Complete Transcript of The Broken Skull Sessions With The Undertaker ! This special is now available on-demand on the WWE Network.
Steve Austin: Hey, everybody. My name is Stone Cold Steve Austin. Welcome to the Broken Skull Sessions. People ask me all the time, hey Steve, what does The Broken Skull mean? Basically it means in the business I love professional wrestling, I had to break my skull to get to the top. Here on The Broken Skull Sessions, I get into the skull of people that have achieved a high level of success in this industry. I could not start the debut the episode of The Broken Skull Sessions with a better guest than I have tonight. One of the biggest, best, greatest of all time, bottom line, he’s on the mount rushmore and the greatest character in the history of the business, the one and only Undertaker. Good to see you, man.
Undertaker: How you doing, brother? It’s been a minute.
Steve Austin: How you feeling?
Undertaker: I’m feeling, you know. 30 plus years, I think, you know, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea how I feel. Overall I feel good. I made some changes in training and diet and all that and kind of gave up on thinking I knew it all and opened my mind. And i’ll be damned, I feel pretty decent for the shape i’m in, I guess.
Steve Austin: You know you and I have known each other since give or take about 1989.
Undertaker: 89, yeah.
Steve Austin: You came through and I was working at The Sportatorium. I think i was still Steve Williams. All through that run until you went to WCW and ended up in 1990 in the WWE as The Undertaker. Finally I would arrive there and we worked together. We had been around each other a whole lot. But you ran with your crew and I was kind of a lone Wolf McQuade. And I feel like i know you, but I don’t know a whole lot about you.
Undertaker: Yeah that’s a pretty fair statement. I think so. You definitely kind of did your own thing. I run with my crew. And business was always there. Business was always fun.
Steve Austin: But the thing about it that we do have a lot in common, the fact that you were born in Houston, Texas. I was born right down the road in Austin, Texas. Both graduated high school in 1983. Being down there in South Texas, I was changing channels on my television one night and came across Paul Boesch and Houston Wrestling. I was hooked and I was probably about 7 or 8 years of age. I have been a fan of the business ever since. How did you get turned onto the business? And what made you start loving it?
Undertaker: Pretty much the same way. Paul Boesch, obviously, I grew up in Houston. That’s where Paul Boesch’s Houston Wrestling, I have been a fan as long as I can remember. I used to go down to the Sam Houston Coliseum. A friend of mine lived across the street. Man, we’d psych ourselves up the whole week. The’d bring the original sheik. Man, we’d talk all week long that we’ll be on the aisle, oh, we’re going to get on him. That joker come flying at us, man, we’d be nothing but elbows running as fast as we could, you know. I thought you were going to do something. I just have all those vivid memories as a kid, you know, of The Sheik.
And I remember they used to do the interviews live. Ringside. They’d let all of us run down there. I remember getting to shake Andre’s hand. I was mesmerized. I don’t know. I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. Shook Andre’s hand and you can’t even — even as an adult, you can’t describe how big Andre’s hand was, you know. As a kid, I was just like, oh, man. I got away from it and got into other sports and did a bunch of other things. And it kind of worked its way back around and I got back in touch with the business.
Steve Austin: I read that you graduated in 1983 and then you went to college, but it says you debuted in the ring in 1984. Is that correct?
Undertaker: No, that’s not correct.
Steve Austin: I though you came in about a year and a half ahead of me and I was in the back end of ’89.
Undertaker: Yeah, I think I started training in ’86. There was a lot of pitfalls along the line. We got hooked up with Buzz Sawyer.
Steve Austin: Mad dog was a trip, hell of a hand in the ring, and a shooter.
Undertaker: Big time shooter. He was one of the best in the ring. As a human being, he fell quite pretty short. He would in — there was a few of the guys that would come in that gym and work out. And so he was like, I think Buzz Sawyer could do some training. So we go and we meet with Buzz. And we sit down in some restaurant and he’s like, yeah, i’ll train you guys. It’s going to be $2,500 a piece. He says if you bring anybody in, you know, i’ll knock off $500 off every guy you can bring in. So we paid him. We show up, me and about eight other guys we had never met. We all show up at the same time at his house, knock on the front door.
Finally opens the door. What the hell do y’all want? So there stands Buzz Sawyer, butt ass naked, right. Completely forgot that he had told us to be there to train, right? So, you know, like I didn’t know anything, other than what I had watched. So I didn’t have any ins anywhere, right. So the first thing you go to shake the hand. You remember the old worker’s handshake, right. Here’s this guy who is considered, you know, a tough guy. And he gives me the limp fish, you know. And he’s standing there buck-naked, right. So I’m already just — my mind is just like what have I got myself into.
Steve Austin: Should have stuck to basketball.
Undertaker: Well, at this point, i’m still playing. This is during the summer. Anyway, he would finally get his stuff together and come on out. Then all he’d do is just stretch you. I mean we’re out in the front yard, you know, in this neighborhood, nice neighborhood. He come on out, you’d get down, amateur position and stretch you and cross face you and everything. Okay, well, this is how you break in the business. It’s a tough guy world. So I kept showing up week after week. Still no wrestling ring, right. I think we had maybe learned, a lock up and take an arm. That’s about it, all in the driveway in the front yard, you know.
Steve Austin: When are we going to hit the ropes?
Undertaker: Exactly, when are we getting in a wrestling ring? And i’m playing summer league basketball and I’m coming over here getting the crap beat out of me. Well, one day, I don’t know if it was my day or I got lucky. It was my turn to roll in the ring. We get down. Somehow I turned him. And I put him on his shoulders. And it might have been a second because I was shocked, right. Usually by the half second i’m getting a forearm across my nose and my nose stretched across my face. Like I froze. I was like whoa. And about that time he come up, man. Oh my gosh, he stretched me 10 ways from Sunday. But anyway, each week, you know, each time we show up, there would be a few less guys.
Until they got to the point where there was four of us that showed up. And so we knock on the door one day, peek in the window, ghost town inside, he had packed up and moved to another territory. He gone. Wrestling ring never got there. I’m still waiting on that wrestling ring. The only thing he did, I guess he had to leave. Back then when you worked the territories, you had a starting date. He had two really nice rottweilers he must not have been able to take with him, so I stole his rottweilers.
Steve Austin: You continue to this day to be a huge dog day.
Undertaker: Yeah, absolutely. But I took the dogs. I’m like i’m getting something out of this, right?
Steve Austin: How long did you have the dogs for?
Undertaker: I gave them good homes. Cause I didn’t have anything at this time, you know.
Steve Austin: He just pulled a hank and left the dogs.
Undertaker: He’s gone.
Steve Austin: What are you thinking?
Undertaker: I’m not giving up, i’m showing up. It’s in my blood now and I hadn’t even had a good taste of anything yet. But I knew this was what I wanted to do.
Steve Austin: What did you learn in Memphis? What was the learning chops for you? because you’re trapped in this body that would ultimately become a gift, but in that territory not everybody went to the gym. What did you learn?
Undertaker: So basically you learn about what the business is all about there. Especially the way it was then and still is now for that matter. My first trip in there, I had to eat some crap sandwiches and do some things that I like was, hmmm, I said there ain’t nobody in this building thinks I can’t whip everybody in here. And on top of that, they bring in — and don’t know what to do who is greener than I am, they bring in soul taker.
Steve Austin: I remember that.
Undertaker: Who would come and turn out to be Papa Shango, Godfather and all that. So they didn’t know what to do with him, so they put us together.
Steve Austin: I gotta come in this one because, man, I remember when you guys were a tag-team. You was about to come down to Dallas and work with me. And I was about to get shipped up to Tennessee and that’s when the story comes you guys were together. It’s like two gigantic guys, very intimidating. Very intimidating because you always had this look about you that kind of says, hey, don’t f with me to begin with.
And with that size, I mean it works for you. You know what I mean? So you were coming in and, all of a sudden, I find out I’m working with The Punisher. Of course, I had heard about you and I had seen you. I’m like, well, I’m 6’2, 252. I’m a former football player, you know. This guy is a big son of a bitch. But I remember you come up to me and you’re going to call the match. You go, hey man, you know, obviously you see I was kind of built. Not by today’s standards.
Undertaker: You were rocked up. You don’t have to be so modest, brother, it’s your show.
Steve Austin: I was all hulked up. So we go out there. And, dude, I don’t know if you remember this or not. But this is the way I remember working with you. Back in the day, you used to call your stuff. Like when you locked up, you grabbed the headlock on me. (One Tackle, A-Sah Sah Sah, Drop Down A-Sah Sah Sah, Hip Toss A-Sah Sah Sah). Boy, after all those sah-sah’s because you’re basically trying to be a ventriloquist and you’re covering up with those verbals. So I’ve always had a hearing problem and so I ain’t hearing nothing. And I told you what? And you sah sah’d and called sah sah again. And I said what one more time. You called it again. After the third what, bam, bam, bam. Just started chopping me.
