‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin Just Wants to Drink a Couple Beers
Earlier this month, when I told some friends I was going to be drinking beer and talking rasslin’ with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, most shared my enthusiasm. More than a decade after he retired from in-ring competition, he remains a huge star in the wrestling world – not to mention one of the more famous beer consumers on the planet. There’s a reason we call them “Steveweisers,” after all.
Still, his reputation as a no-nonsense badass hasn’t faded any since he last laced ’em up. Which is probably why one longtime peer chuckled and cautioned me, “He’s going to wipe the floor with you.”
In my gut, that felt much more likely. Happily, the Texas Rattlesnake – gotta love wrestlers’ abundance of alternate handles – was nothing but affable and accommodating. Or maybe he was just weary after a gauntlet of press appearances, from yakking it up on the Today show to getting a buzz on at Buzzfeed. By the time we sat down in a corner booth at Manhattan’s Grey Bar and cracked a couple of his namesake El Segundo Broken Skull IPAs (Austin wouldn’t come across the country without a new product to promote), he was just happy to shoot the shit.
Not that he fails to be on message. We spend a few minutes warming up to one another and discussing his surprising foray into the craft-brewing world, him matter-of-factly sharing, “I don’t expect to turn into a millionaire selling beer,” but rather, “I wanted to come out with my own brand based on my palate, so now I’m in the beer business.” He takes out a prototype of a signature Cold Steel pocket knife he’s been developing and similarly points out that it’s not exactly a stretch for Steve Austin to market a line of outdoorsmen accessories. And as for the twin reality shows he hosts on CMT – Redneck Island and Broken Skull Challenge, currently in their fifth and third seasons, respectively – they couldn’t be more squarely in his comfort zone.
“I’m not trying to be a character,” he says. “I don’t have the talent of Daniel Day-Lewis. I’m Steve Austin, so when I get to hang out and be who I am and I live on set, it’s like a paid vacation man.”
The “be who I am” bit is central to understanding Steve Austin. Always has been. That can be confusing given the former six-time WWE Heavyweight Champion has legally changed his surname twice, first from Anderson to Williams after his stepdad came into frame, and more recently from Williams to Austin to, per his own website, “save a lot of headaches.” Plus, he rose to fame portraying a character that wasn’t precisely like any of those three Steves. “I don’t live as ‘Stone Cold,'” he offers by way of clarification. “I live as Steve Austin. I was ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin back in 2003, then I rode off into the sunset.”
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