Unforgettable Moments From The Rock And 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin's Rivalry

It's rare a pro wrestler transcends the squared circle to become a pop culture icon and household name even your grandma would recognize ... but to have two at the same time? That's pretty much only happened once: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock.

Two spots on "the Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling" belong to Steve Austin and The Rock, who also happened to have one of the top five greatest feuds of all time. Not just for the PPVs purchased, tickets sold, or money earned (though it was a lot) but for the number of "can't miss" moments that it created. In an era starving for supernova-level star power, pro wrestling fans of a certain age will forever remember the time we had not one, but two, of the greatest of all time.

Brady vs. Manning ... Johnson vs. Bird ... Austin vs. Rock. Each was an all-time great feud between two of the best ever; but only one involved middle fingers, trash talk, Rock Bottoms, Stone Cold Stunners, eyebrows being raised, mud holes being stomped, and smack being laid down like we saw with Austin vs. Rock. Greatest sports (entertainment) feud ever? You be the judge. Here are the most unforgettable moments from The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's rivalry.

Intercontinental Championship feud

While The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin's feud will forever be associated with World Championships and WrestleMania main events, it actually started in a mid-card feud for the Intercontinental Championship. In late 1997, Stone Cold had recovered from a career-threatening neck injury and regained the Intercontinental title he vacated at Survivor Series in Montreal (yes, that Survivor Series). Meanwhile, The Rock was in the process of recovering from a nearly career-ending gimmick (the tassel-wearing, smiling dweeb Rocky Maivia) which was so bad it had fans chanting "Die Rocky Die." 

The two were on a collision course, as The Rock wanted to regain the IC Title himself. So he stole the IC belt from Austin following a beatdown by the Nation of Domination on "Monday Night Raw." Austin got the win and back the belt he never lost in essentially a five-minute squash at D-Generation X: In Your House, then threw it in the New Hampshire River the next night on "Raw" so he could focus on his WWE title aspirations. The Rock got the forfeited title, holding it through most of 1998 in what was the longest IC run since the Honky Tonk Man, although did get eliminated by Austin in the Royal Rumble along the way. This brief feud was just there to keep Austin busy before his run for the WWE Championship, but it wound up creating its own kind of gold.

Austin gives the Corporation a beer bath

Throughout 1998, Austin's feud with Vince McMahon escalated to become the hottest act in pro wrestling history. Meanwhile, The Rock was so awesome as a heel they had to turn him face, and his pops were now second only to Austin. Something had to give, so The Rock turned heel again to become McMahon's corporate champ at Survivor Series 1998. And thus the die was cast. 

After a bloody feud with Mankind, which saw The Rock and Mick Foley trade championships and chair shots, The Rock was set to defend against Austin at WrestleMania XV. Austin had his own mountains to climb, including The Undertaker and Big Show, before securing his claim to the number one contendership in a steel cage match against McMahon at St. Valentine's Day Massacre. With the WrestleMania XV main event now set, Austin rolled into "Monday Night Raw" in a big rig filled with Coors beer. Did he intend to drink it? There's no doubt he could, but instead he pulled out a hose and soaked McMahon, Shane McMahon and The Rock in a beer bath. It was an unforgettable moment in Austin and Rock's rivalry, and one of the greatest "Raw" segments ever.

Stone Cold beats The Rock at WrestleMania XV

While there were rumblings that Mankind would be added to the WrestleMania XV main event to make it a triple threat match (via Sportskeeda), the bout remained what it had been for the past 14 years: a one-on-one showdown between the company's two biggest stars. That said, Austin was still presented as the bigger star, as he entered second, a spot typically reserved for the champion. The main event was the lone bright spot on an otherwise mediocre WrestleMania.

Austin and Rock tore the house down, in an epic Attitude-style era brawl that went around the arena, but ended the only way it could: with Austin defeating The Rock with a Stone Cold Stunner after dodging multiple of the Rock's finishers. Austin then did the same to his arch-enemy, Vince McMahon, and then celebrated with the fired-up Philly crowd with a much-deserved beer (or 10).

The epic rematch at Backlash 1999

Steve Austin was champion again and all was right with the World (Wrestling Federation). But The Rock and Vince McMahon weren't going to take defeat lying down, and began the feud leading to Rock and Austin's rematch at Backlash 1999. In a recreation of their Intercontinental Title feud less than two years before, The Rock stole the championship belt, which Austin had remade into a smoking skull belt. However, given this was the Attitude Era, this wasn't a mere homage — The Rock not only threw Austin's belt into the river, but he threw Austin himself into the river. 

