Stone Cold Steve Austin Has Thoughts
By Ryan Satin
FOX Sports WWE Analyst
"Straight Up Steve Austin" returns next week for a second season on USA Network.
The interview series hosted by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin ditches the traditional format by taking guests on elaborate adventures in the wild as they chat with one of WWE’s all-time greats.
Some of the highlights from season one include a hatchet-throwing competition between Steve and Becky Lynch, a go-kart race against Dale Earnhardt Jr. and a monster truck drive with Trace Adkins – all in the midst of insightful interviews.
In anticipation of the new season, premiering January 11 after Raw, Austin went one-on-one with me to give a preview of what’s to come, as well as talk about some of his current favorites Superstars in WWE, Royal Rumble memories and more.
Watch the interview or scroll below for the transcript.
RS: A lot of people might not know this, but when you had me on your podcast years ago, it was when I had first launched my old site Pro Wrestling Sheet, and honestly, without that interview, my site never would have grown to the lengths to which it grew.
I owe you so much for that. You have no idea. That literally put my website on the map. So, I will be forever grateful to you for that.
AUSTIN: Man, that’s cool. It’s always cool to help somebody out. Dude, we had a fun conversation!
RS: We definitely did.
Now, "Straight Up Steve Austin" season two premieres January 11th on USA Network, and something I love about this show is that it’s not your typical interview format. For anyone who maybe hasn’t watched it, though, can you set up the premise a little bit?
AUSTIN: Yeah, man. Basically just to lay it out, I think it’s like an action adventure talk show.
So, if you’ve never seen an episode, I bring a celebrity guest wherever I’m at – to L.A. or I go to where they’re at – and we’re gonna do something in a vehicle. It might be on land or water or whatever.
We haven’t gone to space yet, but we’re gonna be driving something, and then we’re going to be doing an activity.
While we’re doing that activity, I’m probably gonna challenge that celebrity to make a bet with ‘em. Over these activities and hearing their life story, we bond. We try to form a chemistry and tell stories and we talk about their success, some of the stops along the way and where they come from.
It’s all about getting the chance to know somebody and having a good time and entertaining people while we do it, doing these activities.
RS: I loved the Rob Riggle episode you did last season.
I already enjoyed him as a comedy performer, as an actor and all that kind of stuff ... but I learned so much about him that I was unaware of prior to that. When you guys were doing the tank stuff on top of it, it was just added coolness to everything.
AUSTIN: You know what? On that season one, we shot the pilot about two years ago with Trace Adkins and USA pitched me this show, it sounded like a good idea. But, until you do something awhile, you don’t really know what it is.
So, Rob Riggle was the first episode that we filmed and due to his background in the Marines, and the fact that he’s so good at what he does, he really made me comfortable. He’s rock solid!
That’s why everywhere you turn there’s Rob Riggle because that’s how busy that guy is. He really helped me settle in as a host. So, I owe him a debt a gratitude for that.
RS: You know, it’s interesting that you say that. Because I have that written down here; how comfortable you are with your guests on your shows.
It amazes me how good of questions you’re able to come up with, and it’s outside the normal kind of questions you hear everybody ask. Do you have a team of producers that you work on the questions with?
AUSTIN: Aw, man, yeah. We have a whole team and I have input as well. USA Network surrounded me with a hell of a team, and it’s all hands on deck. We all work together.
They make me better as the face of the show and one thing I told them, after we did the pilot and we did that first episode with Rob and started figuring out what this thing is, I said, "Hey, guys. This ain’t rocket science. We’re not trying to save the world. This is about a good time. So, if we’re not having a good time making this show, we’re doing something wrong."
So, that’s what we do, Ryan. I try to shine a light on my guest, get stories from them, and get a chance to know them and have fun. And it’s the fastest thirty minutes you’ll see on TV.
RS: Oh, yeah. The show flies by, for sure. Just like your podcast and the Broken Skull Sessions, where two hours with the Undertaker feels like fifteen minutes. Just flies right by.
Obviously, you’re one of the greatest wrestlers of all time – but, over the last ten years, you’ve really made a name for yourself as an excellent interviewer on multiple kinds of platforms. Is there anyone whose interview style inspired you early on?
AUSTIN: Man, I don’t know about interview style, but I’ll never forget, I did Stone Cold versus "The Voice" Michael Schiavello. He’s an Australian.
I went in and did that interview. It was down there in the Marriott down in Marina del Ray, you know the place, I was kind of tired. You know, whatever. But, he was so passionate about wrestling, he knew a few tricks to get in and I was really blown away by the interview and it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever taken part of.
