Wrestler of the Day – September 29: Steve Austin

Today we’re looking at perhaps the biggest star of all time: Steve Austin.

We’ll start things off with part one of the Trilogy.

WWF World Title: Steve Austin vs. The Rock

Vince is guest referee due to the issues earlier tonight. Oh wait here’s Shawn Michaels, the Commissioner, to say that Vince isn’t referee and that it’s going to be a normal referee. The Corporation is barred from ringside as well. Rock is defending if that wasn’t really clear. The place of course goes INSANE for Austin, who for some reason is in an Austin t-shirt instead of the trademark vest. It’s a brawl to start as you would expect with Austin being knocked out to the floor and sent into the announce table. Apparently Vince does have the power to make this No DQ.

Back in for more punching by Rock but he gets backdropped up and over to the floor a second later. They brawl into the crowd where we can barely see them but it’s Philly so it has to be expected. Austin blasts the Rock in the back and they head back to ringside. Scratch that as they’re already going back into the crowd on the other side of the arena. Back to ringside again and Austin is choked with a cable for a bit.

Now they fight up the aisle with Austin hitting a fast clothesline. Austin loads up a piledriver on the concrete, only to be backdropped onto a light instead. Rock is thrown into some kind of equipment and they clothesline each other. Now it’s Rock being choked by a cable and then being thrown into the Wrestlemania XV sign, which wobbles in a scary sight. Rock suplexes Austin in the aisle and spits some water in his face at the announce table. Austin drops him face first onto the barricade before laying him on the announce table for an elbow drop which doesn’t break anything.

The second attempt at an elbow puts Rock through the table and we head back into the ring after about eight minutes of brawling. Wait Rock bails to the floor and wraps Austin’s bad knee around the post. They’re still not ready to stay in the ring as Austin sends Rock into the steps and stomps away a bit more. NOW we head back inside but Austin walks into the Rock Bottom for two. Rock brings in a chair but Austin takes it away and cracks the referee with it by mistake.

A Stunner is blocked and Rock elbows Austin down before laying him out with the chair. Another referee comes in for a two count off a chair shot to the head. Off to a chinlock for an understandably needed breather. Austin fights back up, only to be clotheslined right back down. Back to el chinlock but they fight up again, only for the referee to go down AGAIN. The Stunner hits but Earl Hebner runs down for a very close two. Here’s Vince again as Austin gets a fresh chair.

The distraction lets Rock hit Austin low to block a chair shot and Vince gets in as well. Vince drops Hebner and it’s a double team beatdown on Austin. Cue a hobbled Mick Foley to beat up Vince and count a fast two on Rock. The Thesz Press takes Rock down but Rock comes back with a clothesline and another Rock Bottom. Austin avoids the Elbow, fights out of another Rock Bottom, and Stuns his way to a third world title.

Rating: B-. This one really depends on your taste. They didn’t try to have a regular match here at all and maybe that was the right idea. It’s definitely the weakest of the Austin vs. Rock at Wrestlemania trilogy but Rock wasn’t ready to hang with Austin in a match like this year. The rematch at Backlash would be AWESOME to make up for this, but even this wasn’t bad. It’s very typical of the time, which doesn’t make it dull. This was definitely entertaining, but it’s certainly not for everyone.

The main event of the biggest Summerslam ever in 1998.

WWF World Title: Undertaker vs. Steve Austin

Do you really need more of an explanation than that? If you’ve never seen the video for this set to Highway to Hell, make sure to check it out as it’s one of the best ever. The basckstory is Undertaker wants the title back and might be in league with Vince in order to do so. He’s also guaranteed that Kane will NOT interfere in this match. Taker is a tweener at this point as he has all the characteristics of being evil but hasn’t made the turn yet.

Austin fires off right hands in the corner to start but Undertaker throws him into the corner to take over. A clothesline gets two on Austin and there’s a double bird. They trade arm control until Austin takes him down with a drop toehold (!) into a hammerlock. Taker fights out of an armbar and whips Austin into the ropes for the spot that changes the entire match: Taker ducks down and gets kicked in the face, but the challenger’s head snaps up and rams into Austin’s chin, breaking his jaw and knocking him silly for the rest of the match.

Taker hits a quick suplex and a hot shot as Austin is still getting his head together. Some punches in the corner put Austin down again but Steve pulls him to the floor and rams Taker’s leg into the apron. It goes around the post as well before Austin takes him back inside before being taking the jumping clothesline. Old School is countered with a hip toss off the top and Austin stomps away on the leg.

Kane pops up at the entrance but Undertaker tells him to go back. The brawl keeps going but Austin goes to the floor to make sure Kane is gone. A somewhat sloppy chokeslam brings Austin back in but he clotheslines Taker to the floor. They fight into the crowd with Taker backdropping Austin onto the concrete. Back to ringside with Austin being rammed back first into the post, making JR scream that Austin may be paralyzed. That would be two years in a row if true.

Austin fights out of the corner but gets sent back first to the apron again. Back to the floor and Taker loads up the announce table which is always scary. He chokes Austin out on the table and goes up top for a HUGE legdrop off the top but the table DOESN’T BREAK! Austin slides off the table and the crash looks great. Back in and Austin is just gone but he kicks out at two. Austin gets up a boot in the corner and they clothesline each other down again.

Back up and Austin wins a slugout but there’s almost nothing behind his punches. There’s the Thesz Press and the (lacking middle fingers) elbow. Austin is whipped hard into the corner and tries a Stunner but Taker falls backwards in an awkward fall for two. Taker comes back with a chokeslam but the tombstone is countered into a very ugly sequence culminating in Austin being crotched. A Russian legsweep puts Austin down and Taker loads up Old School, but Austin crotches him on the top and the Stunner retains the title.

Rating: B-. The injury crippled them out there as Austin was totally out of it for about 90% of this match. The match isn’t terrible but it’s way below what they were shooting for and what the fans were expecting. It was a good idea to keep Kane out of this and it keeps Taker’s character ambiguous which is the right call here. That injury just stopped everything cold here though and dragged the match way down.

Off to the match that really made Austin a big star. From Survivor Series 1996.

Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

They stare each other down in the middle of the ring and Austin flips Hart off. This feels like a huge fight which is exactly what it’s supposed to do. Austin takes Bret into the corner and gives a clean break. Bret goes for Austin’s leg and they go into the corner as well for another clean break. I love matches where the guys mirror each other. JR says neither of these guys have ever submitted in the WWF. That’s not actually true but we’ll go with it for the sake of simplicity.

Austin actually wins a technical battle and cranks on the arm. Bret does the same and adds a hammerlock. They fight for wristlocks and Bret takes it to the mat, working on the arm. Austin fights up and takes his head off with an elbow. Bret stays technical, Austin turns it into a brawl. This is going to have some good psychology in it I’d assume. Bret takes it right back to the mat and cranks on the arm again.

Back up and Austin drops Bret with a Stun Gun and immediately chokes. Hit the neck, work on the neck. It’s not complicated. Austin stomps on the neck and throat before slingshotting Bret’s throat into the bottom rope. An elbow to the neck/chest sends Bret to the floor and Austin is starting to roll. Back in and Austin hooks a chinlock before dropping knees to the chest/throat for two.

They slug it out with Austin knocking Bret into the corner. Bret comes back with an atomic drop (which Vince calls a reverse piledriver because he’s Vince McMahon and isn’t a very good announcer) and a clothesline followed by a Russian legsweep for two. A bulldog attempt by Hart is countered by sending him chest first into the buckle. Austin loads up a superplex but Bret slams him down and hits a top rope elbow for a delayed two.

