Three – Austin On Top of the Wrestling World
Steve Austin (c) vs. Dude Love (05/31/98).
Vince McMahon is the referee, Patterson is the ring announcer, and Briscoe is the timekeeper. Surprisingly, Undertaker comes out to make sure there is not any foul play going on. Dude knocks Austin down a few times, as McMahon tries to perform a couple of fast counts. Dude tries to put in the mandible claw, but Austin throws Dude into the ropes where he hangs (similar to how he lost his ear against Vader). They brawl on the outside, where McMahon adds in a no count out stipulation. Austin now cannot retain the belt via count out. Dude throws Austin over the Spanish announce table and proceeds to choke Austin with a cord. Vince McMahon adds in “No DQ” stipulation as a result. On commentary, Jim Ross flips his lid because of this. Austin fights back and sends Dude over the guardrail with a clothesline. Back inside, Austin accidentally crotches himself. Dude hits a baseball slide that sends Austin to the outside. Dude hits a neckbreaker on the floor and Patterson announces that is it now a Falls Count Anywhere match. Ross is pissed! Dude backslides Austin outside for two. Austin fights back with a lariat that almost takes Dude’s head off. Dude backdrops Austin onto one of the cars used as scenery. They make their way onto the roof of the car. Dude counters a Stunner and sends Austin flying off the car. Austin is now busted open. Dude picks up an exhaust pipe, but he softly hits it over the back of Austin’s head. Either Dude thought better of it or Austin wasn’t ready. Austin mounts a little comeback, but Dude reverses a piledriver attempt. Dude hits a suplex and heads up to the roof of the car.
Austin ducks out of the way from an elbow drop, though. They fight back near ringside. Back inside, Patterson trips Austin’s leg, allowing Dude to regain control. Dude takes off the turnbuckle and rams Austin’s bloody head into it. Dude grabs a chair and hits a double-arm DDT on it that picks up a two count. Dude charges Austin with the chair, but Austin gets a foot up. Austin then SMASHES Dude with an exposed chair shot to the head. Austin pins Dude, but Vince does not count and gives him the bird. Jim Ross cries, “Count ‘em, count ‘em!” Dude goes to hit Austin with a chair. Austin ducks, which causes Dude to hit McMahon with the chair. Austin hits the Stunner, but there is no referee. A referee runs in to make the count, but Patterson pulls him out of the ring. Mick sinks in the Mandible Claw and forces Austin’s shoulders down to the mat. Patterson jumps in to count to three, but Undertaker pulls him out and chokeslams him through the announce table. Briscoe tries to make a three count, only to be chokeslammed through the other announce table. Austin tells Dude not to fuck with Da Jesus and hits him with a Stunner. There is no referee, though, so Austin uses McMahon’s hand to count to three @ 24:40. This ferocious brawl immeasurably stacked the deck against the fan favorite champion, causing Austin to become an enormous face-in-peril. Not only did he have to fight the psychotic Dude Love, but he also had to overcome Vince McMahon being a partial referee and his Stooges being near ringside. Come hell or high water, Austin succeeded and gave the heels their comeuppance they deserved. Concisely, they found a creative way to stack the deck against the fan favorite, and then found a creative way for him to overcome the odds. This was epic Attitude Era booking at its best.
WWF Heavyweight Title: Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker (08/30/98).
It was rumored that Vince Russo wanted to turn Undertaker on Austin, but he was overruled in favor of a ‘‘babyfaces who do not trust each other’’ story. The build for this was very captivating, especially the “Highway to Hell” video packages. Austin unexpectedly starts off with some technical wrestling. Some miscommunication between the two occurs when Undertaker puts his head down for a back body drop, but he lifts his head up too quickly. This causes his head to crash into Austin’s face. Taker suplexes Austin and then hits him with an elbow drop. Austin still looks dazed from that botched spot. Austin yanks Taker down by his leg and goes outside to smash Taker’s left leg into the ring post. Back in, Taker fights back and hits the flying clothesline. Taker tries to go for Old School, but Austin pulls him off the ropes. Kane slowly walks down to the ring. But whose side is he on!? Austin and Taker trade some blows. The exchange ends when Taker chokeslams Austin. Austin fights back and clotheslines Taker over the top rope. They brawl outside and then make their way into the crowd. Back near ringside, Taker throws Austin into the ring post. Austin tries to mount a comeback inside, but Taker throws him to the outside. Taker places him on the announce table. He hits a leg drop onto Austin all the way from the top-rope. A very sick looking spot.
