“He understands where and why the business should be, and how it should feel. You should feel something when you watch that show.”
Steve Austin will forever be recognizable as the face of Monday Night Raw. More than The Rock, John Cena, or any other single character to appear during the show’s illustrious history, Austin defined the brand with attitude, edge and a deep emotion that is difficult for talent in the modern era to evoke.
Austin, whose season finale of Straight Up Steve Austin airs at 11 p.m. ET Monday on the USA Network, understands the Raw product better than most. And he believes the show is in the right hands with Paul Heyman in charge.
“That is the right guy for the job,” said Austin, who has known Heyman for decades, as both on-screen partners in WCW’s Dangerous Alliance under Paul E. Dangerously’s leadership and again when Heyman hired Austin in ECW. “Paul E. has a vision of what this business should be. He’s working under the watchful eye of Vince McMahon, but Vince is looking at so many big pictures while Paul is going to focus on this.
“Paul E. is really close to the pulse of the product. He understands where and why the business should be, and how it should feel. You should feel something when you watch that show. Paul E. is hungry to bring back this industry to its heyday. There is already more of a sense of urgency and importance of the world title.”
The chance to host his new television series on the same network WWE airs their flagship show has brought Austin back to a few episodes of Raw this summer, most recently on Sept. 9 at Madison Square Garden. He is impressed by the current product, but when asked to offer one critique, he paused for a moment before articulating his point.
“Emotion sells tickets and draws ratings,” said Austin. “If you don’t care, then why watch? If you care, you’re invested in those characters. So slow it down a little bit.
“You can move as fast as you want in the ring, but to me, the business is built on characters, emotions, and depth. When you have great action on top of it, that’s even better. Right now, those guys and gals are operating at such a high speed and high level of athleticism. It can’t get any higher than it is right now, so they need to keep finding ways to make people care about them. That will elevate the business and make it resonate with the audience.”
Austin’s focus remains on his weekly television show, which has produced compelling interviews with a variety of stars from diverse entertainment spectrums. Some of his best work was with Becky Lynch, Baker Mayfield, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the guest on the series finale is country western luminary Trace Adkins.
Austin has remained true to his roots while offering viewers the chance to see a part of his personality not on display while he was so visible in wrestling.
“It’s been really nice for people to see another side of me,” said Austin. “This is the side my friends see. I’m not ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin every single day of my life, except for maybe when I get mad. The guy you see on television each week, laughing and joking, that’s me in everyday, regular life.”
Long before he was a megastar, Austin was wrestling on the opening match, stuck in the middle of the card or doing jobs for stars. He has been overlooked and cut, providing him a different psyche that now allows him to connect with guests in a manner he never envisioned possible.
Wrestling will forever remain in Austin’s veins as long as his heart continues to beat, so it is little surprise that he approaches each interview on the show as he did a match in the ring.
“My mindset on an interview is just like I had when I was going into a match,” said Austin. “A lot of people have this selfish approach to hog most of the match because they’re trying to get over, but my philosophy on going into a match was to have both people shine and both get over, which meant you were going to have a good match. That’s my mentality here, too. We’re out there filming all day long, and my goal is to go out there and shine up my guest.”
Following Monday’s finale, Austin’s next goal is seeing his show return for a second season.
“We settled into a groove with this show, and the more reps we’ve got, the better we’ve become,” said Austin. “I’ve worked to make my guests shine and I had a whole lot of fun during that process.”
A second season would have no shortage of entertaining guests for Austin to play off of, and he’s eager for the opportunity.
“Hell yeah, I’d love to build upon what we’ve done,” said Austin. “The season finale with Trace Adkins, he gave me some damn good stories. I had a whole lot of fun hanging out with Trace, and I think people who watch will, too.
“I’d love to continue to expand our horizons in season two. I cannot save the problems of the world, but I can put on a show that’s enjoyable within the time limit that we’re given.”