I just saw this match, and since I don't have it on DVD or tape, decided to review it on my first watching so I'd have something to go back to if it ever came up in discussion. I haven't seen a whole lot about this match, other than Meltzer giving it ****3/4, so I don't really know how this match is regarded by the populace. I basically went in with a clean slate.
The match starts very sloppily. A Thesz press counter is almost completely botched, and Austin's offense just looks horrible. This was a theme throughout the first 2 falls, as Austin's punches and stomps looked like they wouldn't crack an egg. And unfortunately, punches and stomps are 90% of Austin's offense. Luckily, the sloppy botched moves were confined to the early stages of the match, and Austin's offense even starts to look better as the match progress (explain the logic of that one).
Another thing that caught my attention was Austin's arm work on Triple H. I had a chuckle, because I remember how a certain group of people on another wrestling site, which includes the word smark, like to bash indy wrestlers for "simulating" a wrestling match and doing body work for no particular reason. Well, their hero Austin did the exact same thing here, as there was really no logical reason that he work the arm. Luckily he didn't work it for long, and it was completely forgotten about the rest of the match.
Triple H eventually saves the first fall when he starts a focused attack on Austin's knee. This makes sense considering Austin has a history of bad knees, evident by him wearing braces on both. Triple H makes it evident that he's attacking the knee, so there's no doubt here. Unlike some matches where a guy does one move to a body part and people try and make it seem like the guy is "going after" that body part. Unfortunately, Austin stops selling the knee as soon as Triple H stops his attack, when enough damage was done to warrant at least some mid-term selling.
The ending comes when Triple H jumps off the 2nd rope for no particular reason, lands on his feet, then meets Austin who hits him with a stunner. This wasn't quite as contrived and utterly ridiculous as the finish of Angle vs. HBK II, but it was still pretty bad. This first fall was just kind of average. It was good when Triple H was in control, horrid when Austin was in control. Austin's poor offense and lack of selling, along with the ridiculous finish really hurt this.
The second fall was a "street fight" and it was a typical WWE-style garbage brawl. The use of the barbed wire 2x4 was terrible. That may have been the weakest 2x4 shot I've ever seen. Later, Triple H finds the sledgehammer under the announce table, and JR and Lawler have to sell it like they had no idea it was there. This was like WCW in its dying days stupid. End comes after a Triple H sledgehammer shot and pedigree on Austin. Overall, this fall didn't have a whole lot of negatives, but it didn't have many positive either.
The third fall was as well done as one could have expected. Both guys were selling the previous damage and "wear and tear" very well. Sluggish and dazed movement and execution. I don't mind Austin kicking out of the pedigree, as nothing preceded it, whereas when it got the win in the second fall, it was preceded by a sledgehammer shot. Triple H kicking out of the stunner was to be expected, and it was logical because Austin was delayed in covering him. The delay itself didn't make sense however, as Austin had no reason to be selling like he was. If he had slowly moved to the cover it would have worked, but instead, he just laid on the mat for a few seconds before he moved for the cover. Ending came after Triple H hit Austin with the sledge, and Austin hit Triple H with the 2x4 (which was actually a decent shot this time). Both guys collapsed, but Triple H landed on Austin, and got the pin. Typical overbooked WWE ending, but it worked as far as keeping both guys strong.
Other than the first fall, there wasn't a whole lot of terrible stuff happening, but there also wasn't a whole lot of good happening either. As in typical Austin-style main event, the match structure was ok, and the selling was good, but the work itself was really sub-par and it was fairly overbooked. There's only so far a match like that can go, but even so, this match wasn't really close to that limit. ***