wrestling / TV Reports

411’s Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Sessions Report: The Undertaker on Feeling Handcuffed with His Gimmick, Infamous Cyprus Hill Story, the Curtain Call, Infamous Plane Ride From Hell, More

November 25, 2019 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
Undertaker Steve Austin Broken Skull Sessions

-After a few years, Steve Austin has returned to the WWE Network with another interview/podcast gig. This one has been getting a lot of hype on WWE TV and for good reason as his first guest is The Undertaker. This should be fantastic as we rarely get anything from Taker out of character, but if you have been watching DVD releases and Network specials in the last few years, he has done a few things here and there.

-Austin starts by saying Broken Skull means that he had to break his head to get to the top. This show will be all about him getting inside the skull of Superstars who have made it to the top. He could only start this show one way and that’s with The Undertaker.

-Austin starts by asking Taker how he feels and he says after 30 years he is doing ok. He has made some changes to his diet and training and feels as good as he can. They talk about knowing each other since 1989 when they met in Dallas. Austin says Taker ran with his crew while he did his own thing. He says he thinks he knows Taker, but is hoping to find out more.

-Austin says they both have a lot in common including being from Texas. Austin became a fan when watching Houston Wrestling and wants to know how Taker became a fan. His story is similar as he also grew up watching Houston Wrestling and would go to shows. He was about 8 years old and was able to shake Andre the Giant’s hand. That’s amazing! Taker mentions he fell out of watching wrestling, but came back to it.

-Taker talks about his start in the business and started with Buzz Sawyer. He puts over that he was a heck of a trainer and shooter, but not the greatest human. Taker started training with him with a few other guys at Buzz’s house. They went to the house for the first time and Buzz was standing naked at his door wondering what they were doing as he forget he made the offer to train them. Taker didn’t know what to do other than shake his hand as he knew he needed to show respect. He talks about how all Buzz would do was stretch them on mats with no ring anywhere. Taker was playing summer league basketball at the same time and would spend nights getting stretched. One day, Taker was able to turn Buzz and got his shoulders pinned for a half second. That pissed off Buzz and Taker says he stretched him 10 ways from Sunday. Guys kept dropping out and they were down to 4 and when they showed up one day, Buzz was gone as he packed up and left. He didn’t take take his dogs with him, so Taker took them just as a way to get something out of it.

-From there Taker went to Memphis and Austin asks what he learned down there. He says he learned what the business is all about. He had to eat some crap sandwiches and pushed people who were greener than him. He brings up Soultaker (Papa Shango) and they didn’t know what to do with him, so they made them a tag team.

-Austin brings up his run in Memphis and they put him in a match with Taker (then called the Punisher). Taker called the match and Austin talks about how Taker would breath and makes weird noises over calling the spots. Austin had a hearing problem and kept asking what and did it so much that Taker started beating on him. Austin laughs and says he was lost and the drizzling shits (edited on the Network). Taker says Austin may have been lost, but you could see something in him. He was in a spot where he couldn’t have bad matches and gave Steve 3 chances for the spot, but then had to do what he needed to and Austin agrees with him.

-Austin tells the story of a 6 man tag in Tennessee and Austin needed a ride to the show. They tell him to drive with Taker because they were both from Texas. Well, Taker turned heel and told Austin they couldn’t ride together because of the heel/face dynamics. When Taker told Austin this, he told Taker to be careful as he is going to stretch him the next time they are in the ring. Taker was shocked and Dutch Mantel asked Taker what he was going to do about it. So in the match, Taker had Austin all tied up and Dutch was laughing about it on the floor and told Austin to slam Soultaker when he gets back in the ring. That didn’t go well as Soultaker wasn’t thrilled about it, but Dutch enjoyed all of it.

