Ring Rust Radio: We are in the midst of the third season of the Broken Skull Challenge on CMT, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET. What has made this season so successful and why do you think so many people have fallen in love with the show?
Steve Austin: I think why this season is so successful is the athletes have really taken it to the next level. I host it, we create these bad ass challenges, and we always keep the audience guessing as well as the athletes. So they really never know what they’re getting themselves into. One of the biggest drawing aspects to the show is the fact that it is so raw and brutal. I always like to tell the story of when Rocky fought Drago. Drago had all the scientific training equipment and Rocky was using boulders and logs. That’s what we do out there on the Broken Skull Challenge. It’s very simple. It’s brutal. If you last you stick around, and if you lose you go home. It’s a very easy format to understand. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand it, and you can jump in at any point in the season and know what’s going on. I think it’s the fastest moving hour on TV. I love it because it’s like a paid vacation to go out there. I live on location while I’m there so I don’t have to drive back and forth the 50 miles home. I have a bad ass, 45-foot recreational vehicle out there. Also I got my Kawasaki Mules out there, I got my gym out there, I’m on a couple hundred acres out in the middle of nowhere in a desert on top of a mountain. It really is a bad ass show.
Ring Rust Radio: Thanks to the WWE Network, many fans, including myself, have had the opportunity to relive your greatest moments and matches from the Attitude Era. One angle that I always considered among my favorites was at Survivor Series in 1999 when you were run down by a car. What are your thoughts looking back on that angle and can you shed light on your health during this time since you had been going for more than two years since your neck injury?
Steve Austin: I started to get some neurological issues. My hand was starting to atrophy and twitch. Just a bunch of weird neurological stuff started happening. When it comes to neurological stuff, I don’t think you scratch your head because you’ve spent all these years in the gym trying to get bigger and now all of a sudden everything is withering away. I knew I needed to finally get something done and that was to clear out some space in my spinal cord. So on top of that I had a bone spur growing into my spinal cord. That really needed to be addressed ASAP. That is why we had to shoot that angle. Going into it obviously we had a stunt double to get hit by the car and the guy did a great job. Then boom, I was out of the scene and got my C-3 and C-4 fused.
Ring Rust Radio: One of the greatest matches of your career in my opinion was your bout with The Rock at WrestleMania 17, which is well known for your heel turn during the aftermath. We recently had Jim Ross on the show and he said you almost went the other way with it by taking out Vince instead, and you’ve said it’s something you considered doing as well. Why did you ultimately decide against it, and how do you think it would’ve went over with Vince if you would’ve called an audible?
Steve Austin: Well first of all, it was my idea to turn heel. If I could do it over again I would of shook Vince’s hand and told him, “I’m calling an audible, watch the stunner,” and that’s what I would’ve done. Some people say they were glad I turned heel because I got to show different levels and ranges and all that other stuff. Yes, I did but the money was in Stone Cold Steve Austin being a baby face. At that point, people didn’t want to hate me, and I tried like hell to get them to hate me. I did the best I could, but then again it didn’t matter if I had opponents are not, it just wasn’t the right call and it was my idea. Vince would have totally gone along with anything I called because he always told me I had the best game day gut instincts of anyone he ever knew. I felt it, but once I committed man that’s where I wanted to go. Hindsight being 20/20 had I called that audible, he would’ve been fine with it.
Ring Rust Radio: The biggest story recently has been Daniel Bryan’s retirement. As someone who also had their career shortened by injuries, what are your thoughts on Bryan’s decision to walk away and what advice would you give him moving forward?
Steve Austin: I think the guy absolutely made the right decision. I think Vince kind of helped him to make up his mind. I had heard a story that he wanted out of his contract so he could go wrestle elsewhere. I don’t know. Then I heard the part about his seizures, then all of a sudden it was what came first, the chicken or the egg? He absolutely made the right decision. We find out years later with all these NFL guys and some guys in our business that have brain issues. If you’re having seizures and the doctor says your brain is kind of getting jellified here, and I’m no doctor that’s just working man speak, then damn right he made the right decision. Moving forward my advice to him is I don’t think he needs much advice. Daniel Bryan is a very smart kid, he is very passionate about some of the green projects he’s involved with that we talked about on my podcast about two years ago. I don’t know him real well, but I talked to him while he was at home on his hiatus from the business. He will find another way just like I did. I remember when I was going to have to ride off into the sunset, my good friend Paul Orndorff looked me in the eyes and said, “Steve there is life after wrestling” because a lot of us don’t think there is. We don’t have an exit strategy from the business. I asked him, “There is?”, and he said “Damn right there is.” That’s the only thing I told Daniel Bryan as well, is that there is life after wrestling.
Ring Rust Radio: The WWE Universe is getting excited for WrestleMania 32 from Dallas. What are your expectations for the show overall and what kind of role should the fans expect to see you in at the event?
