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Let's celebrate the life of the former NFL Player - Steve McNair Tags: former steve mcnair word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

No pain, no gain. If that’s the case, Steve McNair was light years ahead of the rest of the NFL. Each Sunday seemed to bring a new injury—as well as a great story about how he overcame it. When Steve broke into pro football, all his teammates could talk about was his jaw-dropping athletic talent. Soon they couldn’t stop raving about his superhuman toughness. The NFL and its fans were shocked when they heard the news of his murder in the summer of 2009. The game lost more than a great player. It lost one of its most inspiring and generous people. This is his story…

GROWING UP

Steve LaTreal McNair—the fourth of five sons—was born to Lucille and Selma McNair on February 14, 1973. (Click here for a complete listing of today's sports birthdays.) The McNairs’ marriage ended when Steve was eight, leaving his mom to watch over five rambunctious boys by herself. One of 11 children herself, Lucille knew something about single-parenting. She and her siblings had been raised by her mother, “Grandma Hattie.” The experience forced them to pull together and taught Lucille the importance of a strong and loving family.

Life was often very hard for the McNairs. The family lived in Mount Olive, a small farming town in Mississippi about 100 miles north of the Chandeleur Sound. Their modest home was located on Clarence Deen Road, named for the man who resided at the end of it. Steve and his brothers woke up each morning to feed the chickens and pigs, pick vegetables, and get a jump on their other chores.

Lucille worked the graveyard shift at a nearby electronics factory, starting after the boys were in bed and coming home as they finished their breakfast. She made less than $200 a week. Though money was rarely available for new clothes or toys or athletic equipment, the McNair boys never complained.

Steve was a lot like his mother—determined and patient. And while all of the McNairs were athletic, Steve was something special. Among other things, he could scramble into a tree’s high branches in seconds. This ability earned him the nickname “Monk” from Lucille, who said he looked like a monkey going up a tree. Steve was tough, too. Lucille recalls the time when Steve burned his hand after setting a pile of leaves on fire. She bandaged the wound, and soon he was back to his old self.

 

Steve was supremely talented in every sport he tried,but football was his favorite. In pickup games on a field the neighborhood kids called “Mount Olive Arena,” he could out-run and out-throw all of his friends. The contests were usually rough affairs, and Steve sometimes came home with tears in his eyes. But he seemed to thrive on the physical punishment. Indeed, a bump, bruise or bloody lip only made him want to play better.

Steve’s only real source of frustration as a kid was walking in the shadow of his oldest brother, Fred. The quarterback for Mount Olive High School, he Fred was the town’s biggest celebrity. As much as Steve admired his brother, he also hated being compared to him. Lucille squelched the potential sibling rivalry when she told Steve that Fred could be the perfect role model. He pondered the advice, and then decided his mom was right. Steve began to attend all of Fred’s practices, tossed the football with him whenever possible, and talked about the nuances of playing quarterback. The youngster soon started to dream about a career in the NFL.

Steve entered Mount Olive as a freshman in the fall of 1987. The 13-year-old quickly developed into a four-sport star (in football, basketball, track and baseball) for the Pirates. The Seattle Mariners were impressed enough to offer him a contract in 1990. The money was tempting, but Steve, Fred and Lucille all agreed that he should turn it down. Being an NFL quarterback was his primary goal, and all three felt it was within his reach.

By this point, Steve was ranked among the nation’s top high-school signal callers. As a junior, he led Mount Olive to the state championship. In his senior season, he shattered all of Fred’s records. Steve might have been an even better free safety than a quarterback. In 1990 alone, he picked off 15 passes, raising his career total to 30, which tied the mark established by Terrell Buckley at Pascagoula High School. An All-State selection, Steve was named an All-American by Super Prep magazine.

Steve was recruited heavily by schools all over the southeast, including Florida State. But every major program wanted him as a defensive back. Steve considered himself a quarterback and refused to go to any college that didn’t share this view. That essentially narrowed his choice down to Alcorn State in Mississippi, where coach Cardell Jones recognized Steve for what he was: a once-in-a-lifetime prospect.

Steve was familiar with Alcorn State because Fred had played there. Located in Lorman (a two-hour drive from Mount Olive), the school—with a student body of 3,300—competed in football at the Division 1-AA level. Though the Braves didn’t attract much media attention, Steve felt comfortable with his decision. Above all, he relished the opportunity to pilot Jones’s wide-open, shotgun passing attack.

Steve got his shot at Alcorn State’s starting job midway through the first quarter of the team’s opener in 1991. With the offense looking sluggish against Grambling, Jones turned to the freshman, who sparkled in a 27-22 victory. Steve went on to have a marvelous year. What he couldn’t accomplish through the air. he achieved on the ground, combining for a total of 3,199 running and passing yards—good for fourth in Division 1-AA. The Braves, meanwhile, exceeded all preseason expectations with a record of 7–2–1.

ON THE RISE

Steve’s breakthrough campaign helped raise Alcorn State’s profile in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Though it had been eight years since the school’s last league title, the Braves were beginning to get noticed by national publications. And of course, every time the Braves were mentioned, Steve was the focal point of the story.

He lived up to his press clippings in 1992, throwing for 3,541 yards and 29 touchdowns, and running for 10 more scores. The Braves fashioned a record of 7–4, including a last-second victory in their rematch with Grambling. In that contest, Steve returned from a severely sprained ankle to ignite a dramatic comeback. With Alcorn State trailing late in the final period, he moved the team deep into Tigers’ territory. Then, despite limping badly, he tucked the ball under his arm and dove into the end zone for the winning touchdown. The victory over Grambling helped the Braves qualify for the 1-AA playoffs, where they were blitzed by powerful Northeast Louisiana, 78-27.

Heading into his junior season, Steve was beginning to attract the interest of national reporters. Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and The New York Times all ran feature stories on him. NFL scouts were intrigued by his combination of skills, too. Steve—by this time dubbed “Air McNair”—was big and strong, could run faster than most running backs and receivers, and had a cannon for an arm.

Some wondered, however, whether the pro game might be too complex for him. Steve was facing unsophisticated defenses almost every game, and he always had the out of running if he didn’t spot a receiver in the clear. In the NFL, by contrast, every down was like solving a math problem. Those who claimed Steve’s resume did not add up to a pro career reopened a debate that had been troubling football for more than two decades: Was there a bias against black quarterbacks?

Terrell Buckley, 1992 Classic

To his credit, Steve chose not to enter into the conversation. As far as the issue of race was concerned, he saw no benefit in addressing a point that players like Doug Williams and Warren Moon had already put to bed. He also brushed aside questions regarding his “football IQ.” A good student since his days at Mount Olive, he was confident he could handle the intricacies of the NFL. At Alcorn State, Steve worked hard in the classroom and boasted a solid B average. In fact, getting his diploma was a matter of great pride. Because Fred had left Alcorn State before graduating, Steve stood to be the first in his family to earn a college degree.

Steve guided Alcorn State to another good year in 1993, as the Braves upped their record to 8-3. Despite defenses designed to stop him, he racked up more than 3,000 yards through the air and a total of 30 touchdowns. Named First-Team All-SWAC for the third year in a row, Steve propelled himself squarely into the national spotlight. But the season wasn’t all smiles for him. Unfortunately, he played through a good part of it with a heavy heart after learning that Grandma Hattie passed away.

