Absence makes the heart grow fonder? Hmm, such is not the case when NBC’s ‘Chuck’ gets hit with two nasty blasts from the past this Monday at 8/7c.
Not only does a plot twist deposit Sarah’s high school nemesis turned enemy spy, Heather Chandler (played by Nicole Richie), back in her life, beefy bruiser Hugo Panzer returns to torment Chuck (Zachary Levi).
Former wrestling superstar Steve Austin first guested as Hugo in January, when the Ring goon and Chuck engaged in an airplane cargo area throwdown. Panzer had his pants kicked then, but now he’s back for “more mischief,” Austin tells Fancast. “Revenge seems to be his M.O., and this time he thinks he’s going to kill Chuck.”
Having ruled the wrestling ring under his “Ringmaster,” “Rattlesnake” and “Stone Cold” monikers for many a year, Austin says that on ‘Chuck’ he’ll occasionally “put my two cents in” when it comes to plotting punches. “But they’ve got some pretty great stunt people on that show,” he notes, “so I pretty much just leave it to the experts.”
From experts to ‘The Expendables,’ we asked Austin about being a part of one of this summer’s biggest big-screen hits. He says that he was home in Texas when the action flick’s literally and figuratively beefy cast started coming together. Once back in L.A., he took a meeting with writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone, and they hit it off.
“I learned a lot working with that guy,” Austin shares. “He is smart, always thinking and reading about this, that, whatever. And that impressed me.”
Meanwhile, Eric Roberts, with whom he shared most his scenes, “is so damn funny,” Austin reports. “We’d sit around and laugh our asses off.”
One arena you won’t see Austin gracing any time soon is his original stomping ground. Though the WWE’s ‘Raw’ series teased his return (by playing ‘Stone Cold’s theme music) at an August match, Austin has no plans at this time to reenter that world.
“I love that company and I loved my career in the WWE, but the climate has changed,” the six-time world champion laments. “I was a very edgy act, and I enjoyed being that edgy act, so to have to rein it in and not go into my well of tricks or words…. It’s all so different now.”
Raised in South Texas, Austin says he grew up watching Houston Wrestling at the Houston Coliseum, where the legendary Paul Boesch was the promoter and the arena was filled with smoke and only the dimmest of lighting around the ring.
“I fell in love with the business, and god dang, it’s changed so much,” he notes. The WWE is now “sports entertainment – the business has come out of the closet, so to speak – and like football, it’s gotten faster. I remember back in the mid-’80s when I would watch the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) and the TV matches would last forever. These days it’s bing-bang-boom, commercial break, you come back hot-n-heavy, and then all of a sudden the match is over.”
Austin prefers a time when “it wasn’t such a hurried pace,” when pro wrestling would plot and present protracted storylines rife with on- and off-the-mat rivalries, feuds and ever-changing alliances.
“It’s hard to tell those kinds of stories anymore,” he says. “I liked it when it was a little slower-paced.”