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LIVE REPORT - 12/1 Stone Cold & Vince McMahon Podcast: WWE Network special includes VKM apology to Punk, whether he's out-of-touch, Randy Savage, wide range of topics

Dec 4, 2014 - 2:20:22 AM


Stone Cold & Vince McMahon live podcast
December 1, 2014
Live from Tulsa, Okla.
Aired on WWE Network
Report by James Caldwell, PWTorch assistant editor

Right after Raw went off the air, WWE Network picked up with "Stone Cold" Steve Austin sitting down with Vince McMahon at a desk/table facing each other with microphones sitting in front of them and a video board behind them with the logo of Austin's podcast.

Austin went right to how the Network is faring. McMahon said subscriptions are "doing good." As for the U.K. false start, McMahon said he hopes they have it ready to go the first of the year after starts/stops.

Austin asked McMahon if he's giving the audience what they're desiring. The discussion shifted to pro wrestling vs. sports entertainment. Austin said he wrestled in the ring - pro wrestling - and played the guitar backstage - sports entertainment - whereas McMahon said "pro wrestling" was what his dad promoted.

McMahon then evaluated tonight's show - he liked Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, and the main event - after Austin said there's not enough quality wrestling on the show.

Austin got down to it - three hours of live programming. How tough is it? McMahon said no one else does that without answering the question, then going to Raw being the longest running episodic weekly show, etc. McMahon said whether performers are hurt or haven't had sleep, they still perform the best they can.

After McMahon dodged the three-hour question, Austin re-directed by asking if they can have a good three-hour show with the current line-up. McMahon re-directed to a statement about needing a back-story for people to care about the wrestlers wrestling, to indirectly answer Austin asking about wanting more wrestling.

Austin brought up no other big leagues in WWE, so wrestlers are walking on egg shells. (Austin referenced TNA as being not-quite big leagues.) Austin said people think if they tick someone off here, there goes their career. "So don't piss someone off," McMahon said. Pause. McMahon said this is a different group of individuals - they're millennials and less ambitious. He said John Cena reached for the brass ring, but not a lot of others have that ambition. But, there are guys like Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Bray Wyatt who have that. No mention of WrestleMania main-eventer Daniel Bryan or C.M. Punk, who quit in part because he felt that he was cut off from grabbing the brass ring.

McMahon said no one wants to fail by reaching for the brass ring. He said there is this insecurity and fear of failure. He said he thinks that's what it is. McMahon claimed to give everyone resources and the opportunities, like social media.

Austin asked McMahon what he's looking for on the talent roster. McMahon laid out the formula, then said you can put all the resources behind someone, but if the audience doesn't buy into him or her, it won't work.

Austin brought up Cesaro. What is he missing? "He's not connecting yet, but we hope he will," McMahon said. McMahon said perhaps the European style isn't connecting, and verbal skills are lacking. McMahon generalizing it that the audience needs to feel a presence and "it." Austin asked what went wrong when WWE split up Cesaro and Jack Swagger, throwing Cesaro into the shuffle and losing direction. "I don't have the answer to everything," McMahon said. He said he's not so sure that he has that answer, but he's not giving up. He just doesn't think Cesaro has "it" yet.

Next, Austin asked about the massive writing staff. McMahon said the company grew after Austin left and things have changed. He said having "a bunch of writers around" is necessary. McMahon said it's not a one-man show. "I can't do it all," McMahon said. He admitted to working everyone to the bone, including himself, and reminisced about booking TV with Pat Patterson back in the day, which distracted from the topic of over-writing the show. McMahon talked about ribs pushing people in the pool while booking TV at poolside.

Austin tried to get back to business, but McMahon said they're about having fun and you have to have fun. Austin stuck with it, saying Shane McMahon pushed him into the pool one time. McMahon laughed thinking about his son pranking him. "He got away," Vince said.

Asked about Shane, McMahon said he's busy working in Japan. (Did he mean China?) He said he's enjoying life with his family. Asked why he left, McMahon said family businesses are very difficult and they don't get along all the time. He said that sometimes being a son and dad is difficult in business. Same with working with your wife. He said that he tried to do what was right for business.