The pressure on Steve in his final college campaign was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Despite playing Division 1-AA, Alcorn State was ranked in the Top 20 by some preseason polls, and he was a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy. On top of that, his status in the NFL draft—and millions of dollars—seemed to be at stake each time he took the field.

The first game of the year ended in a 62-56 defeat at the hands of Grambling. But as losses go, it was not a terrible one. With the Tigers rolling up the points, Steve was forced to go for broke on almost every possession. In the process, he threw for 485 yards and five touchdowns. On the game’s final play, he lofted a perfect pass to Percy Singleton, who dropped the ball for what should have been the tying score.

Doug Williams card

The following week, against Tennessee-Chattanooga, Steve made headlines again. This time he amassed 647 total yards—the most ever in a Division 1-AA game—and passed for eight touchdowns. Not only did the performance raise eyebrows among Heisman voters, it also put Steve on pace to eclipse Ty Detmer’s record of 15,049 career yards.

Steve continued to gobble up yards as the season progressed. Against Southern University, he surpassed his own single-game mark with 649 yards. In the playoffs against Youngstown State, he completed a record 52 passes. When it was all said and done, Steve had gained nearly 6,000 yards rushing and passing, along with an amazing 53 touchdowns. In the process, he surpassed more than a dozen records (including Detmer’s). Named an All-American, Steve won the Walter Payton Award and finished third in the Heisman voting behind Rashaan Salaam and Ki-Jana Carter.

 

The Senior Bowl was Steve’s first stop on his way to the pros. He used the game to showcase his skills as a drop-back passer, demonstrating that he could do more than scramble from a shotgun formation. Next he wowed scouts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Steve also revealed a thoughtful and intelligent side that coaches loved.

Among those impressed were the Houston Oilers, owners of the third pick in the draft. The team had won just twice in ‘94, a woeful record that cost coach Jack Pardee his job. Jeff Fisher, a former defensive back with the Chicago Bears, was hired to replace him and remained the head man going into 1995. At the top of his wish list was a big-time quarterback.

After Carter and Tony Boselli went with the first two picks, the Oilers selected Steve. They quickly signed him to a seven-year contract worth $28 million. The first thing the 22-year-old did with his money was build his mom a new house in Mount Olive. She broke down in tears when he showed her the plot of land. It was the same place she had picked cotton as a girl.

During training camp, Steve tried to absorb as much about the pro game as he could. He also weathered Houston’s hazing rituals, including wrestling a pig in a mud pit. Every one of Steve’s teammates grinned at how easily he handled the task.

Going into the ’95 season, Fisher told Steve that he would not become the starter until the team felt he was ready. Owner Bud Adams had dismantled the Oilers over the summer, and the coach saw no reason to rush along his rookie. Besides, with Chris Chandler in camp, Houston had a veteran calling the signals. Steve spent the year working with quarterback guru Jerry Rhome, whom the Oilers hired specifically to groom him. On the inactive list for half of the season, Steve didn’t see his first action until the last two series of the fourth quarter in a November game versus the Browns in Cleveland. Late in the season, he also appeared briefly against the Detroit Lions and New York Jets.

The Oilers, meanwhile, surprised many onlookers by holding their own with a record of 7-9. Chandler enjoyed a fine year, finishing as the AFC’s fourth-best passer, while Fisher molded the defense—led by linebackers Al Smith and Michael Barrow and an excellent secondary featuring Blaine Bishop and Darryll Lewis—into one of the league’s most improved units.

Expectations were mixed for 1996. The defense figured to be strong again with the linebacking corps and secondary remaining in tact. In addition, rookie tackle Bryant Mix, a former teammate of Steve’s at Alcorn State, helped shore up the front four. The offense, by contrast, had yet to find its identity. Ohio State running back Eddie George, the Oilers’ first-round draft choice, figured to be an impact player as soon as the offensive line gelled. Until then, the team decided it would stick with the experienced Chandler, leaving Steve once again to ride the bench.

This year would be different, however. Promoted to first back-up, Steve assumed more responsibility off the field, in practice and during games. Chandler could see the writing on the wall—he was just keeping a spot warm for Steve. Chandler barely spoke to the second-year quarterback and complained loudly that he was being taken for granted.

Houston’s coaching staff and players observed how adeptly Steve dealt with this sticky situation. Fisher began inserting him in games when his chances of success were greatest. Then, in December, Steve got the start against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though the Oilers fell 23-17, he threw for more than 300 yards and managed the offense with tremendous poise. The performance helped convince Fisher that Steve was ready to be his #1 quarterback. Overall, Steve got into 10 games, passing for 1,197 yards and six touchdowns.

The Oilers ended the ’96 campaign at 8-8, including six wins on the road. The team’s problems at home stemmed from Adams’s plan to move the franchise to Tennessee. Fans in Houston reacted angrily, and the Astrodome turned into a haven for visiting squads.

Fod Stevem Fisher’s vote of confidence in him bolstered his spirits. So did his June marriage to college sweetheart Mechelle Cartwright. More than 1,500 people attended the wedding, making it one of Mississippi’s biggest social events of the year.

Steve’s first season as a starter in 1997 produced another .500 record. Playing their home games at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, the Oilers began the campaign slowly and finished the same way. For the first time under Fisher, the defense showed cracks, dropping to 22nd in the NFL. Though the team used its top draft choice on defensive end Kenny Holmes, it had trouble rushing the quarterback. As a result, the Oilers were victimized by opponents with good passing attacks. A tough stretch in late November also exacted a heavy price, as the club faced three games in 11 days. A 41-14 drubbing at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals dashed any real hope of a playoff berth.

For Steve, the upside was his development into one of the league’s rising stars. His 2,665 passing yards were the most for the Oilers since Warren Moon in 1993, and his 13 interceptions were the fewest for a single season in franchise history. Steve was most dangerous when he looked to run. He led team in rushing touchdowns with eight and ranked second behind George with 674 yards on the ground, the third-highest total for a quarterback in NFL history.

Eddie George, 1996 Upper Deck

In 1998, the Oilers officially changed their name to the Tennessee Titans and took important steps toward becoming an AFC powerhouse. Steve had an excellent year, setting career highs with 492 attempts, 289 completions, 3,228 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also cut his interceptions to 10, helping his quarterback rating climb to 80.1. With defenders back on their heels, Steve and George both had more room to run. The two combined for nearly 2,000 yards and nine touchdowns. As Fisher had hoped, the Titans were turning into a team built for postseason success. Though they lacked a big-play receiver, their offense controlled the ball with great effectiveness.

Tennessee’s pressing need remained an impact player on defense. Fisher’s system relied on power along the line and speed at linebacker and in the secondary. The team had plenty of the latter, thanks mostly to Bishop and free safety Marcus Robertson. Up front, however, the Titans again were unable to apply much pressure on enemy passers. This shortcoming didn’t hurt much in the AFC Central, where the team went 7-1. But outside the division, Tennessee won only once. In fact, losses to the Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Seahawks—who had just 17 victories between them—sunk the Titans, who ended at 8–8.

