The Steve Austin Show – Unleashed!
Release Date: July 13, 2017
Recap by: Chris Gaspare
Top Newsworthy Items
– JR feels he’s never been treated better in a company than by AXS.
– JR implied that part of the situation with Mauro Ranallo was that he had a hard time adjusting to all of the duties beyond play-by-play.
– JR didn’t know which Wrestlemania match he was calling or the finish.
– HHH, according to Austin, said that he prioritizes “charisma” above all else with talent.
00:00: Introduction to the show and some technological mishaps
41:21: Plugs and sponsor ad
16:09: Jim Ross on the differences between commentating for WWE and AXS and the other duties as lead announcer in WWE
33:31: Ross on his wife’s passing, grief, and Wrestlemania
48:24: Sponsor Ad
50:37: Austin and JR discuss Kenny Omega and his prospects
1:05:41: Austin and JR discuss the futures of Big Cass, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and Nakamura
1:36:51: Plugs and ads
1:38:28: Austin and Wade Keller break down Great Balls of Fire and its aftermath
Introduction to the show and some technological mishaps
Austin started the show by explaining how his internet isn’t working in his home and how frustrating it is not to have internet access in this day and age. He has been using his iPhone for access, but his iPhone has been “crapping out” on him and needs a hard reset, so Austin was perturbed by all the failings of technology that he has been dealing with especially for “a global icon” such as himself.
Jim Ross on the differences between commentating for WWE and AXS and the other duties as lead announcer in WWE
Austin starts off the podcast asking Ross what the biggest differences are between working for WWE and AXS. He said getting used to the two different styles is one of the bigger differences. He called New Japan’s presentation “more traditional”, even if he tends to “question some things psychologically” in their booking. New Japan is more “pro wrestling” than WWE.
Calling New Japan on AXS has always been different because when he and Josh Barnett started, they were nine months behind the major shows as AXS cuts down the major shows in Japan into digestible one-hour blocks for the United States. Now, they are current; they called Omega/Okada II from Dominion two weeks ago. He doesn’t watch, or “preview” as he calls it, any matches before he calls them because he “disbelieve[s]” in it. He pondered whether some of his more famous calls, the Mankind bump from atop the Hell in a Cell, would have been as effective if he would have known about it and been thinking about it ahead of the call itself.
Ross also stated AXS gives him more control since they are “not as refined” as WWE, but he’s “never been treated nicer” by a company than he is at AXS. Although he did state with the UK WWE special that he called, the producer simply counted him in and out and didn’t interfere. Austin asked if towards the end of his last WWE run if Vince McMahon was in his ear often. JR couldn’t really say if it was more or less, but he did say there was “more information to process” that “far exceeds play-by-play.” He said he had heard that was part of the problem with Mauro Ranallo is that there was so much information “that he had to be point guard for.” He then said that some are better than others at it, which seemed to imply Ranallo could not handle it. JR admitted Michael Cole was better at processing that information than he himself ever was. He stated, “If the ball is in play, I don’t want to talk about Twitter.”
Ross said his intention at the New Japan G1 Special is to “kill it” (this podcast was recorded before the show), but he knows some people are social media will say “you s**t the bed” and others will say “you did a pretty good job.” He’s seen statements on social media and in the press, such as “Mauro Ranallo is the new JR,” that he feels imply his career is over. He wants to prove “the old dog can still hunt a bit.”
Austin and Ross briefly discussed the depth of the WWF Attitude Era roster, and Ross said he would take that roster over any in history to work with and call for. Austin agreed it was deep as evidenced by the number of Hall of Famers from that era. Austin turned to the current roster and asked JR what the vibe was like at the recent Raw he attended, the Los Angeles Staples Center Raw a few weeks ago. Ross said some guys are very respectful and sought advice and other are concerned with getting to catering. The comment he received the most was, “I hope you get to call one of my matches,” which honored Ross that they wanted him to “sing their music.”
He mentioned how most of the boys want to be treated like athletes rather than actors. He said he once made the mistake of calling where the boys changed “the dressing room,” which caused Bill Watts to scold him. “Liberace would change in a dressing room,” Watts said. “Wrestlers use locker rooms.” When he knew he was going to call the Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate match at Takeover: Orlando, he approached the two young men and told them this was the biggest opportunity of their careers, but it was also one of the biggest opportunities of JR’s career as well since he’d been gone so long, so he wanted them to give him something good to call. He was trying to motivate them and show them he cares at the same time.
Ross on his wife’s passing, grief, and Wrestlemania
Austin asked Ross how he was doing with the passing of his wife, Jan. Jr humbly replied, “it’s getting better, a little bit.” He said Jan was with him through his parents’ deaths, multiple wrestlers’ deaths, and his attacks of Bell’s Palsy. He talked about how everyone loved her and how humble she was, still doing wrestlers’ laundry even though they could have had a housekeeper do it.
