Torch Flashbacks WWE WRESTLEMANIA 17 FLASHBACK - 10 yrs. ago today (04-01-01): Austin vs. Rock, Taker vs. Triple H, TLC, Shane vs. Vince, Torch Cover Story
Apr 1, 2011 - 1:06:39 PM
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WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM17
April 1, 2001
Houston, Tex. at the Astrodome
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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TORCH NEWSLETTER COVER STORY
HEADLINE: WrestleMania XVII shines, ends with Austin turn
SUBHEADLINE: Austin aligns with Vince McMahon, as he captures the WWF Title from Rock in dramatic main event
At WrestleMania XVII, the WWF puts its best foot forward on PPV and also attempted to shake the foundation by turning one of its two top babyfaces. The Steve Austin turn, though, will be a challenge to pull off.
Austin beat Rock to capture the WWF Title in the main event of what is already being considered perhaps the best WrestleMania ever. Austin scored the pin more than 28 minutes after the opening bell thanks to help from Vince McMahon.
The WWF knew turning the fans against Austin would be a challenge, and the only way to pull it off would be to have him align with Vince McMahon. Vince attempted to be as heelish as possible in recent weeks. Then at WM he was the foil as he got dumped by Trish, bashed in the balls by his wife, and pinned by his son. Certainly if Austin aligned with that "heelish loser," even the Texas fans wouldn't still cheer him, right? Wrong.
Many booed Austin, but seemingly more still cheered him. Austin, despite a relatively uninspired series of babyface promos leading up to WrestleMania, seemed to have more babyface appeal than Rock. In their pre-WM staredowns and confrontations, Austin has been getting more cheers. There has seemed to be a grassroots backlash against Rock among a sizeable minority of fans. Maybe it's because Steve Austin shows at least some signs of being a human being, whereas Rock is just a character. Rock is a charismatic, funny character, but he doesn't exhibit any authentic emotions that people can relate to.
Whatever the reason, Raw the next night was supposed to be the time when the heel turn would be cemented. Austin would unleash with the charisma and energy that he's been tempering since his return last fall. He would step into the ring and use all of his mic skills and charismatic powers to turn the fans against him. He would hug Vince, then explain how the plot developed and why he chose to turn on Rock. In the process he would give the fans a reason to like Rock more than him. But none of that happened.
Austin went through the motions on his heel promo on Raw. Has he lost it? Or, like Goldberg, doesn't he believe in the turn? Or is the intent to unveil his heel turn slowly, one promo at a time, building up to something that will turn the fans against him.
The heel Austin wasn't any different than the babyface Austin that all of the fans cheered in recent month. The only difference is, Austin has now decided that Vince is okay enough to have around to help him win matches.
During his Raw promo, Austin didn't explain why he turned on the fans and aligned with Vince McMahon. He said he didn't owe the fans anything so he wasn't going to give them an explanation. Given the crowd reaction - still a mix of tentative boos and rebellious cheers - it's as if right now the fans believe Austin is just "saying these things" to get what he wants out of Vince. They aren't convinced yet he is serious. And even if he is, they may like him anyway.
Meanwhile on Raw, Rock again failed to drive home why he should be the babyface. He didn't create any sympathy for himself. He didn't act betrayed. He was just the cool, charismatic, witty Rock, going through the motions of cutting an intense promo with the grace of a Stepford Wife.
"Houston, we have a problem."
Perhaps later this week on Smackdown, Austin will give a breakout interview and show a willingness to "show ass," to betray the "Stone Cold" character that the fans love by hugging Vince, and not be quite so cool while telling off the fans. Perhaps Vince will narrate a montage explaining how this secret plot came together, showing clips over recent weeks that all fall into place and show that we should have all seen it coming - especially Rock. Then maybe Rock will show some human-like emotions, doubt himself a bit for not seeing it coming, and draw some sympathy from wrestling fans who right now don't identify with him as much as they do with Austin or even Triple H.
The problem is the WWF may not have that backstory to draw from. Whatever role Debra was going to have at WrestleMania was scratched last week. In a throwaway segment on Smackdown, Vince told her that in the interest of fairness she was relieved of her duties as Rock's manager. It's barely been touched on since.