Taker throws him back in the ring, but he only gets a near-fall out of it. They collide with each other, causing them to both be knocked out. Austin fights back with some rights and then hits a Thesz Press. Taker fights back and locks in a waistlock for whatever reason. Austin counters it with a half-assed Stunner that gets a two. Taker recuperates and hits a chokeslam. He goes for a Tombstone, but Austin wiggles out of it. Austin goes for the Stunner, but Taker blocks it. Taker crotches him and goes for Old School. On his way down, Austin catches him with a boot to the midsection followed by a Stunner. That picks up the win @ 20:30. Given all the hype, this was a disappointment. Both wrestlers shoehorned some technical moves into this, and they extracted some of the buzz out of the building in the midst of doing them. Their chemistry was also not all that sharp, resulting in some awkward moments and blown spots. This would have been better if it was just one of those wild and crazy Attitude Era slugfests. However, this did have an enormous vibe to it. It was one of those monumental showdowns that only happen once in a blue moon. With that in mind, I will be generous by calling it just barely above-average, but this should have been a lot better. ***
Steve Austin vs. The Big Show (w/Vince McMahon – 3/22/99)
Rock is on commentary, which is always fun. Mankind is the special guest referee. Show methodically dominates early on. Austin fights back, but Big Show catches him in a bear hug. Austin breaks out of the hold with some rights. Austin ducks a few clotheslines and then hits a Thesz Press. Austin tries to pin Big Show, but he kicks out with authority. Austin is done playing games, so he grabs a chair and whacks Big Show with it several of times. Rock tries to interfere, but Austin hits him with the chair too. Austin finishes Big Show off with a Stunner @ 10:34. I do not understand why this was on here. It was a rather bland David vs. Goliath story and had no historical importance. * ¼
WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ: The Rock (c) vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin (3/28/99)
Jim Ross figuratively tells Michael Cole to take a hike and replaces him on commentary. Vince McMahon comes out as the special guest referee, but Commissioner Shawn Michaels sends him packing. Rock and Austin talk trash to each other and then trade right hands. The brawl breaks out into the crowd. They fight up to the staging area, where Austin tosses Rock into the railing. Austin goes for a piledriver, but Rock backdrops him into the lighting track. Austin fights back by hitting him where the sun doesn’t shine. Austin strangles him with an extension cord and tosses Rock into the Wrestlemania sign. They fight back down to the arena. Rock picks up a bottle of water and spits in Austin’s face. Austin fights back and picks him up and drops him on the Spanish announce table. He jumps on Rock with an elbow, causing the table to collapse. Austin spits some water in Rock’s face. A spit-for-a-spit. Back in, Rock hits a Rock Bottom out of nowhere, but it only picks up a two-count. Rock finds a chair and brings it in the ring. He goes to hit Austin with it, but Austin takes it from his hands. Rock ducks a chair shot, causing the chair to hit the referee.
Rock picks up the chair and rocks Austin with it. Tim White comes out to make the pinfall, but Austin kicks out at two. Rock hits a Samoan Drop, but Austin kicks out again. The Rock thinks Tim White is not counting fast enough, so he gives him a Rock Bottom for his troubles. As the Rock turns around, Austin hits him with a Stunner. Earl Hebner runs out to make the count, but Rock kicks out at two. McMahon distracts Austin, allowing Rock to blindside him. McMahon attacks Hebner, and both McMahon and Rock stomp on Austin. Mankind hits the ring to attack McMahon and to replace Hebner as the referee. Austin rolls Rock up, but only gets a two. Austin hits the Thesz Press. Rock hits another Rock Bottom out of nowhere. Rock goes for the People’s Elbow, but he misses. Austin gets back up and hits a Stunner that ends this one. New Champion @ 16:50. Wow, Russo’s fingerprints were all over this. Because of how successful Survivor Series 1998 was, McMahon gave Russo more control. To no surprise, the booking started to mar matches instead of enhancing them. Henceforth why WWF ’99 was one of the company’s weakest years when it came to an in-ring product. The story that surrounded this played out decently, but some matches are better off left alone. I vehemently believe Rock vs. Austin is one of them, but Russo, you know, never believed people watched wrestling for the wrestling. Fortunately, though, Austin and Rock were perfect foils to one another and their chemistry was dynamite. So, this was still very good. *** ½
WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ: The Rock (c) vs. Steve Austin (04/01/01).
