2011 might be regarded as the Year of Returns.
First we learnt of Shawn Michaels returning to headline WrestleMania XXVII's Hall of Fame. Then came surprise returns for Diesel and Booker T at the Royal Rumble.
Last week, The Rock finally came back to Monday Night Raw. Trish Stratus returned at the Elimination Chamber, whilst the Undertaker returned on Monday night and was immediately confronted by Triple H.
However one return, more than any other, that came as a shock was that of Stone Cold Steve Austin. In each of the other cases, there had been hints and rumours, but the return of the man who was the Attitude Era, took many by genuine surprise.
It's hard to keep a secret from the Internet Wrestling Community, but WWE did so.
It is traditional for WWE to play a strong hand in the January-to-March period. It has happened every year. However the last two WrestleManias have only been lit up by the matches involving Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker.
The current crop of wrestlers simply have not stepped up to lead effectively. With the retirements of Batista and Chris Jericho, and facing a somewhat weak card at this April's spectacular, WWE has brought out some aces.
Shawn Michaels will sell out the Hall of Fame. Diesel and Booker T will add some strength to the roster. The Undertaker and Triple H may very well headline together, whilst the Rock will ensure a sell out at WrestleMania XXVII.
The role of Stone Cold is to ensure that Tough Enough, the WWE's landmark reality series, becomes a popular show, especially compared to the critically panned and weak NXT.
NXT and Tough Enough have had a good track record of producing superstars, but it needs the right creativity and format in order to succeed where it has failed before
With Stone Cold at its helm, I think WWE is on to a winner, and this slideshow will attest ten reasons why that might be the case.
Not since 2002 has WWE enjoyed a prolonged run involving Stone Cold Steve Austin. Disputes over creative angles, together with personal rivalries, seem to have cropped up almost annually as Austin came back, only to leave again a few months later.
It is ironic that three of the people Austin is said to have had problems with in WWE are three of those mentioned in the introduction, Kevin Nash, The Rock and Triple H.
Whether these problems still exist is unlikely, but given Austin's history with WWE, problems may be afoot.
Irrespective though, the Tough Enough series means that for at least a couple of months, Steve Austin will be back on our screens and involved in wrestling once again.
In a recent article, I made the case that in order to develop not only the next generation but also creativity, WWE needs to hire more legends behind the scenes.
Those who have experienced wrestling first-hand know the difficulties and are best at helping new superstars avoid the mistakes of the past. Veteran wrestlers know the pitfalls in wrestling, in or out of the ring.
Bret Hart, Roddy Piper, Arn Anderson and Mick Foley would give wrestlers a schooling in what it means to be a wrestler and to be faithful to the business.
Stone Cold might not be a traditional wrestler but he knows the business inside out and how to bounce back from disappointment, especially after being let go by WCW.
His meteoric rise also came with disappointing lows as his WWE career fizzled out. A lack of creative direction meant that he simply faded away rather than having a Shawn Michaels WrestleMania-style moment.
Stone Cold, in conjunction with others, would ensure that the new wrestlers had someone in their corner, literally and figuratively, who could safeguard their interests.
Already we are talking about it, and it's not even the end of February. The announcement of Stone Cold returning to host the program has excited fans all around the world. The very fact that he will be part of the show, will energize sponsors and viewers alike.
In his absence from the ring, Steve Austin has become a brand name in part due to his acting skills. His involvement in the recent muscle-filled hit, 'The Expendables' will ensure that mainstream press will at least pick up on his involvement and on the WWE program.
Whether this translates into viewers is debatable, but at least it is a positive thread for WWE.
If Tough Enough does prove to be a ratings winner, then repeat series are possible and that might even see Stone Cold return to mainstream wrestling programs.
Some will argue that it's Randy Orton. Some will argue that he is a one-off. But with Stone Cold on the set and working with the next generation, there is a distinctive possibility that Austin may take a shine to one of them and help them progress.
And with Stone Cold's backing, could this respective superstar be fast-tracked into WWE and to super-stardom?
Ambitious for sure, but the power of patronage has always been strong in WWE, after all look at Triple H and Sheamus, or the power of the Kliq.
Austin never really got his chance to put over the next generation, so this may be his opportunity.
There are few superstars who have microphone skills like Stone Cold Steve Austin. WWE founded its survival on his brand of aggressive, expletive-filled talk.
It all began at the King of the Ring in 1996 and the birth of 3.16. His interactions with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Vince McMahon and even Mike Tyson, helped revolutionise WWE and the wrestling promo.
Flash forward to today and even the word 'ass' results in a fine and an apology. Now its unlikely that PG will end anytime soon, but at least with Stone Cold back, we might see the return of proper and richer promos.
