DVD Release Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2008
MATCH #1: WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Rocky Maivia, Thursday Raw, 2.13.97
I remember watching this show when it was on but I’m not sure if I’ve seen this match since then. Helmsley had been the champion since beating Marc Mero back in October of ’96. He is traveling without his butler Mr. Hughes, but he still gains the early advantage. Maivia comes back and goes for the arm, and they trade armbars. Helmsley once again gets the advantage and mocks the rookie. The challenger comes back with a big hip toss and a dropkick and Helmsley powders. Back in the ring the champion goes to the chinlock and the crowd gets behind Maivia. Another dropkick sends Helmsley to the floor again and Maivia follows him out. He goes for a clothesline up against the post but Helmsley moves and he clotheslines the ring post. Back in the ring Helmsley goes right back to the arm. The champion stays in control as we go to commercial break, and when we come back he’s still in control. Honky Tonk Man has come out to ringside now as well, and Helmsley notices him. He’s out to scout for his new protégé as the champion hits a high knee for a near fall. He then goes to the sleeper but Maivia is able to fight out of it and put on a sleeper of his own. Helmsley fights out of that and slugs away on Maivia again. The challenger fights back with a flurry of strikes and a back body drop. He goes up top and hits a flying body press and Helmsley rolls it over for a near fall. He hits the Facebuster and a neckbreaker for two. He hits a piledriver as Vince McMahon mentions that Helmsley will defend the Title against Ahmed Johnson in three days on pay-per-view, if he can hang on to the title. He gets a very close near fall and jaws with the official about it. He sets Maivia up on the top rope and slaps him a few times. He hits a superplex and Maivia once again kicks out. He sets up for the Pedigree again but Maivia collapses. Helmsley takes time to congratulate himself and taunt his opponent, which gives Maivia the opportunity to score a small package to get the pin and the title at 13:30. That was a surprisingly good match given how green Maivia was at the time. Helmsley had good psychology and Maivia kept it basic but everything he did looked good.
MATCH #2: WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – Owen Hart vs. The Rock, Raw, 4.6.98
I believe this would be shortly before Owen would actually join the Nation of Domination. Rock comes after Owen and they trade a few moves back and forth with neither guy gaining a real advantage. Kama interferes early on and the referee throws the Nation out of the arena. Rock is distraught and that gives Owen the chance to put on the sleeper. Rock escapes and hits a DDT. He hits the early People’s Elbow and that gets two. Owen makes the comeback and hits a swinging neckbreaker. Rock tries the Rock Bottom but Owen avoids it and hits an enziguiri. He then puts on the Sharpshooter and Chyna comes out with a baseball bat and cracks Owen with it to give him the DQ win at 5:46. This was fine for a six-minute TV match but I didn’t think it was that important to the overall scope of Rock’s career.
MATCH #3: King of the Ring Quarterfinal Match – Triple H vs. The Rock, Raw, 6.22.98
I’m glad to have this match actually, as I already have their more famous matches from this time period elsewhere. Triple H beat X-Pac and Rock beat Vader to get here. The winner of this match goes to the pay-per-view to face Dan Severn in the semifinals. Rock is the Intercontinental Champion and Triple H is the European Champion at this point but the neither belt is on the line. He charges at Helmsley right away and backs him into the corner. Rock dominates the reigning King of the Ring and gets a few near falls. Helmsley comes back with a neckbreaker. He hits a few of his signatures and gets a near fall. Rock fights back with a DDT but stalls on the cover and gets two. Rock hits the People’s Elbow, which was just starting to get over by this point. It’s not quite over as a finisher though, so Helmsley kicks out. Rock keeps the offense coming, and slugs HHH down it the corner. The European champion takes the fight to the floor and Rock overtakes him there. Rock gets back in the ring, and while the ref checks on HHH, Chyna enters the ring and gives Rock a DDT and HHH gets a two-count. They get up and trade sleepers. Chyna tries to interfere but Rock avoids it, only to get booted in the midsection and set up for the Pedigree. The ref is distracted by Chyna, giving Rock the chance to hit a low blow and the Perfect-Plex to get the pin at 8:10. D-X comes out after the match and the Nation follows and it’s a big brawl. The match was really solid and just about as good as their match from back in ’97 but in a different way. Both had already changed a lot as workers by this point. And we’ve got two more Triple H matches to go!
