Broadcast May 5, 1998
Transcript prepared by SLAM! Wrestling
Michael Landsberg (host of OTR): You are the current WWF champion. You are probably one of the most popular wrestlers in the world and one of the most popular wrestlers of all time. But here’s what Eric Bischoff, your former boss had to say about you. Take a look.
(Footage of Eric Bischoff’s appearance on Off The Record)
Bischoff: Right now, today, Steve Austin would be a mid-card player. The fact of the matter is that Steve Austin is a big fish in a relatively small pond when it comes to a talent roster and he’s doing very well. I don’t want to take anything away from Steve. He’s done very well. But he’s doing it in an environment that he can be at the top. He couldn’t be at the top in WCW.
Austin: (grinning) It actually sounds like he believes what he’s saying.
Landsberg: I think he does.
Austin: Well, I think he doesn’t because Eric Bischoff is actually a little bit smarter than that, I’d like to think. The fact of the matter is I watched the whole interview and like he said…the numbers don’t lie. Well, our ratings don’t lie. When I’m on the USA Network those numbers don’t lie. And I don’t brag about how the merchandise sells but…
Landsberg: While we’re at it…
Austin: But while we’re at it, there’s no one in WCW – or the WWF for that matter – who can even touch me on that. So, the numbers don’t lie there either. As far as being a big fish in a small pond… anybody down in WCW will tell you whether they’re making good money or not is that the World Wrestling Federation is THE show. It’s the big time. WCW is a place to stand around and get some work. But everybody knows and Eric Bischoff knows too that the WWF is the Big Time and that’s the bottom line.
Landsberg: And I don’t know if he knows that or he if he does, he certainly didn’t admit it on this show.
Austin: Of course he won’t.
Landsberg: It’s just like Vince doesn’t know that WCW has at times kicked his butt across North America television-wise.
Austin: But then again, on that same interview, didn’t Eric Bischoff say that they used to look forward to the ratings and that they’re beating us so much that it wasn’t funny any more. Well, I think it’s starting to get a lot more fun for them because the rating’s race has been pretty damn fun the last few weeks. And that with the five-seven we just got was the highest rating ever for wrestling.
Landsberg: We should point this out to an audience that may or may not know, the WWF has had a really good last little while. WrestleMania was the highest grossing pay-per-view of all time. The highest rated show was your last Raw in the Vince McMahon – Steve Austin storyline. But I want to go back to WCW and say you got a phone call from Eric Bischoff when he was your employer? What did he say to you?
Austin: I was recovering from a torn tricep I suffered over in Japan and the arm was healing up. Basically, he told me based on the amount of days that I was incapacitated and based on the amount of money they were paying me…that they were exercising their right to terminate the agreement. So, I said “Basically, you’re telling me I’m fired.” And he goes, “Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you. When you get well maybe we can talk again.”
Getting fired doesn’t bother me at all. If I get fired tomorrow, that doesn’t bother me. But I lived thirty miles down from the CNN Center at the time. All he had to do was say “Come down to the office. We need to talk.” I just got pissed off that they fired me over the phone. It’s a pretty lame thing to do to a person who works for you for four years.
Landsberg: Right. But he fired a guy though who wasn’t a star in WCW at the time. I mean, there is no disputing it – even Eric Bischoff wouldn’t dispute it – you are a huge star right now. What is the difference? Why in WWF is your persona so enormous and there you were just another guy?
Austin: It was a whole political thing. When Brian Pillman and myself formed the Hollywood Blondes they saw how that was taking off. At that time it was the hottest tag team of all time. It would’ve been one of the best ever and they shut that down for political reasons. So, I was never given the platform down there that I’ve been given here in the World Wrestling Federation. When Vince McMahon brought me up here and I changed the name I had in The Ringmaster to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin. Finally, he gave me that football and when he did, I took off and ran with it. And I’m not dropping it. And I’m not giving it back because this is my opportunity and I’m making the most of it.
