Mania Main Thoughts #8 – WMX7 Austin Sells His Soul

Welcome to the latest edition of Mania Main Thoughts, where I’m taking a look back at all of the Wrestlemania main events and writing around 1,500 words about them for my friend Charlie to read. What’s up man!

Today, we head back to the Attitude Era for what I will 9 times out of 10 call my favorite Wrestlemania of all time – Wrestlemania X-Seven.

First, the elephant in the room – this is also the worst official WM name outside of “25th Anniversary of Wrestlemania”.  I don’t mind mixing the roman numerals and numbers, but why in the world did we need to spell out “Seven”?  “X7” makes total sense – XVII may have come off a little clunky, and then next year you had XVIII coming. What a nightmare.  But when you go with spelling out the number and having the dash, you add like 3 more characters.  I guess WWF wasn’t into the whole brevity thing. And apparently neither am I.

WMX7 featured not only the top two guys in the WWF at the time, but arguably the top two guys of any time – The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.  Rock and Austin had squared off in the main event of WMXV two years prior, but the dynamics were way different this time. At WMXV, The Rock was more a prop for the Austin/McMahon feud, which was at its height.  At X7, Austin and Rock were both huge good guys. Or fan favorites. Or faces, if you weeeell.

Austin was undoubtedly the top star in WWF when a neck injury took him out of the ring for most of 2000.  In Austin’s absence, The Rock stepped up to become the company’s #1 draw.  I couldn’t see that setting very well with old Stone Cold from a personal standpoint. Austin made his return at the end of ’00 and, after taking care of a small vehicular assault issue, set his sights on the WWF Title.  At the 2001 Royal Rumble, Austin dumped Kane to win a record-breaking third Rumble match and punched his ticket to a WWF Title match at WM.

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Meanwhile, The Rock was on his own path to regain the WWF Title, which he’d lost in October to Kurt Angle.  At No Way Out 2001, Rock won a No DQ Match against Angle to become the first ever six-time WWF Champion.

So the stage was set – Rock vs. Austin 2 would go down at in Houston at the Astrodome.  It didn’t take much to book Rock/Austin in 2001 because it was the match everyone wanted to see.  Angle proved to be a foil for both guys during the build to the match, while Mr. McMahon stirred the pot by forcing Austin’s wife Debra to act as The Rock’s manager. Jim Ross also did a sitdown interview with both guys that could’ve sold the whole match in like 10 minutes.  Premium quality stuff with both guys talking about why they’re the best and they hate the other (pardon the poor video quality).

Like Christmas, the day of WMX7 finally came.  The event was huge -around 67,000 people in attendance.  And the matches delivered.  There was the first Mania meeting between Triple H and The Undertaker, the brutal Street Fight between Vince and Shane McMahon, TLC 2 and a sleeper match for the Hardcore Title between Big Show, Kane and Raven, maybe the best fight for that belt in its short history.

You also had a surprise appearance by Paul Heyman, fresh off of selling ECW, on commentary with Jim Ross. As good as the Ross/Lawler duo was, there was something magic about the way Heyman antagonized JR.  Two great storytellers who definitely lent a lot to the main event.

As for Rock/Austin 2, we kicked things off with one of the greatest WWF-produced video packages of all time.  Seriously, this video package could’ve main evented WM and no one would’ve gone home disappointed.  This is the reason I’ll never talk crap about Limp Bizkit. I’m listening to their Greatest Hitz right now. I can’t imagine WMX7 without “My Way”.

(Side note, it’s really weird seeing all of the TNN logos in the Raw footage. Hard to believe there was a time when the WWE flagship wasn’t on USA.)

Austin was out first, entering to Disturbed’s version of his theme song, which is sadly not on Spotify.  Austin got a giant pop in front of his home-state crowd while JR screamed that he was a Texas “folk hero”.  The champ entered second to a chorus of boos. While the buildup may have been for a face vs. face match, there was a clear heel in the Astrodome as far as the crowd was concerned.

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Speaking of the build to this match, a twist was added on the day of WMX7 – Rock/Austin 2 would be a No Disqualification match by order of evil WWF Commissioner William Regal. JR and Heyman wondered loudly and often why the change was made last minute, but Austin and Rock were right in their element.

