Another WrestleMania has come and gone. Wrestling fans call it the “Showcase of the Immortals,” a show and the biggest event of the year for the business, but it’s often a night of equal parts triumph and disappointment. Whether we ask a fan who only tunes in to the big four pay-per-views, or those who faithfully watch every week, they all have their opinions on which matches are guaranteed to be exciting and which ones will be downright bogus. Many legends have returned for one last moment of glory on the greatest stage, but there are always doubts, questions about whether or not they can still create the same magic in the ring and prove the doubters wrong. Of all of these, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin may be the biggest jewel in WWE’s crown, and he has finally returned to reclaim the throne from him.
Austin is one of the best performers in wrestling, but his career didn’t last as long as he would have liked. The former WCW and ECW wrestler debuted as The Ringmaster in 1996 and had his last match against The Rock at WrestleMania 19 in 2003. Although he would appear on the product several times over the years, he was never an actual contestant. matches. There were many hardships along the way, but his incredible journey began in Dallas, where he, too, would be rekindled once more, allowing him to truly be “The Texas Rattlesnake” again.
However, it did not seem that way before the event. When Kevin Owens made the offer for him on RAW to rile up “Stone Cold” by insulting his home state, it all felt worrisome and uncertain. What would this segment be? It was billed as another episode of The Kevin Owens Show, and will likely end in a brawl, some stunners, and the typical beer-soaked “Stone Cold” celebration that fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Sure, there were rumors that it could result in a match, or even that Austin had a ring on his property to train for the big event, but most fans were still dubious. As Owen spent every Monday speaking and defending the opportunity he created for the WrestleMania 38 segment, Austin’s only response was in a short video, not the kind of retort we were used to from the old Austin. It all seemed like nothing to get too excited about.
In my mind, and probably many others, he couldn’t come back as a fighter after all this time. Why risk damaging the legacy as so many legends had done before? Austin had nothing to prove and even less to gain, right? Did we want to see our hero get beaten up, fight in the ring, or take hits that would leave us shy for him? This comes one night after the WWE Universe finally let The Undertaker rest in peace, as we watched The Phenom break the character down in a ceremony to celebrate another Attitude Era icon who had given so much. It seemed like one last sign that this couldn’t be a good idea.
Then we find out that their segment is closing on the first night. I couldn’t believe they were going to let what would probably be a thirty second squash match once the tee shot be thrown be the last thing people remembered from the first part of the show. After Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch’s performance, I couldn’t imagine why this would be our last, but here we were.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
All the doubts in my mind piled up, fueling the fear of seeing one of the biggest flops in a poorly written segment or horribly executed fight. I wasn’t looking forward to reading all the hot shots about part-timers and Hall of Famers clogging up the company’s big shows again. Glimpses of guest starring The Rock and Hulk Hogan in years past played in my mind as my friends and I waited for the glass to shatter, while “KO” insulted the hometown hero. Even the beginning of the segment felt off, no ATV or at least a beer cooler? That was soon rectified though, as if a while had passed and Steve himself had to remember what it was like to be “Stone Cold”. We were a little nervous though, Austin was in the mindset again as soon as he sat down, talking trash, heckling the crowd, until Owens reveals his sinister ploy. This wasn’t just a segment to insult the way Texans dress, but a wish for a bigger WrestleMania moment: a match.
After Kevin says he’s looking for a fight, a no holds barred fight, in fact, Austin asks the crowd, but we all knew the answer. The comfortable-looking office chairs were unceremoniously discarded, an official was called, and suddenly the doorbell rang. As one of my friends said, everything from that point on was almost surreal as we were all heading into the Battle of the Stunners.
Things started off slow, but only Austin was having a bit of fun, showing that his knees were still working. Soon, they were outside, brawling near the barricades and Austin was taking real hits. He and Owens did more than I thought they could in 2022, with tables, chairs, suplexes on the concrete, going up the ramp on the ATV, brawling through the crowd and onstage, all while trading punches and saving finishers for the great place. Even Jim Ross would have to call this one a slobberknocker.
— WWE (@WWE) April 3, 2022
Reality sank in again during the post-match celebration, as Austin drank beer, threw another upset at Owens and another at Byron Saxton, only to finish the stunt well. He even made time to share a cold one with his brother, who I thought was going to get a finisher too, but that moment was for him, not for us. Fans who had sat up all night were sent home happy. The exit had already been enjoyable, but this part was pure euphoria, even if it had been fueled by nostalgia and cheap bursts of dopamine. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had come, stunned, and the “Bionic Redneck” still had the fire inside of him. He made the show memorable.
They even had “Stone Cold” come back on night two and dish out a few more wonders. It was great to see Austin laugh after seeing his boss, Vince McMahon, trash a place, beating his wife Linda and Donald Trump for worst-selling wonder now. Austin also got Pat McAfee, but that guy won best floor beer. It was all fun, just short of being too much, embracing the entertainment part of the WWE product.
Sure, Austin had some signs of aging as he was a bit stiff in a couple of moves, but he still looked fantastic and showed that he hadn’t lost touch with that side of himself. I wonder how he felt after the weekend, if his back and knees held up, how his body crashed again, and in the long run, if this really was the last time. We often hear, “never say never” when it comes to the wrestling business, but Austin hadn’t main evented WrestleMania since 2001 and he doubted he could do it again. I’m glad he believed more than me. I wanted to see this legend prove me wrong and create another stunning moment in his incredible career, and he went above and beyond.