The Texas Rattlesnake. The Bionic Redneck. Austin 3:16. All names and phrases synonymous with the master of the middle finger himself, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The mainstay attraction of the Attitude Era, Austin propelled WWE (then WWF) to new heights from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. Along with fellow stars like Shawn Michaels or The Rock, Austin brought an air of unpredictability to many of his matches, livening up crowds with his obscene gestures, fiery attitude, and constant adherence to the phrase “arrive, raise h*ll, leave.”
A talented midcard wrestler in WCW and ECW, Austin’s ascension to the top of the WWE came when he shed his old “Stunning Steve” moniker and became known as the brash, beer-swelling, anti-authoritarian rebel, “Stone Cold.” For over five years, Austin dwelled at the very top of WWE’s programming, inheriting the role left behind by Hulk Hogan and later filled by Austin’s Ruthless Aggression era successor, John Cena.
As the main star of WWE television from the ‘90s onwards, Austin engaged in various feuds with some of the company’s premiere athletes. These included newcomers like The Rock and Triple H and established faces like The Undertaker and Vince McMahon, resulting in dozens of great matches between the Texas Rattlesnake and any one of his foremost adversaries in the ring.
From Austin’s star-making performances with Bret Hart to his later matches with The Rock in the 2000s, here are some of the best bouts to feature Stone Cold Steve Austin in action.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (WrestleMania 13)
It’s hard to make a clear distinction as to when the Attitude Era began, but a serious argument can be made in favor of the moment Bret Hart faced Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 in a submission match. A far more physical and violent affair than the duo’s previous encounter at Survivor Series 1996, the match contained some inspired performances from both men in the ring, predating the dozens of other hard-hitting Attitude Era matches that followed in the years to come.
Performing a rare double turn, which saw the heroic Hart turn heel and the villainous Austin turn face, both men emerged from this match with their predefined Attitude Era personalities in place. Hart’s strengths as a technical wrestler clashed expertly with Austin’s brawling offensive style, paving the way for a feud that lasted for the remainder of Hart's run in WWE.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania X-7)
Three years after he transitioned from a heel to a face at WrestleMania 13, Austin again performed a rare feat, reverting to a heel and aligning with his infamous arch-nemesis, Mr. McMahon, in the closing moments of WrestleMania X-7. In the second of three matches Austin had against The Rock at WrestleMania, the bout benefitted from both men’s chemistry – both in terms of their charismatic promos and their exceptional offensive and defensive styles in the ring.
Like Hart versus Austin, the match featured a ton of brawling inside and out of the ring, leaving both men battered, bloodied, and physically exhausted by the 20-minute mark. The Astrodome audience may have been firmly on Austin’s side throughout the bout, but the climactic moment when Austin shook hands with McMahon took everyone’s breath away. Regardless of how you feel about Austin’s subsequent heel run, this match had Austin at his absolute best.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XIX)
In 2003, Austin had what would turn out to be his final run in WWE, retiring later that year as a result of consistent knee and neck injuries that had plagued him since 1997. Fittingly, Austin chose to have his last match with his best in-ring rival, The Rock, in the third bout of their WrestleMania trilogy of matches.
With Rocky embodying his Hollywood movie star persona, Austin and The Rock had yet another slobber knocker of a match, filled with intense back-and-forth maneuvers, near-falls, and finishers left and right. The Rock’s comedic antics might have stolen a lot of the attention away from Austin, but Austin still came out looking like a star, kicking out two Rock Bottoms and a People’s Elbow before succumbing to a third Rock Bottom.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Triple H (No Way Out 2001)
If there’s one thing Austin has been able to do time and time again, it’s make up-and-coming wrestlers look like formidable threats in their own right. Just as he’d helped The Rock get over with audiences in 1999, Austin helped Triple H become the de facto villain of WWF TV in 2001. The boiling part of their year-long feud came with their climactic match at 2001’s No Way Out, in a never-before-seen Three Stages of Hades match.
As the first bout of its kind, the Three Stage of Hades match introduced an air of excitement to Triple H and Austin’s match-up, with audiences never quite sure what to expect at any given time. Beating each other senseless first in a standard match, then a street fight, and finally a steel cage, the match made for a physical and messy affair, and one that helped Triple H emerge as a larger-than-life heel in WWE.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart (Survivor Series 1996)
In 1996, Austin and Hart had the first of several matches throughout the late ‘90s, featuring the pro-Canadian Hit Man battling his American counterpart at that year's Survivor Series pay-per-view. The only match to feature Austin and Hart as a heel and face from start to finish, it also served as Hart’s long-awaited return to action after eight months of inactivity.
Perhaps the most underrated match of either man’s career, the original match-up between Austin and Hart featured less theatrical brawling and a heavier emphasis on mat-based technical wrestling. The change in pace played to Hart’s strengths as a wrestler and also showed off Austin’s own intimate background with ground-based wrestling. Though Hart won with an impromptu roll-up, Stone Cold more than proved to audiences his ability to go toe-to-toe with the best the WWE had to offer, putting him one step closer to becoming the feature attraction of WWE.
