Steve Austin Brings Out a Different Side of The Undertaker in New Interview Show

The Week in Wrestling: Steve Austin’s new WWE Network show, Jim Ross’s praise for Mauro Ranallo and more.
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Steve Austin Debuting New WWE Network Show

Steve Austin returns home this Sunday.

Immediately following Survivor Series, Austin’s brand-new Broken Skull Sessions debuts on WWE Network with a one-on-one interview with The Undertaker.

Austin sits down for a rare extensive interview with The Undertaker, who will step out of character to share some of the most meaningful moments in his career.

“There are many similarities between myself and The Undertaker that we’ll talk about on the show,” said Austin. “The beginnings of our career aren’t too different, putting in the hard work, being huge fans of the business from an early get-go, and both growing up watching Houston Wrestling there at the Sam Houston Coliseum presented by Paul Boesch. There’s some of that in our conversation, and I hope people enjoying hearing it.”

The Undertaker, like Austin, did not walk into stardom. They remain kindred spirits through the way they worked their way to superstardom after years of self-doubt and rejection in wrestling.

“Years before he was The Undertaker, nobody had high aspirations for Mark Calaway in WCW,” said Austin. “There was a person in WCW that made some very negative remarks in regards to the wrestling career of ‘Mean’ Mark Callous, and he’ll talk about that on the show. I got fired unceremoniously from WCW with a phone call and a FedEx, so the people there didn’t see much in either Mark or me.

“When Mark went to WWE, and took this wonderful character created by Vince McMahon, that was a match made in heaven. But it’s also a gimmick not pulled off by any guy other than Mark Calaway. And boy, he’s made the most of that opportunity with a 30-year career and one of the best careers in the history of the business.”

Austin is producing and hosting the Broken Skull Sessions, and he is enjoying every part of the process—including naming the show.

“I didn’t want to call it the ‘Stone Cold podcast,’” said Austin. “In theory it’s like a podcast, but it’s not. We’re doing this right here in my studio in Los Angeles, and the show’s name is more personal.

“The reason ‘Broken Skull’ came about ties back to when I had my ranch back in South Texas. I called it the ‘Broken Skull Ranch,’ and I’d always wanted my whole life to own a ranch. In order to finally buy one, I literally had to break my skull in the business of pro wrestling to do that. So it became the ‘Broken Skull Ranch.’ I’m still ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin, I’m still that guy, but WWE owns ‘Stone Cold.’ I liked the sound of the Broken Skull Sessions. We’re here at my place and we’re getting inside people’s skulls, so it just made sense. That’s how it came to be.”

Austin set the wrestling world aflame in the 1990s, restoring Vince McMahon’s wrestling promotion as the top entity in the business after WCW had seized that top position. Austin’s appearances on Monday Night Raw were appointment-viewing, even more than the WCW Nitro segments featuring the NWO.

Naturally, after thriving in wrestling’s most tumultuous, big-money, competitive period, Austin has paid close attention to All Elite Wrestling’s entry into the industry, as well as the Wednesday night battles between AEW and NXT.

“Without competition, who knows what would have happened in my career—who knows what will come out of Wednesday nights, but I believe in competition,” said Austin. “I know AEW is doing their thing and they say they’re not competition, and WWE might say it’s not competition, but if it’s on across from each other, it’s competition.

“I remember when WCW’s Nitro kicked our ass for two years in the ‘Monday Night Wars.’ I couldn’t believe it, I thought our show was better, but they kept winning. Finally, we started turning the tide when everybody got so hot. The fact that we had competition, man, that made everybody push the envelope. I certainly wasn’t afraid to push the envelope, and I did. I’m thankful for the ‘Monday Night Wars.’ They helped define me. They helped Vince, and it helped us go out on a limb with some of the crazy stuff we did in our feud that became water-cooler talk and transcend the business.”

Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions will run unopposed this Sunday. Those involved in the mainstream wrestling promotions would rather watch and learn from Austin than compete against him, and the general consensus from WWE’s audiences is optimism approaching the premiere show.

“I was so happy WWE reached out to me and pitched this show to me,” Austin said of the monthly series. “If the show does great numbers, I’ll do it for as long as I can do it. If the show doesn’t do any numbers and I s--- the bed, they’ll say, ‘Hey Steve, we’ll catch you down the road.’ I really believe that’s how it’s going to happen.

“There are going to be more episodes, for sure, but they’ve got to perform to keep doing more.”

Austin was also asked about the potential for a second season of his Straight Up Steve Austin show on USA Network, which fit in perfectly following Raw on Monday nights.

“I believe 100 percent that we’re going to get to season two,” said Austin. “Based on the performance and the numbers that it generated this past season, I think it’s a no-brainer. But I haven’t heard the official word and they haven’t made the announcement, so I can’t say.”