Too much wrestling hours are given up to stupid and pointless interactions and comedy bits. By all means, give us some Santino, but we do not need the rest.
Stone Cold, along with the Rock, together with the legends, can teach the new generation something about how to talk, and even more than that, they can teach them how to get fans to listen.
Austin and The Rock are Hollywood stars. Their movies may not quite have been on the standards of Brando, DeNiro or Pacino, but they made some popular and enjoyable movies. And with success comes connections.
WrestleMania was founded on its image of "Rock and Wrestling." At its debut, WrestleMania I, the guests including Muhammad Ali, Liberace, Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper. And since then, wrestling has not looked back.
Excuse the recent run of guest hosts that added extremely little to the wrestling program, but wrestling has had some notable guests: Donald Trump, Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor in WWE, Jay Leno and Dennis Rodman in WCW and of course Andy Kaufman in Memphis.
I would argue that not many of these encounters actually helped to improve the image of wrestling. It remains in the public eye a spectacle sport as supposed to legitimate competition.
Many of these celebrities came because of the money and not because of any profound desire to improve wrestling's image.
That being said, wrestling loves celebrities, and with Austin and Rock in Hollywood circles, maybe they can bring with them some star quality.
It is one of the best friendships in wrestling, that of Steve Austin and Jim Ross. The mutual respect is clear for all to see, and I genuinely believe Ross was a quiet part of the Austin revolution. Without his amazing commentary, many of Austin's matches would not have had the same quality.
"Stone Cold, Stone Cold", it brings back many memories. "Son of a gun" "Hellacious Stunner for the Chairman of the Board, Mr. McMahon"...such moments.
And so if Austin returns and gives Tough Enough a much-needed boost, might Austin have attached an unofficial clause in his contract regarding Jim Ross?
Certainly I suggested in another article a scenario that might allow for Ross to return if Cole and King get it on at WrestleMania.
And so maybe Austin is not the only one returning to our WWE screens?
Its funny, for months the IWC complained about Kevin Nash in TNA. Dye his hair black and hand him back his Diesel tights, and he receives a pop of monumental proportions at this year's Royal Rumble. The wrestling return gives the fans something that is hard to explain.
And it happens time and time again, even Hulk Hogan puts people in seats, 34 years after he debuted. People like to see their favourites.
They may not compete to the same level, but by having them there, on television, it reminds us of a time when they were in their peak. It brings back memories that are rich and which some might have thought forgotten.
Wrestling has many great moments and with the return of Stone Cold and others, memories will come flooding back. We will see their golden moments on wwe.com, vintage collections and even on DVD. We will get to relive those moments that made wrestling great.
And who knows, maybe they will add a few more memorable events to the list?
This is perhaps slightly out there. But we often make connections between two events and while they may not be related, we come to conclusions regardless.
Austin and WWE back again, at a time when the company is struggling with creative angles and star power for WrestleMania XXVII.
With TNA making small inroads with a similar product to that of the Attitude Era, might Stone Cold's return be paving the way for a similar return?
Probably not, and with rumours abound that Linda McMahon is considering another Senatorial run in 2012, any hope of an end to PG is highly unlikely.
We will probably simply get the muzzled Rattlesnake in a family-friendly world.
As with all returns, a familiar chant soon rings out across the arenas of the world: "One More Time."
After the reaction at the Royal Rumble, it is likely that Kevin Nash aka Diesel will make another run, possibly against the Big Show.
And with Austin, Booker T and the Rock making their returns, similar chants will surely echo, too.
It remains debatable as to whether any of these four will set foot in a ring again to compete but as long as they are in WWE, there is always a chance.
And given how weak the last couple of Wrestlemanias have been, a little star quality might be able to boost sales and interest.
Stone Cold to appear one more time? Stranger things have happened. But given Mr. McMahon's recent reappearance as well, maybe just maybe we get one more stunner at least?
Whatever happens, Steve Austin back in WWE is big news. Whether it's simply for one series or a full-time return, it will bring a smile to his legions of fans.
He is a legend, a Hall of Famer who has the ability to garner more interest in wrestling than the vast majority of today's roster combined.
How his return will be managed and how it might impact on the Tough Enough program, is up for debate and I suppose the only way we will know for sure, is if we watch.
And that I think is why he has been brought back. Suddenly Tough Enough, which was a landmark show and gave a launch pad to the likes of John Morrison and The Miz, is back and people are talking.
And why? Because of Austin. Before any competitors are even announced or any challenge undertaken, we are looking forward to the series, if for no other reason than seeing the legend that is Stone Cold Steve Austin.