And I’m thinking god dang, I’ve got to get some hearing aids so I can hear these guys trying to shine me up. So anyway, it was a horrible match because I was so green. And when I look back and maybe when you look back at to yourself, your posture, your blows on the back, the glancing blows, you have got to go vertically down. I wasn’t honed up at all. A lot of holes in my game. And I was just the drizzling shits. And you could see I was lost. And we’re out there clustering up and around. Do you remember that match at all?
Undertaker: I do remember it. And I remember being in your spot. When I come through the first time. And you weren’t some scrub. You had a look about you. So, I knew, I can still get over, you know. I can still get my hand raised, but I can make it mean something. And even though, you know right, I had been in the business a couple of years longer, I’m not where I am today.
Steve Austin: You weren’t refined.
Undertaker: Exactly, you definitely at that point don’t want to have any bad matches. Right? And i’m like, okay, that’s three times I said that. I’ve got to do what i’ve got to do at this point. That’s why, it was that way. I tried. And that’s just the nature of the beast, you know. That’s how it is.
Steve Austin: Hey, man, it’s a survivor’s business. I have to get your read on this story. I go up to Tennessee and i’m looking around. You’re already there, soul taker is there. I want to get back to your stories, but here’s where I come into some of your stories. You guys, you may have been green, but I was greener. And, all of a sudden, we are out there. I believe it was Louisville, Kentucky, Six-Man Tag Match. It was you and soul taker and somebody else, myself, Dutch Mantell and somebody else were your opponents. And I had just come to the territory and so I needed someone to ride with. So anyway, he says, hey man, why don’t call you Punisher?
He’s from Texas. Maybe you guys might get along and ride to the show with him. I guess you were working baby and then you switched heel. Something happened. I called you up on the phone and we had kind of squared up a ride, then they changed the cards, so we would be working against each other. You call me and say, hey, man, we can’t ride to the show together because i’m working heel. I said, all right, man, just watch yourself out there. I’m going to stretch you. And I said i’ll see you there. You remember this story? I’ll let you take over.
Undertaker: I do. Well, I don’t remember it being that pleasant. When I heard it which was probably over a pay phone, it was like one of those moments I was like, oh no he didn’t. He didn’t say that. So I called Dutch. I think Dutch might have been staying at my apartment there. I was like you know what he just said to me? He said he’s going to stretch my ass. He said, what are you going to do about it?
Steve Austin: Oh, Dutch!
Undertaker: And that was all it took. This ain’t going to down like that, right. So we get in there, I think I had you locked up some way and I remember Dutch leaning over going, all right, let him up.
Steve Austin: You had me tied up six ways from Sunday and a couple of different sugar holds, whatever you want to call them. I’m laying there like — you weren’t hurting me, but you just had me tied up. I couldn’t do nothing unless you let me go. I’m thinking, really, what is this all about. I thought we was supposed to hit the ropes and stuff. And so I tagged out and the other guy went in. Dutch looked over and he said, what did you do? Did you piss him off? You know Dutch stirring the pot. I’m the idiot on the apron. He goes, when you get back in there, when soul taker gets in there, pick his big ass up and slam him. Oh, yeah, thanks, Dutch. Calling my hot spots. I pickup big ass soul taker, 330 pounds and slam him. That didn’t go over real well.
Undertaker: I can’t imagine that going over real good either.
Steve Austin: He yanked me up after the match. He goes, listen, brother, you don’t just roll into a ring and pick me up and start slamming me. I’ll tell you to. He let me know that I had screwed up. So what got you out of there and into WCW?
Undertaker: So about that time is when Sid got hurt. When The Steiner’s had suplexed him and Sid had I think broke a rib and punctured his lung. When Sid went down, you know, there wasn’t a whole of 6’8 guys running around. So they call down there, I think probably through Dutch and said, hey, you want to come up here and be part of The Skyscrapers?
Steve Austin: Y’all looked good together.
Undertaker: You’ve got two 6’8 guys. And back then Danny could still move. And, you know, Dan is one of them legit tough guys. Salty and Danny was legit. I’ve got a great story. So Danny and I are together and they are getting us ready for The Road Warriors. We are going to have a Chicago Street Fight. Big PPV and we had one of those clashes. You remember the clashes? They were free at that time. They were like mini PPV’s before the big PPV and we’re going to get our heat, right. So we have our match. At the end of the match, before we go out, Danny says, just follow my lead, kid. That’s all I got, right. So we have our match. We do our thing.
Steve Austin: How long have y’all been together at this time?
Undertaker: We had been together a few months now. I’m following his lead. I’m still a green horn. Now i’m in a role where, the stakes are way higher. So I mean i’ve gone from the regional territory to one of the big companies now. At the end of the match, we’re going to get the heat, right. Get some heat and leave them laying. Danny remembered. He didn’t like the booking up to this point. So Danny pulls out a chair. He commences to whooping The Road Warriors like ain’t nobody seen The Road Warriors get whooped, right. And I’m just there kinda filling up space. But Danny was going to town to the point where i’m like we’re going to fight once we get backstage. I’m still green enough that I’m into that Road Warriors mystique. I’m still green enough that to know that were some bad dudes. Which they were. I’m watching and I’m gathering all this in, you know. Danny is just wearing them out, right. Boom, finishes. Come on. So we go back up.
We were in Corpus Christi, Texas. You remember that old arena on the water where you walked up the stairs and the dressing rooms is in there? So we come up and I sat down. And Danny is probably four feet or so down. I’m right by the door here. I’m on the edge of my chair like — we’re about to fight. I’m talking to myself. I said as soon as they come up, we’re about to go. I could hear, you know, them coming up the steps. I’ve already got myself worked up. I’ve got myself perched on the edge of my chair. About to jump the gun. As soon as somebody says something, i’m coming, right. I kid you not. They come around the corner and they were like, “Oh, Danny, thank you, man, that was great. That was awesome, great heat, right.” Danny just sat there, you know. And i’m just sitting there baffled. I’m like what the hell has just happened here.
I am completely like dumbfounded for any explanation of what just happened, right. And finally they worked their way down. Good job, kid and went on about their business. And I’m just sitting there. And i’m like — I finally cocked my head and looked down at Danny. This is what I get from Danny. A blank facial expression. Then I knew. I knew that weren’t going to test Danny at all. So we get back. We end up getting back to Atlanta. Danny drops me off at the Ramada. He goes, “Hey Mark, when you get to tv tomorrow, tell Ole Anderson I’m going home, i’m done.” What did you mean you’re done? He said i’ve had enough, i’m going home. Dropped me off. Don’t see him again. He just drives off.
Steve Austin: So you go into a singles role, right?
Undertaker: I’ve been working my way up as a single. My contract comes up, right. And so I’m thinking I might a get a little bump. So I go in. I remember Jim Heard, Jim Barnett and Ole Anderson all in the CNN Tower there. To tell you the truth, kid, you’re a great athlete, but no one is ever going to pay money to see you wrestle.
Steve Austin: Boy. You talk about a dagger shot to the liver.
Undertaker: I’m like wow. I mean did I just hear that? And it was Ole. He looked me square in the eyes and didn’t blink when he said it. He said no one will every pay money to watch you wrestle. And I knew at that point like, okay, i’m done here.
Steve Austin: And so, all of a sudden, they have got nothing for you. No one is going to pay nothing to see you wrestle. You’re trying to go to the big show which we all know is really where you want to be.
Undertaker: It was another hit to my pride. Okay. I became kind of difficult at that point. Paul Heyman was my manager at this point. So Paul is kind of relaying the information. Like look, they are not going to do anything with this guy. Why don’t see you see if you guys can do something with him?
Steve Austin: Paul sees something.
Undertaker: Yeah, Paul saw something. And he’s trying to, you know — he’s trying to get the door open for me. I remember I had already set up a meeting, to come meet with Vince. I’m just thinking, okay, one, i’m going to the house. I’m going to Vince’s house. I’ve got this, right. So, you know, I go to the house. Here’s a good story, too. So I didn’t know. Did you ever go to the China Club in New York?
Steve Austin: No, I always heard about it. I knew he (Heyman) was tied up in there.
Undertaker: He was tied in deep. We had worked in the Meadowlands and my meeting was going to be the next day. He goes, okay, we’ll go to the China Club tonight and then we’ll go back. And then they were sending the car service to pick me up. I’m golden, right. So back then I had the Zubaz, the tank top, cowboy boots and Halliburton. That was the look, right?
Steve Austin: All the trademark stuff.
