Steve Austin goes off-roading over sand dunes
Steve Austin tries out a flight simulator
My Seven Shows: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin
The WWE icon and host of A&E's Stone Cold Takes on America shares his top TV shows.
What's retirement like for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin? Picture, if you will, the dominating professional wrestler and his wife, Kristin, on their tranquil northern Nevada ranch riding their horses and tending to their animals. Come nighttime, they settle in and catch up on exactly one episode of television — most recently The Night Agent on Netflix. In other words, life is good.
And yet, Austin couldn't say no to hitting the road for a new risk-taking adventure series. In Stone Cold Takes on America, premiering April 30 on A&E, the WWE icon crisscrosses the country in his RV and accepts challenges from fans in a bid to make up for lost time. "We did things on my bucket list that I never had the wherewithal to pursue," says Austin, who left the ring for good in 2022 after a thirty-plus-year career. "It was a heck of a lot of work."
In his thick Texas drawl, Austin details his nerves operating a helicopter for the first time. "The wind is blowing and you're disoriented and you have to use so much hand-eye coordination, so it's a very daunting task," he says. When he rode a dune buggy up and down the side of a sand mountain, "I wanted to go all out and do well for television, but I also didn't want to make a crazy mistake." But he jokes that the "fish out of water" activities, like manning a drive-through window, were the most stress-inducing: "I've been going to restaurants all my life but never knew how hard taking an order could be!"
And while his body-slamming talents didn't help him under the circumstances — much to the relief of those hungry customers — Austin said he did draw on his history as a brash performer and referee when he was in front of the cameras. "I know how to take people for a ride," he says. "Trying to elicit a response from a crowd makes you a well-rounded entertainer. You hand me a microphone, and I will survive."
As a viewer, Austin says he was enthralled by a dozen TV series — including The Andy Griffith Show, The Dukes of Hazzard and The A-Team. "They were so important to me growing up," he says. He got the job done and narrowed the list down to seven for Emmys.com.
• Leave It to Beaver (CBS, 1957–63)
Golly, wow. It was just something I had to watch as a kid every single week. You had Ward [Hugh Beaumont], June [Barbara Billingsley] was so classy, Wally [Tony Dow] was a consummate older brother and Eddie Haskell [Ken Osmond] was the fun troublemaker always getting into something. I look back on it fondly. Would it hold up today? I don't know.
• Gilligan's Island (CBS, 1964–67)
The premise of all these guys stranded on an island was out there, but I bought it hook, line and sinker. And Bob Denver as Gilligan was awesome! I loved the one where a bunch of [radioactive] vegetables washed onto shore ["Pass the Vegetables, Please" from 1966]. Mary Ann [Dawn Wells] eats the carrots and can see a ship far out on the horizon but nobody else can. And Mrs. Howell [Natalie Schafer] eats the beets and is running around with a burst of energy! It's a trademark episode.
• The Six Million Dollar Man (ABC, 1974–78)
The great thing about the Six Million Dollar Man was that he was just a normal guy who had the bionics, so it wasn't about him being all jacked-up and muscular. If he had real physical stature, it wouldn't have worked. And Lee Majors pulled it off. I'll tell you a story: When I got into wrestling in 1990, my real name was Steve Williams. But I couldn't use it because there was already a guy with that same name. This guy in the business was like, "Okay, your name is going to be Steve Austin." But I didn't want to be Steve Austin because I had so much respect for the Six Million Dollar Man, and that name had already been done. Many years later, I was in Toronto, and Lee Majors happened to be there promoting a project. He asked if his series had any implication on my name. I thought it was the greatest compliment in the world that he knew who I was.
• Laverne & Shirley (ABC, 1976–83)
It was just two extremely funny and charismatic women [Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams] who worked in a Milwaukee brewery. Or whatever it was! The comedic timing and the writing of the show were great. If you were alive back then, you had to watch it because these two characters just resonated with you. And if you watched Laverne & Shirley, of course you had to watch Happy Days, too, because Henry Winkler as "The Fonz" was the coolest. On one night, you had a big slice of Americana.
• Three's Company (ABC, 1977–84)
Oh, man. John Ritter. And what was the name of the female roommate? Janet! [Joyce DeWitt]. And I loved Mr. Roper [Norman Fell]. That guy had such deadpan timing every time he had a line. And when he didn't have a line, he would just sneer at John Ritter [Jack], who was spectacular. And, of course, everybody was in love with Suzanne Somers [who played third roommate Chrissy]. It was just a really fun watch.
• WWE Monday Night Raw (USA, 1993–)
This show was a big part of my life because I got to be a part of it almost from the inception. And even when I wasn't on it, I'd make a point of watching it. This is live TV! I don't think people understand what goes into the production. And the reason why it's been so successful is because of the extremely talented people out there working in front of a live crowd and hitting the time cues for all the commercial breaks. There's a lot that could go wrong, and you have to work with precision. It's a challenge.
• Yellowstone (Paramount Network, 2018–)
You've got all these guys fighting for control of a ranch with storylines that are a little over-the-top. The main character [John Dutton] has a helicopter and a truck — like he's barely making it, but he's really rich as well! Cole Hauser as Rip is amazing. And Beth [Kelly Reilly] is this strong, strong character who will do anything to protect her father's interest. She's very calculating and just a renegade. Then you bring in Kevin Costner as John, and you can't help but get behind this family and their way of life.