By Mike Mooneyham

Published in 2001

The eyes of the wrestling world will be on the WWF’s No Way Out pay-per-view as two major angles leading to Wrestlemania unfold.

The Rock is expected to dethrone current WWF heavyweight champ Kurt Angle to take the crown into Wrestlemania April 1 at the Houston Astrodome against challenger “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who earned his title shot by winning the Royal Rumble in January. Austin must first get by Hunter Hearst Helmsley in their two-out-three-fall match that promises to be the show-stealer at No Way Out. Austin has picked up the pace since returning late last year from career-threatening neck surgery, while Triple H’s sterling performance over the past year has earned him wrestler of the year honors in many circles.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Remember, however, that Vince McMahon is still the creative mastermind behind these storylines, so anything’s possible, including a swerve with Angle retaining the title against The Rock. Angle presented a very convincing case for that possibility during a sit-down interview on Raw last week.

If Austin vs. Rock does, indeed, headline Wrestlemania, then it’s a lock that one will begin showing heel traits sooner rather than later. An Austin turn, which he feels perfectly comfortable with, might be just what the doctor ordered.

Angle said during a conference call on Thursday that some of his persona portrayed on television is based on the real Kurt Angle. The former Olympic gold medal winner says he does believe in the “three I’s” – integrity, intelligence and intensity – and doesn’t drink or take drugs. Angle says he takes it over the top for television, but it is rooted in his actual character, one that he believes will continue for years to come.

Angle called Helmsley the best heel in the business today. He said he felt that he and Triple H had a legitimate claim to be in the Wrestlemania main event, but that Rock and Austin deserved it just a little bit more.

A match at No Way Out in Las Vegas that has garnered considerable interest is the Jerry “The King” Lawler-Stevie Richards bout, in which The Kat (Stacy Carter) has vowed to strip if Lawler wins. If Richards wins, she has agreed to become a member of Right To Censor, a storyline faction that was formed in response to L. Brent Bozell’s Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group that has locked horns with McMahon over the WWF’s over-the-edge programming.

The tease undoubtedly will lead to increased buys for the show.


Lawler and Kat exchanged real-life marital vows last year in a Las Vegas chapel ceremony only weeks after Austin and Debra traded similar nuptials in Vegas. WWF VP Jim Ross attended both ceremonies.