There have been few trilogies in wrestling that match the intensity and entertainment of the legendary “Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs The Rock matches at Wrestlemania. Two of the biggest stars in the history of wrestling battled not once, not twice but three epic times on the biggest stage in wrestling, making history with some of the greatest matches of all time.
With both men rumoured for a huge match at Wrestlemania 39 in some of the biggest comebacks the sport has ever seen, we thought we’d run down and rank the trilogy of Austin vs Rock matches that took place in previous years at Wrestlemania. We’ll look at the match build up, the actual fight and look at what the fans and journalists thought about the match once they were over.
Let us know what you thought about Steve Austin vs The Rock at Wrestlemania once you finish reading the article.
3) Wrestlemania XV (No Disqualification Match)
The Wrestlemania main event that finally showed that the Attitude Era was here. WWE rejected the old stars who had fled to WCW, like Hogan, Macho Man and Lex Luger, for the younger, hip and more culturally relevant duo. Steve Austin vs The Rock was a statement in the future being now and it paid off in spades as the two huge stars faced off in the Wrestlemania XV main event.
Stone Cold was became the biggest star in wrestling with his WWE title win at WrestleMania 14, and he spent the year that followed firmly in the main event mix. 1998 was his year, although The Rock managed to barge his way into the top with his WWE Championship victory over Mankind at Survivor Series 1998.
The match had been built up over the past year and was the obvious choice to main event. As the first Steve Austin vs The Rock match at Wrestlemania, the fans had nothing to compare it to. Nowadays, it’s clearly the weakest of the three, but still a great match and by the time it had taken place was seen as one of the best matches of all time.
Mr. McMahon more than made his presence felt throughout the bout and attempted to cost Austin the win on multiple occasions. The match was incredibly overbooked, with run-ins, weapons and near falls befitting of the “No Disqualification” stipulation. It also perfectly encapsulated the entire ethos of the Attitude Era so was a perfect representation of the WWE at this time.
The Philadelphia crowd exploded when Austin finally pinned The Rock after a gruelling match, using his trusty Stone Cold Stunner to get the three count and send the crowd home happy in one of the most important Wrestlemania matches of all time.
This match was rated 3.5 stars by Dave Meltzer and was voted as a 7.45 rating by the users of Cagematch.net.
2) Wrestlemania XIX
Four years later, The Rock vs Austin found themselves again on the Wrestlemania card – although in much different circumstances. No longer were they the future, wrestling in their first main event and leading the WWE in a war against WCW.
Now, they had won the war. WWE owned WCW. The Rock was on the way out, moving to Hollywood to pursue a career in acting. He had already starred in a number of movies and had come back as the heel “Hollywood Rock”, one of the best gimmicks he had gone through in his career. He wanted one more chance to beat Austin at Wrestlemania, something he had failed to do in his previous two attempts.
Meanwhile, Austin was staring at the end. He had walked out on the WWE the previous year and sat out for 10 months after a match with Brock Lesnar went awry. He was not in the right frame of mind and his body was failing him. Unbeknownst to most, this would be his last match of his career (well, until 2022).
While this match wasn’t the main event, it was the biggest match on the card. While it wasn’t a technical masterpiece, and neither men were quite as mobile as they once were, it was a spectacle. Every thing they did was important, with the crowd booming along as they watched their two favourites for one last ride. The Rock played the perfect heel while the old gunslinger Austin on his last stand was compelling television.
The Great One managed to pin Stone Cold for a three-count following a third Rock Bottom. It wasn’t his easiest win but was surely the most satisfying. Austin would retire after the match while The Rock would enter a program with Goldberg before retiring as a full-time wrestler. It was the most emotional of the Austin vs Rock matches but not quite on the level of their next match in the list.
This match was rated 4 stars by Dave Meltzer and was voted as a 8.43 rating by the users of Cagematch.net.
1) Wrestlemania X7 (No Disqualification Match)
While it has the most controversial ending and is heralded as the final nail in the coffin, nobody could really argue against the Wrestlemania X7 bout between “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and The Rock as the best match in their historic Wrestlemania trilogy.
It was a very simply story. The Rock was the WWE Champion, the ultimate heel and one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. It was the peak of the Attitude Era, with the fanbase rabid to see their hero Steve Austin get one over on The Rock and put the middle finger up to Vince McMahon by winning the WWE Championship. With Hollywood calling to The Rock, he seemed destined to give up on the title, although the manner in which he would lose would be the surprising moment for fans.
he build was excellently executed and that video package featuring “My Way” of Limp Bizkit is regarded as the greatest hype package the company has ever done. It encapsulated not only the feel of the match, but the entire Attitude Era in the WWE. You could almost feel it coming to an end just by hearing the vocals of Fred Durst in that video.
the atmosphere was electric inside the Houston Astrodome and the No Holds Barred Stipulation meant that anything could happen in this match – and it certainly would. Austin was desperate to win the title, almost putting his life on the line to earn what was most dear to him – even making a deal with the devil himself.
At the close of the match, Austin accepted the held of his arch-nemesis Mr McMahon, taking a chair from him and walloping The Rock over the skull. This allowed him to cheat The Brahma Bull, pinning him for the WWE Championship and ending his reign at champion. He shook hands with McMahon after the match, much to the shock of the fans, and turned heel despite being the most popular man in wrestling.
While the heel turn was ill-asdvised (even Austin regrets it and wished he’d stunned McMahon then and there) it came after one of the best Wrestlemania matches of all time, and the best in the Rock vs Austin trilogy.
This match was rated 4.5 stars by Dave Meltzer and was voted as a 9.41 rating by the users of Cagematch.net.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.