Stone Cold Steve Austin, the icon of the Attitude Era competed on seven different WrestleMania events stretching from 1996 to 2003. From the dying days of the New Generation to the birth of Ruthless Aggression, Austin was a key part of ‘the Showcase of the Immortals.’
7. Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall – WrestleMania X8 – 2002
The beginning of the end for Steve Austin in WWE in 2002. In less than three months Austin would famously walk out of the company in protest at the proposition to losing to Brock Lesnar with no build-up on Raw.
The match with Hall came about after Vince McMahon chose to “inject a lethal dose of poison” into his own company rather than share it with Ric Flair. To do this, McMahon would bring back Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall – the nWo.
The faction would get involved in Austin’s Undisputed WWE Title match with Chris Jericho at the No Way Out event in February. Hall would hit Austin with his own stunner costing him the match and the title. The trio then, in trademark nWo style, spray-painted Austin’s back. This led to the match with Hall at WrestleMania X8.
Austin would find himself in the middle of a WrestleMania card, after main-eventing one of the most legendary events the year prior.
Austin jump-started the match, attacking Hall, who was accompanied to the ring by Kevin Nash. Nash would help Hall take charge of the match as the crowd tried to rally Austin. This crowd reaction would pale compared to the raucous noise heard later for Hollywood Hogan vs. The Rock.
Two referees would fall by the wayside before a posse of officials sent the interfering Nash to the locker room. Leaving Hall one-on-one with the Texas Rattlesnake, Austin would hit back-to-back stunners for the win.
6. Stone Cold vs. Savio Vega – WrestleMania XII – 1996
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first WrestleMania match saw him face Puerto Rican legend, Savio Vega. Three months into his WWE tenure Austin would enter resplendent with the Million Dollar Championship and accompanied by manager Ted Dibiase.
The action was fast-paced and hard-hitting. A reminder of how quick Austin could be before the knee braces and neck injury. Austin would work on Vega’s arm throughout the match. As Vince McMahon on commentary would remind us that Austin is a “master technician” harking back to his Ringmaster days. The match would be interrupted several times by Roddy Piper phoning in after his Hollywood Backlot Brawl with Goldust took to the streets.
Austin would take to the very top rope, flying off only to be met with the raised boot of Vega. Vega would take out the referee with an errant kick allowing Austin to strike him with the Million Dollar Title belt. Austin would then lock in the Million Dollar Dream sleeper hold to an already out of it Vega. The referee would raise Vega’s arm three times and three times it would fall signalling the end of the match.
The feud between these two men would carry on into the summer. They would face each other in May at In Your House: Beware Of Dog in a Caribbean Strap Match. The stipulation was added that if Vega beat Austin then Ted Dibiase would leave WWE. Vega was victorious and Dibiase would out of the WWE to find a new world for his riches. Austin would lose the remaining Million Dollar garb including the belt and submission hold and take his career from strength to strength.
5. Stone Cold vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XIX – 2003
WrestleMania XIX would mark Steve Austin’s last ever match at ‘the show of shows’. His opponent, as it had been for two WrestleManias before was The Rock.
After Austin’s hiatus in 2002, the WWE Hall Of Famer would return to WWE in 2003 in time for a match at No Way Out in February. His opponent on that occasion had less of an illustrious career than his WrestleMania opponent. As Austin would face off with Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff. On that night The Rock would somewhat overshadow Austin once again by defeating Hulk Hogan for the second time in the main event.
The Rock had a whole new attitude at this point in his WWE career. His brash, cocky, Hollywood style was in stark contrast to Austin’s Texas Redneck persona. The Rock would focus on Austin after despatching Hogan, frustrated at the fact that Rock had never defeated Stone Cold at WrestleMania.
For the third time in five years, the two WWE legends would square off at WrestleMania. For the first time, however, it would not be the main event as Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar shared that spotlight for their WWE Title match.
The big news from the time was that Steve Austin had spent the night in hospital before WrestleMania XIX. Suffering from severe hydration Austin was put through a bastion of tests to ensure he was ready for WrestleMania.
