Stone Cold Steve Austin is the most popular star in the history of professional wrestling.
The Texas Native went from a floundering mid-card wrestler in World Championship Wrestling to a record-breaking main event superstar and the face of WWE's most popular and prosperous period known as The Attitude Era.
Austin's foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, hellraising anti-hero character was a departure from the squeaky clean babyfaces who were popular during the '80s and the early '90s. His disdain for authority and his boss, WWE owner Vince McMahon, embodied the temperament of every hardworking American who wanted to stomp a mudhole in their boss for making their lives so difficult, despite them doing a great job.
Although McMahon is Austin's greatest nemesis, his rivalries with WWE legends like The Rock and The Undertaker produced quality matches that have withstood the test of time. Austin may not have always had his hand raised in victory, but he always went down fighting.
Let's pay homage to Austin 3:16 on #316Day with a list of his greatest matches.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs.The Rock (Wrestlemania 19)
Throughout most of the Attitude Era, The Rock and Stone Cold went to war over the Intercontinental Title and the WWE Championship. Their iconic clashes helped cement both men as the future of WWE and professional wrestling at the time.
Austin always got the best of The Rock at Wrestlemania. Their previous encounters at Wrestlemania 15 and 17 saw Austin walking away with the win each time they met at The Show of Shows. The Rock's string of bad luck turned around at Wrestlemania 19. Austin gave a valiant effort to put away his old foe but came up short. The match marked The Rock's first Wrestlemania win over Austin, and it was also Austin's last match as an in-ring performer.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kane First Blood Match (King of the Ring 1998)
Kane was a character that had the aura and mystique of his kayfabe brother, The Undertaker. After his debut in 1997, WWE pushed Kane to be its next unbeatable monster heel. That meant a clash with the reigning WWE Champion, Stone Cold Steve Austin, was imminent. Kane and Austin's battle over the WWE title took place at the 1998 King of the Ring pay-per-view in a First Blood Match.
Austin and Kane's match told the story of a warrior with an unwavering spirit using every weapon in his arsenal to stop an indestructible monster. Interference from The Undertaker and an accidental chair shot to the skull meant for his demonic brother caused Austin to lose the match and his WWE title. Fortunately, he regained it 24 hours later on Raw Is War.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon Steel Cage Match (St. Valentine's Day Massacre 1999)
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon and Stone Cold's rivalry helped propel the company to a level of success they had never experienced before. Millions of viewers tuned in weekly to see how The Texas Rattlesnake was going to stick it to his boss and his group of lackeys known as The Corporation.
One of Austin and McMahon's most memorable brawls was their steel cage match at In Your House: St. Valentine's Day. McMahon got little to no offense in, as expected, and a delighted crowd watched Austin torment his jerk boss. McMahon tried to blindside Austin by stashing a debuting Paul Wight under the ring to help him win. But an epic blunder from the man known in WCW as The Giant caused Austin to triumph at McMahon's expense once again.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker First Blood Match (Fully Loaded 1999)
There wasn't a more sinister character than The Undertaker during his Ministry of Darkness run. The Lord of Darkness and his henchmen attempted on several occasions to do away with Austin via a ritualistic sacrifice and embalming him while he was still alive. Their rivalry came to a head at 1999's Fully Loaded pay-per-view in a First Blood Match for Austin's WWE Championship.
Taker and his unholy ally Vince McMahon tried to soften Austin up before the pay-per-view in the form of blood-inducing assaults leading up to Fully Loaded. But Austin weathered the storm and snagged a win, keeping his WWE title and excommunicating Vince McMahon from the company his family created.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (Wrestlemania 15)
Much like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes, The Rock and Stone Cold were opposites. The Rock possessed a flashiness and bravado very reminiscent of The Nature Boy, and Austin was a blue collared Texan straight out of The American Dream. Each was the antithesis of the other, but their in-ring chemistry was unmatched.
Their first collision over the WWE Championship happened at Wrestlemania 15. At the time, The Rock was the company's biggest heel and champion and tried to use his alliance with Vince McMahon to help keep his title by any means. But interference from McMahon and The Corporation couldn't keep the Bionic Redneck from winning his third WWE Championship.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle (Summerslam 2001)
Steve Austin's original character, The Ringmaster, was supposed to be a nod to his ability as an in-ring technician. Austin developed a reputation in WCW as a performer with tremendous athletic ability who could have a great match with anyone before adopting the brawler style synonymous with the Stone Cold persona.
Austin's in-ring prowess as a technical wrestler was on full display during his match with WWE's resident Olympic Gold Medal Winner, Kurt Angle, for the WWE title at SummerSlam 2001. The combination of traditional wrestling and brawling highlighted Austin's range as a performer. The only downside is the anti-climatic finish that allowed a heel Austin to retain his title with help from a partial referee.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (In Your House: D-Generation-X)
The Rock became an overnight success after he turned heel and joined The Nation of Domination. After ditching his smiling good guy act, the third generation superstar started to showcase the charisma and bravado that put him on course to be the company's biggest star. The only thing standing in his way was Stone Cold Steve Austin.Their rivalry over the Intercontinental Title hit its peak in December 1997 at the In Your House: D-Generation-X pay-per-view event. The Rock and his Nation of Domination cohorts attempted to outnumber Stone Cold. But Austin used his cunning, toughness, and a pickup truck to win back his IC title from The Rock.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (Wrestlemania 14)
Stone Cold and Shawn Michaels' Wrestlemania 14 showdown for the WWE title was already a marquee match, but the addition of boxing's bad boy Mike Tyson made it a happening in pop culture. Tyson acted as the special guest enforcer for the main event match of WWE's biggest show of the year.
Tyson joined forces with Michaels and D-Generation-X leading up to Wrestlemania 14. But when it came time for special enforcer Tyson to intervene, he counted the pinfall in favor of Austin. Despite Michaels dealing with a real-life back injury that forced him into early retirement, he did his best to make Austin look like a superstar as he defeated Michaels to win his first WWE title.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock (Wrestlemania 17)
In 1999, Austin took time away from WWE to deal with a nagging neck injury that required immediate surgery. Once again, the Rock became WWE champion and the face of the company in his absence. Austin's return to the ring in 2000 and his 2001 Royal Rumble win meant Austin was next to face his successor at Wrestlemania 17.
Their second WWE Championship match is arguably the greatest in the pair's Wrestlemania main event trilogy. Austin played the uncertain star looking to reclaim his place at the top of the mountain, while The Rock portrayed the resilient champion looking to keep his throne.
The match's finish is one of the most controversial and questionable decisions made in WWE history. Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin joined forces after McMahon helped him defeat The Rock. This shocking moment led to a heel turn that Austin later regretted because of the damage it did to his character.
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart Submission Match(Wrestlemania 13)
Stone Cold's ascension was the beginning of a new era in WWE. The audience that grew up on Hulk Hogan and The WWF had started to crave edgier content, which meant good guys like Bret 'The Hitman' Hart were out, and tough guys with a chip on their shoulder like Austin were in now.
Hart and Austin went head to head in a Submission Match at Wrestlemania 13. Former UFC legend and new WWE signee Ken Shamrock acted as special guest referee. The slugfest unearthed a side that fans had never seen from Bret Hart. Hart seemed to want to punish Austin before slapping on his patented Sharpshooter submission. Instead of submitting, Austin passed out in a pool of his blood.
Stone Cold's refusal to tap out endeared himself to the WWE audience. That tremendous display of fortitude was the turning point that set him on the path to superstardom.
Did we miss a match that you think should've been on this list?
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