Granted, Austin’s heel turn did not work out in the end for a variety of reasons, but what happened in the aftermath does not change a thing about how outstanding the rising action leading up to their encounter was. After being hit by a car, Stone Cold was just not the same ass-kicker that he had been before the accident. This was clearly communicated when failed to put Triple H away once and for all in a losing effort at No Way Out. Austin’s heel turn came as a total shock to many, but with the benefit of hindsight, the WWF writing staff brilliantly left a trail of breadcrumbs for anybody who had paid close attention. In a sound bite that was replayed repeatedly in promos leading up to the match, Austin told the champion “I need to beat you, Rock. I need it more than anything.” What seemed like traditional fare for a pre-match build took on new meaning after the match. Austin knew he lacked the killer instinct he once had, but he desperately wanted to become champion, so he sold his soul to the devil himself… Mr. McMahon.
Austin receives a nuclear pop from the Texas audience, while Rock receives a 50-50 one at best. Not wasting any time, Austin hits a Thesz Press followed by some right hands. Rock goes for a Rock Bottom, but Austin fights out of it. Austin goes for a Stunner, but Rock gets out of it. They start to brawl and it breaks out into the crowd. Back in, Austin hits a superplex for two. Austin tears off the turnbuckle, foreshadowing his heel turn. Rock fights back and hits a clothesline. He follows up with a belly-to-belly suplex that picks up a two count. Austin battles back and hits a neckbreaker that picks up a two. Austin stomps a mud hole in Rock. Austin takes his eyes off Rock, though, which allows Rock to hit him with a clothesline. Austin goes to the outside and Rock follows him. Rock goes behind Austin, who turns around and clocks him with the ringbell. Back in, Austin delivers a neckbreaker that picks up two. He throws Rock into the corner and stomps a mud hole into him. Rock recovers and drills Austin with a clothesline (These two prove that it is not what moves you do or bumps you take. It is all about how you do them. They execute practically every move charismatically and with so much exuberance, and they make bumps look vicious).
They trade some blows, ending with Rock throwing Austin into the exposed turnbuckle. Austin is now bleeding. Outside, they slug it out. Austin gets the better of the Rock by propelling him right into the turnbuckle. The Rock sells it like a million bucks. Austin hits Rock with a monitor and sends Rock back in the ring. He tries to pin him, but he can only pick up a two. Austin sets Rock up for the Stunner, but he insists on giving the Rock two middle fingers. This allows the Rock to take him down and lock in the Sharpshooter. I would have thought someone would’ve taught him how to do that move by now. Anyway, this ends up being a playback spot to Austin/Hart, as Austin covered in blood screams in agony from the hold. This time, however, Austin manages to fight out of the hold. Back on their feet, Rock goes for a Stunner, but Austin dishes out some comeuppance by putting Rock in the Sharpshooter. Rock powers out, though. Austin locks in the Cobra Clutch, but Rock pushes his feet off the ropes right into a pinning attempt that gets two (a playback spot to the finish of Austin vs. Hart Survivor Series ’96). Rock still has not recovered from the beating, so Austin continues to work him over. All of a sudden, Rock hits Austin with his own finishing move, but Austin kicks out! Vince McMahon starts to walk towards ringside. Rock hits a spinebuster and the People’s Elbow. McMahon pulls Rock off Austin before a count of three, though. Rock chases McMahon all around ringside. McMahon runs into the ring, and Rock runs into a Rock Bottom from Austin. Rock kicks out, though. Austin goes to hit the Rock, but he hits the referee instead. Austin hits Rock with a low blow.
