‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin on Leaving His Mark on the WWE, Movies and Podcasts

The "Attitude Era" legend not likely to return to the ring; is focused on other projects that let him interact with his fanbase

Stone Cold Steve Austin

It’s looking less likely that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin will ever return to WWE’s ring to wrestle in another high-profile match — unless it’s a videogame.

Austin, who represented WWE’s edgier “Attitude Era” during the 1990s, is one of the company’s legends (including  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,” Rick Flair, the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan) who are prominently featured in Take-Two Interactive’s “WWE2K14,” out the Oct. 29, and revolves around the past 30 years of “WrestleMania,” replicating matches from those pay-per-view events. Johnson is on the cover.

While he hasn’t completely left WWE, making the occasional appearance on the company’s TV shows, or hosting others like reality competition series “Tough Enough,” Austin said he doesn’t “want to go back” to the ring. Being in a game “is fun,” he told Variety on the eve of “SummerSlam,” at Staples Center. “It instantly brings back memories and good times and stuff like that, but it is what it is. These days when I see myself is in another videogame, it’s exciting and it gives me great satisfaction that i could have been part of something or been an entertainer that was so important that they keep bringing me back.”

Austin’s fans have long wanted him to return the way Johnson and Brock Lesnar have in recent years. But Austin is just happy to look back on his career right now and pursue film roles and produce his weekly podcast, “The Steve Austin Show,” with new installments out every Tuesday and Thursday.

“I’ve been gone 10, 11 years,” Austin said. “If you had a cow and you had a branding iron and it was in a fire and you put that branding iron on a cow you leave your mark and that mark is there forever. It can’t be erased. That’s why they brand cows. So if wrestling was a cow, I branded it and that mark will never go away. In another 10 years, in another 20 years, that mark I left on the business will always be there. I’m very happy about what I was able to accomplish and I had a great time doing it.”

“If wrestling was a cow, I branded it and that mark will never go away.”

Still Austin’s impressed with how he appears and moves in “WWE2K14.” In the game, Austin would be interested in seeing Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, or himself against CM Punk or Brock Lesnar.

“Obviously they did a pretty good damn job,” he said. “Maybe I should get them to wrestle at ‘WrestleMania 30’ for me.”

Looking back, Austin was surprised when a reboot of reality show “Tough Enough” only lasted one season on USA Network, in 2011. Austin hosted the series, which featured Booker T, Trish Stratus and Bill DeMott as trainers of aspiring WWE wrestlers.

“When that show didn’t come back, I was pissed off,” Austin said. “It was a great show. The numbers were very good. We had a great time doing it. Why they didn’t bring it back still baffles me to this day because I loved doing that show. It was a great way to be in the business I know and love without having to be in the ring taking lumps.”

Austin said the series gave viewers a look “in the right way” on what happens behind the scenes in the WWE.

“You (saw) what it takes to be good, some of the sacrifices that have to be made, some of the mechanical issues as far as timing,” he said. “There’s nothing better than when you see Miss USA try to start taking bumps and guess what, it hurts a lot. You either love to hit the mat or you hate to hit the mat. there’s not a whole lot of in between.”

WWE’s series “NXT,” that spotlights new wrestlers at the company’s training facility in Orlando vying for a spot on the roster, airs on Hulu Plus and has essentially taken over the role of “Tough Enough.”

Austin was quick to praise the show because “it doesn’t seem so produced,” he said. “It seems so organic and a little bit more true to what wrestling was. I fell in love with wrestling when I was seven or eight years old. It was a smoke-filled arena. It was Houston, Texas. It was the Houston Coliseum and you could barely see the second and third row in there. You could see the two combatants in the ring and it was about a championship belt. Back then it was real. Hey, we know the business ain’t real now, but you want to believe it’s real so don’t give me all of the shenanigans. I don’t want to laugh too much. If i crack a smile every now or then because something’s humorous or funny, that’s cool. But it’s all about a couple of cats, guys and gals, single or tag match going after championship gold, which actually means something and something that’s not too shiny and has so much gloss on it (but) feels gritty and dirty and tough like pro wrestling is supposed to be.”

Austin also isn’t opposed to doing more with the WWE.

“I’m always a business man, ready to listen to an idea.”

That includes starring in moves for the company’s WWE Studios arm, for which he headlined “The Condemned,” in 2007. He’s interested in returning for a sequel.

The actioner is the type of film that Austin’s been focused on starring in — low-budget pics like “Knockout,” “Maximum Conviction” and “The Package” that mostly go straight-to-video or get an international release, and generate considerable coin given his fan base.

WWE Studios has returned to putting those kinds of films on its slate, through its relationship with Lionsgate and a distribution deal with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, with “The Marine: Homefront,” “12 Rounds 2,” “Leprechaun” and “See No Evil 2” as recent examples.

“I’ve been making these movies for a long time and it’s great that they’ve finally figured out that’s what they need to be doing too,” Austin said. “We’re talking to-DVD movies on a dime. Not spending too much money, That’s the ballpark they needed to be in. That’s the ballpark they’re in. That’s the ballpark I’ve been in for a while. I’m glad they’ve figured it out and I’m glad they’ve had success. It’s a great promotional machine in terms of what the WWE is. It makes sense. Don’t spend a shitload of money if you don’t have to.”

For now, Austin is also focused on his podcast.

“The reason I wanted to get into podcasting was the creative outlet,” he said. “When I  used to do ‘Monday Night Raw,’ it was work, but it was a creative outlet for me. I got a chance  to express myself.  And once you get off that global platform, you lose contact with your fan base. The reason I started a Twitter account was mainly to stay in contact with my fans. I started the podcast to maintain contact with my fans and to grow new fans. I’m loving the experience. It helped my brain start working again. I hang out by myself all the time. I’m married, but I’m pretty much a loner, so it’s not like a sit and talk to people all the time. I’m talking to all kinds of cool people now. It’s an absolutely wonderful thing for me.”

One upcoming guest will be Flair, always ready with stories to tell of his history with the WWE.

“Whether’s it one hour or six hours or whatever, he’s my favorite pro-wrestler of all time,” Austin said. “I had a wonderful career that I’m proud of, but when I look in the dictionary  of pro-wrestler, i see the picture of Ric Flair. I’m looking forward to talking with him about his career in ring.”