Back in the dog days of the summer of '08 former staff writer and blog co-founder Jessie wrote of the "Holy Trilogy", no, not Lucas or Coppola's film troika, or the Maynard vs. Edgar triumvirate, he spoke in hushed tones of the revered Austin vs. Rock triptych.
While finishing off the recent The Top 25 Rivalries in Wrestling History three-disc set I came across another entry in their venerated series. I hadn't seen the match in question in nearly 13 years which really gave me pause. Had it really taken place that long ago? Held in the United Kingdom WWF's Rebellion 2001 was the most successful of its four iterations (running from '99-'02) at least in terms of box office bringing in a crowd of 15,600+.
I always enjoyed the UK shows. On one hand, they were frowned upon, only a limited audience saw them so the week-to-week stories and crises' were shelved making them dramatically inert. But the British crowds were always hot for the product so it was a treat watching the performers do their thing for those in attendance. Rebellion's other historical footnote was always having at least one quizzical yet oddly intriguing undercard offering. For example: British Bulldog vs. X-Pac in '99, Undertaker vs. Chris Benoit in '00, Big Show vs. Diamond Dallas Page in '01, and (in a SmackDown! only PPV) Reverend D-Von and Ron Simmons vs. Val Venis and Chuck Palumbo in '02.
WWF Championship Match: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (c) vs. The Rock - WWF Rebellion 2001 - 6
Not convinced its a defensible position to argue this was as good as at least the weakest offering from their WrestleMania trilogy but after looking over Jessie's aforementioned review I feel comfortable at least placing it ahead of their WrestleMania XV excreta. This was during the short, troubled period where talent was designated by what fictional co. their allegiance lied (i.e. ECW, WCW, or WWF). Strange seeing Austin, clearly in pain and broke down, approaching from down the aisle with a big, wacky, bouncing WCW logo pulsating on the screen behind him. I won't go into detail examining the match layout: if you're at all familiar with these guys' work you know exactly what to expect. Back-and-forth brawling, quick pace, overblown finishing stretch, etc.
Every wrestler has a style of selling directly tied to the character they portray. Each is unique and it's a treat to peel back layers of the onion when closely studying guys' performances. Like last night I was finishing this week's episode of WWE Raw and Daniel Bryan, especially with the shaggy mane and haggard beard, called to mind by his dramaturgy the anguish of the prisoners of war in Werner Herzog's Rescue Dawn. Rock and Austin are two of the more expressive in that regard and in that aspect shine here. Jessie compared Austin's selling of punch flurries in his piece to Austin "being swarmed by an angry nest of bees" but to me it looked more like a struggling obese penguin, every time he'd get popped in the face his arms would flail out, but only lifting up a bit, then repeat, etc. Out of context it looks utterly ridiculous and even as a fan if you're paying attention it's odd. That aside, Austin, clearly broken down here, immobile neck, two mega braces on his knees, etc. puts in a pretty strong performance, takes a nasty suplex on the metal ramp, and keeps that breakneck pace that only he could. Rock really shined on defense, though; his selling of Austin's pretty one-note offense was very expressive, some really terrific facials, and his conditioning was top-notch.
The finish was convoluted. Both Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho got involved, there was some chair follies, maybe a ref bump, Austin got to survive the "Rock Bottom", and the "Rattle Snake" eventually won after a poorly timed and weak-looking shot with the championship belt by Angle in a denouement of douche.