The Rock and Steve Austin is a story of brotherhood, unlike the rivalry portrayed on television.
The Rock on Steve Austin and the Lead-Up to WrestleMania 15
The Rock and Steve Austin would meet on the big stage of WrestleMania for the very first time in 1999. In his autobiography, entitled The Rock Says (H/T: ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page), The Rock opens up about the lead-up, the match itself, and the aftermath of one of their most memorable WrestleMania moments.
“The night before WrestleMania XV, I had trouble falling asleep, which I had expected to happen.
“I didn’t want to disturb [then wife] Dany with my tossing and turning, so once she drifted off, I moved to the living room area of the hotel suite and just kind of sat there in silence, looking out at the city, thinking about the next night, the biggest night of my life.
“Different scenarios ran through my mind, different moves, and spots that I thought might work. I tried to visualize the entire evening.
“At that point, I hadn’t had any concrete discussions with Steve. All we really knew was that I would be doing the honors for him. By the time the main event of WrestleMania came to a close – Austin vs. The Rock – I would have put him over clean and give him the title. Beyond that most basic of outlines, though, there was mainly blank space.
“Far from being upset about dropping the belt, I felt a sense of pride. I was happy to be doing this for Steve, not only professionally, but personally. Steve is, quite simply, a good son of a bitch, and one of my closest friends in the business. I wanted to do this right, not only for myself and our fans but for him.
“In the weeks leading up to the match, we had talked periodically, but only in bits and snatches. I’d see him in the hallway and say, ‘Steve, I’ve got an idea,’ and then run it by him quickly. He’d say, ‘Yeah, I like that. As a matter of fact, not only can we do that, but what do you think of this..?’ And then he’d make a suggestion.
“Unfortunately, we hadn’t really had a chance to speak that night, so the actual planning of the match, the intricate choreography, would have to take place the next day, in the hours leading up to the match.
“I wasn’t particularly nervous about that, though, as I’d worked so often and so well with Steve in the past. I trusted him, and he trusted me. We were a team, and there was no way we weren’t going to put on one hell of a show.
“I woke around eight, which means I’d logged about five hours of sleep – not bad considering how wired I’d been the night before.
“We arrived at the First Union Center at around 1:30. In the catering area, I met up with Pat Patterson, the agent in charge of our match. He’s considered one of the best psychologists in the industry, and he has an incredible knack for coming up with creative finishes to matches. It was his job to help us formulate the kind of climax this match deserved. We had to take twenty-one thousand fans on an emotional roller-coaster, and no one was better at that than Pat Patterson. So we threw some ideas back and forth. We were just starting to get rolling when Steve Austin stopped by our table.
“‘You eat yet, Steve?’ I said.
“‘How about if I meet you in the ring in fifteen minutes?’
“‘I’ll see you out there.’
“We walked into the arena to the sight of the WrestleMania XV banner being unfurled and the sound of preproduction: hammering, drilling, pyrotechnic tests every few minutes: ‘Fire in the hole!’ BOOM!”
The Rock and Steve Austin Finalize their Plans for WrestleMania 15
“We met in the ring, The Rock wearing his $500 shirt and $200 shoes, Steve in his typical Stone Cold T-shirt, Stone Cold Steve Austin hat, shorts, and Magnum boots. Pat was there too, tossing out suggestions. We had roughly thirty minutes of ring time to fill. As always, we worked in reverse -from finish to beginning. It’s easiest that way. If you know how the match is going to end – if you can see it – then everything leading up to that point flows naturally.
“The ideas flowed freely as we hung out against the ropes. At one point, Vince McMahon walked out, saw what we were doing, and nodded. He didn’t come over and crack jokes or anything like that. This was Game Day, and it was the game of the year. Vince is typically very respectful of situations like that. Unless he has a point to make, he leaves us alone in the hours leading up to a match. By 3:30, we had the foundation of a pretty good script.
“I went to catering and had another small meal: chicken breast, baked potato, broccoli.”
“Later, we started going over the match again, this time in greater detail. We walked through things in the locker room. It’s hard to explain, but when you know someone well, and you enjoy working with him, there’s a chemistry that kicks in during this phase of the process. You can feel a synergy in the room. It’s electric! Pretty soon, the ideas were flowing. We were talking faster, completing each other’s sentences:
“‘How about if you-’
“‘Shoot you off the ropes?’
