May 21, 2005
Austin tackles a new genreNew movie star Stone Cold will return for the right match
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin didn't care if we talked about the flick.
"Oh hell, we can talk about anything you want," he said. "I've never cared about hurting anyone's feelings, so I'll just tell it the way it is."
In his own inimitable way, Austin had just given permission for our interview to stray from the designated topics of conversation -- in this case, his upcoming movie debut in The Longest Yard -- and onto his turbulent relationship with WWE boss Vince McMahon.
Although Austin and McMahon are on good terms today, things weren't so cordial a year ago. The pair were deadlocked in a legal battle over the rights to the Stone Cold stage name.
Austin wanted to use the name for outside business ventures but since WWE owns the moniker, a stalemate ensued.
Austin wound up quitting over the dispute but, in hindsight, he admits it shouldn't have been that big a deal.
"I have a 10-year body of work as Stone Cold and when people see my face, they know who I am," he said.
"At the end of the day, I realized it doesn't matter who owns the name on paper. Vince and I have our ups and downs but we always get things settled. I recently signed a three-year deal with WWE."
The new deal involves an extended line of merchandise and some guest refereeing spots on WWE's European tour. But the real question is whether the semi-retired Rattlesnake will agree to wrestle again.
"It'd have to be a super big match with the right person," Austin said.
"But I don't think the right person is there right now. I'm not trying to sound stuck up but guys would have to elevate themselves to where it feels like a money match for me to want to get back in the ring. Hulk Hogan keeps throwing my name out there and I'd definitely entertain doing a match with that guy."
For Austin to be mulling over potential opponents is a miracle in itself. After 15 years of ring abuse and what should have been a career-ending neck injury, many insiders thought Austin would never be able to set foot in a wrestling ring again.
The Rattlesnake, however, insists he's ready to rumble when the time is right.
"I'm solid and I feel good. I'm in the gym for about an hour- and-a-half every single day. Really, there's nothing holding me back except for the fact the movie stuff is where I need to concentrate most of my focus."
The 'movie stuff' begins next weekend with the release of The Longest Yard, a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds flick in which Austin plays an evil prison guard who takes on the inmates in a wild football game.
"I'm excited about getting this kickstart with The Longest Yard," Austin said.
"A lot of people in Hollywood don't realize what wrestlers bring to the table. They write us off and discount all the box- office records that have been shattered, all the sold-out arenas around the world.
"In this case, everybody was real cool. That was one of things that made this movie so fun. Adam Sandler is a big wrestling fan, so is Chris Rock. The set was so relaxed and everybody checked the egos at the door."
And so, Austin's ascent to the silver screen begins, with the hope it will follow the trajectory of The Rock's career rather than Hulk Hogan's. But no matter what happens in Hollywood, Austin insists his heart will always lie in the squared circle.
"As a life plan, it makes more sense for me to pursue movies but I'll always have some type of anchors in the WWE. I worked way too hard to get that fan base, so I want to build an even bigger fan base from the film stuff."
The Longest Yard opens May 27.
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