Is the scattershot build up for the Rock vs. Austin WM17 main event a sign of Vince's attention being elsewhere? He better hope so, because at least it's a decent excuse. Vince was busy trying to salvage the XFL and put together a deal to purchase WCW, while at the same time trying to get used to having a new cook in the kitchen (Paul Heyman). There are bound to be glitches in the machinery's operation given those circumstances.
The good part - and it's a very good part of this weekend's story - is that WrestleMania itself was perhaps the best WrestleMania ever, and among the best PPVs of all time. Very few PPVs have had such a diverse series of very good to excellent matches. Very few excellent PPVs haven't been dragged down by bad booking of finishes despite the wrestlers' best efforts, or dragged down by one or two long stinker matches, or dragged down by having the good matches so similar to each other than even the good action became mind-numbing.
WrestleMania earned overwhelmingly good scores, averaging an astounding 8.8 rating in the TORCH poll, the best average score in the poll's 13 year history.
The event lasted nearly four hours, and despite a merely watchable first hour, the final three hours offered a diverse batch of dramatic, intense matches with some nostalgia and humor tossed into the mix.
The WWF also avoided the news story of its acquiring WCW interfering with WrestleMania. Not that the WWF wants the WCW purchase to seem like "no big deal," but they believe now is not the time to be pushing it hard. WCW needs to be rebuilt before the interpromotional battle can be cashed in for maximum value.
At WrestleMania, a handful of WCW mid-carders were shown in a luxury box, guests of Shane McMahon. On Raw the next night, Shane made reference to WCW, saying he'd have news on it soon. Fact is, there isn't a lot more to say yet. The WWF smartly shifted it's attention to WrestleMania once the WCW purchase was made. It wanted to continue to promote the WWF storylines as the main attraction.
WrestleMania was a showcase of the strengths of the WWF today, yet there were some chinks in the booking leading up to and right afterward that show the WWF is not infallible, that the machine doesn't "run itself," and that there is never room to become complacent when it comes to storylines. The WWF put on a great show, but whether it created momentum is not clear at this point.
KELLER'S MATCH ANALYSIS & REPORT
Before WrestleMania officially began, they had a warm-up match on Heat in the Houston Astrodome.
(A) X-Pac & Justin Credible beat Grand Master Sexay & Steve Blackman at 2:40. Just a throwaway match. The contrast in styles between Blackman and Sexay was fun.
Jim Ross introduced the program with Paul Heyman by his side. The dome looked great on television, packed to the last row from every angle they showed. They also showed a picture of fans going nuts at WWF New York. "I just don't have a word to describe the atmosphere here tonight," Ross stated. Heyman said this was his first WrestleMania ever and he is excited to be present.
(1) Chris Jericho pinned Steven Regal at 6:30. Good choice for an opener, at least on paper. Both wrestlers are over. "Regal sucks" rang out from the crowd in the opening seconds of the match. Regal overshot on a tope in the first minute, grazing the top of Regal's head at ringside. Jericho climbed to the top rope and hit a flying elbow, then scored a two count. Jericho remained on offense until Regal lifted his knees on a Lionsault at 3:00. Regal scored a two count with a schoolboy. Regal awkwardly suplexed Jericho to the mat and Jericho landed on his forehead. Regal went to untie the corner turnbuckle. Jericho fought back with some kicks and a missile dropkick for a two count at 4:30. Regal tossed Jericho off the top rope with an armdrag. Jericho went for the Lionsault at 5:45, but Regal reversed it into the Regal Stretch. Jericho reached the ropes. Jericho immediately connected with a series of chops. A minute later Jericho finished Regal off with a Lionsault. Anticlimactic finish that came out of nowhere. The Lionsault remains one of the weaker looking finishers in wrestling. (**)
Shane McMahon stepped out of a limo in the parking garage. The limo license plate read "WCW 1."
Backstage APA and Jackie smoked cigars. Bradshaw, who is from Texas, talked about all of the big events that have taken place in the Astrodome.