Every now and then I will call him and ask him for some help or if I get in my head or something like that.
Other than that, I can’t say that I’ve modeled myself after anybody. It’s just repetitions, finding your own style. I’m not the best in the world, but I am me, and you’re gonna get genuine me.
I keep it about as real as you can keep it, and I don’t make it into too much science. The people that I’m talking to, I’m as big of fan of theirs as anybody else is. So, I want the best stories that they’ve got and hopefully they can let their guard down or realize this isn’t Stone Cold Steve Austin yelling at them.
It’s Steve Austin, the human being, trying to have a good time and shoot the breeze with them.
RS: Before you were an interviewer, you obviously were an interviewee. You still are an interviewee. You do tons and tons of interviews where you’re the one being interviewed like this. Are there any questions that you hate being asked in interviews?
AUSTIN: Yeah, you know, where the name came from or this and that. I feel like it’s been so long, that if you don’t know by now … I’ve talked about it so many times. I’ve said it in so many interviews. You can find it anywhere.
So, let’s move on to the next thing.
But, sometimes not everyone has listened to all those interviews and they’re a fan of this platform. So, in trying to get some history, you have to have some of those building blocks. So, inevitably, sometimes, it always gets put in there. That’s just one of them that’s kinda like, it’s time to move on.
RS: Some of the guests on "Straight Up Steve Austin" this season include Bert Kreischer, Brett Favre, Charlotte Flair, Ice-T, Joel McHale, Luke Combs, Steve-O and Tiffany Haddish. Without giving away too much, what’s the most elaborate adventure that you go on this season?
AUSTIN: Man, every one was an adventure.
They were just different adventures and a different flavor. I’m looking at the list of names, ‘cause I have ‘em right here, and all the different personalities, and just the charisma factor, and presence of each and everyone of ‘em … I don’t know how to answer the question.
I’m just going to say, man, I’m a country music fan. So, hanging out with Luke Combs in Nashville? Badass. Riding around with Ice-T in a low rider? Badass. Standing around with Bert Kreischer in his swimming pool and he’s making my head explode from laughing so hard? Badass. Driving in a boat with Tiffany Haddish? I mean, have you ever met her?
AUSTIN: She’s one of the most charismatic people you’ll ever meet and your head will explode from laughter. Badass.
Steve-O, the guy from Jackass. You remember back in the day, Jackass was hot as pro wrestling was. It was a thing. So, to watch him come from that and then meet the guy and realize, "Hey, man, this dude is really, really smart." He did all that crazy stuff, but this dude is super intelligent. Badass.
Joel McHale – you can appreciate this – triple threat. He can act, he can do stand-up and he can host. And that’s why he’s always working, and he has a love for cars, like I do. We’re cruising in a 700 horsepower Z28. Badass.
Brett Favre, Hall of Fame, the gun slinger. One of the greatest to ever do it, down in Mississippi. You kidding me? Badass.
Then, Charlotte Flair. Okay, she is a wrestler in her own right and will go down as one of the all time GOATs of women’s wrestling or in the whole business. But, her dad is the world champ GOAT in my opinion. Badass.
So, there’s a little tidbit out of every guest.
RS: I love that. That sounds so cool. That’s exactly what I wanted to know because I saw the trailer and you get little glimpses of each one, but I wasn’t sure which activities you did with each. That’s so awesome. I can’t wait for all of them. Ice-T in a low rider sounds like the coolest experience ever.
AUSTIN: Man, when you talk to that guy, because of where he’s come from and all the roads he’s been down. You’re sitting under a learning tree and you ask him one question, and he starts talking with that delivery that he has and he will fill you full of information and learnings from all the things that he’s been through.
Every guest on that list was the same way. I’ll never say a favorite because they all left me with a lasting impression.
RS: So, you also have the Broken Skull Sessions on WWE Network which is a more standard interview format series.
Recently you sat down with Drew McIntyre, you’ve got Bayley up next. Do you enjoy having something like this, which keeps you connected to the current roster in some way?
AUSTIN: Man, 100 percent, Ryan. ‘Cause, you know, I’m still the biggest fan of the business that I was when I was seven years old changing the channels and stumbled across it; and then got the chance to learn it and have a pretty good run.
So, I don’t want to do nothing else in the ring. I’m done. I’ve retired. Everybody knows that. I don’t need to go out there and drop anybody on a stack of dimes and give them stunners. Once in a year, once every two years, whatever. So, yes. This connection makes sense.
