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WWE WRESTLEMANIA COUNTDOWN - 2003 PPV Report (WM 19): Austin vs. Rock III - Austin's final match, Hulk Hogan vs. Vince McMahon, Lesnar vs. Angle

Mar 22, 2010 - 12:00:23 PM

Leading up to WrestleMania 26 on March 28 in Arizona, we will be publishing a daily WrestleMania PPV flashback report going back to 1992 at WrestleMania 8. We'll be publishing one PPV flashback report around 12:00 p.m. CST every afternoon until this year's WrestleMania.

-- Thursday, Mar. 11 - WrestleMania 8 (1992): Hogan vs. Sid, Warrior run-in
-- Friday, Mar. 12 - WrestleMania 9 (1993): Hart vs. Yokozuna, Hogan wins title
-- Saturday, Mar. 13 - WrestleMania 10 (1994): Razor vs. HBK, Bret vs. Owen
-- Sunday, Mar. 14 - WrestleMania 11 (1995): LT vs. Bigelow, Diesel vs. HBK
-- Monday, Mar. 15 - WrestleMania 12 (1996): HBK-Hart Iron Man match
-- Tuesday, Mar. 16 - WrestleMania 13 (1997): Hart vs. Austin, Sid vs. Taker
-- Wednesday, Mar. 17 - WrestleMania 14 (1998): Austin vs. HBK, Taker vs. Kane
-- Thursday, Mar. 18 - WrestleMania 15 (1999): Rock vs. Austin I
-- Friday, Mar. 19 - WrestleMania 16 (2000): Rock vs. Foley vs. Hunter vs. Show
-- Saturday, Mar. 20 - WrestleMania 17 (2001): Rock vs. Austin, TLC, Shane vs. Vince
-- Sunday, Mar. 21 - WrestleMania 18 (2002): Rock vs. Hogan, Hunter vs. Jericho
-- Monday, Mar. 22 - WrestleMania 19 (2003): Rock vs. Austin III, Hogan vs. McMahon
-- Tuesday, Mar. 23 - WrestleMania 20 (2004):
-- Wednesday, Mar. 24 - WrestleMania 21 (2005):
-- Thursday, Mar. 25 - WrestleMania 22 (2006):
-- Friday, Mar. 26 - WrestleMania 23 (2007):
-- Saturday, Mar. 27 - WrestleMania 24 (2008):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 25 (2009):
-- Sunday, Mar. 28 - WrestleMania 26 Live Coverage


WrestleMania PPV Flashback Report - WM 19 (2003)
March 30, 2003
Seattle, Wash. at Safeco Field
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

-- Find out how to sign up for a Torch VIP membership to access the Torch Staff Audio Roundtable Review of WrestleManias 1-10 right now!


There may have never been another WrestleMania with as many major stars from so many different eras participating in important career matches that lived up to or surpassed expectations. Sunday's 19th annual WWE mega-PPV has become one of the most well-reviewed PPVs of all-time. It delivered a number of high-quality matches including two match of the year candidates mixed with memorable moments such as the first Vince McMahon-Hulk Hogan match.

After much internal discussion, Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar was given the prestigious final slot on the event. Angle entered the match with a badly degenerated neck that required major surgery. He performed as if he were at 100 percent. If fans didn't know he was injured, they wouldn't have been tipped off by his performance. He guided Brock Lesnar to the best match of his career thus far in a 21 minute match of the year candidate.

Brock Lesnar entered the match with a goal to elevate himself and make himself seem worthy of the WrestleMania main event stature. He did so for 20 minutes, and then decided to take it a step further by risking his well-being to show how truly dedicated he is. Late in the match, in what will prove to be one of the most memorable and disturbing moments in WrestleMania history, he executed a Shooting Star Press. Late in the match, after Angle kicked out of his F5 finisher, an exhausted Lesnar seemed to be contemplating whether to go for the big move that was part of the plans for the match. He took a deep breath, looked up at the time rope, and then forced himself to the top rope. He hessitated, then leaped off he top rope, slipping a bit as he launched himself, and then flipped over in mid-air and headed toward Angle who was two-thirds of the way across the ring.