(2) Tazz & The APA (Bradshaw & Faarooq) beat RTC (Goodfather & Bull Buchanan & Val Venis w/Steve Richards) when Bradshaw pinned Goodfather at 3:56. Tazz came out and beat up RTC before the match officially began. Jackie helped out, too. APA then came out and the match officially began. Val beat up Tazz for the opening minute. When Goodfather tagged in, both RTC members whipped Tazz into the ropes. Tazz lost his balance and stumbled into the ropes, but recovered nicely. At 3:30 Bradshaw back suplexed Venis off the top rope. then nailed Goodfather with the Clothesline from Hell for the win. Nothing special, but good that it was kept short. (*)
Trish Stratus rolled Linda McMahon in a wheelchair in the back hallway. Stephanie met them. She noted that Trish was late. Trish rolled her eyes. Steph then gave Trish some additional instructions.
(3) Kane beat Raven and Big Show at 9:28 in a three-way match to capture the Hardcore Title. Raven attacked Kane with some big foam looking human figure to start even before Big Show arrived. Show lumbered to the ring as Kane beat up Raven in the ring. "Big Show has a world of potential, but you can't build a career on potential; you have to get things done," Ross said. Kane flew off the top rope onto Big Show at ringside. They brawled into the crowd a minute into the match. It was a long walk getting to the backstage area. Kane threw Raven into a wall, denting it upon impact. Big Show locked himself in a room to beat up Raven. At 6:00 Raven began driving a golf cart with Big Show choking him from behind. Kane then got in a golf cart with the ref riding on the back. The cart ran into Raven. Raven sold a knee injury as a result. By 8:00 they ended back on the big stage entrance. Big Show pressed Raven above his head. Kane knocked them both off balance sending both crashing through the set below. Kane then leaped onto them and made the cover. The ref couldn't get into the pit, but he slammed the side wall of the stage to count to three. Watchable. (**3/4)
Edge & Christian tried to brighten up Kurt Angle who was sitting in the back staring intensely at a TV monitor. He explained deliberately to Edge & Christian that if someone makes you tap out but it's not part of a match, it's not officially a loss, especially if a ref isn't present. He seemed very bothered by the idea that Benoit made him tap out last week.
Johnathan Coachman interviewed a fan from Australia who said she flew 30 hours to attend the event in person. Coachman said WM17 is the first to have fans in attendance from every state and 20 countries.
Rock was shown arriving in his locker room.
(4) Eddie Guerrero (w/Saturn) pinned Test to capture the European Title at 8:32. At 2:30 Test got his ankle caught up in the ropes. Guerrero fell on his face as he left the ring to take advantage of the circumstances. Guerrero applied a long sleeper. Test escaped and then hit two til-a-whirl suplexes. Saturn entered the ring and attacked Test as Eddie distracted the ref. Guerrero flipped off the top rope, but Test moved so Eddie landed on the mat. Test scored a two count at 7:40. When Saturn entered the ring again, Test knocked him out with a big boot, then gave one to Guerrero for a two count. Dean Malenko came out and distracted the ref as Eddie hit Test with the belt. Just watchable. (**)
Michael Cole interviewed Mick Foley who said he was going to call the match right down the line.
Steve Austin was shown for the first time backstage.
(5) Kurt Angle pinned Chris Benoit at 14:10. Angle talked on the house mic as he approached the ring. He said he is disappointed that the Texas flag is missing the 49 other stars. Heyman said Benoit is an undefeated WCW Champion. Now that the WWF owns WCW, does Benoit's title win get put back into WCW's official title change history logs? They mat wrestled early. Because Benoit kept up with Angle, Angle showed frustration and threw the first punch. Angle hit a few moonsaults, too, during the match, catching Benoit's knees on the third attempt. Later Angle applied his Anglelock. Benoit reached the ropes and then applied his own ankle lock. Late in the match Benoit had the Crippler Crossface applied. Angle tapped out, but the ref didn't see it. At 13:30 Benoit hit a top rope headbutt for a two count. Angle then rolled up Benoit and yanked on his tights to score the three count. Intense action that the crowd was into from start to finish. (***3/4)
Backstage Kim Chee tried to stop Kamala from destroying Regal's desk backstage.