MATCH #4: WWE Championship Match (Final Round) – Mankind vs. The Rock, Survivor Series, 11.15.98
Mankind beat Duane Gill, Al Snow, and Stone Cold to make it to the finals. The Rock beat Big Boss Man, Ken Shamrock, and Undertaker. Mankind’s bow tie really adds to his ensemble. They start slowly, to put it generously. Ross and Lawler get in a great jab at WCW, noting that fans will see this entire match, right after WCW lost the feed before their last pay-per-view was over and had to give away the match for free the next night on Nitro. JR says “it’s not nice to make reference to those less fortunate than you.” “It may not be nice but it’s accurate,” Lawler retorts. The crowd is completely dead. They brawl in and out of the ring, and the McMahons make their way to ringside and Rock is distracted. They’re trying hard here but the crowd is pretty deflated after Austin got eliminated. Interesting tidbit: this was the first pay-per-view I ordered with a bunch of my friends, and our streak went all the way up until Summerslam 2002 before the era ended. The Rock introduces a chair to the match and the crowd perks up a bit. Back in the ring he gets a two-count. Mankind comes back with a low blow and chokes the Rock. They fight out on the announce table and JR is frightened. Mankind ends up taking a big table bump, and the Rock regains control. He hits the People’s Elbow to a huge pop but it only gets two. Mankind hits the Double Arm DDT and locks on the Mandible Claw. The Rock escapes and hits a Rock Bottom, then puts on the Sharpshooter, and McMahon orders the bell rung at 17:18 in a somewhat surprising swerve at the time. The match itself was pretty dull, and the crowd was not caring for most of it until the big bumps came in during the home stretch. They would go on to do MUCH better. Vince cuts a promo congratulating Rock, mocking Mankind, and making sure Austin looks like the biggest star. Rock abuses a confused Mankind (the McMahons had been pretending to back him in order to execute this ruse), hitting him with the belt and then hitting a Rock Bottom.
MATCH #5: Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship – Mankind vs. The Rock, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, 2.14.99
Mankind intentionally turns his back on the challenger, who goes right after the champ. He hits Rock in the face with the belt. Rock tries to walk up the entrance ramp but Mankind goes after him. They fight around the entrance, and Mankind delivers a DDT through a table but they get up at eight. They fight back up towards the ring and Mankind throws Rock into the steel steps. Rock recovers before the 10 count and comes back to the ring. Mankind promptly delivers a bodyslam and goes for Mr. Elbow, but Rock moves. They fight back to the floor and Rock delivers three suplexes outside the ring and the referee starts to count. Rock comes over to join the commentary team. He mocks his opponent, who soon charges him and beats him down behind the table. He drapes Rock over the table and hits a leaping elbow from the apron. Mankind brings the stairs into the ring but Rock kicks them back in his face, and starts working on Mankind’s injured knee. Rock hits a couple of shots, but winds up taking one to his own head and Mankind hits the Cactus Clothesline and they go to the floor again. Mankind goes for a piledriver on the announce table and Rock backdrops him and he lands by hitting his knees on the bell table and the back of his head on the other table. That looked horrifying. Rock then drops the steel steps on Mankind from the ring, and that would be a believable finish. It’s not though, so they go back to the ring and Rock hits the Corporate Elbow. Rock grabs the microphone to further mock his opponent. He sings his rendition of “Smackdown Hotel.” Mankind breaks it up with the Mandible Claw. Rock recovers from that and hits a low blow and a DDT and now both men are down. Rock tries to use a steel chair but Mankind hits a DDT on it instead. Mankind then puts on Mr. Socko but Rock kicks out of it. Mankind goes right back to it and this time Rock hits a Rock Bottom. They’re down for a bit and then both get up and hit each other with chairs. That’s the rather anti-climactic finish, as neither man can answer the 10-count and it’s a draw at 21:50. That was mostly a pretty fun brawl, but with that finish they could have done it in less time and had more intensity. It had the requisite big bumps and Rock getting on commentary and singing, so it was still very entertaining, but not nearly as good as the “I Quit” match. They both do stretcher jobs.
