The Steve Austin Show has featured some fascinating deep dives with the biggest names in pro wrestling, but often the podcast is at its most interesting when the titular host opens up about his own storied career. Case in point, during a recent interview with Raven, Austin really got into the time he refused to lose to Brock Lesnar, and subsequently walked out on WWE.
For those who weren’t engaged with WWE in 2002, Austin was increasingly at odds with creative during the period. Following WrestleMania X8, things came to a head, as WWE wanted Austin to feud with, and put over, hot up-and-comer Brock Lesnar. The idea was to kick off the feud by having Brock beat Austin with little build on Raw, but Austin felt Brock beating him should be built to on pay-per-view. Austin refused to do the job and walked out. He would return for one more big match with the Rock at WrestleMania 19, but it was the beginning of the end for his career.
On his podcast, Austin talked about how the Lesnar match was pitched to him, and his less-than-diplomatic response.
“Back in the day, I was drinking a lot of whiskey, and then Ross laid out the finish for me as I was laying in the hotel room. I said, ‘If that’s creative, I ain’t going to be there,’ and he told me to call Vince.
I said to [Vince], ‘So that’s what we’re doing, huh?’ and he goes, ‘Yep.’ And I was thinking he would say, ‘Well, yeah, unless you don’t like it, Steve,’ and he didn’t say that, so I’m just like, ‘Oh really? Okay, then f*ck you!’ and that’s when I took my ball and went home and that big smear campaign started.”
While Austin still stands by his reaction to the Lesnar finish, he admits that he wasn’t handling his disputes with creative well at the time.
“If I didn’t like the finish, I would say, ‘No, F-that. We’re not doing it,’ and I’d leave the room. I would never offer a solution, and so, sometimes, I was a little bit hard to work with from that respect. The fact that I couldn’t dispute the finish was a valid point, but I didn’t dispute it. I just said, ‘F-you.'”
Ultimately, Austin regrets the how he handled the whole situation. Partly because he’s actually good friends with Brock, and partly because, well, it cost him a lot of cash.
“I knew Brock was money back in the day when I first met him! And me and the guy are friends! We’ve always been friends! That wasn’t a good business decision! I handled it in the worst way I could. That’s when I effectively quit and I was gone for six or eight months or whatever it was. But, hell, it was basically career suicide for almost anybody! I lost a lot of money. The company lost a lot of money. It was just a bad part of my life that I handled in a horrible fashion. I blew that one and it was on me.”
Sadly, Austin’s poor 2002 decision-making continues to resonate even today, as the subject of him returning to the ring remains this weirdly touchy subject. But hey, this is Stone Cold we’re talking about. How else did you expect him to go out?