By Mike Mooneyham

Nov. 23, 2003

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin may have delivered his farewell speech at last weekend’s Survivor Series pay-per-view, but he’s expected to be back on WWE television before his considerable star has time to fade.

According to the terms of Sunday night’s 10-man elimination match, Austin was forced to relinquish his figurehead co-general manager’s post that he held with Eric Bischoff after his team was defeated, despite a show-stealing performance by Shawn Michaels. But like most WWE stipulations, this one was made to be broken.

The WWE writing team already is working on a creative plan to bring the Rattlesnake back before ratings have time to go too far south. A strong argument can be made, however, that Austin shouldn’t be the focal point of every Raw. With Austin’s in-ring career behind him, it’s time for WWE to spread the wealth and develop new “Stone Colds” who will reinvigorate the product and bring new fans into the fold.

Steve Austin

Steve Austin

There are more than a few in the company who think Shawn Michaels, who returned last year from what initially was believed to be a career-ending back injury, should be given a bigger push. The Heartbreak Kid proved once again at Survivor Series that he can be one of the best workers in the business when he decides to turn it on.

Michaels’ stellar ring work comes with the added benefit of a healthy lifestyle and positive attitude backstage, two ingredients that were clearly lacking during his previous run with the company. A born-again Christian since April 2002, the new and improved Michaels now openly admits that he made bad decisions and stepped on a host of people when he was on top.

Few in WWE today possess Michaels’ old-school skills and mentality, along with his ability to sell storylines. The company would be well-served to put them to good use.

– Look for WWE to aggressively pursue re-signing Bill Goldberg to a contract extension. Goldberg’s stock apparently has rebounded after a somewhat shaky start, and he appears to be in position for a headlining role at Wrestlemania XX against Brock Lesnar in either a unification match or a special stipulation bout.

– Former WWE champ Mick Foley also is expected to return at WMXX for a match with Triple H.

Foley, who is currently promoting his most recent writing effort, the fictional novel “Tietam Brown,” recently told The Crimson White newspaper that he is in preliminary discussions with the company to return to the ring at WWE’s showcase event next March and listed “The Game” as a possible foe.

“He (Triple H) was one of my favorite opponents,” Foley said at an appearance at the University of Alabama. “And I keep hearing rumors he might be one of my future opponents.”

A Wrestlemania match would mark his first appearance at Madison Square Garden as a wrestler since the 2000 Royal Rumble, where he lost a Street Fight to then-WWF champion Triple H. Foley officially retired the following month, but returned for one last appearance at Wrestlemania that year.

– The Undertaker (Mark Callaway) suffered a nasty gash on his arm that required stitches when he landed on a shovel after falling into the grave during Sunday night’s Buried Alive Match with Vince McMahon.

McMahon and Shawn Michaels also took stitches after their bouts.

– Kurt Angle underwent surgery last week to have bone spurs in his neck removed. Angle, who underwent a minimally invasive procedure to surgically repair his neck earlier this year, is expected to return to television next week, but his in-ring action will be limited heading into the Royal Rumble in January.

Angle has a well-deserved reputation as being one of wrestling’s most durable performers. His list of injuries includes two broken necks, threw operations on each knee, several concussions, deafness in his left ear, a dislocated shoulder and torn ankle ligaments.

– Kevin Nash will return the second week in December to Dr. Hae-Dong Jho’s office in Pittsburgh after having surgery there in late October. Nash is said to be healing well, and the surgery was deemed a success.

– Gail Kim suffered a broken collarbone against Trish Stratus Monday night in a match that is scheduled to air tonight on Sunday Night Heat. She is expected to be out of action four to six weeks.

– WWE announced last week that it won’t renew the contract of Goldust (Dustin Runnels) when it expires in January.

– Wonder if Vince McMahon’s heard about this one?

Russ Clear, an ex-convict and current member of The Power Team, recently told a reporter how his born-again faith led him to abandon a $1.5 million contract from WWE so he could work with The Power Team. “You can’t serve two masters,” he told a Harrisburg, Pa., newspaper.

The Power Team, a Texas-based group of bulked-up motivational speakers who wow audiences by ripping telephone books in half, smashing stacks of bricks and snapping baseball bats like twigs, spoke last week at several schools in the Harrisburg area.

– WWE has reported third-quarter profits of $17.1 million. The number represents a significant increase over last year’s net loss of $1.6 million.

Half of the profit jump can be attributed to a lump sum won in a lawsuit in the Owen Hart harness case and an extra pay-per-view during the third quarter. There also was a significant increase of $9 million in profit because of expense cutbacks and international expansion. Ticket price hikes offset a drop in house attendance, and TV rights fees were up 18 percent due to a revised agreement with UPN and new international TV agreements.

– One of WWE’s more creative storylines of late has revolved around the romantic interaction between Chris Jericho and Trish, and between Christian and Lita. Matt Hardy’s jump to Raw gives the angle an added dimension. Hardy, the real-life beau of Lita (Amy Dumas), last week became the first performer to go back and forth between the WWE brands. Hardy said on his Web site that he was thrilled at joining Raw.

“To me, nothing compares to the atmosphere of live television. There’s that ‘no safety net’ pressure, which I love – you know that every move you make will be seen, good or bad. Crowds are typically more excited because with the show being live, they know anything can happen. Whether you like it or not, Raw is the show – the most well-known and most successful wrestling show ever … Although I’ll miss a lot of good friends on the blue team, I’ve been reunited with a lot of great friends on the red side. Lastly, Matt Hardy publicly thanks Vince McMahon and company for taking care of me on a personal level. Contrary to many stories on the ‘net,’ VKM really took care for me and was happy to do so, and I appreciate it.”

Hardy also said the recent death of Crash Holly (Mike Lockwood) at the age of 32 hit closer to home than any previous deaths among the wrestling fraternity.

“Crash was a friend of mine that I had traveled with, ate with, worked with, laughed with – and he was so close to me in age. I still talked to him every few days and he had just called me two days before he died. Every time we spoke on the phone, he always greeted me by saying ‘Hi, Boss’ – from our days of working together as a unit. Crash would leave me the longest and most ridiculously funny voicemails that I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe I won’t ever hear another long message or another ‘Hi, Boss.’ I’ll never forget his big heart and his unique sense of humor – Crash was truly one of a kind. May God bless him, his daughter and his family.”

– Edge (Adam Copeland) is expected to be cleared for light in-ring work beginning Feb. 1. His full clearance is expected to come in early March.

– Billy Gunn (Kip Sopp), recovering from a shoulder injury, should be released to return to the ring Dec. 1.

– Ole Anderson, an original member of the legendary Four Horsemen, has co-written a biography titled “Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling.” The book will be released in early December.

– Also due for an early 2004 release is “Brisco,” a biography of former NWA world champion Jack Brisco, written by Bill Murdock.