MATCH #6: Ladder Match for the WWE Championship – Mankind vs. The Rock, Raw, 2.15.99
Rock cuts a promo knocking the fans in attendance, and looking ahead to Stone Cold Steve Austin, whom Rock will face if he wins this ladder match. He then promises to beat Mankind and become a WWE Champion for the third time. He takes his time in expressing it. Mankind makes his way to the ring. Stone Cold follows to join the commentary team. Mankind knocks Rock right to the floor and they brawl. Mankind takes the knees to the steps bump, and Rock goes over and grabs a chair and tosses it in the ring. He throws Mankind in, and slams his knee into the chair, furthering his work from last night. Rock grabs the ladder, but Mankind recovers and delivers several chair shots to Rock under the ladder. He follows that up with Mr. Elbow. Mankind tries to climb the ladder but Rock knocks him down with the chair and goes to work on the knee, putting it between the ladder and going to town on it with a chair. Rock tries to climb but Mankind knocks him down, and they once again fight outside the ring and this time go around the crowd. They fight up the entrance ramp, with Rock focusing on the knee. Mankind then throws Rock into the steps, and he takes the Foley bump, but he avoids the stairs Mankind throws at him. They get up on an announce table and Rock hits the Rock Bottom. Both get back in the ring and Rock tries climbing the ladder first, so Mankind punches him in the balls. Mankind gets Socko out but Rock avoids it and hits a DDT. Rock climbs up, and Mankind follows on the other side. Paul Wight (not quite yet the Big Show) comes in the ring and chokeslams Mankind off the ladder to give Rock the win and the title for a third time at 13:01. That was actually better than their match last night, and was a really good main event for free TV. This sets up Mankind vs. Wight and Rock vs. Austin for the title at WrestleMania. Austin gets in the ring and gives the champion the Stone Cold Stunner, just to let him know he’s there.
MATCH #7: WWE Championship Match – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XV, 3.28.99
Austin forgot his vest, or it got lost or something, so he’s just wearing a t-shirt to the ring. They start throwing punches and almost immediately go to the floor. They fight into the crowd and the Philadelphia fans are hot for it. They fight up by the entrance ramp and Rock backdrops Austin, who lands hard on his knee on part of the set. He recovers though and kicks Rock square in the dick. But since Mr. McMahon made this a no-holds-barred match everything they’ve been doing to each other is legal. Austin goes for a suplex on the floor but Rock reverses it. Rock takes a water break and spits some of it in Austin’s face. Austin recovers and drops Rock across the guardrail, then hits an elbow on the Spanish Announce Table, which doesn’t break. Austin hits another elbow to this time break the table and then gives Rock a receipt for his water. Rock makes a brief comeback, but Austin is soon back on the attack. Back in the ring Rock hits a Rock Bottom and Austin kicks out. Rock brings a chair into the ring, but Austin takes it away and accidentally hits referee Mike Chioda. Rock then gains control of the chair and takes it to Austin’s injured knee. Rock then cracks Austin in the head with the chair, but Austin kicks out again. The Champ then brings out the chinlock. Austin fights out, but Rock cuts him off with a Samoan Drop for two. Rock is pissed this didn’t get the win, so he gives the referee the Rock Bottom. Austin then hits the Stunner on Rock, and Earl Hebner runs out to count but Rock kicks out at two. Mr. McMahon makes his way out to distract the challenger. Austin brings a chair into the ring but Rock hits a low blow before he can use it. Now McMahon is in the ring and he knocks Hebner out. He and Rock double team Austin. Mankind, who should have been the referee for this one, makes his way out and knocks McMahon down and Austin gets a schoolboy rollup for two. Austin hits the Thesz Press. Rock comes back with a Rock Bottom and goes for the Corporate Elbow. Austin moves and a series of reversals leads to Austin hitting the Stunner and winning the WWE Title for the third time at 16:52. That was a pretty good match and the WrestleMania crowd goes home happy, but it never felt really epic, like their match from two years later at this event would feel.
MATCH #8: Steel Cage Match – The Rock vs. Triple H, Raw, 7.5.99
This is a cage match where you can only win by escape; there’s not even a referee in the ring. Rock gets the first knockdown but HHH comes back, albeit briefly. I suppose there’s going to be a lot of brawling in this one. Rock tries to climb over the top but HHH pulls him down onto the turnbuckle. HHH maintains control and tries to climb out through the door but gets stopped. While trying to climb out, Chyna was able to hand HHH some handcuffs, and he nails Rock with them. He then tries to handcuff Rock to the cage, but he gets hit with a low blow instead and Rock goes on offense. HHH recovers and tries to climb out, but Rock grabs his arm and tosses him back to the ring. Rock tries to escape but Chyna interferes by grabbing the referee and slamming the door onto his head. She then pulls HHH to the door and he gets out, but the referee is out so no decision is made. Rock comes out and fights HHH up the aisle, and abuses Chyna too for good measure. The numbers get the advantage and Rock gets knocked down again. HHH tries the Pedigree on the floor but Rock blocks it and catapults him face first into the cage. Rock brings HHH back into the ring and the match will continue! Rock hits a few moves and tries to climb out only to be pulled back in. He hits HHH with a DDT. He goes to climb out again but decides to hit an ax handle off the top rope first. HHH comes back with a Facebuster and throws Rock into the cage and hits a clothesline, now both men are down. HHH gets up and tries to climb over, and almost makes it. Rock pulls him back in and joins him atop the cage. Chyna gets a chair up to HHH, who cracks it over Rock’s skull. HHH goes to get back in the ring but slips on the top rope and injures his balls. He then gets tied up in the ropes for a second, and I feel like they could have milked that a little bit. He starts crawling toward the door, and Rock starts climbing down and Rock wins by a hair at 13:57. That was an awesome TV main event, with good work, good heat, and a fun finish. These two always worked well together.
