After a unanimously praised two-night performance at WrestleMania 38, speculation started early about whether Stone Cold Steve Austin would be on the card for this year’s edition of the WWE’s biggest event.
He was getting into great shape, but insisted that was just for himself. There was talk of the Hall of Famer as an opponent for Undisputed WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns. Then we heard he was pitched a Brock Lesnar match — and that the possibility of that may have forced changes to the company’s plans for Lesnar. As the show in Southern California approached, Austin continued to say he hadn’t even heard from WWE about working the show.
Now, with WrestleMania 39 in our collective rearview, Stone Cold opened up to Sports Illustrated’s Justin Barrasso. The Texas Rattlesnake confirms the two sides talked about him wrestling in SoFi Stadium, but like his old frenemy Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is rumored to have, Austin had to turn them down because other commitments kept him from getting ready:
“I haven’t spoken to this, but I’ll give you the story.
“I met with some people from WWE. We talked about the possibility of me wrestling at WrestleMania 39. The biggest thing in my mind was the presentation and what kind of match it was going to be. Going back to 38, the way the KO [Kevin Owens] thing was presented—I love KO—I turned that down three, four, five times until the creative finally came to what it ended up being. I didn’t want it constructed as a real match, per se. I needed something that could turn into one, and it did, but I think that’s why we got away with it. The Dallas crowd was very receptive. I hadn’t been around, so the timing was right.
“But to do a proper match, I’d have to be in off-the-charts shape. I told them, and this is the exact truth, I said, ‘Guys, I’m just fixin’ to go into production on this show, Stone Cold Takes on America, and until we start production, I don’t know what my life looks like. I can’t commit.’ Sure enough, there were technical issues before we finished. I was supposed to finish a month before we did.
“There’s no way, with the schedule I was doing—driving an RV all over God’s creation, doing all I was doing—that I would be ready. I had two 30-pound dumbbells, a 45-pound sandbag, and a 25-pound kettlebell. Working 15 hours a day, then getting in a 30- or 40-minute workout, that doesn’t get you ready for WrestleMania. And I was really protected at WrestleMania 38. This time, that wasn’t going to be the case. That was a true statement: Until this show was over, I couldn’t commit.”
Stone Cold’s told the story about how the WrestleMania 38 match came together — complete with effusive praise for his opponent Owens — several times before. It certainly tracks that he’d pass on 39 because creative and his preparation couldn’t line up the same way this year.
As for WrestleMania 40 in Philadelphia? The first rumors should be hitting any day now.