Austin escapes a backbreaker with a rake of the eyes as momentum shifts again. Bret gets sent to the floor and Austin just pounds on him with forearms and punches. Austin rams him back first into the post as the attacks shifts to the back. Bret comes back by sending him into the barricade, breaking the thing apart. They head into the front row and knock the barricade over. Austin is in trouble again and Bret chases him to the other side of the ring.

Steve is like screw this defense thing and sling shots Bret onto the Spanish announce table. They fight underneath the table with Austin pounding away. Austin was a smart heel in that instead of standing around, he wanted to beat on Bret even more when he had Bret down. Back in and Austin drops a middle rope elbow for two. A running crotch attack to Bret’s back gets another two and Austin is getting frustrated.

Off to an abdominal stretch and of course Austin grabs the rope. Back up and Bret wins a slugout before Stun Gunning Austin right back to take over again. A piledriver puts Steve down for two and Bret is exhausted. Bret hits a backbreaker and goes up, only to get crotched and superplexed down. Austin has that look in his eye where you know he’s feeling it. Bret hooks Austin’s feet after the superplex but only gets two.

Bret goes after Austin and walks into a Stunner but it only gets two. It gets another two and make that four. Austin is all ticked off now and pounds away at Bret before getting two more. He puts Bret in a solid Texas Cloverleaf but Bret still won’t quit. He makes the rope and the fans breathe a sigh of relief. Austin sends him into the corner but Bret’s knee gives out and Bret’s back hits the post.

That gets two and Austin goes back to the Cloverleaf. Scratch that as he makes it a bow and arrow instead. It’s amazing how much different that broken neck made Austin. He’s a completely different guy here and it works really well too. Austin grabs the ropes to block a Sharpshooter and there’s a sleeper but Austin hits a jawbreaker to escape. Austin slaps on the Million Dollar Dream but Bret climbs up the buckles and backflips onto Austin for the surprise pin. Steve is stunned, no pun intended. Apparently this was a #1 contenders match. Ok then.

Rating: A+. It’s Austin vs. Hart for 25 minutes. Were you expecting anything but a masterpiece? This match isn’t remembered for one reason: they had a rematch which is one of the greatest matches of all time. This however is liked better by a lot of people and I can easily get that. This is a pure, hard hitting wrestling match which ends with a wrestling counter. The psychology here is incredible with Austin wanting to prove he can go move for move with Bret before finally getting outsmarted when Austin was frustrated and trying one of his old moves. This is one of the best pairings of all time.

We’ll throw in a quick WCW match from Bash at the Beach 1994.

US Title: Ricky Steamboat vs. Steve Austin

In a month, Austin will be jobbing the title to Duggan in 27 seconds and Steamboat will be gone. Yeah taking Austin, who is cursing a lot around this time, and Steamboat who is still good in the ring and replacing them with a WWF jobber to the stars that was one of Hogan’s friends had NOTHING to do with Hogan. Neither does Orndorff or Beecake getting pushes. Not a thing at all.

Steamboat is more or less Shawn Michaels at this point, as he’s much older and a title means nothing to him as his name is far more than enough to get him by and over with the fans and he can wrestle with anybody and get a good match out of them. It’s so weird hearing these two talk about Austin. That name just sounds wrong coming from them. Heenan says he went back to Hogan’s dressing room and said there had to be 500 people there.

Now this is stupid for one reason or another. First of all, I don’t think WCW had 500 employees in a year, and two, the fire marshal could shut the show down if that’s the case. Third, HOW BIG IS HIS DRESSING ROOM? It’s not like he’s Dusty Rhodes and his fat needs a building to hold it. Austin has Dragon Slayer on the back of his tights. Steamboat just kind of falls out of the ring. It looked very odd.

You know, I find it amusing that Bischoff said that Austin was unmarketable as he was. He’s cursing, lying, cheating and wearing black. This is just amusing stuff. The fans boo the arm work. SCREW THEM. This is why wrestling died. The fans weren’t booing when Hogan was nowhere in sight, but we put Hogan in there and all of a sudden psychology and actual wrestling go out the freaking window, because we can’t have anyone under 6’5 and under 275 have a good match right?

We can’t have a guy wrestle a 45 minute match or anything like that. Tony and Heenan talk about seeing Flair and Steamboat going for an hour or an hour and a half and I drool over the thought. It’s very sad to realize that probably 75% of the fans in the world today would call Flair vs. Steamboat and their trilogy of epics in 89 a boring series.

Today there’s a complete hatred of psychology and a disdain for anything that goes on longer than ten minutes or so because the fans can’t keep their interest in a show that long. Take this match for example. It’s been psychology based and mainly about them not being able to stay in control. It’s been a great match but of course the fans are booing it because it’s slow paced and it’s building to a climax and is (allegedly) making Austin into a big deal.

That of course doesn’t happen because Jim Duggan needed to get a push and a three month run with the US Title. Why? DO NOT QUESTION HULK HOGAN! Austin hits the STUN Gun, his finisher, for two and then tries to throw Steamboat over the top, which would be a DQ, but it’s Ricky Steamboat so he skins the cat and is back inside.

That and the nip up are just amazing moves to pull off. Austin sets for a tombstone and it’s reversed which is reversed which is reversed and Steamboat gets it. The fans are INTO THIS now. See what happens when you HAVE PATIENCE??? They somehow crank the speed up and Steamboat hits a cross body and Austin rolls through and the ropes get him the pin and keep the title on him. The last four minutes or so were freaking amazing.

Rating: A-. AWESOME stuff here, as they went back and forth for twenty minutes and somehow cranked it up about ten notches for the finish. This right here is an example of what WCW was about before Hogan showed up: two guys out there with a good amount of time having a great wrestling match.

Hmm, now where have I heard about matches like these before? Matches where they start at the bell and go hard all the way to the end. You might say it’s action that goes for the total match with no stops at all. Yeah that can’t happen though. WE WANT LEGDROPS AND YELLOW TIGHTS BLAST IT IT!!!

Here’s a showdown with one of Austin’s biggest in ring rivals. From No Way Out 2001.

Steve Austin vs. HHH

First is a regular match, second is street fight, third is cage. MASSIVE pop for Austin, but the crowd has been white hot all night. I’m surprised that this is in the middle of the card but you know it’s going to get some time. Maybe they want to do this so the crowd isn’t spent at the end? Naturally it’s a slugfest to start. Mudhole is stomped 30 seconds in. Big old AUSTIN chant as he dominates early on.

Modified hot shot to take down Austin though as this is fast paced for the most part. Pedigree is blocked into a DDT on the arm which I need to learn the name of. We head to the floor as Austin works the arm. This is a regular match but Austin ramming HHH’s arm into a post about 6 times is perfectly fine? HHH can’t do the Pedigree because of his arm, which is SELLING! Simply shaking your arm is passable, but having it prevent you from doing your moves is SELLING.

Thesz Press and Austin is dominant so far. HHH gets his foot up when Austin is coming off the ropes, but for once Austin actually has his arms up to look like he’s doing a move. I hate when people just jump into it for the sake of jumping into it. Neckbreaker takes HHH down but it doesn’t do much due to the weak arm.

HHH goes after the knee which is Austin’s weak point as well. He goes for the leg into the post thing but Austin counters and HHH and the nose of doom hit the post. Back to the knee as HHH takes over with a figure four. Austin gets out and does a nice move where he gets HHH n the mat and beats on him with his leg. Cooler than it sounds. Thesz Press and the elbow get two.

Everyone counters everything and we slug it out. HHH gets a kick to the knee and goes to the middle rope. He jumps into the boot though and Austin hits the Stunner for the completely clean pinfall.