MATCH #9: WWE Tag Team Championship Match – The Rock & Mankind vs. Undertaker & Big Show, Raw, 8.30.99
This was during a rather severe period of musical chairs for the World Tag Team Titles, and Lilian Garcia sounds very awkward doing the ring announcing. Show gets in the ring and the challengers start clubbing him while Undertaker calmly takes his place on the apron. Rock ‘N Sock control early on until Show catches Mankind with a side suplex. He then slugs away at Mankind while looking to his partner for direction. Undertaker beats up Mankind outside the ring and then tosses him back inside for more abuse. Show this a powerslam but Rock breaks up the cover. Show then goes to the bear hug. Mankind escapes but gets cut off before he can mount much of a comeback. Undertaker also gets his shots in outside the ring. Show comes out to the floor and slams Mankind on a piece of announce table left over from earlier. Meanwhile, Paul Bearer is making his way to the ring. He’s out there for a reason, as Undertaker soon follows him to the back, and Show is all on his own. Mankind hits a low blow and finally makes the tag to Rock. Show nails them both with clotheslines and Chokeslams Rock. Mankind tries to use a chair and Show punches it back into his face. He goes to pin Rock but he kicks out. Show tries an elbow drop but misses. Mankind puts on Mr. Socko and Show pushes him off into the referee, who then doesn’t see Rock level Show with a steel chair. The challengers then hit the double People’s Elbow to get the win and their first Tag Team Title at 8:13. That was a reasonably fun match and a good inclusion on the disc since it’s the start of a short-lived but important part of Rock’s WWE career.
MATCH #10: No Holds Barred Match – The Rock vs. Kane, Smackdown, 12.30.99
Kane attacks Rock right away, and they trade maneuvers for the first minute or so. They fight up the entrance ramp as the crowd stays excited. They slug away at each other, and Rock hits a few punches in succession, knocking Kane off the ramp and through a table below. Kane recovers and ends up chokeslamming Rock through a table. They get back up to the ringside area and Rock throws Kane into the steps. That Tori chick introduces a chair to the match and then stands there so Kane can clothesline her. Rock then nails Kane with the chair, and then hits the Rock Bottom on a chair to get the pin at 5:14. That was fine for what it was, but I’m still wondering how exactly it made the cut.