The Two-Man Power Trip vs. Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit (Raw)
Turning heel and embracing Vince McMahon in the main event of WrestleMania X-Seven, Austin found himself in an alliance with his fierce rival, Triple H, as part of McMahon’s short-lived tag team, The Two-Man Power Trip. Running roughshod over WWE for less than two months, The Power Trip won a multitude of titles from various WWE superstars, securing the WWF Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, and the Tag Team Championship – all at the same time.
Having defeated The Brothers of Destruction in the weeks prior, Austin and Triple H met their match against up-and-coming technical wrestlers, Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit. On the May 21st episode of Raw, the four met in a heated contest filled with dramatic near-falls, submission holds, and brutal-looking spots involving steel chairs, the announcers’ table, and Triple H’s sledgehammer. All in all, it ranks as one of the finest tag team matches in WWE’s history, and the crowning moment of Triple H and Stone Cold's alliance together.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle (SummerSlam 2001)
In the summer of 2001, Steve Austin became the official leader of the burgeoning WCW-ECW Alliance, a mega-faction of wrestlers whose ranks included Booker T, RVD, and Diamond Dallas Page, among others. As the charismatic leader of the Alliance, Austin wound his way into a feud with WWF’s Chairman, Mr. McMahon, as well as the numerous WWF wrestlers attempting to win the WWF Championship back to McMahon’s flagship promotion.
In the main event of SummerSlam 2001, Austin faced one of these would-be contenders in the form of Kurt Angle, WWF’s quirky underdog who’d engaged in a heated feud with Austin for most of the summer. Playing to Austin’s strengths as a physical brawler, the budding match had a bloodied and exhausted Angle bashed in the steel ring post again and again, barely kicking out in time against Austin’s covers. Relying on his keen resilience, Angle came close to winning several times in this match, only to be cheated out of his victory by Austin’s cunning tactics and some shady refereeing by WCW loyalist Nick Patrick.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (King of the Ring 1997)
Despite winning the tag team titles from Owen Hart and the British Bulldog in the early summer of 1997, Austin and his teammate Shawn Michaels continued to express increasing hostility and resentment towards each other in the months that followed. Arguing in most of their matches and constantly trying to position themselves as the “leader” of their team, their game of one-upmanship eventually resulted in a singles match at the 1997 King of the Ring.
With both men free from injuries, Austin and Michaels outshined their later performance at WrestleMania XIV, leaving it all out in the ring. Alternating between brawling, suplexes, and submission-based technical holds, the match underscores the fabulous and unique chemistry that existed between both men. Their rematch at WrestleMania XIV may not have been as good, but at the very least, we’ll be able to look back with fondness at their first clash here.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Chris Benoit (Smackdown)
Upon suffering a broken neck halfway through 1997, Steve Austin concluded his days as a mat-based technical wrestler, transitioning into the ground-and-pound brawler we know today. However, the closest Austin ever came to the “Austin of old” in his match-up against Chris Benoit, the two men competing for Austin’s WWF Championship on the May 31st episode of Smackdown.
Echoing Austin’s various matches with Bret Hart, Austin versus Benoit made use of the technical wrestling associated with Benoit’s name, merging it with elements of Austin’s physical hard-hitting offense. Playing up Benoit’s weakened ribs, Austin played the masterful heel, exploiting Benoit’s enfeebled state and relying on regular outside interference from Mr. McMahon. An underrated match erased by Chris Benoit’s personal actions in 2007, the bout only left audiences wondering what Austin’s career might have been if he had retained his original wrestling style well into the second act of his career.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Goldust, Ken Shamrock & the Legion of Doom vs. The Hart Foundation (In Your House: Canadian Stampede)
As an extension of his rivalry with Bret Hart, Steve Austin found himself at odds with The Hit Man’s teammates in The Hart Foundation. Though he typically preferred to avoid long-term tag teams with other wrestlers, Austin’s feud with The Hart Foundation necessitated a short-term alliance with mutual enemies of Hart’s group, putting Austin side by side with Goldust, Ken Shamrock, and the Legion of Doom.
This five-man group found their way into a ten-man tag team against The Hart Foundation in the main event of 1997’s In Your House: Canadian Stampede. A reflection of Austin and Hart’s changing status from America to Canada, the Americans faced nonstop jeers from the Canadian audiences. At the same time, the patriotic crowd cemented themselves in the Foundation’s corner throughout. With a lineup of stars that included Austin, Bret and Owen Hart, British Bulldog, and the L.O.D., the match ended up being nothing short of pure Attitude Era fun.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels vs. The Hart Foundation (Raw)
As mentioned above, Austin’s feud with The Hart Foundation made him strange bedfellows with a number of interesting rivals, none more so than a returning Shawn Michaels. A longtime foe of Bret Hart and his faction, the Heartbreak Kid joined the Texas Rattlesnake in a tag team bout against Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, the duo's WWF Tag Team Championship hanging in the balance.
