411’s Top 30 WrestleMania Matches of All Time: #27 - Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WM 15)
Posted by Larry Csonka on 03.10.2014
411 continues its look at the top 30 matches in the history of WrestleMania with Steve Austin vs. The Rock from WrestleMania 15!
Welcome back to 411Mania, and welcome to 411's official countdown to WrestleMania 30! Every year, the 411 staff comes together in some way to bring you, the fine readers of our site, a special countdown to WrestleMania. In past years we have done special countdown columns, ranking the shows, rating them overall, discussing special aspects of the big event, and even columns that have served as odes to the matches and moments that are etched into our minds.
To some fans, WrestleMania is the biggest show of the year, and the way that WWE has transformed the event into a near weeklong party, it may as well be a holiday to the fans that love our special brand of entertainment. Call it sport or call it a specially designed male soap opera, we love it and we love to talk about what makes things special. WrestleMania is an institution, and this year, as the WWE gets prepared to put on their 30th WrestleMania event, we decided to go big. Starting on March 7th, and running all the way to April 5th, 411 will present the top 30 matches in WrestleMania history.
Each writer on the 411 staff was given the opportunity to nominate 30 matches of their choosing. #1 on their list received 30 points, #2 received 29 points, and so on and so forth. Writers were asked to base their lists on both match quality and historical significance to create their nominations. The final list was created, and there was a ton of competition for the top spot. In fact, the voting was so tight that the top FOUR matches were separated by a mere 16-points.
Each day we will present a match from the list, which will include a full recap of the match from the 411 archives (from Scott Slimmer, JD Dunn, and Robert Leighty Jr.) as well as thoughts from the writers. Thank you for reading, and we hope that you enjoy our presentation…
Cole introduces JR as he gets to call the Main Event with Lawler. He had just recovered from his second bout with Bells Palsy. Vince McMahon is your special guest ref. Shawn Michaels makes his way to the ring, and as the commissioner he makes it clear only he can appoint a special guest ref. He sends Vince packing, and Mike Chioda will be your referee of record. As one would expect Austin gets a massive response from the crowd in Philly. Trash talking to start and they start unloading with right hands on each other. They fight to the floor, and Rock uses a shirt to choke. Back in the ring the brawl continues as Austin fights back. JR informs us that this match is no DQ. That is made pretty clear as the two men brawl in the crowd. The Rock gets knocked over the hockey boards (Pittsburgh Penguins: 2009 Cup Champs), but he regains the advantage once they get back to ringside. The Rock uses a cable to choke Austin, and then drags him up the aisle. A clothesline sends the Rock to the floor as the crowd is just rabid. Austin goes for a piledriver, but gets back dropped on the steel support that holds the lights of the set. The Rock now has something to attack and goes for the injured knee. Austin fights back though, and punches Rock in the strudel. Next he gets fired into the WrestleMania logo sitting in the middle of the aisle. Austin goes for a suplex this time, but the Rock counters that too, and it's Austin who gets dropped on the floor. Rock stops to get a drink of water, and spits it in the face of Austin. That seemingly revived Austin as he lays the Rock out on the announce table, and puts him through it with an elbow drop. Now Austin takes a drink of the water, and spits it in Rock's face. That only serves to fire the Rock up as he posts Austin's knee. That doesn't slow Austin down though as he whips Rock into the stairs. After nearly 9 minutes of brawling, things finally settle down in the ring with Rock firing off a Rock Bottom for a two count. Austin grabs a chair, and Chioda gets blasted inadvertently. A swinging neck breaker leaves Austin lying, and Rock uses the chair much like Austin would use it two years later. A second ref comes in for the cover, but only gets a count of two. They slow things down with a headlock, and work off the move for a few minutes. The Rock even makes a rest hold entertaining as he tells the timekeeper "Ring the bell jack off." Not as effective as Vince's "ring the fucking bell," but it's funnier. The Rock drops Tim White with a Rock Bottom, and that gives Austin the chance to snap off the Stunner. Hebner comes in for the count, but Rock is able to kick out at two. Vince makes his way down, and distracts Austin long enough for Rock to get the advantage. Vince knocks out Hebner, and Austin gets double-teamed. Mankind hobbles down to the ring, and takes Vince out of the equation. Mankind is the fourth ref for this match if you're counting at home. Rock snaps off a Rock Bottom and prepares for the People's Elbow, but Austin moves. He goes for a Stunner, but Rock catches his foot. Austin elbows out of a Rock Bottom attempt, and finally gets the Stunner (which the Rock sells better than anyone) for the pin and the title at 16:50. After the match Austin abuses McMahon and gives him a beer bath.
- By Robert Leighty Jr
Nick Marsico: This match is essentially the epitome of what the so-called "main event style" was all about during the Attitude Era. Rock and Austin clash for the first time at WrestleMania for the WWF Title, and even though the match itself has little going for it in terms of ring psychology or technical skill, it got the job done and provided exactly what the fans in Philadelphia and around the world wanted to see: Stone Cold stomping a mudhole in The Rock's ass and walking it dry. Rock was primed to be a huge babyface in 1998 but shockingly joined forces with the evil Vince McMahon at Survivor Series in order to cash in on the boss' power and become WWF Champion for the first time. This led to the natural revisiting of the Rock/Austin rivalry that helped both men become marquee stars in 1997; this time, though, it was for the big one. While the actual bell-to-bell action saw a bunch of punches, kicks, stomps and the occasional basic maneuver, the significance lies in this being the first of three matches between the two men at WrestleMania and was the official kickoff of the feud between The Rock and Steve Austin at the main event level that people still look back on today as one of the best pro wrestling rivalries of all time.
Ryan Byers: WrestleMania XV was subtitled "The Raging Climax" (because the 90s were all about sex and shock value), but the fact of the matter is that the show was much more noteworthy for things that began on it as opposed to things that ended on it. You see, there have been many classic moments at WrestleMania. There have been many classic matches at WrestleMania. However, there is only a small number of classic feuds that are associated almost exclusively with WrestleMania. Perhaps the first and biggest example of one of those WrestleMania feuds is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. The Rock. These two wrestlers, who exemplify the vaunted Attitude Era, faced off against each other in three different key Mania matches, with this being the first of the series. The two had feuded previously over the Intercontinental Championship two years earlier, but they kicked things in to high gear for this event, locking it up for the grandest prize in the industry. The match itself isn't a technical masterpiece, but, in some regards, it demonstrates the best of what WWF main events were during Austin's time as a main eventer. At one point in time, Stone Cold was a fast-paced, hard bumping technical wrestler, but that style had to change when his neck was shattered at the hands of Owen Hart. Subsequently, Austin's big matches became intense, no disqualification brawls, which started with two men lacing into each other with big right hands and concluded with an enthralling parade of run-ins. This that style of main event eventually became played out and turned into a bad punch line about Vince Russo's booking, at the time it was still fresh and exciting, with every new body that came down the ramp feeling like the latest sharp corner or steep drop off on a roller coaster ride. In this particular match, that formula took the form of three rank and file referees being taken out by the competitors, followed by a Vince McMahon run-in to assist his corporate champion, followed by Mick Foley, who previously had won a match to qualify as guest referee for the main event but was temporarily put out of commission by a still new to the WWF "Big Show" Paul Wight. It was only after that parade of bodies came to an end that we could finally get down to business and crown a champion, with Austin capturing the championship at his second consecutive WrestleMania. The two matches that these men would go on to have against each other in future years are both almost definitely better from a technical standpoint, but this one is still a deserving entry on the list because it established the series and allowed the two biggest names of the Attitude Era to have their first WrestleMania moments against each other.