MATCH #11: WWE Championship Match – Triple H vs. The Rock, Backlash, 4.30.00
HHH is accompanied by the Women’s Champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, and her father and chairman of the board Vince McMahon. Vince gets on the microphone to make sure everyone is aware of the “card subject to change” fine print. He says that in relation to Stone Cold not being here tonight. The match still goes on without him though, amazingly. These guys were such great opponents. They brawl in the early going, with Rock mostly controlling the champion. Shane gets sort of involved and that allows HHH to hit a neckbreaker. Rock comes back with a suplex and charges the champion, only to get thrown to the floor for his troubles. Vince then interferes, grabbing Rock and throwing him into the ring post before dumping him back in the ring. HHH is now in control, and in cahoots with the referee! The champion hits a nice vertical suplex and a knee drop for a couple of two counts. Rock tries to fight up but HHH puts on a sleeper. He grinds Rock down to the canvas and uses the ropes for additional leverage. Rock finally escapes but gets dropped with a clothesline for two. He comes back out of the corner punches by dropping the champion face first on the turnbuckle and unloading on him. They run the ropes and clothesline each other so both men are down. Shane is concerned with HHH, so he conveniently misses Vince leveling Rock with the WWE Championship belt. Shane makes a super fast count but Rock kicks out anyway. He fires up and throws HHH over the ropes to the floor. Rock follows him out and clotheslines him. Back in the ring Rock hits a DDT and Shane refuses to count, and gets served a knuckle sandwich for his troubles. That knocks Shane to the floor, and then HHH knocks Rock to the floor. He throws him into the steel steps. HHH then sets up for a Pedigree on the Spanish Announce Table, but Rock hits a low blow and sets up for the Rock Bottom. Shane jumps up on the table to protest, so Rock grabs him and delivers a double-decker Rock Bottom through the table! Rock throws HHH back in the ring, and then Vince comes in and challenges Rock, only to try and run when Rock spots him. That gives HHH the chance to hit a low blow and the Pedigree, but there’s no referee. Vince waves Gerald Brisco and Pat Patterson down to make the count. Patterson goes first and Rock kicks out. The Stooges then beat up on Rock and hold him for HHH to unload on him. Vince brings a chair into the ring and can’t even hit Rock without falling over. Athletic, he is not. HHH goes for the Pedigree but the Glass Breaks and Stone Cold is here! He had been MIA since getting run over in November. He unloads on HHH, Patterson, and Brisco in the aisle, and then levels Vince and Shane with the chair in the ring. HHH takes one on the skull too. Linda McMahon then comes out with referee Earl Hebner, who HHH and Stephanie fired a few weeks prior to this. Linda shoves an objecting Stephanie down. Back in the ring Rock hits the Rock Bottom and the People’s Elbow, and Hebner comes in to make the count and Rock wins the title for the fourth time at 19:24. Some might complain that it was overbooked but for the style at the time and everything they had going on it was fine and the match was awesome. This was one of those “living room ovation” matches, where my friends and I were so pumped to see Rock win the belt that we all stood up and cheered. I forgot what a great match this is. After the match Austin comes back down to celebrate with the Rock and a bunch of beer.
MATCH #12: Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship – The Rock vs. Shane McMahon, Raw, 5.1.00
Shane tries escaping right away but Rock will have none of it. He goes for the door and Vince tries to help him out but Rock thwarts that as well. The crowd just eats up everything he does. Shane gets the advantage and Triple H and Vince find ways to interfere, poking Rock with a stick. Rock brushes it off though and hits Shane with a DDT. HHH once again tries to use the stick, but Rock grabs it from him and breaks it over Shane’s back. Referee Patterson interferes, so Shane recovers and climbs to the top of the cage. Rock follows him up and knocks him out, but then Patterson interferes again, causing Rock to injure his groin on the top rope. Rock gets up and gives Patterson the Rock Bottom, just as Shane is coming to. Rock goes back to the top of the cage to grab Shane and drag him back in. Shane takes a pretty scary back bump and the crowd is on fire. Rock hits the People’s Elbow and goes to the door, but Brisco slams the door on his head. HHH, with a cast on his left arm, comes in the ring and starts throwing Rock around. Referee Earl Hebner comes out and takes Brisco out, and then slams the cage door on HHH. Rock then delivers a spinebuster to the Game, and then climbs over the top and to the floor to win the match at 9:14. People who don’t like the Rock are crazy, almost everything he touched turned to gold. This was a good TV main event, especially with a non-wrestler in there.
MATCH #13: WWE Championship Match – Kurt Angle vs. The Rock, No Way Out, 2.25.01
Rock starts off hot but Angle weathers the storm and starts to wear the Rock down. He hits a couple of suplexes, and Rock counters with one of his own. Both men are down for a second and then get back up to exchange blows. Rock hits the clothesline and locks on the Sharpshooter. Angle gets to the ropes and Rock goes right back to work, hitting a Samoan Drop for two. Angle briefly fights back but Rock gets in position to deliver a superplex, and he gets two off it. He recovers and sends Rock to the floor. Back in the ring Rock hits a sudden DDT and both men are down. Then for some reason Big Show’s music hits and he comes down to the ring and delivers chokeslams to the referee, Angle, and then the Rock. Angle is able to get his hand over Rock for a cover, but he kicks out at two. Rock goes and gets the title belt and nails Angle with it, but it only gets two. As both guys are recovering Angle grabs Rock in the Ankle Lock and holds him in it for quite a while before Rock makes the ropes. Angle gets a little cocky so Rock is able to catch him with a Spinebuster and the People’s Elbow for two. They get back up and one of the turnbuckle pads gets removed. Rock gets thrown into it and then Angle hits the Olympic Slam and Rock kicks out! The crowd is going ballistic. Rock is able to throw Angle into the exposed corner, and then hits the Rock Bottom and referee Hebner blows it by not counting three even though Angle didn’t lift his shoulder. One rule I was taught as a referee is that it’s the responsibility of the wrestler to lift his shoulder, and for the referee to act like what he’s doing is real. Rock yells at Hebner and delivers an emphatic Rock Bottom to win the title for the sixth time at 17:21. This was a super hot match but definitely loses major points for the senseless Big Show run-in and the botched finish, even if it was the referee’s fault.
