“Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner has never been one to hold back when he’s asked for his opinion on something or someone. During a telephone interview on Wednesday, Steiner discussed his stints in WWE and WCW, his near-death experience in Puerto Rico last year and what he thinks about Ric Flair, Triple H and Shawn Michaels.
Steiner will participate in a three-way match against TNA world champion Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle in the main event of the Sacrifice pay-per-view Sunday.
You’ve had your share of injuries over the years. How are you feeling physically these days?
For the most part I feel pretty good. I’m starting to get back in pretty good shape, [but] not as great as I was at one time. I think ever since I had the accident in Puerto Rico, there was so much trauma to my body that I haven’t really been able to get as lean as I’d like. But it’s starting to come around. There was just so much swelling that it was hard to come back from. And there’s still a little bit of pain. My muscle back there doesn’t work entirely correctly because my lat was sliced in half. Other than that, I feel pretty good.
You were talking about the serious trachea injury you suffered in Puerto Rico. Can you take us through that whole experience?
I didn’t realize there was a big problem until later on that night. I got kicked pretty hard in the throat, but I finished the match. I felt like there was bleeding back there, but the EMTs at the building said there was nothing wrong. I actually went back to the hotel. My throat was hurting pretty bad, but I just thought it was swelled up, so I tried to eat some ice cream to bring down the swelling back there, but it didn’t help. Then I tried eating, and I couldn’t eat because it was just so painful for the food to go down. Then I went back up to my hotel room and stayed there for about an hour or so, and then I felt my lungs starting to get heavy and I was having cold chills. Then I started spitting up blood. That’s when I called the ambulance, and they rushed me to the hospital, which was an experience.
I’ve been to jail before, and it was like the gates of the jail at the hospital. There were 20-foot high steel gates and there were armed guards outside the hospital. The opened the door, which creaked, and then they slammed it shut. I walked in there, and there was literally people lined up, bleeding, screaming down the corridors. Nobody was speaking English, and it was kind of freaky. I was actually at the same hospital where Bruiser Brody died. So, I was kind of freaked out. I called a couple of my buddies because I wanted to get out of there. I came in and they took some scans, made me drink some stuff to see what the damage was. That was brutal trying to drink that stuff. They finally found that I did have a torn trachea. The bad part about it was that it was torn in my chest. They told me I had five hours to live. The air that was supposed to be going into my lungs was now going into my skin. That turns poisonous and then you die. I still didn’t really want to believe them. My buddy owns a private jet, and he was going to fly it down. They kind of sensed that I wanted to get out of there. Thank God that didn’t happen, because my lung would have collapsed and they couldn’t have saved me because the trachea was torn. They put me on some sedatives and kind of calmed me down. I was still fighting it and trying to get out of there, because I didn’t want to have surgery in Puerto Rico. Finally, a Puerto Rican doctor came in and calmed me a little bit, but he still sensed that I wanted to leave so he put me under.
The next time I woke up – I had been in an induced coma for two days because the pain would have been so bad – I felt like I was choking. It felt like I was going to drown because I couldn’t get any air. They pulled the ventilator out of my throat and I woke up. They told me they cut through my lat, basically split my ribs in half, and then cut through my lung, sewed my trachea up. Then they put a tube in my lung to drain for two weeks. I just swelled up. I looked brutal, like a 300-pound fat guy. It was the most swelling I ever experienced. I still couldn’t fly, so I had to take a cruise ship home. I went to get on the cruise ship – and no cruise ship. A guy jumped off and committed suicide, so the FBI boarded the ship and had to circle for like 17 hours. So I had to wait an extra day in Puerto Rico, got on a cruise ship, and it took me another week to get home. I took my tour bus back up to where I live, and I tried to recover. I still kind of worried, so I went to a doctor to see if they did everything right, and the doctor shook my hand and said, “You’re lucky to be here. Those doctors saved your life.” That will mess with your mind. I was kind of messed up for three or four months, knowing that I could have been dead.
Has a brush with death changed your outlook on life at all?
Yeah, a little bit. The thing that really messed me up was that one of my best friends had died a month earlier. Life isn’t fair. It definitely makes you look at things a little bit differently. I think I’m pretty much over the fact that I could have been dead, and physically I’m almost there.
Does that whole experience make you never want to go back to Puerto Rico?
Oh, no. The Puerto Rican people and the doctors were great. The nurses were fantastic. Other than the language barrier, they were nice. Here’s one funny story. I told you that I swelled up real bad – and my [testicles] swelled up really bad. I literally had to carry them in my hand to go to the bathroom. Some of the nurses weren’t so easy to look at, but one day, one of the most beautiful nurses I have ever seen walked in. I got up from my wheelchair and turned around, and she was beautiful. I dropped my drawers and I said, “Are my [testicles] supposed to be this big?” She ran out of the room and I never saw her again (laughs).
