By David Fong
TROY — Ken Battiston used to fight for his right to watch “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on television.
Never did the Milton-Union High School graduate and Troy resident think he’d get to meet the former World Wrestling Entertainment heavyweight champion in person … until recently.
“When I was growing up, he was at the height of his popularity — it was incredible,” Battiston said of Austin. “He was someone I always watched on TV. I remember I would have to argue with my mom to let me stay up late and watch. I mean, he was the guy.”
Austin has long since retired from the world of professional wrestling, but he now hosts “Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge,” a reality television competition show that pits eight contestants against one another in a series of physical elimination challenges. Battiston will be one of the contestants on the next episode, which is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. Tuesday on CMT.
Of course, physical challenges are pretty much nothing new for Battiston, who excelled in three sports — football, basketball and baseball — in high school. Following his graduation from Milton-Union, Battiston would go on to play baseball at Eastern Michigan University and majoring in exercise science.
Soon after graduating from Eastern Michigan, Battiston fell in love with the sport of CrossFit.
“I felt like I was back on a team again,” Battiston said of his CrossFit participation. “I didn’t feel like I always belonged when I was working out all by myself. When I started CrossFit, I instantly had teammates again. When you are exercising with them, you are still trying to beat the other person next to you, but you are also on the same team.”
Battiston would go on to become a CrossFit competitor, earning national and world rankings. He also would become the owner of his own gym, CrossFit Skyfal in Springboro.
Still, though, he never thought any of that would lead him to “The Texas Rattlesnake’s” television show.
“I had seen it on TV and my wife kept telling me I should sign up,” Battiston said. “I said, ‘I don’t know …’ and fought it off for awhile. Eventually I decided to go ahead and apply.”
Last summer, Battiston filled out an online application and submitted photos of himself. Soon after, he was contacted by the casting agency for the show and had to go through a series of telephone and Skype interviews.
“They are trying to get a feel for you and want you to show your personality,” Battiston said. “They help you out and coach you up. Not a lot of people are used to going on TV and they don’t want someone boring going on the show.”
Once that process was finished, Battiston had to fill out more paperwork and was sent a plane ticket to Los Angeles to film the show. It was there he got to meet Austin.
“I think he’s really genuine,” Battiston said of the former pro wrestling superstar. “What you see is what you get with him. He talked to us all and told us, ‘I’m here for you guys.’ The stuff he said during the events was more scripted, but when he talked to us off the camera, he was really cool.”
His episode was filmed months ago, but by contract, Battiston is not allowed to talk about how he did until after tomorrow’s airing. He said plenty of his friends and family members have been asking — but will have to watch Tuesday along with everyone else.
“People seem pretty excited,” he said. “Every day I go into the gym, someone asks me how I did. I think my family, in general, is pretty excited.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong