Recently, there's been an added emphasis by CM Punk to mention Stone Cold Steve Austin's name on WWE television. On consecutive episodes of Monday Night Raw the past two weeks, "The Straight Edge Superstar" has specifically brought up "The Rattlesnake" during promos on Jim Ross and Vince McMahon.
Strategic? You bet.
But probably not for the reasons you think.
It would seem obvious to anyone watching that after both men voiced a certain want to work with one another, the constant flirting was a way to slowly build to a match at some point, possibly at WrestleMania 29 on April 7, 2013, in New Jersey. The reality, it seems, is far less satisfying.
I speculated in a recent article that the two could simply be trading promos as a way to promote the WWE '13 video game they're both so heavily featured in. According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (subscription required but recommended), I was right.
After noting as much, the Observer goes on to say:
"... in speaking to a couple of people close to Austin, they deny that's the case, noting not only is Austin recovering from major knee surgery, but his body is banged up worse than is being let on, he's 47 with major neck issues, and he's not jonesing to wrestle. It's been mentioned if he would do it, it would make sense for him not to do so on a show that already has Lesnar and Rock as headliners. One wrestler who is in regular contact and good friends with Austin said that Austin would have to be heavily kayfabing everyone if there's anything to this because he talks like it's not something he indicates even considering. He said he would be extremely shocked to the point he'd think there's no way based on conversations."
My theory on the matter largely remains the same. This likely is simply promotion for the WWE '13 game but it's gone so well that if Austin's body heals up well enough and everything falls into place properly, a match down the road wouldn't be out of the question and they would have plenty of material to work off.
As noted by the Observer, it makes little sense for Austin to come back to work with Punk at next year's WrestleMania simply because that match card is loaded from top to bottom but it's really heavy on top. And while some could argue Punk vs. Austin should headline over the Rock vs. John Cena rematch, that simply wouldn't happen.
With an extra year to recover from knee surgery and more time for WWE to figure out what they have with Rock and Lesnar moving forward, WrestleMania 30 featuring Punk vs. Austin sounds like it could be a solid plan, especially if Brock doesn't come back and Rock decides he doesn't want to keep playing the role he's in now.
From the sounds of it, Austin is completely fine with not doing anything but is willing to listen to enticing offers and WWE would have to make it really, really sweet for him to come back. That would probably mean giving him the headlining slot at WrestleMania -- the real headlining slot, meaning the last match to go on that gets all the promotion -- a truck load of cash, a reasonable level of control over creative, and plenty of leeway on all of the above.
Because Rock and Lesnar are around for next year, he wouldn't get any of that, which is why it's so doubtful he'll return.
But again, the good news is the seeds are being planted for something later on and WWE '13 is getting heavy promotion while they're at it.
Disappointed, Cagesiders? Or still hopeful?