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During UFC 162, a twitter exchange between CM Punk and 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin took place. While the exchange seemed to be mostly lighthearted and consisted of some teasing worthy of a kindergarten playground, that didn't stop the IWC from blowing the entire event out of proportion and talks once again began of a possible matchup between the two down the road, most likely at Wrestlemania XXX.
It isn't the first time Punk and Austin have had interaction amongst each other, but every time it does happen, wrestling fans begin to salivate over the idea of the match taking place. How big would the match be? It would most likely be on the same level as Cena vs The Rock, only this time with more IWC-friendly competitors.
As tantalizing as it may seem Austin vs Punk has something in common with the Undertaker vs Sting: The idea of the matches taking place is much better than the reality of the matches taking place. On paper, Sting vs The Undertaker sounds tremendous, but if you think about it a little bit, it starts to look a little bit less impressive, when you consider the ages of the men competing, the level of athleticism and injuries and the finish. The same can be said for Austin vs Punk.
The first and most obvious reason is that Stone Cold Steve Austin hasn't wrestled an actual match in over a decade. To expect him to just come out of retirement now is unimaginable; the man will be 49 next April. And Austin didn't walk away because of his age, he walked away because doctors advised that one more awkward fall on the mat could result in permanent paralysis or even death. Could Austin come back and work a nice safe match with no risk? Probably, but would we all really want to see him like that? I prefer to think of Austin's last match to be him trading blows with the Rock at Wrestlemania 19, and you should too.
For one reason or another, wrestling fans have an eerie infatuation with seeing Steve Austin return to the wrestling ring. There is no doubt that Austin was an incredible performer in his prime, and he deserves all the accolades he has received and will continue to receive for as long as pro wrestling is around, but wrestling fans really need to accept the fact that Austin's ride on top commenced long ago, and now it is time to move on.
Austin was as good as anyone has ever been in the late-90s. So was Michael Jordan. Like Austin, MJ retired in 2003, when his body was broken down. Would we expect MJ to come out of retirement now and start dunking on people and lead his team to 3 more championships? Of course not. I know comparing wrestling to the NBA isn't entirely accurate, but from an athletic standpoint, it does hold water.
Back in 2004 or 2005, it would make sense to hope for one more match from Steve Austin. But we are no longer in that era, we are 9 years past that, yet some fans still desperately clutch on to the hope of seeing Austin one more time. The PG product has turned some fans away, and look to Austin as being the anti-PG superstar, the guy that add attitude to the PG product. But much like Austin, the attitude era is long gone, and fans will never be satisfied with what they have in the present until they accept that they can no longer have what they had in the past.
If Punk vs Austin somehow magically did happen, there are some significant problems. The first one would be who would take the loss. If Austin came back and lost, it would be seen as a pointless endeavor for Austin to come back at all, and I don't even know if Austin would come back to job. If Austin won, it would crush CM Punk, as he suffered losses to the Rock and the Undertaker last year, and another loss to a legend would make him the anti-Randy Orton, he would be the "Legend Jobber."
A second problem is that Steve Austin will be coming back as a face, a huge face and there is no way the WWE could get any heat on him at all. So that would most likely mean that CM Punk would be the heel. It appears that Punk is starting a big face run, so to turn him back to being a heel would be just another complication for Punk.
The last reason a feud between the two couldn't work would be the promos. Since Austin could only really wrestle one more match, and the fact that this feud will be heavily hyped for months in advance, we are going to see a lot of promos between the two. Austin and Punk's respective promo approaches are so vastly different that I don't think that they would mesh well at all. Austin is very aggressive, in-your-face and shoots straight from the hip during his promos. Punk is much more cerebral and more of an intellectual speaker. The differences would most likely alienate one man from the fans, deterring some of the crowd reaction, which would be what made the match special.
Going by past indicators, it isn't like Austin is chomping at the bit to be a presence in the WWE again. There have been several moments in the past year, throwback Raws, the 1000th episode, the 20th Anniversary show and others that Austin could have easily appeared on, yet he didn't. Austin isn't sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring, he is out living life. Austin hosts his own reality show, works his ranch, acts in TV & films and records his weekly podcast. Austin hasn't appeared interested in returning to the WWE, and we should all respect his decision to do so.
Austin was one of the most spectacular performers ever, but his days in the sun of the WWE have come and gone. Austin is no longer a WWE wrestler, so instead of focusing on the possibilities of Punk facing Austin, we should focus on the possibilities of Punk facing someone like Daniel Bryan, or Dean Ambrose at Wrestlemania XXX. Obsessing about the past is an unproductive way to build towards the future, and fans (and the WWE) should realize this.