Well you knew I was going to hit THIS one sooner or laterâ€¦
Another day, another definitive three disc collection. This is part of the “new format” WWE releases, where they talk about a match and then show it, rather than the more traditional documentary followed by extra matches, except in this case the “talk and show” format is even more tacked-on than usual and it’s basically just a collection of matches.
So we start with a brief history of Peter Maivia, as the narrator traces the complex family tree of Samoan wrestlers with a helpful graphic, and we get pictures of the young Rock at WWF shows before burning through his college career and into his WWF debut in 1996. Which brings us toâ€¦
WWF Intercontinental title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley v. Rocky Maivia.
From Thursday RAW Thursday in Feb 1997. The video before the match has a quick shot of Hunter with Mr. Hughes as a bodyguard, which I don’t remember at all. This was of course the start of a very long and successful feud that saw them switch back and forth through several gimmick changes and personas between them, which is kind of weird when you think about it. They do a wrestling sequence to start and the fans immediately start with “Rocky sucks” as Hunter slaps him around off an Indian deathlock. JR notes that Hunter is quite cerebral, so blame him for that one. Rocky fires off a dropkick to put Hunter on the floor. Back in, the champ slugs away and drops an elbow on Rocky’s neck, then hits the chinlock. Rock fights up and another dropkick sends Hunter out again, and they brawl on the floor. Rock charges and hits the ringpost, something he’d never do later on. Back in, Hunter uses an armbar takedown and standing armbar to work on the arm. Rock fights up and falls victim to another armbar takedown, which gets two for the champ. Hunter throws chops in the corner and we take a break, returning with Hunter slugging away in the corner as Honky Tonk Man joins us at ringside. Hunter with the suplex and he follows with, what else, a kneedrop for two. Rock fights up again and Hunter puts him down with a high knee for two, once again showing the wide range of knee-related offense he used to be known for. Sleeper, but Rocky reverses, so Hunter runs him into the corner to break. Rock slugs back with his goofy offense and follows with a backdrop, then heads up with a high cross that Hunter rolls through for two. Hunter USES THE KNEE to stop the comeback and follows with a neckbreaker for two. Piledriver gets two. Hunter puts him on the top rope and brings him down with a superplex, which gets two. Pedigree looks to finish, but Rock reverses to a small package to win his first title and begin a career of greatness at 13:28. Started slow, got really good once the beatdown of Rocky produced the near-falls at the end, and although you could see the finish coming down Main Street it still worked. ***
– The narrator dramatically relates how the crowds turned on him, although they use footage of his actual heel run in 1998 so that kind of deflates the point. We jump ahead to the Nation era from there as Rock takes over.
WWF Intercontinental title: The Rock v. Owen Hart
From RAW, April 1998. I thought they were showing the title change from April 97 rather than this one. Rock slugs away in the corner to start, but misses a charge and Owen takes him down with an armdrag. Rock escapes and slaps him around on the mat, but Owen controls with the armbar again. Kama Mustafa trips up Owen and gets thrown out as a result. Owen uses the distraction to grab a sleeper, but Rock reverses to the hurricane DDT for two. Shoulderbreaker sets up the People’s Elbow, which gets two. It was just a goofy move at that point rather than the finisher it became around October of that year. Rock charges and hits an elbow, allowing Owen to slug away and come back with a neckbreaker for two. Owen pounds him in the corner and follows with a leg lariat for two. Rock Bottom is blocked and Owen hits the ENZUIGIRI OF DEATH, into the Sharpshooter, but Chyna runs in for the DQ at 5:45. No idea why they picked this one. **
– So we get a quick video of the Nation v. DX feud, which brings us to King of the Ring 98’s quarterfinalsâ€¦
The Rock v. HHH
From RAW, June ’98. Rock attacks and slugs away in the corner, and an elbow gets two. Rock puts him down with a clothesline for two. He puts his head down and Hunter hits him with a neckbreaker and slugs him in the corner, then follows with a suplex and kneedrop for two. Rock comes back with the DDT for two. Suplex gets two. People’s Elbow gets two. JR still won’t call it that, whereas Michael Cole in the Owen match did, so as much as it pains me to admit, I think Cole coined the term. Hope he gets royalties. Rock chokes away on the ropes and slugs HHH in the corner, then adds some rare choking. HHH slugs back and puts Rock down, then follows with the high knee and a facecrusher. Rock bails to escape, but then heads back in to gloat and gets laid out by Chyna. HHH gets two off that and then goes to the sleeper, but Rock reverses. Chyna distracts him into releasing it and Hunter goes for the Pedigree, but Rock goes low and finishes with a fisherman’s suplex at 8:07. We’re only three matches in and already it’s two clean jobs by HHH. Best DVD ever! Match was a typical TV match from the time. **1/2