Switching gears a bit, why do you think your WWE run from several years ago wasn’t as successful as it could have been?
Well, if you look back, everyone from WCW got treated like [garbage], from Goldberg, to Kevin Nash, to Scott Hall. You have to remember – you were there – we beat WWE for 82 weeks straight, and Vince [McMahon] obviously took that personally, so he wanted to bring everyone in that was on top in WCW and bury them. Kevin Nash is supposed to be the best friend of Triple H, but he got the same thing. He won the first title match [against Triple H] by DQ and then lost the second one. I can’t really take it that personally because [Tripe H] treated supposedly his best friend the same way. I’ll tell you right now: People up there are miserable. Both times that I went up there, it was the most screwed-up place I’ve ever been.
Worse than WCW was screwed up?
Oh, my God, it’s not even close. You got Triple H, who’s [sleeping with] the boss’ daughter. She thinks she’s the greatest and he’s the greatest. He’s in the production meetings and the booking meetings. You mark my words: He will break Ric Flair’s record for world championships, because they’re both cut from the same mold – they’re both marks for the belt. It will happen. And it’s bull. I think [The Wrestling Observer’s Dave] Meltzer wrote that every time [Triple H] is the champion, ratings go down, pay-per-view buys go down – it’s a fact. But that’s what happens when you’re [sleeping with] the boss’ daughter. That’s the one thing that was worse going up there the second time – she was involved. And the only reason she’s involved is because she was part of the lucky sperm club. That’s her only qualification.
Scott, please stop sugarcoating it and tell me how you really feel.
(Laughs). There are other people that felt the same way.
Was a run as world champion ever discussed when you went to WWE?
Oh, no. I was there for the same [expletive] that Goldberg and Kevin Nash were.
So did you know that going in?
No, actually I did not expect that. I really didn’t think Vince was that stupid to buy out the competition and then bury it. How stupid is that? That’s his ego. He wanted to own the wrestling world. Well, now he has it and look how it’s done. Ratings are worse than they’ve ever been. They’ll never come back because there’s no competition. I hope TNA becomes a viable contender. If things work out the way it happened with WCW, where finally we went head-to-head live, there’s a possibility it can happen. Trust me, people want to jump. I’m not the only one that sees that Triple H is a [jerk]. If they can jump to a better situation, they will.
You mentioned WCW, and you and I were both there when the doors closed. How did the company go from being so successful to going out of business in such a short time, and who should take the most blame for it?
The people that are the most to blame are the higher-ups in TBS. They despised professional wrestling even though we outdrew basketball, baseball – even when the Braves were in the World Series. And then to sell it for $2.5 million? That’s ridiculous. That right there shows you it was a [screwed] up situation. Everybody wants to blame Eric Bischoff, and they don’t know what they’re talking about. Eric Bischoff was one of the best things to happen to WCW because he brought the pay scale up and he wanted to get rid of the old [expletive] that was going on in WCW. Unfortunately, he didn’t want anything to do with the booking. I had a number of talks with Eric where he said, “Man, I need to find some different bookers. Where do I go?” It was hard to find.
You’ve been very critical of Ric Flair in the past. What are your thoughts on his retirement, his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame and his career overall?
I thought it was a joke how many times he cried. Remember the nWo skit when X-Pac was supposed to be Ric Flair, and every time they asked him a question tears would come down his face because he had a pump of water under his arm pit? Now that comes into play as far as what Ric Flair was like behind closed doors backstage. He was a crybaby. He was a little [wuss], man. And for him to do it during the match and then at the induction ceremony, come on, man. Are you kidding me? That’s the way Ric Flair was.
OK, I’m going to play devil’s advocate. Didn’t I see you cry on TV once?
Yeah, but that was for an angle that I did later on that night, and everybody knew I was faking.
I know. I’m just kidding.
He was doing it because he’s a mark, man. It was unbelievable. That’s how he was in real life. Here’s another story: Ric Flair thought his big Four Horsemen were going to come back again. So, [Curt] Hennig was going to join them, and we were going to wrestle them at a pay-per-view in a cage and it was going to be the Four Horsemen’s triumphant return. But Hennig was going to turn and join the nWo. When they told Ric Flair the finish, his eyes started welling up, and we had to leave the room because we started laughing. We were like, “Look at that little piece of [garbage]. He’s [freaking] crying. I’m not the only one who has that view on Flair. If you talk to Bret Hart, he’ll say the same thing about Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels and Triple H. They're all pieces of [garbage], man.