“‘Great! And then you hit me with your swinging neck-breaker…’
“‘Damn! That’s exactly what I was thinking! And then we can try this…’
“Before long the adrenaline was pumping, the excitement was building, so much that we were no longer just talking, but shouting: ‘This is going to be a motherfucker of a match!’
“After a while, there was a knock on the dressing room door. It was Jim Ross, who would be broadcasting the event that night. Jim wanted to listen to our blueprint so that he would know what to expect and be able to prepare sufficiently. This was a testament to Jim’s commitment to the business. Jim is the best play-by-play announcer the business has ever seen, and he wanted to make sure his performance on the mic would be the equal of the performance in the ring.
“Pat Patterson came by too, as well as Earl Hebner, one of the referees. After watching us do another walk-through, everyone agreed it would be one hell of a match. I thanked Pat, Earl, and Jim for stopping by, and then I slapped hands with Steve.
“‘See ya in a few,’ I said.
“‘I’ll come find you.’
“We would meet again in a couple of hours, right before the match, to go over everything one more time.
“The show began at eight o’clock with a stirring rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ by Boyz II Men. There were thirty or forty of us gathered around a big television monitor in the back, listening, and watching. As the song came to an end, I looked over at Steve. He looked back at me, nodded, and tapped his bare forearm, which was covered with goosebumps.
“I smiled and held up my arm. Me, too.
“‘How much time before we go out?’ I asked Bruce [Pritchard].
“‘You’ve got about six minutes.’
“I started jumping around, doing some push-ups, trying to keep my sweat going. Steve was running in place. While warming up, we talked some more about the match. We were calling things back and forth to each other, shouting out various moves and spots, testing each other’s knowledge of the script.
“Just beyond the curtain, I could hear the noise rising and falling as the crowd anticipated the main event. My heart was pumping furiously. I grabbed a bottle of water and washed off my hands. At the exact same time, Steve and I looked at each other and held out two fingers: two times! That had been the signal for the Rock/Austin handshake from the very beginning. We slapped hands twice, pointed at each other, and slapped hands a third time.
“‘See you out there,’ we said in unison. ‘Let’s do it!’
“I poured some water over my head and grabbed the title belt…
“Outside, there was an interlude of silence, a moment of utter quiet as the crowd waited for something to happen. And then my music hit…”
WrestleMania 15 – The Aftermath
“After the match, as I walked back up the aisle, I could hear Steve’s music playing. I knew he was celebrating in the ring, popping cans of Budweiser and spraying the audience, toasting a victory as only he can. I was so happy for him, and for us, and for what we had accomplished. But I had to stay in character. I had to keep scowling and spitting and snorting, at least until I passed through the curtains.
“Backstage I was mobbed by everyone: Vince and Shane McMahon, the agents and staff, some of the boys.
“‘Great job, Rock!’
“‘That was one of the best ever!’
“‘Thank you,’ I kept saying. ‘Thank you very much.’
“The door flew open and in walked Steve Austin.
“He tossed the belt – his belt now – onto the couch. I jumped to my feet and met him in the center of the room, and we hugged for a good ten seconds. It was a strong hug, a real fucking brotherly embrace reflecting a tacit understanding that we had just shared something remarkable.
“‘Thank you,’ Steve said.
“‘Thank YOU. It was my pleasure.’
“As we released our hug, we both fell into the couch, completely spent. Other people started pouring into the room. One of them was Jim Ross, who came over and started hugging both of us, shaking our hands. ‘Oh, God, man…that was one of the best, if not the best match I have ever called.’
“People kept flowing into the room until it took on the air of a party. Eventually, Mark Yeaton, the bell ringer and timekeeper for our match, walked in, his body straining under the weight of a big blue cooler. ‘Beer time, boys!’ he shouted.
“We all cracked open beers and started talking about the night.
“‘Now that was the marquee match WrestleMania needed,’ Steve said. ‘It does not get any bigger than that.’
“‘Hell, yeah!’ J.R said. ‘And you guys are gonna get paid for it too.’
“The whole room cracked up. A dozen grown men convulsed with the kind of true and hard-earned laughter that comes only with victory.
“I lifted my beer into the air and shouted over the noise… ‘Well, hell! I’ll drink to that!’”
Watch The Rock and Steve Austin Face-Off at WrestleMania 15:
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