Breaking Down Stone Cold Steve Austin's Absence From WWE WrestleMania 40

While WrestleMania 40 featured plenty of WWE stars past and present, one name notably missing from the occasion was Stone Cold Steve Austin. The "Texas Rattlesnake" was nowhere to be seen on either night of the "Showcase of the Immortals," with his absence most notably felt during the Night Two main event between Cody Rhodes and Roman Reigns. In particular, many felt Austin was originally pegged as the WWE legend who would've confronted The Rock during the match, a spot that ultimately went to The Undertaker.

Eric Bischoff had been among the many who felt that Austin would play a role in the Rhodes-Reigns match, and on the WrestleMania Fallout episode of "83 Weeks" admitted it was weird to see Undertaker involved in the match and not Austin. He put the pieces together, however, when co-host Conrad Thompson suggested Undertaker had taken Austin's spot while pondering why Austin wasn't involved.

"That makes sense," Bischoff said. "I wonder if something happened there at the end. I mean, that was just too perfect of a setup, just too perfect of a setup [for Austin]."

Others, however, were aware that Austin wouldn't be part of the Rhodes-Reigns match, most notably fellow WWE Hall of Famer and long-time friend Kevin Nash. During an episode of "Kliq This," Nash revealed that he learned Austin wouldn't be part of WrestleMania 40 when Austin contacted Nash to ask whether he would be part of the show.

"At about 1 in the afternoon, maybe a little bit later...I got a text from Austin. He said 'You ain't in Philly, are you?'" Nash said. "I said 'No, you?' He said 'Nope.' [So] I knew Steve wasn't coming out. That's all. He said 'I think we're the only two.'"

D-Von Dudley Believes It Would've Been Phenomenal If Steve Austin Had Appeared At WrestleMania 40

As for how a potential Austin appearance would've gone over, WWE Hall of Famer and former producer D-Von Dudley stated on "Gabby AF" that Austin taking out The Rock to help Rhodes win would've been an even bigger moment than how it played out, even though Dudley admitted he was happy to see Undertaker. His reasoning was the long-time feud between Rock and Austin during The Attitude Era, and hints of unfinished business between the two following their final match at WrestleMania 19 back in 2003.

"The last thing we saw was Austin down on his back, Rock sitting up, whispering something to him, talking to him, this and that," D-Von said. "[He] pushed Earl Hebner out of the way because he only wanted him and Austin to hear what was going on and what he saying to him. And it was like that little bit right there, showed me there could've been a possible continuation, where the lights go out, there's Austin. Austin comes in, now he puts The Rock down, he takes him out. 

"But again, me being a producer in WWE, sometimes ideas like that, even though we say that would've been great, we don't know what it would've taken to have Austin be there. And maybe Austin couldn't make it, maybe he had other obligations somewhere else, I don't know. But to me, that would've been phenomenal...I cheered just as hard [when The Undertaker came out]. I was still just as happy."

Cody Rhodes Has Nothing But Love For Stone Cold

Ultimately, the suspicions Austin was set to appear were confirmed ten days ago by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Meltzer revealed that WWE's original plans were for Austin to combat The Rock's interference, leading to Rhodes' eventual win over Reigns. The plans would fall through after Austin and WWE were unable to come to terms regarding Austin's participation, leading to the promotion turning to Undertaker instead.

As for the man Austin was reportedly set to assist, Rhodes briefly touched upon WWE and Austin being unable to come to terms during an appearance on "SI Media with Jimmy Traina" last week. While he didn't comment on how much he knew about Austin and WWE's negotiations, Rhodes made it clear he had no ill will towards Austin declining to appear at WrestleMania.

"I have nothing but love for Stone Cold," Rhodes said. "Again, the most profitable and unbelievable wrestler for his time, and that Attitude Era has been held up against what we've been doing for so long. It's such a great feeling to know we're now outkicking it. They set that bar for us, and they set this table for us, and now we're doing it all again. So nothing but love for the 'Texas Rattlesnake.'"

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