My first two months in the business was my first indication that Ric Flair was a piece of [garbage]. I broke in with Dick The Bruiser, and I was going to go down to the NWA for a tryout. I told Dick, and he said, “As soon as you get there, you drop your bags in front of Ric Flair and you tell him to carry your bags and you tell him I said so.” I said, “OK, I’ll do it.” I didn’t know anything about ribs back then. On the way home I was riding with “Bulldog” Don Kent, and he said, “No, you can’t do that.” But Dick The Bruiser had no respect for him. He said that’s how he got in the business – carrying guys’ bags. Look at Bruno Sammartino – he has zero respect for Flair. Ole Anderson once slapped David Flair and said, “I’ve got more for your dad if he wants some.” Flair had so much heat with the guys he wrestled with – he had zero respect.
I don’t know if you saw Flair’s farewell address on Raw, but everyone on the roster came out and it sure seemed like they all had a lot of respect for him.
Kevin, it’s written in the show. They have to show up. It’s just like if they tell you to go out there and do a match. They had to go out there and pretend like they respect the guy. The only guys that do are Triple H and Shawn Michaels. They’re three peas in a pod – three guys who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag. They’re three of the biggest [wusses] that have ever been in the sport. And they’re all friends – imagine that. They all come from the same mold. They were never athletes and the way they got things done was behind closed doors and backstabbing people.
You’re really going to love it when I tell you this: I’m a big Shawn Michaels fan.
Well, I guess if you like to look at gay magazines that he’s posed in and watch him dance around in chaps like one of the Village People or a Chippendale, if you’re a fan, more power to you, baby. Personally, I think he’s a [freaking homosexual].
Well, all right then. Let’s move on. After some bad experiences in WWE and WCW, is wrestling fun again for you now that you’re in TNA?
Yeah. When I left I WWE, I had surgery on my foot. I had drop foot, where my foot was totally paralyzed. I had a tendon transfer and got nine screws in my foot. They broke my foot, took a bone graph from my hip and put it in my foot and put a plate in there. So, now my foot is not 100 percent, but it works, so I can wrestle a lot better than I did.
People were quick to criticize you when you were in WWE and say that you had lost it, but you were in constant pain your whole time there, right?
That’s why I really didn’t care a whole lot up there. When your mind is concentrating on pain 24 hours a day, which I was – I’d like anybody to try and wrestle with one foot. If I moved my foot it would just flop uncontrollably. I had total paralysis down there. And it causes pain up your legs and in your hips. It was hard. I was actually going to retire; I did not want to go up [to WWE]. But they offered me more money than I was asking for, so I took it, thinking that they would want to do business. Shoot, they paid Bill Goldberg more than they paid me just to bury him, too. It made zero sense whatsoever.
Speaking of Goldberg in WWE, there was an infamous segment in which they put a blonde wig on his head. If they had come to you with that blonde wig, what would you have done?
Yeah, I’d have told then to [expletive]. That was one of the first things that Bill did up there. I said, “Bill, that’s brutal. Why’d you do it?” He said, “Oh, they want to expand my character.” But that’s the way that politics work up there. They aren’t trying to expand his character; they’re burying him. But when you first get up there, you don’t think it’s going to happen because you figure they want to do business.
What was it like to team with your brother Rick again last year in TNA?
Oh, it was great. The fans wanted it. The only reason that we went into singles competition was because, as a tag team, we had defeated everybody, we had wrestled everybody. When went up to WWE, we beat everybody. There were no more mountains to climb. That’s when my career took off in a different direction – that’s when I became “Big Poppa Pump.” I’m glad it happened, but when we got back together, people loved to see it. It was good.
You mentioned that you considered retirement several years ago. How many more years do you see yourself wrestling, and what will you do after your career is over?
It’s hard to say. I’ve prepared from Day 1 to get out of the business, and now that it’s so close for me retiring, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But as long as they want to pay you and keep you around, I hope I can go on long enough to where we start challenging WWE for ratings, one-one-one live. Yeah, [retirement] is close, and I have no idea what I’ll do to fulfill that void. When you do something as long as I have, you obviously love the sport – although not everything about the sport. It will be tough to replace that high that you get because you like to perform and give the fans what they want, or in my case, make the fans hate you. I’ve got a couple options, but I don’t think anything is going to replace wrestling.
You’re wrestling in the main event of the Sacrifice pay-per-view Sunday against Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle. What can fans expect from that match?
A lot of brutality. Everybody knows Kurt Angle. Everybody knows me. Everybody’s getting to know Joe. He’s one of those guys that fans are behind. He has some interesting aspects to his game that Kurt and I don’t have. I think it’s going to be a great match. We’re going to try to put on the best show possible.