Lesnar, who had performed the move many times before during his developmental matches in Ohio Valley Wrestling, came up short. He was a split-second away from landing on his head, but bent his head forward at the last possible moment, and landed with a thud on the side of his head, neck, and shoulder. Angle, seeing that Lesnar was coming up short, had the wherewithall to move out of the way at the last possible moment, also. Lesnar barely avoided serious injury or even death and seemed stunned. He managed to get to his feet and immediately execute an F5 at about half its usual height and pinned Angle to capture the WWE Hvt. Title. After the match, he sat in the corner and appeared to be unaware of his surroundings. His glazed-over eyes spotted the WWE Title belt lying a few feet away, and he listlessly grasped at it. Angle eventually came over to Lesnar. A groggy Lesnar offered a handshake. Angle turned it into a hug. Both men had defied paralysis or death and delivered a knock-out performance in the final match at WrestleMania.

For months Angle had been describing his first singles match ever against Brock Lesnar as likely being one of the greatest matches of all time. The match may not have reached that level, but it didn't fall short of earning its placement as the finale of an excellent WrestleMania event. It was all the more remarkable considering that Angle almost didn't make it to the event due to his neck condition. Angle delivered suplexes and took bumps as if he were wrestling without any knowledge that the wrong bump could jar his spinal cord and leave him paralyzed.

It's not known whether Angle will ever wrestle again. He is considering a variety of options, but none guarantees he will wrestle another match. If WrestleMania XIX is his final in-ring performance, he can consider it a worthy final chapter. For Lesnar, it almost became his final chapter. He was taken to the hospital immediately after his match and underwent a series of tests. He was diagnosed with a serious concussion, the "best case" scenario considering the tremendous impact of his landing. Lesnar may avoid ever attempting that move again at his weight, especially so late in a grueling match.

The final chapter was likely written on Rock vs. Steve Austin. It also could have justifiably been the final match on the show, both in terms of star power headed in and match quality once it took place. Austin, whose days as a full-time headliner are over due to his neck condition, delivered a smart, veteran performance. He wrestled within his limitations without making it obvious he had any limitations. Rock was a total pro, putting on another clinic on how to wrestle "main event style" without causing great harm to his or his opponent's body.

At the end of their 17 minute match, which Rock won via clean pinfall, Rock exchanged quiet, respectful words during an extended conversation. Some of it was caught on camera, and some of it not. It was an emotional night for both since it might turn out to be Rock's final WrestleMania, and even more likely it could be Austin's final WrestleMania, and almost for sure it will be the final Rock vs. Austin match. They treated it as such, as both seemed to be fighting back tears as it symbolized the end of an era that began in the late '90s and led to a wrestling boom like this industry has never seen.

While Austin was coming to grips with the end of his physical ability to perform at a high level, Shawn Michaels showed that he is back at the top of his game. Michaels, one of the top two stars of the pre-Rock/Austin WWF era, took on Chris Jericho, who idolized Michaels early in his career. The two put on a 22 minute classic that arguably was the best of the night amidst stiff competition. Michaels, more than at his return match at SummerSlam last year, seemed to be fully capable of returning to his "show-stealer" level. Jericho had perhaps the best match of his career against his one-time idol.

Triple H came up next, desperately attempting to avoid being lost in the crowd. He scored a clean pinfall victory over Booker T to retain his WWE Raw World Title in a nearly 20 minute match that fell short of being a contender for "best match," but was good enough to not stand out as being beneath the level of the other top bouts.

Undertaker has bounced between mid-card and main event matches on WrestleManias over the years. This year, his match barely qualified as "mid-card" level, as he wrestled alone against A-Train & Big Show in the second match on the show. His partner, Nathan Jones, was attacked backstage and didn't appear until the end of the match. In reality, WWE management decided to take the safe route and keep the incompetent Jones out of the ring as to avoid him embarassing himself on the biggest show of the year. Taker kept his WrestleMania undefeated record in tact in a passable match, although by most accounts the worst of the night.

Three other title matches filled out the undercard, all clocking in at under ten minutes. The opening match featured Matt Hardy retaining the WWE Cruiserweight Title against Rey Mysterio in just under six minutes. Originally scheduled to last over 15 minutes, it was cut short due to concerns that the rest of the event was formatted to run long, and therefore it didn't live up to its potential. Even with just nine matches scheduled in four hours, WWE wanted to give ample time to each of the "money matches" and desperately wanted to avoid having to cut short the matches that were designed to be classics. Trish Stratus captured the WWE Women's Title in an intense, well-executed three-way match with Victoria and Jazz. Team Angle retained their WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles against Rhyno & Chris Benoit and Eddie & Chavo Guerrero in the best of the undercard matches.