Highlights of the WrestleMania pep rally at Ft. Hood aired. Very nice video piece.
Backstage, as Angle bragged about beating Benoit, Benoit attacked Angle and applied the Crossface. Angle tapped out. It took several refs to get Benoit to break the hold.
(6) Chyna pinned Ivory at 2:38 to capture the WWF Women's Title. Chyna wore a skimpy purple two piece ring outfit, quite a change from her rough look of the past. In the end Chyna pressed Ivory and then pinned her easily just by leaning on her. Chyna once declared she didn't want the women's title because she'd rather compete with men. A match hardly worth Chyna's and Ivory's airfare to Houston. Ivory's hand motions and selling is often annoyingly cartoonish. (1/2*)
Backstage Vince told Trish to bring Linda to ringside when Shane is completely immobile. Cole barged in and asked Vince for comments on Shane's shocking purchase of WCW. Vince said if people want shocking, they'll get shocking. "I guarantee it," he said.
A video montage aired of the Vince-Shane feud.
Shane came out to relatively little pop. He gave a shout out to his friends from WCW and pointed into the crowd. They eventually showed a few WCW wrestlers in an upper deck of the arena. Hard to tell in the few seconds who all was there among the dozen or so. Shane then introduced special ref Mick Foley. Vince McMahon came out next with Stephanie.
(7) Shane McMahon pinned Vince McMahon at 14:11. Vince intensely choked Shane in the corner to start the match. He slapped and punched away at him. Shane came back with a clothesline and a spear at 1:00. He then hit some punches and elbows. At 1:25 Steph entered the ring and slapped her brother. Shane slidekick Vince and moved to ringside to beat on him. Shane nailed Vince with a chair. Shane's left eye began swelling up presumably from a potato from his father in the opening seconds of the match. Shane bashed Vince with a kendo stick at ringside at 3:35. Shane began boxing and knocked Vince off his feet. Shane removed the monitors from the Spanish announcing table. He rammed a monitor into Vince's face, then entered the ring. Shane leaped off the top rope and came off with a flying elbow. Steph moved Vince out of the way, so Shane landed with a thud. Foley checked on Shane. Trish then wheeled Linda to ringside at 6:00. Linda looked highly medicated, barely keeping her eyes open. Trish checked on Vince, then slapped him and yelled at him. Steph slapped Trish. Trish rammed Steph's head into the ring apron twice. Steph fell to the floor as the crowd went nuts. Steph tried to escape by getting into the ring. Trish yanked her into the ring and began slapping away at her. Trish rammed Steph into the mat and choked her. Foley separated both women. Steph slapped Foley and then ran away. Trish pursued Steph, but Steph tripped on her high heels. Trish stomped away at Steph. Vince glared at Linda and grimaced. As Vince moved toward Linda, Foley told Vince not to even think about it. Foley began to wheel Linda away. Vince grabbed a chair and hit Foley from behind, then knocked him down with a stiff shot to the side of his head. Vince grabbed Linda's wheelchair and lifted her up into the ring. The crowd chanted "asshole" at Vince. Vince stomped on Shane once for good measure; Shane was still selling the missed elbow onto the Spanish announcing table. Vince sat Linda in a folding chair in the corner of the ring. Then he went to ringside again and got Shane. Vince bashed Shane with a trash can in the ring, then mouthed off to Linda. He said there is more where that comes from. As Vince stood with a garbage can in his arms, Linda stood. The crowd popped huge. Linda kicked Vince between the legs. Foley then began punching away at Vince and charged him in the corner. Meanwhile, Shane began to get his legs back. Shane put a garbage can in Vince's lap in the corner. Linda stood fully alert at ringside. Shane climbed to the top rope and flew all the way across the ring with a dropkick into the trash can. Good distance. He then scored the three count. The camera showed Lance Storm, Shawn Stasiak, and Chavo Guerrero Jr. among the WCW crew in the luxury box cheering the finish. The match was exactly what it should have been - a couple of Shane high risk moves plus a good mix of outside distractions to keep things entertaining without relying on Vince and Shane to carry a pure match by themselves. Entertaining. (***1/4)
Kevin Kelly's interview with the Hardy Boyz at Fan Fest was shown.