– Later that year, Rock turns face and moves onto Survivor Seriesâ€¦
WWF World title tournament finals: The Rock v. Mankind
Another beginning of a long and successful feud. They fight for the lockup to start and Rock slugs him out of that and chokes away in the corner. Rock with a clothesline out of the corner for two and Mankind bails, as they brawl up the aisle and back in for a chinlock from Mankind. Vince and Shane join us at ringside as Rock fights out of the chinlock with a backdrop suplex and they hit the floor again. Mick goes for a suplex out there, but Rock reverses and goes after Vince, which allows Mankind to attack. Rock fights him off and gets a weak suplex onto the floor, and they brawl into the crowd and back again. Back in, Rock hits the chinlock as they’re having a rough time working out the match, according to Foley’s book, but Mankind fights up and puts Rock down with a knee to the gut. Cactus clothesline sends them back to the floor again and Mankind adds a chairshot. He picks up the stairs to follow, but Rock hammers it with the chair and then hits Mick in the face with it. Back in, that gets two. Rock slugs away in the corner, but Mick goes low and chokes him out on the ropes. Back to the floor, and Mick drops the elbow off the apron and then puts Rock on the table for a legdrop. Back in, that gets two. And Mick goes back to the chinlock again, but Rock fights up and slugs away until a blind charge puts him on the floor. Back in, Rock comes back with the DDT and slugs away, but charges again and gets dumped. Mick dives at him with another elbow, but Rock moves and Mick goes through the poor, defenseless Spanish announce table. Back in, it’s the People’s Elbow, which gets two. Mankind gets the DDT and it’s Mandible Sock time, but Rock reverses to Rock Bottom. Double KO, but Rock rolls over for two. Rock debuts his crappy version of the Sharpshooter, and Vince rings the bell, rings the fucking bell at 17:14 to make Rock the Corporate champion. This one never really got going, but they’d have far better ones just a couple of months later. **1/2
Last Man Standing: Mankind v. The Rock
Now remember, there MUST be a winner. I actually forgot that Mankind was the champion at this point. And donâ€™t forget, there absolutely has to be a winner, no exceptions. Rock attacks to start and goes for the knee that he injured on Sunday Night Heat. Mankind comes back with a belt to the head, and that gets an 8 count. They fight up the aisle and Rock gets sent into the set, but comes back and whips Mick into it as well. Over to the website table, where Mankind DDTs Rock through the table. Rock answers the bell at 8. Back to the crowd, where Rock gets a sudden backdrop suplex and Mick takes yet another bump onto concrete, but heâ€™s up at 3. Back to ringside and Rock gets whipped into the stairs. Into the ring for a Peopleâ€™s Elbow from Mankind, but it misses. Well, heâ€™s not the Great One. Rock comes back and slugs Mick out of the ring, and follows with a suplex on the floor. Rock takes a break to do color commentary while the ref counts Mick down, but heâ€™s up at 7. Rock threatens to give him â€œA Rock burger with a little extra Rock sauce on the sideâ€ but Mick attacks him to cut off the food-related smack talk and drops the elbow from the apron to the table. Rock answers the bell at 8. Back into the ring and Mankind charges with the stairs, but gets them kicked back in his face. Rock gets a chair and goes after the knee again, but does the silly spot where he hits the ropes and knocks himself out with it. Cactus clothesline puts both guys on the floor and they brawl back to the announce table again. Mick goes for a piledriver, but Rock backdrops him into the timekeeperâ€™s table and thus hurts the leg again. Rock tosses the stairs onto Mickâ€™s leg for good measure in a sick spot, but Mick still answers the bell. Rock grabs the mike and stops to sing â€œSmackdown Hotelâ€, but Mick awakes and gives him the Mandible Sock in mid-chorus. Rock answers the bell at 8 and comes back with a DDT, which puts Mankind down for 8. Mankind gets his own DDT for 8. Mr. Socko is countered with Rock Bottom and then they hit each other with chairs, and itâ€™s a draw at 21:52. The crowd chants â€œbullshitâ€, rightly so given that they stressed several times that there MUST BE A WINNER. Definitely the lesser of their series, as they had good chemistry but not epic chemistry like Rock and Austin did. ***
WWF World title, ladder match: Mankind v. The Rock