In the final week before the event, no match got as much hype as the first singles match between the two top wrestling personalities of the '80s - Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan. It lived up to expectations, including a surprise twist with camera interference from Roddy Piper mid-way into the match. McMahon was as jacked up with muscles as ever, making sure that the photos that document this, the biggest match of his life, will show that at 58 years old, by whatever means it took, he had among the best upper-body mass and definition (not counting pecs or abs) on the show. Hulk Hogan, once the king of WrestleMania main events, sold most of the match for the aggressive, maniacal McMahon. Both bled, both delivered knock-out facial expressions, and both provided enough camp mixed with intensity to make the match as memorable as it was historical.

It may have been Hogan's final WrestleMania match. It would be a fitting end, since his days a serious contender are over due to his decreased physical abilities, and the match against McMahon in some ways is as memorable as any previous WrestleMania match and probably among the top three in terms of match quality.

WrestleMania XIX managed to be much more than an extended version of "just another monthly PPV." It turned out to be one of the most memorable, critically acclaimed PPVs ever, with "career-moments" for Lesnar, Angle, Hogan, McMahon, Austin, Rock, Michaels, and Jericho.


Ashanti sang America the Beautiful... Jim Ross opened the show with thanks for the troops overseas... A WrestleMania video feature aired...

(1) Matt Hardy beat Rey Mysterio Jr. at 4:30 to retain the Cruiserweight Title. Matt Facts: "This is Matt's Fourth WrestleMania" and "Matt Often wonders how they ever did WrestleMania without him." Okay, but a special event like WrestleMania calls for a bonus Matt Fact. They opened with non-stop highspots including Shannon Moore interfering on Matt's behalf. At 3:00 Matt dropped Rey with a Twist of Fate for a near fall. Rey nailed Matt with the 619 at 4:00, but Matt ducked the West Coast Pop attempt. Matt pinned Rey to retain the title with a grip on the ropes for leverage at 4:30. Very good for a five minute match, but extremely disappointing that on a four hour show they couldn't give the cruiserweight title match at least 15 minutes. (**1/4)

Limp Bizkit performed Undertaker's theme song. Taker rode out on his motorcycle and entered the ring with the lead singer.

(2) Undertaker & Nathan Jones beat Big Show & A-Train at 9:44. Taker chokeslammed A-Train in the opening seconds and scored a near fall. Big Show yanked Taker off of A-Train. No sign of Jones at the start of the match. Apparently a little eight second beatdown in the locker room is enough to keep him away from the ring for the biggest match of his career. At 7:45 Taker began his comeback beating up both Show and Train at the same time. He gave Train a Big boot, then ducked a Show clothesline and nailed Show with a flying clothesline. Train then blindsided Taker with a big boot to the face. Show got up and chokeslammed Taker. Jones ran down to the ring. Show attempted to cut him off, but Jones kicked Show. Jones hen entered the ring and gave Train a big boot from a stationary position. Taker then picked up Train (barely) and gave him the Tombstone for the win. Average action at best. The finish was predictable. Taker got to keep his WrestleMania undefeated streak alive, although it's a bit tainted needing Jones's help to win. After all, Taker managed to fend off both opponents for nearly 10 minutes without him. (*1/2)

Jim Ross told the troops they are doing the right thing and to "kick ass" and get home as soon as possible.

(3) Trish Stratus beat Victoria (w/Steven Richards) and Jazz in a three-way match at 7:20 to capture the WWE Women's Title from Victoria. As Victoria and Richards posed in the ring before the bell, Jazz attacked them from behind. Jazz was her usual aggressive self. When Jazz put Trish in the STF at 5:30, Richards intervened. Jazz tossed Trish around the ring, but then Victoria nailed Jazz with a kick. However, when she followed up with a moonsault, Jazz moved out the way. Victoria backdropped Jazz over the top rope. Richards went to swing a chair at Jazz, but the chair hit the top rope and bounced into his own face. Victoria then put Trish in an inverted bodyvice. Trish came back quickly and scored the pin on Victoria.Strong seven minute women's match. Jazz showed up everyone else with her intensity and relentlessness. (**)

They cut backstage to Johnathan Coachman interviewing Rock backstage. Instead of a pop, Rock was met by silence and eventually some boos. Rock said Austin may have beat him the last two times they met at WrestleMania, but he said he learned in Hollywood that nobody remembers acts one and two. He said tonight is act three, and that's all people will remember. He said this is the final chapter of the greatest feud in history. When he was about to say his "Finally, the Rock..." routine, he took off his sunglasses and welled up a few tears. He put his sunglasses back on and walked off before finishing.