He said the local district attorney is looking into filing negligent homicide charges against the driver responsible for his wife’s death and those things open wounds and he has to “start healing again.” Barry Switzer, former coach of the University of Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys, told him he has to live and “[Jan] would want him to live.” JR said he’s trying to learn to not get upset at things he can’t control. He said he only has so much passion left, passion he wants “to use it for the good stuff.” Austin asked about whether Jan knew the business when they got together. JR said she knew a little but not much. She would listen to his phone calls or even answer them at times. She liked the behind-the-scenes soap opera aspect of the business, as many fans do nowadays, he noted.
Ross said after she became friends with other wrestlers’ wives, she became more emotionally invested with the business. She had two goals for this year. She was convinced he was going to re-sign with WWE as there had been discussions, so she wanted to walk the red carpet at the Hall of Fame and she wanted to hear Ross’s “pop” at WrestleMania when he was announced.
Regarding WrestleMania, he had only signed his official contract the night before the show. He didn’t know what the match order was, but he was told Vince wanted him to call “the main event.” He asked what the main event was and found out it was Roman Reigns and The Undertaker. He suspected the match could be Undertaker’s last but never asked him. He talked with him on Saturday, but they didn’t discuss the match at all – not particulars, not the outcome, not even if he was retiring. Ross thinks ‘Taker is finished with his career, but said that’s just his opinion.
He respects guys who leave and stay gone such as Austin and Shawn Michaels. He enjoyed calling the Undertaker match, but he wished it was a two-person booth rather than a three-person, not as a slight to any particular commentator though; he said a three-man booth is just too “cramped.” He said the night of WrestleMania walking to the ring to call the match was “surreal” and “emotional.” He couldn’t look at the crowd because he saw some of them crying as he came out, so he stayed focused on staring at the announcer’s table so he wouldn’t start crying too. JR said it showed Vince’s “booking acumen,” as he got the most emotional reaction possible in that moment for Ross’ return, and Ross said it was “the best booking I could have gotten.”
Austin and JR discuss Kenny Omega and his prospects
Dave Meltzer, who was supposed to be a guest on Ross’s podcast before the death of his father, came up and how he gave Okada/Omega II a 6.25 star rating. Austin was a little incredulous about the rating, and Ross, even though he doesn’t know what the rating means, seemed to make the point it was all subjective. “If Dave says it’s a six and a quarter, it’s a six and a quarter.” Ross assumes Meltzer is saying it’s the greatest matches he ever saw, but Ross thinks the Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat series “compares very favorably” to these matches. Austin still thinks both Okada/Omega matches are fantastic. Ross does too, but he thinks he liked the first one more because it had a greater sense of urgency, where the sixty-minute draw did not. Ross said that competitors still have to work a broadway in terms of pacing like they do a twenty-minute house show match and the lack of urgency in the second match subconsciously can take the audience out of the match.
Austin asked what Ross thought of Kenny Omega. Ross has had him on the show and thinks he’s a “very provocative thinker” and a good representation of what the modern wrestler is. Austin reiterates what he said last week, that he thinks if Omega came to WWE and were let loose, he could be the next big thing. Ross said, “Well, that’s certainly high praise considering the source.” He continued on a tangent about talent needing to be more responsible and not relying on creative and management as much.
Ross said if Omega could get the platform from WWE, then become the entrepreneur, writer, producer, etc. of himself to get over, then it’s possible. Austin brought up that he recently talked to HHH and asked him what he looks for in guys they bring in, and HHH said the number one thing he looks for is “charisma.” Austin said Omega has the experience to know how to adapt and get over and he’s got a “bigger than life personality,” so he thinks it would be a natural fit.
They discussed that Omega said he had “unfinished business” in New Japan last year. Ross said that “he has unfinished business because he has accepted some form of ownership in that company,” which is commendable, but if he doesn’t come to WWE at some point, he thinks Omega is cheating himself financially. However, he did concede that as New Japan’s stock rises globally, so does Omega’s. He finished by saying 2018 is a big year for Kenny Omega as he’ll have to decide to “fish or cut bait.”
Austin and JR discuss the futures of Big Cass, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and Nakamura
Austin brought up a few current stars to Ross to get his opinion of them. First was Big Cass, who Austin said reminds him a little of Barry Windham and he thinks has great “potential.” He’s especially impressed by how “the deer-in-the-headlights look” has went away in the past couple of weeks.
Ross recounted a time when he was sitting in on an NXT production meeting, and the people in the room were saying Cass wasn’t developing as quickly as they wanted. Ross told them it simply takes more time for some to develop. He told them Vince knows what he likes and that Cass is seven foot tall “and you can’t teach that.” Ross noted that now Enzo and Cass used that in their promos after that, but it’s unclear whether Ross is entirely serious or making a dry joke. In terms of Cass now, Ross said Cass “has great respect for his predecessors” and is willing to learn. He said they need to give him “time to acquire a head for the game.” Ross also stated that Enzo “set the table for him pretty good,” he thought. He said Enzo is “reliable” and “gives you everything.” Austin said that, outside of ring work, Enzo’s energy and uniqueness reminds him of Brian Pillman.
