Steve Austin on Memorable 'Straight Up' Experiences & Appearing on Historic WWE 'Raw'
If there’s one thing fans know about “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, it’s that nothing he does is conventional. The same can be said for his USA Network series Straight Up Steve Austin. A show that body slams the typical interview format. Each episode sees the WWE Hall of Famer on an adventure to meet up with a celebrity guest for a day. Whether it’s driving a vehicle on the water, a recliner on wheels or just sharing a cold one, Austin gives this eclectic mix of well-known figures an experience they’ll never forget.
The easy-going Texan has hosted competition reality competitions like Tough Enough and Broken Skull Challenge in the past. A job that often called for some motivational yelling. He stresses in this environment he is not ‘Stone Cold.’ Just Steve.
“We’re having fun, so we’re all engaged. I’m like a kid in the candy store here,” he said. “…We kind of wanted to draw from all walks of life. I’m comfortable talking with people from the wrestling and sporting world because I’m so involved with all those things. I’m also totally enamored with the comedy side of things and the music industry like with Trace Adkins who we shot the pilot with.
“…The whole thing has been a team effort. When we were filming that pilot, you are kind of throwing stuff on the wall and seeing what sticks. Trace Adkins came out for that one, and I’m trying to find my way as an interviewer. I’ve been laughing my ass off ever since it started filming and learning a lot in the process. I’m just trying to go out there and have some fun with people because they are giving me a day out of their lives, and I’m having a blast.”
Austin appreciates the country music superstar and everyone else featured. They were the proverbial guinea pigs for the concept.
“I got to give them credit for taking a leap of faith because all they had to go on was the pilot with Trace,” he said. “I give them credit with having a good time with me. So far, it’s been really well received. Everyone has come off in a real positive light. My social media is very positive. It has been a tremendous time.”
The physical activities themselves helped create a fun atmosphere, therefore allowing the guests to feel comfortable and let their guard down. It also proved a useful tool in opening the lines of communication. Much like Austin’s approach to his popular podcast, the dialogue is organic and free-flowing.
“I was very keen on listening. It’s something I’ve always done, whether it was the podcast or just talking to people,” he said. “Just listening and not trying to think of the next question but listening to them answer. Listening was key. I think the activities really helped me out because on one hand you try to walk and chew bubblegum at the same time.
“With Baker Mayfield and me, it was just throwing a football back and forth. I used to throw a football with my brothers in the backyard. You just start talking when you are doing stuff like that. The activities really helped out, more so than I thought. It really lent itself to conversation.”
When it comes to guests who were eye-opening, or in a way, surprising he remembers shooting the Dale Earnhardt Jr. as standing out. Austin met the motor sports legend on a few occasions at races but never in such a one-on-one setting.
“Dale Earnhardt Jr. was so interesting because he had to call his own shot. He had to take himself out of the game and the sport of NASCAR,” he said. “Dale had to make that decision for himself…To hear how articulate and eloquent and what a story-teller the guy is, how intelligent he is. He is just a good old boy from North Carolina. Just the fact he is so candid and open and humble. I guess it did surprise me because I didn’t know what to expect. He was a real amazing person.”
During the Sal Vulcano, the Impractical Jokers star got to live out his dream of stepping foot in a pro wrestling ring. For an opponent, Austin sought the services of Lance Archer of New Japan Pro Wrestling.
“He came off camera extremely well. I don’t know if he has done a whole lot of television work other than being on TV in a wrestling type environment,” he said. “I thought he was amazingly articulate and eloquent. He was extremely knowledgeable, being 18 years in the business. I thought it was fantastic. We bonded instantly. Kind of like brothers from the same background. I had a blast hanging out with that guy and think very highly of him.”
Another fun memory from filming was with Gabriel Iglesias, a lifelong fan. Lots of laughs were had between Austin and the comic/actor.
“I’ve known ‘Fluffy’ for several years. He has been on my podcast several times. He is just a sweetheart of a guy,” he said. “He is one of the funniest comedians touring now. He is one of the hardest working comedians out there. Just to hang out with him was like two buds hanging out. We also got to know a little bit of his background coming up and how hard the struggle was for him to get started.
“You’re going to hear things from him you may have not thought you’d hear from him. We both also share a vast love of automobiles. We get introduced to a track and mess around with some cars. It’s a real fun episode.”
Austin is thankful to have the support of USA Network and WWE in promoting the project. The now retired performer has been making a few appearances for the company in 2019. The sounds of shattered glass will sound next on an upcoming Raw as the long-time live TV show broadcasts from Madison Square Garden for the first time in a decade. That night “Stone Cold” is marking a milestone of his own when he moderates the Universal championship contract signing for Clash of Champions.
“I haven’t been to The Garden in 20 years. It’s funny how time passes by that fast. When you are in the wrestling business and entertainment business and can play arenas. Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena in the world,” he said. “To go back there, it’s kind of like a homecoming for me because we always considered that to be our backyard with WWE being based out of Stanford, Connecticut. The Garden was our number one arena. You always wanted to sell that thing out.
“It’s a very important show. Then to come back after all these years later, I never thought I would go back to The Garden and hit the turnbuckles and throw my fist up in the air. I’m sure I’ll be drinking a couple of beers out there as well. I’m really looking forward to getting back to the feel of the building. The history there. I know it has changed a lot, but it’s still The Garden. It will be a very special night. I don’t know exactly what I’ll really be doing as far as creative goes, but it’s always exciting to play that building because if you can get over there. You can get over anywhere.”
Austin’s last live WWE appearance was closing out the Raw Reunion in July with a beer bash of epic proportions. He is also featured in the WWE 2K20 commercial. The former heavyweight champ describes the frequency of working in his old stomping grounds as circumstantial.
“Not everything is last minute. Some things are thought out way in advance. They call me up, and if I’m available and it sounds like a good idea, I’ll do it,” Austin said. “I’ve been away for a long time. I always like to say I want the current superstars to have all the television time, but if I can go out there and give someone a rub. Or if I can get out there in front of a crowd that is still around when I was still active who want to see me again, that’s a cool feeling too.
“It’s just something that is happening. It’s not like I’m going to go back on the road full-time or anything. It’s some good opportunities. It makes sense TV-wise, business-wise. I’m there to lend a hand or help out as much as I can.”
Straight Up Steve Austin, Mondays, 11/10c, USA Network
See “Stone Cold” appear live during WWE Raw’s return to Madison Square Garden Monday, September 9, at 8/7c on USA Network