WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was the latest guest on the Ring Rust Radio podcast. The Texas Rattlesnake spoke in-depth about Season 5 of his ‘Broken Skull Challenge’ reality competition show, how the competitors’ athleticism compares to that of WWE Superstars, which current WWE Superstars he enjoys watching, Neville’s WWE status, where Kurt Angle ranks on the list of all-time great pro wrestlers and much more.
Here are the highlights they sent in:
Ring Rust Radio: This is the fifth season of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, which last year averaged more than four million weekly viewers. What can fans who have never seen the program expect when tuning in?
Steve Austin: It’s just bad-ass competition. It’s very simple, very basic, very strenuous, very hard and in a tough environment. Basically, we film this on top of a mountain in the desert right outside Los Angeles. Everything we are using from boulders to barrels to logs, there’s no scientific nothing out there. It’s bracket-style competition. Eight athletes come out each week through three rounds of competition and you either win or you lose. If you win, you go on, and if you lose, you go home.
At the end of the day, out of eight competitors, one will be left standing. That competitor will come back the next day and run my obstacle course and it’s called the Skull Buster. It’s a half mile course with ten obstacles standing in your way. If you can beat a bench-mark time, you get $10,000 and remain there until someone can dethrone you. It is a very simple formula to understand. If you have never seen it before, you can tune in and understand exactly what is going down. What is going down is extreme, hardcore, physical competition. There ain’t no reality, the only reality out there is you either are going to win or lose, it is a challenge show.
Ring Rust Radio: Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge has built quite a fanbase since its debut. Did you expect the show to take off the way it has and how many more seasons do you think you have in you?
Steve Austin: Man, I love doing the show. I love being outdoors, I love competition and I love to be able to help motivate people to push their bodies and their minds to the absolute limit. I am never bored out there and I am having a great time. I’m not out there trash talking or cutting promos like I did in the wrestling business. I am out there trying to motivate some of the best athletes in the United States of America; there is a big difference there.
So, it’s fun being around such driven people that are pushing themselves so hard. I was hoping, and in anything you do you want to have some confidence and want to believe in yourself, but at the end of the day it’s up to the people who watch and if the product is good enough. So far, it has been and I would love to keep doing this for as long as we can. As long as we can keep making this thing challenging for the athletes so that they want to come out and get their challenges met and see how tough they really are. If people are still interested in the show, I would love to keep doing it for a long time.
Ring Rust Radio: It obviously takes an incredible athlete to be able to conquer the Broken Skull Challenge. From your perspective as the host of the show and a WWE Hall of Famer, how do the top Broken Skull Challenge competitors compare to WWE Superstars in terms of their athleticism?
Steve Austin: In many ways, the athleticism, because this people are training specifically for these tasks and what I am asking them to do. Whether they are coming from the world of Cross Fit, Spartan Race, obstacle course racing, they are training specifically for these types of events. We will shake it up so they never know what we are throwing at them.
The guys and gals in the squared circle these days, and I’ll speak of WWE because that’s where I spent the bulk of my career and that’s where I am from and who I am basically with, man those athletes there are off the charts from the generation that I came up. They are outstanding athletes in their own rights. They are extremely tough athletes in their own right. Living that road schedule, getting in that ring every single night, pushing their bodies to the limit in the ring, and then stepping into the gym to stay in tune with what they do.
They aren’t training to come out and do what I do, but if you put the athletes from the Broken Skull into a squared circle and have a match, they wouldn’t be able to do it. The athleticism I would say is equal, but both parties are training for uniquely and specifically different endeavors.
Ring Rust Radio: For the Steve Austin Show on Podcast One, you have to watch the WWE product as much as you can. Who are some of the current Superstars that get Stone Cold excited when they show up on TV?
Steve Austin: You know what, I watch as much as I can. I DVR the show just to fast-forward through the commercials. It’s hard to watch because three hours of Raw every Monday and then two hours of SmackDown, but because I am still involved with the business, I try to watch as much as I can. Brock Lesnar is an absolute beast. I enjoy watching him and seeing what AJ Styles is up to next. Waiting to see if Finn Balor will continue to find his way. Waiting to see what they will end up doing with Shinsuke Nakamura and give him a green light push with that great background he brings from New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
With the women’s division, their athleticism is just off the charts now. They have been main eventing Monday Night Raw, SmackDown and pay-per-views. I like the entire product and it has changed a lot since I have been gone. It’s sped up a lot since I have been gone. It’s a different world. So, when I watch with the old school mentality that I have, I have to try to lose myself in it and suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.
Ring Rust Radio: There’s been a lot of rumors and speculation recently surrounding Neville about him walking out on WWE due to creative differences and/or unhappiness regarding his pay. Having been in a similar situation before yourself, what advice would you give Neville if he has, in fact, decided to leave WWE?
