"Stone Cold" Steve Austin returned to the ring for one last hooray at WrestleMania 38: Saturday, finally concluding a career that ended before he or any of his millions of fans were ready. Last weekend, the "Rattlesnake" as the main attraction of WrestleMania Night One was finally able to celebrate a career that history began and ended triumphantly in Dallas, TX. Incredibly, nearly 20 years after his last match at WrestleMania 19 against The Rock, Austin not only returned for a nostalgic celebration, but gave the WWE fans and Superstars backstage a master class at manipulating both the crowd and his opponent Keven owens Austin reminded us why we all loved "Stone Cold" in the first place, as the icon offered more than just a simple, safe trip down memory lane, but instead emerged with its signature white-hot intensity and set a standard that will send others Legends potentially seeking a return are afraid. Of course, Austin was back at WrestleMania: Sunday for fun and games with his 76-year-old boss of WWE, Vince McMahon, but it was his showdown with Kevin Owen that left his legacy well and truly intact.
Steve Austin values his audience
Before "Stone Cold" sold out stadiums and skyrocketed TV ratings in the seminal days of WWE's "Attitude Era," Steve Austin needed to connect with the crowd. There was Stunning Steve and then The Ringmaster, but it wasn't until he started exaggerating his own Stone Cold persona that fans really got hooked. At WrestleMania 38, Austin showed that connecting with the audience is more important than any single wrestling move when it comes to being remembered as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time.
"You just love the crowd, you love the crowd," Austin said in a backstage interview with WWE.com immediately after his defeat of Kevin Owens. "And the guys and gals before me have had so many great matches, it's really hard to follow that but you live and die with that crowd and his crowd is so loyal, so loyal, so fierce, they stand behind everything what you do... But I greet the crowd the most because I never expected to be able to headline a WrestleMania that day and time, so it's all about the WWE Universe.”
Viewers around the world have always adored Austin because they know wrestling is more than just a paycheck to The Rattlesnake. This is a mutual love affair.
Austin appreciates his opponents
"This is where I started," Austin, who made his Dallas debut more than 30 years ago, told WWE.com. “I was lucky to finish here. KO is outstanding but he smacked his lips off a bit too much and it eventually caught up with him but it was really an honor to be here on such a great map with so many great matches.”
When a catalog of injuries forced Austin to give up his wrestling career in 2003, he delivered The Rock an incredible war in what he believed to be his last match to help carry the torch to Dwayne Johnson as one of the biggest stars of pro wrestling. Thus ends one of WWE's most famous rivalries. With Austin returning for his final day in the sun last weekend, few would have accused him of stealing the limelight entirely for himself. Instead, "Stone Cold"'s appreciation for his opponents is such that the Hall of Famer made Kevin Owens look like a million bucks and gave Owens plenty of room to launch his own offense rather than be made to do so to look silly. Austin's performance helped boost the 33-year-old KO in a main event that saw both men give it all they had, and in return the highly talented Owens bounced around AT&T Stadium like a crash test dummy to ensure that fans got what they had paid to see. That kind of chemistry can only happen in a pro wrestling ring when both grapplers value each other.
“The Rattlesnake” still gives everything
"You still have it!" cried more than 70,000 wrestling fans as Austin seemed more comfortable in the ring with every minute of his sensational swan song. Austin's performance at WrestleMania was such that it potentially deterred many other legends from considering or returning, and with good reason. When "Stone Cold" laces up, he gives it his all, and age or status played no role in Austin's selfless performance at WrestleMania. Sure, he clinched victory over a younger Superstar, but Dallas fans would have rioted if their hero hadn't clinched one last victory. But from the believable style he still displays when executing an attack, to the way he went above and beyond to risk his own body and give Owen a chance to shine, including his vicious suplexes outside the ring, the bottom line is Austin didn't come back for an easy payday and it showed.
There are so many aspects of Steve Austin's "Stone Cold" presentation that require special attention. From his exciting ring entrances, like Saturday on his ATV, to his automatic timing to training his butt for one last WrestleMania match, perhaps the greatest lesson future superstars can learn from Steve Austin's career is respect for you Fans and fellow opponents combined with a desire to give it your all could lead to greatness. Austin was worried about finishing last at Wrestlemania 38: Saturday, but maybe he was doing his friends in the locker room one last favor!
You can relive all the excitement of WrestleMania by streaming Peacock in the United States and WWE Network elsewhere.