‘Broken Skull Challenge’ Season 5: On Set With Steve Austin

Steve Austin

When shooting begins on Season 5 of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge, the man himself makes the set his home for the duration of the production.

Austin, an executive producer and host of the CMT competition series, makes the drive from his home in Marina del Rey about 50 miles to where the show is filmed in Agua Dulce, Calif. There, the Agua Dulce Movie Ranch is transformed into the Broken Skull Ranch. As you venture through the desert-like terrain, you eventually know you are coming up to the right place when a water tower with a big skull on it is noticed in the distance.

Near there is Austin’s trailer parked on the hill. The former wrestling superstar begins the day at 5am with a cup of coffee. This is followed by 30 minutes on a bicycle. The 52-year-old will spend another 40 minutes working out with weights and other equipment in his outdoor makeshift gym under a tent adjacent to his temporary place of residence. Shortly after, Austin has breakfast, jumps in the shower and begins to prepare for the day. He’ll look at the notes of the eight competitors coming in on a particular episode and the task at hand. He mentally prepares and meets with producers. Following meetings, the competition filming begins, along with interviews. The day usually wraps around 5:30 or 6pm.

After sitting in the sun all day, Austin is ready to wind down. During the cooler evenings, he will be out grilling salmon and chicken. The protein of choice is something the Texan doesn’t get tired of eating. A common ritual for Austin is taking a lap around the vast set on his Kawasaki Mule, which, of course, is complete with a skull-encrusted gear shifter.

As the day turns into night, he finds something magical about the sun going down while taking in the picturesque mountains and landscapes, away from the traffic and noise of the big city. The views give him inspiration as he starts resting up and thinking about what motivational thoughts he will deliver to the new group coming in with hopes of overcoming their competitors and trying their hand at the Skullbuster.

Austin likes to come out a day or two early before filming to familiarize himself with the elements. There is always something new to get acclimated to each season. He likens it to the wrestling ring, where the WWE alum enjoyed a Hall of Fame career. “You have to knock out the rust. I also have to get used to using my voice because I’m not used to yelling at people all the time,” he said.

For those who know Austin the entertainer and podcaster, that may surprise you. However, when the cameras aren’t rolling, he couldn’t be more down-to-earth and approachable. Austin acts basically no differently than one of your buds with whom you would share a beer on a hot summer day.

To give an idea of what the competitors of the Broken Skull Challenge face firsthand, Austin has no problem giving a personal guided tour of the set, which is filled with history. Austin points to olive trees, which he says were there from the days of Howard Hughes. He begins the Skullbuster explanation at Heartbreak Hill and its 40-degree incline, which offers a good look at the overall course.

As you drive through where the participants would carry a 75-pound (men) or 45-pound (women) log, you wonder how someone would be able to even go on after the first stretch of the Skullbuster. This alone is a quarter-mile, which may not seem far until you consider the heavy weight and blistering temperatures.

Austin speaks of the half-mile course complete with 10 challenges much like a parent would of their child. He beams with pride at what he and the hard-working crew have created.

“This Skullbuster requires maximum effort,” he said. “You have to give it maximum effort. If you are going to bite this Skullbuster, it will bite back. You will pay the price, but that is where the glory is and the satisfaction is. Coming out here because you wanted a challenge and try to go for the benchmark time my returning champion has set.”

Just another day at the office.

Season 5 of Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge gets underway 10/9c Tuesday, September 26, on CMT