Why Austin vs Rock at X-Seven will Never be Duplicated

Johnathan McDonald

If you listen to Best Wrestling Podcast, hosted by myself, and Matt Fitzgerald, it won't take you very many episodes before you discover just how important WrestleMania X-Seven is to our wrestling fandom. It was a near-perfect show from top to bottom, and it was capped off by two of the biggest stars of all time doing battle in a phenomenal main event.

As much as we love 'Mania 17 as a whole, I think we love the Austin/Rock main event even more. Here's why.

The Atmosphere

Upon his arrival, Stone Cold gets one of the biggest pops of his career--which is certainly saying something considering the number of staggering ovations his entrance has received over the years. The Rock, though receiving a split reaction from the partisan Texas crowd, still generates the kind of crowd electricity he is known for--look at the massive amount of flashbulbs (a thing sorely lacking in today's smart phone world) that go off as the Great One gets into the ring and ascends the turnbuckle.

Speaking of the crowd, the sight of 67,000 fans jam-packing the Houston Astrodome was an awesome visual, and one befitting this biggest of WrestleManias. It has to be rememebered that this was WWE's first stadium pay-per-view in four years, and the first with actual paying fans that cared about the product in eleven. It was awesome to see a crowd of that size, with that energy, once again. I encourage everyone to watch/listen to this match with headphones or a really good sound system to truly pick up the rabid nature of the crowd during the main event--they were intense and vocal from bell to bell.

The Astrodome allowed for the construction of one of the coolest looking sets WWE has ever done, and it necessitated the use of a much longer entrance ramp than usual; both extra touches made this match feel even more special.

The Commentary

As alluded to on a recent show, Paul Heyman and Jim Ross were a vastly underrated announce team. Though long-time friends, they were able to flip a switch once the cameras started rolling, and would sometimes engage in arguments so intense, it would seem to those listening at home that these two absolutely despised each other.

By sheer happenstance, longtime WWE color commentator, Jerry "The King" Lawler was out of the company at the time of WrestleMania X-Seven, and Heyman was in, allowing the fiery duo of Jr and Heyman to call the action for an all-time classic.

The two did not disappoint. Jim Ross's call as Austin enters the ring, summarizing the passion and dedication behind the Texas Rattlesnake's comeback, is absolutely dripping with emotion. The friendship is real, and in fact, later, during the match, Heyman would try and incite Ross over this, claiming the friendship created bias in Ross's commentary.

Heyman, whether he knew the outcome beforehand or not, did a great job or providing subtle foreshadowing, when he continually referenced the bizarre, last-second changing of the main event to a No Disqualification Match. Heyman speculated that there had to be a reason behind this, and even stated that he felt this rule change disadvantaged the Rock, and, as it would turn out, he was right about both.

And of course, it goes without saying that Ross's call of the now-infamous Austin heel turn is one that belongs in the annals of pro wrestling history. Austin had soul his soul to the devil himself, and Jim Ross did a phenomenal job of conveying just how shocking that was.

The Match Itself

The first two minutes of this match are filled with so much energy-- it's incredible to think that both Rock and Austin would be able to continue at such a fast pace for the next thirty minutes, but they did.

The intensity of every punch and every kick is felt by the crowd and the viewer at home. And of course, given that this was such an intensely fought bout, we saw blood from both competitors, which, at least in WWE, was quite the rarity.

This match, however intentional or not, seemed to pay homage to the legendary Austin/Hart matches from years prior. There was the scene of a bloodied Austin, screaming in agony in the sharpshooter. There was a spot where the Rock, trapped in Austin's Million Dollar Dream, walked up the ropes and bounced back for a near fall. And also, there were some devastating shots with the ring bell.

The near falls and hot finishes towards the end of the match are dramatic, but do not approach overkill, because both men get long two counts by using the *other* person's finisher (a very unique thing for the time) as opposed to delivering their *own* finisher multiple times without getting the three-count. This added extra drama and credibility for the eventual moments when both superstars hit their respective, actual, finishing maneuvers.

The story of the Rock being a fighter and never wanting to lay down is told beautifully towards the end of the match, when, even after the Austin/McMahon alliance begins to unfold, Rocky keeps kicking out. Finally, an absolutely devastating set of chair shots put down the Brahma Bull--not a wrestling move, not a submission, but a violent assault is what it takes to beat the People's Champ.