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I thought this would spark a good discussion.

Your task is to book one full year from Austin's departure on the 18th March 2002 - 18th March 2003 (12 days before WrestleMania 19).

What would have happened? Would he have retired at the same time?

Would we still have Austin/Rock III?
 

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The Babyface of WF
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Austin still feuds with Taker then Flair and NWO post WM18 that doesn't change.

Around June he begins his feud with Eddie Guerrero and beats him at KOTR in a filler program.

Excuses the match on Raw with Lesnar by instead getting interrupted by Brock and Heyman setting up their match at Vengeance where Austin puts him over big time to prepare him for his Undisputed Title match against Rock at Summerslam.

At Summerslam announces he has neck problems catching up to him and isn't happy with his travel schedule exhausting him to the point of insanity, Throws a beer bash and takes a hiatus until he returns at No Way Out against Bischoff, All segments of Bischoff trying to get him to come back are replaced with just simply calling him out as a challenge due to writing him off as a relic in the past.

Honestly it's difficult booking him for the latter half of 2002 without sacrificing other talent and making sense on top of that which is why I'd write him off at Summerslam.
 

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Devil's Blood
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I could see the current feuds at that time resuming. nWo summer feuds, which leads to talk of the Rock who ended up facing Hogan at X8, which had just left the nWo during that time. The Rock and Austin could have a SummerSlam 2002 match rather than a fledging Brock Lesnar. That would allow The Rock and Austin to have their final match at XIX in 2003 like they have had in realized history.

Royal Rumble 2002 - Royal Rumble Match Participant with a loss as recorded

No Way Out 2002 - Jericho Match as planned with a loss

WrestleMania X8 - Hall match which he won as recorded

Backlash 2002 - N/A

Insurrection 2002 - Big Show which he won as recorded

Judgment Day 2002 - Big Show with Flair win as recorded

King of the Ring 2002 - Finals against Lesnar, which he would win for SummerSlam challenge against the Rock

Vengeance 2002 - N/A

SummerSlam 2002 - Wins against the Rock for the title

Unforgiven 2002 - Called out by Lesnar and loses title due to Rock interference

No Mercy 2002 - Lesnar rematch which he loses

Survivor Series 2002 - Attacked and written off TV

Armageddon 2002 - Update via satellite (when they did do this shit)

Royal Rumble 2003 - N/A

No Way Out 2003 - Return against Bischoff

WrestleMania XIX - Rematch and final match against the Rock which he loses as recorded

Of course my ideas aren't super intricate and would rely on the Rock being around also.

I could've easily seen Austin with the company till 2010 the latest, I wonder how that would've panned out for others like Edge and dickhead Cena.
 

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I must away and tend to my ravens
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Considering how bad his neck was by WM19 I suspect that, without the rest his leaving provided, he wouldn't have made it to the match and been forced to retire early, or be given a quick squash match against a nothing opponent.
 

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THE NXT CHAMP BAYBAY !
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Assuming his health was fine, this is how I would've booked him.

(Does not job to Lesnar on Raw)

King of the Ring 2002 - Defeats Triple H & Undertaker for the Undisputed Championship (He earns his spot in the match by claiming Taker never beat him at Backlash 2002)

Vengeance 2002 - Successfully defends the Undisputed Championship against The Rock

SummerSlam 2002 - Defeated by Brock Lesnar for the Undisputed Championship

Unforgiven 2002 - Wins via DQ against Brock Lesnar in a rematch, does not regain the title

No Mercy 2002 - Hell in a Cell match against Lesnar in which he loses

Survivor Series 2002 - Loses to Shawn Michaels as the final two in the elimination chamber. The two shake hands after the match.

Armageddon 2002 - Takes some time off

Royal Rumble 2003 - Big return and it looks as if he could win it all, only to be eliminated by The Rock who was not in the match.

No Way Out 2003 - Costs The Rock his match against Hulk Hogan

WrestleMania XIX - Has final match of his career against The Rock in which he loses.
 

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Backlash 2002: Hollywood Hulk Hogan & Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Scott Hall & X-Pac

With Rock off to Hollywood, Austin steps in to be Hogan's partner against the nWo. The dream team is victorious, but Austin stuns Hogan afterwards.

Judgement Day 2002: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Ric Flair

Austin faces his idol and boss, Naitch, after luring him out of retirement. Austin stuns Flair after the match, but nWo's Big Show lays him out too.

King of the Ring 2002: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Eddie Guerrero in a KOTR Semifinal Match

After beating Show in a qualifying match, Stone Cold pins Latino Heat on PPV.

King of the Ring 2002: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) def. Stone Cold Steve Austin in KOTR Final Match

Heyman's interference gets Brock the win, the crown and a SSlam title shot. Austin takes a break to heal up and sell Brock's huge win.

