For a man who enjoyed a legendary career and stands as one of the biggest stars in the history of professional wrestling, the retirement of Steve Austin came and went with remarkably little fanfare.
After headlining WrestleMania 17 in Houston, Texas, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin went their separate ways, but the pair would clash one more time, two years later.
The night before WrestleMania 19, Austin was hospitalised. By his own admission he had been living too hard for too long and that lifestyle finally caught up with him. The following night, The Texas Rattlesnake was scheduled to face The Rock before calling time on his Hall of Fame career. Not that anyone knew apart from a handful of people.
Reflecting on that weekend, Austin recalled the chaotic leadup to the match and how the events in the ring unfolded.
Appearing on Talk Is Jericho, Stone Cold revealed that he was never medically cleared to return to the ring, for what would be the final match of his career.
“Man, I never really watch that one back. [WrestleMania 19 match] That day before, my heart wigged out. Dude, there was nothing wrong with me, I was just living real hard and sh*t just hit the fan. No permanent damage from nothing. It wasn’t a heart attack or an anxiety attack, just sh*t hit the fan. They didn’t really release me. They said ‘ok you can go. But we’re technically not saying that you can wrestle.’ I was never cleared. I’m sure gonna wrestle The Rock. This is the last one. Rock’s going over.”
Austin later explained that no one really knew that it would be his last match apart from five or ten people. The Hall of Famer also lifted the lid on just how dire his situation was.
“That whole day… I pulled the plug on myself due to the neck injuries that I’d suffered in the past. Things were catching back up with me. I didn’t have a doctor saying ‘You must quit…’ You want someone to be able to say ‘you have to quit and here’s why.’ So you listen to a medical professional. I’m not a medical professional, but I’ve heard from my medical professionals, I’m looking at a real good chance of something bad happening if I’m in there with the wrong person and the wrong thing happens.”
Reflecting further, Austin said that the weekend took an emotional toll, but he was at peace as soon as the bell rang at the end of the match.
“So, that was going to be my last match, and I was so emotional about it that if I talked to anybody that day, and I didn’t hardly talk to anybody that day because I’d well up and damn near start crying. That’s how hard it’s gonna be to leave the business for me. And it took me a long time to adjust to life after the ring. I’ll never forget we went out there, and The Rock he hit me with those three Rock Bottoms. That last one he picked me up and slammed the sh*t out of me. He always took care of me, it just looked like a million bucks. You knew that was the final nail in the coffin. And Earl [Hebner] hit that three count… it was like someone just lifted a thousand pounds off my back, ‘like dude, you’re not in harms way anymore.’ I was at peace with it.”
During the conversation, Austin discussed his legendary rivalry with his opponent that night, The Rock.
Stone Cold recalled the pair’s undeniable chemistry, commenting that it was something “you just can’t explain.”
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