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WWE Network Live Special
“Stone Cold Podcast”
August 8, 2016
Host: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin
Guest: WWE World Hvt. champion Dean Ambrose
After Raw went off the air on Monday night, WWE Network picked up with Stone Cold and Dean Ambrose sitting backstage at the studio desk prepared for an hour-long chat.
Austin noted Ambrose’s Tapout t-shirt before talking about musical tastes. Ambrose said he likes old country music, but some of the newer country on regular radio is blah.
Austin wanted to know about Ambrose’s background coming from the mean streets of Cincinnati. Austin noted the connection to Brian Pillman, his old tag partner. Ambrose thought about how to discuss his background in Cincy. He said he and his sister had to figure things out for themselves and wandered the streets. Ambrose said he was just able to help his mom quit her job at the factory because he got a little bit of money in WWE to help her retire. He said it was the best accomplishment he’s had in wrestling.
Asked if he had a happy childhood, Ambrose said he would say so. He said he doesn’t have a sob story about coming from a terrible situation like other people. What about school? Ambrose said school came very easy to him. He said once he got into middle school and questions started creeping into his mind, he lost interest. By the time he got to high school, he hated it. It wasn’t a work ethic thing, but just disinterest. He said he eventually dropped out and never finished. “I thought I was smarter than everyone here,” he said at the time. Plus, Ambrose was exploring the world of wrestling.
Ambrose said he wrestled in junior high and played nose tackle in football. Ambrose said his school never won a game because they had a tiny group of people on the roster. What about dropping out of school? Ambrose said one day he just stopped going to school. And his parents didn’t really say anything because he was doing his own thing. Ambrose said he was a wreck in high school and doing stuff that he probably shouldn’t be doing.
Ambrose said his childhood was a bit of a mess, but he learned to look at the world in his own way. He said he doesn’t know any different. He said people who grow up in a regular old family are sometimes miserable by the time they’re 30. He said he just goes where the wind blows. Austin said that works well for pro wrestling.
When did you get started watching wrestling? Ambrose said wrestling has been his favorite thing since as long as his memory goes back. Ambrose said wrestling was always this cool world where good guys fought bad guys and you wanted to get into it. Were you into Hulk Hogan as a kid? Ambrose said he missed Hulkamania being born in 1985. He said Bret Hart was The Guy when he was a kid. He said Hart was cagey and technical and endurable, which was all impressive to him. Ambrose said he loved that as a kid.
Ambrose said he always had a feeling in the back of his mind that this was what he was going to do if he ever had the opportunity to be a pro wrestler. Ambrose said he got more and more obsessed with wrestling over time. He said he used to shoplift stacks of wrestling tapes from the local video stores. Ambrose said he studied and bought Japanese wrestling and learned about the NWA & AWA and read the magazines and books. He compiled an encyclopedia of wrestling knowledge. And then ECW hit him at the perfect time in his life.
Austin brought up Terry Funk. Ambrose said the ECW version of Terry Funk hit him at the time, but he loves watching the old NWA champion version of Funk. Or, like Harley Race, who carried himself like it didn’t matter if there was a crowd in the audience. He just had a presence knowing he was The Man. “They had a thing to them,” Ambrose said. He said wants to bring some of that to himself as World champion.
Who mentored you in the business? Ambrose said he trained in Les Thatcher’s school and got trained by Cody Hawk. He said he was fortunate to be from Cincinnati, where Thatcher’s school was located. Ambrose said he was super-studying wrestling when he saw a flyer for a wrestling show on a telephone pole. And, on the back of the program was a note for Thatcher’s wrestling camp. It was like a light came on and it was a sign from the heaven.
Ambrose said the camp was old-school learning everything perfectly until doing the next thing. Did this come natural to you? Ambrose said a lot of it came to him, but some of it was hard because he was a bit clumsy. After a year, he felt like he was getting better. Ambrose said he got his ass kicked for two years and he basically lived there. Austin noted Ambrose doesn’t seem to have any amateur wrestling background in his pro wrestling style. Ambrose said the amateur style didn’t really resonate with him. He said he likes to call it in the ring and work with guys who feel it out in the ring.