Still, there was reason for optimism. The Titans had endured another year in a makeshift home, this time at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville. Construction on a state-of-the-art facility was under way, and a new fan base was growing in numbers.

MAKING HIS MARK

The Titans entered the 1999 campaign feeling like the postseason was within their reach. The offense was looking good with tackles Jon Runyan and Brad Hopkins emerging as stars, while free-agent blocking back Lorenzo Neal joined the lineup to boost the production of George. Speedster Yancey Thigpen, meanwhile, gave the team a solid deep threat. Steve spent the summer working on long-ball drills in anticipation of an excellent passing year.

The most important addition to the team was Jevon Kearse, taken with the 16th pick in the draft. Along with second-round choice John Thornton, the “Freak” provided Tennessee’s defensive line with energy and athleticism. The pair of rookies instantly transformed the club’s stagnant pass rush. With the rest of the unit unchanged, Fisher hoped for big things from his defense. The strategy heading into the season was to beat up opponents in the first half, keep games close, and then let Steve and George do their thing in the final 30 minutes.

Steve was fantastic in the season opener against the Bengals. In a 36-35 win, he completed 21 of 32 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns, including a 47-yard bomb to Thigpen. Afterwards, however, the news was bad. In pain for most of the preseason, Steve was diagnosed with an inflamed disk and needed surgery. In his place stepped Neil O’Donnell, a veteran who had guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Super Bowl four years earlier. During the next five games, O’Donnell led the Titans to a 4–1 record.

Steve’s first game back found the Titans playing the surprise team of the year, the St. Louis Rams. Sharp as a tack, he threw a pair of touchdown passes and ran for a third score to give Tennessee a 21–0 lead. But the explosive Rams—who boasted the trio of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce—clawed back and managed to set up the game-tying field goal. When Jeff Wilkens missed the kick, the Titans escaped with a 24-21 victory.

With Steve at the helm, Tennessee stormed to wins in seven of its last nine, good for a record of 13-3 and second place in the AFC Central. Kearse was magnificent, registering 14.5 sacks, while George ran for more than 1,300 yards. Steve, however, was the team’s heart and soul. Though his back still bothered him, his performance never suffered. Spreading the ball around—tight end Frank Wycheck topped the team with 69 receptions—Steve kept everyone on the offense happy and involved. While his numbers didn’t blow away anyone (2,179 yards and 12 TDs on 56.5% passing), he inspired his teammates with his rare brand of toughness. In addition to his disk problem, Steve played through a bad case of turf toe and bruised ribs.

Tennessee opened the playoffs at home against the Buffalo Bills in a Wild Card game. The Titans appeared to take control with a safety, a short touchdown run by Steve and a field goal by Al Del Greco. But the Bills roared back to go ahead 13–12. On a crucial third down late in the fourth quarter, Steve made a super run to set up another Del Greco field goal. Buffalo’s Rob Johnson responded with a scoring drive that seemed to put the game on ice. But on the ensuing kickoff, the Titans pulled off the now-famous “Music City Miracle,” scoring on a crazy lateral play to claim the most unlikely of victories.

Next up for Tennessee were the Colts in Indianapolis. Much to Fisher's delight, Steve executed the game plan perfectly. Though the Titans were down 9-6 at intermission, they were battering the Colts with their physical, ball-control offense. In the second half, George ran wild on the tired Indianapolis defense, and Tennessee held on for a 19-16 win.

One step away from the Super Bowl, the Titans travelled to Jacksonville for the AFC Championship Game. Steve, who had burned the Jags with five touchdown passes earlier in the year, felt confident. So did Fisher, who decided to turn his quarterback loose. Down 14-10 at the half, Tennessee started the third quarter looking to deliver a knockout blow. When Steve piloted the Titans to a touchdown on their first possession, the game was in the bag. Tennessee cruised 33-14 and advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.

Seeing through a winning strategy in their rematch with St. Louis was easier said than done. The Titans needed to pressure Warner and punish Faulk and the Ram receivers. Things didn’t go particularly well in the first half and only got worse in the third quarter, as St. Louis scored to go up 16–0.

That’s when Steve and the Titans started pecking away. George bulled in twice from in close, and then Del Greco kicked a 43-yarder to knot the score. With time ticking away, the Rams prepared to mount one last drive from deep in their own territory. Warner looked for Bruce on a pass play but rushed his throw with Kearse in his face. The agile receiver adjusted beautifully and grabbed the pass in stride. He split the Titan defense and pulled away for an incredible 73-yard touchdown.

The score came so quickly that Tennessee still had time left on the clock. Steve moved the Titans down the field with several short passes and a magnificent scramble. With time left for one play, he used the sure-handed Wycheck as a decoy and looked for receiver Kevin Dyson, who was angling toward the goal line. Steve drilled the pass to Dyson who turned to the goal line. But linebacker Mike Jones had not taken the bait and was able to pull him down a yard short of the end zone. In a game no one deserved to lose, the Rams celebrated a 23-16 victory. Warner—who threw for 414 yards—was named MVP. Steve finished the contest with a combined 278 yards and newfound respect from the whole football world.

Steve’s spirited effort in the Super Bowl helped earn him a new contract with the Titans, who inked him for six years at $47 million, including a two-tiered signing bonus of $16 million. Steve understood the implications of the deal. The Titans were betting that he could get the team back to the big game and win it all.

Steve McNair,

1998 Upper Deck Choice

The club looked like it was on its way to doing just that after posting the AFC’s best record (13-3) in 2000. George racked up the most yards of his career, while fourth-year wideout Derrick Mason developed into a threat on the outside. The speedy receiver did double duty, also making his presence felt as a kick and punt returner. The defense, meanwhile, was the NFL’s most dominant unit. Kearse forced opponents to alter their blocking schemes, which opened the field for the rest of the Titans. In turn, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was able to utilize a full package of blitzes, which produced 55 sacks. In the secondary, cornerback Samari Rolle rose to the ranks of the league’s best.

The Titans, however, were given a taste of their own medicine in the playoffs, when the Baltimore Ravens manhandled them 24-10 at Adelphia Coliseum. Steve was as much to blame as anyone. The Ravens crowded the line, daring him to beat them with his arm. Though he moved the ball between the 20’s, he couldn’t finish off drives.

Steve’s problems against Baltimore were a microcosm of his campaign. He started every game but one and posted the best quarterback rating of his career (83.2). He also ran the ball well, gaining more than 400 yards. But in the red zone, the Oilers often stalled. Opponents shadowed Steve with a “spy” to limit his running options. Enemy defenses also knew that Steve normally didn’t take chances throwing downfield. His leading receiver was again Wycheck, who caught most of his passes underneath the coverage.

Steve’s conservative approach was the result of two factors. Injuries certainly played a role. Early in the year, Steve suffered a severely bruised sternum that never really healed. He also logged most of the season with a sore right shoulder. After the campaign, in fact, he had surgery to repair the damage.

Steve’s ‘00 performance was also affected by Tennessee’s offensive philosophy. As long as he had been the starter, Fisher’s strategy called for him to manage games by handing off to George and avoiding mistakes. If he was going to change, the Titans had to open up their game plan, too.