No rest period between falls and we’re right back at it again. It’s a street fight now and we hit the floor. Austin’s knee is ok I guess as he hits some suplexes on the floor. Monitor connects with HHH’s head and apparently it’s broken. Naturally we head into the crowd and it’s all Austin. Back in the ring and Austin destroys HHH Rock-Style with a chair.

After nearly murdering HHH we head back to the floor where Austin finds a 2×4 wrapped in barbed wire for no apparent reason. A low blows allows HHH to blast him in the face with it though and Austin is bleeding. HHH sets for the Pedigree on the table but Austin counters and sends him through the other table which EXPLODES. Awesome stuff so far if you can’t tell.

Back in the ring a bell shot (Austin brought it in earlier) gets two for HHH. This is a war with both guys hitting all these big shots out of desperation. Back to the neck with a neckbreaker onto the chair for two. Backdrop by Austin sends HHH free falling over the top. Cool looking drop. More weapons stuff on the floor but the intensity and selling is making it work.

You can barely hear Lawler here as his mic is messed up or something. HHH finds a sledgehammer and Lawler accuses JR for putting it there. Back in the ring again and a Stunner is blocked by a sledgehammer shot to Austin’s head. Pedigree follows that and thankfully that ties us up at 1-1. I would have rolled my eyes very heavily if Austin had kicked out of that.

The cage is lowered as we get a quick break. It’s been about 30 minutes so far and nothing but awesome. Austin is more or less dead and eats the cage again. HHH gets the barbed wire 2×4 and rips Austin’s face open a bit more with it. The sledgehammer and at least one chair are also in there with them. Make that two chairs, one of which saves Austin as he blasts HHH in the head with it.

HHH gets it in the face (I would have thought that would have been Stephanie but whatever) for a long time but gets a DDT out of desperation onto the chair but it only gets two. The crowd is a bit silent but it’s pretty clear that the fans know nothing is going to end without something huge. Austin comes back and goes OFF on HHH who just collapses face first out of the corner.

Game tries to bale but he Austin makes two saves, culminating with an old school slam off the top rope. Stunner is blocked but the Pedigree hits for TWO. The place erupts on the kickout and HHH is shocked. Another is blocked and HHH gets hit with a slingshot into the cage. Stunner hits and both guys are out. After the break Austin covers for two as this is awesome. HHH gets the hammer and Austin gets the 2×4. Both swing with everything they’ve got and connect, but HHH falls on Austin for the pin. I think I need a cigarette.

Rating: A+. Without question, this is awesome. Any of the three falls is great to say the least and the ending was perfect. Both guys are protected but not in a way that makes it look like they’re being protected. HHH got lucky and won it, as Lawler says that it’s not fair to say either guy really won. Just an absolute WAR with these two beating the living tar out of each other and making the crowd love every minute of it. With 40 minutes of these two beating each other to death, how is it not a perfect match?

Here’s an interesting match that I’d like to see brought back again. From In Your House XIII.

WWF World Title: Bret Hart vs. Vader vs. Steve Austin vs. Undertaker

This has some unique rules in that it’s elimination style with eliminations coming from pinfall, submissions or over the top rope with both feet hitting the floor. Other than that, anything goes. Undertaker and Vader go at it while Austin gets pounded into the corner. Undertaker goes after Bret before punching Austin as well before getting VERY risky with Old School. Vader comes back with a belly to belly suplex on Undertaker but the dead man sits up.

The two monsters fight to the floor which means they’re still in the match. Vader’s chair shot hits the post instead of Undertaker before the dead man kicks it back into Vader’s face. Undertaker sends Vader into the steps, busting him open before pounding away on the cut. Both guys head inside where Bret has been working over Austin’s back to join the fight. Now it’s Vader pounding away on Undertaker’s face as Austin breaks up a sleeper from Bret. Undertaker chokeslams Vader but Austin tries a Stunner, only to have Undertaker turn to the side, making it more of a neckbreaker.

Bret pounds on Vader but the monster hits him low and they head outside. Undertaker pounds away on Austin in the corner but Steve comes back with a neckbreaker. Vader hits Bret in the back with a chair a few times as his eye is just gushing blood. All four guys are on the floor with Undertaker backdropping Austin on the concrete. Undertaker goes after Bret while Vader stumbles out to the floor to beat on Austin. Steve sends Vader into the steps and drops them on Vader’s back as Undertaker gets two on Bret via something we couldn’t see.

Bret takes over and goes after the Undertaker’s knee as Vader sends Austin into the barricade. This match is really hard to call with everything that’s going on. Austin hits Vader with the belt a few times but Vader fights back and drags Bret to the floor for no apparent reason. Austin tries to come off the top on Undertaker but gets crotched as Vader and Bret fight up the aisle. Vader is sent into the crowd and Undertaker gets a two count on Austin. Undertaker tries to throw Austin out for the first time but Austin comes back with a clothesline for two.

Sid is watching in the back as Vader puts Bret in a Sharpshooter of all things on the floor. Austin breaks it up for no apparent reason so Bret goes after Steve in retaliation. Undertaker pounds on Austin but Bret wants some of the dead man, allowing Austin to hit the Thesz Press on Vader and fire off even more right hands. Undertaker goes after Austin but Bret drops Undertaker, leaving Hart as the only man on his feet. Vader hits a nice clothesline on Undertaker as Bret hits a good looking piledriver for two on Austin.

The 450lb Vader misses a moonsault onto Undertaker, firing the crowd up even more. The monsters head to the floor to brawl even more as Vader’s eye is looking horrible. Austin tries to throw Bret over the top rope but Bret saves himself and slugs Steve down as Vader chokes away on Undertaker. Bret drives some elbows into Austin’s face for two but Undertaker goes after Austin instead. Hart comes back with a low blow on Vader, sending the blood down onto his chest in a scary visual.

Austin stomps on Undertaker but the dead man tries to backdrop him out to the floor. Vader tries an armbar of all things on Bret as Austin has Undertaker over the top rope and onto the apron, but it appears that Austin has hurt his knee in the process. Keep that in mind as it comes into play later. Bret goes after Austin as Steve can barely even stand up. Not that it matters as he’s thrown out just a few seconds later.

Back in the ring and Undertaker splashes Vader in the corner so Bret goes after the dead man and Vader helps him, sending Undertaker under the ropes and to the floor. Bearer gets in an urn shot to Undertaker as Vader goes up top, only to be superplexed down. Vader’s face is COVERED in blood now.

There’s a Sharpshooter to Vader but Undertaker breaks it up out of instinct. Cue Austin to go after Bret and send him into the post. Back inside and Vader loads up the Vader Bomb but Undertaker gets to his feet and low blows him out, leaving us with two men. Undertaker chokeslams Bret and loads up the tombstone but Austin breaks it up. Undertaker goes after him, allowing Bret to get a rollup for two. Bret pounds away on Austin before clotheslining Undertaker out to the floor for the win and the title.

Rating: A. This is such a unique match that I’m surprised they’ve never used the rules again. The key to the match was keeping the pairings moving, giving you a string of matches instead of the same guys fighting over and over again. Vader’s eye looked HORRIBLE and made the match that much better. As for Austin’s knee injury, allegedly he was supposed to win the title here and lose it to Sid the next night thanks to Bret but the knee injury changed things.

Here’s the rematch that Wrestlemania XV should have been, at In Your House XXVIII.