Summerslam 2002: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Hollywood Hulk Hogan

Austin saves Hogan from a Lesnar attack after Vengeance, setting up a match between them. Both want to prove they're not has-beens. Austin wins as both men take breaks.

Survivor Series 2002: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Brock Lesnar(c) (with Paul Heyman) to win the WWE Championship

With seemingly no worthy challengers available, GM Stephanie McMahon is able to bring Austin over to Smackdown, citing Eric Bischoff once again letting him go. Botched interference gifts Stone Cold another World Title.

Armageddon 2002: Brock Lesnar (with Paul Heyman) def. Stone Cold Steve Austin(c) in a 3 Stages of Hell Match to win the WWE Championship

Tease of the strained client/agent relationship as Lesnar wins without Heyman.

No Way Out 2003: The Rock def. Stone Cold Steve Austin

Austin sits out the Rumble as he calls out Rock weekly to come back and face him after "walking out" for Hollywood starting at Raw's 10th Anniversary. Vince McMahon himself gets involved when Stone Cold accuses him of coddling The Great One in the buildup. Rock wins after interference from Eric Bischoff. Post-match sees Austin get a standing ovation from the crowd, teasing retirement.

WrestleMania XIX: Stone Cold Steve Austin def. Eric Bischoff in a Street Fight

After No Way Out, Austin's retirement speech is interrupted by Bischoff, who gloats. This ends up being a trap as Austin was allowed one more match at Mania by Mr. McMahon, and Bischoff is the opponent. Despite interference from Chief Morley and Lance Storm, Stone Cold prevails in his final outing.
 
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Austin's neck was fucked up so he would have probably lasted another 2 years max. He would have been on Raw even following the feud with Ric Flair and would be in the World Heavyweight Championship picture for a year or so against Triple H and then possibly end his career against someone like Goldberg or Brock Lesnar instead of The Rock.
 

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his knees and neck were shot, he was on his way out anyway

they actually wanted him to put over Brock on free tv with no buildup and put over Jonathon Coachman of all people

maybe it was best for him to be ousted when he did
 

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In a nutshell: he would have stayed on RAW and Triple H's "Reign of Terror" would have been delayed for at least a year assuming Austin retires the following year at Wrestlemania as he did in actuality.

His feud with Undertaker more than likely would have culminated at Summerslam with him getting the belt off of him and he would have been WWE champion until losing it at The Royal Rumble (more than likely to Triple H who would be set up to defend at Mania against HBK instead of Booker T as their feud would be altered due to Austin's presence) due to interference from the returning Heel, Hollywood Rock. Before getting back to Taker who would have had to fulfill Smackdown obligations and defend against their #1 contender, we would have more than likely have seen him have a short feud with Eddie Guerrero that was brewing when he walked out. Also, after Summerslam, since Austin would be the champion, the World Heavyweight Championship would have been created for the Smackdown brand and Austin (the new WWE Champ) would become exclusive to RAW.

He would then clash with Rock at Mania as it happened and possibly retire there as he did after (as mentioned) dropping the belt to HHH.
 

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Currently booking tonight’s card...
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I don’t think it would look really THAT different. I feel like Austin was slowing down by this time anyway, sure there’s bound to have been maybe another two or three matches that could have happened.

I imagine if he hadn’t left, which would then mean he came to some sort of agreement with WWE about how they could work a program with Austin vs. Brock... so obviously that’s the number one thing that could have been different. The randomness of the Monday night raw booking by itself is what started the whole mess of Austin leaving.

This is where I get a little sore... a guy like Austin has walked out cause he didn’t get what he wants... in recent years it’s been said by numerous people on podcasts that Austin would refuse other things presented to him... yet, we don’t think of Austin as a ‘backstage pain’

We turn our heads to this and look for something else Shawn Michaels did in a match with Vader somewhere...

Hmmm
 

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Best thing I would’ve done for Stone Cold in 2002 if I were Vince was to tell him to go home and heal up for the rest of the year. He was beat up and his head wasn’t in it. The signs were there that things were coming to a boiling point. He went home after Wrestlemania 18 and then there was the Byte This interview where you could tell things were bad before the eventual walk out.

When he returns in 2003 he has 2 money feuds waiting for him. Brock Lesnar who in the year he was gone was made into a superstar and Goldberg who’d debuted. Also when Austin returns he goes part time like the guys are today to preserve him and keep him as an attraction.
 

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They wouldn't have lost as much money going into the second half of 2002, that's for sure. The WHAT? t-shirt was their hottest seller and I recall hearing talk about a beer IPO deal also being in the works right before Austin walked out.

Honestly, Austin himself was so burnt out after the 2001 run that I would have also told him to take time off and come back in the fall of 2002 to put over Brock properly on PPV and then launch into the Goldberg feud.
 
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