(4) Team Angle (Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas) beat Eddie & Chavo Guerrero & Rhyno & Chris Benoit at 8:35 to retain the WWE Smackdown Tag Team Titles. The match opened with a six-way brawl. Benoit suplexed Guerrero off the top rope. He then hit three consecutive German suplexes on Chavo, but Benjamin quickly nailed Benoit to stop his momentum. Benoit, in other words, has learned nothing from the Edge, Austin, and Angle situations. Rhyno tagged in at 8:00 and gave the Gore to Chavo, leading to Benjamin scoring the opportunistic pin. What you'd expect from these six in an eight minute match, although it seemed to be just getting going when they went to the finish. (***)

Torrie Wilson and Stacy, and the Miller Lite Girls - who oogled over each other earlier in the night - argued about who they thought would win between Vince McMahon and Hulk Hogan.

(5) Shawn Michaels beat Chris Jericho at 22:34. They opened match with five minutes paced well, but in a way that suggested the match would go long. At 6:45 Jericho applied the Walls of Jericho at ringside as the ref counted toward ten. Jericho then rammed Michaels's back into the ringpost. As Michaels attempted to reenter the ring, Jericho gave him a springboard dropkick. Jericho slapped Michaels and yelled, "I'm better than you! I'm better than you!" At 10:00 Jericho settled into a chinlock. Michaels signalled the crowd for support as he rose to his feet. Michaels DDT'd Jericho to escape at 10:45. At 11:30 Jericho knocked Michaels down, nipped up, and then struck an HBK-like post. Michaels then nipped up and took control with a backdrop. Jericho charged into Michaels who lifted his boot. Michaels then hit Jericho with a moonsault for a two count. They hit a series of four near falls - two each - on reversals on the mat. Michaels went for a back suplex, but Jericho escaped. Michaels elbowed out, but Jericho gave him an overhead suplex for a near fall. Michaels bridged out Flair-Steamboat style at 13:30. At 14:00 Jericho hit his Lionsault for a two count. Jericho reversed out of a Michaels huracanrana attempt and applied the Walls of Jericho in center ring. "HBK" chants broke out. Michaels reached the ropes. Jericho flew off the top rope with a standing elbow to Michaels's chest. At 16:40 Jericho nailed Michaels with a Superkick, prompting Ross to say, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." A minute later Michaels went for the Walls of Jericho, but he catapulted Jericho into the ringpost and scored a two count. Michaels and Jericho came off the top rope at the same time, with Michaels landing on top of Jericho and scoring a two count. Jericho went for a superplex at 19:30, but Michaels shoved him off. Michaels then mounted the top rope and hit his top rope elbow. He then pounded the mat with his right foot and went for Sweet Chin Music, but Jericho ducked. Jericho then put Michaels in the Walls of Jericho. Michaels almost reached the bottom rope, but Jericho dragged him back to the middle. Michaels again reached for the bottom rope and grabbed it successfully at 21:00. An exhausted Michaels flipped out of a Jericho suplex attempt and rolled up Jericho for a three count. Jericho rose and began crying. Michaels offered a handshape. Instead, Jericho opted for a hug. Ross declared it great sportsmanship which assured that Jericho would turn on Michaels. Sure enough, he low-blowed Michaels, which prompted Ross to call him a "sick, pathetic loser." Excellent match. Surprising finish in the sense that now is the time to elevate stars who can draw at house shows every weekend, but the match was good enough that not much damage was likely done. For not wrestling often over the past several months, Michaels delivered a nearly prime-of-his-career-level performance. (****1/4)

Backstage the French-Canadian referee entered Vince McMahon's office with a big smile on his face... A Goldberg vignette aired with highlights of his Nitro days with a plug that he will be wrestling on Backlash in April. The footage brought on a "Goldberg" chant... The ring announcer said WrestleMania set a new SafeCo Fieldhouse attendance record of 54,097... Limp Bizkit performed the WrestleMania theme song live...

