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WRITTEN PODCAST RECAP: Steve Austin Unleashed! w/ Don Callis on the wrestlers who almost joined The Oddities, the modern audience reaction to matches, the commentators who inspired him

The Steve Austin Show – Unleashed!

Release Date: July 27, 2017

Recap by: Chris Gaspare

DIRECT LINK TO LISTEN/DOWNLOAD

Top Newsworthy Items

– Callis was responsible for naming Kurgan and The Oddities, which was Vince Russo’s “baby.”

– WWF wouldn’t allow a segment to be filmed at Waco for Callis’s Jackal character.

– Sadly, Austin’s beloved dog, Hershey, was put to sleep this week.

Timestamps

00:00: Introduction to the show, plugs, and ads
4:40: Fanny packs, chewing tobacco, and coffee
16:39: Callis on the modern audience reaction and getting over as a commentator
31:40: Callis on trying to get over in the WWE
43:07: Sponsor Ad
43:57: Callis continues on his time in WWE and talks Cody Rhodes

Show Highlights

Introduction to the show, plugs, and ads

Austin is on the set of the Broken Skull Challenge, so this podcast is the second half of the interview he did with Don Callis from a few weeks ago. He plugs Broken Skull Challenge and Podcast One before the ads started.

The two men talk fanny packs, chewing tobacco, and coffee

Austin brought up how wrestlers used to carry clutch bags to hold wallets, keys, credit cards, etc. He said that he kept misplacing the clutch or leaving it on top of his car when he drove away. Fanny packs were becoming the rage among the boys, but he said that he thought “ain’t no way I’m wearing a fanny pack.” Six months later, he started wearing a fanny pack, and he liked it much better as a carrying case.

Callis said he had a similar experience because he “marked out for every trend in the business,” including chewing tobacco. Austin gave his history of using chewing tobacco and giving it up 10 years ago.

The biggest thing Callis doesn’t understand are promotions not having coffee backstage. He said that TNA didn’t have coffee at a particular arena where they did tapings, so he and Shane Douglas would offer to make coffee runs, in part so they didn’t have to wait around. Callis said that New Japan has a coffee maker in the back, but he tries to bring his own because he’s not sure how many of the boys there know he used to work.

Callis on the modern audience reaction and getting over as a commentator

Austin prompted Callis about the differences in the business today. Callis said one of the biggest is he thinks there is no one around to teach the younger wrestlers how to control a crowd and sell instead of focusing on high spots. He said that New Japan has a reputation for high spots, but Austin interjected and said he sees more selling in New Japan than anywhere else.

Another difference Callis sees is fans thinking they can act however they want since they are paying for the tickets. He said that any other form on entertainment would not allow the audience to do that, so he doesn’t agree with it. However, he also said that he thinks if companies gave fans something they could “buy into,” then they wouldn’t do that.

Next, Callis discussed his role as commentator. He said that foremost his job is to get the talent over. His favorite commentator was Jesse Ventura, the guy who could be a rock star himself and still sell the talent and athleticism of the wrestlers. He also mentioned being inspired by Bobby Heenan in terms of how he acts with commentating Kenny Omega matches acting as part commentator/part manager.

When he walks to the announce table, he wears a black surgical mask. He said that he got the idea when he saw two girls in the airport wearing black masks instead of the traditional white masks. He said that it is incumbent upon him to try to get himself over without it “taking away from the boys” because if he’s over, then it’s easier to get the boys over.  

Callis on trying to get over in the WWE

Austin picked up on a conversation from the previous podcast about his time in WWF with the Truth Commission where Callis had taken changing the look and style of his character upon himself at a house show.

The theme of his career there is one of trying everything and anything to get over. Once Vince and others had seen him change his character, they allowed the change. He was then scheduled to rappel from the ceiling one night on Raw and cut a promo. He had to sit above the stadium for three-and-a-half hours in the dark before he came down.

Beforehand, Vince asked him if he was scared of heights. He told Vince, “Yes, but I’m more afraid of not getting over.”

The cult leader and all the mannerisms and gimmicks associated with it were his ideas. The jewel in the center of the head and placing the jewel on female fans’ heads at ringside were his ideas. He also suggested the Kurgan’s name to Vince Russo because Callis was a big fan of Highlander. He said he knew the angle was about to die when he wanted to do a segment where he went to the Waco, Texas compound and get removed by security. The company was only willing to go so far with it. Austin asked if it was around the time they ended the Goldust homosexual gimmick, and Callis couldn’t remember, but he thought it was.

Later, they pitched him a character called The Messiah, where he would dress in white and claim he was the messiah. He accepted, but ultimately, it was not shot.

Callis continues on his time in WWE and talks Cody Rhodes

Callis claimed that Bret Hart doesn’t get enough credit for helping so many Canadians get into and move up in the business. He said that Edge was someone he helped. He said Bret was instrumental in his run in WWF as well.

In the earlier podcast, he had mentioned how he and Rick Martel were supposed to come as a tag team, but Martel backed out and went to WCW. Vince thought Callis and Martel had tried to screw him, but Bret got on the phone with Vince and convinced him that Callis still wanted to work with WWF, which worked.

He was initially supposed to be a mouthpiece for the new Hart Foundation, but they placed him with the Truth Commission instead. He recalled how later he was paired with The Oddities, which was Russo’s “baby.” He was offered a choice between Al Snow, Steven Regal, and John Tenta as incoming stars to add to the group. He wanted Snow first, since he had just done the “Head” gimmick in ECW, but that was turned down. He said he’d like to work with Regal then. Ultimately, they added John Tenta to the group.

The group didn’t have a name yet when Russo saw them all walking single file down the hall. Callis said they were “a parade of oddities,” which Russo then took to use as a name for the stable. He said he knew that group was limited as well. They were at an after party once, and Kurgan’s wife wanted him to dance. Callis warned him not to let Vince McMahon see him dance or else he’d end up dancing on television. Kurgan went ahead anyway, and within a month, he was in a tuxedo and dancing on Raw.

Callis said that he learned someone shouldn’t do anything in front of Vince that they wouldn’t be willing to do in front of millions. The end of the episode turned to Cody Rhodes and the Bullet Club. Callis thought it took “a lot of guts to break away” from WWE like Rhodes did. “He bet on himself” to get over, Callis said, and it seems to be working for him. He said Cody is funny and entertaining and he thinks everyone will see that more with the Bullet Club now. He said that he thinks the Bullet Club has organically gotten over to the point where the parts are now interchangeable.

After the interview, Austin announced that his 14-year-old dog Hershey had to be put to sleep this week due to a battle with cancer. Condolences to both Steve and Kristin for their loss.

Score and Review (6/10)

If you listened to the Don Callis interview a few weeks ago and enjoyed it, you’ll find this episode enjoyable too. It serves more as a counterpart to that podcast than a standalone. Callis goes into more detail on his WWE stint, which is the best part of this podcast, but still, be prepared for some overlap from the other episode as well. The pacing is good throughout, and the listening is easy as the two men have a good comradery.

About Chris

Chris Gaspare is a teacher from Maryland who has been watching wrestling since 1989 when he saw his first WCW Saturday Night episode and quickly rented as many NWA and WWF VHS tapes he could find in local stores. He also attended Tri-State Wrestling Alliance and early ECW shows in Philadelphia, which really kicked his fandom into high gear. He lapsed in the mid-2000s, but returned to the wrestling fold a few years ago.

If you missed it, check out last week’s recap of Steve Austin Unleashed! with Paul Lazenby

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