MATCH #14: WCW Championship Match – Booker T vs. The Rock, SummerSlam, 8.19.01
Booker attacks right away but Rock is ready for him. Shane quickly gets involved and Rock chases him around the ring. Booker still can’t get the advantage, as Rock hits a Samoan Drop for two. Booker’s offense is fleeting, as Rock seemingly has a counter for everything. Booker finally hits a kick to the face and gets his first near fall. The fight spills to the floor, and Rock gains a momentary advantage and quite clearly punches Booker in the balls. Booker regains the advantage and throws Rock around, including into the steel ring post. Back in the ring Booker stays in control and grounds the challenger. Rock fights back and puts on the Sharpshooter, so Shane jumps up on the apron to distract the referee. Rock brings Shane into the ring and the distraction allows Booker to hit a Superkick for two. Rock comes back and catapults Booker into the exposed turnbuckle, and then hits a DDT for two. The referee gets distracted and Shane sneaks into the ring and nails Rock with the belt. The APA comes down to chase Shane around the ring, and Bradshaw LEVELS Shane with a clothesline. Booker hits a Book End for two. Rock soon takes over and is able to hit the Spinebuster and the People’s Elbow. Shane has somehow recovered and he interrupts the count. Rock chases Shane to the floor and delivers a Rock Bottom right outside the ring. Back inside Booker comes back and hits a spinebuster. He delivers the Spinaroonie, which gives Rock the chance to recover, pop up and hit the Rock Bottom, and win the WCW Title at 15:18. Booker looked completely out of Rock’s league but they still had a really good match, and as usual the crowd is hot for everything Rock.
MATCH #15: WWE Undisputed Championship Match – Chris Jericho vs. The Rock, Royal Rumble, 1.20.02
It may not have been the best reign, but Jericho was still the first-ever WWE Undisputed Champion. Rock doesn’t seem too impressed ad he tosses Jericho around, chases him around the ring, and hits a spear and some more right hands. Jericho makes a brief comeback before running his shoulder into the ring post. They trade control back and forth, keeping up the high energy pace Rock is known for. Jericho soon slows it down and tries to wear Rock down, even working in the Arrogant Cover. Rock avoids a Walls of Jericho attempt, but Jericho is able to maintain control. He hits a missile dropkick for two. He then goes to the chinlock to try and wear Rock down. That goes on for a bit, and then Rock recovers and hits a superplex. Both men are knocked down, and when they get up Rock is on fire, hitting some right hands and that weird belly-to-belly suplex he started doing. Jericho comes back with the Facebuster and the Lionsault, but he doesn’t go for the pin. Instead he hits a second Lionsault and now Rock can kick out after taking his finisher twice, not just once. Jericho tries another missile dropkick, but Rock catches it and puts him in the Sharpshooter. Lance Storm and Christian run out to save the champion, and Rock takes them both out with no problem. Jericho then hits the Rock Bottom but Rock kicks out at two. Jericho then tries his own People’s Elbow, but Rock pops up and tosses him to the floor. Jericho regains the advantage and sets Rock up for a Rock Bottom on the Spanish Announce Table, but Rock blocks it and hits one of his own through the English announce table. After they both recover Rock brings Jericho into the ring and goes for a cover, but Jericho kicks out at two. Rock tries another Rock Bottom but Jericho fights out of it and puts on the Walls of Jericho. Rock reaches the ropes and then gets an inside cradle for two. The referee takes a bump, so Jericho uses the belt and gets a near fall when referee Nick Patrick runs down. Jericho complains to him, so Rock gets up and hits a DDT. Nick Patrick won’t count for him for some reason, and I don’t recall if this was part of any sort of angle or whatever. He takes a Rock Bottom either way. Jericho then gets a spinebuster and then the People’s Elbow. Of course there’s no referee so Rock doesn’t get credit for the pin. Rock tries to revive the referee, and Jericho recovers enough to deliver a low blow, ram Rock’s head into the exposed turnbuckle, and use the ropes for leverage on a rollup to pin Rock at 18:49. That was another fantastic match slightly marred by unnecessary interference. Rock had this ability, even though he kicked out of several of Jericho’s finishers, to make his opponent look good no matter what. I love that Jericho executed three separate cheat codes to get the pin.