Triple H was shown warming up backstage.
Undertaker was then shown warming up throwing punches in a dark corner of the backstage area.
(8) Edge & Christian beat The Dudleys and The Hardy Boyz at 15:50. E&C both stood on Matt's crotch as he was hanging upside down in the corner. The Dudleys then attacked Christian at ringside as Edge set up a ladder in the ring. Edge climbed it to get at the hanging belt, but Matt stopped him. Matt then began to climb the ladder, but still sold his injured crotch. Edge knocked the ladder open. As the Dudleys carried a ladder at ringside, the Hardys slidekicked them. They set up two ladders in center ring. The Hardys each leaped off the ladders onto Christian in center ring. The Dudleys reentered the ring. D-Von headbutted Edge's exposed crotch. The Dudleys set up two tables in the ring. Buh Buh powerbombed Jeff into Edge, breaking the table underneath Edge in half. Three ladders were set up in the middle of the ring. All six wrestlers chose a side and climbed a ladder. All six ended up knocked down and were slow to get up. A great overhead camera shot provided a unique perspective on replay. Spike Dudley ran out at 8:00. Spike attacked both Edge and Christian. An audible "ECW" chant began. Rhyno then came out and attacked D-Von with a ladder, then speared Buh Buh Ray, then gored Matt into a table in the corner. As Edge climbed the ladder, Lita ran out and knocked him down. Rhyno lifted Lita, but Spike low-blowed him. Lita then gave Rhyno a huracanrana. Edge then reached for the belt, but Rhyno knocked the ladder over and Edge straddled the top rope. Lita gave D-Von a stiff chairshot. Buh Buh then attacked Lita. Jeff set up a huge ladder that while set up on the floor was as high at its peak as the ladders in the ring. Jeff climbed to the top of it and flew onto Rhyno and Spike with a Swanton Dive. Edge set up the extra tall ladder in center ring. Christian and D-Von climbed opposite sides of the ladder. Matt moved the ladder out from underneath them. They both swung from the belts without a ladder underneath them. D-Von dropped. Christian hung by one arm and dropped himself. Jeff then walked from one ladder to another, but couldn't quite keep his balance and fell. He reclimbed the ladder. Buh Buh moved the ladder out from underneath him. Jeff's feet were almost stuck in the ladder rungs which could have led to a very scary bump. Edge then speared Jeff off the tall ladder in one of the better looking moves ever. Buh Buh and Matt then climbed the tall ladder, but it tipped over and they bumped onto four tables stacked below. Great looking bump. Christian, with help from Rhyno lifting him on his shoulders, got the belts down for the win. A special match. Great "ooh and ahh" factor. They managed to raise the bar for this style match once again. The Edge spear on Jeff off the ladder was absolutely incredible looking. Just perfectly executed. The fact that Jeff sold it the rest of the match made it all the more effective. Good involvement of Rhyno and Spike, too. (****1/4)
During a WM Fan Axess feature, Mick Foley bragged about scalping his WM tickets for $200 which he said was going to his pizza fund. He probably wasn't kidding. The fanfest looked great on TV.
Heyman yelled about loving the TLC2 match. Ross dryly asked Heyman, "Why are you yelling?" Heyman said it was because he was excited.
Howard Finkle announced that WM set an attendance record for the Reliant Astrodome with 67,925.
