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PODCAST RECAP AND REVIEW: Steve Austin Unleashed! with Al Snow on why Al was a big part of WrestleMania 13, the 7-step match and why it doesn’t work, why wrestlers shouldn’t plan so many spots, an unfortunate incident with a horse at an indy show

The Steve Austin Show – Unleashed

Release Date: January 4, 2018

Recap by: Joe Aguinaldo

DIRECT LINK TO LISTEN/DOWNLOAD

0:00 – Intro

Steve is in Nevada on the last day of his holiday visiting his brother-in-law. He talks about how he named his one of his utility vehicles Buck the Mule after country singer Buck Owens. When he got his new four wheeler, he decided to name it Chuck after Chuck Norris. He talks about how peaceful Nevada has been compared to the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.

Austin says he’ll be talking to Brutus Beefcake over the weekend for a future podcast. Steve got a lot of good response on his first podcast with Brutus and plans to talk about Brutus’ WCW run and working in Japan. Austin called Brutus to let him know about the positive feedback from the podcast. Austin asked if Brutus would be willing to do a Q&A for the next podcast which Brutus agreed to. Austin asks his listeners if you have questions for Brutus Beefcake, send them in to questions@steveaustinshow.com.

Coming up on the show is part 2 of Steve’s conversation with Al Snow. Steve plugs Al’s clothing line at www.collarandelbowbrand.com. Al has been in the business for 36 years and is still wrestling. Steve always enjoys talking to Al and says he’s a knowledgeable guy. He says they’ll be talking about how Al helped him in 1995 and his contributions to Austin’s Wrestlemania 13 match with Bret Hart.

10:05 – Al Snow

Austin talks about coming to the WWE from ECW needing to knock off some ring rust. He asked Vince if he could go to Al’s wrestling school and Vince agreed. Steve mentions his memory is not so great and asks how they first met (11:17 into the podcast). Al says his memory isn’t that good either but says when he and Steve first met they hit it off right away. Steve had asked Al if it would be OK for him to come to his school and Al he would be happy to have him there. They hung out for five days and Al says Steve would fart on him whenever Al tried to show him some different roll-ups and submissions. Steve makes a joke that at that time he was living on beans and alcohol.

Steve talks about his submission match with Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 13 and mentions at the time he didn’t know any submission moves. Steve talked to Al who taught him a couple, one of which Austin used the match. Steve goes on to say Al was a big part of Wrestlemania 13 but nobody knows about it (12:50 into the podcast).

Al says his submissions came from training Dan (Severn) for UFC 4. This is ultimately what got him booked in Smokey Mountain, which is why he tells guys they need to have a personality and a character. He goes on to say he could do athletic moves but this never got him booked. It wasn’t until Jim Cornette saw Al on the UFC 4 PPV making a smart a** comment to the interviewer. Cornette saw that and it showed Al had a personality he could use which is how he got booked in Smokey Mountain, which ultimately led to the WWE (13:27 into the podcast).

Al talks about the Michigan and Ohio territories. He says these were good money towns and the travel was not difficult between each of the cities in these territories.

Al says he broke into the business when he was 18. He started watching The Sheik’s territory when he was 4 or 5 years old. The Sheik burned the territory to the ground by not paying people or the bills. Steve then asked how Sheik was. Al says The Sheik was awesome. He says The Sheik was 5’10” and maybe 220 lbs or 230 lbs. Al remembers seeing the Sheik and being terrified because of his persona. Al says The Sheik believed in his gimmick so the people did as well. He also talks about how Sabu got the idea for pointing to the sky from the old King Kong movie to make him appear bigger.

Steve asks Al what he learned from The Sheik (18:43 into the podcast). Al says the Sheik believed so much in his gimmick there was no way you didn’t believe it. The Sheik also never broke character, which is what he sold to the audience and that’s what they bought. Even if he was out in public, he would go into the character if someone recognized him. Al says he did this when he was getting over with the head gimmick. After the matches, Al would go to a restaurant with the head, buy himself and the head dinner and would have a discussion with the head while people in the restaurant watched him. Al say it’s hard to commit like that. He also says that if people see him on TV and remember him from the restaurant, they’ll believe his gimmick because they think he is truly out of his mind.

Staying with the topic of character, Steve asked Al about the Loose Cannon Brian Pillman (21:30 into the podcast). Al says Brian was was a good hand but not a discernible character until he adopted the Loose Cannon character. Once he started the Loose Cannon gimmick, Al says he didn’t know what Brian was going to do or say which meant you had to watch him and said it was fascinating. Steve says when he go to the WWF, he started watching what Pillman was doing with the Loose Cannon gimmick. Steve said it was so out there and he was so committed to the character. He makes a comparison to Criss Angel. Everyone knows what Angel does is an illusion but nobody wants to ask and nobody wants to know how he does it.