That process had actually already begun, thanks to the teachings of offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Formerly an assistant with the Denver Broncos, he had joined the coaching staff after Tennessee’s Super Bowl loss. Heimerdinger worked closely with Steve. Heading into the 2001 campaign, the two were ready to overhaul the Titans’ attack. Their timetable was further pushed along because George had foot surgery in the offseason and was not completely healthy by the opener. Tennesse had no choice but to spread the offense and throw the ball downfield.

The club also found itself playing catch-up most weeks. Indeed, the defense suffered when Williams left to coach the Bills, while injuries and suspensions robbed the unit of several key contributors. Tennessee plummeted in every defensive category, including points allowed and turnover differential. The Titans finished tied for third in the newly formed AFC South at a disappointing 7-9, including five losses at home.

In the midst of all this misery, Steve reasserted himself as the team’s unquestioned leader. On opening day against the Dolphins, Miami’s Jermaine Haley buried him on a dubious hit, which reaggravated Steve’s right shoulder injury. He sat out the following game against Jacksonville, and then returned for a grudge match versus the Ravens. Though the Titans lost, Steve’s teammates marveled that he was even on the field.

From there, the 28-year-old put together his most productive year as a pro. With no running game to speak of, Steve registered career passing highs in yards (3,350), completions (264), touchdowns (21) and QB rating (90.2). He was also the team’s most effective rusher, tying George for the club lead with five scores. Named to the Pro Bowl for the first time, Steve did it all with a sore right shoulder and right thumb. The second injury happened in November and made it difficult for him to grip the ball. As usual, Steve fought through the pain and refused to come out of the lineup. After the season, he had another shoulder operation, which caused him to miss the trip to Hawaii.

Steve entered the 2002 season determined to lead the Titans back to the playoffs. After the first five games, however, the team appeared destined for another sub-par year. At 1-4, Tennessee was being outplayed in nearly every phase of the game. The defense was adjusting to several new faces, including rookie tackle Albert Haynesworth and free-agent safety Lance Schulters. Another change was the promotion of linebacker Keith Bulluck to the starting lineup.

On offense, Steve searched for support from someone other than Mason. George was getting plenty of carries, but his production didn’t necessarily justify all the work. While the Titans were putting points on the board, they weren’t firing on all cylinders.

Frustrated by his team’s lackluster performance, Fisher called a closed-door meeting and blasted his players. Steve responded by taking matters into his own hands. After guiding Tennessee to a win over the Jaguars, he claimed honors as AFC Player of the Week with a fourth-quarter comeback in a 30-24 victory over the Bengals. The Titans won their next three to push their record to 6-4.

Two weeks later, Steve authored a virtuoso performance in the swirling winds of the Meadowlands against the Giants. With Tennessee trailing in the fourth quarter, he rallied his troops to another dramatic win. On the day, he completed 30 of 43 passes for 334 yards and three touchdowns.

Riding the emotion of the victory over New York, Tennessee ran the table to go 11-5, good for the second-best mark in the AFC. To a man, the Titans credited Steve for their amazing turnaround. With the defense decimated by injuries, including large chunks of time missed by Kearse and linebacker Randall Godfrey, the team depended on its offense to carry the load. Steve thrived under the pressure. Despite his normal collection of painful bumps and bruises, he enjoyed the finest year of his career, with personal bests in nearly every significant offensive category.

The real story of Steve’s season was not told by the stats, however. During one five-week stretch, his body was so badly battered that he simply couldn't practice. Still, he gutted it out every Sunday, starting all 16 games. Before the postseason began, the Titans learned that Steve finished third in the MVP voting, behind Rich Gannon and Brett Favre. The news irritated his teammates, who felt their quarterback was penalized for having far fewer offensive weapons than the Oakland and Green Bay quarterbacks.

Derrick Mason, 2003 Fleer Showcase

Tennessee opened the playoffs with a controversial 34-31 victory over the Steelers, as a penalty flag gave kicker Joe Nedney a second chance at a game-winning field goal. A week later. the Titans visited Oakland in the AFC Championship Game. With the high-powered Raiders lighting up the scoreboard, the onus again fell on Steve to deliver a victory. He got Tennessee to the fourth quarter down by three points, but the defense crumbled and the Titans lost 41-24.

Several months later, Steve found himself in unfamiliar territory. In May of 2003, he was arrested for DUI and illegal gun possession. His blood alcohol was above 0.10, and a 9-mm handgun had been sitting in the front of the car. Steve made no excuses for his lapse in judgment and issued a heartfelt public apology. His family, coaches, teammates and fans all forgave him.

Heading into the ‘03 season, McNair and the Titans were one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The roster was virtually the same from the year before. The question was whether several key players—Steve, George and Kearse most notably—could stay healthy. With Bulluck and Rolle playing like Pro Bowlers, Tennessee’s defense was re-emerging as one of the league’s hardest-hitting and most opportunistic units. The offense, meanwhile, had the potential to be explosive. Fisher’s ability to adjust his coaching strategy to fit his talent was a major advantage.

Early in the year, Steve established himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. Tennessee won nine of its first 11, and he was the primary reason why. Steve was putting up the kind of pass-happy stats he had produced during his career at Alcorn. In a 30-13 drubbing of the Steelers, he hit on 15 of 16 attempts, three of which went for touchdowns. He torched the Houston Texans for 421 yards and three more scores.

But Steve’s all-out style of play again caught up to him. In December, a gimpy calf and ankle kept him on the sidelines for two games. Still he finished with the best numbers of his career, including 24 touchdown passes and a QB rating of 100.4. The Titans ended at 12-4, the same record as the Colts, but Indy took the AFC South by virtue of its two victories over Tennessee. The MVP voters were duly impressed by Steve and Peyton Manning, deciding the two should share the award.

For Steve—who always placed the team before himself—the recognition was overwhelming. He was so emotional in his press conference that he was almost moved to tears. Some of his teammates were upset, only because they felt the MVP should have been Steve’s alone.

In the playoffs, the Titans first visited the Ravens in Baltimore. Steve was clearly hobbling, but the thought of not suiting up never crossed his mind. Though he threw three interceptions, his presence in the huddle was enough. Tennessee controlled the ball with a bruising running game and held on for a 20-17 win.

The team’s next foe was New England, in bitterly cold Massachusetts. The Patriots—winners of 12 straight to conclude the regular campaign—were well rested but also well aware of Tennessee’s talent and tenacity. Down 14-7 at the half, the Titans tied it up in the third quarter on an 11-yard pass from Steve to Mason. The Patriots grabbed the lead again with four minutes to go on a field goal by Adam Vinatieri. Though Steve drove Tennessee into New England territory with time winding down, his fourth-down desperation heave to Drew Bennett fell incomplete. The receiver actually had his hands on the ball but couldn’t haul it in. Afterwards, Steve was praised for his gutty effort. Of course, he would have settled for a win and the silent treatment from the media.