From the next night on RAW, this is the forgotten match in their series. Rock cuts a weird promo about getting Mankind drunk on tequila and fisting him or something, which should at least creep Mick out if not intimidate him. Mick attacks to start and they fight on the floor, resulting in Rock meeting the stairs, followed by Mick. Rock tosses a chair into the ring and smashes Mick’s knee into it, allowing him to retrieve the ladder, but Mick beats him down with the chair and hits a People’s Elbow of his own. Mick does the first climb, but Rock puts him down with the chair and clips him. He sandwiches the leg in the ladder and pounds it with the chair, allowing him to climb for the belt. Mick yanks him off to stop him and puts him down with the chair again, but Rock puts him down with the chair and slugs away on the ropes. Mankind goes low and they fight to the floor, taking it into the crowd, where Mick puts Rock on a piece of railing and drops an elbow on him. A second one misses, allowing Rock to bring him back to ringside with a clothesline over the railing and take over. They fight up the ramp, where Rock suplexes him on the ramp, then chokes him out with a cable at ringside. Mick whips him into the stairs, however, and drops them on Rock’s back, and it’s over to that innocent Spanish table again. Mick wants a piledriver, but Rock reverses to Rock Bottom to put him through. Back in, Rock climbs, but Mick goes low and adds the double-arm DDT, setting up Mr. Socko. Rock hits him in the face with the ladder to block that, and DDTs him to follow. Rock climbs and they slug it out on top, but Mick gets the Mandible Sock to put Rock down. Sadly, Big Show comes out and chokeslams him off to end the dream, and Rock regains the World title at 12:55. See, they cut all the crap out of this one and the result was a lean and mean street fight with minimal ladder “drama” like slow climbing and contrived spots. Me like. ***1/2
And that brings us toâ€¦
WWF World title: The Rock v. Steve Austin
From Wrestlemania XV. They actually alter the graphic to say “WWE champion”, which makes me very sad. Rock attacks on the floor right away and slugs away in the ring, but Austin tosses him and they brawl into the crowd right away. Back to ringside, where Austin tosses Rock right back into the crowd again, forcing Rock to clothesline him over the railing and choke away with a cable. They brawl up the aisle and Rock takes some fairly crazy bumps onto the set pieces and into the lights, allowing Austin to choke him with another cable. Austin whips him into the Wrestlemania logo and they head back to ringside, where Austin tries a suplex and Rock reverses him onto the floor. Over to the announce position, where Rock stops to enjoy some water and spit it at Austin (as HHH goes “Hmmmâ€¦”), before Austin puts him on the Spanish table and drops an elbow off the railing. That fails to break the table, so he repeats the spot and that does the trick. Back in, Austin decides to toss Rock again and we’re back to the floor where Rock meets the stairs. Back in, we finally start the match proper, and Rock hits Rock Bottom for two. He grabs a chair and heads back in, but the ref gets wiped out via a nasty chairshot as a result and he’s done. Rock gets a neckbreaker and grabs the chair, but has to fight off a stunner before pounding on Austin’s knee with the chair. Massive chair to the face gets two as another ref joins us. Rock clothesline gets two, and we hit the chinlock. Austin fights up, so Rock clotheslines him again and goes back to it. Austin fights out, but walks into a samoan drop and Rock gets two. Rock is frustrated and takes it out on Tim White with a Rock Bottom, allowing Austin to hit KICK WHAM STUNNER for two, as we have a third ref in the form of Earl Hebner. Vince heads out to deal with things himself, distracting him long enough for Rock to go low, and he joins into a beatdown in the corner as the ref gets bumped yet again. Mankind returns from the hospital to save and gets rid of Vince, and Austin cradles Rock for two. Thesz Press and elbowdrop follow, but Rock comes back with a clothesline and Rock Bottom into the People’s Elbowâ€¦which misses. KICK WHAM STUNNER and it’s the World title for Austin at 16:47. This was suitably big and epic and had all the big spots, but they still had better in them to come. ***1/2
And so 1999 brings us around to Rock v. HHH again, this time in a cageâ€¦
Cage match: HHH v. The Rock
