Thursday 5 February 2015

The Steve Austin Show

Why does ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin not have a greater presence on the WWE Network?

To a certain demographic Austin is still a very appealing figure. That demographic forms a large part of the WWE Network’s subscriber numbers1. There are people that would pay to listen to hear him talk. Maybe not $9.99 a month, but it could certainly be a contributing factor. He’s a good communicator, is passionate about the business in general and WWE in particular, and his status as one of the company’s biggest ever stars gives him all the credibility he could ever need.

He’s proven himself to be a pretty good interviewer too, mostly on his twice weekly podcast but also in his pair of Network specials. The first, a sit down with Vince McMahon in December, was well received, Austin showing himself to be an amiable, knowledgeable host. ‘The Rattlesnake’ pressed McMahon a fair amount (not as much as he could have done on some points, but more than I’d expected him to on others) and kept the conversation flowing freely, switching naturally between subjects, never getting a topic get exhausted but not burning through things too quickly either.

Vince could have been a little more open, but it was still one of the more intriguing interviews he’s ever given. I think that’s largely due to the fact that he was speaking to someone he had worked with closely and regularly for many years. There was a level of familiarity there that no other interviewer (including the likes of Goldberg, Roddy Piper and Chris Jericho) could have gotten. Yeah, he was still guarded and frustratingly vague on some topics but it was still a worthwhile listen and watch.

Roman Reigns on the screen there. Keeping him strong.
The Triple H interview after last Monday’s RAW was better yet. ‘The Game’ was more willing to try to explain his perspective as opposed to trying to explain why everyone else was wrong (the Vinnie Mac approach). When he did avoid questions, and he avoided a few, he made a smoother job of it, which made Austin’s lack of follow-up slightly more forgivable.

In terms of interviews with significant WWE personnel Austin has done the big two. Vince McMahon is the boss who worked closely with Austin when he was the biggest star in wrestling. Triple H is the rumoured heir who wrestled Austin when he was the biggest star in wrestling. There are no other people with a media profile in positions of authority in WWE that have worked with ‘The Bionic Redneck’ as McMahon and Trips have done. An argument could be made for a Stephanie McMahon interview and I’m sure it would be interesting (just as I’m sure she’ll be interview three for Austin). But it wouldn’t have quite the same impact as these first two. Which is, of course, the reason they were the first two.

My point here isn’t simply advocating a greater frequency of podcast specials on the Network. They’re great when they come but they’d soon lose their lustre if they became a regular thing. My point is that Austin could be of great benefit to the Network in a regular slot. An Austin chat show, say live on Fridays or Saturdays when WWE doesn’t have any new content on TV, would be a great vehicle for members of the roster to gain exposure. It could humanise them in a way that promos never can and provide them with a high profile platform to win viewers over. Obviously guys like Cesaro and Ziggler and Bryan need little help winning over the average Network subscriber, but it could be of enormous help to a Big E or Jack Swagger or Zack Ryder. A chat show, featuring all the associated skits and acts that term conjures up, fronted by Austin could be great. Said acts could easily be based on the sort of thing The JBL Show does well, giving more TV time to yet more people.

Would it really be too much trouble for WWE to knock up a basic set in LA or Texas for Austin’s convenience? I don’t think so, especially if it were only for a limited run of somewhere between six and thirteen episodes (because that’s what I think WWE and Austin would realistically produce at first). An Austin chat show would create more unique, original content for the Network and provide a platform for talent. Can something which does these things really be considered bad? I don’t think it can.


1 I’m not plucking this out of thin air, I’m quoting from Triple H’s February 2 appearance on Austin’s podcast. He’d know, right?

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