One last time, with no title on the line The Rock and Austin would lock eyes at WrestleMania. The Rock would take control and work on Austin’s knee. Slamming it into whatever objects he could find in and around the ring. Rock put on Austin’s vest for the last portion of the match as the two men stole each other’s finishing moves for near falls.
The Rock kicked out of the stunner. Austin did the same after the people’s elbow as Safeco Field came to life as the match reached its crescendo. One rock bottom, Austin kicks out, a second, another kick out. Jim Ross on commentary was at the absolute top of his game as The Rock hit the hat trick of rock bottoms for the pinfall.
The Rock would claim his solitary WrestleMania victory over Stone Cold Steve Austin in what would be Austin’s last match.
4. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels – WrestleMania XIV – 1998
The Austin era began in the Fleet Center, Boston, Massachusetts as Stone Cold claimed his first WWE Championship in his first WrestleMania main event.
With Mike Tyson watching on from ringside, Austin had the deck stacked against him as Shawn Michaels made his way to the rung with the rest of D-Generation X.
Austin would claim the title match in the time-honoured tradition of winning the Royal Rumble in January of 1998. Michaels had held the WWE Championship since a certain night in Montreal at the 1997 Survivor Series.
The Boston crowd ate up everything Austin did as he took control of the champion early on. Triple H would insert himself in the match only for him and Chyna to be ejected by the referee. One hurdle less for Austin to overcome. The two icons would go back and forth for twenty minutes as the match ebbed and flowed. The referee was taken out during the action as the last few minutes played out with no in-ring official.
Michaels would attempt the sweet chin music only for Austin to catch his foot twice and hit the stunner. Tyson would slide into the ring and count the 1-2-3 for Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!
After the match, Austin and Tyson would celebrate after the boxing legend knocked out Michaels with a granite right hand. Michael would not compete in WWE again for nearly four years. Four years in which the rise of Stone Cold Steve Austin would be solidified.
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock – WrestleMania XV – 1995
One year after defeating Shawn Michaels, Austin would himself once again in the WrestleMania main event and once again chasing the WWE Championship.
Mr. McMahon would spend 1998 trying to foist Austin at every turn. Succeeding when Kane and The Undertaker would pin Austin for his WWE Title at the same time in a triple threat match. With confusion surrounding the title, a tournament was created was Survivor Series 1998.
Austin’s own chances in the tournament fell apart when he was screwed in the semi-finals by referee Shane McMahon. McMahon refused to count the pin when Austin had apparent hand-picked contender Mankind pinned. Mankind would advance to the final when he would find himself on the receiving end of a Survivor Series screw job. The real hand-picked contender The Rock was revealed to the audience. Rock would lock in the sharpshooter and as happened a year before, McMahon would call for the bell. Handing the WWE Title to The Rock.
Austin tried to make his way to the main event of WrestleMania by winning the Royal Rumble for the second year in a row. McMahon once again proved an obstacle by declaring that Austin must enter the match as the number one entrant. Austin surprised McMahon by declaring that if he was number one then McMahon was number two.
The two men started off the Rumble match before McMahon lured Austin backstage where he was assaulted by members of The Corporation. A resilient Austin would return with McMahon and the two miraculously became the last two men in the match. A distraction from The Rock would be enough to allow McMahon to dump Austin over the top rope earning the surprise win.
Stone Cold would have one last chance at earning the title match at WrestleMania. At St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in February, Austin would face McMahon in a cage match. The match saw Paul Wight make his WWE debut as the giant superstar would launch Austin into the side of the cage. The cage broke and Austin would climb down to victory and the main event at WrestleMania.
The Corporation were banned – apart from McMahon – from ringside for the main event by WWE Commissioner who was ironically, Shawn Michaels. Mankind faced Paul Wight for the right to referee the main event although after being taken out by Wight, Mankind would not appear at the start of the contest.
The crowd came alive for Austin as he made his entrance without his trademark vest. The match kicked off at a frenetic pace as the crowd in Philadelphia left no one in any doubt who they were cheering for. This was a crowd that had come to see Austin reclaim his title.
Austin and Rock brawled through the crowd and in the entranceway spending a good portion of the match outside the ring.
As the match wore on, the referee would suffer a rock bottom and McMahon would make his way to the ring trying to ensure the title stayed on his champion. After McMahon would take out another official Mankind would return to take the Chairman out of the match.