-We jump to WCW and Austin wants the story on how Taker got started there. It happened as Sid got injured in a match with The Steiners and they needed a monster to replace him. They talk about Spivey and Taker says that he was legit and salty. They were going to do a Chicago Street Fight with the Road Warriors at a PPV. In the build they were going to get some heat at one of the Clash of Champions, so Spivey tells him to follow his lead. Spivey didn’t like the booking to this point, so he went to town with a chair on the Road Warriors. Taker was kind of shocked and was in to the Road Warrior mystique and thinks they are going to be really fighting backstage. They get to the dressing room and are near the door as Taker is talking up that a fight is coming once the Warriors get back there. The Road Warriors came around the corner and thank Spivey for the great heat. Taker was baffled at what just happened and next they told Taker, “good job kid.” Spivey just nodded at Taker and he realized that the Warriors weren’t going to test him. He then drops Taker off and tells him to tell Ole that he is done and going home.

-Taker thought he was going to be getting a run and instead Ole Anderson told him that nobody will ever pay to see him wrestle. Damn! Taker said that was a hit to his pride, but he knew he was done in WCW. Paul Heyman was his manager and saw something in Taker so he was trying to get a door open for him in the WWF.

-Taker was going to have a meeting at Vince’s house and the night before Heyman convinced him to go out to the China Club. Paul had a small sports car and when Taker sat down he tore a hole in the back of his pants. Heyman told him not to worry about it as he would find a girl to sew them. Paul convinced him to go to the Club and he sat in one spot all night. They got home at 4 AM and he is going through Paul’s mom’s sewing kit to fix the hole. This is tremendous!

-He makes the meeting with Vince and they ask him if he has any hidden talent and he lets it slip that he sings in the shower. He immediately knew it was a mistake as he was worried he was going to get a gimmick as shower boy. He didn’t expect them to say they didn’t have anything for him right now, but that’s the answer he got. He had nothing to fall back on as he already gave notice to WCW. The WWF told him they may have something after Mania.

-Austin asks him about the Phone Call. He mentions he got the phone call and he was told he was going to be The Ringmaster with Ted Dibiase. To him the gimmick sounded like crap, but he had a wife, kid, and a mortgage. He knows Taker got the same kind of call and before they get into the story, Austin brings out some whiskey and Taker wants to know what took so long to break it out.

-Taker talks about watching WWF up until he got the call and he sees they are hyping up an egg that will be hatching. He got sick to his stomach as he thought this meant he was going to end up as Egg Man. He started growing his hair out and was convinced they were going to make him shave his head and eyebrows. He didn’t want to get the phone call now and sure enough it came. Vince is on the phone and he asks if this is The Undertaker. Taker says he quickly realized that wasn’t Egg Man, so that sounded great to him and he told Vince he could be there tomorrow. He had no clue what The Undertaker was, but it sounded much better than The Egg Man.

-They show some of the early artwork for the character and it’s pretty fascinating to see. Austin asks what he thought of the gimmick as he was an athlete that was old school and now he was getting a full blown character. To him it was pitched as an Old Western Undertaker. He thought the idea was cool, but realized he could no longer work as Mean Mark. He had to use Vince’s vision and came to the conclusion he couldn’t do all the athletic stuff and needed to slow all his stuff down.

-Austin wants to know how he was able to change his style so quickly and mentions when he made his debut, kids were terrified. They cut to Taker’s debut at Survivor Series and he had the character down cold from day one. It was just amazing to see and as a 9 year old it had me kind of scared as well. Taker says he decided he wanted to lure people in and it clicked that he needed to be like Michael Meyers or Jason from Friday the 13th. He had to mentally make himself work slow, but was always in the right spot. He would work slow, but hit something fast and then throttle it back down again. He says he could have jumped over the ropes and land on his feet, but he knows that would have fizzled out in 3 years. He knew he needed to pull back to move forward. He learned quickly that less is more and he thinks that is a lesson people need to learn today. He puts over Austin and his character and that the fans bought into it and expect to see him with beer and flipping people off while he was in public. Taker talks about living the gimmick and even if he was out in public he was always wearing black. He never put himself in situations where he wasn’t what he was on TV.

