The Post’s Joseph Staszewski brings you around the world of professional wrestling every Tuesday in his weekly column, the Post Match Angle.
For the last week “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s social media has been filled with him doing workouts in his RV, a parking lot and his home gym — though he said he’s doing so because ” I realized I look like s–t.” Couple that with a report from Fightful Select that the Triple H regime in WWE has made an offer to Austin for a match and it’s fair to at least let oneself dream of him getting back in the ring either at the Royal Rumble in the Alamodome in San Antonio or WrestleMania 39 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Kevin Owens was the clear choice for his return match last year at WrestleMania 38, but there is an array of quality options that would make sense for him this time around. So let’s explore 10 dream scenarios for the Texas Rattlesnake.
Styles gave The Undertaker a phenomenal final outing in the Boneyard match at WrestleMania 36 and remains one of the best and safest works in the industry – so he could easily cover up any of Austin’s current weaknesses. Considering their career paths this is clearly a match we thought we would never see.
Hall of Famer vs. Hall of Famer in a first-time-ever match? Sign me up. I looked back and Edge and Austin have only been in the same match three times; none of them were single matches and one was the 1999 Royal Rumble. Edge can go to that dark place and away we go to probably more of a brawling, maybe no-holds-barred clash.
Randy Orton is the “Legend Killer” and these two all-timers have never been in a match together of any kind. You could also do the Stunner vs. the RKO. Orton, if healthy, would simply be out to end Austin’s career and who is going to tell him he won’t?
Austin needs someone to help bump for him in the ring and there are few better than Rollins. You could simply have them instigate each other in a promo or have the feud revolve around the United States championship, a belt Austin held twice in WCW but never in WWE. It’s the one he need to become a Grand Slam champion.
Yes, Theory versus his idol John Cena makes more sense, but these two have history now after Austin stunned him at WrestleMania 38. Maybe Theory is United States champion again and the Grand Slam storyline applies. Austin wins at Mania and Theory wins the belt back the next week on Raw or SmackDown.
If WWE is going to do Roman Reigns vs. The Rock at WrestleMania and has not taken a title off The Tribal Chief at that point, it will need a high-profile match for Rhodes. You could sell the Rhodes family’s connection to Texas, Austin’s history with Dusty as the booker in WCW and Austin’s feuds with Dustin in the company back when he was “Stunning” Steve Austin. This would have to be a babyface vs. babyface clash.
Cena, if he wrestles, will probably be used elsewhere, but having two of WWE’s biggest drawing stars ever go head to head for the first time would be something. It’s a clash of eras, generations and pop culture icons. The promos would be fantastic, the match would probably be good enough and maybe you get a Rock-Hogan type moment.
The violence Lesnar can unleash is probably wasted here, but dam the story you could tell. The one time these two were supposed to clash was a King of the Ring qualifying match in 2002, but it never happened because Austin walked out on the company for nearly an entire year due to mounting frustration. WWE making that match with no build was the last straw. They could come full circle here.
If for some reason, The Rock is not available to wrestle in Hollywood and WWE doesn’t want to go back to Logan Paul, then break glass. Austin would give Reigns another huge opponent and it would be the Texan’s “last chance” to be champion again. I just don’t know if they can give us a compelling match as Austin is not winning, but Reigns’ pace and style would certainly work for him.
This is the one everyone wants and would be absolutely electric as a one-off. Heck start it with a “Broken Skull” session. There are just so many hurdles that need to be cleared for this to happen, including Punk needing to be let out of his AEW contract by then and WWE welcoming back a man that had so much public vitriol for the company. One can always dream and this is what it’s all about here anyway.
Survive and Advance
Shawn Michaels, dressed like Ed Harris’ “Man in Black” from “Westworld” announced NXT will be debuting a new match, the Iron Survivor Challenge, at their Deadline pay-per-view on Dec. 10. It sounds like a cross between the Royal Rumble, the Elimination Chamber and an iron man match with the men’s and women’s winner getting shots at their respective NXT championships.
Two of the five total competitors start in the ring and a new person is added to the 25-minute match every five minutes. Each fall scored within that 25 minutes is a point and if you lose a fall you go into the “penalty box” for 90 seconds.
There is a lot to love about this concept. It gives NXT the championship-contender-making match it’s been missing. The time limit makes every second count, adds a premium on when you enter, and allows for numerous storytelling paths. The penalty box can immediately inject drama into the match, especially late.
My concern will be how is this shot with the need to keep the overall time, score and potential penalty box time on the screen at once and the camera needing to leave the match to check on the penalty box. There will be a lot going on and plenty of shifting of what the audience is seeing.
As much as I had to say about Full Gear in my review Sunday morning, I wanted to touch on a few broader strokes. As good as that show was, there was just something missing for me and the only thing I could think of is the lack of a great babyface story. It was a very good night for heels in MJF, Death Triangle, Jamie Hayter and Samoa Joe and that’s OK going into the New Year You can build babyfaces from there. It was also a very big night for the women’s division with three matches on the main card and Toni Storm vs. Jamie Hayter being as good as it was.