Austin mentioned Vince's dad not wanting him in the business, so did he want his kids in the business? McMahon said he wanted Stephanie and Shane to do what they were passionate about. Vince then told a story about Shane working the merchandise warehouse and wanting a raise his second year in the company. So, he doubled his wages working somewhere else after leaving, and he was proud of Shane.

Next, Vince discussed being around his dad, Vince, Sr., to learn the business. He recalled Vince putting him in charge of TV announcing with no experience. And, his first partner was Arnold Skaaland, who didn't say much at all on the air.

Austin shifted gears to C.M. Punk. McMahon said he would like to personally apologize. He said sometimes departments don't know what the others are doing, like legal and talent relations, so he wants to apologize. Otherwise, he said other wrestlers in the past have been disgruntled and said things about the company, and Punk might have said a lot of things he will regret one day, but he hopes that one day they will be able to get back together again.

McMahon noted he and Austin have had their differences, same with Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior. McMahon said he tries to give the audience what's "best for business," and he knows they use that phrase on TV now, but he tries to put his ego aside in order to see what's best. "I'm hoping that one day we'll be able to work together," he said of Punk.

McMahon said he has not listened to Colt Cabana's "Art of Wrestling" podcast with Punk, but he heard Punk cussed a lot. Austin followed up by bringing up his circumstances when he walked out in 2002 when told he was losing to Brock Lesnar with no build-up. McMahon recalled them trying to work out Creative issues, and then the Lesnar situation happened. Austin said it was the worst professional decision he made, but Jim Ross sent him a little paper card extending the olive branch. So, Austin and McMahon met at a hotel in Houston. He said it was very uncomfortable and awkward, but they settled it and he came back to work. He credited that to Jim Ross.

Austin said Ross was an important part of his career, as well as WWE. He asked if Ross could bridge the gap between McMahon and Punk. McMahon said he thinks it's a lack of communication, then put it on Punk, saying he lacks communication skills and is a bit of a loner. McMahon said any time you get attorneys involved, it's going to be screwed up. He blamed the Punk situation on a lack of communication.

Austin recalled McMahon fining him $650,000 when he returned to work, which McMahon viewed as a slap on the wrist. So, Austin negotiated $250,000, which McMahon accepted. McMahon said when you walk out, he views it as walking out on the company, so he has to try to make sure it doesn't happen again. He said you have to make an example, otherwise the inmates will run the asylum every time they don't like Creative or their spot at WrestleMania. (No follow-up on whether McMahon regrets putting Austin in that situation, making it sound like it was all Austin's fault.)

Austin recalled feeling like he let the wrestlers down when he walked out, but he wanted to make sure the locker room knew he paid a price and didn't just take an eight-month vacation. McMahon brought up communication skills, saying he felt like Austin had that with the rest of the locker room. He said you have to be able to work with other talent, and that makes him different than Austin. He said Austin was sometimes a loner, but he was good working with other talent. McMahon said he can be a loner, too, and he can be introverted and shy. McMahon said he would close up when he attended political functions with Linda McMahon because he didn't associate with those people. He said he would rather be invisible than talk to people in a small group of people.

Next, Austin brought up The Undertaker. Asked how, when, and why The Streak was decided to be broken, McMahon said Mark Calaway decided it was time to give back to the business. He said no one else beside Brock Lesnar made sense to give back in the biggest possible way at the time, when you look at the talent roster available. Not next year, not the year after that. He said the one person whose time was ready was Brock Lesnar. Austin called b.s. on Taker making that call, so McMahon clarified that he made the final decision. McMahon said it was a shock to Taker, but it was not an easy decision. But, you have to make difficult decisions sometimes. He said he thinks he made the right decision at the right time because he thinks Lesnar will be unbelievably hot coming into this year's WrestleMania when he reminds everyone of what he did to Taker at WM30.