Landsberg: North Texas State University? You were a football player weren’t you?
Austin: That’s right.
Landsberg: What position?
Austin: Defensive End.
Landsberg: Not a very good one?
Austin: Damn good!
Landsberg: Damn good?
Austin: Not good enough to play pro ball but enough to get a free education.
Landsberg: WWF. Everything takes off. Your character. But isn’t it true that in the WWF you have more leeway? That the “family values” idea of WCW wouldn’t permit you to give ‘the finger’, would not permit you to use the ‘F-word’ and other words that you use that really do attract fans? So, this is the right place for you?
Austin: It’s the right place for me. If I was still in that environment, I would still be as popular. If I had started this whole thing down there sure I wouldn’t have been able to go as far to the edge as I have been with the WWF but there is no doubt. Just before Eric Bischoff fired me I said “Whether I go to All Japan or wherever I’ll be the best in the world.” And that’s exactly what happened. Any time you put a limitation on me or tell me I can’t do something, I’ll prove you wrong every single time. That’s just the way I was brought up.
What I’ve done on the USA Network has given Vince McMahon some headaches and grey hairs. And the same with the people at the USA Network. Sometimes I guess they aren’t really happy with what I do or say. But what I do or say is something that everyone hears or sees every day of their life. It’s really not that a controversial thing with me.
Landsberg: That’s the thing. What you just said. I am listening to what you’re saying and I am hearing “Stone Cold” in your voice as you sort of get excited by the subject. How close is Steve Austin, the guy that I met…we sat in the Green Room…talked about families and stuff like that… to the guy in the ring.
Austin: It’s the exact same thing except I am sitting three feet from you. We’re not in an audience where it’s 20,000 or 60,000 people where I am trying to project all the way back of that audience. When I get in that situation all I do is get that volume switch and turn it all the way up. But the two people are actually the same person. You can be something other than what you are but what I’m doing is being myself. I guess that’s why I’m so popular right now. You never really hear too many people say…’Ummm. Steve Austin’s okay…I kinda like him or don’t like him’. Either you like me a hundred per cent or you don’t like me and it’s pretty much cut and dried.
Landsberg: We’ve got to talk about the new “hard-core” of wrestling. Obviously, you represent a lot of that and where it’s going. And we’ll do that when Off The Record returns. We’ll be back with “Cold Stone” Steve Austin.
Austin: All right Mike Tyson. That’s “Stone Cold.”
Landsberg: I’m sorry…?
Austin: It’s “Stone Cold.”
Landsberg: It doesn’t make any difference one way or the other.
Austin: Yeah it does. It makes a big difference.
Landsberg: Go ahead. Call me Landsberg Michael. It doesn’t bother me a bit.
Austin: Ok. It doesn’t bother you?
Austin: That’s good.
(footage of Austin ripping of the Armani suit and decking Vince McMahon.)
Landsberg: That’s the definitive Steve Austin, right? Every working man’s dream to punch their boss in the groin.
Austin: It works for me. It fit the situation. Vince McMahon has the tendency of getting on my nerves most of the time I talk to him. Right then, he tried to dress me up in a suit and make me the corporate Good Guy. I had to re-affirm everything. That’s not going to happen with me. I go out there and do and say whatever I do. Like I said before, I’ve been fired before. I’m not afraid to be fired again. When I had an accident about a year ago, got dropped on my head and was almost paralyzed…I realized this thing doesn’t last forever. So, whether I’m around for a long time or not…I’m damn sure gonna have a good time while I’m here.
Landsberg: You mentioned that you got dropped on your head… piledrived by Owen Hart. Is there some animosity between you and he?
Austin: You’re damn right.
Landsberg: Genuine heat.. like not fixed up.
Austin: Damn right. When you’re talking about something as serious as that. To lay in front of 20,000 people…
Landsberg: Did he screw up?
Austin: You’re damn right he screwed up.