The Rock reappeared with the belt to "eulogize" Austin on "Monday Night Raw," but the Texas Rattlesnake crashed his own funeral to beat up The Brahma Bull. Austin and The Rock met again at Backlash in a rematch that was debatably better than their WrestleMania XV bout, and definitely crazier. If you've ever wanted a POV shot of getting a Stone Cold Stunner, this was the match for you, as Austin stunned The Rock, who was holding a camera at the time. The match ended much like the last, with Steve Austin vanquishing The Rock with a Stone Cold Stunner (and a belt shot to the face) to retain the championship. This feud and match were filled with epic moments, but it would be the last time Austin and Rock would face off one-on-one for two years.

Stone Cold comes to The Rock's rescue

Steve Austin's long-standing neck issues forced him to undergo spinal fusion surgery, and step aside in late 1999 and through most of 2000. WWE losing its biggest star to injury might have sunk the company in another era. Good thing WWE had The Rock, who had turned face almost immediately after his feud with Austin, and now in Stone Cold's absence had stepped up as the company's top good guy. Another guy who stepped up was Triple H, who went from Shawn Michaels' crotch-chopping crony into WWE's biggest villain following feuds with Vince McMahon and Cactus Jack and his own on-screen marriage to Stephanie McMahon. 

While a climatic battle between The Rock and Triple H seemed the sensible main event to WrestleMania 2000, WWE shoe-horned in The Big Show and Mick Foley, for a fatal four-way with "a McMahon in every corner." Triple H won that match, becoming the first heel to ever leave WrestleMania with the belt. It was a risky move, but resulted in a massive buyrate with The Rock and Triple H headlining Backlash 1999. Near the end of the match, with The Rock seemingly overwhelmed by the Corporation, Steve Austin returned to lay waste to McMahon and his goons with a steel chair, allowing The Rock to reclaim the title for the first time in more than a year. Austin and The Rock shared a celebratory post-match beer, one of the only friendly times in their rivalry.

The titans clash in the lead up to WrestleMania X7

Austin returned from his spinal fusion surgery to a very different WWE. The Undertaker was the American Badass, Kurt Angle was a new main eventer, Triple H was a multi-time WWE Champion, and The Rock had taken his spot as the top guy. For the first and only time in WWE history, the company was headlined by two Mount Rushmore-level stars at the same time. Sure, The Rock was over huge in 1998 and 1999, but not quite at Austin's level. Now he was. Problem was, both guys were babyfaces, so getting to their inevitable confrontation had to be methodical. 

At Armageddon 2000, Austin and The Rock crossed paths in a six-man Hell In A Cell, with Rock laying the smack down on Austin, only to fall victim to an unexpected Stunner (with a crafty Kurt Angle sneaking the pinfall). 

The mega-watt moment came the next month at Royal Rumble 2001, with The Rock and Austin staring each other down in a throwback to Hogan and Ultimate Warrior at Royal Rumble 1990. The Rock and Austin locked eyes and threw hands while the New Orleans crowd lost their ever-loving minds, creating a Top 10 Royal Rumble moment to be sure. The Rock got the better of the exchange, but was dumped by Kane before he could eliminate Austin. Austin won the Rumble — his record-setting third — and secured the main event at WrestleMania X7.

Austin teams with McMahon to defeat The Rock

"I need to beat you, Rock ... more than anything you can imagine." WWE may not be the best at slow-burns and foreshadowing, but this moment during an interview with The Rock and Jim Ross perfectly cemented the stakes for what was to come. Austin had won the Royal Rumble, while The Rock regained the title at No Way Out. Despite a brief detour into silliness with Austin's then-wife Debra becoming The Rock's manager, the feud found focus by dialing in on what actually mattered — two of the best who wanted to be the best. 

Tensions reached a fever pitch by the time they faced off at WrestleMania X7, with JR even exclaiming "My God this is intense!" Indeed it was, JR. The Houston-crowd was clearly in Camp Austin, despite the Texas Rattlesnake reaching increasing levels of desperation in his effort to beat The Rock. It came to a head when Austin's arch-nemesis Vince McMahon came to the ring and, in a move which shocked the pro wrestling world, sided with Stone Cold, helping him defeat The Rock. The image of Austin shaking hands with "Satan himself" as JR called him is one of the most indelible in WWE history. The Attitude Era was over and ended in the only way it could: following the greatest match between its two biggest stars.

Stone Cold and The Rock sing Margaritaville

Austin and Rock's rivalry has included spectacular battles, epic staredowns, and titanic trash-talking. But one of their most memorable moments was actually ... a duet using Jimmy Buffet's most famous song? Yeah, pro wrestling can be weird sometimes, but that's one of the reasons we love it. Following their WrestleMania X7 match, The Rock had taken time off to film "The Scorpion King," while Austin turned heel, then face, then heel again, becoming the leader of the WCW-ECW Alliance. While The Rock returned and set his sights on winning the WCW Championship from Booker T, The Great One made clear he didn't forget Austin's betrayal just eight months before. 