Undertaker: All the trademark stuff, so I had to go buy some clothes. Paul had this little, bitty sports car. I go to sit down in his car, right and I ripped the ass completely out of those pants. There’s a whole in my pants so wide and I’m headed to the China Club. But more importantly on my mind is tomorrow morning, I’m going to Vince’s house and meet with Vince, right. And i’m freaking out now. He’s like don’t worry about it. I’ll get one these girls to sew them up. It will be fine. I’m like Paul, come on. I said i’ve got to get these fixed. They’ll be able to do it. We go to the China Club. There’s so many people in there, you can’t hardly even move. There’s nobody got time to sew up a pair of pants. So basically, I sit down all night long in one spot because I don’t want to walk around with my damn ass hanging out in these pants.
So, you know, it’s 4:00 in the morning by the time we get back to his house. And i’m trying to dig through some of his mom’s needle and thread. I ain’t sewed nothing and I’m trying to sew these pants up, piecemeal them together. That’s all I can think about. They pick me up the next day and I go to the house. Trying to keep my back away from everybody because I don’t want them to see these pants that I showed up all ragamuffin. We have the meeting. The meeting is going along pretty well. I feel like i’m being pretty charming and then I get the question. You got any hidden talents? So i’m trying to be funny, right. Well, you know, I’m a pretty good singer, I sing in the shower pretty good. As soon as I said it, I knew I shouldn’t have.
This is the time when they have got some pretty outlandish gimmicks going on. And i’m just thinking, oh, crap. I wish I hadn’t of said that. And you know, Vince how he is. Oh really? You singer in the shower, huh? On the inside, i’m just cringing. I’m no selling on the outside, but on the inside i’m thinking you screwed up, man. You are going to be shower boy or something like that. So we get to the end of the meeting and he was like, “Well, we don’t really have anything for you right now.” I wasn’t expecting that. I had already given my notice. I’m done, you know. I’m already done with WCW at this point. That was it. Wow, I didn’t plan on that happening. I’ve already been told by one company ain’t nobody going to pay money to see me. Now this guy don’t have a spot for me. Maybe after Mania. We are still talking months and months away at this point. I’m trying to stay positive, you know. I know I’ve got it in me somewhere to make it somewhere. It was a little shaky there for a minute.
Steve Austin: So you’re hanging on by a thread. You’re doing what you can to maintain and get by. And then there’s a phone call. I want you to tell me about your version of the phone call. Because I got, you know, kind of the same phone call you got. Back then when the phones was attached to the wall and we had a 15-foot cord. Actually walk around when you was talking. I got the phone call, Steve, Vince McMahon. Got an idea for you, pal. Want to bring you in as The Ring Master. Ted DiBiase as your manager, bringing you in as the Million Dollar Champion. Come in as champion master of the ring. Boy i’m sitting there like working with Paul E. one day a week, ECW. WCW fired me because they said I wasn’t marketable and I was never going to amount to a hill of beans over the phone. So we’ve got a lot in common here. I heard that gimmick and it sounded like crap. I’m just thinking, hey, man, you know, i’ve got a wife and a kid and i’ve got a mortgage payment. Yeah, i’m a ring master. I just knew it was my foot in the door. I wasn’t excited about it. So that was my phone call and I know you got a phone call as well. Where were you at this time? But before you tell me where you were at this time, got something for you.
– Austin pulls out a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Undertaker: Yeah, before I get into this story, i’m going to need some of that. That’s what i’m talking about. Why did you wait so long?
Steve Austin: I didn’t know you still drank anymore.
Undertaker: I don’t much, but when I do, I do. That’s perfect, man.
Steve Austin: Let’s get to the phone call. Because, you know, I am flapping my gums, but you have this big ass phone call.
Undertaker: So about the time I got my phone call, they were doing this promotion where on the show, you know, back then they would do three, four weeks in a row. They had this gigantic egg on the set. Yeah, you got it. There it is. So i’m at home, right. And I’m trying to think of everything I can do, i’m trying to grow my hair out, trying to come up with a different look. Whatever it’s going to take, right.
Steve Austin: We’re always searching.
Undertaker: So this egg appears on the show, right. And then, all of a sudden, my mind just starts going like, oh man. They are going to bring me in — now, this is how outlandish the gimmicks were then. I’m going to be egg man. I had convinced myself to the point where like my stomach hurt that i’m going to be egg man.
Steve Austin: Are you a worrywart?
Undertaker: No, i’m chilled usually. I’m a different point now than I was. I have already had a few doors slammed in my face at this point and have struggled to be told that no one is going to pay to see me work. So i’m going through all of these scenarios, you know. I’m growing my hair out. I’ve got the bogus pony tail that sticks out straight. I’m like, oh man, i’m going to be egg man. They are going to make me shave my head. They are going to make me shave my eyebrows. They are going to make me shave everything and i’m going to be egg man. That’s going to be my gimmick, right. I have myself believing i’m going to come out of this egg right here and I’m going to be, Mr. Clean or whatever. I’m just like, please don’t call.
But I just know it’s me, right. So one day the phone rings. Go pick it up, like we saps do, pick the phone up. Hello. Um, yeah, is this The Undertaker? All this is going through my mind. I’m not even sure it’s Vince. I think it is, but i’m not sure. I’m thinking somebody might be ribbing me. No caller ID. Is this The Undertaker? I’m thinking in my head quick, like Undertaker. That sure as hell ain’t egg man. Yeah, this is The Undertaker. All right. This is Vince, can you be here tomorrow? Yes, sir, i’ll be up there tomorrow. And that was — I had no clue what Undertaker was, what it meant, but it sounded a whole lot cooler than egg man.
Steve Austin: So what are you thinking?
Undertaker: I’m thinking all right, here we go. I don’t know. Got one on the line. I don’t know what it is, you know. Like you said, my foot is in the door now. Then I got up and these are some of the sketches. I was mesmerized right away by it.
Steve Austin: What are you thinking? You are coming from old school and coming from WCW. It was that working territory. You were wearing the trunks, athletic dude. And now this is a total gimmick. This is a character. You are an athlete. But right away you are entranced by it?
Undertaker: I’m entranced by it because there’s a darker — there really is a darker element to the stuff that I really used to kind of be interested in. So I started identifying. The story boards, you know, he’s an old western Undertaker. You remember in the old westerns — they’d have the gunfight out in main street and The Undertaker would come out and measure to see how long he’s going to make the box. So i’m thinking, okay, that’s cool. It took me a while to put it all together. At that point, i’m doing leapfrogs, drop-downs.
I’m still working like Mean Mark and then i’m starting to study now. Now i’m kind of figuring out what this guys is, you know. Trying to get Vince’s vision and then i’m figuring out like, okay, all right. So it really took me a minute to say you can do these things athletically, but they don’t really fit what this guy is going to do. So for years I had to slow myself dow so much from what I wanted to do.
Steve Austin: Because your’e always — as a big guy, you’re looking for this next gear. When it’s time, you want to be able to hit that high gear, but now it’s interesting. I was wondering how you changed your style so fast? Cause when you showed up at Survivor Series, dude, when you came out there, they showed the front row, kids were scared. They were legitimately scared. And I was watching it at the house. And I was like man, holy shit. Dude, I was 20 something years old. I was like, dude, that’s badass.
Undertaker: It was cool. The look and everything was really cool. It just took me a while to put it together.
Steve Austin: How were you able to change your style so fast? Because I mean it was a light-year change from what you were used to doing.
Undertaker: Yeah, as I thought more about the character and what I could do athletically, my presentation became I want to lull people in. I want to stalk somebody when I get them hurt. I want people to feel like the boogie man is coming down the hallway and going to grab you. That’s what I was trying to — and honestly, I don’t know why, but it clicked. That right there, Michael Myers and then Jason Voorhees from Friday The 13th, I started thinking about how those guys were. Those guys never moved fast at all, but they always seemed to be at the right place when it was time to cut somebody’s throat. And it was vicious. So I would move slow and i’d have to make myself because, believe me, there was that time where I just wanted to hit the ropes and take off and throw that flying clothesline. But I realized that it’s not going to work if the work doesn’t match the character.
And the character lent itself to being the boogie man. And the boogie man just shows up. So I would lull people into a false sense and then, all of a sudden, bang, quick, i’d hit something fast. Boom and brought it right back. Throttle it back down. It took a while to where I didn’t have to think about it. I eventually got to where, you know, it was second nature. But I had to fight it first because I just wanted to go because I was like, dude, you can jump over this top rope and land on your feet if want to do that. And it would’ve been fine. But that whole thing would have fizzled out in three years. So I had fortunately — and I don’t be profess to be, you know, any kind of guru of anything. I was blessed to realize the fact that I needed to pull back to move forward.
Steve Austin: You realize at that point because you had said it in past interviews, less is more.