WWF World Title: The Rock vs. Steve Austin

This is no holds barred with Shane McMahon as referee and Austin loses the title if he touches Shane. Rock, still in possession of the Smoking Skull belt, gets a big pop of his own but of course it pales in comparison to Austin’s. Austin pounds away in the corner to start as the fans are immediately into this. Rock comes back with right hands of his own as the Smoking Skull belt is taken to the back. Austin hits the Thesz Press and the middle finger elbow for one.

The champion gets sent to the floor and clotheslined down before they head up to the entrance. Austin tries a comeback but gets whipped through a fence, knocking part of the set over in the process. Rock’s suplex is countered into one of his own to give Austin the advantage again. Now it’s Rock being sent into the pile of the set and clotheslined down on top of it. Rock is whipped through a barricade and gets rammed in the head by a rolling anvil case for good measure.

The Corporate one comes back by sending Austin into a camera and clotheslining him down. We shift momentum again with Austin slamming rock down on the concrete and whipping him into the steps back at ringside. Back inside and Austin stomps away in the corner, only to be reprimanded by Shane. The distraction lets Rock charge at Austin and get backdropped up and over to the floor in a big crash. Austin loads up a piledriver through the Spanish announce table but gets countered into a Rock Bottom instead.

Both guys are down with Shane telling Rock how excellent that was. Rock gets on Spanish commentary and calls Austin trash (in English) as Shane throws him a chair. Austin kicks him in the ribs to block the shot and they head back into the crowd for another clothesline to the champion. A low blow keeps Austin in trouble and Rock lays him across the announce table before taking over a camera for more comedy. Rock looks out at the crowd but pans back to Austin flipping him off and hitting a Stunner through the announce table. Nice idea there.

Both guys are down at ringside as we get a replay of the Stunner, this time entirely from Rock’s perspective. Back inside and Austin tries another Stunner but Rock shoves him into Shane. There’s the Rock Bottom for a close two after Shane put Rock’s hand on Austin’s chest. Shane grabs the belt (the regular one, not the Smoking Skull) but accidentally hits Rock. Austin covers for two but Shane flips Austin off at two. Shane starts bailing up the aisle but here are Vince and another referee. Vince knocks Shane out with the Smoking Skull belt and Austin hits a Stunner and belt shot to Rock’s head to retain the title.

Rating: B+. This was a solid Attitude Era style brawl and the match that should have happened at Wrestlemania. The ending is more shades of gray than I prefer with Vince helping his mortal enemy to take out his new enemy. That’s just not something Vince would do, especially with what’s coming in the near future.

Here’s an Attitude Era preview from In Your House XIX.

Intercontinental Title: The Rock vs. Steve Austin

Rock brings the Nation with him so Austin drives a Stone Cold truck down the aisle. The brawl is on immediately and the bell hasn’t even rung yet. The Nation gets in the ring and beats Austin down four on one. Austin gets up and backdrops D’Lo onto the hood of the car before Stunning him on the top. The bell rings and Austin slugs it out with Rock before taking him down with a Thesz Press and more right hands.

Rock throws him to the floor and the Nation gets in a few extra cheap shots to the back. They fight into the aisle but Kama’s chair shot hits Faarooq in the head, allowing Austin to ram Kama head first through the window. The fans are just nuts for Austin here. Austin hasn’t even been able to take his vest off as Rock pounds away at him and chokes on the ropes. Rock stomps Austin down in the corner before dropping the yet to be named People’s Elbow.

We hit a chinlock to give them a breather but Rocky misses another elbow attempt. Now it’s Austin stomping Rock down in the corner but has to punch Kama instead of Stunning Rock. Austin backs up and blindly Stuns the referee. Rock finds some brass knuckles but gets caught in the Stunner as another referee comes in to count the pin.

Rating: B-. This one depends on your taste but the match is very important from an historical perspective. This match paved the way for what would become the Attitude Era style with no semblance of order or rules and the two guys just beating the tar out of each other. The style had to be implemented to protect Austin’s neck and give him a way to still compete while not risking further injuries. These two would have a lot more matches and we’ll get to see one of the better ones later.

Speaking of XIX, here’s the end of the Trilogy at Wrestlemania XIX.

Steve Austin vs. The Rock

Austin pounds away to start but can’t hook an early Stunner. Rock bails to the floor but gets clotheslined down in the aisle. Austin rams him into the steps and chops away before dropping him onto the barricade a few times. Rock is whipped HARD into the steps before they head back inside. A big clothesline puts Rock down but he takes out Austin’s bad knee to send Steve to the floor.

Rock stomps away on the knee as Austin stumbles around ringside. The leg is wrapped around the post but Austin pops up with more right hands. Rock kicks the leg out again and puts on the Sharpshooter, only to have Austin crawl to the rope. JR goes on a big rant against Lawler about how this is a wrestling match and not about puppies or Hollywood. Rock wraps the leg around the post a few more times before heading outside and putting on Austin’s vest.

Austin comes back with a clothesline and the Thesz Press to pound away on Rock. The middle finger elbow keeps Rock down again and it’s time to stomp a mudhole, but Rock comes back with right hands. Austin counters with a Rock Bottom of his own for a very close two. Rock fights up and hits a Stunner of his own out of nowhere for two more. Back up again and Rock pounds away, only to walk into the real Stunner for another close two.

Austin goes to pick Rock up but the guy with Austin’s vest on hits him low to break it up. The People’s Elbow misses but the Stunner is countered into a spinebuster, followed by the removal of the vest and the Elbow for two. A Rock Bottom gets two on Austin, another Rock Bottom gets two but a BIG Rock Bottom is finally enough to end Austin.

Rating: B+. It’s definitely a step or three below the one from two years ago but it’s definitely still entertaining. My problem with it as usual though is that it doesn’t have anything on it. When you have two huge matches between the two before when they were on top and now you get them both well past their primes for nothing but pride, it’s a bit harder to get into it. Still very good, but not as great as their others.

Austin salutes the crowd for the final time as he leaves. As of this September 2014, this is Austin’s final match.

Here’s Vince Russo’s booking at its absolute peak. From In Your House XXII.

WWF World Title: Steve Austin vs. Mankind

Vince is guest referee, Patterson is ring announcer and Brisco is timekeeper. Fink gives Patterson a LONG intro, including a mention of Patterson’s tournament victory to become the first Intercontinental Champion (JR: “Wink wink.” For those of you unfamiliar, the tournament is the worst kept secret in wrestling history as there is zero evidence that it ever existed. It’s since become a running joke in wrestling).

Brisco gets a similar introduction and takes time to point out the Brisco Brothers Body Shop sign painted on one of the cars, which gets a full ad from Patterson, complete with address and phone number. Vince gets a speech fitting of a president as this is hilarious stuff. Love is called “the cat that makes the kittens purr.” Patterson refuses to introduce a bum like the champion. Vince tells Austin to hand him the belt but Undertaker comes out to keep watch on everything. The entrances are literally over twelve minutes long.

They fight into the corner to start and Vince breaks it up, earning a double bird from Austin. Love shoulder blocks him down for a fast two count and Undertaker gets up onto the steps. The place is LOUDLY chanting for Austin here. Austin grabs a headlock as a loud Vince is dead chant starts up. Steve punches Dude’s false teeth out and throws them into the crowd

for one heck of a souvenir.

The Thesz Press puts Love down again and a clothesline puts Dude on the floor. Austin is whipped into the steps and Vince declares there are no countouts. We head back inside for a Russian legsweep for two on Austin. A knee to Austin’s back gives Dude a target and a running knee in the corner gets two. Austin comes back with a swinging neckbreaker and three clotheslines in a row before stomping a mudhole in the corner. Love counters a whip into the corner and grabs the Mandible Claw, only to be sent over the ropes with his head tied in the cables.

