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Rock-Austin WrestleMania XVII


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I watched the Rock vs. Steve Austin main event from WrestleMania XVII for the first time in almost ten years and I still don't understand why people think of it as four- or five-star epic? What I saw were two outstanding workers clumsily tripping over each other and exchanging too many punches as transitions between the "I hit my finisher then you hit yours then I hit you with yours..." spots building towards an awkward finish that didn't get anyone over.

 

I prefer their match at WrestleMania XV.

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The way Austin did some heelish things through the match, his busting out the cobra clutch (which he discarded when he turned face) and Rock doing the Bret Hart counter (the finish to the great Hart vs Austin Survivor Series '96 match), the callback to the WM13 finish. All of which hinted at the resurfacing of Austin's heel side, paying off with the finish.

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I love the early part of the match. I understand Rock not blading since he was about to film a movie, but the blood capsule was pretty bad here.

 

They gave these guys just under 30 minutes, and Vince was out there for like half the match, or so it seemed at the time. The part of this match that was really Austin vs Rock was pretty short.

 

I think they should have given them closer to 45 minutes. I'm trying to only point out things that aren't benefit-of-hindsight points, but there are a lot of those (45 minutes with neither guy turning, a clean Austin win and no blood probably would have worked better, for example).

 

I really have grown to love their WM 19 match. I like the atmosphere, I think the feud always worked best with Rock as a heel, and Rock had improved so much by this point, the two had more history, and it felt like the end of something. (How's THAT for a Meltzer sentence? :))

 

It's also the one time they had a match at Wrestlemania that didn't add too much unnecessary stuff to it. It's Austin vs Rock, it's a match that really sells itself, and I always felt like WWE tried too hard when booking their matches, adding a lot of stuff that wasn't really needed.

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How would adding 15 more minutes have *helped* the match? Is there really that much more for them to have done?

The match felt rushed to me at 30 minutes. I don't know what else they could have done, but a longer-than-usual match for the two biggest stars of the era isn't a weird request.

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I was disappointed because both guys can really work and if they wanted to work a brawl they could have done a more imaginative one. It was really just a lot of punching and taunting and a few nice counters.

 

I like the XV match better as a brawl and the XIX match was the best of them all by far, though it was a little weird to see Rock get so pissed at the referee (can't remember which) when he's trying to tell Austin how much he loves him that he shoves him away a few times.

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The ending to Rock v. Austin at X-7 is great. Rock won't go down and keeps kicking out of everything, so Austin just murders him with chairshot after chairshot until he's officially dead. It's tremendous.

What he said.

 

Yeah. The Austin heel turn was a bad idea because it probably was a bad time, and they fucked him by making him HHH's little buddy, but as a moment, that ending was just amazing, it's brutal. A great wrestling moment.

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There are 'sloppy' moments in the match - more than you might've expected - but, at the same time, it's Austin vs. Rock in the biggest match of the year, judging the match on a mechanical level kind of misses the point. You could argue that just about any Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi match features lazy whips/postings/tie-ups... but, you know? It's the same with the punches, I mean, it's an Austin match and a WWF/E main event. Certain things are par for the course.

 

The WrestleMania XIX match may be crisper, and I can see the appeal in the Austin Gets Rock-Bottomed To Hell Finish... it's a very good match, but taken as a whole I don't see the argument that it's a better match. The story's one of the best the company has ever done on a big stage. Something like HBK/Taker was a "great 'Mania spectacle" but, at the same time, it's a nice little big/small "body", a reset, and a drawn-out finish. Austin/Rock has an even bigger spectacle to it (only Hogan/Andre can really compare), whilst also delivering a strong story of Austin's descent and eventual turn. Obviously, turning him in Texas was not the smartest booking move, and hindsight has shown turning him was the wrong choice period (as much as I love his heel run - and he's utterly FANTASTIC against Benoit in Edmonton walking the line).

 

Like I said, it's the biggest match in the history of the company (or tied for such), a massive spectacle, hugely memorable, and a strong match to boot (give or take the odd sloppy moment, yes). You could possibly break down a few matches they did that year as being better - maybe Benoit/Austin, maybe Rock/Jericho, I haven't seen the Quad tag in far too long to state with any strong opinion on it - but a ****ish MOTYC? Certainly. Taking it as a 'WWF/E Match' it's one of the best they ever did.

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I love the 2001 match. Think I had it #2 on the SC Poll on the greatest WWWF/WWF/WWE match of all-time. Pretty much is the definative WWF spectacle.

 

I've never had a problem with the finish, nor the concept of turning Austin on that card. It actually wasn't a bad time for it, as Austin hadn't exactly been red hot after coming back from the injury. The pairing with Trip, and at times looking the lesser of the two, was the bigger problem. Worse was getting tossed into the clusterfuck feud with Taker & Kane rather than what had been set up strongly: Austin vs Trip, with Trip putting over the new top heel.

 

John

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Was The Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak as big a deal at X-7 as it became later? I don't think they started making a big deal about it until he beat Flair at X-8. It's weird, because if HHH had agreed to turn face and lose to Austin as his first opponent, he most likely would have beaten Undertaker at X-7, and then the streak never takes off and the Shawn Michaels matches don't mean as much.

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I'd argue it's only in the last few years that it has become massive... I mean, it was only five years ago he wrestled Mark Henry in a casket match. You had the Orton thing before that, but it's hard to imagine Taker wrestling anyone other than a bona-fide headliner a la Michaels or Batista (ie; Cena) at WrestleMania from now on...

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it's hard to imagine Taker wrestling anyone other than a bona-fide headliner a la Michaels or Batista (ie; Cena) at WrestleMania from now on...

Rumors have him facing Kane, Barrett or someone even below that this year because there wouldn't be any letdown if it was just a couple minutes long. So, not really 'headliners' (Kane is well behind even Batista), but then that's due to injury more than anything.

 

Seems to me that the only 'real' match they have left that could be huge is Taker vs Cena. If Taker is up for it, they need to pull the trigger on that next year.

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Was The Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak as big a deal at X-7 as it became later? I don't think they started making a big deal about it until he beat Flair at X-8. It's weird, because if HHH had agreed to turn face and lose to Austin as his first opponent, he most likely would have beaten Undertaker at X-7, and then the streak never takes off and the Shawn Michaels matches don't mean as much.

X-7 was the first time it got brought up as something of note. It got a lot bigger as the years went on, but that's definitely where it started as a thing.

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I really liked the match. The hot crowd helped it a lot as did the storyline of Austin "making a deal with the devil" to be world champion. Although it is a tired cliché nowadays, back then the finisher-finisher-finisher ending to matches made for a lot of dramatic near falls. At least for me. It is a lot better than the Finisher = 3-Count formula that you see on lesser shows. Plus, Wrestlemania X-7 as a whole was great, so it being the nightcap at the end of the show helped it a lot in my mind. Just watching that match by itself outside of the moment, it just feels different. Also, thankfully they excluded Debra from the storyline.

 

The highly rated match that I never saw eye-to-eye with was Savage/Steamboat at III. The Animal just kills that shit for me.

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The WM19 match takes everything in the WM17 match and does it better. The 15 minutes of listless, loose brawling is gone. Rock's sloppyness is gone since he's a much more polished worker at that point. The finisher kickouts are still there. WM17's advantages are just being in Texas and being the peak of the boom period.

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