The WrestleMania rumour mill is already in full flow and after the latest Stone Cold Podcast featuring Paul Heyman, a return for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is being speculated. At the end of the interview Heyman turned the tables on Austin and asked him about the possibility of "The Rattlesnake" facing "The Beast" in a dream-match at next years WrestleMania which you can see here.
Steve Austin is undoubtedly one of the greatest WWE superstars of all time and it is hard to argue against him being the greatest. The figurehead of the legendary "Attitude Era" he changed the face of the industry forever and took professional wrestling to new heights of success that were unthinkable a few years before. The guy was "money" and at his Hall Of Fame induction WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon did indeed declare him to be the greatest.
I can see why some people would like to see him back in the ring as he was so massively popular and he was a big part of people's lives. He was an inspiration to all the working-class guys who wanted to tell their boss what they really thought and he was idolised by those younger for his never-say-die attitude and ability to keep coming back and defying the odds no matter what the bad guys threw at him. His promos were always great and before injuries began to take their toll and he adapted to a "bar-room brawler" style he was an extremely talented and underrated technical wrestler.
"Stone Cold" has done it all and has nothing left to prove, so why would he come back now after all this time and risk his health for one more match? Austin was wrestling against doctors orders before his retirement in 2003 and the severity of the long term damage done by his previous injuries cannot be underestimated. A badly executed move could have resulted in disability or even worse death. The man himself has been asked many times about the likelihood of a return and gave the following comment early last year:
"Remember that WWF Attitude promo they did with me saying, “When the glass music hits, I may as well be a junkie, because I’m addicted”? Well, I meant it, and I miss what I did every day. So, yeah, I think about coming back all the time. But the time for any kind of in-ring return came and went three or four years ago. There were talks, but I said right from the start that I needed the right opponent and the right angle to get ‘Stone Cold’ coming back to make sense. And I, Steve Williams, needed four-to-six months to get my ass in shape, so I looked like ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin again. Those things [were never met], so it never happened."
He was asked again by WWE.COM right at the end of last year and the response was even more emphatic after he was asked "is there any chance we’ll see the black trunks and black boots anytime in the near or distant future?" Austin's reply was short and to the point "As we speak right now, no."
The last quote is only 6 months old but we all know things can change in wrestling overnight and the exchange with Heyman was no doubt pre-planned and well rehearsed. On the podcast it also cannot be denied that Austin was looking in fantastic shape and despite his inactivity has a physique that would put many of the current roster to shame. However I am very confident we wont see this match at next WrestleMania, despite it being in Austin's beloved Texas for a number of reasons.
Steve Austin, as well as stating he will not be doing it in the quotes above, has not wrestled since 2003. By that time his ability to wrestle had been severely hampered by a catalogue of injuries and 13 years out isn't have going to improved this. If he did make the decision to come out of retirement after 13 years for a final match you would expect that he would want to win the contest. He will also be 51 by the time Texas 'Mania arrives so this is a problem as how could WWE preserve the monster persona of "Beast Incarnate" after he has just lost to a 51 year-old retired star from the 90s. It makes no sense given Lesnar's wage and the fact he will still have 2 years left on his contract at that point.
Another thing to remember is that Lesnar is now a babyface and like Austin it is because the crowds love his antics of mass destruction. Unless it is just staged as face vs face WWE will need to work on turning Lesnar heel again.
And on Lesnar's destructive style, Brock is probably the person last on the list of people the doctor would allow Austin to face (second to last if he has heard of Ryback of course). Lesnar's hard hitting style, which was best demonstrated exactly a year ago at SummerSlam, is probably not going to be something Austin wants to be the recipient of with his age and history of injuries.
Austin has left an incredible legacy and with his understanding of the business will not want to become a sad, desperate figure like Hogan in WCW and TNA. He has nothing left to prove in the ring and shouldn't even be considering risking his health with his financial security. What I would much rather see is WWE invest in developing three new main event stars over the next year to defeat The Rock, Triple H and the Undertaker (Reigns, Ambrose and Owens respectively?) at "the grandaddy of them all" to symbolically usher in a new WWE era.
What Austin displayed in the podcast with Heyman and in his previous shows on the WWE Network with Paul "Triple H" Levesque and Vince McMahon, is that he is a man who is extremely passionate about the business and a man who truly understands the business from top to bottom. In a time where WWE have struggled in developing top rung superstars characters I think they are missing a huge opportunity in hiring Austin as Head Of Creative. Whether the egos of Vince and Triple H would ever allow that however is as unlikely as the match against Brock in Texas.