Steve goes on to say when Pillman started the gimmick, even though they were still good friends, Austin did not want to ask him because he didn’t want to know and he didn’t want Pillman to try and break character. Steve asks what Al’s thoughts about how far Pillman pushed the envelope. Al says it was awesome and says a testament of the success of the Loose Cannon gimmick is the fact he and Austin are still talking about it today. Fans still know who Brian Pillman is/was which includes a new generation of fans and the reason they do was because he took a chance. Al adds that people could believe in the character and speculates Brian was frustrated and when he finally cut loose, people could feel it and tell it was real.

Steve asks Al about Jim Lancaster who trained Al (28:19 into the podcast). Jim was a guy who started in the Sheik’s territory (Detroit) and worked in a bunch of the old territories including the midwest for Vern Gagne. Al talks about how difficult it was to get into wrestling back in the past and says it was easier to become a made man in the Mafia than it was to get into pro wrestling back then. He also talks about calling his trainees kids, meaning if you broke someone into the business they were your kid and you were responsible for them from a wrestling perspective.

Jim was a mid-card wrestler who wanted to settle down after the birth of his daughter and run his own shows instead of wrestle. Jim would get talent from Dick the Bruiser and was using Dick’s son in law Spike Huber. One night, Jim had Spike on the card but Dick sent Spike to another territory so Spike no-showed. When Al initially met Jim, Jim did not want to train Al (or anyone) but after the no-show incident, Jim decided he wanted to get his own group of guys that would be loyal to him.

Eventually, Jim agreed to train Al. Back then, there were no wrestling schools so Al initially asked the high school he had just graduated from and if they could use the wrestling mats for training. On his first day of training, he showed up at the school and got arrested by the cops. The school had been shut down that day due to a snowstorm but he didn’t know. After that incident, Al could no longer use the school. Next up, he went to a community center and lied to the guy running the center that if Al could use their facility to train, he would train all the neighborhood kids how to wrestle. Al never trained any of the kids.

Steve asks Al about learning wrestling from Jim. Al says Jim was a meat and potatoes kind of guy but was a great heel. He could do the slightest thing and get the most out of it. He knew what to do at the right time to get heat. Al talks about some of the subtle things Jim did that Al watched and learned. Al says Jim knew the gimmick of the match. Al always tells his guys to sell the objective to work the gimmick of the match to tell your story to do your business. The objective of a match is to win a match, the gimmick of the match is how do you win.

Al goes on to describe how Jim would work this philosophy during a match (35:47 into the podcast). Al tells a story about Jim working a match where the audience was sitting there not making a sound until the babyface made his comeback and the crowd became unglued. When Jim finally took the big bump, the place exploded. Al thought that Jim did not have the crowd when they were quiet but Jim said he had them the most when they were quiet. Jim continues that the crowd didn’t make a sound because they were waiting for the next thing to happen. He had the audience in the palm of his hand building the heat.

Steve asks how long he trained before his first match (38:03 into the podcast). Al starts off with a story first promo picture and how he got the gear for that photo. Al trained with Jim for 4 months and the first thing he learned was how to walk (footwork). Next he learned how to lock up which is the safest way to learn how to move with another guy without potatoing anyone. Next up is learning how to take a headlock, which is the most basic hold then you learn how to take a person over. Through these steps, you learn how to work with your opponent to make it look believable and sell it and incrementally he started learning more holds and moves.

Al adds he never learned how to throw a punch. He learned how to throw a forearm and from the mechanics of how to throw a forearm you could learn how to throw a punch. Al says he never got smartened up for 3 months. He finally got smartened up when Jim asked him to work a match but asked him not to win. Al initially refused and said he was going to win and Jim had to let him know pro wrestling was a work. Jim also said Al was not to repeat it to anyone or he would regret it. Al says he didn’t even smarten up his mother for years. Al’s first show was in Ohio on May 22nd, 1982 and it was a 20 man, two ring battle royal. Some of the guys in that match were Austin Idol, Norvell Austin, Randy Rose, Rick McCord and Al Perez. The promoter told Al he was going to be the first one eliminated and got paid $25.00.