Samoa Joe was brought up next. Ross said Joe “is a player and you judge his results on the field.” He would have built Joe and Brock Lesnar up for a WrestleMania match himself. He said that “some of their lock-ups will make their peers uncomfortable because they will bring the s**t.” They will just go out there and work. Right now, Ross is interested in seeing Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar and how that match would work. Austin said Braun has a “great upside,” but he wants to make sure Strowman doesn’t try to be too athletic in the ring.
Ross wants to see that match at WrestleMania, along with an A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura match. Ross thinks that Styles, being possibly the best worker in the world right now, is what could bring the best out of Nakamura right now. Austin made the argument he’s been making recently, that he’s underwhelmed by not getting the best of Nakamura so far. JR noted that the adjustments to this country could be rough for him. He was a fixture in Japan and is suddenly living in another country for the first time. He also wondered if Nakamura is holding back on his kicks because he isn’t sure what the WWE’s expectation is and doesn’t want heat for being too stiff.
Austin argued they’ve booked him like another “Joe Blow” instead of “The King of Strong Style.” Ross reminded Austin that he remembers a guy called the Ringmaster who came in with bad booking and made something happen once he found his footing. Still, he agreed with Austin that Nakamura is missing “the desired aggression.”
Ross promoted that he will be calling the Mae Young Classic, and he’s excited to be calling “pure wrestling matches” with no angles or builds. He relishes the opportunity to try to “get the unknown over.” After the interview was over, Austin promoted next Thursday’s guest, stuntman Paul Lazenby, and he recommended fans check out the 1992 All-Japan Pro Wrestling match between Doug Furnas and Dan Kroffat against Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi.
Austin and Wade Keller break down Great Balls of Fire and its aftermath
Both Austin and Keller liked the card overall. Austin thought the best match on the card was the Iron Man Tag Team Match between The Hardyz and Sheamus/Cesaro. Keller thought it was a “high IQ” match. Austin said he thought Enzo cut a great promo before his match with Cass, which made Austin know he was going to get pummeled. He said he thinks Cass still needs to work on his big man style, especially at the beginning of matches. He brought up the Jinder Mahal/Tye Dillinger match on Smackdown as a reference point. He said that match was designed for Mahal. He was “controlled” and showed “a mean streak” as he worked on top for 80 percent of the match. He said that’s what Cass needs to do is work that style, not exactly like Jinder, but do his own thing on top for most of the match.
Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman were brought up next. Keller thought they protected both men well and both got their own set of “bragging rights” to take away from the match. Austin “loved it” and thought it was a great win for Strowman. He also thought it was “the biggest angle [he’d] seen in a long a** time,” which he appreciated, although it might have been a “tad too long.”
Keller asked about Strowman’s alignment coming out of the match given he walked away on his own, and Austin said he’s “positioned as a baby” after the angle. Austin turns it around on Keller and wants to know how Reigns is positioned. Keller said he’s still positioned as “not a good guy, not a bad guy, but the guy,” they just aren’t saying it anymore. Keller is convinced McMahon wants to make someone a “big star.” Keller thinks he could get away with that for maybe ten to fifteen percent of the roster, but not the entire roster. He himself still philosophically believes in heels and babyfaces, and Austin agreed.
Keller believes Strowman can have “a Kane-like career” now, which he wouldn’t have said a year ago. Austin said he thinks there is “more potential than what [Wade] is giving him” and he could be a perennial main eventer. Keller broke down how they used Attitude Era backstage segments and solid, 3 ½ to 4 star matches in the right conditions to get him over. Austin also noted he “wasn’t shoved down people’s throats” as well.
Austin and Keller talked about Joe and Lesnar last. Austin is “invested” in this saga now. Keller liked it too and said Joe carries himself in a way, as demonstrated Monday night, that he’s not worried about how Joe looks after the loss. He said that match “left them wanting more,” which isn’t always a bad thing. Keller praised the segment on Monday night saying that Brock’s sell when Joe’s music hit, where he blinked and took a step back, was great and showed a respect for Joe which will help propel him forward more as well. They ended by listing all the possible match-ups for the SummerSlam main event.
Score and Review (8/10)
This was another solid episode. Even though many hear JR’s voice weekly on his own podcast, hearing two old friends like Ross and Austin together still makes it special. The interview itself was solid all the way through. Ross is a little conservative in some answers, but honest throughout particularly in dealing with his grief and his work schedule right now. Austin and Keller’s largely positive commentary on Great Balls of Fire was strong this week as well, and it was refreshing in a way to hear them reacting as fans just as much as analysts.
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.
For more, check out last week’s recap of Steve Austin Unleashed! with Don Callis.