Undertaker: I’ll say that until the end of time. And to this day I think that’s an element to where these guys are at today. We talked about it. The guys are so athletically gifted now. I don’t know if they can go any higher than what they go. But after that, does your audience care? You identified so well. I mean you were the working man’s hero. You got to do what everybody I think in the world wants to do to their boss. But it was natural. People believed if they saw you in the street, if you didn’t have a couple of beers in your hand and flipping somebody off, I wonder what’s wrong with Steve today. And the same way, I lived my gimmick. I lived it for years and years.
It was easier before there were cell phones everywhere, I went in street clothes, even though it wasn’t my black leather coat, I was in black. I didn’t wear my coat, but I lived it because I knew I couldn’t be different than what they saw on tv. I never stopped working. You go in my house back then, open up my closet, I dare you to find something that wasn’t black. I lived it. And just i never tried to put myself in situations where I had to be anything other than what people saw on tv. They got a slight variation because I was in street clothes. But they never got much more than that. I lived it. I think, you know, it worked.
Steve Austin: Survivor Series, all those guys are just trying to have a good match. You know, it’s a tag match. Eight-Man Tag. And then you spike Koko B. Ware and he’s gone. You threw the “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes over the top rope. Spiking Koko is one thing, bless his heart. Throwing the dream over the top rope, how did that feel? He’s one of the greatest. He’s one of the goats.
Undertaker: Only, one of the goats. And too i’m not — i’m not two or three years down the line. I’m a few months into this project here. I still to this day, you know — The Rhodes, The Flairs, The Races and The Steamboats, they are up there. I don’t care what people say, about me or anything. Those are the guys and here I am. So trying to contain, you know, it’s like hmm, thinking in my head, I just threw the american dream over the top rope. And then after all those — after all the negativity that I got and I’m not going to be able to draw and i’m not going to do this and that, and then you are in this big pay-per-view and you know — even that early, you know when you have your audience. I felt it. It was quiet in a good way. Not being quiet because you’re stinking the joint out.
Steve Austin: No there’s that different kind of silence. Like holy shit dude they are like what is going on.
Undertaker: Exactly and I felt that. I had been around long enough to know there was something special.
Steve Austin: You were schooled up. By the time you got your green light and this great gimmick, which you would personify and make come alive — and i’ve talked with some of the best of the best. And no one could have pulled this off other than you. But you’re feeling it. But what are the guys thinking? The other guys in the ring, they have got to be a little madder than a hornet because, you know, you’re so competitive. And now they are having this match and you had come in with the green light and the invisible forced field and you ain’t selling anybody’s stuff.
Undertaker: It wasn’t well received. Those guys are all veterans guys and all had runs. It’s the nature of the beast. It was my time. But they weren’t happy about it, no.
Steve Austin: How did that make you feel? They let me up a little bit. In one tv taping I worked with two of The Freebirds, I beat Ron Garvin and Michael Hayes. And, dude, I used to go down to see the original Freebirds at the sportatorium, just like you did. And those guys were gods. To watch Michael Hayes make an entrance with that dang robe he had on that second turnbuckle and start gyrating his hips and they start blasting bad street or whatever, “Freebird” or whatever they are doing, fighting The Von Erichs, those guys were gods. And I took two out of them out at television taping. I’m like, man, i ain’t worthy. Or beat Bobby Eaton for the TV Title in WCW, I ain’t worthy. I can’t lace these guys’ boots. Here you are and, all of a sudden, you finally get the green light you are looking for. You have to go with it. On the other hand, I think because guys like you and me come from the same background, it’s kind of like man — I beat so and so, man. It doesn’t feel right.
Undertaker: Yeah it doesn’t feel right because that’s an idol. Then here you are, you’ve got the thumb’s up and that’s the way it is. That’s the nature of the beast. And I mean I had to deal with that internally But first guy I went and saw when I got backstage was Dusty Rhodes and thanked him. This is somebody that I grew up idolizing and watched so many matches of. And here he is and you’re making him look like a jabroni, you know. Never that Dusty would be a jabroni, but you get my analogy. You get what i’m saying there. There was so much emotion coming at me. There’s all the stuff that i’m getting, i’m getting no one is ever going to pay money. We don’t have anything for you. Egg man. And it all comes full circle. And you know your time is coming. And I still had no idea where it was going to go, but I knew I was further along at that moment than I had been. I knew all the work, all the door slams, everything to that point had paid off. And I was on my path.
Steve Austin: So Vince comes up with this gimmick. He drops it on you in a phone call. You go up and you’re putting in the work. So originally it’s really a collaboration between you two guys. And from the pictures i’ve seen, Bruce Prichard, he’s seen almost like he’s talking to you about a promo. And he’s very animated. Who had handprints or fingerprints on helping you bring this thing to life? Because from a work standpoint in the ring, when you were Mean Mark Callus or a SkyScraper or a The Punisher, you can go ask a Dutch Mantell or any of the guys. What did you think about my match or do you have any advice for me? Dude, now you’re the unknown. You’re The Dead Man. You’re The Undertaker. Who do you go to for advice?
Undertaker: There’s one guy. Guess him? One guy.
Steve Austin: Well, I mean we’re taking Vince out of the equation.
Undertaker: Vince is out of the equation, we’re talking about one of the boys.
Steve Austin: One guy. I don’t know.
Undertaker: Jake The Snake Roberts.
Steve Austin: Ahhh! Really?
Undertaker: Not so much in my delivery or what I said. But he had such insight into characters. Jake The Snake Roberts, brilliant mind. Unbelievable the insight he gave me in how to put that gimmick together. He would tell me like he would listen to Pink Floyd or he would listen to Black Sabbath. Which, you know, that got me, okay, probably get some heat for this, but I would look in the bible at different verses. Back then it didn’t bother me as much if I would alter it around a little bit. Who am I telling, right? So I started looking outside of the box in how to put all this together and become this character.
And he wasn’t even telling me this. But I heard him tell once the music starts, you are that person, you know. I probably took it a step further because I stayed that person for the first probably five, six years. I varied hardly much at all. But he had so many good innovative ways to put things together and to look at different aspects of the business that no one got. And he was kind of — Jake never was a screamer. That was the one thing I knew I wasn’t going to be. I knew it always going to be a slow methodical promo.
And then when Paul Bearer came along, then it was easy because he had that high-pitched creepy thing, you know, then I said rest in peace. I always thought, you had people screaming and hollering. Unless the message is good, they don’t really listen. But somebody starts talking low. What the hell is he saying, you know? He’s going to put you in the ground and worms eat your rotting flesh? It’s just stuff people hadn’t heard in the wrestling world. And thanks goodness they become enthralled with the darkness and how morbid the stuff was that we were doing. It really gelled well.
Steve Austin: I want to get to the body of work because to me, like the body of work would be like a guy coming into a territory to get over. And this is a story I heard. I believe it to be true. When Jake first came in to maybe New York for the first time, he was going out there and trying to have really good matches and, you know, Vince calls him over and says, “Hey, man. What the F are you doing?” He said i’m trying to have good matches with these guys. I didn’t bring you here to have good matches. I brought you here to get over. That’s when Jake started taking more and getting over. You know what i’m saying?
When I look at kind of those first couple of years, it wasn’t like — and correct me if i’m wrong. You’re not going out there to trying to have five star classics, which you would ultimately go back to in some those later WrestleMania matches, you would be match of the year. But to me, it seemed like the mission was to get that character over. You’re an attraction. Other guys are going to bing, bang, boom do this. You have to get this character over and sustain it. And god dang it, who thought it would last 30 damn years. Is that a correct assessment?
Undertaker: That’s very correct. And what I had to do early on is put my ego — I had to put my ego aside for the sake of the character. I couldn’t get in my own way. That was difficult because you get to see all these guys going out there and tearing it down. And knowing inside you — athletically I can do all of those moves. I’m 8 inches taller and i’m 100 pounds heavier. I can do that. But no one would care. You got out in eight to ten minutes do your stuff and people are enthralled. It took me a minute to figure it out. It’s like back to the less is more. And it gradually become second nature. But it was a struggle.
My own ego because, you know, you’ve got these guys out there just tearing it down. And you can’t see what the audience is seeing. All you’re seeing is because your pride. You’re hearing pops. You’re hearing all of that, but you don’t realize you’re getting different pops. Your reactions are going to be different than what Bret Hart’s are. He’s out there giving a five star match. You’re getting it to because you roll your eyes back and ain’t nobody ever seen like that. You’re a machine because nobody can drop you. And you just keep coming, you know. I wish I could say I had the presence of mind — maybe I did.
But consciously, it kind of just happened. It was a lot of studying and putting things together in the way of what am I going to do to separate myself and make myself different from what everybody else does and not get in my own way while I do it. You have to believe in what you are doing. It didn’t take long and then I was like, okay, they get it. They get what i’m doing. When people start asking you, are you really dead? I can’t tell you how many times early on I got, are you really dead? You’re sitting there thinking to yourself as you no sell and you don’t acknowledge them, this guy just asked me if I was really dead or not. Really?
