AEW commentator, Jim Ross, has revealed why The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin did not close WrestleMania XIX in place of Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar.
On March 30, 2003, unbeknownst to anyone inside Safeco Field, ‘The Texas Rattlesnake’ stepped into the squared circle for the final time as an active competitor against his arch rival and most famous foe, The Rock, in a rivalry which began after a heel turn by ‘The People’s Champion’ on Hulk Hogan at No Way Out and continued into WrestleMania when ‘The Brahma Bull’ criticised Austin for being chosen as Superstar of the Decade.
Again, unbeknownst to many, the toughest S.O.B in WWE had spent the night prior to WrestleMania in the hospital after dehydration got the better of him and was only released the morning of the show which, according to Ross, was one of the main reasons that their final ever bout together never main evented the show.
Speaking on his Grilling JR Podcast, the voice of AEW detailed the thought process behind the decision not to allocate the main event spot to the finale of arguably the greatest WrestleMania feud of all time:
“They closed WrestleMania 19, that wasn’t the plan. Austin spent the night in the hospital and even though he demanded he was okay to work and the doctors cleared him, we were worried that he and Rock, the third match between the two might not be what they were looking for based on Steve’s condition. We switched that around and that did not make The Rock or Austin happy. There’s something about closing the show.
I tried to get Steve to work a tag [team match] one time in LA before a couple days of T.V. and Vince intervened and said he wanted him to go on early so he gets some rest. I redid the line-up, gave it to Jack Lanza who was the road agent, Lanza told Steve and of course my phone rings, ‘What the hell is going on? I didn’t work all my goddamn life to go home at intermission?’ That night on Sunday night he went on last, I rebooked the card.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin had defeated The Rock at WrestleMania XV and WrestleMania X-7 for the WWF Championship, but in his final bout honoured the tradition of the industry and finally put his career rival over after three eye-watering and uncomfortable Rock Bottoms on an already crippling neck/back injury.
Credit for the interview: Grilling JR Podcast
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.