Taming A Rattlesnake
Since taking over the reigns of the Ministry Of Slam radio show in September, the current team have been fortunate enough to speak with some well-known names, both past and present, in pro wrestling. It’s safe to say that I personally never believed I’d have the chance to talk with the likes of Eric Bischoff, J.J Dillon or Tom Prichard. Speaking with those gentlemen and asking questions which have been in my mind for over a decade was a real thrill, and these are experiences I’ll truly cherish forever.
Frankly speaking, my friend and co-host, Chris Duke has been responsible for some of the most incredible conversations I’ve ever had in my life. His never say die attitude at securing such interviews and all-round positivity is infectious, reaching out to grasp what I had up until I met him thought impossible – talking to my boyhood heroes as though they’re just regular people! Being able to share these experiences with Chris and my other co-host, Andrew Downs is fantastic.
Working closely together for several months now, we’re building a rapport and professional approach to interviews which is full of enthusiasm and – let’s face it – childish glee. We are after all students of the game, lifelong pro wrestling fans who simply love the entire industry. No matter the size of name next on the interview list, we approach with the same outlook; everybody is worth talking to.
With that in mind, all attempts at professionalism went out the window when Chris merrily phoned one sunny afternoon (fitting) to inform us excitedly of our next guest. None other than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would be joining us over the phone! In just a few days time, all three of us would be waxing lyrical with arguably the biggest star this magical business called professional wrestling has ever seen. Needless to say, I nearly dropped the phone.
Despite maturing (I think!) over the past few years, and realising why many fans dislike being labelled a ‘mark’, I’ve always proudly worn that badge. Even being involved in the wrestling industry, I still consider myself a fan. Talking to anybody who knows me, they’ll tell you the giddy passion with which I attack each and every thing I’m involved in. I can be passive, but not when it comes to wrestling!
So, imagine if you will my incredible excitement at getting to interview Steve Austin, a man I’ve cheered on to many a victory, wearing my ‘Austin 3:16′ t-shirt to family get-togethers. Even more thrilling, Steve could not have been nicer. Cheerfully informing us, his new “gang”, that he was looking forward to another beautiful day, we were able to chat about his latest action movie, The Package with Dolph Lundgren, and ask several questions related to a lengthy pro wrestling career. So lengthy is that career infact, that Steve found it difficult to pin-point just one moment which stands out most.
“Man, you’re talking about trying to pick something from close to a 15-year body of work, but one of the most personal highlights for me would be cutting the promo in the basement of a Holiday Inn with ECW back in 1995”, Austin said. “A bunch of the ECW guys were there, and I’d watched them cut their promos. Paul E (Heyman) was there too, and he was the guy who gave me that platform to talk, which I did for around 7 minutes. One take, one time and that was it, I put it all on the line. For me to finally get that platform to vent and talk about the frustrations I was feeling, as well as where I aspiring to go, I look back on that as a very important part of both my life and career.”
As a huge fan of Paul Heyman myself, I was hoping Steve would single out that now-infamous shoot interview for the ECW camera. Indeed, the first flickers of the character who would become “Stone Cold” were first seen by many that fateful day, with proof positive that giving Steve Austin the room to vent would lead to good things.
Asking my ‘main event’ question, I enquired whether or not Paul Heyman – who has received well-deserved praise for his on-screen performances since returning to WWE last Spring – should be posted in a role where he can help develop the vocal talents of younger wrestlers in the company. I knew Steve would have a good answer for this one, and he didn’t disappoint!
“Absolutely. I don’t know how many hats he’s wearing while he’s there, but yes. You can talk to a guy till you’re blue in the face, and if anybody can get through to them, it’s Paul. I mean in terms of getting inside a guy or gal’s head, helping them unlock their potential and letting them see things that they didn’t see themselves. He’s very good at doing that. I think probably the most important thing that he can continue to do is remain there, in that ring, and deliver the kind of electric performance that he’s doing.
So, my point is that if the kids could just sit there and watch that guy work, they’re gonna’ soak that knowledge in. As long as WWE keep Paul around for talent to watch him, and pick his brain afterwards or at lunch – I mean, he’s a valuable asset to the company just as a talent anyway – but what can rub off onto those kids is even more valuable if you ask me.”
Picking Paul Heyman’s brain is perhaps something his detractors would also like to do, but Steve’s comments are bang on the money; learning from the best is something which should be a given in a company as grand as WWE. Literally hundreds of world-class talents, whether that be in-ring or behind the scenes, have passed through the doors of that promotion. The men and women hoping to lead WWE into the future should have the opportunity to glean as much knowledge from them as possible, it only makes sense.
I implore fans of all ages to check out the podcast of that Steve Austin interview – available via iTunes, Podbean and over at MinistryOfSlam.com. Even in 15 minutes, the amount of knowledge I gained from speaking to him was unbelievable. Now, my phone is ringing and Chris Duke is on the line. I wonder who could be next on the interview list…
The Ministry Of Slam wrestling radio is available LIVE every Monday from 9pm GMT/4pm EST over at MinistryOfSlam.com!