I paved the way that I did and I had the career that I had, but I still watch all these people that have come on the show. So, the fact that I can still have kind of a hand in the wrestling business and my finger on the pulse, yes, that’s the relationship that I want and that I cherish.
RS: I know it might be a cliché question here, but, who are your favorites on the WWE roster right now?
AUSTIN: Well, I’ve said in the past, Bayley … when she turned heel, I think she was one of the most entertaining heels in the business. There’s layers to her work.
From the female standpoint – Charlotte just came back, and just started tuning in to see what she’s got going on, and Becky Lynch left to have her baby – but, right now, I really like Bayley’s heel work. I’ve been watching it and liking it for quite some time.
On the guy’s standpoint, like you just said, Drew McIntyre came by to shoot the show. Mick Foley was on the podcast years ago and he goes, ‘Hey, man. This guy." If you’d have told me he was going to be the guy years ago, I’d have said no. He’s a midcard guy.
Mick goes, "You should watch this guy."
I’ve been watching him and to meet him in person and to get a feel for his physicality and his mentality and the way he thinks about the business, very impressed with Drew. He’s definitely really, really earned the position he’s at in the business today.
RS: The Royal Rumble is later this month and you hold the record for most Rumble wins with three to your name. Do you have any favorite Royal Rumble memories you can share?
AUSTIN: I’ll share this with you. I won three Royal Rumbles, but I didn’t really like Royal Rumbles, because there’s so much going on.
So many things that can’t go wrong because everything’s gotta work out. You know what I’m speaking of, without just spelling it out.
I’ll never forget in San Diego at my first Royal Rumble. I was supposed to be the fourth guy left in the ring and Rikishi, or somebody, gave me a clothesline and the ropes were so baby oiled up from everybody wearing baby oil, I slipped.
There was a bunch of guys in the ring and I went out way early. I hit the ground, and I’m still pretty new in the company at this time, Ryan, but they’re gonna try to keep me in the Rumble, so they’re giving me a little bit of a push and I blew it!
So, I hit the ground – and because Shawn Michaels was going to be pivotal as far as me getting out – I was sitting there, someone was beating the hell out of him, and I was kinda looking at him over the mat like this and was like, "Dude, I’m out." He’s laying there, getting his ass kicked and he goes like this—[eyes go wide].
I didn’t really care for Royal Rumbles. I won three and I’m glad that I won three. I think Randy Orton, if he wins – hadn’t he won two?
RS: I believe he has won two, yeah.
AUSTIN: Alright, so maybe … Randy’s on fire right now.
I watched RAW just this past Monday, as we speak, whenever it was. And he was just … the stuff, the promos that he was cutting on the legends, the actions, the match with Jeff Hardy where he’s working that arm. Slow, methodical, vicious. He’s so dialed in right now.
This is the best Randy Orton we’ve ever seen.
RS: I say that all the time and some people are like, "Oh, no. Randy Orton’s not one of the best heels of all time." And I’m like, "I don’t know. I think a case can be made at this point." He’s just like on another level right now on WWE programming.
AUSTIN: He’s grown into it. He’s grown into it, Ryan, I agree. He’s always been good in the ring. But, I feel now, his character work and his promos, is off the charts.
His work has always been there. But, now, he’s nailing it all.
RS: I also opened this up to fans on Twitter for questions and got a few interesting suggestions in return.
First, Danny asks:
AUSTIN: I just will say we’ve extended the invite from way back. So, we’d love to have him. Everybody knows he’s super busy. But, yeah, we’d love to have him as well. And that’s not throwing that out there to put pressure on him, because I know he’s busy! But, yes, we have asked.
RS: God, I would love to see that. As a fan, that’s the one I want to see so bad. The Undertaker ones have been awesome, but that’s definitely the one I want to see. So, hopefully you guys can do that one day.
AUSTIN: We’ll see.
RS: @CactusRacks asks:
AUSTIN: Man, I really like what Drew McIntyre is doing just as far as where he’s coming from, talking about respect and making that World Title mean something. I like the tone with which he takes.
He means business. He commands respect.
But, also, Randy Orton. His delivery. The way he’s thinking now. The way he processes it. The way he puts it out there. Those two guys are really lighting it up. So, those would be two guys right off the bat. But, that was a two pronged question. What was the other part?
RS: What do you feel needs to be improved in the promo department for other wrestlers?
AUSTIN: Well, you know what a great promo is: when you believe it. Wrestling might be a work, but you want to believe it.
