In terms of wrestling trilogies, there may be none bigger than The Rock and Steve Austin.
Although they have had numerous matches throughout their career – a numbering totaling over 100 – their three WrestleMania encounters are the most famous and WrestleMania X7’s was the biggest and best of their bouts.
“The Brahma Bull” and “The Texas Rattlesnake”’s rivalry started all the way back in 1997, over the mid-card Intercontinental title. Within a year, Steve Austin had become the most popular wrestler in the company whilst The Rock had not only won his first WWF world title but also joined up with The Corporation – “Stone Cold”’s biggest opposition to success. At WrestleMania XV, the duo main evented the show with Austin leaving as the new WWF champion.
With the WrestleMania X-7 PPV taking place at a peak time for business in the WWF, The Rock and Steve Austin revisited their iconic rivalry. By this time, both men were arguably still the biggest in the wrestling business although they had not buried grievances and remained faces.
The Rock had picked up the WWF title, rather predictably winning it from Kurt Angle on the road to WrestleMania whilst Austin had fought tooth and nail for the spot, having emerged victorious in the 2001 Royal Rumble to get another sniff of the title belt that had been out of reach for so long.
The bout was further hyped by a memorable video package to the tune of Limp Bizkit’s My Way. Some of the more famous aspects of that promo were the duo coming to blows as the sign climaxed at the chorus as well as Austin uttering the now-famous line: “I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything you could ever imagine.”
A bloody No Disqualification bout, it was a thoroughly hectic brawl as was a common trait in the Attitude Era. The brawl was an entertaining and crazy match with neither man refusing to stay down for the other. With fans on the edge of their seat, the duo exchanged finishers as well as their own manoeuvers.
After a People’s Elbow, The Rock seemed to have the match won but Vince McMahon showed up at ringside and unfathomably broke up the pin. “Why?” the crowd asked as Vince and Austin – the two men who had been at each other’s throats for years – slowly aligned to destroy The Rock. This surreal, almost unspoken pact still would not wear down a defiant “People’s Champion”, who kicked out of everything thrown at him.
In the end, Vince handed his bitter rival the chair to finish the job. “Stone Cold” mercilessly decimated his opponent with several consecutive chair shots before pinning his prey.
In the desperate pursuit of the title, Austin would go to Hell and back, even working alongside the man who had repressed and suppressed “The Texas Rattlesnake” for years, making his life a living Hell. As Jim Ross howlingly cried on commentary: “Tell me this is not happening…”Stone Cold” is shaking hands with Satan himself!”
For a man that once said, “Nobody, especially Vince McMahon, tells Stone Cold Steve Austin what to do and that’s the truth because Stone Cold said so”, he now had to turn to his arch-nemesis to help fulfill his only goal. For a wrestler who was a defiant anti-hero to the fans, he had turned to the dark side, turning his back on the fans – the reason he was in that position in the first place.
by Griffen Kaye