Austin holds The Rock, allowing McMahon to smash a chair over his head. McMahon throws the referee into the ring. He starts to count, but Rock kicks out just in time. Austin attempts to smash a chair right over Rock’s head, but Rock counters it with a Rock Bottom. McMahon goes up to the apron to distract the referee. The Rock pulls McMahon into the ring and lays the smackdown on him. The Rock turns right into a Stunner, but he kicks out just in time! Austin’s facial expressions describe just how in disbelief he is. Austin smashes Rock with a thunderous chair shot. Austin keeps hitting the Rock again and again with the chair. He is then finally able to beat the Rock @ 28:01. Afterwards, Vince McMahon and Austin shake hands and drink beer as Jim Ross flips his lid on commentary. This had unparalleled vehemence, drama, psychology, and storytelling. Every spot they did had a heavy dose of electricity and snap behind it, and it was structured and paced in a manner where every spot was significant. They sold moves, moments, and exhaustion like champions, and bumped around like pinball machines. When you add up the fact that these were the two were at their apex, the fact that the atmosphere was off the charts, the fact that one of the greatest announce teams called it, the fact that both wrestler did a fabulous job of selling the notion of how much they wanted to win, and the fact that there was months and months of foreshadowing that led to the huge swerve – this was easily one of the greatest matches ever. *****
Final Verdict on Disc Three: Aside from the Big Show match, this disc totally makes perfect sense . A big thumbs up.
WWF Heavyweight Title: Steve Austin (c) vs. The Undertaker (w/Paul Bearer) vs. Triple H (w/Chyna) (5.16.99)
They all brawl down the aisle. Austin manages to fight off both Undertaker and HHH. They keep brawling all over the place until they go back near the ring. Austin tries to piledrive Undertaker, but he backdrops him on the floor. Hunter grabs a chair, but Earl Hebner takes it away from him. Austin picks up the chair and smashes it over HHH and Undertaker’s heads. Back in, the heels regain control. Taker and HHH argue over who is going to beat up Austin. Paul Bearer and Chyna argue outside as well. Strangely, Helmsley and Austin work together to eliminate the Undertaker. Vintage Russo! HHH turns on Austin and tries to pin him, but Taker pulls him off. Taker goes for a Tombstone on Austin, but Helmsley saves Austin. HHH tries to hit a Pedigree on Austin, but Austin shoots HHH right into a chokeslam.
Austin hits a Stunner on Taker, but HHH makes the save. Stone Cold hits a Stunner on HHH. All of a sudden, the whole Corporate Ministry runs down to the ring and beat up Austin. A bunch random babyface wrestlers come in to make the save, though. In the midst of chaos, HHH holds Austin to let China hit him, but Austin ends up giving her a Stunner. Austin then gives HHH a Stunner and picks up the victory @ 24:58. Afterwards, Stone Cold stuns Shane McMahon. X-Pac then gives Shane and Chyna the Bronco Buster. For the most part, all three wrestlers phoned it in, and nothing is duller than a phoned-in match consisting of mostly kicks and punches. Undertaker and HHH’s beatdowns on Austin were plodding and seemingly endless, too. Bleh. **
Austin goes for the Stunner, but Angle counters it. Angle goes for the Angle Slam, but Austin counters it and pushes him right into the referee. Austin grabs his title and brings it in the ring. Regal jumps in the ring and takes the belt away from him. Regal ends up smashing Angle with the title! Regal throws the referee back in the ring to make the cover, but Angle kicks out just in time. Austin throws a hissy fit. Austin picks Angle up and delivers a Stunner that ends it @ 23:30 Phew. This had some accelerating back-and-forth action. Both wrestlers also added more fortitude to all of their spots than usual, which emphasized just how imperative winning was for the both of them. They developed some great chemistry together, which helped the counter-for-counter sequences to be on-point and executed at a blistering pace. And, they really sent the crowd into a frenzy down the stretch by doing a great job of selling the drama; especially Austin, who had some penetrating body language and urgency during the go-home stretch. One of the best Raw matches ever. **** ¼
WWF Heavyweight Title, No DQ Triple Threat: Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam (10.21.01)
RVD and Austin argue, allowing Angle to German Suplex the both of them. They both regain the advantage and stomp on Angle. Both RVD and Austin have a stare down, but Angle attacks RVD from behind. Austin attacks both Angle and RVD, which kills the suspense for the Austin/RVD showdown. He goes for the Stunner, but Angle reverses to the Anklelock. RVD breaks the hold with a dropkick. Austin throws Angle to the outside and attacks Van Dam’s leg. Austin locks in a STF on RVD, but Angle breaks it up. Angle and Austin brawl out to the floor. RVD hits a rolling plancha from the top on both of them. Back in, Angle hits RVD with a Capture Suplex and hits a top-rope moonsault. Austin picks up Angle for a Stunner, but Angle counters it. Angle goes for a Stunner of his own, but Austin blocks it as well. They both clothesline each other. RVD goes for the Five-Star Frogsplash. But whose side is he on!? Both wrestlers move out of the way, so we don’t know who he was trying to hit. Austin hits Angle with Stunner. RVD attacks Austin and then hits the split-legged moonsault. Angle breaks up the pin and hits the Angleslam on RVD.
