3. Kevin Owens vs Stone Cold Steve Austin (No Holds Barred, WrestleMania 38 Saturday)

WrestleMania 38 Saturday (yes, that’s what it is called on the WWE Network!) saw the in-ring return of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Yes, after being retired for 19 years, Austin returned to ostensibly be a guest of the KO Show. On the show itself (which main evented WrestleMania 38 Saturday), Owens challenged Austin to a No Holds Barred match. And, without any hesitation, Austin accepted! Could his post-retirement ‘final fight’ live up to his classic brawls of the past? Or would he tarnish his legacy after two decades outside of the ring?

The last time Austin main evented WrestleMania was ‘Mania X-7 against The Rock…and that’s possibly the best ‘Mania main event of time. He also main evented ‘Mania XV against The Rock in a mediocre match. His first and only other ‘Mania main event was against Shawn Michaels at ‘Mania XIV, and again that was an average bout, thanks in part to Michaels’ legitimate back injury. Of course, this bout, Austin’s fourth ‘Mania main event, could never live up to the X-7 classic (what could?!?!?).

But, for me, it definitely outdid his three other ‘Mania main events. Yes, he’s nearly sixty years old. His knees are knackered, His neck is knackered. He hadn’t wrestled for nearly twenty years. But this harked back to the old Attitude Era brawls, that relied less on actual wrestling and more on weapons, brawling around the ring and in the crowd, and the sheer energy and love for the one and only Stone Cold Steve Austin.

For twenty minutes, I was transported to my teenage years, watching ‘Mania XV (to make sure the VHS player would record it for my dad! So long ago…yet not so long ago!) and being drawn by a bald-headed, middle-finger flipping, beer drinking maniac! I knew little about wrestling at the time, but I knew I had to keep watching it on a regular basis to see what ‘The Rattlesnake’ would do after winning the championship (yes, I know now that I’d missed a hell of a lot of classic Attitude Era Stone Cold moments, but back then I knew nothing!). Up until he left, and I became obsessed with HHH, I was a massive Stone Cold fan.

And this bout tuned into that empty place that nostalgia lives. I’d previously roll my eyes at segments that put over WWE Hall of Famers over up-and-comers, but this put a permanent smile on my face from the opening bell up until the closing bell. While I don’t agree that Austin needed a proper send-off, this was a rather fitting one in front of his home crowd. And to wrestle Stone Cold Steve Austin in the WrestleMania main event must have been a lifelong dream for Kevin Owens!

Nostalgia is a powerful drug, and maybe upon a re-watch I’d see this bout differently. And, by any stretch, it was not the best bout of the night (that honour either goes to Rollins/Cody Rhodes or Lynch/Belair). But it gave us a glimpse of the best era of WWE, the Attitude Era, and gave us a glimpse of the biggest star of the WWE at his peak, Stone Cold Steve Austin.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

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