The Miller Lite Girls were placed on an oversized bed on the entrance stage, but before they could have a pillow fight, Stacy walked out and interrupted. "The only thing I can think of that is better than two girls in bed is three," she said. Torrie then walked out and said the only thing missing is a Playboy cover girl. Torrie ripped off Stacy's top revealing her bra. Torrie spanked Stacy as the Miller Lite Girls ripped off each other's shirts and hit each other with pillows. Coachman did play-by-play. At one point they rolled on top of Coachman, then ripped off his pants, revealing his white briefs. The women teamed up to pin him for a three count, then hit him with pillows. The women then raised each other's arms in victory as Coachman pulled his pants up.

(6) Triple H beat Booker T to retain the WWE Raw World Hvt. Title at 18:50. Before the match, Ross and Lawler talked about what a big joke WCW was, which does a lot to build up Booker T's rep, huh? Booker T armdragged Hunter off the ropes at 1:45. They went to ringside briefly. Back in the ring Booker hit a couple roundhouse kicks to Hunter's head, but the kicks didn't look particularly good. He followed with a spin wheel kick, which Hunter ducked. Hunter then knocked Booker to ringside at 3:15. Hunter rammed Booker into the ringside stairs. Hunter began methodically punching and stomping Booker. Minutes later Flair rammed Booker's knee into the ringside stairs. Flair then spazzed out at ringside. Hunter applied an Indian Death Lock at 11:20, a move he hasn't used before on any big shows. Ross pointed out that he hasn't seen the hold in years. Booker punched out of it pretty quickly. Hunter then applied an inverted version of the leglock. Booker attempted to crawl to the ropes, but Hunter held his ground. After about 30 seconds, Booker made it to the bottom rope, forcing a break. Hunter continued to methodically work over Booker's leg. By 14:00 Booker couldn't even put weight on his leg. When Hunter went for a Pedigree, Booker kicked out of it. Booker then came back with his scissors kick. He slowly rolled onto Hunter and scored a two count at 15:36. When Booker began to climb to the top rope, Flair intervened, but Booker punched him away. Hunter, though, recovered and knocked Booker off balance, then went for a superplex. Booker punched out of it, fended off Flair once more, and then hit his Harlem Hangover legdrop flip onto Hunter. Rather than go for a pin, Booker grasped at his knee. Hunter was the first to his feet, and he gave Booker a Pedigree at 18:30. He was too spent to make a pin attempt at first, though. Flair yelled encouragement to Hunter. Hunter draped his hand over Booker's chest and scored the three count. Booker kept selling his knee. Good match. After 10 minutes of back and forth action in "act one" of the match, Hunter dominated "act two" by working over his leg for five minutes, setting up "act three" which saw Booker's spirited comeback fall just short due to his knee being too weak to support him. (***1/4)