Steve and the Titans faced big expectations for 2004, even though they were weathering major roster changes. George left via free agency, opening the door for Chris Brown to become the team's feature back. Steve lost another weapon when receiver Justin McCareins was shipped to the New York Jets for a second-round draft choice. On defense, Kearse also hit the road, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Steve and the Titans opened against the Dolphins with encouraging results. Brown rushed for 100 yards on 16 carries, and while Steve completed only nine passes, one went for a TD in the 17-7 victory.

After a pair of losses, Steve missed the season's fourth game with a bruised sternum, an injury suffered the previous week against Jacksonville. He returned with an excellent effort in a 48-27 blowout of the Packers, but then he played terribly in a home loss to Houston. In one of his worst games in recent memory, Steve was intercepted four times and fumbled once.

At 2-3, Tennessee was off to a slow start, but the blame wasn't all Steve's. The offensive line had yet to ge—he was getting pounded, including eight sacks in the first three contests of the year. When the Minnesota Vikings knocked him out in the first quarter of their October meeting, he reaggravated his sternum injury. Steve missed the next two games.

He didn't suit up again until November, when the Titans visited the Jaguars. With Tennessee languishing at 3-6, this was a make-or-break contest. Steve and his teammates responded with a gutty 18-15 victory. But they followed with a flat performance in Houston. Steve enjoyed his best day of the season (25 for 42 for 277 yards and 3 touchdowns) with nothing to show for it.

Afterwards, Steve reassessed his team's dwindling playoff hopes. Still ailing, he chose to end his campaign early. For the first time in his career, it seemed his perpetually poor health had raised serious concerns in his own mind. At one point, he even talked of retirement.

Without their leader, the Titans limped home. Billy Volek showed flashes of brilliance filling in for Steve, but Tennessee no longer scared opponents on either side of the the ball. Losers of four of their last five, they finished at 5-11. Steve's numbers—1,343 yards, nine total touchdowns and a 73.1 QB rating—were his lowest since 1996.

Late in December, Steve underwent an operation to correct the pain he felt during the 2004 season. The problem was that he had cartilage instead of bone in his sternum—an unusual condition for anyone, and certainly far from ideal for a pro football player. Doctors removed some bone from his hip and used it in his chest.

The operation was a success, and Steve was healthy enough to start 14 games in 2005. He was working at a disadvantage, however, as salary cap challenges ravaged Fisher’s defense. Steve managed to put plenty of points on the board, but the Titans won only one game in September, October, November and December, finishing 4–12. Steve passed for 3,161 yards and 16 touchdowns. So despite h’is teams poor recor, he was recognized with his third Pro Bowl selection.

Steve and the Titans decided to part ways after the season. They agreed that if his agent could engineer a fair trade, the team would take it. In June, a deal for a fourth-round draft pick was worked out with the Ravens, a club with a defense like the Titans of old. The franchise had lacked a first-rate quarterback and hoped Steve would be at least a short-term solution. He was that and quite a bit more. Steve played in every game in 2006 and led Baltimore to a 13–3 record, which was good for first place in the AFC North.

Steve completed 63 percent of his passes and topped 3,000 passing yards again. He made his fourth and final Pro Bowl. His dream season ended in the playoffs with a 15–6 defeat at the hands of the Super Bowl-bound Colts.

Steve logged his final NFL season in 2007. In an injury-riddled campaign, he missed 10 games due to back, shoulder and leg injuries. In Week 9 against the Steelers, James Harrison buried him again and again. Steve finally had to leave the game. He passed for only 1,113 yards on the year as the Ravens went 5–11, costing coach Brian Billick his job.

Steve McNair,

2003 USA Today Sports Weekly

NFL defenses didn’t have McNair to kick around any more in 2008. He made a graceful exit from the game to which he had given so much. His retirement was short-lived, literally. On July 4, 2009, police found his body in a Nashville apartment, along with that of a woman, Saleh Kazemi, whom Steve had been dating for several months. Both had been shot through the head. An investigation was immediately launched, and Steve’s death was ruled a homicide.

Within days, police revealed that McNair was shot twice in the chest and twice in the

head while he was asleep. Kazemi had pulled the trigger and thenthen turned the gun on herself. She apparently suspected McNair of having another mistress and talked openly to friends about her plan to "end it all." McNair will be sorely missed by family, friends, and NFL fans everywhere.

STEVE THE PLAYER

Steve’s legs were his most important attribute. Not only was he a tremendous runner, he was also a load for oncoming pass rushers to bring down. He was most dangerous when he broke the pocket, as opposing defenses were almost helpless to stop him. If they pursued him too aggressively, he’d zip a pass to an open receiver. If they hung back in coverage, he’ld tuck the ball under his arm and take off.

Steve didn’t run as much late in his career, which was partly a function of the pounding he’s absorbed over the years. But it also demonstrated the evolution of his decision-making process. He realized that sometimes shedding a defender, throwing the ball away and surviving for another down with manageable yardage was the best play.

Accuracy had been a problem at times for Steve, despite his year-in, year-out 60+ passing percentage. Steve worked hard on his footwork to correct this flaw. He spent time every off-season on his drop-backs, creating rhythm and a smoother delivery. As any quarterback will attest, hitting receivers in stride has a lot to do with proper set-up.

Leadership was the area where Steve has made his reputation. In pressure situations, he was cool and confident. His willingness to play with pain was a constant source of inspiration to his teammates. In turn, there was nothing they wouldn’t do for him.

Source: Jock Bio

Stone Cold Steve Austin - One of the greatest wrestlers of all time Tags: stone cold steve austin greatest wrestler all time word life production new quality entertainment

Steve Austin is an American professional wrestler and actor born on December 18, 1964 in Edina, Texas. Known as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, the pro wrestler won the WWF Championship from 1995-1999. After retiring, he went into acting where he starred in the TV show Nash Bridges (1998-1999) and films The Longest Yard (2005) and The Condemned (2007).

Professional wrestler, born Steve Anderson, on December 18, 1964, in Victoria, Texas. Raised by his mother and stepfather, Ken Williams, he never knew his biological father, and soon took Williams's name, Steve grew up in Edna, Texas, as part of a big family. In high school, he was inducted into the National Honor Society before winning a football scholarship to the University of North Texas. In 1987, just a few credits shy of a degree in physical education, Steve Williams dropped out of college and began working on a loading dock near Houston, Texas.

Professional Wrestling Debut

In 1989, after developing a serious interest in professional wrestling, Williams joined a new wrestling school in Dallas. After graduation, he joined the United States Wrestling Association and in 1990 had his first professional match. During his first year on the tour, Williams traveled around the southern United States, earning $20 a fight and living in his car. In 1991, having dropped his good guy persona and taken on a new name, "Stunning" Steve Austin, he made his World Championship Wrestling (WCW) debut.

During his career with WCW, Austin formed a partnership with "Flyin" Brian Pillman; as the "Hollywood Blonds, they won the 1993 World Tag Team Championship. Austin also won the 1993 WCW United States Championship. In 1994, he tore his tricep while wrestling in Japan and was subsequently fired by WCW, a rejection he would not forget easily. After a stint in Extreme Championship Wrestling, Austin signed with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in late 1995. Another revamping of his image resulted in a new name, "Stone Cold," a new bald-headed look, and a new signature finishing move, the "Stone Cold stunner."