Steve talks about his first match and compares it to Al’s experience or not being smartened up until just before his match. Al says you don’t really learn at wrestling school. You learn fundamentals but where you really learn is when you go out to the ring in front of an audience. He adds that back in the day, you never worked with anyone at the same experience level or even close. Everyone you worked with had 7 days a week, 15 years experience and would physically and verbally tell you what you had to do. Al talks about working with Roger Kirby, who at the time held the world record for a vertical legpress. Al was trying to get off the mat and Kirby would squeeze him and tell him not to move. Al would continue trying to get up and Kirby would keep squeezing and telling him not to move until Al got it and started listening to Kirby. Al says this is how you learned back in the day and says Kirby didn’t want Al to move until they got the audience to a certain spot that he wanted them at.

Steve talks about his early career and this leads into a discussion about calling matches in the ring (47:51 into the podcast). Al says what’s different today is that today’s wrestlers are trying to intellectualize something that should be done on an instinctual level. Al goes on to say you can make the excuse of not being able to grab holds or short attention spans but Al says the audience has whatever attention span you give them. If you grab a hold, sell the hold and work the hold correctly, they’ll stay attentive because you are giving them something to watch. It doesn’t mean you have to constantly be running and bumping, you have to make the audience believe in the context of trying to win and not lose that the hold will play a part in.

Al brings up the 7 step formula match (51:04 into the podcast) and Austin asks him to explain that. Al starts off by explaining how old school bookers would explain a match in the past. If Al was working a match as a heel and had to put the babyface over, the booker would give him four steps. Make the babyface look good, figure out how to cut the babyface off and grind him, let the babyface work his way off the mat and beat on you and finally, the finish. There were no specific instructions other than you have 8 minutes.

These days, there is a 7 step formula, which Al has seen written on a chalkboard in Puerto Rico, on a whiteboard in Australia and up on a board in Montreal, Quebec Canada and everyone takes the same approach.

(Quick note – I’m going to list out the 7 steps but keep in mind that while Al is listing out the 7 steps he also does a running commentary on why this formula doesn’t work which was difficult to recap. Definitely give it a listen especially if you want some insight into how and how not to work a match).

Step 1 – Shine The Babyface – Al says this is a made up term. He cares that you get the babyface over and where the babyface shines is when he beats you. Do what you have to do to make the audience want to be the babyface.

Step 2 – The Heat Spot – where the heel without cheating or being underhanded does a bigger more aggressive move than the babyface did during the shine. Al asks if you’re an average person, who do you want to be? The babyface who did stuff that amounted to nothing or the heel that did one big move.

Step 3 – The Heat – where the heel gets his spots in which are bigger and more aggressive than the babyface while the babyface lies dead.

Step 4 – The Hope Spot – where the babyface mounts some ineffectual offence and the heel cuts off without cheating or doing anything underhanded and grinds him more.

Step 5 – The Double Down – The heel misses a move or is hit by one move and now sells as much as a babyface does after taking a 5 minute beating. Al makes a comment that when he was an agent, guys would want to do a double down during a 3 minute match, which made no sense.

Step 6 – The Comeback – Al makes a comment that Jesus has nothing on babyfaces because it took Jesus three days to come back from the dead whereas a lot of babyfaces today nip up as if nothing has happened, punch the heel three times and hit one big move which brings us to

Step 7 – False Finishes and the Go home – the finish of the match

Al says problem one of this formula is that match one is the same as match 10 emotionally and psychologically. In a business where you need to stand out, you’ve just wrestled the same as everyone else. The other problem is that the babyface needs to get over. How do you know before getting in front of the audience that your pre-determined spots or two to three minutes is going to be enough to get the babyface over to where you will generate actual heat? Heat is not the heel doing their offense, it’s making the audience care about the babyface and beat the heel. The comeback should be where the babyface beats on the the heel before beating the heel.  It’s where the babyface pays back the heel and pays off all the heat the heel has built. Al goes on to repeat the 7 step match doesn’t work and is killing the business.

Al continues that the purpose and art form of physical storytelling of wrestling is to take make an audience care in a match so they’ll pop or have an orgasm emotionally. Al compares a wrestling match to sex. He says you don’t think about what you’re going to do while having sex, you just do it.

Al tells the story about the Shane Twins (1:00:56 into the podcast). They have a dark match in OVW with Kenny Dykstra and Nick Nemeth. Jim Cornette was doing commentary for the boys and he’s getting hotter and hotter because the match is terrible. Al mentions that both twins look exactly alike as this is part of the story.

The finish of the match calls for one of the twins to hold the babyface from behind while the other comes in for a forearm but they mess up the finish of the match. Cornette goes ballistic, takes them to a room and Al says it sounded like a GPS because Cornette gave them turn by turn direction to McDunough Georgia. Cornette even fired them from a developmental contract he couldn’t fire them from.