(7) Hulk Hogan pinned Vince McMahon at 20:53. Give credit to Vince McMahon. Even though he hyped his own match as the main event, at least he had the self-awareness to not put his match on last (after some cajoling I assume, since at one point last week this was scheduled to go on last). Vince entered the ring second and had a staredown with Hogan, who seemed to be getting welled up with emotion. Vince slapped Hogan. Hogan tackled Vince. Hogan choked Vince. Vince came back with a bad looking clothesline (both of their faults) and then a horrible looking tackle in the corner on Hogan. Vince began some boxing-style punches and jabs at Hogan. Hogan went to the mat, where Vince kneed his arm from behind a few times. Cole and Tazz marvelled at their boss's conditioning and physique. At 4:00 McMahon beat Hogan in a test of strength, and when Hogan began to fight back, McMahon kicked him in the gut. Hogan began another comeback and Vince began panicking, but again kicked Hogan in the gut. Vince must not take much pride in his legs because he wore black jeans, which didn't help his mobility (and were probably quite hot to wrestle in). They went to ringside where Hogan continued to pound away at Hogan, including ramming him into the ringpost. The crowd was booing McMahon at times, but for the most part didn't seem to know what to make of this 58 year old non-wrestler beating up in a fair fight the multi-time, multi-federation world champion nearly ten years his junior. Hogan fought back at 7:00 and grabbed a chair and bashed McMahon across the forehead. McMahon, of course, came up bleeding. Hogan continued to bash Vince with the chair, but eventually McMahon ducked and the chair hit Hugo Savinovich. McMahon then came back with a low blow. He then pulled out a ladder and set it up at ringside. McMahon bashed Hogan in the forehead with a ringside monitor. McMahon climbed the ladder and sat on the top. He then cupped his ear sarcastically and the crowd responded with a cascade of booing. McMahon then leaped onto Hogan on the table with a legdrop. The table broke and a "Holy Sh--" chant broke out among some ringsiders. No one can accuse Vince of not protecting Hogan because his impact leg was bent so much it showed a ton of light (just as all of Hogan's legdrops did over the years). They showed a bloody Hugo being helped from ringside. In the ring Vince covered a bloodied Hogan for a two count at 13:40. He tried another cover, but Hogan kicked out again. Vince then got out a lead pipe. The camera zoomed in on Vince's bloodied scheming face. He entered the ring and wound up, but Hogan hit Vince with a low-blow. With both Hogan and Vince down, a man in a trench coat entered the ring. He disrobed and the crowd popped as they realized it was Roddy Piper. He nailed Hogan with the lead pipe, turning heel and prompting cat calls from the crowd. Vince crawled to the writhing Hogan and draped his arm over Hogan. McMahon reached for the pipe again, but ref Brian Hebner stepped on it. Because it was a street fight, it was actually legal. McMahon attempted to threw Hebner through the ropes. McMahon hit Hogan with the pipe as the French-Canadian ref replaced the original. McMahon hit a legdrop and scored a two count. The crowd popped for Hogan's kick out. Hogan began his superman comeback, which popped the crowd. He waved his finger at McMahon, punched Vince, then punched away at the evil ref and threw him over the top rope. McMahon bashed Hogan from behind with a double-axe handle, but Hogan no-sold it. Hogan hit the Big Boot, then the legdrop, then two more legdrops, and scored the pin. I don't think there was even one traditional bump in the match and they wrestled like 49 and 58 year olds, but the blood and storytelling abilities of Hogan and Vince carried the match, not to mention sheer inspired effort. The Piper twist was a good touch considering his history dating back 18 years to the original. Shane McMahon walked to the ring in a suit and tie. Hogan held the ropes open for Shane, then left the ring. Shane bent over and checked on his bloodied father. Vince raised his head and gave Hogan the finger. Shane glared at Hogan. Hogan smiled. (**3/4)

(8) The Rock pinned Steve Austin at 17:52. After a staredown, the bell rang and Austin punched away at Rock. They fought at ringside where Austin whipped Rock into the ringpost. At 2:00 they returned to the ring where Austin continued to work over Rock, including choking him over the middle rope. Ross talked about the history of the rivalry. Rock clipped Austin from behind as the ref scolded Austin for not breaking his choke soon enough. Austin bailed to ringside to rest his knee. Rock chop-blocked Austin from behind once again. At 6:45 Rock applied the Sharpshooter. Austin reached the bottom rope. Rock put on Austin's ring jacket and drank some beer. Back in the ring Austin ducked a Rock clothesline and then fired back with one of his own. Austin nailed Rock with a Thesz Press at 9:30. He then hit Rock with a flurry of punches. He gave the ref the double middle fingers when he admonished him. After a kneedrop, Rock kicked out of Austin's pin attempt. Rock made a comeback, which drew boos. Austin surprised Rock with a chokeslam. When Rock got to his feet, Austin went for a gut kick to set up the Stunner, but Rock caught his leg, spun him around, and gave him a Stunner. Rock hooked Austin's leg, but Austin kicked out at two. Rock began punching away at Austin, but Austin surprised Rock with a Stunner at 13:00 leading to a near fall. Austin shoved the ref out of his way, but was met with a Rock low-blow. Rock began bragging about how smart he was to think of the low blow. Rock milked the moment, took off his left elbow pad and threw it to the crowd, and went for the People's Elbow. Austin moved. Rock, though, put Austin down again, took off his other elbow pad, and hit the People's Elbow successfully. He scored a two count. Rock followed up with a Rock Bottom for another near fall. Austin clutched the back of his head and neck. Rock got serious and waited for Austin to rise. He went for another Rock Bottom, but Austin escaped. Rock, though, gave Austin a second Rock Bottom and scored a very near fall. Ross screamed, "I don't believe it! How did Austin kick out!" Austin was slow to get up. Rock waited patiently, yet intensely. Austin rose at 17:30. Rock set up a third Rock Bottom and delivered. Austin laid flat for the three count. Rock celebrated, then bent over Austin and patted him on the chest in a subtle shoot salute to his top rival. Austin was slow to exit the ring, but when he did, they played his music as he walked to the back. He turned to look the crowd for a second, then kept walking. When he got to the stage, he did give them the double middle finger salute. Very good match from two pros. The finish surprised and deflated the crowd. They logically had Rock win clean since Rock has to go into the April PPV strong against Goldberg. (****)

