On March 30th, 2003, the curtain came down on one of the most famous rivalries in the history of professional wrestling. Steve Austin and Dwayne Johnson were, and are, two of the biggest names in the industry, and it was time for one more round.
At WrestleMania 15, Austin defeated The Rock to win the WWF Championship, before repeating the trick with a Vince McMahon-endorsed steel chair at WrestleMania 17. Come 2003, The Rock said that he had done it all, except beat Austin at WrestleMania, so that’s what he was going to do.
Steve Austin Was Determined To Repay Dwayne Johnson
By their third WrestleMania meeting Austin’s body had well and truly betrayed him and he knew the match would be his last. He even ended up in hospital the night before the show, but still wrestled despite not being properly cleared.
In the ring The Texas Rattlesnake finally lost out to Johnson, going out ‘on his back’ as his career came to an end.
Calling the action that night was Jim Ross who is a close personal friend of Austin. Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Ross said that WrestleMania was the only place that the match could take place. Not only because of it’s star power, but Austin was determined to repay the favour to his rival and give him the win.
“There was only one option, Conrad. I guess it is a case where we’re overthinking it. In all due respect, Austin owed Rock a win, and he was hell bent on delivering it. That’s old school way of looking at it. Austin had won two WrestleMania matches with you know, 15 and 17 and he felt like he owed Rock that return. Because number one, Steve’s health was deteriorating, as we all know, it is well documented. And you know, the night before that he had his health calamity.
So we were, there’s no other match that we thought about doing. What are you going to do with so and so? Well, we know that Rock is gonna wrestle Austin, period. And Rock is going to get put over, was going to be getting his hand raised finally. So no, there was never any debate or discretion on who is who is going to be in that. The only tweak that was made based on Steve’s hospital stay the night before. You know, who’s gonna go on last?
Yeah, out of safety sake and precautions. We decided to put Kurt and Brock on last, because they seem to be the healthiest guys. And so yeah, it was Austin all the way. That’s what the audience wanted to see. You know, we could do Austin win three, could rock win one, that story.
Those guys delivered a hell of a match and, and it was hard. It’s probably the hardest match I ever called because of my closeness with Steve and my friendship with him, to know that this was his last match. And he’s not one of those bullsh*t guys that’s gonna say, well, he’s gonna, I want to, I’m gonna unretire. I just I don’t know, just he’s just a different guy. When he said it was his last match and he told me that, then it was troubling because I did want to see the company without him, without Steve, because he was so valuable to what we were doing and what we had done what we had built.
There’s no way in the world in my opinion now Conrad, and I might be wrong. There’s no way that I would think that the WWE would have gone public with such fanfare as success if Stone Cold had not been Stone Cold.
Steve Austin stayed retired for 19 years until Kevin Owens and Dallas, Texas came calling for WrestleMania 38.
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