(9) Iron Sheik won a Gimmick Battle Royal at 3:05. Mean Gene Okerlund made his WWF return by walking to the ring followed by Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The Bushwackers, Duke "The Dumpster" Droese, Iron Sheik, The Goon ("Wild" Bill Irwin), Doink (a/k/a Ray Apollo, not Matt Borne), Kamala (w/Kimchee, Harvey Wippleman), Repoman, Jim Cornette, Nicolai Volkoff, Michael Hayes, One Man Gang (who was better known in the WWF as Akeem the African Dream), Gobbledy Gooker, Tugboat, Hillbilly Jim, Brother Love, Sgt. Slaughter. As Iron Sheik lumbered to the ring slowly, Heenan said, "By the time Iron Sheik gets to the ring, it'll be WrestleMania 38." Earthquake almost beat Sheik to the ring despite starting 30 seconds after him. Okerlund didn't seem aware that the entire spectacle was meant to be a spoof. He said at one point, "Look at all of the talent in the ring." Order of elimination: Gooker, Tugboat, Earthquake, Luke, Cornette, Droese, Goon, Volkoff, Bushwacker Butch, Doink, Hayes, One Man Gang, Kamala - leaving Slaughter, Sheik, Love, and Hillbilly. Love was next followed by Sarge. Sheik eliminated Jim to win it. Slaughter entered the ring and put Sheik in the Cobra Clutch. A fun spectacle, and rightly so the introductions took up more time than the match itself. A fun walk down nostalgia lane, although the era it recalled provides plenty of evidence of how Vince McMahon was susceptible at one time to WCW Nitro. [NR]
(10) Undertaker pinned Triple H at 18:27. Triple H came out to a live performance by Motorhead of his entrance music, "The Game." They brawled at ringside for a minute before entering the ring to officially start the match. Taker hit a high elevation flying clothesline on Triple H early. By 3:00 Triple H had taken over offense. Triple H went for a pin, and when Taker kicked out, Triple H blamed the ref, shoving him into the corner. Taker fought back with a flurry of punches to Triple H's gut. Triple H rebounded off the ropes and kneed Taker in the face. Triple H knocked over the timekeeper and then grabbed the sledgehammer from the corner. Triple H shoved the ref out of the way and reared back the sledgehammer. The ref grabbed the sledgehammer from Triple H. Taker came up behind Triple H, but Triple H quickly set him up for a Pedigree. Taker escaped and gave Triple H a Last Ride. Triple H kicked out. Taker hit the ref in retaliation. Ross questioned Taker's wisdom. Triple H bumped out of the ring to the floor. The ref remained down for a while. Taker backdropped Triple H into the crowd and they then brawled to the control booth set up for the lights and music. Triple H bashed Taker with a chair a dozen times. Taker fought back and chokeslammed Triple H off the control set to the floor. The cameras missed the move. On a replay, a camera showed that Triple H landed on a padded area below. Taker dragged Hunter back to the ring at 13:30. Taker got the sledge hammer. Triple H begged off. When Taker swung at him, Triple H kicked him low. Triple H charged Taker, but Taker caught him with a big boot. The ref, by the way, was still facedown knocked out on the mat. At 16:00 Triple H set up Taker for the Tombstone, but Taker countered and gave Triple H the Tombstone. Taker covered Triple H, but for some reason no replacement ref had come out. Taker tried to revive the ref. Taker lifted Hunter, but Hunter grabbed the sledgehammer and hit Taker with it. Triple H made the cover and the ref got up and made a two count. The crowd popped for Taker's kick out. Triple H got frustrated and punched away at Taker's newly bloodied face. Taker picked up Triple H and gave him the Last Ride and scored the clean pin. Good match. They filled quite a bit of time with brawling in the crowd, but the content was overall strong. The clean finish helped. (***1/2)
(11) Steve Austin pinned The Rock at 28:08 to capture the WWF Title. Howard Finkle announced before the match it was a no-DQ match and Ross made a big deal out of how that stip seemed to come out of nowhere. Ross stressed what a legendary star Austin has become in his home state of Texas. They fought instantly without a staredown or any pre-match routine. A minute into the match they fought to ringside. Austin scored the first two count of the match at 3:48. Rock scored his first two count at 4:32. In a strange moment, the ref tripped backward over the ring stairs and dropped a blade he was supposed to hand to Rock. Rock then dropped to his knee and picked up his blade. He then bladed, but barely drew