They head outside again with Love throwing Austin over the announce table. Patterson reminds us that this is No DQ as the rule changes continue. They fight into the crowd with Austin clotheslining Love over the barricade. JR is in his element here, shouting about how Love is nearly dead. Austin misses a charge into the ropes and crotches himself, allowing Love to baseball slide him to the floor. A bad looking swinging neckbreaker on the concrete is enough for Patterson to remind us that this is also falls count anywhere. JR: “SINCE WHEN???”

Austin comes back with some hard right hands but charges into a backdrop, sending him through the windshield of one of the cars. That only gets two for Love as the fans are WAY into this. Now it’s Love charging into a hot shot onto the roof of a Gremlin for two as Undertaker keeps watch. Austin takes Love on top of a car but his Stunner is countered with Austin being shoved onto the hood of a Mercury. Love sunset flips him off the roof of a car for two in a cool visual.

Dude picks up what appears to be a tail pipe but Austin elbows him in the ribs to break it up. Austin is BADLY busted open and gets backdropped on the concrete for another near fall. Love’s elbow drop off a car misses and Austin gets a two count. They head back to the ring where Patterson trips Austin, allowing Love to pound away more right hands. A buckle pad is pulled off but Love hits a running knee to Austin while he’s seated in the corner.

Austin is sent face first into the exposed buckle but Love puts on a reverse chinlock instead of covering. Austin fights up again and the fans are right there with him but Love sends him into the buckle again for two. Patterson hands Dude a chair and a double arm DDT onto the chair gets two. Love charges at Austin with the chair but gets it kicked into his face. Now it’s a ticked off Austin with the chair and he caves in Love’s head but Vince refuses to count. Austin yells at Vince so Love gets the chair but hits Vince by mistake.

The Stunner puts Love down and another referee comes in for the count but Patterson punches him out. Love gets the Mandible Claw and Patterson tries to call for the bell but Undertaker chokeslams him through a table. Brisco tries to count a pin but gets a chokeslam as well. Undertaker is awesome when he just starts breaking stuff, usually people. Austin counters the Mandible Claw into the Stunner but there’s no referee. In a really smart ending, he grabs Vince’s hand and raises it three times for a count, giving Austin the pin in the only way Vince would count to retain the title as the crowd goes NUTS.

Rating: A+. If there’s a better match that embodies the Attitude Era style, I’ve yet to see it. This was a FIGHT with Austin and Love just beating the tar out of each other for over twenty minutes. The ending is nothing short of brilliant with everything being timed perfectly. The idea was used by writer Vince Russo over and over again but it was never anything close to this. Even without the Vince stuff it’s still a great fight and both guys looked awesome out there. The crowd reaction puts it over the top as well.

One TV match and one of the best tag team matches ever. From Raw, May 21, 2001.

Tag Titles: Steve Austin/HHH vs. Chris Benoit/Chris Jericho

Here we go. Austin vs. Jericho gets us going and one of the belts is laying in the ring. Austin takes over with pounding boots but Jericho snaps off a cross body for two. A top rope elbow to the head scores for Jericho and he works on Austin’s arm. HHH comes in and the Canadians take over. Benoit chops Austin HARD and then hits a snap suplex for no cover. There’s a superplex for two as HHH saves.

Jericho comes in to even things out but it lets the champions take over. Benoit is like screw that and pounds them back, hooking the Crossface on Austin. HHH comes in with a big chair shot to break it up but Benoit kicks out to a big pop. Benoit goes into the steps for no count as he kicks out before the one. Austin pounds away on him and it’s off to HHH who hooks a cheating abdominal stretch.

Make that a sleeper as Benoit is in big trouble. Benoit manages to fire off a suplex to put both guys down and an enziguri is good enough for the hot tag to Jericho….but the referee doesn’t see it. The fans don’t like that at all. Jericho goes off with Austin on the floor as HHH hits the Pedigree. There’s no referee though so Jericho goes up and takes HHH’s head off with a missile dropkick.

There’s your hot tag to Jericho and he takes on the now legal Austin and HHH at the same time. Thesz Press is countered into a spinebuster and then the Walls but HHH makes the save. That right there, that save, resulted in HHH tearing his quad off the bone and would put him out of action until January of 2002. You could see HHH’s leg just stop moving. His leg is dead weight now.

HHH is like screw this potentially career ending injury and goes to set up the announce table. HHH loads up the Pedigree but Jericho counters into the Walls on the table, and remember that HHH has a torn muscle. FREAKING OW MAN!!! Benoit hits the swan dive on Austin but there’s no referee. Stunner to Benoit gets two as Jericho pulls the referee out. Lionsault gets knees and HHH finds the sledgehammer from somewhere. The second Lionsault hits but the hammer hits Austin and Jericho gets the pin and the titles as the place erupts!

Rating: A+. WOW this match holds up really well. After Jericho gets that hot tag, this is full speed ahead the rest of the way. The energy in this is great as they did everything they could to keep the Canadians down but in the end, HHH messes up to end it. Notice one very important thing here: Jericho had Austin (presumably) beat with the Lionsault, so it’s not like they got dominated the entire time and won on a mistake by the other team. That’s huge and it makes Benoit/Jericho look far stronger as the new champions.

Here’s the middle part of the Trilogy, the biggest match of Austin’s career, the main event of the best show of all time, and the end of the Attitude Era. From Wrestlemania X7.

WWF World Title: Steve Austin vs. The Rock

Heyman says this is the match that both men need to win and neither man can afford to lose. Right before the entrances, Fink tells us that this is now No DQ, which is a surprise to everyone. Austin’s pop is awe inspiring as the face absolutely lose their minds at his entrance. Rock gets a VERY mixed reaction as Austin is a folk hero here in Texas. The brawl is on immediately and Austin hits the Thesz Press and middle finger elbow, only to be taken down by a swinging neckbreaker. The Rock Bottom and Stunner are countered and Austin throws Rock to the floor. We’re maybe 45 seconds in at this point.

They fight into the crowd with Rock taking over with more right hands. Back to ringside with Austin hitting a clothesline to put Rock down before adjusting his knee brace for a bit. They’re back in the ring now with Austin hitting a running crotch attack in 619 position followed by a superplex for the first two count of the match. Austin takes off the turnbuckle pad and pounds away to A LOT of booing from the crowd. A back elbow gets two for Rock before he clotheslines Austin to the floor.

They fight over to the announce table with Austin coming back with a bell shot to the face. Rock is knocked onto the announce table which breaks a few seconds later. We head back inside for Austin to pound away to even more pops from the crowd. Rock comes back with right hands but Austin drops both him and a leg for two. Rock is busted open and Austin chokes away in the corner. Austin stops to yell at the referee and gets his head taken off by a lariat from Rock.

The champion pounds away with right hands before getting the bell. It goes upside the head of the also bloody Austin but only gets two. We’re at the point now where the pinfall attempts get more and more intense. Rock keeps pounding away but Austin won’t stay down. Back to the floor with Austin firing off more fists as JR is in all his glory calling it. A slingshot sends Rock head first into the post and man did he BOUNCE off that thing. Back inside and Rock scoops the legs for the Sharpshooter in a call back to WM 13 where Austin is dripping blood while in the hold. He makes the rope this time though and we keep going.

Rock flips Austin off, earning himself a Sharpshooter from Austin. Well there’s a twist. It’s a terrible Sharpshooter but it gets the job done. Rock powers out though with blood dripping in between his teeth, again ala Mania 13. Back to the Sharpshooter on Rock but he makes the rope this time to escape again. Austin busts out the Million Dollar Dream of all things and the bloody Rock is in trouble. Rock fights up though and we get another callback to a Bret vs. Austin masterpiece with Rock climbing the rope and backflipping onto Austin for two, making him break the hold in the process.