Steve Austin: The gimmick is going and then you shift gears a couple of times along the way. Talk to me about — you have said it many times, always finger on the pulse. You have lasted for so long, like and changed gimmicks. We did a panel with JBL Legends a couple of years back. It was me, Shawn and Triple H. And it was like, dude, distinctly different departures from the original Undertaker. And then you end up going back to it. For many people that would be career suicide. But we said, dude, everything the guys does is authentic. It’s him or to him it’s a shoot. And it always worked with the people. Just tell me about riding the edge of a damn razor blade for so long and not falling off either way.
Undertaker: I think probably that’s my best attribute of anything you can say — is being able to figure out — like I always felt like if i started feeling stale, my audience is probably feeling it before me. You get wrapped up in what you’re doing. So the small changes, the breaks at the right time. But I don’t think I would have made it through if I hadn’t have changed when I did to go to the American Badass. I wouldn’t have made it. The character I think would have lasted through the attitude era. I was too handcuffed for our content. And to tell you the truth, I had already been there nine years. 10 years already doing — made some changes, but I needed the handcuffs off. I needed to let go and then let them see just a different variation. Which opened the door to how when I came and brought the gimmick back, then I was allowed like you said, I kept a little bit of everything.
Steve Austin: Man, what a good read that was in the attitude era. I grew with you. Because everything was edged up. As The American Badass when you come zooming down — were those titan motorcycles?
Undertaker: There were all kinds of Harley’s.
Steve Austin: You were ripping down to the ring. You’re all adrenaline right here, right?
Undertaker: Oh, yeah. It’s all on the line right here. I have rolled the dice. Ain’t no taking it back from this point.
– Austin and Undertaker are reliving the debut of The American Badass.
Steve Austin: How was that?
Undertaker: That was nerve-racking. Like you said, when I hit — so many variables there. One, the bike. Now, I had been off almost a year at that point.
Steve Austin: What surgery?
Undertaker: Well, I left originally — I had a big time groin injury. And about three weeks before I come back, I tore my peck. So it ended up being close to eight or nine months that I was off tv.
Steve Austin: Dude, when you’re gone, that’s career suicide. Here’s the ride back.
Undertaker: So now not only am I coming back, i’m coming back as a completely different dude. So that was a pay-per-view on a bike in a completely different gimmick pretty much. The coat was the same, but I mean the guy was completely different. You are running through all those things. Everything that can go wrong, if this doesn’t work, you are dead right there. Fortunately, it was the right move at the right time.
Steve Austin: You get into the business and then you’re traveling around. You end up in USWA and you go to WCW okay, I start off. I’m in Dallas and I go to USWA and all of a sudden, man, I get to WCW and the ante kind of gets a little higher. And i’m seeing a lot of things I’ve never seen before. And that’s the guys on the road doing a lot of things. Man, all of a sudden, like a whole different ball game.
Undertaker: Once I got to WCW, everything was so rampant, the things that you see are just — you try to tell people outside our industry some of the excesses — and they look at you like, man, you’re full of crap. Nobody does that. Only rock stars do that. Well, I’ve been in situations where I put some rock stars to bed.
Steve Austin: That’s one of the infamous stories though. Can I mention the band?
Undertaker: You can.
Steve Austin: Man, there was a story that I had heard. We were somewhere and might have been oversees. But Cypress Hill was at that hotel. Cypress Hill was known they would party down. And I wasn’t there, but I just heard that you walked in with a bottle. Tell the story.
Undertaker: So, you know, back then I think it’s pretty commonly known that I burnt the midnight oil. Work was always first. But there was always that part, that camaraderie with the guys I really enjoyed. It had a lot to do with drinking whiskey and, hanging out, telling stories like we all do. Any time we get together, we all sit down and we start telling stories. So this is the backside probably of a 17 day tour. I’m like all right, guys, look, I’ve been going hard every night. I said i’m going to stay in. I’m going to take a break. We’ve still got three of four days left. I had to pace myself. One day out of 17 I was going to take off, right. But we had Amsterdam and Berlin and these places coming up. I wanted to be fresh and ready to go.
So we get back, I go up to my room. I said i’m just going to go in the bar and say hello to everybody. And then i’m going to go to my room. I’m going to go to bed. So I come strolling in the bar. Still got my bags, you know, all that. Take, Take, Take! Somebody screaming, you know. Come over here. It was our guys. But then there were some of the guys from Cypress Hill, they were on tour over there. Hey, guys, what’s going on? I was being polite, asking them tour questions and all that. I was like, all right man, hey, it’s nice to meet you guys. I’ll catch y’all down the road, you know. And started to turn around. You hear that — oh, man, I heard you could party. I heard you could go. I turned around, I’ve been going pretty good. And then somebody else mouthed off. I don’t know. I was like okay, i’m staying.
Steve Austin: Because I look at your eyes right now when you say okay, i’m staying — that’s more than a statement you’re hanging around. It’s i’m going to put you down.
Undertaker: Somebody just smarted off a little. You don’t know me. I’ve got no ill will. It was just a moment and that’s how everybody was. Sometimes I get, you know — you shouldn’t have said that. So here we go. And drank all the whiskey. So we close the bar down. There is still people standing upright, right. So I don’t know how it ended up. It was me and X-Pac. And we end up in one of the guy’s room. They were known for their cannabis intake, you know. That’s never been my deal. But I remember sitting in this room with a bunch of people I really didn’t know. And it was like this haze that kind of sits like the fog had come and sit down at a certain level, right. I’m sitting on the desk. I’m looking around and there’s only like two people left that are upright. There’s bodies like just laid out everywhere. I turned to say something to X-Pac. Well, X-Pac is asleep on my shoulder like this.
I gave X-Pac the nudge. And I said — he was like, what up, take? Like he’s been there the whole time, right? I said, kid, I think our work here is done. He went, oh, okay. All right. So I pick hum up the door opens and a big plume of smoke falls out into the hallway and it’s like the gunfight at the ok corral. Because believe me, I was feeling it. I remember coming down and the next day I felt bad that next morning. We had an early call. I’m telling myself in my room, you’re going to go down and you’re going to be jovial. I feel my head is pounding. But I come down there I was like, hey guys. They are all, you know — they are still trying to call and get guys out of their rooms and everything else. I’m like hey, guys, how y’all doing? Where are y’all going today? Like i’m no selling it.
Steve Austin: That story is so legendary because like, man, dude, Taker went in there and he wasn’t even going to do anything. He was the only guy that walked out carrying X-Pac. But that — I mean the boys always respected you anyway. And just the kind of path you blazed. But that night just amplified everybody’s respect for you. There’s this one picture of the back of a bus and a bunch of us guys are around a circular table. Talk to me about this picture and what it means to you. Because you know a lot more about this than I did because you’ve got a better memory.
Undertaker: This picture is so significant in so many different ways. So this tour that we’re on — and this is getting close to the end of the tour. So Nash and Hall are about to go to WCW. Gerry Brisco, Paul Bearer and X-Pac. Look at that, Triple H.
Steve Austin: The thing about Triple H, Triple H does not drink. Every now and then in a blue moon, he will have one beer and one drink with the guys. Just because he’s one of the guys. You know there’s always that saying never trust a guy that don’t drink.
Undertaker: I never felt that with him.
Steve Austin: But every now and then he would drink. Even if he didn’t, everybody knew that was his gig. That’s who he was. He wasn’t an alcohol guy. So you respected that.
Undertaker: You respect it because it’s hard — it’s hard in this business and this atmosphere.
Steve Austin: I never seen the guy drunk in my life.
Undertaker: There’s enough drinkers in that picture right there that he didn’t need to really have anything to drink. But that was a really significant point in our industry and what was about to happen. So Nash and Hall are about to go to WCW. And then the Monday Night War starts. They are going to start kicking our ass and, you know, with nitro. I mean that all happened shortly after this picture was taken.
Steve Austin: Let’s talk about the attitude era a little bit because I’m sure you were there at the garden when the hub — when they broke kayfabe at the garden. Were you there?
Undertaker: I wasn’t there.
Steve Austin: You weren’t there?
Undertaker: No, I wasn’t.
Steve Austin: Okay, I was there. I didn’t know what was up. And then, all of a sudden, Nash and Hall go south. And then Sean (X-Pac) would go south. Then Triple H and Shawn Michales stayed. And couldn’t put the heat to Shawn because he’s the World Champion and that time had a chip, so Triple H got the punishment. And I ended up winning King Of The Ring. He was supposed to win King Of The Ring. But that set me up for everything. Anyway, you have been here through all of it. Then all of a sudden, when they decided to go head-to-head with us. Nitro versus Raw, where was your head on all that? We’re in a war and getting our ass handed to us for two years straight. I’m thinking what the hell is going on? And at times they had a pretty hot show. Sometimes we’d be watching using a VCR and our show is way better than that. We got our ass handed to us. Back to you. Where was your head in all this?
