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Posted in: LOP Hall Of Fame
2017 LOP Hall of Fame Inductee: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven
By Kleckamania
Mar 30, 2017 - 7:34:35 AM

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock at WrestleMania X-Seven
Class of 2017

You think you’re special.
You do, I can see it in your eyes.
I can see it when you laugh at me,
Look down on me,
And walk around on me.
Just one more fight about your leadership,
And I will straight up leave your shit.
‘Cuz I’ve had enough of this.
And now I’m pissed.
This time I’mma let it all come out.
This time I’mma stand up and shout.
I’mma do things my way,
It’s my way,
My way or the highway!
Some day you’ll see things my way.
Cause you never know, when you’re gonna go.” -Limp Bizkit, “My Way” (WM 17 theme)

In WWE generations come and go, and with them, Champions. And there seems to be clearly drawn lines in each generation as to who was the top champion in that generation, almost always irrefutably. All the way back to the days of WWWF- Bruno Sammartino ruled a generation, and when his time came a new Era was ushered in by Bob Backlund. Backlund was a man who essentially became the blueprint for a modern professional wrestler, and modern professional wrestling as a whole. Though within their seemingly endless power, each man’s days came to an end. Time marches on as Hulk Hogan signals a new Era, and in time, what was new became old and was washed away itself. Bret Hart in terms of time played out like a brief dream, though there had never been an Era so closely contested, as Shawn Michaels hit a stride that nearly matched him. So much so that they nearly ruined each other. And it was right around then that two men took over in that aftermath, and ushered in an Era unlike any other before it, which made it fitting that when asked who was The Champion of the Attitude Era, two names come up pretty evenly- The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

In this Era these men clashed a lot, and their match at Wrestlemania X-7 was the height of their Era long feud. And sitting in the middle of this three Wrestlemania long feud, this match symbolized it all.

All the way back to when they first clashed, Stone Cold helped Owen Hart win a tournament for the IC title so Austin could beat Hart for it himself, and inadvertently screwed over the faction The Rock was a part of- the Nation Of Domination. Somewhere between The Rock and the Nation beating Austin down, and Austin finally facing The Rock one on one to win the title, he realized his own mortality and limitations as a character, as when he was faced with going against The Rock again the very next night, he opted to instead vacate the title by tossing it in a river. When the then Champion of the Attitude Era was faced with The Rock, Austin had to acknowledge his own mortality. He was starting to realize that he had legitimate competition.

Around then Bret Hart was gone from WWF, and HBK was about to be out for a very long time due to injury, so Austin was getting the call to the top of the card. So he had no need to face his own mortality again in that moment, but the Rock soon followed. I’m saying all of this because this LOP HOF match had a theme run right through it that was steeped in history- the Rock vs Stone Cold was a saga, and their match at X-7 was essentially the crescendo. And even the history of the company before them told part of the tale. This saga involved two men fighting for one spot. There was always just one guy to define a generation, and both of these men wanted that distinction badly. The competitiveness of both men, mixed with the desire to be acknowledged among the aforementioned legends drove them through the first match at Wrestlemania XV, at a time when The Rock had Vince McMahon in his corner, and Austin fought the Corporation with all he had. They had some bad blood then due to Vince essentially pitting them against each other in order to thwart Austin, but by the time Wrestlemania X-7 came around, the feud had become as personal as ever.

Vince assigned Debra as Rock’s valet shortly before the event- the very same Debra that at the time was married to Stone Cold. This drove a personal wedge right between the men, as Stone Cold reminded Rock every time he didn’t protect Debra, Stone Cold would whip his ass. This paired with The Rock holding the World Title and Austin was possessed. And Rock was determined to retain the World Title at Wrestlemania this time, as the first time they met Austin won the title off of him. Add in all the times Stone Cold looked down on him, or told him what to do, and the song choice for this event, particularly this match, helped tell the narrative. The Rock had recently broke free from Vince and Corporate, and he was determined to prove himself to Austin, and everyone else as the wrestler to define his Era.

