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Triple H vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin in an Anything Goes Match for the WWE Championship
Long before King James wore a Cavaliers uniform, The King of Kings put in a performance for the ages at Cleveland's Gund Arena, surviving a No Holds Barred war with Stone Cold Steve Austin to retain the WWE Championship. It was Austin's first match since The Game nearly ended his career at SummerSlam with a crippling blow to the knee from a steel chair. Throughout the ensuing months, Austin and Triple H would do battle everywhere but on the mat. The Rattlesnake was out for revenge, and he nearly got it at No Mercy.
The rules of the match that evening were simple: No disqualifications, no countouts -- No Holds Barred. The advantage would seem to lie with the Texas Rattlesnake, a man who simply loves the finer things in life -- namely, swilling beer and whoopin' ass. The Game had no doubt proven himself a fine technical wrestler, but as the match neared, one had to wonder how he would match up with Austin when forced to eschew those technical skills for an all-out brawl.
Austin attempted to take advantage of the No Holds Barred stipulation early by taking the fight to The Game as he made his way down the entranceway. The two battled into the stands and throughout the arena floor, with Austin using some creative weaponry in the form of a fan's crutch and a boom mic/camera rig during the match's early stages.
As the match continued, the action featured just about everything WWE fans could have expected from such a contest (including a knocked-out referee and a suplex through the Spanish announce table) and even more that they never could have predicted (such as an Earl Hebner-Triple H shoving match).
With Triple H and Austin battered and exhausted, the fight spilled back into the ring for its dramatic conclusion. Grabbing hold of a steel chair that Triple H had brought into the ring, Austin began ferociously pounding the legs of his opponent, reminding Triple H of the vicious beating he had received at SummerSlam which had forced him out of commission for months. As Austin attempted to end The Game's career, The Rock emerged from the locker room area, bandaged heavily around the mid-section and wielding Triple H's signature sledgehammer. The Game had used the weapon against The Rock earlier in the evening, and clearly The Rock was out for revenge. However, his attempt to foil The Game backfired, as Triple H ducked and the blow fell upon Austin. After nailing The Rock with a Pedigree, the nearly incapacitated champion rolled over and covered Austin for the win, sealing one of the most dramatic WWE Championship bouts of the year.
After the match, Austin attempted to run down Triple H, but the WWE Champion was able to escape in a waiting limousine. The Rattlesnake could do nothing but look on in disgust as his most bitter rival drove off with the most coveted prize in sports-entertainment.