-Austin talks about the Survivor Series match where he made his debut. He brings up he spiked Koko and eliminated him and all respect to him, but the moment was when he knocked Dusty over the top rope. Taker talks about his love for guys like Dusty, Flair, and Steamboat. He had to bite his lip from marking out at working with The American Dream. He felt in the match that the fans were buying what he was selling. Austin mentions that nobody else could make that gimmick work. Austin wants to know what the other guys in the match thought about Taker making this debut and no selling everything. Taker says they weren’t happy, but it was his time and Austin mentions it is a dog eat dog business. He relates to when he felt he wasn’t worthy when he beat Bobby Eaton for the TV Title or beat 2 of the Freebirds at a TV taping. Taker says the same thing as he had to deal with it internally that he was going over so many legends in his early run. After the match he went up to Dusty and thanked him because of the respect he had. He had so much emotion as he was thinking about Ole saying nobody would pay to see him and then the anxiety of thinking he would be the Egg Man.

-Austin gets back to talking about the gimmick and wants to know who had the most input with the character. He wants to know who Taker would go to and Taker wants him to guess if you take Vince out of the equation. Austin can’t come up with a name and Taker says it was Jake “The Snake” Roberts. He told him to look outside the box to find things to put the character together. He remembers Jake saying “once the music starts, you are that character.” Taker says he probably took it a step too far and was that outside the ring as well. He knew Jake wasn’t a yeller or screamer with his promos and he wanted to do the same. He talks about Paul Bearer being a big part and doing most of the talking and all he had to do was say “Rest in Peace” in a low, but deep voice and it resonated.

-Steve wants to talk about the body of work and talks about Jake coming into New York. When he came into the company he got heat for having good matches as Vince just wanted him to get over. Austin says that the point wasn’t to have 5 star matches, but instead needed to get the character over. Taker says that is a fair assessment as he had to put his ego in check. He would see guys tear the house down and he knew he could do the same with his size, but knew nobody would care. It took a while, but eventually it became second nature. He couldn’t see things the way the audience did, but his pride was hurting see guys like Bret Hart tear the house down. He realized his deal was to get different pops than what Bret was getting. Bret would get them for having 5 star matches while he was getting them for rolling his eyes in the back of his head. It didn’t take long for the fans to get what he was doing and talks about how he was asked so many times from fans if he was really dead. Awesome!

-Austin talks about how often Taker has been able to change his gimmick. For a lot of guys leaving that character would have career suicide, but it worked for him. Taker says that if he every started to feel stale, he knew the audience was probably already feeling it. He doesn’t think his Taker character would have lasted all the way through the Attitude Era. He felt handcuffed by the character and that is why he came back with The American Bad Ass. It also gave him the ability to bring the Dead Man character back years later. They show footage of the American Bad Ass debut during The Rock/HHH Iron Man Match and the crowd reaction is insane. Austin is just popping over everything they are showing and Taker puts over HHH for taking a great chokeslam.

-Taker says the show was nerve racking as he had been gone for nearly a year. He was not only coming back, but he was in a completely different gimmick. If that doesn’t work then he is screwed, but fortunately it was the right time for it.

-Austin jumps back a bit and wants to talk about life on the road. Taker talks about all the crazy stuff that happened on the road and people think only rock stars do things like that. They take another shot and Taker shares a story about Cyprus Hill. In his WCW days and early WWF days he would burn the midnight oil. They would tell stories and drink whiskey. This happened on the back side of a 17 day tour and Taker tells them he needed a day off. He decides to say hello everyone in the bar and then head to bed. Well, Cyprus Hill was in the bar as well as they were touring and they tell Taker they heard that he could party. He realized that he had to stay and party when someone made a smart comment to him. He drank all the whiskey and they closed the bar down. It ended up with Taker and X-Pac still standing and they ended up in a room with Cyprus Hill. They were into marijuana and that wasn’t his deal, but the room was filled with a haze. He remembers seeing bodies laying everywhere and X-Pac was falling asleep on his shoulder. He woke him up and told him that their work was done. They opened the door and all this smoke poured out. He knew he had an early call the next morning, but didn’t want to show that the night did anything to him, so he woke up and no sold everything. Austin says that story was legendary and has always been a famous one with the boys.

