When you look at rivalries in professional wrestling, The first ones to come to mind would be Sting Vs Flair, Hogan Vs Savage, Shawn Michaels Vs Bret Hart, Jake Roberts Vs Rick Rude, Hogan Vs Piper, Michaels and Taker The list goes on, But there was one rivalry that turned the business around aside from the WCW/NWO angle and that was Stone Cold Steve Austin Vs the Rock.
If you look at both wrestlers styles, They both are similar to Muhammad Ali and the late Joe Frazier in many ways. The Rock like Muhammad Ali is the cocky, arrogant, brash, but charismatic trash talker that can also back it up in the ring. Austin whom while isn’t like Frazier verbally(Frazier was a calm and collective talker) could be compared to Frazier’s bull dozing, take no prisoners in ring style. These two had very different personalities and they found a way with their in-ring chemistry to keep the people interested in their 3 biggest Wrestlemania matches.
When you look at all three of Ali/Frazier fights and you look at Stone Cold and Rock’s Wrestlemania matches. You couldn’t help but to feel like you’re witnessing a war. Their first Wrestlemania encounter had similarities to Ali and Frazier’s first in-ring encounter at Madison Square Garden. The WWE was doing great business at the time and having their two main attractions close Main did tremendous business and had the crowd anticipating more
Going into Wrestlemania 17 You also got the notion that these two(Austin and Rock) like Ali/Frazier in real life really DESPISED each other. Even though in real life they were possibly the best of friends but in the ring, on the mic, and even if it’s the Rock going as far as to calling Stone Cold a piece of trailer park Trash and Austin trashing Rock’s vehicle’s They knew how to make their on-screen hatred seem real. The buildup to their encounter on Wrestlemania 17 is professed as the greatest buildup of all time
Austin Rock Face off
Where Joe and Ali’s second bout was considered a disappointment. Austin and Rock’s 2nd encounter flourished and set the mark on ring psychology, ring work and intensity alike This match may go down as one of the greatest matches of all time. The atmosphere at that time had a big fight feel and both wrestlers brought their A game to the task. Austin and Rock have said many times that they often bring the best out of each other and this match further supported that claim:
Wrestlemania 17 Match
My personal favorite of the 3 Austin/Rock encounters would have to be the one that perfectly simlar to the Thrilla in Minalla and that would be their Wrestlemania 19. It seemed at that point that The Rock was seen as someone as a traitor, a sellout, and hated similar to Ali was after he beat George Foreman. What people don’t also know is that there was some real life heat between Austin and Rock around that period due to Austin walking out and Rock throwing him under the bus.
Considering Austin has looked out for the Rock, gave him pointers, and praised him publicly. He said that he felt a bit betrayed by the Rock’s stunt similar to how Frazier felt with Ali constantly mocking him after trying to help him get reinstated back into Boxing.
The Rock going into Wrestlemania 19 spent endless weeks mocking Stone Cold calling him a white trash redneck and singing songs making fun of him just like Ali calling Frazier a gorilla going into the Manilla. Stone Cold on the other hand had the role of Frazier. A hard-working more humble man who wanted to take his talking into the ring and easily got the support of the fans.
The match itself was built as their final encounter. The spectacle like setting for Wrestlemania 19 was the perfect place to host the final showdown between the Brahma Bull and the Rattlesnake. Many was worried about the match becoming a possible train wreck. The Rock rarely wrestled as often due to him being in Hollywood and Austin who had not only wrestled a full length match since spring 2002 before walking out and battling a near heart attack the night before the event. But soon as The Rock and Austin finally made it and the bell rang. It’s like they haven’t lost a step:
Their match here like the Thrilla told a story. It told a story of One man’s final go around to prove that he still has it(Austin) and the others obsession of defeating his adversary in an event that can pretty much solidify his legacy. The Rock and Austin went back and forth in this very fast paced match. The Ring Chemistry between them haven’t left at all as The Rock was able to show that he can entertain as well as kick ass and the Rattlesnake despite battling injuries and a life threatening health scare was able to work through it and put on possibly the 2nd best match of the night.
The Thrilla like this match was like a war and when the cocky brash Ali defeated Joe Frazier to end the feud, The Rock finally got his win at Wrestlemania against Stone Cold and the rivalry ended with The Rock actually humbling himself after the match and telling Steve that he loved him and thanked him. Just like Ali and Frazier eventually over the years would rebuild their torn relationship.
There have been rivalries that are memorable or in ring classics but in my opinion none will ever Stone Cold and Rock. These two men not only transetted the business but it also provided a little bit of everything for wrestling fans including smarks to enjoy. Looking forward to the DVD dropping real soon.