LaBar: Is Stone Cold returning for one more match?
It's that time for the annual WrestleMania speculation regarding a comeback match from Stone Cold Steve Austin.
This time there is more reason to talk.
Austin will be 50 by the time WrestleMania 31 arrives. Time on the physical side and relevant side is ticking. He'll always be Stone Cold, but the crowd who still misses him will only be caring for so long.
The other key is the space on the marquee has cleared.
The Rock's had his comebacks. Brock Lesnar's had his comebacks. Shawn Michaels has retired. Ric Flair has retired. The Undertaker's streak has been broken. Hulk Hogan has returned to be the walking informercial for WWE.
Austin is the final curtain call left, as it should be.
Austin made a comment in passing on a recent episode of his podcast about training for a comeback before quickly changing the subject.
Austin's last official match was never dubbed as such. He ended after a long run at the top when stress piled on with injures and personal matters. He got a standing ovation, but not with the intent or knowledge of it being the end.
Austin has nothing else to prove. That's not the point, though. People still care, and a payday is to be made. Austin isn't hurting for money. In fact, he's done really well for himself with the other endeavors he's involved in. But there's a good story and official finale that can be presented with his final match.
The question is who would he oppose?
A perfect world would see Austin versus CM Punk, the two most profound rebels in recent memory. Punk idolized Austin. The two have had fun on social media taunting each other. Sadly, I don't see it happening.
Punk coming out of his self-imposed WWE exile for one match with Austin seems unlikely. He'd love the match, but he walked on principles and problems greater than that. I don't think he's prepared to surrender his beliefs for one dream match.
Austin is good friends and respects Brock Lesnar tremendously. It's the match we never got. It's the match Austin actually walked out on 11 years ago and is one he regrets. It would be a mainstream gem for WWE to have. But I don't see this happening, either. I think Lesnar remains in the title picture until WrestleMania 31 which Austin needs no part of. I also don't think Austin needs to put his body through the intense encounter Lesnar automatically provides.
John Cena is the best answer at this stage. A dream match of two guys who carried the flags for two separate eras. A match to get a lot of people interested that could be entertaining but not cause either to be physically drained for the weeks to follow. I'm not saying the two wouldn't give a solid performance, but we know an Austin versus Cena match is different than Austin opposing Lesnar.
Anything else would be up to creative minds at a table: Vince McMahon and, of course, Austin. I wouldn't mind a new choice being inserted, as it likely would be someone younger who could benefit greatly from the rub of being in Austin's return match that's more than a decade in waiting.
Austin's a great guy. Austin's a smart guy. I guessed that already, but my time this year interviewing and getting to know him confirmed that. He's going to do the right thing, but only if it makes sense for all the right reasons. He's not that kind of mark for himself.
Every day brings WrestleMania closer and this speculation possibly to an end. To me, this all solidifies my opinion I've always carried that Austin is the number one professional wrestler/sports entertainer of all time.
Let's get a swig of beer for the “wishful fan.” If you listened to his podcast, you would get that reference.
Justin LaBar is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7949 or firstname.lastname@example.org.