It has been 18 years since WWE Hall of Famer "Stone Cold" Steve Austin wrestled his final official match at WrestleMania 19, but The Texas Rattlesnake has had no problem staying busy in retirement.
Austin is juggling ventures galore, including his Broken Skull Sessions interview series on WWE Network (now Peacock), his Straight Up Steve Austin series on USA Network, his Broken Skull IPA beer and his involvement with Tide detergent's #TurnToCold campaign.
Although Austin has always remained relevant to wrestling fans regardless of how long he has been retired from in-ring competition, that has been especially true lately thanks to his Broken Skull Sessions.
Stone Cold has interviewed some of the biggest stars in wrestling of the past and present, including The Undertaker, Ric Flair, Kane, Goldberg, Bret Hart, Drew McIntyre, Sasha Banks and Bayley.
While every interview has been excellent, it can be argued that his chat with Randy Orton, which first aired on March 21, topped them all.
Austin and Orton had great chemistry despite the fact that they didn't know each other well personally going in, and Austin suggested that he came away from the interview quite impressed by the way The Viper carries himself:
"I barely knew Randy because I was about to leave when he came in, and he referenced that at the beginning of the interview. Just the fact that he was willing to do the show because Randy doesn't do a whole lot of interviews, and I think his promos are absolutely incredible right now. He's always been this great worker, and after all these years, I think we're seeing the best Randy Orton we've ever seen.
"Just the fact that he was so open, honest and candid because he didn't have to be, he shared a lot of stuff with me that I don't know if he shared with a whole lot of people. You sit across from that table from that guy, you realize how charismatic and well-spoken and thoughtful he is. So, that was one of my most fun interviews I've ever done just because of how good he was and just to see how electric he really is when you're sitting there face to face with the guy."
The 40-year-old Orton is a 14-time world champion in WWE, but it is tough to argue against Austin's notion that he has been doing the best work of his career over the past year.
He is scheduled to be a huge part of WrestleMania 37 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on April 10 and 11, as he is set to face "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt in a grudge match.
WrestleMania is massive every year, but it will be an especially big deal this year since it will mark the return of live fans after more than a year without any at WWE events because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Few wrestlers fed off the fans more than Austin did during his 14-year wrestling career, and he provided some insight on what it will be like for the current WWE Superstars to receive the boost of live fans on The Grandest Stage of Them All:
"Man, they're gonna be so excited to have people back in there. When I broke in, I'd wrestle in Chevrolet dealership parking lots in front of 15, 20 people, getting suplexed on the parking lot. So, I've been in front of almost no fans, but that was by design because the card wasn't any good, so no one wanted to come see us.
"When you're in WWE, you're looking for full stadiums. And when you're in the ring, you're relying on the sound that those people make to make your decisions as far as how you proceed in your match, so they need that feedback, they need that instant gratification to help them make decisions in the ring. Now that they're piping the noise in on TV, it's easier to watch, but it's hard to perform without a crowd. I think the men and women have adapted and adjusted accordingly in a magnificent fashion. They've excelled because they're professionals, but man, there's nothing like being in front of a crowd, and I know these kids that are still doing it are gonna be super stoked to have people that are responding."
It can be argued that more stars have been made in the professional wrestling business at WrestleMania than any other event, and a large contingent of Superstars will have a chance to join those ranks this year.
Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley are chief among them. They were the final two combatants in the 2021 Women's Royal Rumble match, and they will both challenge for titles at the Showcase of the Immortals.
Belair, who won the Rumble, will face Sasha Banks for the SmackDown Women's Championship in the possible main event of Night 1 of WrestleMania, while Ripley will challenge Asuka for the Raw Women's Championship on Night 2.
When asked who he sees as the brightest up-and-coming stars in WWE, Austin immediately mentioned Belair and Ripley:
"I haven't been tuning in a whole lot because I have a whole lot going on in my personal life, but just from watching the Royal Rumble, I think those last two women—Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair—I think those two are destined for greatness. They still need reps, they still need to learn, but those two have the size, presence, looks, ability to be major, major stars, so we'll see what the future holds for them."
In addition to looking toward the future for WWE, Austin is looking toward the future when it comes to himself as well.
His involvement in the Tide #TurnToCold initiative may not seem on-brand for Austin on the surface, but it's actually a good cause that runs deep for the six-time WWE champion.
Tide #TurnToCold aims to get people washing their clothes with cold water, not only because it saves money on energy bills, but also because of the fact that it reduces carbon emissions.
When asked how he got involved with Tide #TurnToCold along with some other notable celebrities, Austin said:
"It was funny when Tide did reach out to me because I've grown up my whole life using Tide and that's a shoot. So, when Tide called my agent and kind of pitched this creative idea about the people involved—Ice T, Mr. T, Vanilla Ice, myself Stone Cold—it sounded like a really fun campaign. ...
"The cold water campaign makes a lot of sense. Man, I've always washed all of my stuff in cold water, so I didn't really need any convincing. It prolongs the life of your T-shirts. I'm a guy, I just throw all my stuff into the washing machine, and when my wife does the laundry maybe it's a different scenario, but I've always washed them cold. It cuts back on your energy bill, helps the environment and prolongs the life of your T-shirts, so it was an easy sell for me."
In addition to working with Tide, Stone Cold has some ideas in mind when it comes to future guests on Straight Up Steve Austin and Broken Skull Sessions, although he didn't want to reveal too much on those fronts.
Austin did note that there were a few guests lined up for this past season of Straight Up Steve Austin who couldn't do the show because of COVID-19, but he is hopeful they can be part of next season.
The 56-year-old wrestling legend also made mention of some intriguing names he would love to have on Broken Skull Sessions, including John Cena, Ron Simmons and The Godfather.
Austin has remained in the spotlight by generously sharing it with others, and it looks like many more wrestlers and celebrities will have the benefit of sharing the screen with Stone Cold in the future.