Historically Speaking: Maivia versus Helmsley

“At the heart of good history is a naughty little secret: good storytelling.” – Stephen Schiff

The Opening Chapter
There are a lot of different reasons why we all like pro wrestling. For some it’s the action. For some it’s the violence. For some it’s the sexuality. And for others it’s because of the great storytelling. At the heart of any good story, wrestling or not, is conflict. Conflict between two sides. Good and evil. Two easily distinguishable opponents. These are the things that also make a good story in wrestling. Feuds between two different characters that can wage on for months or years with no end in sight, yet the fans are still there supporting it, because it means something to them. It’s engaging and entertaining.

A good, long, well-told story within a wrestling rivalry is hard to come by these days with sometimes two pay per views a month and weekly television. But they are still there, just harder to come by. This week will be the first of a recurring feature highlighting famous feuds in wrestling; iconic rivalries that lasted years and made stars of both of the competitors. And our first entry involves a man returning to action this Sunday at SummerSlam-Triple H. HHH has had quite a few iconic rivalries, but the one that started it all and put him on his path to superstardom was with a man then simply known as Rocky Maivia.

Rocky Maivia versus Hunter Hearst-Helmsley who?
The year was 1996. A young kid named Rocky Maivia had just debuted in the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, and was the sole survivor in an eight man Survivor Series elimination match. The opposing team’s captain was a man called “The American Blueblood” Hunter Hearst-Helmsley. This be the start to a rivalry that no one could have predicted would have put both men into the stratosphere.

Flash forward to February 1997 and a special Thursday night edition of RAW. WWF was getting its ass kicked by WCW and was looking to make major changes. On the night when Shawn Michaels “lost his smile” it was decided that this young blue chipper Rocky Maivia would upset Helmsley for the Intercontinental Championship, to once again prove that anything can happen on RAW. This changed up the card for the upcoming “Final Four” In Your House PPV as Ahmed Johnson would not get his Intercontinental Title shot; instead Helmsley would cash in his rematch, and Maivia would be pulled from a six man tag against The Nation of Domination. Maivia won the rematch, and then went on to dismal Title reign as the crowds turned against him, chanting “Die Rocky Die.” He would drop the belt to Owen Hart later in the spring and then go out with an injury. Meanwhile Helmsley was embroiled in a feud with Goldust that saw the debut of Chyna.

Gang Warfare
As 1997 turned into 1998 both men would go undergo drastic career changes. Triple H had dropped the blueblood gimmick and was paired with real life friend Shawn Michaels as DeGeneration X. Maivia, meanwhile, had returned from his injury a bitter man and joined The Nation of Domination. He had also begun referring to himself as The Rock and spoke in third person. After some lineup changes in their respective camps during the spring of ’98, HHH and The Rock had emerged as the dominant leaders of their factions and were destined to collide again, only this time Helmsley was the good guy and Rock was the villain.

They started up again in May ’98 as Rock, then Intercontinental Champion, went to a double count-out with Helmsley, then European Champion on RAW. The pair met again in June on RAW, this time with Rock coming out on top. The build-up continued as DX did an absolutely hilarious parody of the Nation, one that has become classic and is sure to be found on Triple H’s career retrospective when it comes out years from now. Along the way, HHH dropped the European Title to Rock’s Nation co-hort D-Lo Brown and the stage was set for a 2-out-3 falls Intercontinental Title match for Fully Loaded. They went to a 30 minute time limit draw, and the rivalry kicked into a higher gear. The pair was set to do battle again at SummerSlam, this time for the Intercontinental Title; this time in a ladder match. HHH won that match and the belt, but suffered a serious knee injury and had to vacate the belt and be taken off TV.

Corporate Fighting
While Helmsley had been gone, Rock was positioned as the leader of Mr. McMahon’s Corporation and became the WWF World Heavyweight Champion. HHH returned in late 1998 and picked right where he left off, only now he and DX were fighting The Corporation instead of The Nation. Their individual rivalry continued as Helmsley lost a pair of WWF Title matches to Rock on RAW during December and January.

At WrestleMania, HHH and Chyna turned on DX and joined The Corporation, putting Triple H and The Rock on the same side since their rivalry began. The pair even teamed together once to battle The Big Show. The alliance wouldn’t last long as by May The Rock was now a hero once again and was set to do battle with his old rival for a third go-around.

The Rock beat Hunter at Over the Edge in May 1999 by disqualification. They continued to battle throughout the summer and were finally set to blow things off again at Fully Loaded ’99. Unlike the previous year at Fully Loaded, the Intercontinental Title wasn’t on the line, rather a shot at the WWF Title. And this time it was a strap match. Triple H got the win thanks to some interference and was now on his way to the WWF Title, while The Rock would settle into a new role as a crowd-pleasing face.

Fighting for Top Billing
The two men were now both legitimate main event players, and to prove that they battled each other on the inaugural edition of SmackDown! for HHH’s WWF Championship. Helmsley won, once again thanks to interference. In September they found themselves in a six pack challenge for the vacant WWF Championship, alongside Kane, Mankind, The Big Show and The British Bulldog. Triple H came out on top again. The next night on RAW, Rock and Helmsley went to a no-contest due to interference and then the next weekend at the UK-only Rebellion PPV, Helmsley beat Rock in a cage match to retain the gold. Two months later at Survivor Series the stage was set for the biggest main event since Hogan-Andre with Rock, Helmsley and Steve Austin battling in a triple threat for the WWF Championship. Unfortunately Austin was injured and The Big Show stepped in, and ended winning the belt in surprise fashion.

