The WWE can make a throwback work when it wants to

I've broken more than once a promise to not mention AEW when discussing WWE. I'm not sure if I've ever gotten it right. It isn't easy when that is the main narrative of the wrestling industry. It's hard to avoid when it's like this on the biggest night of the year.

Even if they won't admit that they're competitors, it's clear that they felt the need to needle their new competitors. I'll get to him tomorrow, but he's supposed to be the center of attention for the rest of the business. The scale, the bombast, the sheer enormity of everything around and in Mania is simply not something anyone could dream of. The pop was only found in one place, which is why he came back to New York.

The match of the night was between Bianca Belair and Becky Lynch. The kind of stars that Lynch and Belair have been made into is a good place to start. Their handling of the women's division is better than AEW because sometimes they pay attention to it rather than almost never, and only at the top, but the level of anticipation and delivery from those two last night certainly proves that.

By an amount that is simply incomprehensible, WWE has over everyone. What makes Mania different is what has come before. It has been built for 38 years. It is also the biggest event on the calendar for wrestling fans. It was the show where Macho Man and Steamboat redefined the term classic. Both Michaels andUndertaker. The rock and stone are cold. There are two people: Warrior and Hulk. The echoes of those matches and many others are sitting next to you when you attend or watch Mania.

The cynical can point to Steve Austin's return last night as a ploy to sell tickets in Dallas when sales are low, but that is not true. They have the ability to call on that. 10 or 15 years down the line, AEW may be able to do the same. They try and wring memories of the companies around the world that aren't nostalgia so much as just inside-baseball winking. That works for their audience.

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Austin's match with Kevin Owens was good for everyone. It wasn't just Austin's return or that he was more ambulatory than a corpse holding out a plate for Vince, or Goldberg's malfunctioning forklift way of doing everything. It was more than Owens working his ass off to make Austin look good and credible, though that had a lot to do with it.

It was the fact that through the build, Owens baited the entire state of Texas into this through Austin, that made this the ultimate dream come true for him. Owens probably never thought he'd get to work a match with Stone Cold until it was his turn. We have to experience it. We could feel his joy through his work.

Owens is the best candidate to lead Austin through this match. Owens' appeal is more than one. He is the best talker in the company. He is one of the best workers. His reverence for wrestling as a whole, its many approaches to telling a story and its history, and its tropes, shines through the most. He is not afraid to call upon his knowledge of wrestling's past to influence a match, whether it is his history or someone else's. We can help but also do so with him because he loves it so much. He is wondering how he is going to top last night.

It's easy to dislike the idea of the WWE going through the storage facility to get a star. It has gone wrong in many cases. The difference between when it goes right and when it goes wrong is when it just throws a bunch of guys in their 50s out to the ring for no reason. In a way, Austin at Mania still means something, in a way that Goldberg and Taker can't. You would have expected Owens and Austin to hit all the notes. It doesn't make it any less fulfilling when the Rolling Stones play.

It doesn't mean that WWE should be pulling out legends for every show. This is the time and place for it because Mania is a celebration of the history of the company. They are likely to be the only ones to have such a thing. The buzz they will get from last night's main event will last for weeks. Only they can pull the Trigger. They remind you why they have it when they get it right.