WWF Success

From 1995 to 1999, Austin won four federation championships and numerous other tag team and individual titles. His persistence became legendary: after suffering a serious nerve injury to his neck in early 1997, Austin came back to win the WWF championship that year. He has a reputation among his fans as an aggressive rebel who defies all authority, especially the infamous owner of the WWF, Vince McMahon. Austin's long-running feud with McMahon, extending to several bouts within the ring, has raised WWF television ratings and increased Austin's popularity. Also known as the "Texas Rattlesnake," Austin is widely considered one of the WWF's most popular wrestlers. In 1998 alone, he made an estimated $1.2 million salary plus a huge sum in merchandising royalties.

Acting Pursuits

In addition to his success in the WWF, Austin has pursued an interest in acting. In 1998 and 1999, he appeared on several episodes of the TV series Nash Bridges as Jake Cage, a renegade policeman assisting the show's good guys.

Austin's marriage to his first wife, Kathy, was annulled. His second wife Jeannie, whom he married in 1995, once served as his valet, Lady Blossom. They have two children, Stephanie and Cassidy.

In January 2000, Austin underwent spinal surgery in order to correct damage done during his years of wrestling, putting him out of commission for six months to a year.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

Wrestling’s Greatest Rivalries: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: stone cold the rock steve austin dwayne johnson word life production feature blog

Professional wrestling is a sport that has spanned over a century. In fact, its foundation may well span to ancient times as early as ancient Babylonia from 3000 BCE.

Through all that time until the modern day, we have seen some of the greatest athletes and performers of all time come and go. We have seen these men and women fight in rivalries that have not only developed the business but molded it through the stories.

The greatest rivalries are so many and so numerous that is hard to limit them, to isolate them in such a way that we can truly find the one that exceeds all others.

So instead, we here at Wrestle Enigma have begun a series known as Wrestling’s Greatest Rivalries where we will be breaking sixty of the greatest rivarlies over all of professional wrestling history. All credit goes to Paul McIntyre who came up with the great idea for the series and organized it.

Many of the best rivalries in wrestling past and present will be covered by some of the best writers here at WE, and we begin with one of the biggest in WWE’s history.

In wrestling, eras come and go, and they are guided by individuals. Usually, there is one man, one icon who defines the entire era by being a truly larger than life character with a sea of great counterparts to work with.

One era though managed to have the unthinkable. Two men who were truly larger than life stars came into the company at the same time and absolutely took the company under their arms and ran with it.

Never before or since have there been two men this big at the same time. No one will ever match what these two men brought to the table. I am of course referring to the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin.

“The Rock was everything that Austin wasn’t. Steve is a very blue collar, punch the clock workhorse. I think Rock was that first dose of superstar. That was the goodness of the dichotomy between him and Austin, and you clash these guys together and you create a difference of opinion.” – John Cena

“I don’t think the Rock could have been the Rock without Stone Cold Steve Austin, and I don’t think Stone Cold could have been Stone Cold without the Rock because those two together were just incredible.” – The Miz

The Beginnings

Everything big or small has a beginning. With Austin, he began as most wrestlers do. He was a big guy who developed into a solid wrestler through the indies, eventually bursting onto the scene through some luck and a few key opportunities.

He caught everybody’s attention with Brian Pillman in WCW, and ECW made people take him seriously. Finally, when he was hired by the WWF, he was already a bit of a star, but he still had to pay his dues first.

Finally, adopting the name Stone Cold Steve Austin, he erupted onto the scene with a King of the Ring victory that shook the foundations of wrestling as we all knew it. He finished his sudden climb to stardom in a feud with Bret Hart that would end up making him the most popular man in the business.

Around the same time that Stone Cold was becoming a star, an unknown kid named Rocky Maivia entered the scene. This “blue-chipper” came in to WWF on fire with loads of family heritage on his back and a certified seal of approval by Jim Ross.

His very first match he was given a massive Survivor Series win that made him the ultimate underdog victor. He went on to be pushed to the moon winning the Intercontinental Championship off one Hunter Hearst Helmsley only three months after debuting.

The First Shot

The date was March 21, 1997. It was the annual Slammy Awards, and the award category was New Sensation. To say that this category was stacked with talent would be a massive unstatement. This list included names like Marc Mero, Mankind, and, of course, the two real candidates, Stone Cold and Rocky Maivia.

Ahmed Johnson, the presenter, teased the name Stone Cold but ended up saying Rocky Maivia much to the notable disdain of Austin and several fans in attendance. Rocky accepted it graciously and tried to move things along calmly.

Instead, the host on the night made the unfortunate mistake of stating that the voting was extremely close with Stone Cold at a close second. This brought Stone Cold up to the podium to make sure everyone knew that the voting must have been rigged.

 

 

It was a brief shot, an idea that set a wall between these two men. It sparked heat from the fans who would gravitate toward Austin even turning against Rocky’s somewhat one dimensional character in comparison sparking notable chants of “die, Rocky, die”.

The Growth of Two Dynasties

After a main event feud with Bret Hart ended in Austin becoming the biggest thing in the WWF at the time, he set his sights a bit lower as he began fighting for the Intercontinental Championship. During that time, he ended up breaking his neck in a match with Owen Hart for the title effectively putting his push and career on hold.

Over that time that Austin was out, Rocky Maivia ended up turning on the fans and finding his enduring character, the Rock. He and the Nation of Domination began to thrive as a midcard heel stable. He suddenly developed from a simple babyface that the crowd really turned against to a guy that the crowd loved to hate.

It was around this time that Austin was able to come back and win the Intercontinental Championship and challenge this upcoming heel kid that had once been considered to be a brighter star to be than himself.

 

The matches between these two at this juncture were like previews to a feature film coming years later. Austin was untouchable, destined for the top, but he got screwed by management on his way up being forced to lose his title to this young kid, the Rock, because he refused to defend the title on a designated night by Vince McMahon, truly the beginning of the Austin/McMahon rivalry.

Austin and Rock moved on from this brief feud, both pushed a little further. Austin ended up having the torch passed to him by Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XIV thanks to a Royal Rumble win where he last eliminated the Rock.

As Stone Cold began a huge run against the boss Vince McMahon while being World Champion, the Rock was becoming a fan favorite despite himself. He was so entertaining that fans couldn’t help but latch onto the Rock, making him the next big star developing in the company until the Rock stole away the vacant WWF Title with a screwjob ending to a tournament with McMahon basically handing Rock the title.

This began the huge run to the top for Rock who fought back and forth with Mankind while Austin was making the boss Vince McMahon’s life as hard as possible, leading to both men’s first true face off after Austin won a WWF Title shot for WrestleMania XV.

WrestleMania XV

These two men had been in conflict before, but this was the first true moment that they began a rivalry, a feud between the biggest heel and face in the company. Austin wanted the title while the Rock and McMahon behind him with the entire Corporation stable were trying to prevent that.

When the night finally came for this main event, the men were on fire from the start. It was constant brawling between both men, moving from spot to spot with precision. These two were in the crowd. They were on the stage. They moved everywhere just to beat each other down.

Austin’s leg was rammed into steel while the Rock was choked out by cable. The WrestleMania logo was even the recipient of the action as Rock rammed right into the steel. Neither man was ready to quit no matter what happened.