Austin brought up Dean getting away from the business for a little while. Ambrose said there were times when he came really close to quitting while on the indies. At some point, everyone wonders why they’re doing this after putting in all the time and effort. Ambrose said those kind of failures helped him get himself to the next level. Did you have a Plan B? Ambrose laughed and said no.
Austin talked about Ambrose going to Puerto Rico. Ambrose said he learned how to be vicious at 20-years-old. He said the fans wanted that blood & guts and viciousness, not doing a bunch of high-flying. Ambrose said it was starting to get old doing wrestling without the pay-off. He said his mindset shifted to just wanting to put together the best body of work possible, and if he dies broke, then so be it. Ambrose said he decided to say screw it and just develop a new attitude.
Austin asked if it was masking something or true confidence? Ambrose said maybe 2008 is when he finally went “you know what, this is how it’s going to be from now on.” He said if it’s something WWE doesn’t like, then so be it. Was WWE the goal from the start? Ambrose said that’s everyone’s goal. He said he used to watch Raw and say to himself that he could be right there wrestling John Cena right now. “How did I get there?” He didn’t know how, but he developed an attitude that is eventually what got him here to WWE.
Austin asked how he got to WWE. He said Joey Mercury looked at something from his work. Ambrose said he doesn’t think anyone really knew about him coming into WWE – he just snuck int he door. He said he was living in his buddy’s extra room in Philadelphia working for a bunch of Northeast indies. And one day he got a call from Ty Bailey from WWE. He thought it was a prank call from one of his buddies. Ambrose said he’s lucky he didn’t blow it on the phone. Then, Joey Mercury called him to follow up on the phone call. Mercury congratulated him and then Ambrose processed that he actually did have a job offer from WWE. Ambrose was super-calm describing this.
Austin asked if he was freaking out – what gets you revved up? Ambrose said he likes to bring a chill vibe to the interview. But, he was freaking out. Ambrose said he didn’t want to go down to Florida and act like someone he wasn’t acting all happy to be here. He had to be himself and sink or swim that way. Ambrose said he had a great time down at FCW. He said Dusty Rhodes was the TV booker and it was frustrating because you felt like you were on an island with hardly any contact with WWE. But, you were wrestling a TV show written by Dusty Rhodes. Ambrose said he would just sit in the office and listen to him tell stories. But, on this island, he was able to have great programs with Seth Rollins and William Regal.
What did you learn from Dusty? And, when did the light turn on for you as a promo? He said he found that spot where he didn’t care anymore. He said they used to do the promo classes with Dusty and he thought it was awkward and stupid. It wasn’t real to him. He said he knows how to talk, just give me something to talk about. Ambrose said he would always hear about scripted promos on the main roster, but he thought it was a myth. Because in FCW, he would do whatever he wanted. So, when he got to main TV, he thought there really wasn’t a script. But, the first time he got handed a script … (Ambrose did a “throw up in my mouth” gesture).
Austin went back to Ambrose wrestling as Jon Moxley cutting some edgy promos that were badass. How does the Lunatic Fringe Dean Ambrose compare to Moxley? Austin said he dug that. Ambrose said when he first got to WWE, they gave him a script and he couldn’t process it. Ambrose said he can riff and talk forever off the top of his head, but if you give him a paragraph of thoughts, he can’t memorize it. He said it killed it for him. Now, he’s gotten to the point where he can call his own shots. Sometimes Vince McMahon will tell him to say whatever he wants. And then it’s fun again.
Austin asked Ambrose what his mission is with a promo. Ambrose said you can drive the narrative with your promo to hammer home the point of how an angle is going to go. Ambrose entered promo mode cutting a promo on Stone Cold’s knee that he’s going to take it apart at the Nashville Fairgrounds and make him beg to have it amputated after their match is over. Austin came back with his own promo that he’ll beat him with one leg and do it every day of the week.
Austin exited promo mode and asked Ambrose about getting suggestions for promos. Do you have a chip on your shoulder? Ambrose said he when he first got to WWE as part of The Shield, they definitely had a chip on their shoulders because they felt like they were just as good as everyone on the roster. He said when he first got into wrestling, he had a big chip on his shoulder because no one believed he would be a big star and become WWE champion. Now, he doesn’t feel like a chip-on-his-shoulder guy. Are you complacent now that you’re champion? Not at all. Just not a “chip” guy thinking he has to prove himself and prove everyone wrong. He said he has a certain confidence now, and he can carry over the World champion persona he wants to convey.
