The WWE Legends faced each other for the second time in their careers at WrestleMania 17, and the build-up to the event had several twists and turns that raised the stakes for the headlining match.
Vince McMahon had also ordered Debra, Steve Austin's wife at the time, to be The Rock's on-screen manager. Debra was also scheduled to be at ringside for the WrestleMania 17 main event. However, WWE quickly dropped its storyline plan to involve the former Women's Champion.
I think Rock and Austin just wanted to keep it serious: Jim Ross on why WWE changed their plans for Debra
On the latest edition of the Grilling JR podcast on AdFreeShows.com, Jim Ross revealed the reason behind WWE nixing the idea. Jim Ross stated that both Rock and Steve Austin were uncomfortable with WWE's plan to have Debra as part of the WrestleMania angle.
JR noted that Austin and Rock wanted their storyline to be serious, and despite being the main characters of the feud, they were pretty unsure about how the fans would react to Debra's involvement.
"I think they both, I think Rock and Austin were both uncomfortable with it. It just seemed like, 'Why are we doing this?' You know, Debra always made the picture better because of her beauty, and she was a gorgeous Alabamian. But her services in that role were not needed."
"I think Rock and Austin just wanted to keep it serious and transact their business because neither of them was overly sure of how this thing was going to be received."
Jim Ross said the timing was just not right to have Debra in the storyline. He added that a 'bump-taking' female wrestler or valet such as Trish Stratus or Lita would still have fit the role.
The bottom line was that The Rock and Steve Austin were just not in favor of the creative plan, and they had enough backstage pull to convince Vince McMahon to change his mind.
"The Debra thing was, it may have just been a deal where Vince may have wanted to get her on the show. I don't know. But it just was ill-timed and not knocking anything about Debra, but if it had been a valet who had a lot of wrestling experience, that was a bump-taker like Lita or Trish, that type of thing, then okay, I get it. But the two guys were not for it, and all they had to do is, Rock had to raise his eyebrows, and Austin had to look down at his shoes, and Vince knew, well, we ain't doing that."
WrestleMania 17 was a historic and record-breaking PPV for several reasons, and The Rock and Steve Austin inarguably played the most critical roles to ensure the event's grand success.
WWE struck gold with the feud and the end product at 'Mania 17, and in hindsight, taking Debra away from the angle might have been the best decision.
Please credit Grilling JR and give a H/T to Sportskeeda Wrestling for the transcription if you use quotes from this article.