WrestleMania 18 was a show filled with larger than life Superstars. The show featured matches between The Undertaker and Ric Flair, Stone Cold and Scott Hall, The Rock and Hulk Hogan. The main event for that Mania happened to be a returning Triple H facing WWF Champion Chris Jericho, which many were surprised by.
Jim Ross was recently doing a Q&A on his podcast, Grillin' JR, where he answered a question regarding WrestleMania 18 and his thoughts on the main event positioning.
"Jericho and Triple H had to close the show and follow Rock and Hogan, and that was no favor to those guys," Ross stated. "You know Triple H is going to raise hell if you don't close the show with the title, Jericho the same, we deserve to close the show with the title, it's the top match, and you do, I'm not going to argue that point. But on this night, the special night with Hogan and Rock, you have to use a different logic.
"As much as I respect and appreciate Paul Levesque and Chris Jericho, they were put into an unwinnable situation. It was the first time I can recall, before or since I was having a hard time getting up for the main event of WrestleMania, because I just seen the WrestleMania main event. It was Hogan and Rock."
Ross also described the feeling during the match between Hogan and Rock, noting how larger than life it was. Ross said that he and broadcast partner Jerry Lawler had to switch on the fly because of the way the crowd was treating Hogan during the match.
"Lawler and I knew that the NWO and Hogan as the villain wasn't going to be the guy we had in the ring tonight," Ross said. "I said to somebody after the show, it was like the return of The Eagles, all intact and the first song they sung was Hotel California. Everybody knew the words, everybody knew the beat, they knew everything. They had felt it, they heard it before and now we're seeing our version of The Eagles in Hogan against the new guy, who's bigger than life.
"So we changed the roles. I admire the talent for steering the course, they didn't do a lot of things differently, the subtle things they did were beautiful and then Lawler and I just went with it. Vince said just go with your instincts, so that's what we did. We called what we saw."
When Ross was asked about the plans for Austin and Rock if the NWO had not came to the WWE in 2002, Ross said having them face each other was not the plan for WrestleMania 19.
"It wouldn't have been them against each other, three was plenty," Ross said. "Every other year for 3 years is good for Rock and Steve. That was part of Austin's issue, you got nobody ready for me, and he was right. Vince Sr. would not let that be the case for [Bob Backlund], no heels ready for [Bruno Sammartino], no heels ready for [Hulk Hogan]. So we've got a situation where we had no heels ready for Stone Cold."
Ross also talked about the potential of Brock Lesnar being the guy who could have been groomed to face Stone Cold at WrestleMania 18.
"I don't think so, it was a little early, but eventually that was the match we wanted to have," stated Ross. "Brock Lesnar vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. Both healthy as they could be, and with a great build, but again Brock wasn't ready yet. He was ready physically, he was ready physically when he was in the 9th grade, he's a freak. To show how much we appreciated his work him and Kurt Angle closed the show at WrestleMania 19, it wasn't Rock and Austin. The reason for that was Steve was in the hospital the night before, got out on Sunday and we didn't know what we were going to have there.
"Was he going to be fatigued, dehydrated, what's the deal? The eventual match, no doubt about it, was Austin and Lesnar, and that's the thing that drove Steve home. He was booked to wrestle Lesnar and not even advertise it, it just happens, and that was so stupid and near sighted. A lot of us felt that way but nobody demonstrated their feelings better or more than Steve. He just said 'F--- it, I'm going home.' He didn't mind putting Brock over, it was never an issue, but why are we wasting this?"
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.