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There’s a lot to look forward to at WrestleMania, including a much-anticipated appearance by WWE legend “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
The WWE Hall of Famer will be facing off against Kevin Owens on April 2, the first night of WrestleMania at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
“In Dallas, Texas -- where I started my career -- at WrestleMania, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin is going to open up one last can of whoop-ass on you Kevin Owens,” Austin said in a video released by WWE earlier this month.
The video features Austin, 57, driving an off-road vehicle through the desert before getting out to explain what’s driven him to get back in the ring nearly two decades after his last match, a loss to The Rock in WrestleMania 19 in 2003.
“After three Rock Bottoms, one, two, three, I lost the match. And for 19 years, I’ve had to live with that defeat, knowing my time was up,” he stated. “Kevin Owens, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for waking something up deep inside me that I’ve kept buried for 19 years.”
The reason for Austin’s, uh, gratitude? It seems Owens’ vocal disdain for the state of Texas, where Austin is from, doesn’t exactly sit well with the man known as the “Texas Rattlesnake.” In February, when Owens was under the impression he wouldn’t be participating in WrestleMania, he expressed relief that he wouldn’t have to go to the Lone Star State.
“I despise Texas and everything about it, okay?” he said.
That apparently got Austin’s blood pumping.
“Ever since you started running that damn mealy mouth of yours talking about the state of Texas, the great state of Texas, you got my attention. And why would you want to do that, Kevin? I can think of two reasons,” Austin exclaimed. “No. 1, you are one dumb sonofabitch. And No. 2, you are fixing to get your ass kicked by ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin.”
Meanwhile, Owens has had no qualms about taunting Austin.
So what should fans expect from their highly touted confrontation? Will it be a full-fledged match or more of an unofficial brawl?
“There’s gonna be a fight. There’s gonna be a brawl, without a doubt," wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer theorized to The Sportster. "It’s not just gonna be just a kick in the gut and stunner. He’s training very hard so it’s gonna be more than that. Will he do a 20-minute match? No, I don’t think so. Will he go seven minutes or something and have a brawl all over the place? I kind of expect that, yeah.”
While it’s certainly been a while since Austin took to the WWE ring, he has had several epic WrestleMania appearances under his belt. Let’s look back at some of his most memorable moments.
1. His debut
In 1996, Austin made his WrestleMania debut against Savio Vega. “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, who was serving as Austin’s manager at the time, definitely assisted the Hall of Famer during the match. He passed him the famed Million Dollar Belt, which Austin used to hit Vega before putting him in a chokehold, ultimately landing him the win.
2. First Headliner
Austin’s third WrestleMania appearance in 1998 also represented the first time he was featured as the headliner. After winning the Royal Rumble earlier that year, he was in line to square off against Shawn Michaels for the WWE Heavyweight Title. Boxing legend Mike Tyson was the ring enforcer for this historic match, to boot, though he wasn’t exactly impartial. After Austin won, Tyson knocked Michaels out with a right hook before revealing that it was all a setup, lifting Austin’s arm in victory and accepting an iconic “Austin 3:16” T-shirt from the newly crowned champion, much to the crowd’s delight.
3. First match against The Rock
WrestleMania in 1999 marked the epic match between two legends: Austin and The Rock. It was a no-disqualification bout for the WWE Heavyweight Title, so it was truly wild. Among the highlights: Vince McMahon and then-Commissioner Shawn Michaels getting into a dispute over who had the right to appoint a referee; The Rock then taking out two referees in the same match, one of whom he used as a human shield against a chair attack and the other by subjecting him to his signature “Rock Bottom”; then Mick Foley coming into the ring to serve as the match’s fourth (count’em four!) ref. At the end of this back-and-forth affair, though, Austin delivered his legendary “Stone Cold Stunner” to seize the coveted championship belt.
4. Final match
It may not have been for a title, but there was still a lot on the line in Austin’s third WrestleMania match against The Rock — at WrestleMania 19 in 2003 — as it marked his final match to date. It was also Austin’s first defeat at WrestleMania in six years. It looked as though he might go out on a winning note, delivering a “Stone Cold Stunner,” but The Rock recovered and meted out a People’s Elbow and three Rock Bottoms to eventually pin Austin and send him into retirement … at least for a while.
And that’s brings us to Austin’s promised return at WrestleMania. Will it provide one more highlight in his legendary career? Stay tuned.
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