Next month marks WrestleMania’s first appearance in North Texas since 2016—we’ll have more about that both in print and online closer to the event—and, as is the case for every Mania season, WWE has some trump cards to play. Two, in particular, piqued wrestling fans’ curiosity.
The first—76-year-old WWE owner Vince McMahon wrestling former commentator and NFL punter/perpetual Aaron Rodgers water carrier Pat McAfee–appears to be on ice. Which, thank goodness.
The second is what everyone wanted to see. Stone Cold Steve Austin, arguably the greatest WWE champion in history and inarguably the greatest former UNT football player to step foot in the squared circle (no shade, Kevin Von Erich), wrestled his last WWE match in 2003.
In a medium where no one ever retires for good, Austin appeared to be the exception to the rule, content to occupy the space as a podcaster and an occasional on-screen figure without ever subjecting himself to the rigors of a full match. The closest he’d get came every couple of years when a familiar sequence would ensue: Stone Cold would show up, flip off some deserving schmucks, deliver the Stone Cold Stunner, pound some beers, and go home. I saw it in person at WrestleMania 32 in the JerryDome, and friends, I assure you it was nostalgia at its finest.
That figured to be how this would go until he started using a walker—Stone Cold flitting in and out like everyone’s favorite profane uncle from out of state, amusing everyone in short bursts before leaving a path of bodies and beer cans in his wake.
Until this year, when a wrestler named Kevin Owens began peppering his promos and social media with derogatory comments about Austin’s beloved home state of Texas. The intent was obvious. Much less so was whether Austin, now 57 years old and 19 years removed from his last match, would actually wrestle again. It would hardly be the first time WWE toyed with fans’ emotions only to veer away from the obvious payoff.
Today, he confirmed he’s back to defend Texas’ honor, in the most Stone Cold way possible.
Will this be good? As a pure wrestling match, probably not. Owens is one of the very best talents WWE has. But it takes two to tango, and Austin is old, rusty, and working with a body that’s withstood a cornucopia of neck and knee issues. There is no mat classic in the offing here.
But as spectacle? To quote the man himself, “Oh, Hell Yeah.” I, and just about everyone with a pulse, am extremely here for what Austin is teasing as his actual final match—for real this time. Allegedly. We think.
Gimme the famous broken glass lead-in to his intro music and the strut down the aisle, the bird-flipping and the beer drinking and that famous finishing maneuver. I’m so into this that I’m preemptively ignoring that this is the embodiment of so many bad decisions WWE has made over the last 15 years: a guy who is staring down the barrel of his 60th birthday, who hasn’t been in the ring in two decades, is almost certainly being booked to defeat a full-timer in Owens who should be an even bigger deal than he is.
Whatever. It’s a WrestleMania in Texas and Stone Cold is back to do Stone Cold things. This will probably last in the neighborhood of seven minutes, but those seven minutes will be a delight.