If someone had told me back in 2012 when I wrote my first Fanpost for Cageside Seats that I would one day be on the phone with Stone Cold Steve Austin...well, I would have given you a "Hell Yeah!", but not before several rounds of "What?"s.
Yesterday, thanks to the good folks at Wendy's and our fearless leader Geno Mrosko, that's exactly what happened.
The conversation was set-up by Austin's team in support of the fight against BBQ Inaccessibility, aka Wendy's promotion of their new line of pulled pork BBQ sandwiches and fries. If you haven't seen the fantastic promotional videos that feature Stone Cold, Alfonso Ribeiro and Ralph Macchio, you're missing out:
Learn more about the campaign, which Austin joined because of his love for BBQ and being a Wendy's customer and "Classic Double" guy, by heading over to bbq4Merica.com or by following #BBQ4Merica on social media.
It's apparent within minutes of talking to him why Austin would be a sought after pitchman for everyone from Worldwide concerns like Wendy's to more niche internet services like Dollar Shave Club (who sponsors his weekly Steve Austin Show on the Podcast One network). Wrestling fans are familiar with the combination of down-to-earth charm and kick-your-ass machismo that Stone Cold brings, and as he gets more and more settled into his post-pro grappling life, the public at large is getting a chance to experience it.
Austin spoke about how that transition has gone for him, especially in the past several years as his reality television career has taken off and his successful podcast has launched:
To segue out of WWE professional wrestling, or sports entertainment...the pieces of the puzzle seem to keep falling together for me. I don't really make a gigantic, large scale plan, with long-range goals. I kind of take things as they come, one piece at a time.
These days, if I don't want to do something, or if it's not the best move for me to make, I don't pull the trigger and execute.
With the topic of movies on the table, we talked about that some more. At one point in the mid-aughts, Hollywood seemed to be the direction Steve was headed. But now, while he wouldn't rule it out, he's found other projects (in additon to the podcast, television for CMT like Broken Skull Challenge) - and priorities - that work for him:
I'm really passionate about the reality television job, I have a lot of fun here. I find that I'm more comfortable being myself, Steve Austin, in the vein of reality television, than trying to be another character in a movie. Another thing I like about the reality television space and my podcast space is it's pretty much all ad-lib, and it's on the fly. I don't like to memorize anything. Can I memorize stuff? Well, of course I can. But my passion is more in trying to do the best I can with my podcast and work on some more reality projects as well.
I've surely put the Heisman stiff arm to a lot of movie projects I didn't want to be a part of...back in the day, I did some projects that, ehh, they weren't the greatest...I spent so many years on the road, I'm pretty picky with my time, because I spent a lot of time away from my family. And now it's my wife, and my dogs, and myself. I like to stay busy, I like to keep my profile up, my awareness, I like to pay the bills that they send into my mailbox, but I also treasure my family time - because I didn't have enough it back in the day.
Of course, when you talk to a Hall of Famer, a six time WWF champ and three time Royal Rumble winner, you want to talk about wrestling. I tried first with a rumor that's been in The Wrestling Observer and some other places about WWE ordering big quantities of Stone Cold merchandise ahead of an announcement that Vince McMahon and Steve Austin would be getting back into business together:
Dave Meltzer knows more about my career, and my relationship with WWE, than I do (laughs)...I haven't had a talk with anyone at WWE about doing anything in the near future.
With that avenue shut down, I went to the well of a comeback match, and what would lure him to put on the cutoffs and knee braces for another go. To his credit, despite probably answering this a million times, he gave a long answer with some new insights:
If I were to do it, Dallas (home of WrestleMania 32) makes more sense, but then, there's all the stars lined up in the right places. When I left, I left out when I did with the legacy that I had, and people remember - I was looking up at the lights that night for The Great One, The Rock, that night in Seattle, Washington after I'd beat him two out of the other three matches at WrestleManias...I wouldn't want to go out there and stink up the joint. I wouldn't want to tarnish anything that I'd left behind.
As an aside - I think my favorite part of our whole discussion was that he adhered to the wrestling etiquette of pointing out that he went out on his back, and still managed to get a little competitive reminder in for his rival Dwayne Johnson about who won their all-time 'Mania series.
But back to the Rattlesnake on a comeback:
I've got to be able to go at at least 100%, because anything less would be a disservice to the legacy and the career that I had. It would take three or four months of butt-kicking to do that, and, you know, is it all worth it? I'd have to weigh that out and hear the proper storyline.
I don't want to go through anybody, I don't want to read a promo or have to memorize a promo...I'd have to go back and have carte blanche, free rein to do whatever I wanted to do - not crossing any lines with regards to language, but I don't want to go back to a scripted world where someone tells Stone Cold Steve Austin what to say. I drew a hell of a lot of money saying what was on my mind and in my heart, and I don't want anybody to change that. And I don't know that I can exist in a system like that.
I love my wrestling fans...and I don't want to disappoint them, and I don't want to just do something and go through the motions. My heart has to be in it 120%, my guts and everything I believe in, and we'd have to go out there and execute a ball-breaker of a match to pull off what we'd have to pull off. Because anything less than a five star special would be anti-climactic for me and defeat the purpose.
And that's the bottom line, because he said so.
My apologies for the audio quality, especially on the parts you really want to hear, which are Austin himself. Chalk it up to a layperson recording off his cell phone via the finest digital recorder Staples sells for less than $50. But it was exciting for me as a fan, and I wanted to share it with my favorite fellow fans in the world, the great community here at Cageside Seats.
Hope you enjoy it, and take it from old Stone Cold...if you want to make your mid-section look as streamlined as it should, stay away from light gray shirts.
If you have problems with the embedded player, give it a listen on YouTube.