Rock/Austin 2 is a beautiful Attitude Era brawl.  It starts a little slow in the ring with a lot of punch trading, but once they go outside for the first time, business picks up.  The crowd was going crazy as Rock and Austin brawled over the barrier and back.  Austin was hitting Rock with everything lying around, including the ring bell, which is the second most devastating foreign object in the world, just ahead of a pipe wrapped in tape and just below a championship belt.

Austin beat Rock on the announce table so much that it just collapsed without a big bump. That’s right – the table submitted.  And the match was still in its early stages! The ref was getting thrown around, Rock was bleeding and even the timekeeper was abused.  Stone Cold was not playing.

The brawl moved back into the ring, where Austin was busted open by a ring bell shot (and when I say busted open, I mean bladed open).  If you’re gonna blade during a match and you’re not Ric Flair, whose blonde hair is basically a blood mop, then be a bald guy with blood all over his head.

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All of this bleeding culminated in The Rock hitting a Sharpshooter on Stone Cold, a callback to Austin and Bret Hart’s WM13 classic.  Austin would fight out of the hold and the two would actually trade Sharpshooters and middle fingers for a longish sequence.  It ended when Austin realized that he didn’t have to do a rope break in a No DQ match if he didn’t want to, so he flipped off the ref after his 5-count. Then he broke the hold.  Because a rope break is like gravity, you can’t get away from it. If you do, mass hysteria.

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The match continued, with Austin locking a Million Dollar Dream on Rock, a callback to his days with the Million Dollar Man as The Ringmaster.  This was a brilliant addition to the match, as it showed just how desperate Austin was to beat Rocky and regain his title (hearkening back to the interview sound bite – “I NEED to beat you Rock”).

Rock fought out of the sleeper, and that brought out Mr. McMahon. McMahon made his way to the ring to loud “a**hole” chants, somehow more hated by the Houston crowd than The Rock. Vince hung around ringside for a few minutes, making us wonder what he was going to do.  The Rock hit a Rock Bottom followed by a People’s Elbow by Austin, which looked to be the end of the match – until McMahon broke up the three count.  Rock, looking as surprised as everyone else, laid chase, but ended up eating a Rock Bottom from Austin.  It wouldn’t be enough to get the 3-count though, and in the aftermath, the ref would end up getting knocked out of the ring.

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Now, why did we need a ref bump during a No DQ Match? My only assumption is that this match was going for the most overbooked ending of all time.  With the ref down, Austin called for McMahon to bring a chair into the ring and waylay the Rock with it.  Austin hit a Stone Cold Stunner for good measure and made the cover while McMahon rolled the ref back in the ring.  Rock found a way to kick out before 3 and Stone Cold let loose a string of cuss words I usually reserve for stripping a screw.

The beatdown would continue through ANOTHER Rock kick-out, which prompted Austin to lay about a dozen chair shots on The People’s Champ. Somewhere, Mankind was smiling.  The chair assault would finally be enough to seal the deal. In an unthinkable moment, Austin would shake Mr. McMahon’s hand while holding up his 5th WWF Title.

McMahon and Austin would share a beer in the ring while JR screamed his lungs out. “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! SOMEONE TELL ME THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!…He’s sold his soul to SATAN HIMSELF!”  Unfortunately, JR was way more upset than the Houston crowd.  At worst they were shocked silent, but many of them were still cheering their folk hero.

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Stone Cold would go on to join Triple H as the villainous Two Man Power Trip until HHH was forced out with his own injury.  Austin would become a leading figure in the WWF vs. The Alliance storyline, which led to a lot of classic comedy spots with Kurt Angle.  The Rock went on to film The Mummy Returns, making his first big foray into acting. By WMX8, both Rock and Austin were back and good guys again, fighting the WWF version of the nWo.

I may be biased toward WMX7, it was just the second Mania I got to watch live and I remember the time very fondly. But rewatching this match only reinforced my feelings about the show. The main event had everything – buckets of blood, big bumps, plenty of tension, a huge overbooked ending and a big swerve.  So what if the Stone Cold heel turn didn’t go off well and there were very few wrestling holds – they had Limp Bizkit!

Join us next time, where we take a look at a huge milestone Mania with a classic triple threat match featuring a Hall of Famer, a COO and a guy we’re not supposed to even think about.

Final Score: 9.0 (Highly Recommended)

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