(9) Brock Lesnar pinned Kurt Angle to capture the WWE Smackdown Hvt. Title at 21:07. They had a brief staredown before the bell. They did amateur style wrestling for the opening few minutes. Angle had the first impact on the back of his neck when he back suplexed Lesnar at 4:20. He let out a "whoo!" afterward. The crowd understandably was a bit drained at this point, so the pacing of building this match slowly worked well given all circumstances. Brock pressed and slammed Angle at 5:15. Angle caught a charging Lesnar with a boot. He then back suplexed Angle into the turnbuckles and seemed to land hard himself. Brock bailed to ringside. Angle followed and rammed him back-first into the ringside barrier. Angle gave Brock a vertical suplex for a two count at 7:00. Angle then applied a bow and arrow. Angle shifted into a chinlock. Brock rose up and backed Angle into the corner to break it. Angle came back with an overhead released suplex. Angle then hit Brock with a flying knee, sending Brock to the floor. When Brock returned to the ring, he surprised Angle with a spinebuster. Both Angle and Brock lay on the mat as the ref began to count toward ten. Brock gave Angle a released overhead suplex and then scored a two count. Angle came back with three unreleased German suplexes, clearly landing to the side on his shoulder instead of the back of his neck as much as possible. At 13:40 Brock went for a surprise F5, but Angle escaped and twisted Brock into an Anklelock. He yanked Brock away from the bottom rope. He turned it into a half Boston crab. Brock reached the ropes. Angle charged toward Brock, but Brock backdropped him over the top rope. Angle landed on his feet and then tumbled to the ringside bat. Back in the ring Brock attacked Angle with shoulders in the corner. Angle reversed Lesnar with an overhead released German suplex that got "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd. Angle followed with an Angleslam for a near fall at 16:25. Cole said he thinks that is the first time anyone has ever kicked out of the Angle slam. The crowd didn't know that since they didn't pop as you'd think they would for such a historic moment. Brock rolled up Angle for a surprise two count out of nowhere. He followed up quickly with his F5 for a very near and convincing near fall. Angle went right into an Anklelock. Brock crawled toward the bottom rope, but Angle dragged him back toward the middle. Lesnar, though, forced his way to the bottom rope. Lesnar then kicked Angle off of him. Lesnar kicked Angle in the gut and went for an F5, but Angle escaped and turned it into a small package. Angle went for the Angleslam, but Brock escaped and set up the F5. Rather than go for the cover, he rolled to the bottom rope. The announcers wondered what he was doing. He left the ring, climbed to the rope rope, and went for a shooting star press. He couldn't pull it off and landed on the side of his head in a scary moment. Angle covered him for a very near fall. Lesnar, still hurting, pulled off a rushed F5 and scored the pin. Lesnar looked extremely groggy, almost as if he weren't aware of his surroundings, as he grasped at his title belt. Angle approached him and they shook hands and hugged after the match. Fireworks went off to end the show. Excellent match. It was paced perfectly for its place on the show. The fans were so burned out early in the match from the Austin-Rock and McMahon-Hogan drama, that their mat wrestling in the opening minutes worked perfectly in giving the fans a chance to take a breather and slowly get into the match. There weren't huge pops for Brock kicking out of Angle's pin attempts even at the most dramatic moments, which is a sign that Brock hasn't won over the hearts of the fans as a babyface quite yet and also a sign that fans respect Angle so much. But, the fans were unmistakably into the match, on the edges of their seats. Brock seemed to think long and hard about whether he had the energy to pull off the shooting star press. It was clear that was supposed to be the finish, but in rewatching it in slo-mo, Angle saw that Lesnar was coming up short and moved out of his way so that he could have an unobstructed clear landing on the mat. They F5 was an ad lib. The look on Lesnar's face after the match was of someone who didn't know where he was. (****1/2)

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