blood. At 7:20 they returned to the ring and Austin pummeled Rock with fists. By 8:30 Rock began to bleed much heavier than at first. Austin grinded his knee into Rock's bloody face in the corner. Rock burst out of the corner and dropped Austin with a clothesline. Rock received a mixed reaction, but mostly boos, during his offensive flurries. Rock grabbed the ring bell and nailed Austin with it. Austin was bleeding at this point. Rock covered Austin and scored a near fall at 11:15. They brawled at ringside again at 13:00 around a completely destroyed announcing area. Austin catapulted Rock into the ringpost. Rock took the bump really well. At 14:20 Austin nailed Rock with a monitor. Back in the ring Austin scored a near fall. When Rock got up, Austin gave him two middle ringers. Rock kicked Austin and applied the Sharpshooter. Both Rock and Austin bled heavily from their faces. Austin reached the ropes. Rock gave Austin the finger. Austin then applied a Sharpshooter of his own on Rock. Rock tried to power out, but couldn't. Rock finally reached the ropes at 18:25. Loud booing could be heard. When the ref tried to get Austin to break the hold, he gave the ref the finger. In a no DQ match, why break when the ref tells you? Ross and Heyman argued about whether Ross was biased in favor of Austin because he is close friends with him. Austin applied the Million Dollar Dream at 19:00. Ross mentioned that Austin learned that move when he was managed by Ted DiBiase and wrestled as Ringmaster. Rock's arm dropped twice, but not a third time. Rock pushed off the ropes with his feet and rolled Austin up for a very near fall. At 20:25 Rock surprised Austin with a Stone Cold Stunner. He was unable to follow up right away. He crawled over to Austin and made the cover. He scored a two count at 20:50. Vince then walked to the ring.
Austin covered Rock for another two count. Rock came back and struck with the People's Elbow at 23:00. As Rock went for the cover and the ref began to count, Vince yanked Rock off of Austin. "What the hell was that for?" Ross asked. Ross said he isn't sorry the match is continuing, but he didn't understand Vince's stake. Rock chased Vince around the ring and back into it. Austin caught a charging Rock with the Rock Bottom - using his own finisher against him. He scored a very near fall. Austin set up the Stunner, but Rock shoved him off of it and Austin bumped into the ref in a sloppy looking spot. Austin low-blowed Rock. Austin then asked Vince for a chair. He then invited Vince into the ring. Austin told Vince to swing and hit Rock as he held him. Vince swung and hit Rock (Rock didn't duck, as almost always happened with that spot). Austin covered Rock. The ref returned to the ring and made the count, but Rock kicked out. Austin became irate, yelling "Shit!" Austin picked up a chair himself. Ross and Heyman wondered what Vince and Austin were up to. Rock surprised Austin with a Rock Bottom, blocking an Austin chairshot. Vince distracted the ref as Rock used the ropes to get to his feet. Rock threw Vince into the ring. Austin gave Rock a Stunner and scored another near fall. Vince handed Austin another chair. Austin smiled and nailed Rock flush on the forehead with it again. Vince cheered on Austin as he covered Rock for another two count. Rock kicked out. Austin again got frustrated. He looked at Rock, then Vince, wondering what he had to do to win the match. Vince stood inside the ring and watched. Austin rammed a chair into Rock's chest several times, then bashed him across the back as Vince cheered Austin on, went for another cover, and finally scored the pin. It seemed as if the finish would never come, but that was necessary to get across the storyline that Austin grew so frustrated that he decided to take a shortcut.
After the win Austin stood face to face with Vince in center ring. Austin offered his hand and Vince shook it. Ross said, "Please tell me this isn't happening." Vince seemed tentative of his new alliance with Austin, but they drank a beer together. "Son of a bitch, I don't believe this!" Ross shouted. "Vince drinking a beer with Austin... I thought I knew Austin!"
Very good match. It wasn't full of high spots, but they milked the drama especially well. The Houston crowd wanted an Austin win and weren't quite sure how to react to how he won once he did. Two minutes after scoring the pin, Rock rose. Austin nailed him with the title belt. The Stone Cold Heel Era has begun. (****1/2)
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