Undertaker: Initially when they started drumming us, we were still doing some lame stuff initially. We were still gearing our content for younger demographic where they were hitting 18 to 36, 18 to 35 demographic hard. It was frustrating to me because I knew what they were doing is where we needed to be. And I knew once the switch flipped, I knew that would happen. And it did. I knew Vince is too smart. It just took — it all worked out for the right reasons. But it was frustrating because this is where I knew — this is the same reason that we wanted to be at WCW way back when. We wanted to be more reality based.
We want to be, you know — we want to be out there kicking ass and taking names. Not having to do all these different things. So it was really frustrating. But I always looked at it — and people said why didn’t you leave? I never forgot what I was told. I didn’t even know really at that point who was in charged down there. Bischoff, I guess he was in charge. But I never forgot who gave me my opportunity and that was Vince. It’s probably not the most sound business decision, but that’s just who I am. And if that ship went down, I was going down with him. But I knew eventually it would turn.
Steve Austin: Big picture, it was a hell of decision, you know. It was the ultimate decision. When the chips were down before the business came back up, I mean I heard it was pretty hard times. But like how close were you with Vince? Because I mean you guys were joined at the hips seemingly. I think you guys were always close just because of the gimmick and because you always stayed. You were the one constant. You turned into a locker room leader, whether you wanted to or not, you were just that guy. How close were you with that guy saying, hey, man, we should do this? Or where were you?
Undertaker: We had a really good creative collaboration and just through the years, our friendship grew. But he obviously, trusted my judgment with a lot of the things with the character. It was originally his vision, but he gave me a lot of creative liberty with it. And he trusted me when I felt like I needed to turn into, The American Badass, he must have felt it too. We butted heads and things have been rough. But at the end of the day, our passion is the same. We want to put out the best product possible. Like you said, I never thought of myself as the locker room leader. It just kind of happened in a sense because I was there for everything. And I tell people this sometimes. And I never mean for it to come off like i’m being an ass, but times were so hard, so lean there when business was so bad, I have made more in one payoff than I did in a whole year.
Something else, it’s just another little thing that I put in the back of my head, you know, because I know this is where I need to be. And regardless if we butt heads or we don’t agree, which it’s going to happen. It’s a creative business. We’re not going to always see eye to eye. You and I may not have the same vision on a finish, but we will get there. That’s just the process. And it’s the same with him. But we know where we’ve got to be. I always knew that regardless he gave me my chance. No telling where I would have been if he didn’t give me the chance and I just never forgot that. Like I said, that ship would have went down. I’d have been sharing that life with him.
Steve Austin: I want to go back to the body of work real quick. It started off in that mode. And then, all of a sudden, after a couple of years, American Badass. And then Big Evil.
Undertaker: It was kind of a hybrid, American Badass Undertaker, you know I was doing the same stuff. I was just changing the look. And then after American Badass, that’s when I kind of hybrid everything together. And then allowed myself — because I have already been there. It allowed me to work a little differently which I think I needed to. Just because of our audience.
Steve Austin: Yeah, that’s what I was going to get to because you segued into the five star match, you know, zone where you would rip it up with Shawn Michaels in 25 and 26, match of the year. Was it 27 or 28 with Triple H?
Undertaker: I always look at that. That was a four-year kind of program. The two with Shawn and then the story continued with Triple H. So I always look at that as a four-year program. Those matches were really tough. We had such high standards. The match with Shawn — I mean say what you want, man, that boy can work. I mean, you know, I remember sitting there, me and Triple H looking at each other like we’ve got to top that.
But we figured it out. Like we can’t do what Shawn and I did. We have to go a completely different route. So the brutality and the physicality was off the charts with Triple H and I. But the story continued. All four of those matches were story based. If you didn’t get hooked into that match right there on the finish, you know — I don’t put my own shit over. But that was really, really special. I was really proud not only of the match itself, but the story. The story was just — I mean to be able to go four years.
Steve Austin: What are your thoughts when you see that picture? Because, you know, everybody talks about protecting the business and so these guys are kind of like having that brotherhood moment.
Undertaker: At this moment right now, Shawn has already retired. You look at my eyes. That doesn’t look like the guy to me — I remember it vividly. I don’t know that i’m coming back next year.
Steve Austin: Oh really?
Undertaker: At that point right there is about as real as it gets.
Steve Austin: To me that was one of those feel good moments like god dang, man, we just — excuse me my language we just blew the fucking roof off this place. And everybody was digging it. That little send-off, that’s almost like an encore.
Undertaker: That wasn’t called. That happened. That’s organic right there. It just felt — everything about that felt right in the match, the way it all – the finish turned out, I was really, really proud of that.
Steve Austin: Those two guys were two of your best opponents. What was the difference between coming down from a match — because you’ll know what I’m talking about. Dude, when you’re this high and and you go back there and you rocked it. How long for you did that satisfaction or high stay with you?
Undertaker: Not for long because after the adrenaline wears off, then the pain comes back.
Steve Austin: There was that much?
Undertaker: Yea, it was bad.
Steve Austin: You were totally living in pain then?
Undertaker: Yeah, all four of those. Enjoyed it for the minute. I don’t know. As I said, maybe an hour. After that, you just kind of want to sit. Because there’s such a build up to the match and everything that goes around WrestleMania. And you go out and then if you are lucky and you feel like you deliver like on the build up and the hype and everything else — then you just, you know, this is kind of we did it. You know, it’s pretty cool. Then you sit there and I know for me — and I would sit there damn near an hour. Then it was time to get up and change or something, it’s kind of like here’s the reality. The reality is you’re battered, man. You’re beat up. And now the reality is for the next few weeks. It’s been that way from that point to today. I know what’s coming afterwards.
Steve Austin: Was it worth it?
Undertaker: Yeah, it’s worth it. And at this point, pretty much everybody from our generation, everybody is gone. It’s a new — it’s not so much about the matches any more. It’s about personal challenges with me at this point. Sometimes Vince wants me to do a favor and do a show. And it’s about the challenge of it. Can you get yourself to the level that you need to go out and perform at a level people expect you? And that’s my biggest demon at this point. Because I know that the window is shrinking and, you know, my biggest fear is becoming a parody of myself. That’s something that I struggle with. Like I don’t want to stay too long. I always told myself don’t stay too long. And there’s some days, you know, some things, some matches happen and I’m like I stayed too long. Then you come back and you tear it down again.
Steve Austin: I thought this was the end.
Undertaker: I did, too. Honestly, I thought it was all over. I was like this going to be worth more than coming out and giving any speech or doing anything. Because that just don’t fit. It don’t fit to what I do. I said this will register more with our audience. Sure enough, I get talked to coming back. Once I start training and once I start getting ready for something, then you get caught up in it. At this moment, i’m not coming back.
Steve Austin: But you’re at a point now, okay, WrestleMania is one of your legacies for lasting as long as you have. That would have been seemingly a perfect time to walk away. But I was remiss in missing talking about the streak. It is unprecedented, it is unheard of, it will never ever be duplicated. At one point you were 21-0. If looking at this picture we would have gone three years back in history at WrestleMania 30 against Brock Lesnar, when he defeated you to take your record to 21-1 — was that a good time to walk away?
Undertaker: That is the million dollar question. I guess it could have been. The thing with this match, though, not everybody knows — somewhere within the first five minutes of this match, I get concussed.
Steve Austin: I never knew that.
Undertaker: I don’t even remember this night. I mean I have watched it back now. I obviously know. My last memory that I can definitively tell you happened about 3:30 in the afternoon when my wife came backstage and we had a conversation. That’s the last thing that I remember on my own of that day. At this point of my career, there is a huge process of me getting ready between the stretching, visiting the doctors, doing everything that I have to do to get myself ready to go out and perform. It’s gone. When I say process, we’re talking about an hour and a half, two hour process that’s just completely gone. My memory picks up I want to say 4:30, 5:00 in the morning when i’m in the hospital. They’re coming to check in on me every few minutes asking me my name. And I’ve got no clue.
Steve Austin: You were at the hospital after that match?
Undertaker: Oh, yeah. I walked back. I went through gorilla and I sat down. And then the next thing I remember is i’m in the hospital. And there’s doctors and nurses keep coming every five minutes, what’s your name, birth date, where are you. Got no clue. The only thing I remembered was my wife’s first name. And I got to the point where, you know, they’d come in and they asked me where I was at and I’ve got no clue where i’m at, no idea what my birthday is. So they leave. I call her over. Babe, come here, come here. Where am I? She’s like i’m not going to cheat for you on this. You’ve got to remember this on your own. I’m getting hot at her because she won’t tell me where the hell i’m at and i’ve got no clue. I’ve watched it back, 10-15 times now.