As with the Canadian Stampede ten-man tag team match, Michaels and Austin versus The Hart Foundation had each of the four competitors performing to the best of their abilities. Between Austin’s brawling, Michaels’ high-flying, and The Foundation’s technical wrestling, the bout quickly won audiences over with each wrestler’s diverse range and abilities. And, of course, the match’s sudden conclusion – which saw the mismatched Austin and Michaels winning the titles – shocked audiences at the time, paving the way for a fascinating dynamic between the mutual frenemies.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker (SummerSlam 1998)
Continuing his climb up the ladder of WWE programming after he feuded with Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Dude Love, Austin went on to face The Undertaker in the main event of 1998’s SummerSlam. Heading into the pay-per-view, Austin had a complicated relationship with his rival, having won the Tag Team Championship with the Dead Man from Mankind and ‘Taker’s half-brother, Kane.
Though in a secretive alliance with Kane at the time of SummerSlam, Undertaker preferred to face Austin on his own, doing his best to win the WWF Championship without interference from any outside spectators. The resulting bout had the drama of a classic wrestling match, with audiences unsure whether Undertaker might finally betray Austin, securing his transition into a heel. However, in the ultimate show of respect, the Phenom chose to hand the WWF title to Austin himself, once again illustrating Austin’s momentous rise in WWE.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. The Rock (WrestleMania XV)
In 1999, The Rock and Austin met for the first of three WrestleMania match-ups, with the anti-establishment Austin going head-to-head with Mr. McMahon’s Corporation-backed champion, The Rock. Though the match is of lesser quality than their final two bouts together, Rock vs. Austin, I had all the suspense of a vintage WrestleMania main event, complete with run-ins, near-falls, and finishers galore.
As chaotic a match as any in the Attitude Era, WrestleMania XV’s main event had tons of unpredictable moments, including fierce fighting outside the ring, down the entrance ramp, and on the titantron itself. It featured brutal chair shots, referee bumps, and appearances from McMahon and Mankind. A stellar match whose weaknesses only became apparent when held up to Austin and The Rock’s later two matches, it’s still a highlight of both men’s individual careers.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Dude Love (Over the Edge 1998)
With Shawn Michaels taking time off and Undertaker engaged in a feud with Kane, Stone Cold found himself without a recurring rival after winning the WWF Championship at WrestleMania XIV. Before very long, however, the coarse Texas Rattlesnake became the natural counterpart to the more traditional, business-oriented Mr. McMahon, entering a feud with WWF’s chairman that defined the better part of the Attitude Era.
While he sporadically competed in matches against Austin, McMahon typically preferred to use surrogate wrestlers to undermine Austin’s run as champion, cycling through the likes of The Undertaker, Triple H, and The Rock at one time or another. Among the first of these McMahon-backed competitors included Dude Love, the spunky alter ego for Mick Foley. Turning heel and partnering with McMahon for his own gain, Austin and Love faced off at 1998’s Over the Edge. With The Undertaker supporting Austin from the outside – chokeslamming Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco through two different announce tables – Austin managed to hold onto his WWF Championship against Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania XIV)
If Stone Cold won audiences over in his 1997 WrestleMania bout against Bret Hart, his victory over Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV secured his place at the forefront of WWF television. Winning the WWF Championship for the first time in his career, Stone Cold symbolically stepped into the role of WWE’s go-to star for the Attitude Era, succeeding the place held by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in the years prior.
Though weakened by a severe back injury that resulted in a temporary four-year retirement, Michaels still managed to perform well under the circumstances in his match with Austin. Loading their match with plenty of standout moments – like Mike Tyson betraying DX and socking Michaels right in the mouth – the bout served as a momentous stepping stone for Austin on his path to career prominence.
Richard Chachowski is an entertainment and travel writer who has written for such publications as Wealth of Geeks, Looper, Screen Rant, Fangoria, and Sportskeeda, among many others. He received his BA from The College of New Jersey and has been a professional writer since 2020. His geeky areas of interest include Star Wars, travel writing, horror, video games, comic books, literature, and animation.
Richard has been an avid consumer of movies, television, books, and pop culture since he was four-years-old. Raised on a diverse mix of Clint Eastwood Westerns, Star Wars, sci-fi and horror films, Alan Moore comics, and Stephen King novels, he eventually turned his various passions into a creative outlet, writing about film, television, literature, comics, and gaming for his high school and college newspapers. A traveling enthusiast, Richard has also managed to create a career out of journeying abroad, venturing to such awe-inspiring places as the Sonoran Desert of Mexico, the rainforests of Costa Rica, and the scenic coastline of Haiti. Upon graduating from TCNJ, Richard set his sights on a career in journalism, writing extensively about the art of traveling and the entertainment medium for various online publications. When he’s not busy making his way through The Criterion Collection, he can be found either reading or planning a trip somewhere (preferably someplace with a scenic hiking trail).