Out of nowhere Rock hits a Stunner on Austin but he can’t follow up. It eventually gets two…and here’s Vince. Austin’s whip spienbuster gets two but he walks into one by Rock which sets up the People’s Elbow. Vince breaks it up though by pulling Rock off Austin, earning himself a death stare from the champion. Now we know something is afoot given the history between Vince and Austin. Rock chases Vince but runs into a Rock Bottom from Austin for another very close two.

The Stunner is countered and Hebner is knocked to the floor, allowing Austin to hit a low blow. Vince brings in a chair and clocks Rock with it on Austin’s instructions, getting another delayed two count. Now the fans are cheering for Rock a lot more but aren’t as pleased when Rock hits a Rock Bottom out of nowhere. Vince gets pulled into the ring for a beatdown but it’s a Stunner to Rock for only two. That probably should have been the finish, but instead Austin gets the chair and gives Rock the mother of all beatdowns with it, hitting him SIXTEEN TIMES. Rock is DEAD and Austin covers the body for the pin and the title.

Rating: A+. Yes there’s kind of weak ending, yes there were some lame points, but it’s Rock vs. Austin II for the world title in the main event of Wrestlemania. This is a masterpiece by definition alone. I think I might be the only person on the planet that likes this turn still, but it was in front of the wrong crowd. If this was ANY other state in the country it would have been booed like there was no tomorrow, but instead gets cheered, which is where the problem came from. Still though, excellent match and worthy of being the main event of the greatest show ever.

Vince and Austin shake hands, officially ending the Attitude Era. Beer is consumed and Rock is hit with the belt one more time for good measure.

The only time they ever met on pay per view. From In Your House XXVII.

Vince McMahon vs. Steve Austin

This had to headline a pay per view at some point. Austin gets in the cage first so Vince makes him wait a bit longer. Steve gets tired of waiting and chases Vince around the cage but the boss gets inside to hide. The bell hasn’t rung yet. Austin tries to climb up the cage but Vince punches from his high ground. Steve slips off the side of the cage and seems to have twisted his knee. Like an idiot, Vince comes out to check on it and gets clotheslined by a healthy Austin.

McMahon is sent into the side of the cage and choked with a cord. They fight into the crowd with Austin in complete control. Austin hits him in the head with the bell, making it ring the hard way. The match still hasn’t actually started yet. Back to ringside with Vince being sent into the steps and running into the crowd to try to get away. The beating continues until Austin knocks Vince back to ringside. Vince tries to climb into the cage where there’s less to cause him pain.

Austin won’t let that happen though and rams Vince face first into the cage over and over. Vince tries to climb again but this time Austin follows him up and slams Vince’s head into the top of the cage, sending him flying off the cage and onto the Spanish announce table. McMahon’s head bounces off a monitor, knocking him out cold for a bit in a scary landing. Everything stops as Vince is taken away by medics and Austin chills in the cage.

The Fink is about to announce Austin as the winner but Austin isn’t cool with that. He guaranteed to take Vince apart tonight, and since the bell never rang that’s not good enough for him. Austin asks the doctor if Vince is still breathing, because if he is the fight isn’t done yet. Vince is pulled off the stretcher and hit in the back with a backboard before finally being thrown into the cage for the opening bell.

Austin hits a quick clothesline and a middle rope elbow before going to leave, but Vince makes the eternal mistake of flipping Austin off. Steve climbs back inside and stomps a mudhole in the corner. Somehow Vince fights out with a low blow to get himself a breather before climbing up the cage. Austin pulls Vince down off the cage and leaves him in a heap. The boss is busted open and Lawler is losing his mind.

Steve can’t help but smile and climb the cage but Vince looks up at him and flips him off AGAIN, bringing Austin back to the ring. Austin stomps on him even more, leaving Vince crumpled down in the corner. There’s the Stunner but as Austin talks trash, a monster called Paul Wight breaks through the ring and throws Austin into the cage before helping Vince to his feet. Wight throws Austin against the cage but the wall breaks, allowing Austin to drop down for the win.

Rating: C. This is a hard one to grade because it was again a story rather than a match. The ending was very smart though as Wight got to debut but also look strong with Austin winning due to Wight’s strength. Austin got to give Vince the beating he needed to and win a the same time, but Vince gets to continue the feud with his new monster. In case you didn’t recognize the name, Wight would soon be called The Big Show Paul Wight.

Here’s the match and the promo that followed which launched Austin to heights that had never been seen before and never will be again. From King of the Ring 1996.

King of the Ring Finals: Steve Austin vs. Jake Roberts

The IWC explodes as Pillman and Austin pass each other in the aisle and pause for a second. Good night they were a great team in the time they had. Austin apparently went to the emergency room to fix his tongue. I think that’s legit actually. Jake’s music is just made of awesome. Austin jumps him to the shock of no one. This is all Austin as Roberts is barely even able to move let alone fight.

Here’s his token comeback as it’s fairly obvious that Austin is winning here. Vince says Austin is being a coward for attacking the injured ribs. Owen says Austin is smart to do so, which at least makes sense. Monsoon is out here now and Vince is more or less saying Austin doesn’t deserve to win. It’s not his fault that Vader beat up Roberts.

With Monsoon checking on Roberts it lets him breathe a bit and he beats on Austin for a bit but Austin counters with corner shoulder blocks of all things. Geez Austin was a different kind of wrestler back then. Austin hits the academic stunner to get the win and the crown.

Rating: N/A. It was 4 and a half minutes which includes Monsoon coming down.

However, the most important part is right afterwards: the coronation. Austin says the catchphrase that made him a legend: Austin 3:16.

To quote Jim Cornette from Monday Night Wars, “Steve Austin was gonna be a big deal. Nobody knew how big.” That was the debut of both the 3:16 catchphrase as well we that’s the bottom line cause Stone Cold said so. It’s not often that you get two major lines like that in one promo but Austin did it. You have to remember that on the big stage, there had never been anything like Steve Austin before.

Everything before had been about the basic ways and standard storylines. The problem was that everyone got sick of it. People got tired of hearing about how great the faces were and etc. That’s why Austin called out Hart: he wanted the purest wrestler there was. Austin represented this unspoken hatred that the fans had towards the old ways that Vince was so desperately clinging to.

He refused to accept that the fans that were children in the 80s had grown up but still had a love for wrestling and wanted to see it. The problem was that these fans were now fifteen and sixteen or even older and the things that fascinated them at seven or eight now looked stupid. That audience was fed up with these stupid angles but there was nothing they could do.

Then Steve Austin showed up. He said everything that the fans wanted to say but couldn’t. The fans rode Austin into greatness, as he became hotter than Hogan ever dreamed of being for a two year period. Yeah I said it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: in the late 90s, Austin was a bigger star and far hotter than Hogan ever was during his career, period.

Another TV match and a forgotten gem. From Raw on January 8, 2001.

WWF World Title: Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin

Not a bad main event at all. They keep saying it’s been a year since Austin had a legit shot at the title. More like a year and a half as he didn’t have a straight up title shot after Summerslam 99 that I remember and he was out for all but the tail end of 2000 where he didn’t get a one on one match for the title. Austin grabs the belt to start and we have no commercials to go. That’s always awesome.

Stone Cold dominates to start with Kurt being in big trouble early on. Austin goes for a suplex off the middle rope but Angle throws him forward and Austin’s head SMACKS the mat in a hard looking shot that was mostly legit. Thesz Press hits out of nowhere to get Austin out of trouble. As I’ve said before: when all else fails, HIT THEM IN THE FACE! Austin gets all suplex happy but can’t break two on the counts.