Landsberg: What did he do?
Austin: He dropped me flat on my head.
Landsberg: As opposed to…
Austin: Usually, you suffer a little jolt out of it but not anything like I did. I lay there in front of 20,000 people not being able to move an arm or a leg… I’m still pissed off to this day.
Landsberg: Didn’t he come out with a T-shirt also? A Hart 3:16 shirt that said I Broke Your Neck… or something like that.
Austin: Yeah. I thought that was a pretty cheap avenue to go but sometimes that’s the way the wrestling business goes.
Landsberg: That’s the way the wrestling business is….
Austin: I’m not going to sit here and whine and complain about it. It goes with the territory. That’s the way it goes. If you’re going to whine and complain about everything…. that’s what Bret Hart did.
Landsberg: He whined and complained about…
Austin: Yeah. He always whined and complained…
Landsberg: You’re in Bret Hart territory here, Steve.
Austin: I really don’t care what territory I’m in. I’m not going to cater to anybody.
Landsberg: Vince McMahon -your boss – lied to Bret.
Austin: No, he didn’t.
Landsberg: Yeah, he did. You know how I know? He said on this show..”I lied to Bret”.
Austin: Did he?
Landsberg: Yeah, he did. He admitted it.
Austin: Well, that’s just the way it goes. He was there fourteen years…had a helluva job…didn’t want to go with the flow and basically he got fired. You can dress it up as anything you want. But to me, when I see everything that’s happened..that’s what happened. It’s business. That’s the way it goes. It could happen to me.
Landsberg: What about the direction the WWF is heading? It seems like there are no rules. The key is to create storylines that everybody likes whether it…
(footage of D-Generation X pissing on D.O.A.’s motorcycles.)
Landsberg: A good example of D-Generation X. Some of us parents…as you are a parent…would be offended by this.
Austin: Oh, yeah. I can’t say I agree with everything the WWF does. I’m not going to sit on the high horse and say everything I do is right because I know with my sign language and my language, a lot of people don’t like me. But it seems like a lot of them DO like me. As far as everything goes, I’m not really much for the sex stuff or the racism stuff on television. Other that, everything’s pretty much fair game. Nothing really bothers me. But once you get into those two areas then I really start getting turned off.
Landsberg: It seems as though the fans have a hunger for aggression they didn’t have in the past. Last weekend, wasn’t there an Unforgiven… Kane was set on fire by Undertaker?
Landsberg: How far can this go?
Austin: Well, his arm just got caught on fire…
Landsberg: It just happened, right? (chuckles)..Ya know…
Austin: The guy’s just fine. Ya know, it’s 1998. Things have changed not just in wrestling but in everything. You really can’t name anything that hasn’t changed or gotten more aggressive. Football players..bigger…stronger..faster. Everything keeps evolving. You gotta draw a line with some issues. I know Vince says anything should be available for him to do that and it’s his company so…
Landsberg: He’s the boss and if you don’t like it…you gotta move on. But you can express your feelings to the boss.
Landsberg: I guess you did with certain issues…
Austin: Well, he’s never asked me..”Steve, what do you think about this or that”. If he did, I’d tell him. Like I said, he’s not afraid of anybody and I’m not afraid to give him my opinion.
Landsberg: Do you think that fan’s hunger for aggression is compromising your chances of staying healthy? They want more all the time…
(footage airs of the Hell In A Cell match)
Landsberg: A look at Shawn Michaels there and he has severe back problems. Macho Man Savage. Buff Bagwell on live television nearly broke his neck. Are they pushing you harder to do more and therefore this is riskier business than before?
Austin: You know, you put yourself in certain positions and either good things or bad things can happen. Most of the time we’d like for everything to be okay and you walk away and say…”That was pretty cool”. It’s not management saying…”Hey! You gotta do this or that”. It wasn’t my goal getting into pro wrestling to be the second or third match each night. And that’s not knocking anybody who is. The people you just named getting hurt…they had the same goal I have which is go out there and steal the show. They’re turning up the volume themselves. It’s their intensity driving them to do these things. That’s the hunger and the price you pay to be on top.
