Stone Cold Steve Austin has discussed his storied rivalry with The Rock that culminated in an iconic trilogy of matches at WrestleMania.
A story that began with both men fighting over the Intercontinental Championship ended on ‘The Grandest Stage Of Them All’ as Austin’s career ended. In the intervening years, the two giants of professional wrestling shared incredible matches and moments that are still fondly remembered today.
Speaking to Chris Jericho on his Talk Is Jericho podcast, Austin recalled his rivalry with The Rock and discussed some key moments from it. Austin began by talking about the two star’s undeniable chemistry with one another.
Steve Austin stated:
“Man it’s one of those things that you can’t explain. Sometimes for whatever reason it is, you just have this next-level chemistry with a guy. And yeah you have chemistry with a lot of people. As a pro, whether you got chemistry or not, you just make things work, and you do the best you can. For some reason, there’s those dream matchups. It was the same with Bret [Hart] but The Rock was The Rock and he was electric, right? The most electric guy in sports entertainment. For some reason, I brought out the best in him and he brought out the best in me.”
“I saw him coming up, I saw him going through the struggles, I saw people say “Die Rocky Die.” That terrible white meat babyface gimmick that they bestowed upon him when he came in. But you can see, hey man, this guy has everything. Looks, size, good looking dude, athletic, built, 3rd generation, the writing was on the wall. Then when they put him in The Nation [of Domination] he was rising up out of that and wearing those silk shirts, it was like someone said I knew we [Austin and Rock] were going to be doing business.”
Austin said that it was he who made the decision to work with The Rock, something Rock respected:
“It was up to me, like with me and Bret. I said ‘yeah I’ll work with Rock.’ He’s always acknowledged the fact that Austin said ‘cool. I’ll work with you’ And I did. And I loved it because I loved working with The Rock. Every time we went out there, whether it was a house show or those 3 WrestleManias, we went out there and rocked the house.”
Stone Cold then discussed the pair’s first WrestleMania meeting in 1999. That showdown was preceded by one of the most seminal moments in Raw history when Austin doused Rock and his Corporation cohorts with a beer bath.
“We did that thing with the beer truck in Philly, where I sprayed him down. It was about going to the SmackDown hotel, checking into room 3:16, and burning that son b*tch to the ground. We had a great build-up. That night at WrestleMania, we were getting ready to go to the ring, I better get dressed. Sh*t, I was going through a divorce at the time, my head was in another place, I forgot my freaking ring vest.”
“I’m like Chris you know me, I ain’t a fancy guy, but that damn black leather vest was everything to me. That was my gimmick. All of a sudden you’re on the biggest stage in the world and you ain’t got your f’in vest. WrestleMania 15 I’m wearing that T-shirt, it’s a cool T-shirt. I’m not out there to sell a bunch of them, it was the only thing I had rather than walk to the ring with a pair of black boots and some black trunks. How stupid and vanilla is that? I was so mad.”
Two years later deep in the heart of Texas came the pair’s second WrestleMania main event. Steve Austin recounted going over the match with The Rock and the late Pat Patterson. Austin also acknowledged the Texas crowd that was firmly in his corner for the match despite The Rock being beloved also.
“Then a couple of years later, WrestleMania 17, was one of my favourite matches of all time. Everybody knows 17 was the one, people still say that is one of the best build-up packages for a PPV [My Way by Limp Bizkit]. We went out to dinner that night at a steakhouse and had a nice bottle of wine. Pat Patterson was there. We kicked around literally a couple of ideas. And you know Rock doesn’t really drink, had his steak, potatoes stuff like that. We go back home, he does his thing, I do mine.”
“We met up at the building that day and you know, just they hit my music first because he was the champion. When my music hit, if you could bottle that sh*t you would be a millionaire. The adrenaline spike you get from a crowd high is unbelievable. You live and die by that. When you get that affirmation of all the hard work that you’ve put into this angle, where it’s going to be a big payoff, it’s just amazing. Rock comes out and he blows the roof off that place. You want to be loved or you want to be hated. There were two level 10 entrances.”
“We started that match, from start to finish we had people hooked. A lot of times Rock was super over as a baby but that was a Texas crowd. I know people come from all over but it’s basically a Texas crowd. When Rock started teeing off on me, they started booing a bit. It was one of those matchups with classic action.”
WrestleMania 17 is often heralded as the best WrestleMania of all time for good reason. In a card packed with high-profile competitors in incredible matches, the main event had a lot to live up to.
Steve Austin explained:
“The TLC had already ripped it up. And one of my favourite entrances of all time, Lemmy goes ‘We’re Motorhead and we’re gonna kick your ass.’ Lemmy hit that song and he was on fire. Finally here comes HHH, Lemmy never puts him over, he’s on a power trip playing that bass and singing. He looks like a million bucks. We had to follow a hellacious card. To follow the boys, when you have to top everybody, I think we did.”
Stone Cold Steve Austin also discussed his heel turn after WrestleMania 17 that led to a new comedic side of the Texas Rattlesnake.