Lastly, the promo MJF cut in the media scrum was exactly what he needed. We aren’t getting babyface MJF, but we might be getting the most insufferable heel version yet. Him teaming up with William Regal feels very much like it has the potential for CM Punk and Paul Heyman during his year-long title run in WWE.
The 10 Count
The fact that the fifth member of Bianca Beliar’s Survivor Series team will be announced on SmackDown could just be a swerve to make us think it’s not Becky Lynch or Sasha Banks, who were last seen on Raw or it will be someone like Liv Morgan or Raquel Gonzalez – who has WarGames experience from NXT.
L.A Knight is easy-to-dislike heel and would believably have the guts to slap him. Wyatt’s facials were incredible on SmackDown as if he has no choice but to unleash Uncle Howdy. This finally has genuinely excitement to see how Knight reacts to being attacked and the supernatural stuff to come.
How many difference kinds of interference will allow Mandy Rose to keep her NXT women’s championship? This week it was a debuted Isla Dawn out of absolutely nowhere to cost Alba Frye a last women’s standing match of all things. This does not do Rose’s reign any favors nor the person who eventually beats her.
CM Punk on the Cage Fury broadcast, with some goading from his booth mates, was joking about his injuries and being “bad news” in the locker room. All he could do was put his head and his hands and laugh when play-by-play man John Morgan said “don’t let him do any press conferences.” The friendly ribbing is fun and interesting to see Punk not taking himself too seriously after All Out. Then this week, The Young Bucks let the “F—k CM Punk chants at Full Gear be heard on “Being the Elite” It all makes you wonder if they can leave all the money on the table.
Going from Sami Zayn’s uber confidence to the stunned looks when Kevin Owens was revealed as the fifth man was perfectly set up. K.O. delivering the Stunner to Reigns only added to things. Bonus points to WWE if Owens’ reported injury was done to throw people off it actually being him as we all hoped. Reigns may need to ask The Rock for pointers on how take a Stunner, however.
Shotzi pretty much had to win her match against Shayna Baszler if she is going to have any momentum facing Ronda Rousey at Survivor Series. Still, I wish Rousey and Baszler had been established as a badass unbeatable team first, instead of looking like dumb heels when it was over. And getting Raquel Gonzalez involved any way makes you wonder why it’s Shotzi and not her in this spot. Time will tell.
Loved the passion of Zoey Stark’s promo and think she has a future as a heel. I also thought it would have been even more effective if NXT would have shaved a minute or two off it because by the end it felt like she was just repeating some cliché phrases. All in all a good job, however.
Bully Ray really knows how to get heat. His vicious post-match attack during Over Drive on Impact World Champion Josh Alexander, tying him to the rope before pulling his wife out of the stands and threatening to powerbomb her to set up their title match at Hard To Kill just made this all very personal
I get Braun Strowman can be intimidating, but one person whom he shouldn’t be such to is Gunther. It’s why watching him frighteningly flee on SmackDown, when these two may fight for the Intercontinental championship made no sense to me. Austin Theory also doing so from Bobby Lashley also put a little dent into the idea he is a more vicious and mature heel.
As an avid player of wrestling video games – from “Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling” on Intellivision to WWE 2K22 — I’m intrigued and excited by the trailer for AEW: Fight Forever, the return to the No Mercy style and thumbtacks. Changing the cover to a more signature AEW look after removing CM Punk was also a smart idea marketing wise.
Wrestler of the Week
Saraya, All Elite Wrestling
Put aside everything else that went into this, you show respect when someone comes back from five years away from the ring after a serious neck injury and turns in a good match with probably very little prep time. That’s exactly what Saraya did at AEW Full Gear, with plenty of help from Britt Baker. It set an excellent foundation for the former Paige in WWE to build from and should leave fans excited to see what’s next when she really gets her legs back under her.
Match to Watch
The Bloodline (Roman Reigns, Jimmy Uso, Jey Uso, Solo Sikoa, Sammy Zayn) vs. Sheamus, Butch, Ridge Holland, Drew McIntyre, Kevin Owens) WarGames at WWE Survivor Series (Saturday, 8 p.m., Peacock)
This match will start the next chapter in The Bloodline story. Will WWE keep them untouchable or will we start to see cracks if Sami Zayn can’t make good on bringing home the win he guaranted. Will it be Zayn or Jey Uso that cost them and does WWE start a strong set up to Roman Reigns vs. Kevin Owens. This match has a chance to over deliver and will write the first words in what’s next for Reigns and his family.
Around the Ring
- Kenny Omega challenged Will Ospreay via video message and will now face him for the IWGP United State championship at New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 17.
- Kairi, formerly Kairi Sane in WWE became the first IWGP women’s champion at the NJPW x Stardom Historic X-Over over the weekend.
- Tony Khan announced AEW’s next PPV, Revolution, will be March 5 at the Chase Center in San Francisco.