-Austin brings up the famous picture from the back of a bus (you know the one as it is floated around all over the internet) and Taker says it is famous because Hall and Nash were about to head to WCW. They mention that HHH is not a drinker and everyone knows that’s his deal. Taker brings up that Hall and Nash were heading to WCW soon and would be kicking their ass every week on Nitro.

-Austin jumps on that and brings up The Curtain Call. Taker says he wasn’t there that night. Austin goes over the whole deal and how HHH got punished for it. He wants Taker’s thoughts on the Monday Night War. He knew WCW was kicking their ass because they were doing thing based more in reality. They were still doing some hokey things in the WWE and knew once they flipped the switch things would change. He says that if the ship went down he was going with Vince because he never forgot what he was told by Ole Anderson in WCW.

-Austin wants to know how close Taker was with Vince. He says they have a really good creative relationship. The character was Vince’s creation, but he gave him a lot of slack to do things. Taker mentions he never thought of himself as a locker room leader, but he has just been there so long. There were times he made more in one PPV pay-off than he did in a whole year. That gives everyone an idea of how bad things got at times. He talks about butting heads with Vince, but he never forgets that Vince gave him his chance.

-Back to the American Bad Ass, but it soon changed to Big Evil. That was his hybrid of both gimmicks and gave him a chance to work differently. Austin says that is where Taker started having great matches and talks about the 4 year Mania stretch with HHH and Shawn. Taker jokes that you can say what you want about Shawn, but that boy can work. In the matches with HHH they both realized they couldn’t do what he did with Shawn, so they had to make it more physical. They show the picture of Taker, Shawn, and HHH leaving the ring together after the Hell in a Cell Match at Mania 28. For Taker, Shawn was retired and he wasn’t sure at that point if he was going to come back. He calls the moment organic as they didn’t have it planned.

-Austin asks Taker how long the high from a good match carried him and Taker says not long as soon the pain came back. Usually about an hour after the match, things would start to kick in again. The reality was that he was battered and beat up and he would be like that for weeks. He says it was all worth it. He says that everyone from their generation is gone. For him it is now about the challenge of getting ready to perform at a level people expect. He will do favors for Vince from time to time and his demon is becoming a parody of himself. He admits there have been matches when he thought he stayed too long.

-They show Taker putting his boots and gloves in he ring at Mania 33. He thought he was gone, but he was talked into coming back by Vince. Austin brings up being done at Mania was perfect and admits he should have brought up The Streak. That leads to talk of Mania XXX and we get the ending of the match with Brock ending the streak and the reactions from the crowd. Austin wants to know if that was a good time to walk away. Taker says that within the first 5 minutes of the match he suffered a concussion. He doesn’t even remember this night and says he has watched the match back. The last thing he can remember is his wife talking to him at 3:30 PM. At this time he has a 2 hour process that he needs to get ready for a match. He was taken to the hospital after the match and only remembers getting his memory back around 4 AM. The only thing he could remember was his wife’s first name. He had no clue his birthday or where he was. He asked his wife for the answers and she won’t tell him because she knows it is serious. Taker says it was nothing Brock did and that Brock also didn’t know he was concussed. He says that match screwed up his confidence which is weird to say. Most think after a 25 year career, you wouldn’t get shook, but it happens. He was in shape for the match, but his body wasn’t ready for the trauma and still doesn’t know what caused the concussion. He says it ate him up a while and it became personal that he wasn’t going to end his career that way.

-Austin brings up their match at SummerSlam in the Garden where he got a concussion only 2 minutes into the match. He is still irritated to this day that he couldn’t give Taker his best that night. Taker tells him that things happen and he shouldn’t feel bad. He again says he doesn’t blame Brock and says this isn’t ballet.