Steve Austin: I know Vince is going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them. You got a big ass building in AT&T Stadium where the Dallas Cowboys play. It’s going to take some creative booking to put together some intriguing storylines and matches, and that’s going to be the place for everything to culminate and pay off. In a way WrestleMania kind of sells itself because it’s WrestleMania and all these fans make the pilgrimage to this one location. Along with that there does have to be a big attraction. I’ll never forget when I was fortunate enough to work with the Rock at 17. I worked in SafeCo and there were a lot of people there. I worked Ford Field when I was a referee. When you’re the main event of the card and all those people come, that’s a gigantic reason to come when you want to see Stone Cold and the Rock, and you know it’s good to be a special moment. Roman Reigns isn’t quite there yet, but he will be one of these days, so he does have a great opportunity if he ends up taking on Triple H or whoever they put in the ring with him. They got work to do. As far as my role, I don’t know yet. I haven’t talked to anybody about it. I expect to be in Dallas, Texas, and I expect to do something, I just don’t know what it is.
Ring Rust Radio: Speaking of WrestleMania 32, I think most fans are probably expecting a main event of Triple H against Roman Reigns for the world title, and that isn’t necessarily going over well with everyone due to the perceived predictability of the angle. How do you see the world title scene playing out leading up to and at WrestleMania, and how would you handle it if you had a say?
Steve Austin: I really don’t know how to play it out. I just talked to Wade Keller on my Tuesday show, and he had some interesting scenarios, but I can’t remember what they were. As far as predictability goes, sometimes the writing is on the wall and it’s easy to predict things then there are times you think you know what they’re going to do, and then they pull the old switcheroo on you. I haven’t sat there and dwelled upon it really to be very frank with you. I try to watch some of the highlights of Raw because I was just there. I got a chance to talk to Roman Reigns and he is going to be fine. When you talk to him one-on-one, he is a super cool dude. I told him just be yourself in your promos and you are going to be fine. Some people think he has been a little bit entitled or pushed too fast and too hard. It’s just like when Vince McMahon told me when I was going to win King of the Ring or drop the championship on me at WrestleMania 14, what was I going to say? Not so fast, I think I need to earn more, so let’s wait a little bit on that. Roman Reigns has a good body, good looking guy, but he does have to bring the work up and he is starting to develop a little bit of a promo when he is himself. The company is going to him, and with that being said, he does have to bring up his end and that’s in the work and the performance. The IWC wants things their way and their favorites and or the people that are not given enough attention like Cesaro before he went down with his injury after Tyson Kidd rode off after his injury. Those two guys were doing great, but then Cesaro kind of fell to the wayside and everyone wants him to get a push because he’s earned it. After all my years in the business, yes the business has changed a little bit, but I just like to watch it and see what it is. The fact is these guys are better athletes than we were in there putting together more athletic sequences, so just kind of enjoy the ride. I was in the business for 15 years, and if I sit there and try to break down everything they do, then I’d have a headache. I just try to watch and enjoy it.
Ring Rust Radio: We debate the creative process at WWE every week and fans are more vocal than ever about the product thanks to social media. You’ve never been shy to give your thoughts on creative and would challenge the process when something was right for your character or the product. Do you think more wrestlers need to question and challenge WWE’s creative process?
Steve Austin: Absolutely. You have to develop that relationship first. You can’t just go in there and say that you want this because you will get a door slammed in your face. It’s just like how I talked to Big Show the other day my podcast, you have to develop a relationship with Vince, you have to develop a relationship with Triple H and you have to develop a relationship with the company in general. They have to get a chance to know you. Once you have gotten in there and they see that you’re bringing ideas to the storyline or your character are ways for you to get over, they are very receptive. As long as you do it in the right process and go through the right protocol, I think they would welcome stuff like that. It’s okay to ask questions and question where they’re going with your character because they are invested in you and you’re invested in your career. There’s a way to do it and everybody should do it, but it is in all how you do it. Triple H tells a funny story about how many times I would show up at a Monday Night Raw and they would tell me what they are doing, and I was an asshole then and I would tell them no, I’m not doing that. They would ask me if I had a better idea and I would say nope and I would walk off. People actually thought the Triple H was talking smack about me, but he wasn’t. That was the truth. If I didn’t like something, I would tell you nope and I’m not doing it because I could. I was protecting my gimmick and my character. Vince did understand that, so we were always cool. I could do that, but I wasn’t trying to be a prick, but I wasn’t going to sit there and book for him. If you hand me a bad ass steak, I’m better at putting salt and pepper on it than making the whole damn steak. I’m great at the fine details to make something better like an angle. They pitch something to me, and I would straight up tell you go F yourself. That’s just the way I was, and that’s the way I was wired. I think now because there is only one company to work for, guys are walking on eggshells.