I can’t pick out where it happened. It was nothing that Brock did, I think him not knowing that I was concussed and, you know, I kept taking belly to back suplexes, but that’s not on him because I was still moving. When I watch it, I can tell that i’m lethargic, that i’m not moving and i’m not thinking like I would be normally. I think that’s probably after — that’s kind of what set in motion — because this screwed me up. This screwed up my confidence. You figure after, you had a career 25 plus years, you’ve seen every situation, you don’t get shook up. That is a false belief because this shook me up because I couldn’t pinpoint where I got concussed. My training — i’m like a fighter at this point. So, you know, basically i’m in camp to try and peak on this night. I think what I did by doing it that way, I think I went to the well one time too many.
My body, although I was trained and I was in shape, but I don’t think my body was ready for the trauma. So the simplest of bumps, a belly to back suplex — that’s the only thing I can figure. It runged my bell and then Dr. Maroon, he equated it — it was like you’re like a lamp and somebody came and unplugged you. Your mind stops making memories. That ate me up a while. And it took me a while to figure out — then it became personal with me. Like no, i’m not going to go out my last match and not be able to remember it.
Steve Austin: Man, seeing you like that, I worked with you 100 years ago at SummerSlam in the garden, highway to hell. Two minutes and 20 seconds into that match, I got knocked out. I kicked you on the back drop, head come up, hit me here. Wasn’t nobody’s fault, I didn’t remember a thing after that. And I have always — i’m sitting right across the table from you now. Man, I was like I felt so bad that I couldn’t give you the best I had. And I don’t even remember the match. I finished it. You were there. Everybody saw me finish it. But I don’t remember a damn thing.
Undertaker: Same thing here.
Steve Austin: But it haunts me to sit across from you today when you had all those great matches with Shawn and Triple H and Mick — and, dude, i don’t know for some reason, maybe we were so similar, I don’t know what it was. But getting knocked out and not being able to deliver the goods with you, one of the all-time greats in the history of the business still haunts me to this day.
Undertaker: Well, it shouldn’t because, look, I mean things happen. It’s not ballet. Things happen in the ring. We know that. You’ve got to remove yourself a little bit and look at the big picture of this thing. It was something that happen. I don’t blame Brock for me getting concussed.
Steve Austin: But where are you right now? I mean we’re sitting here talking.
Undertaker: So, you know, regardless of anything, i’m going to write my own story and i’m going to write my own ending.
Steve Austin: We used to joke many years ago — I was all beat to shreds and you were kind of beat up, too. Man, which one of us is going to tap out first? And it was me. And I had to pull my own plug. But it was a lot of neurological stuff, but I always say if we’d have taken better care of ourselves, I might have lasted longer. You’ve lasted as long as you have. But had we known about nutrition and not running so hard, I don’t know. Maybe I could have snuck another year or two out. I don’t know. Speculation.
Undertaker: It’s all speculation.
Steve Austin: God dang it, I had fun.
Undertaker: You had fun. Your mark in the industry, that will never be taken away, you know. I look at things sometimes now — because obviously, i’ve got fewer matches in front of me than I do behind me. That’s just the way it is. But you know, there’s only one person that I have come across that has been really at perfect peace with himself by pulling the plug and that’s Shawn. He knew when we walked out of the ring the second time he was done. And he was at perfect peace. Sometimes I look at you guys and think maybe that was kind of somewhat of a blessing. Obviously I mean it’s taken away parts of things. But you didn’t have to make the decision. It was kind of made for you. When it happened, you still had rubber on the tires. That goes without saying. But the decision was pretty much made for you.
Steve Austin: I had to pull my own plug and so it wasn’t a doctor telling me. It was me like saying, hey, man, you’re done. Just call it off. So that was the story on that.
Undertaker: But you’re smart enough to know what the long term — you run the risk. Sometimes I go out now and I feel great. Other times I don’t feel so good. What happens is when you start having to think, when you have to start thinking about what you’re doing, that’s when it becomes really dangerous. You have to gout there with a clear mind and do what you are out there to do. Once you start worrying about, well, if I do this, is my knee going to blow out sideways, that’s when it becomes really dangerous. And then it breaks down everything that you do. There’s no continuity. There’s no fluidity.
Steve Austin: Well, you can’t work with fear.
Undertaker: Yeah, you can’t work with fear, not in this business.
Steve Austin: And the other guys is trusting you with his life. What are you going to do to him? Can you deal with it? I couldn’t deal with it. I didn’t deal with it in a real good fashion.
Undertaker: That’s part of it, you know. I think, like I said, it’s important that I write my own story about how I do this. Every time I go out, i’m going out one time. I went out and, you know, I had that match in Saudi.
Steve Austin: I saw that was a rough night at the office. But you took a bad bump on the backside of that I mean because he was out on his feet. And god dang, man, when you start – the list of injuries that you have had, the list of orthopedic surgeries you’ve had is up by 20. You’re a tough son of a bitch, but god dang, man, when is enough enough? When are you looking the gift horse in the mouth or going to the well one too many times? There’s got to be some finale somewhere.
Undertaker: What’s so funny is like I came back right after that. I was still feeling the effects from that match. But, man, you know, I know you’re the same way. Pride is a sum bitch. It doesn’t matter. You’re on the face of mount rushmore. Just like you just told me, it still bothers you that you didn’t give me the match that you felt like I deserved. I’m not going to let that be the last thing that people remember. Wasn’t anybody’s fault. Just one of them bad nights at the office. It was so bad, you know, almost didn’t make it back. But I came back. It’s a joke around my house because I’ve retired 15 times.
I tell my wife, I tell Michelle that’s it, babe. She rolls her eyes at me and goes, yeah, yeah, until November when you start training again. So yeah, I don’t know. Like I said, i’m very cognizant of where i’m at physically. And I just have to let that side kind of have its say. And then i’ve got to let my ego have its say. What gets me is when people tell me what I need to do, you know. Nobody knows what I need, but me in the sense of when it’s time to — when i’m going to hang it up. If we got off-camera here and you go — if you would just come at me and say, man, you know, it might be about that time, Mark.
I would take into consideration because I have that respect and you have earned that respect with me. But for somebody that hasn’t walked in my boots to tell me what I should do, I have had the same conversations with Shawn and Triple H. I had these conversations with people. I was like, look, you guys would tell me, right? You know, that’s a tough chip to put on somebody. How am I supposed to tell The Undertaker it’s time to hang them up?
Steve Austin: But when you look back — and obviously you’re going to go to the hall of fame. And you’re one of the greatest ever to lace up a pair of boots. What do you think about your contributions to the business? Or what did you think you did? The guy that no one was going to pay nothing to see wrestle.
Undertaker: I’m proud. I feel very blessed honestly to have the career. I was fortunate. I think preparation and luck — what’s the old saying? Preparation and luck create opportunity. All the surgeries, everything, it’s all been worth it to me. Because I’ve got to do for 30 plus years, I’ve got to do what I love every day. Not everybody can say that. So, you know, as far as my contributions, hopefully 10 years from now people will still remember some of the stuff that I did. Those were good times, bro. Did you ever watch the documentary “When We Were Kings” ? Oh, it’s awesome. It’s about Ali and Frazier. Man this is when we were kings. I mean this was good times. Well I didn’t appreciate that (picture shown of Austin giving Taker the middle finger) one bit.
Steve Austin: Man, when I look back at some of these, man, I ain’t a real sentimental person. And god dang, I love Mick. I know you do, too. I had such a good time in the business. The thing I enjoyed the most in my life out of everything that I have ever done, I get emotional talking about it. I don’t want to start crying on this show. That’s us. That’s either Kuwait — or the arab emirates. You remember on those tours they always said, hey, man, they’re ain’t no alcohol there. I would say to someone at the time, that’s cool, man.
I’ll just go down there and I’ll dry out for two weeks. You get over there and you want a damn drink. All of a sudden, they have got they kayfabe stuff. Remember when we went over to Afghanistan and we and saw the snipers. And the snipers had all the stash and loaded me up with a bunch of beer. Man, those were some special times right there. Look, I had double earrings, man. That’s how cool I was.
Undertaker: You were kicking it, man.
Steve Austin: I had to have that 19-inch neck to support that gold chain. Hey, before we go home, let’s end up on a high note here. I’ve got a long standing, long awaited apology I have to deliver to you.
Undertaker: To me?
Steve Austin: Yeah! I’m trying to hit go-home button, but I’ve got to go here.
Undertaker: What do you have to apologize for?
Steve Austin: I have to apologize for something. This is Insurrection 2001. I almost chopped off The Undertaker’s ear right there. Dude, I never knew this.
Undertaker: I feel it. It’s still there. That was just for the business there. Earl is like, man, your hear is jacked up. So it ain’t me you need to apologize to. You know who you need to apologize to?