In the lead-up to Survivor Series 2001, WCW Champion The Rock and WWE Champion Steve Austin had an in-ring promo that took an unexpected turn when the two began singing Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville." There were some notable changes, with Austin singing "Some people say there's a Rocky to blame," with The Rock retorting "But I know ... it's all Stone Cold's fault." It was a jovial moment, showing that maybe the two had buried the hatchet ... until The Rock buried Austin with a Rock Bottom, telling the Texas Rattlesnake he most definitely hadn't forgotten. Maybe not their most epic moment, but definitely one of the most memorable.

The Rock pins Austin – and ends the Invasion

The WCW-ECW Invasion angle is considered to be one of the biggest creative missed opportunities in WWE history. Lost in the narrative, however, is that WWE never properly paid off the Austin and Rock feud from WrestleMania X7. Bringing in Goldberg, Sting, or the NWO during the Invasion wasn't exactly realistic in 2001 (they were all getting paid millions to sit at home), but The Rock vs. Stone Cold for the Unified Championship was right there! Oh well. While we didn't get a proper one-on-one conclusion, we did get the main event to Survivor Series 2001. 

Vince McMahon was "tired of this Invasion crap" (same Vince, same) so proposed a five-on-five, "Winner Take All," Survivor Series-style elimination match pitting the WWE's best against the Alliances' for control of the unified company. The match was suitably entertaining and concluded with the final two survivors:  The Rock and Steve Austin. Following a brief bout, The Rock defeated Austin after interference from Kurt Angle (who had — stay with us here — betrayed the Alliance after betraying the WWE). The Alliance was defeated, the Invasion was over, and The Rock had gotten revenge against Steve Austin for his actions at WrestleMania X7. So effectively, Austin vs. Rock was the endgame for the Invasion, and ended the WCW brand.

The Rock and Stone Cold team up to take on the nWo

Despite having arguably the best roster in the history of pro wrestling, WWE in early 2002 was a creative mess. Triple H was back from injury as the de-facto top face, but was losing fan enthusiasm by the week; Chris Jericho was a lame-duck undisputed champion nobody took seriously; and The Rock and Steve Austin were both still mega-over as babyfaces, but were increasingly directionless. Into this boiling stew came the NWO, which were failing to connect as a main event-level heel faction, as the fans really just wanted to cheer Hulk Hogan. 

WrestleMania X8 was set to feature The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall, so on the "Monday Night Raw" before WWE booked a handicap tag team match: The Rock and Stone Cold vs. the NWO. Why does this match make our "most unforgettable moments" list? Because for this first and only time in pro wrestling history, three of the four "Mount Rushmore" wrestlers competed in the same match. While Hogan and Austin had a brief skirmish during the bout, we would never see them wrestle in the much-desired dream match. The match ended with another NWObeatdown, concluding one of the few moments The Rock and Austin worked as friends, and the only time Hogan, Rock, and Austin wrestled in the same match.

The Rock finally defeats Stone Cold at Wrestlemania XIX

The year 2002 saw the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista, and the rise of Brock Lesnar to main event-status. Thus, WrestleMania XIX would be a changing of the guard of sorts, as the stars of the Attitude Era gave way to the new stars of the Ruthless Aggression Era. However, this event wouldn't feature any "passing the torch" matches from one generation to the next, but instead the final battle in arguably the greatest feud ever. The Rock had returned from filming a movie as a "Hollywood heel." Austin had returned from walking out in mid-2002 due to a creative dispute. With neither guy having anything to do, the two were pitted against each other for a historic third time at WrestleMania. 

The setup was simple: Rock had declared "he'd done it all in WWE ... except defeat Stone Cold at WrestleMania." Thus, a final feud was born. The match itself was a far cry from their WrestleMania X7 masterpiece, but still managed to feel epic thanks to both guys working their tails off for a rabid Seattle audience. The match ended with The Rock finally defeating Stone Cold after three Rock Bottoms. In a touching moment, The Rock whispered to Steve Austin, thanking him for all he'd done. Little did we know not only would this be the last time Rock and Austin would face off, but it'd be Austin's last match for nearly 20 years.

The WWE's three biggest share a beer at Wrestlemania XXX

By WrestleMania XXX in 2014, Austin had retired, while The Rock had become the biggest star in Hollywood (while also main eventing WrestleMania twice against John Cena). Hulk Hogan had been booked as the host of WrestleMania and opened the show with one of his customary, "Brother"-laden promos (including calling the New Orleans Superdome the Detroit Silverdome). And then the unexpected happened: the glass shattered and out came Stone Cold Steve Austin. 

Austin cut a promo on the Hulkster (including teasing him for calling the Superdome the Silverdome), before another unexpected event occurred: "If you smelllll...." rang through the stadium, as The Rock entered the ring. The Rock also cut a promo (including, you guessed it, mocking Hogan), calling his fellow all-timers the two biggest stars in WWE history. This truly once-in-a-lifetime event ended with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin sharing a beer. It was an all-time great moment in WrestleMania history, and one of the most unforgettable moments from The Rock and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's rivalry.