This match was a beautiful example of how important in ring psychology truly is. I watched the match in preparation for this article. It was the first time I had seen it since it happened. I forgot how great it was. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin went into the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, Texas that night and told a story, tearing the house down in the process. The crowd hung on every moment as two men battled it out with everything they had in a no disqualifications match for the WWF Championship. It was during a time known as The Attitude Era, the only time a match like this could have happened.
It was a highly violent affair, sold entirely on both men’s desire to be the WWF Champion. Neither would let the other man walk away with the gold. It was intense. Both men ended up bloodied and battered. This was also the match that called for the infamous heel turn of Stone Cold Steve Austin, who joined with the villainous Mr. McMahon in order to quell The Rock’s resiliency and bring the belt home. It was a pretty huge mistake turning Stone Cold Steve Austin heel. It took a lot of the luster from his character.
Nobody wanted to tune in and see Stone Cold trying to play the guitar and sing Mr. McMahon a song. He would eventually turn back, but it never really mattered. At that point, he was so over, he could’ve walked into the middle of the ring and taken a dump if he wanted to. I can see it now. The glass breaks and his music hits. He never says a word. He storms the ring, hitting all four turnbuckles to pose for the crowd. Then the music stops. Stone Cold lowers his britches and drops a steamer in the ring. The music hits and the crowd goes crazy.
Anyway, the match was going back and forth, blow for blow, finisher for finisher, until Mr. McMahon slid a steel chair into the ring for Stone Cold to use. Willing to do anything for the title, Steve Austin went right to work with the chair. Even that wasn’t enough to keep The Rock down. Sporting a crimson mask, The Rock kicked out of pin fall after pin fall, powered only by the will to win.
The finish saw Stone Cold repeatedly hit The Rock with that steel chair, unloading on him with shot after shot. Finally The Rattlesnake got the three count and became WWF Champion. Even then, Stone Cold Steve Austin, ever the fan favorite, received a standing ovation. It wasn’t until he shook hands with Mr. McMahon that cheers turned to boos. No matter who you are, if you’re shaking hands with Vincent Kennedy McMahon in the middle of a wrestling ring, chances are you’re going to get some boos.
As Jim Ross said, “Stone Cold is shaking hands with Satan himself.”