-Austin says that maybe he could be around wrestling still too had they had the information people do now with training and nutrition. Taker says he has only come across one person who has had peace with his decision to leave and it was Shawn. He thinks it may have been a blessing for Steve as he didn’t have to make the decision. He says Steve was smart enough to know the long term effects. Taker says they are days he feels great, but other days are bad. It becomes dangerous where you try to work with fear. Austin says he didn’t deal with that in a real good fashion. Taker says that each time he goes out it’s just for that one time in his mind. He brings up the match with Goldberg at Saudi Arabia and Steve says it was a tough day at the office.

-We don’t get much more on the match, other than Taker saying pride is a son of a bitch as he wasn’t going out on that note. He jokes he has retired 15 times as he tells his wife he is done after each match and she just rolls her eyes at him. He says what gets him is when people tell him what he needs to do. If someone comes to him and says that it’s time it better be someone like Steve, Shawn, or HHH who he respects. He knows they would come and tell him, but he knows that puts them in a tough spot as who is going to tell The Undertaker it’s time to hang it up.

-Steve wants to talk about legacy for guy that was told that nobody was ever going to pay to see him. He talks about the great times and brings up the boxing documentary “We Were Kings” and that’s what he thinks about the time they all had. The start showing photos on the screen and Austin and Taker have a stroll down memory line.

-Before they go, Austin says he has a long standing apology for Taker. They show footage of them doing a match in England and Austin’s brace nearly cuts Taker’s ear off his head. Taker says he doesn’t need to apologize to him and needs to apologize to Kurt Angle. Austin knows that story as they had to get out of the building and had to take a quick shower basically in a sink. They had to jump on a plane and while Austin is drinking, he doesn’t realize Taker is passing in and out. This is the infamous Plane Ride from Hell where Michael Hayes had his pony tail cut off. Angle and Vince are have a wresting match and Taker wakes up, not knowing what is happening, and sees Kurt taking Vince down. He jumped on Kurt and puts him in a sugar hold. The boys had to let him know that they were playing around. They then joke about throwing potatoes at each other and Austin talks about how he made it a goal to make Taker break character during a show. They were at a soccer stadium in Kuwait and there are only 800 people in a 40,000 seat stadium. The match was a battle royal and they performed a 8 man headlock chain and it all went down hill from there. Austin broke out in a fit of giggles and Taker was next to him and did all he could, but started laughing, Austin talked Aldo Montoya into getting into the ring and getting in on the headlock chain and instead of putting the last guy in the headlock, he went to the other end and let the last guy put him in a headlock.  Fantastic!

-We jump to video of guys trying to break Taker from character. First is JBL after a show cutting a promo and Taker says he was biting his lip. Next is before Invasion 2001 and Vince is giving a pep talk with Austin being his hype man and you can see Taker nearly break because of what Austin is doing. Next is Booker T calling for Taker to do the Undertaker-rooni. Taker says he wasn’t hot, but all he could think was how he was going to get out of it. He talks to the camera and tells Vince he wants to know who put Booker up to this and he better get out here as he isn’t doing it. Sure enough Vince does come out and Taker nearly cracks a smile. The crowd chants for Vince and we get a McMahon-arooni and it is glorious. Taker says that was only part of it as they kept sending guys out and Taker was able to sneak out. Vince sent Show to go get him, but it wasn’t happening. They continue to remember times Steve tried to break him and Steve talks about painting eyes on his hand and telling Taker to look into his eyes. These guys are just having a blast.

-Steve wraps things up and knows they barely touched the surface on his career and thinks they need another session together. Taker talks about how amazing it is that 2 rednecks from Texas are sitting in a TV studio like this. They take one shot for the road and reference George Strait as they close.

-This absolutely fantastic and flew by even with it being nearly an hour and 40 minutes. As Austin mentioned there is so much they left out and I hope we do get another episode. Taker was great here and hearing about the things he has struggled with as far as when to end his career are fascinating. The same with him talking about how he had to slow things down when he was figuring out the Taker character. The closing sequence with them cutting loose with the stories of Austin trying to break Taker were insanely awesome and I want more. Take the time to check this show out and this series is going to be a great one that I hope sticks around for a while.

-As always thanks for reading and join me Tuesday for WWE Backstage.