Rumors swirled heading into WWE WrestleMania 39 that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin could make a surprise appearance or possibly compete in an impromptu match, like the year before against Kevin Owens. Reports speculated that, following Bray Wyatt’s mysterious disappearance, Bobby Lashley could be in line to do something with the WWE Hall of Famer, along with LA Knight.
The match, or segment, between Austin, Lashley, and Knight never manifested but it wasn’t without some teasing on WWE’s end. Inside SoFi Stadium, Hollywood 3:16 t-shirts with gold smoke bubbling out of Austin’s iconic broken skull were being sold at the merchandise tables. I was on-site covering the show and when I saw the shirts on display, became somewhat convinced we were destined to see Austin return to the Mania stage.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Austin opened up about what was really going on behind the scene between him and WWE heading into their biggest show of the year.
“I haven’t spoken to this, but I’ll give you the story,” Austin began. “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 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.”
Stay with Haus of Wrestling for all the latest on Steve Austin’s WWE future.