Austin asked Ambrose if he sees this as real. Like the business is real. Ambrose said it’s real to him – the journey that it took to get here as champion and sitting here talking to you (Austin).
What about The Shield formation? Ambrose said he wrestled with Seth for two years straight and they were friends with Roman Reigns, but they really bonded in forming The Shield. The original idea was they were going to be goons for C.M. Punk as WWE champion, but it never got to that point. Ambrose relayed the original visual concept that they were actually going to come out with shields and nightsticks. At first, he was all for it, but in retrospect, he thinks it would have fallen flat since they would have looked like dorks. Austin had a big laugh at the proposed visual of them out there with actual shields.
So, the next idea was going for tactical gear. Ambrose said the idea became the gear and coming through the crowd. What was the chemistry like? Ambrose said it was three Alpha Males with three different personalities. Plus, the locker room even just a few years ago was different. Now, it’s a lot of young guys who came up together as NXT guys. Back then, it was a big divide between the main roster and Developmental. It was shark-infested waters. So, they came up there together with a screw-it mentality. And if people didn’t like them beating people up, they didn’t care. Ambrose said they decided to out-work everyone every single night and be the best thing on the show.
Austin said Shield ran chaos, then became cool. And the break-up happened. Did they break you up too soon? Ambrose said he thinks it was perfect. He said they got as high as they possibly could hitting a high note beating Evolution on their last night. And they were crushing everyone, so there was no one left to crush. “It was time to walk off stage,” Ambrose said. And no one was expecting the heel turn from Seth Rollins because Shield was so hot.
Austin said Seth won the World Title, then Roman Reigns won the title. But, now he’s the champion. Did you have to sit back and keep calm watching as they got their title runs before you? Ambrose told Austin he’s going to get him fired up when he’s trying to bring chill vibes to the room. No, but I know what you’re saying. Yes and no. Ambrose said he had been the biggest jerk of The Shield to set up him turning heel, but it became Seth turning. And he stayed babyface. So, he told someone he’s close to that one day they’re going to have a babyface on top who they don’t like, and there he will be ready to fill in. So, he started busting hump to be ready for the moment.
Austin asked Ambrose if he wasn’t designed to get over. Yeah. Ambrose said he wasn’t sabotaged, but he felt like he was left alone to do his own thing. Was it him & the fans against the world? Ambrose said he doesn’t really have a character and the lunatic, crazy stuff is all marketing. He said Us vs. The World is pretty much him. Ambrose said of all the cool things he gets to do with this job, you get to a certain spot as a babyface where you can inspire and help people. Ambrose said you can help people through tough times and people feel like they can push through their own issues. Austin said Bret Hart did the same for him when he was growing up in Cincinnati. Exactly.
Ambrose said when he first got to WWE, he heard the phrase “we put smiles on people’s faces,” and he thought it was so cheesy and corny. No, let’s do violence and piledrivers. But, then you get to John Cena’s level and you realize that is what it’s about it. Austin said it’s the bigger picture.
Austin wanted to go to WrestleMania 32 earlier this year in Texas. They walked down the same ramp in front of about 100,000 people at AT&T Stadium. What were you thinking about to face Brock Lesnar? Ambrose said it was pretty cool. He went to the ring that night pretty pissed off. He paused. And then he started to enjoy the moment. Ambrose said he had no idea what was going to happen because there wasn’t much of a plan. What were you mad about? He felt like he was pulling teeth trying to get the match to work with Brock. “Artistically, Brock didn’t want to do anything. To be perfectly honest,” Ambrose said. He had a vision for that match to be the craziest thing imaginable and he put so much work into it. And he was met with laziness. He just kept thinking when they got in the ring, it will all be okay. He went out there and they hit each other with weapons and he got suplexed a lot, but it wasn’t much more than that. Ambrose said he did the best he could with it.
Austin switched to Ambrose being WWE champion. Ambrose said it symbolizes that if you believe in yourself, no one can screw with you. Don’t let anyone tell you no. Don’t accept negativity from anyone. He said everyone likes to give you their negative vibes in today’s society, but don’t listen. Ambrose said it’s a chance for him to help and inspire other people. He said he’s been put in this situation and he takes it very seriously. Now he’s a role model to children. “Isn’t that weird?” he said. But, now he’s been given a huge responsibility.
Austin asked about his relationship with Vince McMahon. It’s great. We’re boys. Dean said he knows Vince pretty well. He said a lot of people are intimidated by Vince or get the wrong idea about him, but he finds him very easy to talk to. He said he had a 45-minute conversation with him working out at 2:30 in the morning. Ambrose said they were hanging out in the hotel lobby before Vince went to work out. He said Vince is a trailer-park, street fighter at heart.
Does Vince understand who you are? Ambrose said he thinks he’s Vicne McMahon’s favorite wrestler. Quote me.
Do you like the brand split? I love it. Ambrose said it means more opportunities for guys and less over-exposure. He said five hours of wrestling with the same storylines is too much. He said they would often times run out of ideas to fill time building up to a match. It’s a three-hour show, so you start giving away too much. He said he had so many 20-minute matches with Bray Wyatt and Kevin Owens on Raw TV. Ambrose said addressing over-exposure is good, plus more time at home to recharge. Plus, he liked being the Captain of Smackdown at the beginning.
Are you a leader by nature? Ambrose said he’s not a leader like John Cena bringing people in to have a meeting and give advice. It’s not his style. He prefers to be leader by example. Like working harder than everyone else. More so than “Hey, everyone, let me lead you.” Are you comfortable where you are? Ambrose said it feels good as champion, but now it’s time to get to work. And now he can have creative freedom on the mic. So, let’s get down to work. Ambrose said it took a lot of work to get to this point, and now he can start to build a legacy. Like having a title run and building a body of work as WWE champion.
Austin said it took Dean a long time to get here. All of a sudden he’s on top of WWE. Austin had a challenge for him sitting five feet away from him. He said he’s been watching him ever since he got to WWE and as a guy who pushed the envelope during his run and wasn’t afraid to go out on a limb and watching some of his stuff in the past, “I challenge you now to raise the bar.” Austin told Ambrose to push the envelope, be edgier, take more chances, be more Dean Ambrose, amp up and amplify everything you’ve got. Because I think WWE fans deserve to see that. Austin said he thinks Dean is resting on his laurels, he’s a little comfortable, and he needs to find the edge again.
Ambrose replied that he is offended by the thought that he’s resting on his laurels. Austin said he’s the captain. He said he wants the real Dean. This is what you’ve worked your whole life for. Ambrose said he likes it. He said he tries to push the envelope every day and sometimes you can yell & scream to do this, but at the end of the day, you’re playing in someone else’s sandbox. He paused. Dean said Austin is reminding him that getting on top is one thing, and staying on top is another thing. He said he feels like the work is just beginning.
Suddenly, Austin’s theme music played as Austin was mid-sentence firing up on Dean to show him the real Dean Ambrose. Dean got frustrated wanting to keep the conversation going, while Austin went to sign-off mode. Ambrose calmed down and shook hands with Austin to close the podcast interview.
OVERALL: This was an interesting look into Austin basically talking to a younger version of himself trying to tell the younger version of himself to drop the “cool vibes” and tap into the anger and viciousness inside him to produce a b.a. champion, like a pep-talk trying to cross the generational divide. Part of the issue is that Ambrose doesn’t have a strong heel to play off. Right now, Smackdown is run by the likable authority figures Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan, while the top heels are watered-down, over-exposed, or doing something else, like A.J. Styles with John Cena. Perhaps an Ambrose-Styles post-Summerslam program will really bring out the best in each other to carry Smackdown through the Fall TV season.
Ambrose’s comments on the disappointing WrestleMania match with Brock Lesnar were really interesting. And, captured the tone for a lot of today’s locker room not respecting Brock. Other interesting items were Dean being prophetic about WWE getting to the point where they had a top babyface they wouldn’t like (Roman Reigns), and Dean discussing his connection to Vince McMahon. Ambrose really is the next C.M. Punk as that underground, underdog street-fighter that McMahon resonates with as an alternative to the Hogans and Cenas. It sounds like Ambrose is different than Punk, though, in that his supreme individuality in a controlled WWE system has not made him miserable.