Austin’s return to WWE with Broken Skull Sessions is a chance to reconnect a performer with his most loyal fan base, and he is grateful for the chance to create more memories.

“Pro wrestling is one of the things I love most in my life, and I’m still attached to the business I grew up loving,” said Austin. “Doing this show, being on the Network, talking to some of the highest-profile people in the history of the business, man, I love it.

“I love pro wrestling. I love what it did for my life, I’ll always be a fan. So to be reconnected with the greatest sports entertainment company, which I call a pro wrestling company, in the world in WWE, that’s a thrill for me.”

Jim Ross Compliments the Work of Mauro Ranallo

Seven weeks into the “Wednesday Night Wars,” AEW remains undefeated in the battle for ratings supremacy against NXT.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t mutual respect amongst the competitors.

Despite the natural comparisons between the competing play-by-play men, AEW’s Jim Ross shared that there are few better broadcasters throughout the industry than NXT’s Mauro Ranallo.

“Mauro is tremendous, he’s one of the greatest broadcasters in the business,” said Ross. “This job means a hell of a lot to me, but I’ll never be upset when someone compliments the work of Mauro Ranallo. I love Mauro, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for his work.”

Ross noted that the key part of his job each broadcast, as well as Ranallo’s, is far less about competing with one another and more focused on highlighting the talent.

“I’m doing my dream job, I’m calling live wrestling every week,” said Ross. “But it isn’t about me, or Mauro, or anyone else. It’s about what we can do to get the talent over, and that’s what all of us are doing every week. That’s what we are there to do.”

Survivor Series Presents an Opportunity to Make The Fiend Stronger

WWE is set to enter a pivotal stretch this weekend, with SmackDown on Friday, NXT TakeOver: War Games on Saturday, and Survivor Series on Sunday.

TakeOver features Matt Riddle vs. Finn Balor, which is a match worthy of main-eventing the show, as well as a men’s and women’s War Games match.

Survivor Series is also scheduled to deliver a phenomenal card. The triple threat match featuring Becky Lynch, Shayna Baszler, and Bayley should be tremendous (I’d like to see Baszler force Lynch to tap, continuing their story—and potentially creating a connection to Ronda Rousey), a triple threat between AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Roderick Strong (which should be a chance for the wrestling world to see Strong’s brilliance), and a world title match pitting Brock Lesnar against Rey Mysterio. That match, wisely, is no holds barred/no disqualification, allowing Mysterio a more realistic chance to work in his offense against a monstrous opponent.

But the match that I am most anxiously awaiting is Daniel Bryan challenging Bray Wyatt for his Universal title.

Since Wyatt’s arrival as “The Fiend” in July, there has been no other character in wrestling more mesmerizing. Wyatt does an incredible job with the “Firefly Fun House” backstage skits, and he is realistic and believable as the destroyer and devourer of all things positive in WWE. There is no other talent in WWE quite like “The Fiend,” which is a credit to Wyatt for executing his on-screen role so perfectly.

But there is one major issue: Wyatt’s in-ring work does not deliver in big matches.

Wyatt’s best match since his return was a squash match against Finn Balor in August at SummerSlam. His matches with Seth Rollins, one of the most talented wrestlers on the planet, were largely disappointing. Neither the Hell in a Cell match nor the title match in Saudi Arabia were standout affairs for either Wyatt or Rollins, and Wyatt also had an unfulfilling run as WWE champion in 2017 that ended in a forgettable match at WrestleMania 33 against Randy Orton. Wyatt’s WrestleMania matches against John Cena and The Undertaker were also underwhelming.

Enter Daniel Bryan.

Bryan and Wyatt made magic together during their 21-minute singles match at the 2014 Royal Rumble. Five years later, Bryan is once again poised to help Wyatt shine.

The objective of this match should not be to have the crowd frightened by, or hate, Bray Wyatt. Fans will cheer whatever they choose to cheer, so going in with an end goal of turning the crowd against Wyatt could be disastrous. The goal should be to deliver a match so spectacular that the combination of Wyatt’s aura, in-ring work, and frightening allure is simply undeniable. This is a match designed for Wyatt to climb atop the company, which he has been able to do through his character but not yet through his wrestling.

Bryan will undoubtedly lose on Sunday, but it will be a loss that has tremendous value to the company by making “The Fiend” look like the most complete star in all of the business.

MLW CEO Court Bauer on Jacob Fatu’s New Deal

Jacob Fatu has re-signed with Major League Wrestling.

Ensuring that the current world champion, and one of wrestling’s most exciting talents, remained with the company was a major priority for MLW CEO Court Bauer.