The stage was set for a war. And we sure as hell got one.

This feud was always two men constantly trying to one up each other, and yet being so evenly matched most of the time it often degraded into a dog fight. And the beginning of this match was just that, as the added personal factor had both men ready to rip each other apart. Most matches have an organized pace, a methodical calculation, well not this one. The first few minutes are just pure wild brawling, as both men slug the hell out of each other. And truly, it remains that way throughout, with only the moves evolving.

Showing how personal things had become, mixed with the reality check of being so evenly matched, desperation came out early and often, as Stone Cold locked in the finishing move Ted DiBiase taught him while he was the Ringmaster, and The Rock in turn gave Stone Cold a taste of his own medicine with a Stunner. Stone Cold nailed Rock with the Ring Bell and exposed a turnbuckle in order to break Rock open. Stone Cold worked on Rock’s head almost psychotically in order to break him wide open, and just purge Rock’s blood all over in the name of Stone Cold’s hatred of him. And in true feud fashion, Rock later returned the favor, nailing Austin with both spots himself- making Austin bleed like a stuck pig.

This match became a calling card for the term “Bad Blood”, as both guys were opened up fairly early, and just bled out for a long time. This is kind of an underappreciated quality in this match, as the fact that both guys wrestled for as long as they did while losing the amount of blood each did is kind of intense. And the blood being so prevalent was a nod to this match being the culmination of so much mutual animosity between these men- they were literally fighting for rights to an entire Era in their minds in this moment, so neither was gonna waiver shy of total annihilation. They had to prove to the world and each other who was the one.

They matched each other, pace for pace, move for move, and deep into the action, Vince made his way down to the ring. Everyone questioned his reasoning to be there, as both men were firmly against him at that point. Intrigue was building.

And as Rock finally broke free with what might have been the 1-2-3, Vince pulled Rock off Stone Cold at 2…..

I’d wager almost every fan’s facial expression matched that of The Rock’s, utter disbelief.

As it settled in that Vince was trying to screw Rock, Rock made the mistake of taking his focus off of Stone Cold multiple times. At first resulting in a Rock Bottom for a near fall, and again later, resulting in another shift in momentum. The more it settled in that Vince was helping Stone Cold, the more we were reminded of Vince helping Rock in their first Wrestlemania clash, only this time, the roles were unbelievably reversed on their heads.

At this point in the match we were watching The Rock try to fight out of quicksand, as with each move he now only sunk deeper thanks to the numbers game, and yet finishers still weren’t keeping him down. And on the opposing side, Stone Cold grew increasingly angry, as despite the numbers, and devastating move after devastating move, The Rock found the will to keep kicking out.

And what came after was something that separated the modern Era’s from raw emotion and true desperation, as Stone Cold unleashed a barrage of non-stop chair shots to The Rock, pummeling him well beyond what he needed for a pinfall before dropping the chair, and picking up the victory. No fancy finisher, no cardboard predictability, just desperate anger in a struggle to claim dominance over his greatest rival, and an entire Era. When all else failed, Stone Cold sought help and then snapped. Another time Stone Cold got the win, but not by nearly as much as he intended, which made him realize that The Rock was his truest obstacle and adversary. The Rock was his equal, and this match was his proof. Stone Cold sold his soul to the devil he despised in order to gain a foothold over The Rock.

This feud defined a generation, and within it, this match was the centerpiece. This feud held so much value that it eventually led to Stone Cold’s last match. It was that important. And this match was essentially the defining moment. The truest example of Stone Cold’s mortality. And even in loss, the match that proved that the Attitude Era didn’t have a cut and dry answer as to who was its top champion. For in loss, The Rock showed a side of Stone Cold that no one had ever been able to draw out of him, utter and complete desperation. Stone Cold could no longer avoid his mortality. Which is a big reason this match has been acknowledged by many fans as one of the greatest of all time. For showing us a side of Stone Cold, and modern professional wrestling that we had lost sight of or hadn’t seen. A gritty realism instead of a seamless, mechanical daydream. A struggle bred from true passion. A match for the ages.