EDITORIAL: Austin says no to Lesnar match, and he’s right and Sting and Undertaker are wrong
Will people believe Steve Austin now? If you missed it, yesterday on Twitter he emphatically that he is not wrestling Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32 and called the speculation “bullshit reporting.”
With what happened to Sting at Night of Champions and after seeing how physically spent Undertaker was after his recent matches, especially against Brock Lesnar, I don’t understand how any Steve Austin fan would want to see him, at age 50, with the pride he has in his work in the ring (and thus the risks he might take to satisfy his fans), wrestling Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32.
The pressure Austin would put on himself to have a good match, and with his neck issues that led to his in-ring career ending prematurely, I don’t know if I could comfortably watch the match.
In real competitive sports, athletes’ skills decline long before their drawing power. Deion Sanders could probably still run around the NFL field and exude his charisma and rile up the home town crowd, but if he got hit by a twenty-something NFL star in his physical prime, he might not get up again.
In pro wrestling, they can script their legacy stars to wrestle well into their 50s. I watched Verne Gagne’s retirement match in May 1981 (my first live wresting show). He was 55 years old and defending his AWA World Title. He wasn’t a returning legacy star, he was the reigning champion of the world. The difference is, he was wrestling Nick Bockwinkel (who was in his late-40s himself), who took all the bumps and did all the work, and nothing they did approached what Seth Rollins and Sting did at Night of Champions.
The worst case scenario for WWE would be to have Sting, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, or any other world famous crossover pro wrestling star get badly hurt – as in paralyzed or worse – trying to put on a show for fans, striving to get that coveted “You’ve still got it!” chant or, even better, “This is awesome!” chant.
I’m not against WWE using legends in the ring, but I hope that expectations for what they do in the ring is reduced and what they’re allowed to do is restricted. Pro wrestling is hard, and it’s an endeavor for younger athletes. Allowing Sting to do what he did on Sunday, keeping up with Seth’s usual move set, is bad policy. I hope pro wrestling fans will stop encouraging it with “You’ve still got it!” chants. By definition, if fans are chanting “You’ve still got it,” the more advisable chant would probably me, “You probably shouldn’t still be doing this.”
If WWE loses the opportunity to lean on long-established top stars for big matches, maybe they’ll give the proper focus and attention to building up the current contracted wrestlers in their physical primes to be stars the way Sting and Hulk Hogan were in the ’80s and Austin and Undertaker were in the ’90s.