“We’ve been working on this for a while, and we knew he was getting some pretty good offers elsewhere,” said Bauer. “We made a great offer to him, and at the end of the day, Jacob Fatu knows, from a booking perspective, he will not be one of many or fed to a greater cause. Here he is a priority–this is his house.”

Fatu is not a stranger to the business, but MLW successfully presented him on a national and global stage in only eight months. Based on the way he has been presented, MLW is now capable of building the entire company around Fatu.

“The dollar signs absolutely matter, but the two things that always persuade people to stay or go are the cash and the creative,” said Bauer, who confirmed the deal is multi-year. “He’s so good, and he fits so well into our system. There are a lot of great matches we plan on doing. We have a lot of fun matches on the horizon with Fatu, and it’s monumental for the company to have him raise the MLW banner. That solidifies our immediate future and our plans, and it did the same for Fatu and his family.”

MLW is delivering a dynamic card in New York on December 5, presenting the 2019 Opera Cup during the upcoming Fusion television taping. The show features MJF vs. Alex Hammerstone, Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Shinjiro Otani, and Fatu’s CONTRA Unit against the Strong Hearts, which is CIMA, El Lindaman, and Shigehiro Irie.

“This will be CIMA’s first time in MLW,” said Bauer. “Seeing him rumble with Fatu will be really fun.”

As evidenced by the number of talent that work in both MLW and AEW, Bauer confirmed that the two companies have a positive working relationship.

“Tony Khan and I have had an incredibly positive relationship,” said Bauer. “We really enjoy our relationship with Tony and his team, including Cody and company. Without them, this match doesn’t happen. Ultimately, the talents win and the fans win because of it.”

The (Online) Week in Wrestling

  • CM Punk added a lot to last night’s edition of WWE Backstage, and gives a reason to watch every week.
  • Speaking of Punk, he posted this tweet in anticipation of his WWE Backstage appearance...
  • ... which Tony Khan used a chance to throw a jab at the WWE ...

… and then Randy Orton and Khan went back-and-forth on Twitter.

  • WWE is showing some creativity with its 24/7 Championship, as R-Truth dropped the title to Michael Giacco from the company’s sales department. (Though Truth won the title back later that day with a convincing performance.)
  • PWInsider reported that NXT’s Oney Lorcan requested his WWE release in October and Lorney returned to Twitter as his former Biff Busick persona.
  • For those who follow “Being The Elite,” an interesting story development took place this week as “Hangman” Page decided to leave The Elite.
  • Chris Jericho and MJF put together a tremendous segment last week on Dynamite. 
  • For those interested, here is the match against Juventud Guerrera from 25 years ago that Jericho was referring to. 

Nick Gage Ready for Beyond Wrestling & Big Time Wrestling

Nick Gage is known throughout the industry as a deathmatch prodigy.

But he is also a student of the craft.

Gage, who has starred for Game Changer Wrestling in New Jersey, is extending his reach across the northeast. He has a big week on the horizon, beginning this Thursday with an Uncharted Territory tag team match in Beyond Wrestling, teaming with Thomas Santell against Team Tremendous’ Dan Barry and Bill Carr.

“The Beyond product is awesome, the guy who runs the company [Drew Cordeiro] has some good ass ideas, and we’re live,” said Gage. “That’s f---ing dope, and the Beyond crowd is just so fired up and into everything. It’s a different atmosphere at Beyond, and it’s one of my favorite places to work.

“If you can’t come to Beyond, then stream that s---. It’s the hottest thing going on Thursday nights.”

Gage grew up admiring the in-ring work of Ric Flair, Shinjiro Otani, and Sabu—and was heavily influenced by the extreme matches between Mick Foley and Terry Funk. He has the chance to reconnect with another wrestling legend this weekend as he challenges Big Time Wrestling champion Scott Steiner this Saturday at a show in Webster, Mass.

“He’s a veteran I can learn from,” said Gage. “I love professional wrestling. This is my craft, I want to do it until I die, so it’s dope to wrestle guys like Steiner. I’m going to make that crowd remember me.”

Gage served a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree bank robbery, and he is open about his gratitude for those who have supported his career since rejoining the wrestling business.

“That’s my MDK Gang, Murder Death Kill,” said Gage. “When I got out of prison, I wanted to show the fans that they’re the reason I turned my life around.

“I’m bringing the real to wrestling. Especially when I was away, I thought a lot about that. I’m a real motherf---er, and that’s what I bring. The fans have caught onto that, and it just gives me even more motivation to go out there and kill it. It’s cool to see people want to represent MDK.”

Tweet of the Week

Last night’s sit-down interview with CM Punk on WWE Backstage was another reminder of how incredibly talented Renee Young is at her craft.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.