Stone Cold recently appeared on the Dale Jr, Download show to speak all things wrestling. During his 100 minute conversation with Dale Earnhardt Jr, a major and reoccurring talking point were wrestling promos. Austin, arguably one of the best promos in wrestling, explained how he began learning the art of the promo.
"You start off being bad at it," Austin said. "You talk about green as grass. I go out there and try to talk. You first start off, your voice is really high. You haven't learned to talk from your diaphragm. You don't really know what to say. You haven't really created a character so there's no ground base to build from so you flounder. You're doing the best you can but when you s--t the bed, you've done just that. Once you fall on your face enough you learn this is sink or swim. These are shark infested waters. You better succeed or your ass is going to get left behind."
Before he was superstar, Austin admitted organization didn't quite see the star in him. Austin discussed how being paired with Brian Pillman helped shape his dedication to his promo writing process.
"They didn't think I had 'it' yet so they stuck me in a Tag Team with Flyin' Brian Pillman. Brian was one of those guys who would sit there and read dictionaries and books just to increase his vocabulary. He was forward thinking and if you put a microphone in front of his face, he always had something to say. So all of a sudden, it was like 'You better crank it up Steve cuz you're going to sound like a deaf mute next to Flyin' Brian because he's lightening it up'."
Austin also admitted that Paul Heyman played a major role in his ability to deliver a well crafted promo. Austin highlighted Heyman's vision as a key to making promos work. It was during the early days of ECW, where Steve Austin recorded a historical promo which laid the foundation for his eventual Stone Cold character.
"Paul had just started ECW down in Philly," Austin remembered. "Paul said, 'Hey Steve, you're up'. And I said, "What do you want me to talk about?'. Paul said, 'Just talk about how you're feeling. Just talk'. He turned the cameras on and I rattled off that promo still on YouTube and I talked for about six minutes nonstop. Ad-lib. Told it like it was. And that was probably the groundbreaking promo where I started feeling who and what I was. I hadn't come up with the Stone Cold thing yet, but I realized at that point that who I was in that ring was, if you turn me up to eleven, that's me. Paul Heyman taught me to deliver a message, get that message across, and make people feel things because that's how you draw money."
Austin was asked how nervous he got when speaking promos. Austin admitted that despite the nerves or massive pressure, he would always be ready and willing to give the best promo he could.
"The last thing you want to do is hacking and coughing during a promo when you're trying to get to the bottom line," Austin laughed. "You're out there trying to string some words together and realizing that it's sink or swim, especially when its live TV. I was nervous to a degree. But I was so ready. It's a nervous energy. You could still feel some nerves but the bigger the crowd and the more cameras there was, I thrived on it."
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.