A couple of days after the match, Al watched the show with the twins and asked them what happened on the finish. The twins said the wrong twin grabbed the babyface but they were so set on what they had planned that they exposed the business, as even the fans were scoffing them during the finish. Al says this is what happens when you call stuff in the back. He can see the guys rehearsing things in their heads but when they actually do it in the ring, there’s no emotion because they’re trying to remember the next spot. He adds that the wrestlers doing the spots at the pace they rehearsed it in their heads and the audience can’t keep up. He continues by saying Austin was a beer drinking, a** kicking redneck whether it was in the ring, doing a promo or outside the ring.

However, when wrestlers get it in their heads to do certain spots, even if you have a good character backstage that gets over, when the bell rings you get caught up in what has to happen that you stop being that character and the audience can’t connect because they don’t see the character during the match. He mentions that old timers called spots as well but with the understanding that they may or may not do. It was never set in stone. Al adds that when you intellectualize something that should be done on an instinctual level, you are never are truly emotionally in the match and therefore your audience isn’t as well. And as a result, the audience doesn’t truly have the emotional orgasm and they’re not as motivated to watch or pay to see you.

He disputes the claim that the business has changed. In 1982, if Al was put on TV, his job would be to keep a viewer from turning the channel and tuning in next week. His job was to also convince someone to leave the confines of their house and pay money to watch him and that is ultimately what he’s in the ring for.

Steve asks Al if he’s got a good story from the Indie story (1:11:34 into the podcast). Al talks about a match he had down south. At the arena, the promoter asked Al if he would have a problem with going on early in the card because the promoter and his son (who were the tag champs) had a big entrance that he didn’t think Al was going to top. The promoter told Al they were riding horses to the ring and Al didn’t see how this was going to work. This reminded Al of some failed entrances he had seen in the past and Al was excited to see what would happen. Al says the horses were the biggest horses he’d ever seen.

After his match, he got a chair to watch the rest of the matches and this entrance. As the promoter was getting ready for his entrance with the horse, Al noticed the horse had horseshoes on, which would be slippery on the arena floor. The promoter started his entrance and a few steps in, the horse slipped. A few more steps in and the horse slipped again but this time wouldn’t move. The promoter urged the horse on but after a couple more steps, the horse took a bump and its feet flew out from under it. As the horse tried to get up, it slipped again and started panicking. As it started panicking, it started peeing and pooing everywhere and splattering the audience. The owners got the horse back on its feet and building cleared out. The promoter came backstage covered in horse excrement and Al said to him he couldn’t top that entrance.

Before riding into the sunset, Al plugs his clothing line (www.collarandelbowbrand.com) and his social media on twitter (@TheRealAlSnow). He talks about his wrestling schools (The Al Snow Academy). Steve thanks Al for being on the podcast and says he may have Al back for another podcast.

1:28:58 – Show wrap

Steve once again thanks Al for being on the podcast and plugs the Al’s clothing line www.collarandelbowbrand.com again and that’s a wrap.

Show Rating: 9/10

Another amazing podcast picking up from last week with Steve Austin and Al Snow. Al has really good insights into the business of pro wrestling. It would be a good idea to listen to the Tuesday podcast with Al Snow (from 01/02) as they do a few call backs to that podcast but on its own this was still a great podcast. Al is great at explaining the business and is a hilarious storyteller. There were times during this podcast where I laughed out loud. As a suggestion, if you listen to nothing else from this podcast, I’d recommend at least the 7 step match formula and the Indie story about a horse (see timestamps below).

Timestamps

0:00 – Intro

10:05 – Al Snow

11:17 – Steve and Al first meet

12:50 – Al’s contribution to the submission match from Wrestlemania 13

13:27 – How Al got booked in Smokey mountain via UFC 4

18:43 – What Al learned from The Sheik

21:30 – Steve and Al talk about Brian Pillman’s Loose Cannon character

28:19 – Jim Lancaster (The guy who trained Al)

35:47 – How to work a match

38:03 – Al’s first match

47:51 – Calling matches

51:04 – The 7 step match formula

1:00:56 – The Shane Twins

1:11:34 – Indie story about a horse (this is hillarious)

1:28:58 – Show wrap

Writer Bio

Joe lives in Toronto, Canada with his wife and two boys. He’s been watching wrestling for about 40 years (give or take) but don’t consider himself any sort of expert, mark, smark or whatever term they use out there. He just likes wrestling.  Check him out on twitter and instagram @ja113.  

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