The two legends have clashed plenty of times over the years (Picture: WWE)
The two wrestling legends – who were the WCW World Heavyweight Champion and WWE Champion respectively at the time – clashed in an untelevised, emotional chapter of their iconic rivalry when WWE put on a special live edition of SmackDown to give everyone in the United States some respite after the horrific terrorist attack.
It was the first public gathering in the US since the attack just two days later, with the company set on proving an escape.
In a new WWE Network documentary NEVER FORGET: WWE Returns After 9/11, footage has been aired for the first time from the previously unseen match after Stone Cold came out after the cameras stopped rolling to issue an open challenge.
‘If there’s a man stood back there in that dressing room, all you gotta do is come right down to the ring right now.,’ he said on the night, before The Rock’s music hit and his rival came out.
The pair delivered a special match for the fans in Houston, Texas with The People’s Champ winning, and Austin admitted they both wanted to go all-out to give fans in the arena something special.
‘Me and Rock went out there, tore the place down and tried to entertain those people as much as we could. For a very special moment like that, we’re gonna bust our ass to make everybody have a good time,’ he said.
‘Born and raised in Texas, it’s where I grew up and I love it. Here in Texas – I mean, here in the heart of America – it meant a lot for me to be there, representing the great state of Texas.’
Earlier in the emotional documentary, Austin admitted he was initially unsure about the show going ahead until boss Vince McMahon – who described it as the toughest decision he’s ever made – explained why it was so important.
‘I was worried about returning to work too soon because I was like, hey man, are we letting this mourning process happen long enough, show our respect to these people who lost their lives? But when I got the call from Vince,’ he revealed.
McMahon wanted to provide an escape (Picture: WWE)
‘And Vince says, “Steve, somebody’s gotta get back to work, somebody’s gotta send out a message. We’ve gotta entertain people, we’ve gotta do what we do. We’re not paramedics, we’re not trained doctors. We can’t go down there and help. Let’s just do our job and try to entertain people.” ‘
The on-air part of the show was headlined by Olympic gold medallist Kurt Angle beating Rhyno, while the night opened with Lillian Garcia singing the national anthem.
McMahon himself also kicked things off with a speech as he walked down and said: ‘We will not live our lives in fear.’
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‘We will fight for our families, we will fight for our rights and we will fight for our great nation,’ he added. ‘America’s heart has been wounded, but her spirit shines as a beacon of freedom. A beacon of freedom that never has been, nor ever will be extinguished.’
Reflecting on that moment now, Vince admitted it was ‘humbling’ but so ‘powerful’.
Clearly emotional, he said: ‘I wish everybody could have experienced that. Wow… that was the most powerful yet humbling experience ever, in or out of the ring.’
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