Where is Brock Lesnar? McMahon said he views Lesnar as a special attraction who shouldn't be on TV all the time. McMahon equated it to Jake Roberts using the snake week after week on TV, which made him not as special anymore because the audience becomes jaded over time. McMahon said the contract with Brock only allows them x number of dates. He said it's not about the title, but about the performer, story, and opponent. McMahon said the title "helps," but it's not just about the title. Austin was not happy with that answer. McMahon said if Lesnar beats up half of the babyface roster if he's on TV all the time, no one is left.

McMahon presented the "more than one" main event argument, saying you have to appeal to different segments of the audience to draw in the biggest audience.

Next was Randy Savage in the Hall of Fame. "Absolutely. Definitely," McMahon said. Ten years from now? "I'd say soon," McMahon said. He said he's not sure if it will be this year, but soon. Austin wasn't convinced. "Yes, he's going in!" McMahon said.

Asked about Sting, McMahon said he loved Sting being in there with Triple H, then noted Sting should be a special attraction, like Brock Lesnar. He said he thinks Sting will be part of WrestleMania. Austin said these are a lot of guys who aren't on TV all the time. McMahon said things have changed, and a different time now. He said you have to roll with the punches and change with the times.

Austin switched gears to the Monday Night Wars. McMahon said Ted Turner's philosophy was putting the competition out of business, while his view was help themselves. He said he felt like it was a matter of time they burned out, so all they had to do was stay with WCW and be patient. As far as talent goes, McMahon said it became anarchy in WCW.

Asked if WWE shot themselves in the foot when WCW went out of business to have no one else to compete with, McMahon re-directed to saying he always kept something in the back pocket, whereas WCW ran out of Creative ideas.

Austin flashed back to the territory era when McMahon had a "global vision," then McMahon took exception to Austin saying he put promoters out of business. McMahon said Verne Gagne laughed at him when he proposed buying him out. McMahon noted all he had was Creative skills, a really strong work ethic, a lot of luck, and grapefruits. He said guys in Kansas City and Verne had money stashed away, but it wasn't in the business. McMahon said he kept re-investing in the product, while other promoters went status quo. He said they are constantly investing in their business to this day.

But, how do you compete with yourself to improve the in-ring product? McMahon said Austin says he put them out of business, but they put themselves out of business, he said. Except for one guy, Bill Watts, who he said was street-smart, like himself. McMahon noted he did not want to compete against Watts, who then sold to Crockett, who he said did not really understand the business. McMahon said everyone could have competed like Bill, but they gave up the ship.

McMahon said the view is there are no "sports entertainment" competitors, so he's sitting on his "lazy ass." He said they're holding their own against anything on TV or in live event - whether it's Disney or any entertainment.

Austin went back to Bill Watts, noting the link to Jim Ross. Is there heat between them? McMahon said not on his end. He flashed back to the "event" in Los Angeles at Summerslam 2013, where he said Ross was "very unprofessional." He said he thinks they will get back together again.

Austin said he does not understand why someone like Ross is not in the company when he has so many resources. McMahon said he helped Ross leave Connecticut and go back to Oklahoma after "really paying his dues with me." McMahon said Ross really, really worked hard, but decided on his own to go home, take it easy, help some, but not do the 24/7 job putting this product together. (Did this interview time-warp to to the mid-2000s? It's not relevant to the point.) McMahon said they are in so many different businesses, and Ross contributed greatly, but when someone says "you burned me out, Vince," he has to listen.

Next, them in the ring together. Austin asked why their chemistry was so good together. McMahon said he understood Austin as a self-professed redneck, but his background is different than how he looks. He said he grew up in a trailer park and things were different, but he understands the common man, because that's who he is. He said you can put the suit on and money in the bank, but he's still the same guy. And that's how he thinks, which he called a strength of their company because their audience is the "common man," which he said is not a derogatory term.

McMahon broke down the demographics - kids 2-11, people his age, and something in between. McMahon said you have to have something for everyone, and a degree of common sense to understand how people think. McMahon said when people pretended to be better than him, it made him angry. Because he knew who he was. So, he felt like he was Stone Cold's character on the inside, so it was easy for him to be the guy he despised growing up. "I'll know how to keep people down," he said. "A lot of that I understood." McMahon said his childhood was really screwed up, but he learned from it.