MATCH #16: The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania X8, 3.17.02
Howard Finkel’s voice is badly dubbed in for ring introductions. What’s the deal with that? The crowd is ridiculously hot even before the bell rings. They lock up and Hogan shoves Rock down to a big pop. Well I guess Toronto has decided that Hogan will be the babyface here. Hogan scores another knockdown and does some classic poses. Hogan continues with his boring offense but the crowd eats it up. Rock fights back with a clothesline and he gets a good chorus of boos but some cheers are there too. Rock hits a series of right hands and Hulk can’t bump over the top rope so he takes a sissy powder to the floor. Rock follows him out and continues the beating. He throws Hogan back into the ring and continues slugging at him. Another clothesline sends Hogan down. Rock tries the Rock Bottom but Hogan fights out. He goes back on offense as the crowd chants his name. Rock comes back with a spear and starts heeling it up with the crowd. Hogan takes back over with punches, kicks, bites, and scratches. Rock really starts acting like a prick so Hogan chokeslams him (sort of) and then chokes him on the ground. Hogan takes off the wrist tape and chokes Rock with that. Rock gets out and comes charging, only to get tossed over the top rope to the floor. They fight on the floor as Hogan readies the announce table. No one goes through it, but Rock takes a clothesline. Back in the ring the referee takes a bump. Rock hits a spinebuster and both men are down. They both get up but Rock takes Hogan down and puts on the Sharpshooter. Hogan fights back and hits the Rock Bottom but Rock kicks out. Hogan then takes off his weightlifting belt and whips Rock with it. Rock fights back with a DDT. Rock gives Hogan a taste of his own medicine with the belt, and the crowd hates him for it! Rock even spits on the belt before whipping Hogan with it. The man is a genius. Then he hits a Rock Bottom but Hogan kicks out and Hulks Up! He this the Big Boot and the Legdrop and Rock kicks out much to the shock of Hogan and the crowd. Hogan tries it again but Rock moves this time. He hits two Rock Bottoms and lands the People’s Elbow to get the pin at 16:23. I hate people who can’t admit that’s an entertaining match. If you can’t say that you are just far too jaded. Every once in a while a match like this can succeed solely on story and spectacle and this is one of those. Most will say I’m overrating it, but that’s cool, I can take it. After the match Hogan shakes Rock’s hand and incurs the wrath of Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, his nWo cronies. Rock comes back to make the save and gives Hogan his moment in the sun.
MATCH #17: Triple Threat Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship – Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker vs. The Rock, Vengeance, 7.21.02
This was during Undertaker’s “I want to prove I’m a fighter” phase, which was when he was at his most annoying. Rock and Undertaker ignore Angle early on, but when he demands they pay attention to him they double team him right out of the ring. Rock and Undertaker fight until Rock throws him to the floor, and Angle throws him into the steps and goes into the ring to start throwing suplexes at Rock. They trade strikes and Angle throws another suplex. Rock comes back with a DDT for two. The battle spills to the floor and Undertaker knocks both of them down. Undertaker and Rock go back to the ring with the champion in control. Rock tries fighting back but Undertaker hits a side suplex. Rock fights up and hits a chokeslam for two when Angle breaks it up. Rock tries the Ankle Lock but Angle rolls out of it and hits a Rock Bottom. Undertaker breaks up that pin. He then hits an Olympic slam on Angle. Rock breaks that one up, of course. Angle gets tossed to the floor, and Rock hits the People’s Elbow on Undertaker. Angle pulls him out of the ring and slams him on the announce table. He goes in the ring to make a cover but the champion kicks out. The fight once again goes to the floor and Undertaker abuses Angle. Rock spits water in Undertaker’s face and brings him over to the table. Undertaker throws Rock on the table, and then goes over and bloodies Angle’s head. He brings the Olympian back into the ring and beats him up some more, hitting Old School. Rock breaks up that pin, and mocks Undertaker’s motorcycle riding. Undertaker fights back and goes for a chokeslam, but they instead play ping-pong with Angle’s head. The referee takes a shot and Angle takes that opportunity to nail Undertaker with a chair. He then hits the Rock Bottom on Rock. Unfortunately for him he can’t pin either man. Rock puts on the Sharpshooter, but that gets broken up. Undertaker hits the Last Ride on the Rock, but Angle pulls him off with the Ankle Lock. Undertaker goes for the Last Ride on Angle, who locks on that choke he was doing at the time. He tries to get the pin, but Angle is tenacious. Rock comes over and goes for the Rock Bottom, but Angle slips away and locks on the Ankle Lock. Rock rolls through and gets a victory roll for two. Angle then takes a chokeslam. Rock hits Undertaker with the Rock Bottom but the champ kicks out. Angle takes the straps down. It turns out to be a bummer for him though, as Rock hits the Rock Bottom to score the pin and win the title by pinning the guy who was not the champion at 19:35. That one annoyance about the finish aside, this was an awesome three-way match, with non-stop action and no contrived spots, just guys ripping off finishers left and right and a hot crowd to match.
