A can of beer isn't the only thing Stone Cold Steve Austin can open up. Austin recently opened up on his career in wrestling on Dale Jr Download hosted by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Austin gave his perspective on multiple wrestling topics.
Speaking about the conception of the Stone Cold character, Austin went though memory lane on how his original gimmick The Ringmaster did not mesh well with him.
"WWE didn't have any interest in bringing me in as a superstar," Austin said. "They were bringing me as The Ringmaster, the Million Dollar Champion Ted Dibiase was going to be my manager because Vince hadn't seen me speak yet and thought I was a deaf mute. So I was going to have a mouthpiece and I didn't like that but when you have a house payment and a car to pay for you need the money. I did that for six months and I knew there was no future in The Ringmaster. When I look back at some of those old prototype drawings of it, these cool symmetrical outfits, he was the master of the ring - this technician. I was more of romp 'em stomp 'em. I could wrestle but I wasn't that kind of guy as far as ring gear goes, I was pretty basic. The Ringmaster didn't work. I knew that name had no marquee value to it."
Searching for something new to transition into, Austin credits an HBO documentary a cup of tea for what would become one of the most iconic character names in the history of wrestling.
"I was watching a show on HBO about the serial killer Richard Kuklinski who was a hitman and I don't endorse anything the guy did but he was called the Iceman because he was very cold blooded," Austin said. "I was a heel in the business and it was my job to be hated. So I took that idea and called the office and said: 'Hey man, I got this idea I want be like a cold blooded remorseless heel' and I told them about the Iceman. They sent me three pages of these horrible names: Fang McFrost, Otto Van Ruthless, and Ice Dagger. I'm saying 'These guys are supposed to be creative geniuses and this is the best s**t they got?' My wife at the time brought me a cup of hot tea and said, 'Oh, don't worry about it. Just drink your tea before it gets stone cold. That's your name… Stone Cold Steve Austin'. So I called the office and pitched it, 'I want to be Stone Cold Steve Austin from Victoria Texas'".
As Austin progressed into his Stone Cold character, he noticed the production team was beginning to cut out crucial lines from his promos, leaving out parts that were vital to his character. Austin admitted he didn't like his edited television character and therefore brought the issue directly to Vince McMahon.
"I noticed they were starting to edit some of the stuff I said out of the show. I was like 'hey man, I said this then' and they cut it out. I didn't know Vince well and I said, 'You guys are starting to editing out all the stuff I said. I wonder why that is?' Vince said 'You're popping a lot of the guys in the truck'. Those guys have seen and heard everything so if I'm eliciting a response from them and they're laughing their ass off, it's entertaining those guys and that's a good thing. But because it was getting that kind of reaction out of them, Vince wanted it to be cut out because I was trying to be hated. I said, 'Vince, you got guys here who are 6'10", 300 pounds. I'm 6'1", 250, black trunks, bald head, and goatee. If you don't give me my personality, I can't compete. But if you give me my personality, I'll compete with anybody you got'. And that's when Vince stopped editing me. And that's when I let that south Texas trash fly. And that's when we started heating up and I really found myself."
Austin was questioned about the peak of the WWE product. Austin brought up the notion of competition with WCW and how that head to head rivalry forced him and the entire roster to step up their game in order to generate the highest quality product.
"That was the Monday Night Wars. And we were throwing everything but the kitchen sink every single Monday night. You were getting a Main Event Pay Per View type card because it was a war. They kicked our ass for two years. And then finally, we started speeding up. I got hot, here comes The Rock, Undertaker reinventing himself, DX comes along, Mick Foley heating up, all of a sudden all our iron starts heating up. I was leading the charge, I keep that on the DL. Once we started beating them, we never looked back. Vince buys the company for pennies on the dollar. But right here and now, there ain't no competition. So, how good are you without competition? I love competition. WCW made us work our asses off to get to number one."
Continuing on his theory of competition, Austin admitted that eventually WWE put stricter limitations on superstars. This new scripted way of wrestling didn't jive with his strengths. Austin also elaborated on how WWE writers cannot accurately write someone else's story.
"Guys started being a little more micro managed," Austin admitted. "Things had to get a little more of a friendly tone. A lot more corporate sponsors coming in. When I came back, that's when they started handing something that says what you're going to say… We're trying to sell tickets. It's business and I don't work from memory. I work from what I feel in my heart and my gut and put it together in my brain.
"To me, it's hard for someone to write for me," Austin continued. "You weren't born in south Texas. You weren't hauling hay. You didn't have a hard time making it in everything. You didn't have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder. I don't know if you can achieve the attitude of the mindset. You weren't there for seven and a half years when I was living on potatoes peeling them with my pocket knife in a hotel room struggling to put gas in my car. I don't think you can really encapsulate what I would say. You ain't been in the grind with me. I think it's hard for anyone to write for me. I'm not a rehearsal guy. I'll read your bullet points and we'll let it fly."
When asked about who is the next Stone Cold, Austin couldn't give a specific answer. Instead, he rehashed what made it possible for someone like himself to become a superstar and what WWE could do better to breed new superstars.
"It's a tough question to answer right now," Austin stated. "Key thing, when I got hot, I pushed the envelope. I wasn't afraid to push the envelope. I wasn't afraid to go out on a limb, so I did. And because I had to. When you turn me up to eleven, that's me. I had no restrictor plate on me.
"Today, it's a way more friendly setting and there's a lot more control on television than back in the day. I don't know if anybody could push the envelope as hard as we did. You just got to do something to resonate with people and get that relationship. Even as an entertainer, you have a relationship with those fans. And those fans get to live vicariously. It'll take someone to be able to capture that audience again. I ain't saying you got to go crazy, you just got to turn them loose a little bit."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Dale Jr, Download with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.