They speed things up again and Angle gets a cross body (???) for two. They head to the floor and get their brawl on, which is stupid speak for Austin beats the tar out of Angle. Regal pops up out of nowhere with a pipe but can’t get it to connect on Austin. Austin fights off both guys and sends Angle into the crowd where he hits a flying clothesline (??? Again) to half kill Angle.

Somehow that and the beating before that only gets two every time. This has been a pretty solid beating to Kurt so far. In an impressive looking spot Angle throws his hands up to block Austin’s double axe off the middle rope and pops him over with a PERFECT belly to belly overhead. Take that Scott Steiner. Angle goes suplex crazy again, probably breaking ten of them or so.

Somehow that wouldn’t be anywhere close to his record as later this year he would sink in the Rolling Germans and get up to 12 in a row with no break. All these suplexes only get him two so Angle suplexes him again. Austin can’t slam him which looks odd indeed. Nice selling on the suplexes I guess. Angle Slam is blocked though and a knee lift sends Angle down as well as Austin.

Angle gets all pissed off and they slug it out as Austin has to use the ropes to hold himself up for awhile. Austin slugs him into the corner and there’s the Mudhole Stomp. Spinebuster and a middle rope elbow gets no cover as it’s Stunner time. It’s blocked twice as is the Angle Slam but after the Stunner finally hits it’s HHH to return for the save and the DQ. JR of course, loses his mind over it and curses HHH’s soul.

Rating: B+. Where in the world is this on DVD packages? This was great stuff and it came out of nowhere more or less. Austin was so underrated in the ring because of how great he is on the mic and this is another fine example of that as he went out there and beat the tar out of Angle. That being said, Angle was putting on a clinic in there and the whole thing just worked to near perfection. It’s not as good as their later stuff, but this is a good match that needs to be released somewhere. I’d watch it again just for the suplexes.

Austin flips HHH off and says bring it. HHH backs off and then comes at Austin with the big slow build. He gets in the ring and you keep waiting on him to bail but instead IT’S ON! They slug it out and with the extended build to the fight it’s awesome stuff. Austin is in trouble for awhile but fights him back until they hit the floor. HHH gets the pipe Regal had earlier and DRILLS Austin with it three times to bust him open and put him down to end the show. GREAT ending segment with an awesome brawl that felt absolutely huge.

The match that I point to as proof that sometimes it’s ok to go with the obvious. From Wrestlemania XIV.

WWF World Title: Shawn Michaels vs. Steve Austin

We get the always awesome shot of the guys walking from the back to the ring. Mike Tyson is guest enforcer on the floor and there’s a regular referee in the ring. JR: “Folks, it don’t get no bigger than this.” They circle each other to start and there’s a double bird for HBK. Shawn pops him with a left hand and does it again a few seconds later. The champion runs away but gets caught back inside as Austin pounds away and pulls Shawn’s tights down to give the girls a thrill.

A backdrop puts Shawn on the floor but HHH gets in a shot to Austin’s back. He sends Austin into the barricade which gets both him and Chyna ejected. Austin beats up HHH in the aisle but it lets Michaels get in a shot to take over. Shawn sends Austin into the dumpster shoulder first and we head back to the ring. The challenger comes back with right hands and there’s a Flair Flip which must feel like murder for Shawn.

The Stunner is countered as Shawn bails to the apron, only to get knocked onto the still standing announce table. Back in and the Austin elbow gets two and we hit the chinlock so Shawn can get his back pain down to only pure agony. Back up and Shawn hits a jawbreaker to give himself a breather. Shawn heads to the floor and it’s clear he can barely move. He tries to wrap Austin’s leg around the post but gets pulled face first into it instead.

Shawn comes back with a backdrop to put Austin into the crowd and there’s a bell shot for good measure. Back in and Shawn lays in some right hands but he can barely move other than that. The fans chant Holyfield to tick off Tyson for no apparent reason. More punching by Shawn but he can’t even bend over to pick up Austin’s legs. Austin comes back with a double leg trip and rapid fire punches to Shawn’s face before sending Michaels back to the floor.

This time though the tripping up works and Austin’s leg is wrapped around the post. It gets wrapped a few more times and we head back inside for some basic leg work. A figure four is countered and Austin kicks him shoulder first into the post. Shawn comes right back with another shot to the knee though before cannonballing down onto it for good measure. A chop block puts Steve down and there’s a very ginger figure four by the champion. After Shawn cheats any way he can, Austin turns the hold over to escape.

Michaels gets caught in a slingshot to send him into the post for two but he comes back with a sleeper. The referee gets crushed in the counter as Shawn is dropped face first onto the buckle again. Austin sends him into the corner and stomps a mudhole but Shawn comes back with the flying forearm. Michaels nips up to blow my mind before dropping the big elbow. He tunes up the band but Austin ducks. The Stunner doesn’t work but neither does another superkick attempt. The Stunner hits, Tyson slides in for the pin and Austin claims his destiny.

Rating: B+. Considering how messed up the two of them were, this was nothing short of a miracle. Shawn was literally wrestling with a broken back and Austin’s neck was close enough that you could say it was broken too. This was a great match and a great way to send Austin to the top of the company, as he beats the previous top guy and the torch is passed. At this point, no one thought Shawn would ever wrestle again so this was a great way to go out. This match is also the definition of “match where everyone and their mother knew what was going to happen and it was the 100% correct call”.

We get the famous line from JR of “The Austin Era has begun!” as Austin gets the belt for the first time. He poses on the ropes in another famous visual before handing Tyson an Austin shirt. Shawn is ticked off at Tyson and gets in his face so Tyson lays him out with a right hand (JR: “TYSON! TYSON! TYSON! RIGHT HAND! DOWN GOES MICHAELS!”). Massive celebrating ends the show.

The only time Austin ever beat Bret in a major match. From In Your House XIV. It’s a rematch from a somewhat better match.

Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

Winner gets Undertaker next month. Hart tries to have Owen and Bulldog accompany him but they’re stopped by referees because this is one on one. Naturally the fight is on as soon as the bell rings with Austin getting the better of it. They head to the outside with Bret being sent into the steps as it’s all Austin so far. Another whip into the steps has Bret writhing in pain before they head into an empty space next to the crowd. Back in and Austin shoves him to the mat for two, sending Bret running to the floor.

Austin trips chasing after Hart, allowing Bret to slide a chair into the ring. Steve knocks it out of his hands though and picks it up himself, only to have Bret dropkick Austin in the back, knocking the referee down in the process. Bret goes after Austin’s bad knee with the chair, despite the fact that WWF President Gorilla Monsoon is at ringside. Bret helps the referee up after the damage has been done before going after the leg even more.

Hart slams the leg into the apron but Austin kicks away from out of the corner, using the ropes to hold himself up. Bret lures him into the middle of the ring though and puts a Figure Four on around the post. Three straight chair shots to the knee have Austin in agony but he gets a rush of adrenaline to fire off elbows to Bret’s back. A single kick to the knee puts Austin right back down though and it’s off to a basic leg lock. Bret takes Austin’s knee brace off and cannonballs down onto the leg again.

Austin rolls out to the floor but Bret takes the opportunity to send the knee into the steps. Back in and Austin scores with a quick low blow before choking away on the mat. A middle rope elbow misses and Austin bangs the knee again to stop another comeback bid. Bret suplexes him down and puts on a Figure Four to keep the pressure on the leg. Austin eventually rolls over to break the hold but stops to yell at the referee for some reason, allowing Bret to kick the knee out again.