You want to believe that someone really believes what they’re saying. I can look at someone’s eyes and say, "Hey, man, they’re just memorizing this." A lot of the times they’re talking in ways that people don’t really talk and they’re making something way more complex than it really needs to be.
When I was talking, cutting promos against Bret "The Hitman" Hart or The Rock or whoever, it wasn’t real rocket science. It was like, "Hey, dude. I’m fixing to go out there and whoop your ass."
Simplify, make it real, keep it real. Put it out there. Don’t over think. Don’t over do the promo and make it too long winded.
RS: One last fan question, Brian Christy asks:
AUSTIN: God-dang, man. I think, I’d probably have to say the heel run. Me versus whoever. But, just the heel run.
People did not want to hate "Stone Cold" Steve Austin after the equity I’d built up as that babyface, which was in a grey area.
There hadn’t been a babyface really like me before. So, probably, any program that I was in after I turned heel, and I had some awesome opponents. But, it was just the fact that the Stone Cold part of the equation was the wrong factor, him being a heel.
RS: You talked about Drew McIntyre and you talked about some of the RAW guys, but what do you think about Roman Reigns’ heel turn and everything he’s been doing with Paul Heyman right now?
AUSTIN: I like it because it seems like Paul helps anchor him. [Roman]’s always been really good. He can work his ass off.
They needed to turn him heel way back in the day. But, they never would pull the trigger. Vince, you know. He’s the guy. He’s a good looking guy. Body. He can work. Vince never wanted to pull the trigger.
But, people wanted that heel run out of him, you know? So, now I think with Paul E, I think it stabilizes him and gives him an anchor. I like everything that he’s doing now. A lot. It all makes sense and it’s working.
RS: Earlier you talked about when I was on your show way back in the day. One of the things we bonded over back then was the show "Making A Murderer." So, I like your taste in TV. Is there anything that you’re watching these days that you’re super into while stuck inside?
AUSTIN: Just started watching "Warrior." I guess, it’s from the writings of Bruce Lee. I just started that last night. A friend of my wife’s recommended that to us. We just started watching that.
We watched "Queen of the South." I really enjoyed that.
We just started watching "Your Honor." That’s pretty damn good. They’re drawing us in with that. Sh*t’s hitting the fan. There’s a couple more, but hell, I’m trying to think about ‘em and I can’t think ‘em up.
RS: Since I know you like documentaries, there’s a great documentary on HBO Max about that Heaven’s Gate cult from back in the day. You should check it out. You’ll like it.
AUSTIN: Hell, I think we might have seen that.
RS: I really liked it.
AUSTIN: Did you watch the one about down in Waco, the David Kurresh thing? Whatever it was.
AUSTIN: That was good. The lead actor played a good David Koresh, I guess.
RS: Okay, one last question.
You’ve hit a lot of Stunners over the years, so I know this might be difficult to answer, but I want you to single out three of them:
- Favorite Stunner you’ve ever delivered.
- Who takes the best Stunner
- And Stunner you wish you could have back for whatever reason
AUSTIN: I guess because it set the tip of the iceberg over, favorite stunner would be Vince [McMahon] in Madison Square Garden.
I’ve hit some big stunners, okay? I could say Shawn Michaels for the win at [WrestleMania] 14, but let’s go to MSG with Vince for that one. What’s the second option?
RS: Who takes the best stunner?
AUSTIN: The Rock. Now, obviously, Scott Hall took a great one. Shane McMahon took a great one. There’s been a lot of great ones, but The Rock, when he just kept cascading all over the ropes and yeah, it was over the top, but god-dang, where we were going was over the top and it was money. So, The Rock. What’s the third one?
RS: Stunner you wish you could have back, for whatever reason.
AUSTIN: Well, god-dang. I think the one with Linda McMahon.
RS: I knew you were going to say that.
AUSTIN: Linda McMahon was like a mother to me on the road. And she was just awesome to me. And I loved her. And we kinda botched it a little bit, right? And I wanted to be gentle with her.
So, probably that one.
It’s funny that you agree with me. But, she was – and she still is – such a wonderful woman and she was like a mother to me on the road, so I love her, and we kinda botched it. So, Linda McMahon.
RS: Alright, well, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me today, Steve.
Everybody, make sure to watch "Straight Up Steve Austin." Season 2 premiering January 11th on USA Network. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the show if you’ve never watched it.
Steve, have a great day.
AUSTIN: Good seeing you again. Appreciate it. Thanks for helping me push the show.
*Transcript lightly edited for length and clarity*