneficial at times compared to all of his other projects.

    "The podcast, I put the brakes on that a few months ago when COVID hit, so I'll probably start that back up again in 2021," Austin said. "The podcast is a lot looser because you're sitting in front of each other with a microphone and it's kind of like a Broken Skulls session. With Straight Up, we got three or four segments and it's a half-hour show. You got to get your stuff in and talk about what these people have going on."

    With Straight Up Steve Austin, there isn't nearly enough time as there would be on a regular podcast to share stories and ask in-depth questions. Rather, it's all about having fun and getting to know the guest through whatever they're passionate about.

    "We run a pretty tight ship and I'm lucky we have the show-runner we have," Austin said. "The producer is always working with me to make me better. You're facilitating a process and you're hosting, but when hosting on television for a short amount of time, you're operating under different constraints than a podcast."

Why He Hated His Raw Return and His Thoughts on the ThunderDome

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    It's always a treat whenever Austin makes a rare Raw appearance, even if the circumstances aren't ideal.

    That was especially true when he was advertised to return at last year's March 16 edition (3:16 Day). It was less than a week earlier that WWE was forced to cancel the show in its originally scheduled arena as a result of the pandemic, but despite the lack of fans in the building that night, the company chose to have Stone Cold appear anyway.

    Austin recalls wanting to cut a promo that reflected the reality the world was dealing with at that point, but Vince McMahon was adamant about him going out to the ring and doing his usual shtick like nothing was out of the ordinary. Needless to say, that didn't sit well with Vince's longtime on-air rival.

    “I went down there to do that promo that I did," he said. "I went to Vince's trailer three times to try to talk him out of that. Byron Saxton was there, so I said, 'Let me do a shoot interview with Byron and we'll talk about what's real and what's really going on.' He said, 'Steve, people are going to be suffering and let's just go out there.'

    "The promo was terrible. Oh my God, the creative was terrible. Let's not hammer that home, I'm just making a point that it was bad. It was so uncomfortable because I am a crowd guy. I work purely off instinct, and I work off the sounds that crowd is giving me."

    The reactions Austin receives whenever he shows up on WWE TV are thunderous, so it was a stark contrast when he returned for that first pandemic-era edition of Raw. He has yet to make his ThunderDome debut, but surely that would be an improvement of what he had to endure that night at the Performance Center.

    "I think with the advent of the ThunderDome, they're controlling crowd noise and stuff like that," he said. "I think that does help the performers and the Superstars make decisions accordingly.

    "When I went out, it was extremely hard because I had never done anything like that, and I didn't like the material to begin with. At the end of the day, I said, 'Vince has way more problems than me in here pissing and moaning about this creative, so I'll just go ahead and do it.'

    "I take my hat off to the men and women down there who are doing the absolute best they can. I was talking to Drew McIntyre on Broken Skull Sessions and there's a guy who's really, really polished and at the peak of his career and it's a shame, all of them but really Drew, to be as good as he is right now and not be able to work in front of a crowd and not get those desired responses that you're working for and then go accordingly based on that feedback.

    "It's a shame, but hopefully one of these days, things will get back to normal and people can go back into arenas and give these Superstars, or anybody who performs, the feedback they need to be the best they can be."

Which Current WWE Superstars Are Impressing The Texas Rattlesnake?

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    Between being busy with a multitude of projects and the lack of fans at WWE shows due to the current circumstances, Austin conceded it's been difficult for him to find time to tune into the weekly shows.

    However, that isn't to say he doesn't keep tabs on the WWE product. He has his favorites, including Drew McIntyre. And another Superstar he's enjoyed lately is universal champion Roman Reigns, specifically for the stuff he's done alongside Paul Heyman since SummerSlam.

    Above all else, he's a huge supporter of WWE's uber-talented women's division and will always go out of his way to watch anything Bayley, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair are involved in.

    "I like the combination of Roman and Paul Heyman," Austin said. "Obviously, I haven't been watching a whole lot of anything because of the situation that's been going on, so I can't accurately answer your question, other than I always tune in to see Bayley and Sasha. Now, Charlotte's back, so I watch Charlotte. Those are the three I really, really follow."

    Austin has gone on record before in declaring that trio, along with Becky Lynch, have the been among the best parts of WWE TV for years now. Based on the above comments, that opinion clearly hasn't changed, which is quite the endorsement coming from a star of his caliber.

How He's Found New Life in Other Endeavors Since Retiring from Wrestling

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    The final WWE match for Austin came at WrestleMania XIX in 2003 in a loss against The Rock. Aside from Stone Cold himself, no one knew it would his final hurrah inside the squared circle, and the fact that he decided to call it quits while he still could was admirable.

    That hasn't stopped countless fans from asking the same tired question since then, though: When is The Texas Rattlesnake going to wrestle again, especially as almost everybody breaks their retirement at some point? If it wasn't already apparent enough, the answer is that he won't be, especially because of how content he is right now.

    If Austin's popularity had peaked at the point of his retirement and he never experienced that level of relevancy again, the chances of him wrestling again in the present day are much more likely. But because he has had such a successful career outside of the ring, there's no need for him to ruin what was a perfectly good sendoff and potentially put himself at risk of injury.

    Despite not having laced up a pair of boots in nearly two decades, younger fans are still aware of who Austin is. A majority of those same fans will know him more by the interviews he does and the reality shows he hosts than they do by his in-ring career.

    "I love it because I'm creating a new fanbase or maintaining and growing a fanbase," he said. "What I did back then, like you said, it started in 1989 and stopped in 2003. I'm still one of the most researched people, if not the most, on the WWE Network.

    "A few months ago, this guy tells me, 'Hey, man, you're my son's favorite wrestler.' My first question to that is, 'Well, how old is he?' He said, 'He's five.' I'm like, 'Dude, I retired in 2003!' He goes, 'It doesn't matter. It's the video games, it's the WWE Network, and it's YouTube.' I'm thinking, I'm not going to argue with him, right?"

    Austin appreciates being able to expand his legacy beyond what he accomplished in the ring, even though that's what he'll likely be remembered for most. But he's constantly looking for new ways to improve his skill set in other areas as well.

    "It's great to be known for something other than wrestling and I'm proud of my wrestling career, but as I've said many, many times, I've moved on from that and have left some lasting memories on so many people who supported me for so long," he said.

    "They got to live vicariously through those storylines, but it's 2021 right now and that's where I'm living and that's where my head's at. I appreciate the memories, but yeah, I'm super-stoked [some people] know me more from my recent stuff."

             

    Don't miss the Season 2 premiere of Straight Up Steve Austin this Monday, immediately following WWE Raw at 11/10c, on USA Network.

                    

    Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.

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