MATCH #18: The Rock vs. Eddie Guerrero, Raw, 7.22.02
This is a non-title match, and if Eddie wins he gets a shot at the title next week. Eddie tries to out-quick and out-wrestle Rock, but the champion stays one step ahead. Rock hits the overhead throw, but misses a clothesline and Eddie hits a back suplex. Eddie now goes to work, stomping and elbowing Rock and keeping him on the mat. He uses the chinlock for a bit, but Rock fights out of it. Eddie hits a dropkick for two. He then goes to the headscissors to wear Rock down. He tries using the ropes for leverage but referee Earl Hebner catches him. Eddie covers Rock for a two-count. Rock fights up but Eddie cuts him off with a clothesline. He then goes back to the chinlock. Rock fights up and hits a series of right hands to knock Eddie down. A DDT gets two for the champion. Eddie hits another clothesline, but Rock nips right back up and goes for the Rock Bottom. Eddie awesomely counters it to a rollup for two (the crowd bought it hard). Eddie hits a rana and snaps Rock’s neck off the top rope Randy Savage style. He tries the Frog Splash but Rock moves and hits the spinebuster and the People’s Elbow to get the pin at 8:32. Too bad they couldn’t have Eddie pull this one, because a title match twice as long as this would have been really hot. As it is this was a good TV match for the time given and they showed good chemistry.
MATCH #19: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XIX, 3.30.03
Rock’s entrance video during this run was awesome. They naturally brawl to start, and they fight out to the floor early on. Austin has the advantage and throws Rock into the railing and the steel steps. Back in the ring Austin stays in control, choking Rock on the middle rope. Austin jaws with the referee, giving Rock the chance to take Austin’s knee out. They go back to the floor and Rock continues attacking the knee. In the ring the assault continues, but Austin won’t stay down for very long. Rock is so brilliant as a heel it’s disgusting. He puts on the Sharpshooter, which Austin has certainly felt before. Austin reaches the ropes. Rock then wraps Austin’s leg around the ring post and slams it a few times. Rock puts Austin’s vest on just to be a jerk, but Austin fires up and they clothesline each other. Both men are down. They get up and start firing, and Austin lands a Thesz Press. Austin hits the F-U elbow to score a near fall. Austin brings Rock to the corner and stomps a mud hole in him. Rock fights back with a clothesline and nips up. He can’t help taunting the crowd, which gives Austin the chance to nail a Rock Bottom for two. Austin goes for the Stunner but Rock counters to one of his own for two. Both are up and Rock hits a series of right bands but Austin ducks one and hits the Stunner. Rock kicks out! The referee tries to reprimand Austin for something, so he shoves him out of the way and Rock takes the opportunity to hit a low blow. Rock sets up for the People’s Elbow, but Austin moves and goes for another Stunner. Rock blocks it and hits the spinebuster, throws Austin’s vest off, and this time hits the People’s Elbow. That only gets two. Austin turns around into a Rock Bottom but he kicks out! Austin gets up and Rock hits another Rock Bottom. Austin looks to be in legitimate pain at this point, but he kicks out again! Rock is pissed. He hits a third Rock Bottom and that is finally enough to get the pin at 17:53 and Rock has now done it all. I liked the match more than I remember liking it before, since it was so different than their other two matches. Also, it doesn’t matter that they each hit so many finishers because between the two of them they would wrestle two more matches in WWE (both of them Rock), so it’s not like they needed protection anymore. I think this match gets overshadowed because of Michaels versus Jericho and Angle versus Lesnar from this show, but it’s really quite good.