'Stone Cold' Steve Austin on WWE 2K24, one more ring return and CM Punk

Steve Austin was working on a project recently that required him to look back at his huge return match with Kevin Owens at WrestleMania 38 two years ago.

“Stone Cold” said he couldn’t discuss what project that was, but going over the tape of that bout — his first in 19 years — was illuminating.

“I dissected what I did, and I know that I can improve on what I did,” Austin told ESPN in a recent interview.

Does that mean we could see yet another match from one of the most iconic performers in the history of professional wrestling? Austin would not rule it out.

“I said I’d never get in a ring again unless all the stars aligned,” Austin said. “And for some reason, somehow, they all did. And at the age of 57, I headlined the first night of WrestleMania. I never thought I’d do that. If you’d have told me that when I retired in [2003], I’d have said, ‘You’re crazy.’ So I’m not gonna sit here and say no to anything, because you never say never in this crazy business of sports entertainment.

It does not appear Austin, now 59 years old, will perform at WrestleMania 40 this year. However, his greatest rival, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, will be in action. And for those fans yearning for “Stone Cold” at the biggest event of the year, there are options.

Austin will be featured prominently in WWE 2K24’s new game mode, “Showcase of the Immortals.” The mode allows players to live through 21 historic WrestleMania matches, as the biggest event in WWE history — the one that revolutionized pro wrestling — celebrates its 40th anniversary. Those matches include Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant from WrestleMania 3, the famous ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon from WrestleMania 10 and more contemporary clashes like the first women’s WrestleMania main event, the triple-threat match between Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35.

Austin’s classic match with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 in 1997, the one that took the “Stone Cold” character to another level, will be playable in the game. As will Austin’s WrestleMania 17 encounter with The Rock in 2001 and the aforementioned comeback match with Owens. The Hart match stands out specifically for Austin, who closed that match with blood dripping down his face.

“Bret kind of put me on the map,” Austin said. He saw me coming, he knew we could make money together. And without Bret my career would not have been what it was. So, the fact that fans can play it and do it in this game, it’s gonna be pretty badass.”

When asked whether he had an idea of what opponent he would want in what would likely be his final career match, Austin said he did. But he did not want to mention the name, because he was not promoting the match, nor did he want to add pressure on WWE or the foe to make it happen.

Austin did say a potential matchup with CM Punk “would be a good one.”

“I like Punk, and I think Punk likes me — so, as long as he can take a [Stone Cold] Stunner,” Austin said with a laugh. “I consider him a great friend, a great guy and a great wrestler who’s had a great career. We’ll see.”

That doesn’t mean Austin, a WWE Hall of Famer and six-time WWE champion, will come back and have another match. But it doesn’t mean he won’t, either.

“I love the sports entertainment business more than anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Austin said. “And you get a dose of it, and you want more. And so here I am talking to you a couple years later about doing it again. And that’s how addicting it is to me, just to talk about it. And I get excited, and I’ll start talking too fast.

“But it’s not gonna happen. But it could.”

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