By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
Forbes interview with guest Steve Austin
Interview conducted by Alfred Konuwa
Available at Forbes.com
Steve Austin on what he likes and hates about today’s product: “The performance level has sped up so much, and the guys and gals are doing so much incredible stuff. It’s absolutely unbelievable. It’s kinda like—being such a big football fan—I was just watching clips of Mean Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I used to be a huge Pittsburgh Steelers fan. And you watch those greats from back then into what the guys are doing now, and the guys now are just so much quicker, faster. Of course everything is. The camera’s better.
“These days, even though if I look at Attitude Era stuff, I look like I’m in slow motion watching what these superstars today are doing with better cameras and just better athletes. I really enjoy some of the sequences that they’re able to do. But then that also takes me back to one of the things that I don’t like is sometimes I think there’s too much being done.
“It’s kind of like a double-edged sword, which one do you want? And on one hand, I respect all the athleticism, but sometimes I think it’s too much. But at the end of the day, everything evolves and gets kind of faster it seems. And I love the product, I love reality based storylines and I think the men and women that are participating in it today are much better athletes. There’s been better athletes decades ago, but I really think there’s some really great work being done in the ring right now.
Steve Austin on his Mount Rushmore of his favorite career moments: “Man, I would’ve to go to the match part of it, like working with Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who put me on the map with Survivor Series and [WrestleMania] 13. Working with The Rock. Anytime we laced them up, he brought out the best in me and I brought the best in him. Those three WrestleManias we had were some of the greatest moments that I really enjoyed. All those Vince moments, driving all those vehicles. But if I really dig back into the stuff that I really loved, it was some of those matches. Like at the Los Angeles Forum working 30-minute Broadways with Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat with no cameras there, and a house that was only a quarter-full. But it was the work, and it was some of those old buildings in the USWA when I was learning and I was still green as grass.
“Those are the things that I really remember; the learning periods and spending life on the road and getting into an industry where you truly had to take care of yourself and no one was gonna help you. And if you were lucky, one of those veterans—and a lot of them did—took me under their wing, under their learning tree and told me ‘hey man, this is what you need to do and you only have so many bumps in your body, so choose them wisely.’ The advice that I was given, those types of things that are the things that really matter to me.”
Steve Austin on his friendship with CM Punk: “Man, I just sent Punk a message last night. I didn’t know he had torn his triceps. I haven’t been following anything. I don’t know what’s going on with that. Me and Phil trade messages every here and there. We rarely talk, probably once or twice a year. I love the guy, and I don’t even know if I mentored him because Punk’s probably a lot smarter than I am.
“Great promo guy, great worker, he’s got his own thing going and we’re just friends. So I think I remember there’s a picture of myself and him from Chicago, my favorite town to work in, my favorite building. And I guess he had come down to where we were all hanging out. Maybe he looked up to me back in the day, but I don’t know if I so much mentored him because I think he paid his own dues. He learned it the way he did and he got over on his own merits. The fact that maybe I could have been somewhat of an influence would be flattering if that were the case. But he’s made his own career.
“But I don’t even know what’s going on with the current situation or what they’re doing because right now I rarely watch any of the product. I watch all the pay-per-views and major pay-per-views, but he’s certainly carved out a hellacious career in his own right by his own right.”
Steve Austin on if the WWE sale will change the wrestling business: “I don’t know that it’s gonna change. Because I did see Triple H go out there and say, ‘Hey man, we’re not going anywhere.’ Meaning that group of collective individuals, which is driving the product.
“It seems to me that it is more about the brand so much than the individual people, but there are certainly those key individual people: Roman, Brock, Cody coming up being a big part of the reason why that brand is working. So I think it is more brand-based, but you’ve got to have the talent that can make that brand fly. And that goes back to the individuals. If you don’t have great individual talent, and I didn’t even mention the great women on the roster, but if you ain’t got great talent, that brand don’t mean anything. I agree with what you’re saying, though. It is more brand-based, but you’ve got to have those superstars to drive that brand and they’re really good at creating superstars.”
Steve Austin on Logan Paul and other celebrity wrestlers: Well, if you go back, what, 20 some-odd years—maybe 25 and earlier—when they had Liberace and all the people from the showbiz world come in because they wanted to make WrestleMania just bigger than life. And it was. So they had incorporated that back then. But now we’re seeing those participants actually participating in storylines in the ring. Logan Paul’s been fantastic doing that.
It’s gone from not just getting the rub from them, but now WWE is giving people the rub by allow allowing them in and allowing them to participate, but they’ve gotta be good enough to participate. You can’t just throw somebody out there, like ‘hey, yeah, this person’s really hot in the showbiz world’ and come out there and stink out the building with a poor performance. Logan Paul has thrived in that scene and it’s a good thing. He has a great podcast, but the kid’s done a hell of a job and they’ve given him the opportunity to get in that ring.
Steve Austin on “Superstar” Billy Graham: “Man, I saw that last night and I had called Superstar once or twice many years ago and talked to him about his run. I was a huge fan of his, and he didn’t really influence me, it wasn’t my style, but I just liked that he was all about the showbiz. He was a good worker in his own right. Not the greatest athlete, but so influential with the body, the promos.
“I love the fact that he was a light worker. He wasn’t trying to go out there and shoot on people, and he was all about the showbiz part of it. He was larger than life, and had they had the wherewithal to turn him babyface at the peak of his career when he was a heel, before they put that belt on [Bob] Backlund, he would’ve been Hulkamania before Hulkamania was ever invented. I think even Hogan will say that he was influenced by Superstar. But sad that he is gone. He left a hell of a mark on an industry and he was awesome. I was a huge fan.”