Austin cut off McMahon, saying they only have one minute left on WWE Network. I thought we were just getting started? McMahon said it was great being on the show, then decided to keep the thing rolling another 15 minutes since he owns the Network.

Austin and McMahon moved back to working together in the ring and how uncoordinated McMahon was. Austin also noted it was difficult giving him the Stunner because he couldn't get his leg up high enough in the jean shorts to kick McMahon in the gut. They laughed about the spots Austin kicked him, then both reflected on the rush they got "creating magic" in the ring together.

Austin brought up McMahon always wanting to be a pro wrestler, but his dad would not let him. So, McMahon got the announcing gig. Then, when McMahon became a "WWE Superstar," a switch flipped. McMahon said his dad told him he could not be both a wrestler and businessman. That's what he said, even if it was not his real reason. But, he did become both. "Man, this has always been my dream to be in the ring as a performer," McMahon smiled. "And I'm glad I took the opportunity because it was one of the greatest times of my life."

Austin recalled The Ringmaster pitch after working one night a week in Philadelphia for Paul E. in ECW. So, he was glad to get regular work. Then, Stone Cold finally ramped up and got over against the Mr. McMahon character. McMahon said it's about understanding psychology and when the truth is used against them. He said to be in the ring after watching Hulk Hogan and Bruno Sammartino and wanting to be in there, it was a "dream come true."

Austin flashed back to St. Valentine's Day Massacre 1998 when McMahon took a nasty bump off the cage into the announce table. McMahon noted he did not hit the sweet spot landing neck-first on the table, and he had the biggest bruise ever down his back, underneath both cheeks, and down to his knees. But, he wouldn't trade the bump.

Next, Austin went to WrestleMania 13 when he bled against Bret Hart and the double-turn happened. Austin recalled the back-story of how the booking went down and Hart suggesting Austin bleed when he passed out for the finish. Austin asked McMahon what he felt watching Austin bleeding like crazy when he had a "no color policy." McMahon said they all have a tendency to re-write history, but he's sure he was a little pissed off. But, it was about what the audience wanted. "I'm a pretty good listener," McMahon claimed. He reflected on his conflict of them breaking the rules, but the crowd going wild.

Austin said they have four minutes left, so he wants to go back to present day. Is McMahon listening today and giving them what they want? "We have control of our own destiny," McMahon said. He said the TV ratings are not what they were when they were competing against WCW, but they are holding their own.

Austin said the matches are too segmented - is that because people have shorter attention spans? McMahon said people don't have conversations anymore, they text and tweet. Yes, you have a short attention span, but you have to reach the audience, especially being on for three hours. They tune in, watch football, tune back in. McMahon said they can get better, but he's not out of touch, even if he is 69-years-old.

When is he going to ride off into the sunset? "I work as many hours as I always have. I'm enjoying the business more than I ever have, and I always have. I'm healthy. I think I haven't lost a step. Physically, I haven't. Mentally, I haven't," he said. McMahon said critics think he's out of touch, but he doesn't think he is. McMahon said they're down in NXT trying to work this out to grow the product. And, if there is another Stone Cold out there, they're good to go.

Austin signed off after McMahon asked if he's the most charismatic guest he's had on the show thus far. And that's a wrap on a one hour, 10 minute interview.

- Daniel Bryan was not brought up during the interview, who Austin included in his preview on WWE's website. Also, no real focus on Triple H as the future leader of the company. Hunter was only brought up in storyline context vs. Sting and as part of the family tree of McMahons involved in the business.

Related to Austin, he did not offer a rebuttal to Hulk Hogan recently calling him a coward.

Outside of individual stars mentioned or not mentioned, there was no discussion of wrestler health or a talent rotation system/off-season. McMahon talked about "changing with the times" from a business or Creative perspective, but not from a talent management perspective. He acted as if it's solely on the talent or employee to avoid burn-out or breaking down or taking the crappy Creative and making a sandwich out of it; it's that thought process of "well, I'm working these crazy, non-stop hours, so you should to, because I wouldn't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do," without seeing that it's not healthy for everyone to operate on the same schedule.

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He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).

He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)


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