Bret tries the Figure Four around the post again but settles for just ramming Austin’s ribs into the barricade. Austin backdrops a charging Canadian into the crowd and slugs away before dropping Bret chest first onto the steel. Back in and Bret is sent chest first into the buckle before Austin just rains down right hands. Austin tries a piledriver but the knee buckles, preventing any pain to Hart. A whip across the ring sends Austin down again as the knee gives out one more time.

They head to the corner and Austin is able to drop Bret face first onto the buckle for two. The Stunner is blocked so Austin just pounds away on Bret’s back. Bret pays back Austin with a low blow of his own before sending both guys crashing down off a superplex. Hart loads up the Sharpshooter but Austin grabs his knee brace and blasts Bret in the head. Now it’s Austin putting the Sharpshooter on Bret but here are Owen and Bulldog to interfere. They’re ejected pretty quickly and Austin puts the Sharpshooter on again. Owen and Bulldog come in again and blast Austin with the brace, finally drawing a DQ.

Rating: B-. I liked the match but Austin’s selling wasn’t exactly great. He would just pop up after a long beating and be fine before a single shot took him down again. The ending didn’t quite work either as we get a DQ after all the chair shots and knee brace shots. Austin winning via a rollup or something like that would have been fine here as he never actually pinned Bret if I remember correctly.

Here’s the more famous match and a dark horse candidate for the best match ever. From Wrestlemania XIII.

We recap Bret vs. Austin which is the real main event of this show. So Bret was all awesome and such but after losing the title at Wrestlemania last year, Bret took six months off to whine. Then he came back and felt that he kept getting screwed over by everyone from Shawn to Austin to Vince (nah that could never happen). Austin was leading the charge of disrespect by saying Bret was just a crybaby anymore. This led to a masterpiece between Austin and Bret that made everyone realize Austin was for real and the next big thing.

Hart barely won but he kept snapping and even hit Pat Patterson, the symbol of respect and tradition. This led to the Royal Rumble where Bret had the match won and eliminated Austin, only to have Austin sneak back in and win the match. A month later Bret won the vacant world title, only to have Austin cost him the belt the next night on Raw. This all led up to here and a submission match with the theme of a submission master vs. a guy that will not quit.

Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

This is a submission match and Ken Shamrock is guest referee. Austin has actual glass shatter as he enters which is rather cool. He gets cheered but Bret gets something resembling a mixed reaction. Austin tackles him down to start and the fight is on immediately. They head to the floor with neither guy being able to get an advantage. Austin gets posted but he manages to crotch Bret on the barricade. Bret gets clotheslined into the crowd as this is all action so far.

Bret gets in a few shots in the audience and Shamrock is right with them. Presumably this is falls count anywhere. Bret gets in a solid right hand but Austin grabs him for a piledriver. Hart counters with a backdrop and they head back towards the ring. Back to ringside and Bret dives off the barricade with a forearm to the back. Austin comes right back by whipping Hart into the steps to put him down again.

Steve hits a forearm off the apron before picking up the steps. Bret kicks him in the ribs though and the steps might have crushed Austin’s leg. As they get back in the ring (remember that thing?) Bret guillotines Austin on the top rope to take over again. Bret cranks on the leg and cannonballs down on it ala Flair. More cranking ensues and Hart wants him to get up. Bret misses another cannonball and Austin ERUPTS with a clothesline to put both guys down.

We get some foreshadowing by Lawler when he says you can’t give up when you’re unconscious. Hart comes back with a kick to the leg and throws on the Figure Four around the post. Bret goes to get the bell but switches over to a chair. That one has too much padding on it though so he gets a regular chair to Pillmanize the ankle with. The fans are getting WAY into this. Bret goes up top but Austin crotches him and CRACKS him with the chair.

Another big chair shot to the back sets up a suplex as Hart is in big trouble all of a sudden. A middle rope elbow from Austin hits Bret as JR is in full on JR mode, including a few jabs at WCW (“This isn’t about posing or covering a bald spot!”). Austin this another Bret move in the Russian legsweep followed by a reverse Koji Clutch (as in he cranks on the arm while wrapping his leg around Bret’s head. That’s a bit too complicated for Austin though so there’s a Boston Crab instead.

Bret makes a rope because in a war like this, let’s make sure we follow the rules. Austin loads up a Sharpshooter (he has no idea how to get it on) but Austin escapes. Steve fires him through the ropes and to the floor. Bret comes back and reverses a whip into the barricade while running over a few people in the process. Austin is bleeding and it’s a GUSHER. Bret sends him into the steps and pounds away at the cut as we head back inside.

Hart pounds away even harder at Austin’s forehead before hitting the Five Moves of Doom. Bret gets the chair as Vince says this is becoming too much to watch. Hart drives the chair into the leg over and over again but he can’t get the Sharpshooter again. The mat is covered in blood. Austin comes back with a low blow but he can barely stand up. He whips Bret chest first into the corner and here comes the Rattlesnake. Austin stomps the mudhole in Bret and the double bird gets a big reaction from the fans.

Austin puts Bret on top and superplexes him back down. You can’t see Austin’s forehead from all the blood. Since nothing else works, Austin goes to the floor and gets the electrical cable to choke Bret out. Hart grabs the bell from somewhere though and blasts Austin in the head, knocking him silly. Now the Sharpshooter goes on and the place goes NUTS. Austin’s head is on the mat and you can see the blood pooling up under him. That is SICK.

The crowd starts chanting for Austin and we get one of the most famous shot in company history as Austin screams into the camera with blood flowing down his face. He gets one last rush of adrenaline to push up and break the Sharpshooter for the first time ever. Well kind of as he gets Bret off his back but couldn’t break the grip. Bret gets the hold back on but Austin will not quit. Austin is out cold and Shamrock finally stops it. Austin never gave up.

Rating: A+. This is the highest rating a match can get. If there was a higher rating, this match would get that. This is one of the greatest wars you will ever see in a ring with some of the greatest storytelling you’ll ever see either. The idea of Bret being taken out of his element, only to get sucked into Austin’s world where he reaches a point that he’s never been to before but it’s STILL not enough to stop Austin is amazing and works to this day. The key point here: Hart could not stop Austin. He could only slow him down. Absolutely amazing and if you haven’t seen this, go find it right now. Seriously, go watch it now. It’s excellent.

Post match Bret is disgusted with himself but looks at Austin’s lifeless body and gets mad all over again for not being able to make Austin quit. Bret goes after the leg again but Shamrock grabs him and hooks a kind of suplex to get Hart off. Shamrock says let’s go if you want to but Bret backs down and leaves. The fans GO OFF on Bret as Austin is trying to remember what planet he’s on. A referee comes out to check on him and gets a Stunner for his troubles. Austin walks out on his own power and gets a well deserved standing ovation. And that my friends, is a double turn.

Amazingly enough, Bret vs. Austin was only just beginning. The next five months would be even more insane with perhaps an even better match blowing it off. Now let THAT sink in for a minute. This is still one of the few matches that has an actual impact on me and I get WAY into it every time I see it.

Steve Austin may not have been the best in ring performer ever (though he’s one of the best), but he might be the most entertaining man to ever set foot in a ring. The stupid stuff he got over like WHAT and the I Need A Hug phase to some great matches to some of the best promos ever to bringing in $250 million in 1998 from t-shirt sales ALONE make him as big a deal as you’re going to find in wrestling. Hogan was a bigger star for longer, but Austin reached a level in 1998 and 1999 that had never been touched and will never be touched again.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up my new book of 1997 WCW Monday Nitro Reviews at Amazon for just $3.99 at:

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