This starts off as a slugest. Austin wins the exchange. He goes for Stunner, but Rock fights it out and bails. Outside, Austin picks up the Rock and drops him on the railing and then he throws him into the stairs. In the ring, Austin hits a backdrop suplex for two. Austin follows up with a lariat and chokes Rock with the ropes. Rock fights back and clips Austin’s knee. The Rock keeps going after Austin’s knee. Austin tries to fight back, but Rock whiplashes his neck into the mat. Rock locks in for the Sharpshooter, but Austin manages to make it to the ropes. Rock viciously smashes Austin’s knee into the post. He mocks Stone Cold by putting on his vest. They both go for a clothesline, which takes both of them out. Austin hits the Thesz Press and then elbows Rock in the face. Austin hits a Rock Bottom on Rock that gets a two. Austin goes for the Stunner, but Rock blocks it.
Rock hits the Stunner on Austin, but Austin kicks out. Austin blocks one of Rock’s punches and hits a Stunner that picks up a near-fall. Rock nails Austin with a lowblow, but he misses the People’s Elbow. Austin goes for another Stunner, but the Rock hits a spinebuster. He hits People’s Elbow, but Austin kicks out. Rock hits a Rock Bottom that picks up only a two. He hits another one, but it only picks up a two. Finally, a third Rock Bottom in a row picks up the win @ 17:53. The best analogy I can come up with to describe this is it is like going to see a Rolling Stones concert in 2014. Surely, they are not as good as they once were, but that does not change the fact that they are the Rolling Stones. I could also look past the fact this is mostly an amalgamation of kick outs from finishers, because Austin was in no condition to wrestle this match, yet he did for the sake of the fans and business. And he deserves a lot of commendation for doing that. *** ½
Final Verdict on the Blu-Ray Matches: People can say what they want about Austin’s heel turn, and I’d probably agree with most of their views on it. There is no denying, though, that Austin’s ring-work then was at its highest point post-neck injury. Unfortunately, however, some of Austin’s greatest work in ’01 is missing because of the Chris Benoit debacle. He had a few great bouts with Benoit on Raw and Smackdown, and a Raw tag match (Triple H/Austin vs. Jericho/Benoit) that was incredible. Also, I think they could have substituted the Austin/Undertaker/HHH match with either Austin/HHH from No Mercy ’99 or their classical 3 stages of hell brawl at No Way Out ’01. Nit-picking aside, this was another great disc.
Austin had to work hard for his spot. He was constantly mistreated in WCW. Even though many of the boys saw his talent, the higher-ups just did not want to acknowledge it. Although, no matter how poorly he was being utilized, Austin always gave his utmost effort to make everything he did worthwhile. He was hungry, driven, and determined to be on top of the world. With his mind completely invested in pursuing his goal, he ended up accomplishing exactly what he wanted to do.
The extras are awesome, because they show how much range Austin had as a performer. He wasn’t just the Rattlesnake. He portrayed a variety of different personas, and performed them all with tons of believability .
A special thanks to Extant1979 for taking the time to look over this entire review for me.