Steve Austin: Well, my situation when I walked out, I wasn’t on board with the direction creative wanted to go. I was working my ass off and I just was not happy with that decision. So, I could have made a better decision with how I handled it. Just walking away like I did was a bad idea. I don’t know specifically what Neville’s business deal is or what his contract is or the circumstances under which he left. I know that any time you walk away from something and you don’t have that meeting or that one-on-one time with Vince or Paul or whoever it may be, but that’s the most prudent decision to make.
By the same token, I can respect the guy that has enough balls to walk away just because he had a gut feeling like I did. I just wish him all the best in the world. In my opinion, he is an outstanding talent, he was really coming around with his gimmick and character, and he was a guy that I really liked watching. I’m sure a lot of people in the WWE Universe fell the same way. Hopefully he gets past this and whether he goes back to WWE or goes somewhere else, I hope he continues to have a successful career and have fun. At the end of the day, pro-wrestling, to be able to get paid to do that, it’s a fun job but it is a business and you need to get paid accordingly. I want the kid to have a great career, make his money and go on to the next phase of his life when it’s time to do that.
Ring Rust Radio: Recently we lost one of the greatest wrestling personalities ever, Bobby The Brain Heenan. What was your relationship like with Heenan and what are your thoughts on the legendary commentator and manager?
Steve Austin: I barely knew Bobby because he was a generation and half before me. I was a huge fan because I was watching WWF back in the day. Watching his commentary with Gorilla Monsoon, his interactions with Vince or whoever it was, that guy was absolute gold on the microphone, a premier entertainer. If he had to put on the tights to wrestle or put on that weasel outfit, the guy knew how to entertain people. If he hadn’t gotten into the pro-wrestling business, he would have been a stand-up comedian or something, Bobby was going to be successful in whatever he did because that’s how talented he was.
A lot of times, when you are on the road and sitting around at the show, one of our agents was Blackjack Lanza. Blackjack is in the Hall of Fame and he is a great story teller. He and Bobby used to travel together back in the day. A bunch of guys and myself would be gathered around Blackjack while he is telling Bobby Heenan stories. Whether they were at the bar doing this or that, the shenanigans they got involved in, so I felt like I knew Bobby a lot more than I did just because I heard so many stories from Blackjack. The guy was a premiere, Grade A, awesome performer. I loved it, I didn’t know him, but I loved it.
Ring Rust Radio: One of your peers, Kurt Angle, made his in-ring return to WWE on Sunday at TLC, wrestling in his first match for the company in 11 years. As someone who worked with Kurt on numerous occasions, where do you place him among the all-time greats, and what would you like to see WWE do with him now that he’s back in the fold as a wrestler?
Steve Austin: I don’t know what I want them to do with him because I don’t know Kurt’s physical capacity with what he can do in the squared circle from a performers stand point. As far as I would rank him as an all-time great, with what he can do in the ring and character standpoint, let’s talk about his in-ring work: off the charts. When this guy came in, I know he won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, he comes in to the company and I see this raw talent. He is having these fast-paced wrestling matches, and I was like, holy smokes, this guy is catching onto this like no one I have ever seen in my life. So as a performer, so far ahead of his time and probably the fastest guy in the history of the business to pick it up at the level he picked it up at and just lights out. It didn’t matter who he was getting in the ring with, anybody who got in the ring with him they got a chance to steal the show. His work ethic and desire to be the best was among the highest I have ever known in the history of that business. As a character and persona, some of the backstage stuff we were doing because he was injured and I had three broken bones in my lower back, that comedy stuff we did was mostly adlibbed. The guy was a once in a generation talent. I love him as a person and I love his work in the ring. He was an absolute, true warrior and a bad ass in that ring. Not everybody can keep up with him.
Ring Rust Radio: You have been adamant that you will not return to in-ring competition, but when you see contemporaries like Kurt Angle, Shane McMahon and others making an impact on the product today, do you ever get that itch to be in front of the WWE Universe again?
Steve Austin: No, man. I got a fire in my belly for the business because I love pro-wrestling. I have zero desire to ever try to get back in the ring. I have so many great memories and I look back on those times fondly. It’s the young guy’s time to shine and I am enjoying seeing what they are coming up with. I like seeing the old school guys like myself still in there and doing their thing. When people decide to step away from the ring like I did or the guys that decide to step back in, it’s on a case-by-case, person-by-person basis. Some guys just like to hang on for as long as they can.
For a while there, I didn’t understand why guys would do that. When I really thought about it, it’s because they love being in that god-dang ring so much that they just can’t get away from it. I had that neck injury and I needed to get out of the business so I did. I can understand that mindset now. I am done, I am happy being done, I wish I could of stayed in the ring a little bit longer, I rode off into the sunset a little bit sooner rather than I would of like, but it is what it is. I have come to terms with that and I have moved down the road. I am still a fan of the business and watching the men and women do what they do in the business and on Raw and SmackDown and the pay-per-views on the network.