WM Top 25: #2 – Rock versus Austin

Make sure to check out the original posting of this entry over at Examiner.com to see a slideshow highlighting WrestleManias IX - 2000 and a the super sweet video package of Rock versus Austin done to "My Way" by Limp Bizkit.

In WWE (and dating all the way back to the original days of the WWWF) the company has always thrived with two heroes on top, two men that could play off each other be the back up for one another if needed. In the beginning there was always a combination of Sammartino, Morales and Backlund. In the late ‘80s there was Hogan with either Savage or Warrior. In today’s time there is Cena and Batista. But in the ‘90s, two men ruled – Rock and Austin.

Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock ruled the WWF in the ‘90s. They were the leaders of the “Attitude” era that played against each other even better than they played with each other. They are the only two men to have three separate singles matches against each other at different WrestleManias. It is a rivalry that lasted the span of five and a half years, right up until Austin’s very last match in the business. In my humble opinion it was the greatest rivalry in WrestleMania history.

Their first meeting on the “grandest stage of them all” was in 1999 at WrestleMania XV, live from the historic wrestling town of Philadelphia, PA. The Rock entered the match as WWF Champion, the handpicked corporate champion of Vince McMahon. Austin came in as the people’s hero; the man who defied authority and did what he wanted, when he wanted. Austin came out of that first meeting as the new Champion.

But it was two years later at the Astrodome in Houston during WrestleMania X-Seven where Rock and Austin had their greatest match, and one of WrestleMania’s greatest matches. Once again Rock came as Champion, this time loved dearly by the fans for his in-ring talent, mannerisms, catchphrases and a charisma that may never be matched in the wrestling industry. Austin, once again came in as the challenger and the people’s hero. He was also coming back from serious neck surgery that had put him out of action for over a year previously. He had only been in the ring about six months at this point and earned this Title shot by winning his record-breaking third Royal Rumble match.

It was like Hogan and Warrior from WrestleMania VI all over again with the two superheroes colliding, only this time Austin was clearly the favorite being that the show was in his home state of Texas. The build-up to the match was one of the best in WWE history. It was simply a case of two men and one Title and something had to give. At 2001 Limp Bizkit was the hottest band in the land and their track “My Way” was the soundtrack for the event, and the top-notch production crew put together the finest video package I have ever seen to the tune of the song that encapsulated Rock and Austin’s epic rivalry.

The match that night had just an aura; an epic buzz surrounding it. The match was fought under no disqualifications and Rock and Austin took full advantage of that precedent. They brawled all over the ringside area. Both men bled, and both men escaped each other’s finishing moves a number of times. It was obvious watching that this wasn’t just another match. The match built up like a beautiful story and as the climax was about to hit, Mr. McMahon himself came out to ringside and began to slyly help Austin, despite being a mortal enemy to both Rock and Austin coming into the match. Once the referee was knocked down Stone Cold and McMahon began working together to put down the Rock. Their plan succeeded and after numerous chair shots from Austin, The Rock was down for the pin.

Stone Cold Steve Austin became WWF Champion for the fourth time but in the process he made a “deal with the devil himself” Mr. McMahon. Austin and McMahon had been bitter rivals for over three years at this point and their feud carried the WWF to insurmountable heights through 1998 and 1999. To say the alliance was shocking was an understatement. It went over terribly in the pro-Austin crowd in Texas, but it was truly a surprise wrestling fans weren’t expecting, including yours truly and those at the WrestleMania party I was attending.

When Stone Cold Steve Austin won the WWF World Championship for the first time at WrestleMania XIV it marked the unofficial beginning of the “Attitude” era. When he turned his back on the fans and joined the evil Mr. McMahon that night at WrestleMania X-Seven, it was the end of the “Attitude” era, the most profitable time in the WWF’s history.

The Rock and Stone Cold would revisit their rivalry one more time two years later at WrestleMania XIX. Rock would finally win in their third and final outing at a WrestleMania in what would be Stone Cold’s final match and one of Rock’s final matches as well. It says something of the rivalry of these two men that were able to have three separate one-on-one WrestleMania encounters spanned a five-year period. It is not only the greatest rivalry in WrestleMania history, but one of the greatest rivalries in all of pro wrestling history.

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