With The Rock returning to the ring at Survivor Series 2011 and proceeding to have matches at WrestleMania XXVIII and the upcoming WrestleMania XXIX, it is inevitable that fans have begun to wonder about "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's status. Many hope that he considers a return at WrestleMania XXX, but recent reports suggest that he may not be willing to do so.
According to a members-only report at F4WOnline.com (via WrestlingInc.com), people close to Austin don't believe that he will wrestle again. With that said, if he does decide to wrestle another match, then it will likely take place at WrestleMania XXX in New Orleans next year. I can understand why Austin may not want to compete again as he could risk injury and perhaps damage his legacy, but 'Mania could present a huge opportunity.
The match that most fans are clamoring for is a bout between Austin and CM Punk. The two of them have had some run-ins in the past as they interacted during an episode of Raw a couple years ago. Also, they have tweeted at each other and they engaged in an interview segment with Jim Ross regarding WWE '13. On top of that, they have gimmicks that are begging to be put against each other as Austin is a beer-guzzling loner, while Punk is straight edge and believes that he's better than everyone else.
Since The Rock and John Cena are set to headline two consecutive WrestleManias, I have to imagine that the WWE wants to go a different route next year. There has already been some talk about The Rock facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX and Cena vs. The Undertaker is a potential matchup as well. That would leave Punk wide open for a match with Austin if he chooses to come back.
I realize that supposed sources believe that Austin is leaning against returning, but I have a hard time finding these reports to be credible when names aren't named. Even if those close to Austin truly think that he is retired for good, that doesn't mean that Austin feels the same way. I can't imagine how much Vince McMahon and the WWE will be willing to pay him for one match, but I'm sure that it's a number that will be very difficult to turn down.
Only Austin knows his physical capabilities and limitations at this point, so I obviously don't want to speculate on that. He has had plenty of issues with his knees and neck over the years and it is certainly possible that those injuries could make him wary of competing. Austin has said in the past that he believes he can still wrestle, though, and if he truly believes that he can perform at a high level, then it makes perfect sense for him to return.
There admittedly aren't many established stars in professional wrestling today. That is why the WWE relies on guys like The Rock, Lesnar, The Undertaker and perhaps Austin. Aside from Cena and Punk, I'm not sure there is someone on the full-time roster who will be remembered as an all-time great. That obviously may change in the coming years, but there is no question that Cena and Punk are the top superstars in the company.
The WWE is likely to give Austin a chance to face one of them, and Punk is the first choice. Austin has been very complimentary of Punk and even said in the WWE '13 discussion with Ross that Punk could have thrived during the Attitude Era. That means a ton when you consider the fact that Austin was the one who made the Attitude Era such a huge success.
The fact that net year marks the 30th WrestleMania in WWE history tells me that McMahon has every intention to blow it out and make it the biggest event the WWE has ever put forth. The easiest way to do that would be to advertise Austin's return match. Austin is arguably the most popular wrestler of all time and his return would likely generate as much interest as The Rock's, if not more.
Austin has an ego like any big star, and I'm sure that one of the conditions surrounding a possible return would be that he is the main attraction. Even with other big matches on the card, nothing could overshadow Austin's first bout in 11 years. The fans want him to return and I'm sure the WWE does as well, so the only thing that could nix an Austin match at WrestleMania XXX is if he decides he doesn't want to do it.
Regardless of what Austin does, I'll always consider him to be one of the all-time greats as well as one of my personal favorites. Truth be told, Austin didn't go out on great terms, though, so wrestling one more match would be ideal for everyone. Austin already has an unbelievable legacy and nobody can take that away from him. I have to imagine that he would like his last WWE memory to be a marquee WrestleMania match rather than him walking away from the company due to a dispute, however.
If supposed sources close to Austin are to be believed, then The Texas Rattlesnake is retired for good. Hopefully that is nothing more than hearsay, though, because there are a lot of people out there who crave one last dose of Austin 3:16.