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McMahon, Stone Cold kiss and make up
By TJ MADIGAN - Calgary Sun


At one point, they settled their differences with a bloody Valentine's Day brawl inside a 15-ft.-high steel cage. This time around, things were a little more civil when Stone Cold Steve Austin and WWE owner Vince McMahon sat down to mend some burnt bridges.

Peaceful communication, it seems, is a more effective bargaining tool than punches and piledrivers because the duo finally announced a new deal at a Los Angeles news conference this week.

Austin initially walked out on WWE 10 months ago when contract negotiations reached an impasse.

Austin (or more specifically, his agent) wanted the rights to use the 'Stone Cold' nickname for the Rattlesnake's Hollywood acting career.

McMahon was adamant the trademark not be used for outside business ventures which could run in direct competition with WWE.

The situation was an obvious stalemate and Austin left WWE to pursue his movie career without the 'Stone Cold' moniker. He scored a supporting role in upcoming Adam Sandler flick The Longest Yard but steered away from rival wrestling groups, which lead many to believe he eventually intended on coming back to McMahon.

Due to years of ring damage and neck surgeries, Austin is under doctors' orders to never wrestle again but his name value is strong enough that even in a limited or non-wrestling role, his presence could make or break a show.

McMahon obviously understands this because word began to leak out several weeks ago discussions were underway and a deal was imminent.

On Wednesday, it was made official. Austin has signed a three-picture deal with WWE's new motion picture division, WWE Films.

In his first movie, The Condemned, Austin will play a death-row inmate who is offered a pardon if he agrees to compete on a twisted lifeor-death reality show. Shakespeare, it's not.

Given WWE's disastrous track record with non-wrestling ventures -- the XFL and the World Bodybuilding Federation spring to mind -- a theatrically released WWE movie is anything but a surefire hit.

Since Austin is now back under contract, it's widely expected he'll also take part in Wrestlemania XXI in April. Semi-retired grapplers often make a comeback at this time of year, partially for the glory of appearing on wrestling's Super Bowl and partially for the massive payday that comes with it.

When asked about the chances of a 'Mania appearance, Austin played coy. He told Best Damn Sports Show, Period host Tom Arnold he had something up his sleeve and to "never say never."

Ironically, things aren't looking so rosy with another of McMahon's biggest creations.

Reportedly, contract trouble is brewing between the WWE and The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), which means the People's Champ is no longer a lock for a 'Mania match.

If negotiations fall apart, there's a big question mark over whether Johnson can continue to market himself by 'The Rock' name in his movies.

NOT SO TABOO: Taboo Tuesday will be back for 2005, despite an awful showing by the pilot version last year.

According to WWE promotional materials, Taboo Tuesday 2 will take place Nov. 1 at a location yet to be announced.

In all, WWE will produce 15 pay-per-view events in 2005, with TNA adding another 12 shows to an already packed grappling calendar.

Wrestling fans would need to spend almost $900 to catch all the shows which, even if the wrestling biz was in a boom period, would still be overkill.

With PPV buy rates in a steady decline, it's hardly a prudent time to be over-saturating the market.

WWE's next pay-per-view, Royal Rumble, goes down next Sunday, live from the Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. The show will be headlined by the traditional 30-man battle-royal for a main event spot at Wrestlemania.