Steve Austin: Who?
Undertaker: Kurt Angle.
Steve Austin: Oh no, I’ve got that story. So you, me and whoever had to basically take a shower in the sink because we had to get out to the airport. Yeah, we had to make the deadline. So we basically shower in the sink and get on the airplane. You are basically holding your ear and head and in and out of consciousness from what JBL describes the story. I’m over there drinking. I didn’t know — this is how oblivious I was back then. I was riding the lightning bolt. You know what i’m saying? Here’s why the apology is happening heartfelt now because I don’t remember apologizing to you back then. So i’m doing my thing. You’re in and out. The boys are partying.
And then, all of a sudden, it’s Kurt and Vince getting into a wrestling match. Dude, we’re 40,000 feet in the air. This is called the plane ride from hell. And there’s all kinds of shenanigans going on. Michael P.S. Hayes gets his pony tail cut off. And Vince and Kurt are fighting. You wake up and you see Kurt on top of Vince and Vince is your guy because he’s the boss. And he hired you and he believed in you. Like ain’t nobody going to choke out the boss. So you walk up behind him and put a sugar hold on him and put the olympic gold medalist to sleep.
Undertaker: So they were going at it. It was a charter plane. So they had all the big first class seats. And I was like in the section — because I could get my legs completely straight out. So I was right in the first row after the first call on this charter. And it was the flight from hell. But anyway I was out. And they were right in front of me they were like on my feet. So I come to and I look you know. And I hear all this and I see Kurt on Vince, right.
And I just went, oh, hell no, right. If I can steal your phrase for a second. So man, I did. I locked in. I mean it was tight and finally Kurt was like, he’s like, Take — he could barely get it out. He’s like, Take, you’re choking me, ughh. And then somebody by that time said, no, they were just playing. I was like, oh, and I let go. So I sat back down in my sleep and went back out.
Steve Austin: Man, sorry about almost tearing your ear off.
Undertaker: Hey, if that’s the worst thing that happened to me over my career, i’d be all right, man.
Steve Austin: After all these years, god dang. I know I hit you with a bunch of potatoes, but that’s the way we worked back then. And you were always with those big swinging door punches were just gentle as a lamb out there. And I was just throwing out potatoes and I apologize for that too.
Undertaker: That’s all right. I didn’t mind. Wanted to cash them checks, brother. See, that gives you the out right there.
Steve Austin: It’s awesome to hang out with you and it’s awesome to see you smile because you’re the guy with a great sense of humor. But when you go into character, it’s almost like nothing can break you. And there’s been times when I have gone out there and tried to break you. And one time we was over in Kuwait. And we was on the side of the ring. And Brisco was out there and boy you flipped your hair back. And for some reason I had the giggles. And I just bursted out laughing. And you actually started laughing your ass off. Tell me the story on that. I got you.
Undertaker: In 30 years, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I have actually broke. What that was, so to backtrack a little bit, if you remember, it was like a soccer stadium, right? So, you know, we’re all feeling pretty good about ourselves, right. Oh, man, we’ve got this soccer stadium. Police escorts, everywhere. We roll up into that stadium and there might be 800 people in that stadium. And we’re all looking like, what? You know, we’re rocking in all over the world, right. We go into this stadium and there’s like 800 people there. It’s a 40,000 seat stadium. Before I get to what you did to me, do you remember the headlock chain?
Steve Austin: Yeah! You tell the story.
Undertaker: This is the most hokey thing you’re ever going to see. It started out a battle royal of some sort. That’s what it was. Our stuff was happening in the same match. It was a battle royal. Anyway, somebody grabs a side headlock and then somebody else grabs the guy who has the side headlock, grabs them in a side headlock. So there ends up with like a six, seven man daisy chain headlock. It must have been a lumberjack match. I don’t know what kind of match it was. But there was an eight man daisy chain headlock and it went downhill from there.
So I remember being on the apron. I was in the corner. I was right here and you were on the other side and there’s the ring post. And I turn this way and I turn back to look and i’ll bet our faces are this close together, right. Think about it at the time, The Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin. And you just laughed at me like — I think you even pointed at me like haaaaa, ha ha! I’m just thinking to myself, what am I going to do? You know, I was like, crap, there’s 800 people here. Ain’t nobody going to know. And I did. I think I busted out laughing.
Steve Austin: You did and then the caveat to the daisy chain headlock story was we were all in a daisy chain. I can’t remember who stopped it. We was there and Aldo Montoya was on that tour. He was walking around and I said, dude, get in. I mean go to the front of the line and grab a headlock because if you cinch it up, you’ve got control of everybody. He went on the back end and stuck his head underneath somebody’s arm.
Undertaker: He stuck his head under the original guy in the original headlock. That’s right.
Steve Austin: Dude, you could have been the king of the world! All you had to do was go to the front of the chain.
Undertaker: He had the whole roster. He could have been the king of the world. And he went to the ass end of the daisy chain.
Steve Austin: One other thing, if you remember — before we get into this reel I want to show you, one other thing we were doing the test of strength. Were you there when we did the daisy chain test.
Undertaker: Unfortunately, yeah.
Steve Austin: Because you’re the one that did the power display. So anyway, the test of strength, is when Mark and I lock hands here and here and god dang, you know. We’re up there working it. You were doing it with somebody and I went yaw! I chopped in and turned it into a three way. So everybody caught the fever and started chopping in. Before you know it, we had about eight guys on a test of strength.
The most ridiculous thing you’ve ever seen in your life. But it’s a bought show, so there’s a little bit of gah-gah going on. Then all of a sudden, when you went like that from the power position, I immediately went down and everybody went down to their knees. And you were standing on top.
Undertaker: Before that, though — before it’s even worse than that. You were the farthest away from me. So basically we were like this. And everybody there is like that. So when I initially did it, nobody here sold. You sold it. And I wasn’t even touching you. And then everybody figured out that they needed to sell it because you went down. It was so bad.
Steve Austin: While I’ve got you on the ropes, I take you to the finer moments when people were trying to break The Undertaker.
Undertaker: And that was halfway through that. They kept sending guys. Something happened — I don’t remember. It got a big enough distraction where I left. I ran — I didn’t run, but I power walked out. And he sent Big Show after me. And I come back through the curtain, Big Show was reaching for me. I said, big man, I said you may whoop my ass in the end, but you’re going to eat something before you get me back through that curtain again.
And he just went okay. But yeah, that went on for a good hour of them trying to get me to do the Take-A-Roonie. You know what else I remember? You’re afraid of the claw. What am I supposed to — here we are. This is when business is rocking. And here you have Stone Cold against The Undertaker. You’re afraid of the claw. I couldn’t laugh then, but I can sure laugh now.
Steve Austin: Do you remember the times — and I was going to do it, but I talked so much with my hands I didn’t do it. There was a couple of times I tried to get you. I would get a sharpie — and I was going to do it for the session we had. I would do a test of strength with you. I would go look into my eyes. And I would have eyebrows painted on my palm. I’ve got a big ass palm. Man, it’s been a good time going down memory road. But this is the first Broken Skull Session I hope of many to come. And I couldn’t have started off with anybody bigger or better than you. Hopefully, we can do it again because really, when you look at the totality of everything that you have done, we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. But it’s been good to sit across the table from you so many years because I have known you for so long, but like I said, we just never got a chance to get know each other because we just ran in different circles.
Undertaker: We were grinding, man.
Steve Austin: We were grinding, but we both come from Texas and we both have so many things that we —
Undertaker: Tell me that. How do two red necks from Texas end up in a studio? That’s got me a little baffled.
Steve Austin: I’m glad you said that because that was one of the things that I was thinking of when I was trying to come up with like, god dang, man, you talk with a living legend that’s done as much as you in such a short amount of time — I don’t know. If you’d have told me this was going to happen way back in the day, that you and I would be sitting, talking about what we did or today about what you did, I’d have said you’re full of shit, but here we are. I know you’ve been a country music fan and love George Strait like I do. Like Waylon Jennings, that old song living legends. Living legends are a dying breed. Only a few of us left. Tell you the truth, I haven’t been feeling real good myself. So I am glad that you look as good as you look. I know you’re constantly in pain. I hope everything was worth it. I know that it was. I’ve enjoyed knowing you. And I’ve enjoyed talking to you. One shot for the road.
Undertaker: Absolutely, man. I don’t do this often. You know that. So I appreciate you having me on. And hope you much success. Since you mention George Strait, you will appreciate Troubadour.
Steve Austin: I know where you’re coming from. There you go. Broken Skull Sessions With The Undertaker, Mark Calaway. Cheers. Appreciate talking to you. I’m Stone Cold Steve Austin. This is The Undertaker, Mark Calaway, a living legend. It’s been a good time here. Look forward to catching you down the road. And that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so.
Checkout Episode 182 of The Hoots Podcast