Even this early on with one man obviously seeming to be the bigger man at this point, there was never a point where one man was on top. Every major spot, and there were many, wasn’t enough to keep the momentum for long.

That changed a bit after the Rock hit his first Rock Bottom on the night. It wasn’t enough for the victory, but it started things moving as frustration caused the Rock to grab a steel chair, a chair that would accidentally find its mark on the referee’s skull.

As the referee lay on the outside, the Rock gained the first decisive advantage destroying Austin with the steel chair. A new referee entered, but it didn’t matter as it was clear these two had a long ways to go still.

Eventually, as Rock assaulted Stone Cold but could not find his decisive victory, his temper flared, leading to a Rock Bottom to the second referee. The distraction allowed Stone Cold to gain an advantage back until Mr. McMahon slipped into the action and helped beat down on Austin.

It seemed that Austin was in dire straight until finally the match found its one sure referee who wasn’t going to be someone who would go down after one shot. It was the man who had been building up Rock to this point, Mankind.

“The crowd was just going out of their minds. You know, you could feel the building shaking.” – Mick Foley

The action was electric as it had been the whole time, but Mankind was there to keep things under control. He ran in and forced McMahon out of the ring. Then he let the two men brawl.

A Lou Thesz press lead to an elbow drop. A miss timed shot lead to a reversal into a clothesline which allowed the second Rock Bottom by the Rock, but he wasn’t ready to pin Austin. He set it up and went for the Corporate Elbow.

He missed though allowing Austin to go for the patented kick to the gut which Rock blocked and, after a one finger salute, attempted a third Rock Bottom which Austin blocked and then finally hit the decisive Stone Cold Stunner.

The crowd went crazy as McMahon cried on the outside. The rebel had risen to victory over the brash youngster. The first decisive shot was fired, and it was clear who was the better man that night though the Rock had proven he could hang with the best and that he was just a half step away.

The Changing of Momentum

 

 

After Austin’s win and again one at Backlash, the two men separated again. Austin held the title for months on end. The Rock went on to again catch the crowd afire, turning face again.

As Austin realized his nagging injuries were too much for him, possibly life threatening, he had to let go and take time off. This was a time where the guard changed hands fundamentally as a now face Rock took the reigns and became the top star.

Rock kept the company as high on the pedestal as Austin did, leading to Austin’s return just in time for a massive return and victory at the Royal Rumble, his third and final win at the event.

WrestleMania X-Seven

 

“They were the two biggest stars in the industry at the time and of that generation, and they were colliding head on, both wanting to be the best knowing that they can only look the best if the other guy looks equally as good. Man, that’s the recipe for a match that could go down as the best of all time.” – Paul Heyman

Austin and Rock were at the peaks of their popularity as stars. They were the two biggest stars in the WWF at that time. They may very well have been the two biggest stars in WWE history.

They were set to battle at WrestleMania X-Seven in a contest that would define everything that the now named Attitude Era had stood for. They were ready to put their livelihood at risk for one match, one shot at true, everlasting glory.

Stone Cold was coming in as a man broken. He needed this win to remind himself and everyone else that he was the number one man in the business. The Rock was the man, but he had no one there that passed him that torch yet. He had no one he had beaten to prove that he was the next big thing in the business, and he would get that against Stone Cold.

Just as their previous match had, this began as a pure brawl. Punches were fired on and on between both men. Several finishers were teased, but the two were quickly thrown outside to brawl in the crowd.

The fan favorites had the crowd completely divided. The action was equally divided. Austin was in charge for a minute, but the Rock quickly fired back. You could tell that the two wanted to beat each other down completely, but they also were taking their time. Neither man wanted to make a mistake as they knew the other man would capitalize.

Austin seemed a bit consumed with victory as he progressed. His eyes were cold and calculating, ready to take out this man who had taken his spot at the top. The Rock instead wanted to just beat this man. He wanted to take him out and show what he was made of. Just watching the two men go at it, you can feel their emotions in their eyes.

The action here was so fluid yet hard hitting. It was brutal. Austin was a man obsessed, destroying Rock at times, but Rock would never quit. He exploded back even as blood poured down his face.

The Rock returned the favor breaking Austin wide open. Blood poured from both men, getting on their fists and chests, yet they still fought on taking every shot and dishing out just as much.

While both men were just out to beat each other down, as time wore down, they began to see where the weaknesses of their opponent were. Both men applied the Sharpshooter to the other with Austin especially targeting the legs of the Rock.

They were willing to throw out everything and more. Austin went back to his oldest finisher in the company with the Million Dollar Dream. Rock was able to hit a Stone Cold Stunner of his own. Nothing could help put the other man away until the game changer as Mr. McMahon entered the scene.

As the Rock hit the People’s Elbow, a move that has put away the best in the business, McMahon entered and pulled Rock out of the cover. It was a shock. Why would McMahon get involved in this match like that? Why would he stop Rock from winning?

The move caused Rock to chase McMahon around the ring to get revenge allowing Austin a chance to hit his own Rock Bottom on the Rock, but he only got a two count. A blocked Stunner attempt took out the referee, leaving things up in the air.

Both men had done everything they could do to one another, and Austin knew he couldn’t get the job done at the point he was at. Therefore, he called to Vince to get a steel chair who surprisingly obliged and came into the ring.

What was Vince up to? As Austin held Rock up, Vince blasted Rock in the skull which still wouldn’t end the match when the referee recovered to count. Even after a distraction from Vince again followed by a Stunner, the Rock wouldn’t lay down.

Austin was losing it, and he only had one more way he could think of to take out the Rock: he needed to absolutely destroy him. He hit the Rock with sixteen consecutive chair shots. Only then when the Rock couldn’t even move was Austin finally able to get the three count.

It was one of the most brutal, intense, and physical bouts ever seen. With all the impact and importance, it may very well have been the greatest match of all time.

After the match, Austin reigned supreme and shook hands with Vince McMahon in one of the most unreal and disturbing scenes ever seen. As JR put it, “Stone Cold is shaking hands with Satan himself.”

The Beginning of the Final Chapter

The Rock was forced to move on from this loss. He lost a return cage match against Austin when Triple H came in and helped Austin then took some time off because McMahon suspended him indefinitely for his own safety. Stone Cold ruled the roost as champion as the WWF began a power struggle against the rival company WCW and their Alliance with ECW.

The struggle eventually escalated to new heights when Team Alliance defeated Team WWF at InVasion thanks to the unexpected turn by Austin against WWF. This turn caused McMahon to look back and bring in the one man he knew he could trust to deal with the issue: The Rock.

Rock came in on fire and battled with Austin indirectly for a while until they collided in a match at Rebellion where Austin once again beat the Rock. This lead to Survivor Series where Austin lead Team Alliance against the Rock and Team WWF.

In the end, the two men came head to head once again, and only this time did the Rock finally defeat Austin though it wasn’t a singles victory and not at WrestleMania. It was a small victory, but the bigger victory was that Rock had become a star even more.