The build up to WrestleMania 2000 saw The Rock win the Royal Rumble, last eliminating Big Show, while Triple H “retired” Mick Foley after a series of brutal matches. After many convoluted set-ups, the WrestleMania main event ended up being Rock, HHH, Show and Foley in a four way match. Triple H walked out still as Champion, making him the first heel ever to leave WrestleMania as World Champion.
This really just all built up Rock-HHH, round four. The pair met for the championship at Backlash 2000, with The Rock finally winning the belt back after over a year without it. A rematch was set for Judgment Day, this time a 60 minute iron man match. After some creative finishes, Triple H walked out as the new champion. On the June 5 RAW, Triple H beat Rock in a rematch. The stage was now set for a six man tag at King of the Ring with The Rock, Kane and Undertaker on one side against Triple H, Vince McMahon and Shane McMahon, and the sole winner of the match would win the WWF Championship. The Rock pinned Vince and thus won the Title back. The pair continued to fight with each off and on throughout the summer before finally culminating with a triple threat match at SummerSlam 2000, featuring Rock, HHH and Kurt Angle that saw Rock walk out still champion.

The pair spent the fall and spring battling different rivals, but were never too far from each other. Their last big time meeting against each other was in a six way Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon in December 2000 that also included Rikishi, Kurt Angle, Steve Austin and Undertaker.

Soon into 2001, Triple H went out with his quad tear and The Rock started making movies and wrestling part-time. Once the brand expansion happened in the spring of 2002, the pair only met a few times, including a August 2002 match on RAW that saw interference from Brock Lesnar and a triple threat between Rock, HHH and Lesnar at the Australia-only Global Warming show.

The Rock made one last return to WWE in 2004 to help Mick Foley in his battle against Triple H’s running buddies in Evolution, but the pair never crossed paths. In February 2005, The Rock announced that he is officially no longer contracted to WWE, thus putting an end to the epic Rock-Triple H rivalry.

The Perspective
From late 1996 until early 2001, the names The Rock and Triple H were never too far away from each other. They started as low card talent, fighting for the Intercontinental Title. They then evolved into revolutionary mid-card acts that helped re-revolutionize what a stable meant in wrestling. From there they fought into the upper-card and a chance at the big gold belt. And finally they spent well over a year headlining shows and fighting off and on for the WWF Championship. This rivalry, spanning over four years, truly showed how two men can build each other up without hurting their own careers. Except for a brief few weeks they were never ever on the same side of the fence. There were four separate and distinguishable chapters in their feud and sadly no ending has been written yet. We all the know The Rock ain’t coming back to the ring, but yet we all clamor for dream matches with The Rock facing Michaels or Cena or Orton. While I would love to see him in a verbal battle with Cena and in a third generation story against Orton, if Rocky comes back for just more time, let’s make it one for old times sake and see if we can’t put a real close on this story that started so long ago between “The Blue Chipper” and “The American Blueblood.”

For this week the vault is closed

Linked to the Pulse
After looking at a rather famous feud this week, the ying to my yang, David Brashear, continues his stellar series of looking at feuds and gimmicks that just didn’t live up their hype. This week he looks at David Young’s troubles in TNA.

Phil Clark and special guest Mike Campbell use their puro expertise to dissect the first seven years NOAH.

Iain talks about Xanta Claus, the tangled mess of the WWF Light Heavyweight Title and an interesting use for a cowbell in the last Pulse Wrestling. It truly is a glorious edition.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1929 – Dick Shikat defeated Jim Londos for the NWA Heavyweight Wrestling title & the NY World Heavyweight title
1982 – Bruiser Brody defeated Brian Blair for the Florida State Heavyweight title
1993 – Jeff Jarrett defeated Vampire Warrior for the USWA Southern Heavyweight title
1999 – Triple-H defeated Mankind for the WWF Heavyweight title
1999 – Mark Henry was awarded the WWF European Heavyweight title from Jeff Jarrett
1999 – Barry & Kendall Windham defeated Harlem Heat for the WCW Tag Team title

1996 – Neil Superior died after an altercation with police at 33

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Nova implemented history assignments for the students of the developmental territories months ago so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova did create. I feel this is a smashing idea and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

A wrestling history buff like myself, loves when he finds a book or DVD that opens up a whole new wealth of information. So when the WWE put The Spectacular Legacy of the AWA I was terribly excited as I was quite young or not alive during the AWA’s heyday and only saw flashes of their show in the late ‘80s off a Fargo, ND, affiliate station. Not knowing what it was really like back then, I feel like WWE did a very good job of portraying the AWA in a positive light and giving them their credit when it was due. They managed to find a solid cast of old AWA regulars to tell the story the way they saw it and made the documentary seem authentic. Nick Bockwinkle is still an eloquent sounding man and should be used for more of these docs. They even got wrestling historian Mike Chapman to lend his expertise. Most of the matches in the extras section aren’t really my cup of tea but there is some early Rockers stuff on there that is worth a look. The documentary I feel is top notch however and so if that’s your thing then I wholeheartedly recommend this. It just needed more “Rock ‘n’ Roll” Buck Zumhoff. What?

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