Landsberg: Isn’t it true also that some of the talent is less prepared to be in the ring? Guys who look great and sound great but don’t have the same technique or background as you do. A guy like Ahmed Johnson, for example.
Austin: You gotta learn. There really is no formal education. You don’t get a degree. You might get into the ring with someone who don’t know nothing, so you are compromising your health right there. Maybe some steps should be taken to get people to be a little more safer but that’s just the way it is.
Landsberg: I’m thinking you’re probably not a big fan of Bill Goldberg are you?
Austin: Nah. I don’t have any problem with Bill Goldberg. Don’t they say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery?
Landsberg: We’ll take a break and maybe I’ll shave my head and imitate you.
Austin: Would you?
Landsberg: Probably not. Anybody who knows me chances are they’ll thinking..He ain’t shaving his hair. We’ll take a break and talk about a very serious subject…your good friend Brian Pillman when Off The Record returns.
(footage of Austin stunning Maivia and The Nation)
Landsberg: Your friend Brian Pillman. You were together as a tag team duo. WCW. WWF. Your careers matched one another. You haven’t spoken much publicly about Brian Pillman. Your reaction to Brian Pillman’s death?
Austin: We were on a pay-per-view that day when all of a sudden the news comes out that Brian was dead. It was something that I couldn’t believe happened. Everybody always says it didn’t sink in…it didn’t. Until a few nights later we tolled the bell on Monday Night Raw and it pretty much shook me up. Brian was someone I met down in WCW. He came up to me…they put me with Harley Race to give me a good shove as U.S. Champion then he said they needed a good finishing move as a tag team now. I said..”What the hell are you talking about?”.
It was just an interim tag team. We turned it into the Hollywood Blondes. In wrestling and I guess in a lot of entertainment type things, you don’t make many close friends as everybody is out to stab you in the back. Brain called me at my house. I called his. He was the best friend I ever had in wrestling. When he died…it’s too bad…Brian had a lot of throat problems…he had his ankle fused…he was in bad shape health-wise and the partial problems at his house, I guess. I guess everything just caught up with him. He had a heart condition on top of that. That was the legal cause of his death, a heart condition. He died in his hotel room.
It was a sad thing for someone of Brian’s intelligence. He was one of the smartest guys I ever knew. Not a day goes by that I honestly don’t think about Brian and I miss him.
Landsberg: Bret Hart said on the show that he felt so much guilt because people knew he was struggling with his life. Do you feel any guilt?
Austin: No. You wonder if you took him aside and said…”Man, is there anything I can do?” or “What’s going on?”. But the way I knew Brian, during the daytime he was the proudest guy. He was a strong, tough guy. He wasn’t going to say if he had problems. He might whine or complain in a sentence or two. He didn’t look for sympathy and he didn’t want it. He was a very headstrong person. He wanted to do his own thing and he always did. He lived his life at a hundred miles an hour and had a great time.
In the end, everything caught up with him and it was a bad time. As I said, he had some problems at the house and everything caught up with him. But I don’t feel guilty about it at all. Brian went away and I don’t think there was anything that was going to change that. I guess it was his time.
Landsberg: Do you think wrestling contributed much to his death?
Austin: I think life contributed to his death. Brian was 34, 35 years old with a heart problem and all that. All the pain he was in from the car wreck. Everything. It was just something that happened.
Lansberg: Brian Pillman, a good friend of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. When we come back I want to get your impressions of some of the current guys you are wrestling with and some of the guys from the past.
Landsberg: You have a big match coming up at SkyDome, May 23rd. You’re going to face Hunter-Hearst Helmsley and the referee…we just learned…is going to be..Vince McMahon.