The Rock became the man for the newly named WWE, and he eventually proved he deserved to be on top when a huge star finally came to hand Rock the torch. In a monstrous return, the great Hulk Hogan came and challenged the Rock at WrestleMania X8 where Hulk Hogan would lose to the Rock decisively.

Stone Cold was sitting on the sidelines that night in a secondary match against Scott Hall obviously disappointed as he felt that was his match to have not Rock’s.

Both men began to slowly drift away from WWE. Stone Cold was running out of time due to all his injuries while the Rock had made it big in Hollywood and wanted to take a chance on his movie potential. Both men were on their way out, but they had a little of unfinished business left.

The Rock developed into a heel character centered around his new found fame as a movie star. He turned against the fans. Stone Cold was beaten to shreds, always an entertainer, but he knew he was very close to the end. He was losing his edge and all his momentum even walking out on the company eventually due to a difference in creative thought.

WrestleMania XIX

After a long ugly dispute between Austin and WWE, Stone Cold came back and was ready to have one more match before riding off into the sunset, and it was the one match the Rock felt he needed to have before he left.

The Rock was plagued by his inability to beat Austin. He felt before he left that he needed to do the one thing he had never done, and that was beat Austin at WrestleMania.

The build here was not the grandiose one that their previous matches had had because at this point it wasn’t needed. This rivalry had spanned an era, it had defined an era. All these two needed to do was wrestle.

“It’s definitely the only match in history that headlined WrestleMania three times. I bet you those buyrates were all through the roof. I mean they headlined WrestleMania three times with the same match. How much bigger does it get?” – Chris Jericho

 

A scary fact about this match is that it almost never happened. The day before WrestleMania XIX, Austin collapsed and was sent to the hospital. Due to the poor job he had done taking care of his body, he was in a rough shape that caused him to collapse. Luckily, he persevered to have this one last match.

As with every match at WrestleMania, these two came out swinging on this night. There was a bit of hesitation and slowing at times, but both men were entirely intense.

The Rock was ready to get away and regroup again and again, but Austin wouldn’t let him breathe for a second. However, Austin’s need to fight would get him in trouble as he would get into a spat with the referee that allowed the Rock to take out Austin’s knee and begin an assault on the leg.

Men all around the ring were taken down. Cameramen were down. Announcers were fleeing back and forth to make sure that they didn’t get in these two men’s way.

As the Rock stalked Austin and targeted his knee, it was clear the power game had shifted. The movie star was able to take Austin down and wear him out with the Sharpshooter. With Austin out, Rock even took the opportunity to get out of the ring and refresh himself with a bottle of water.

That brief respite would turn against Rock though as Austin took control, stomping a mud hole in his long time adversary. These two men knew each other inside and out, and one mistake was all it took to change the complexion of the contest.

Further reminding us how well these two knew each other, they each hit the other man’s finisher and then hit their own, but nothing could keep these men down. Even two Rock Bottoms weren’t enough to finish Austin.

But then the Rock had had enough. Austin was out, barely able to stand, his time dwindling every second. The Rock stood up and stalked Austin for one last shot, the third and final Rock Bottom, and the third time was the charm as this third WrestleMania shot was the charm. Rock stood victorious.

After the match, the Rock quietly sat down with Stone Cold laying there and said roughly “I love you, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me.” Stone Cold quietly responded “I love you too.” After that, Rock got up and left as champion, letting Austin soak in the crowd’s admiration one last time.

Beyond every rivalry, every storyline, every thing these two have gone through as friends and competitors in a sense, their rivalry ended quietly yet powerfully with a simple emotional gesture between two enduring friends.

The Number One Argument

“I remember he had jokingly signed a picture to me, Stone Cold Steve Austin #1, and I thought, oh, he’s messing around with me. But I looked, and I saw that was how he signed his autograph. I thought, man, he thinks he’s number one. – One day I gotta write number one.” – The Rock

I want to stress this point as I will again and again. These two men were two of the greatest of all time. At least in the top ten greatest WWE wrestlers of all time, possibly both top five.

In their time, this feud between them wasn’t merely head to head in the ring. These two indirectly were at war at every turn. They were friends and compatriots, but they were also business rivals, each vying to be “the guy”.

The WWF at the time these two were on top was wide open for these two men. Never once could one person legitimately be called the all around top star unless the other was out of the picture.

“If you think that Stone Cold Steve Austin sat there on his throne at the top of the WWE watching this young kid come up the ladder going ‘This is going to be great. This kid’s going to take my spot.’, no way.” – Triple H

It sounds egotistical. It sounds petty, but these two never went out of their way to stop the other’s assent. They helped each other rise to greater heights. Each man wanted to be the best, and to be the best they needed the other man to be almost as good.

Improvement comes most when you have someone to latch onto. You have a rival of sorts to push you so that whenever you even think of becoming complacent that star comes from behind and pushes you out of your stupor once again.

No time in WWE was better than this because at no point after this or before were two guys legitimately pushing one another forward so fiercely.

“Who did the fans like more? Who to cheer for or boo? I think that was one of those organic things that you can’t fake. You just have these two enormous larger than life personalities, you stick them in front of a television camera, and you just sit back and you see what happens.” – CM Punk

At the heart of this rivalry, this feud, were two men striving and the fans pushing them all the way. There may not be two names more compared in WWE history than the Rock and Stone Cold. The question is posed one hundred times over: who was the best?

It isn’t just asked now. It was asked every day by every fan in that audience. It was asked when these two battled one another face to face at each WrestleMania they headlined. These two wanted to be the best, and the fans wanted the same.

“We were so opposite. I mean, he is Stone Cold Steve Austin, and here’s the Rock. So opposite yet parallel each other in terms of desire, commitment, and wanting to be the best.” – The Rock

The Lasting Effects and Conclusion

The Rock would very likely not have been seen at all if the crowd wasn’t pushing for stars like Stone Cold Steve Austin. With Austin’s nagging injuries, the WWF may very well have collapsed if not for the Rock being there to hold the company up if not take it to greater heights while Austin was gone.

These two made the Attitude Era. They molded it through their images and their personas. Their presence alone side by side in the company caused this rivalry to be more than a story. It was an ongoing division in wrestling between fans.

These men wrestled six major singles matches at the peaks of their careers. That is it, yet they were the very foundation of wrestling through all they did. They were the number 1A and B in a company that will never quite see that again.

This brought about the greatest years in WWE history. It gave the company its most lasting success. Honestly, it defined what wrestling was all about from there on out. Even with continuous changes in wrestling as a whole, the impact of the Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin is apparent in every facet of the business.

“Every generation, you’ll get one super huge, massive superstar. A few generations ago, there was Hulk Hogan. Right now, there’s John Cena. At that point in time, there was two: Austin and the Rock. We might never see that again. Two guys that huge in the company at the same time.” – Chris Jericho

Sources for quotes:

Stone Cold Steve Austin: The Bottom Line on the Most Popular Superstar of All Time

The Rock: The Epic Journey of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Kevin BergeAuthor: Kevin Berge (235 Articles)

I am writing to prove a point. The day I stop writing is the day I realize I have nothing more to say, and I don't believe that day will ever come.

http://www.wrestleenigma.com/wrestlings-greatest-rivalries-stone-cold-steve-austin-vs-the-rock-2

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