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STEVE AUSTIN-WRESTLEMANIA UPDATE

By Mike Johnson on 2022-02-14 22:19:00

For those asking about the stories making the rounds this evening about WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin potentially wrestling at Wrestlemania 38 this April, there is some truth to the story in that WWE reached out to Austin in late December/early January to gauge his interest in doing something at the show.   

However, in the weeks that followed there had been zero confirmation within WWE from any source that Austin agreed to physically wrestle at Wrestlemania 38.   The idea pitched (at the time) was to have Austin return and compete in Texas as a one-time sendoff in front of a massive crowd with the idea that Austin's involvement would help boost Wrestlemania ticket sales as the company needs to move in the area of 200,000 tickets to sell out both nights at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Even if he doesn't wrestle, WWE has always planned and intended for Austin to be part of Wrestlemania in some fashion  He was part of the initial announcement that aired last year at Wrestlemania 37 to push this year's event in Arlington, Texas and was featured on the Wrestlemania commercial that aired over the weekend during the Superbowl, as was The Rock.

The Austin-Wrestlemania involvement was initially reported tonight by Fightful.com.  PWInsider.com initially heard about the idea of Austin doing something back in early January, but at the time, it was described to PWInsider.com by one company source as a "Hail Mary idea" but the source did not know whether anything would pan out beyond that the idea had been tossed at Austin.  The source at the time hoped a storyline would kick off at the Royal Rumble, which obviously did not happen.  At the time, PWInsider.com was unable to confirm with other sources that Austin was intending to wrestle or even considering the pitch and with only one source, felt there was not enough to go forward with reporting what could have just been a rumor being tossed around internally.

PWInsider.com is told that as of today, Austin still has yet to commit to wrestling.

Austin retired at Wrestlemania XIX on 3/30/03, losing to The Rock in the third and final match of their Wrestlemania trilogy of bouts in Seattle, Washington.  Only a small select group knew the historical significance of the match at the time.  Austin did not officially announce his retirement until some time later when he was announced as taking over the on-air Raw General Manager role.

"In this business, I've learned never say never, " Austin told WWE.com on 4/28/03 in an article revealing his retirement decision.  "But I would say probably 99.9 percent out of 100 that you'll never see Rock and Stone Cold in the ring again.....I'm not wrestling anymore. That was my last match."

At the time, Austin cited his long-time neck problems as the reason for the retirement, commenting, "I've got some serious problems in my neck. It's too long and too complicated to discuss. But a lot of the reasons I walked out of this company seven or eight months ago [when he was slated to wrestle Brock Lesnar on Raw] were things I didn't want to talk about at the time because we had WrestleMania coming up. The biggest reason I walked away was because my health is going downhill so badly, and I can't compete at an acceptable level to me, and at a risk factor that's high enough to me. Everything I do in that ring is very dangerous and makes me go even further downhill. It's potentially something where I could end up being a quadriplegic. That was the biggest reason I walked out. The creative and the political issues were just icing on the cake -- the straw that broke the camel's back."

Even back when making his retirement announcement in 2003, Austin stated that while he would not rule out the possibility of a match down the line, the condition of his neck at the time wasn't going to allow that and he doesn't want to work below the level of what is expected of him.

"I refuse to go out there anymore, perform at a substandard level and have people judge me on what I'm putting out right now. I had a hell of a run. I'm completely satisfied with it," Austin told the WWE website at the time.

WWE did have plans for Austin to return at the Taboo Tuesday 2005 PPV to wrestle former WWE personality Jonathan Coachman.  Austin shot the idea down and instead plans were changed with Dave Bautista in the role.  

During the Steve Austin A&E Biography documentary that debuted last year, Austin noted that - at the time of the Biography interview, which was filmed in 2020- despite all that he's put his body through, physically he feels fine and had fun performing but, "wants to sit back in his chair."   Back in 2018, Austin noted on his podcast that another reason he didn't want to return is that he didn't want to come back and have his age be part of the discussion among fans, wanting instead for fans to focus on what he was able to do in the ring.  

Over the last two weeks, one potential opponent that could be seen as teased for Austin is Kevin Owens, which makes for an easy "battle of the stunners" promotional tact.  Owens claims last week on Raw that he loved Texas when it was teased that he could be "out of Wrestlemania" if he didn't win the Elimination Chamber.  This week, Owens admitted he didn't like Texas and cut a promo on it, potentially setting the stage for issues between he and Austin.    In the aforementioned Austin Biography on A&E, Owens was among those interviewed about Austin's legacy, noting that Austin's work cast a giant shadow on today's modern day talents because his heights took place during the hottest period in the history of professional wrestling, so no matter how hard today's talents may work or pull out amazing things, the bar was set so high during Austin's era that it's hard to stand up to the legacy of what came before.  So, if WWE wanted, they could pull from that documentary to add some backstory.

Austin is in the top 1% of all-time professional wrestling performers and one of the most important figures in WWE history as his rise to antihero babyface in 1997 and 1998 literally turned the trajectory of the company around from near-doom to uber-successful.  On Austin's back, The Attitude Era version of WWE became the hottest the company had ever been at the time, setting the stage for lots of other massive stars to be made including The Rock, the company going public and later scoring massive television rights fees.  All of those ripples, even today, can be traced back to Austin's initial WWE run once his Ringmaster persona was replaced with the Stone Cold Steve Austin character.

Austin continues to film episodes of the Broken Skull Sessions for WWE Network, with a new one featuring Ron Simmons debuting this weekend.  Austin is slated to film additional episodes at the end of February in Nevada.

Obviously, there would never be better timing for an Austin comeback match, both in terms of the location being that Wrestlemania 38 is in his home State of Texas and in WWE needing a major, unique attraction for the show.  Each of the Wrestlemania 38 main events as they currently stand are rivalries that have been seen before in WWE storylines.  Plus, Austin has a long history with the Dallas market as that is where he first trained to become a pro wrestler under the late Chris Adams before debuting in the now-sadly demolished Sportatorium.

Austin appeared at Wrestlemania 32 when it was held in Arlington in 2016, coming out with Mick Foley and Shawn Michaels to clear the ring of the League of Nations after they had defeated The New Day.  Austin then drilled Xavier Woods of the New Day with a Stunner when he tried to get Austin and the others to dance with New Day.

WWE has not and obviously will not comment.

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