Austin: (laughing) That’s the biggest bunch of crap I’ve ever heard because Vince McMahon has done everything so far that he think of to get that belt off me. I’m his worst nightmare. So the fact that he going to come up in Toronto and try….there’s no way he’s gonna call it down the middle. I’ll tell you that, right now. Hunter-Hearst Helmsley on his own is tough enough but if you’re going to put Vince McMahon in there; I’m probably gonna beat his ass.
Landsberg: I’m going to throw out some names. Gimme one line or one comment.
Landsberg: Hulk Hogan?
Austin: He was very successful but…
Landsberg: Best there ever was?
Austin: No. Not even close.
Landsberg: I’m sorry. That’s Bret Hart. Best there ever was…
Austin: No. Not even him.
Landsberg: No? Who is?
Austin: Both are very highly successful, I’ll give them that.
Landsberg: Who is the best there ever was? The greatest wrestler?
Austin: One of the people I enjoyed being in the ring with the most? Bret Hart was one of them. Ricky Steamboat.
Austin: Umm, a chick.
(both laugh out loud)
Austin: You’re going to get me in a lotta trouble with that one.
Landsberg: I wish I was Steve Austin and could do those things. Diamond Dallas Page.
Austin: He’s actually a friend of mine. I have very few of them but he’s a friend of mine. He’s a very hard worker. He’s very successful and done well for himself.
Landsberg: Shawn Michaels?
Austin: He’s extremely talented. Kinda started crying there at the end. Hopefully he’ll get his act together, get his health together and come back to the WWF.
Landsberg: Al Snow?
Austin: Right now what he’s doing, he might actually have a chance to do some good with it. He’s got a very new gimmick with this head thing. Actually, it’s pretty damn cool.
Landsberg: Mike Tyson?
Austin: It was a lot of fun working with Mike. I’d still like to fight Mike Tyson. If he ever gets cleared or whatever…I want to wrestle him or box him.
Landsberg: You think you’ll ever work with him again?
Austin: I’d like to see it happen.
Landsberg: They pay him too much or was it worth while?
Austin: He’s the king of pay-per-view.
Landsberg: Ric Flair?
Austin: Long time ago, he was great. Now it’s time to hang it up.
Landsberg: Vince McMahon?
Austin: Pretty damn close to being a genius. Do I like him? Do we see eye-to-eye? No. But I give credit where credit is due.
Landsberg unbuttons his shirt to display a Landsberg 3:16 shirt. Austin tears it in half.
OUR COMMENTS: GREG OLIVER: I really enjoyed this show, especially the Landsberg 3:16 shirt, with Austin ripping it apart. I laughed, and laughed at that one. Austin never really got out of his ‘character’, which he claims is basically him anyway. But it was disappointing to hear him talk about Vince McMahon trying to screw him out of the title. We know it’s a storyline, he knows it’s a storyline. McMahon still pays him, and is likely a richer man because of Austin.
My biggest problem with the show is that half the time Landsberg wants to be taken seriously, the other times he’s just goofing around. And it’s not just when the wrestlers are on.
JOHN POWELL: The interview segment was fine but why generate fake heat with the lame T-shirt stunt and Landsberg “deliberately” trying to piss Austin off? How dumb do they think we are?
It baffles me why the mainstream media always stoops to that level. The charade made both Austin and Landsberg appear silly especially since neither could keep their faces straight during the goofball routines.
Guys. Guys. This is 1998. The large majority of people know wrestling is scripted. Let’s drop the fake-o theatrics, shall we?
Thankfully, Landsberg’s wrestling knowledge is better than it once was. It’s clear he’s making some sort of effort. Either that or the off-stage crew are doing a helluva job! (Cheers, Jeff.).
The Pillman portion was the best of the half hour. Unlike some journalists, Landsberg knows when to shut his big trap and let his subject speak. Austin let his guard down and Landsberg allowed the honest emotion to carry the segment.