A stunner later and Mankind would count to three to crown a new WWE Champion for the second year in a row.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock – WrestleMania X-7 – 2001
At the height of their popularity, the two megastars in WWE would collide one on one. Meeting in the main event of what is widely accepted as the greatest WrestleMania of all time.
Preceded by one of the most fondly remembered video packages of all time – soundtracked by Limp Bizkit – the two men squared off in the Reliant Astrodome in Austin’s home state of Texas.
Once again, Austin would earn his right to main event WrestleMania by winning the 2001 Royal Rumble match. The Rock would make his way there by defeating Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship in February. A story somewhat muddied by Austin’s wife Debra’s involvement as The Rock’s manager in the lead-up to the event, the match marked the zenith of the Attitude Era.
Both men entered the match as fan favourites but as Austin was the ‘hometown hero’ he would receive the lion’s share of support on the night. An excellent back-and-forth brawl of a match with Austin throwing everything at The Rock. Austin had stated that he “needed the title” and he so proved the lengths he was willing to go. Using the Million Dollar Dream, that he hadn’t used in years, Austin would try and put The Rock to sleep. When nothing seemed to be enough to put The Great One away. the wrestling world shifted on its axis.
Vince McMahon, much like at WrestleMania XV would make his way to the ring but this time it was uncertain as to why he was there. When Stone Cold Steve Austin asked McMahon to give him a steel chair, it started to dawn on the audience all wasn’t well. Austin and McMahon would take it in turns to beat The Rock with the chair. A resilient champion held out as long as he could before succumbing to defeat.
McMahon and Austin toasted their new venture and sealed the deal with a handshake in the ring. The crowd initially elated at Austin’s victory were now less sure; Jim Ross on commentary was certain that Austin had sold his soul to the devil. And so it transpired, hell had frozen over, Austin had sold out and joined forces with McMahon.
1. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart – WrestleMania 13 – 1997
Before the world championships and main events in front of 70,000-plus people came Austin’s finest work at WrestleMania. A submission match against Bret Hart.
The two men had feuded since Hart’s return in late 1996 with Austin goading Hart to face him in the ring. The two men would meet at Survivor Series 1996 with Hart coming out victorious. The story between the two men continued into the new year with Austin stealing Hart’s Royal Rumble victory. A tumultuous start to 1997 for WWE would see a Hart/Austin rematch on the cards for WrestleMania 13 in Chicago.
Ken Shamrock, making his first WWE appearance would act as the special referee for the match where the only way to win is to make the other man submit. Hart would walk through Austin’s broken glass in his entrance as he made his way to the ring. The two men wasted no time in getting to the action, going to the outside almost immediately. Austin would dump Hart at the feet of a watching Tony Atlas and Captain Lou Albano as he and Hart began brawling in the crowd.
Both men made their way back into the ring where Hart would begin working over Austin’s leg. Vince McMahon on commentary would make sure to let the audience know time and again that we were watching a “changed” Bret Hart. By way of a precursor of what would come at the end of the match. Hart would wrap Austin’s legs around the ring post for an excruciating figure-four leg lock that Austin refused to submit to.
Hart would bring a chair into the ring but Austin would be the one to swing it as he rattled The Hitman with two hard shots. The more Stone Cold Steve Austin attacked, the more the crowd turned in his favour.
The two would head back to the outside where Austin would put on the iconic proverbial crimson mask. Hart would then take a chair to the leg of Stone Cold, repeatedly nailing Austin in his braced knee. Austin would rally, fighting back at hitting Hart with a suplex from the middle rope.
Austin attempted to choke Bret out with cables before Hart reached back to nail him with the ring bell. Hart would lock the sharpshooter in as the blood flowed from Austin’s head. The crowd came to life trying to rally Stone Cold but to no avail. Stone Cold Steve Austin would pass out in the hold losing the match but having never submitted.
After the match, Hart would resume the attack on Austin as the crowd began to turn on The Hitman. Shamrock would tackle Hart to stop the attack and Hart would leave the arena to a chorus of jeers. Stone Cold Steve Austin on the other hand, became a hero on this night. A sign of things to come.