From RAW, July 1999. Usual lame escape rules here. Rock slugs away to start and elbows him down, but HHH comes back with a clothesline and slugs away in the corner. Rock comes out of the corner with a clothesline and lays the smackdown before climbing, but HHH pulls him down and Rock takes a SWEET bump straight down to the mat, hitting his chin on the turnbuckle on the way down. HHH follows with a suplex into a kneedrop, allowing him to go for the door, but Rock grabs the leg to block. Chyna slips her man some handcuffs, allowing Hunter to pound Rock down and send him into the cage. He tries to cuff Rock to the cage, but Rock goes low and comes back before putting his head down and getting caught with a neckbreaker. HHH climbs and fights off Rock, but gets yanked down with an armdrag in another spot you don’t see very much. Jim Ross is really obsessing about “the rankings” here, as in the consequences that this match will have on them. Rock goes for the door, but Chyna bumps the ref and then slams the door on him, allowing HHH to walk out and win. Well, except that there’s no ref, so the match MUST CONTINUE. They brawl up the ramp and HHH tries the Pedigree on the floor, but Rock catapults him into the cage and drags him back in. And away we go again, as Rock sends him into the cage on all sides and then follows with a samoan drop. Another weird exchange as Chyna protests to the ref that HHH walked out and Lawler relates that, and JR responds “She’s a liar!” No she’s not! HHH clearly walked out and won the match! You can call Chyna a lot of mean names, but this is just unnecessary aspersions on her character. Rock climbs up and fires off a double axehandle, just for the hell of it, but HHH hits him with the facecrusher and sends him into the cage to set up a clothesline for a double KO. HHH recovers first and climbs the cage, but Rock follows him up and grabs him by the hair. No wonder it went downhill so fast, with treatment like that! Maybe he let it get all gross and greasy to prevent just that from happening. They slug it out on top of the cage until Chyna throws a chair up for HHH to use, but he gets cocky and falls on his cock as a result. So Rock is out and laying on top of the cage and HHH is crawling for the door, but Rock recovers first and exits to win at 13:55. Sadly they cut out Billy Gunn’s attack on him post-match, which robs me of the opportunity to mention that Hulk Hogan once used that attack as an example of how he taught Vince McMahon everything about wrestling that Vince knows. Seriously. Booking was pretty wacky here, but there was enough cool spots to make it worth checking out. ***1/4
WWF World tag titles: Undertaker & Big Show v. The Rock N Sock Connection
I could have SWORN I reviewed this recently, but I can’t find it anywhere. Anyway, this is from my birthday in 1999 on RAW. Show gets double-teamed by the faces to start and Rock stomps him down, but Mankind walks into a sideslam. Show chokes Mankind out on the ropes and puts him down with a headbutt, and Taker adds a shot into the stairs. Back in, Show gets a powerslam for two. Show goes to the bearhug. Mick bites out of it, but runs into an elbow and gets sent to the floor again for more punishment from Undertaker. Show slams Mick on a previously-smashed table, but Undertaker and Paul Bearer decide to walk out of the match. This allows Rock to get the hot tag, but Show hits them both with a double clothesline. Chokeslam for the Rock and he kicks a chair back in Mankind’s face, but Rock kicks out at two. Show misses an elbow and he falls victim to Mr. Socko and then Mr. Chair, which sets up a Double People’s Elbow to finish and give them the tag titles at 8:10. Boring match, great finish. **
– The ultra-serious narrator talks us through “smackdown” making the dictionary and Rock singing about taking a leak during Big Slow matches.
The Rock v. Kane
From Smackdown, December 1999. Kane slugs away in the corner, but Rock fires back and gets a neckbreaker. Kane sits up, so Rock clotheslines him to the floor and they fight up the ramp. Kane goes low, but Rock slugs him off the ramp and through a table on the floor. That looked pretty silly, with Kane taking a huge leap like a cartoon character off a simple punch. Kane quickly recovers and chokeslams Rock through another conveniently placed table. They head back to ringside and Rock whips him into the stairs before grabbing a chair, but he gets wrapped up with Tori. Kane accidently clotheslines her, allowing Rock to finish with a chairshot and Rock Bottom at 5:08. Another middling match that is kind of a weird addition. **
– And once again we’re back to Rock v. HHH, albeit with the high point of that feud.
WWF World title: HHH v. The Rock
From Backlash 2000, with Shane as guest referee. You could probably call this one the pinnacle of Rock’s career without fear of contradiction, as he’s at his most popular in the highest-profile match against his biggest enemy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: THIS should have been the main event of Wrestlemania 2000, not the clusterfuck we got instead. They slug it out to start and HHH wins that, but Rock fires back and puts him down. HHH quickly tries the Pedigree, but Rock backdrops out of it and lays the smackdown in the corner. HHH recovers with a neckbreaker and tosses him, then rams him into the table. Vince adds a ride into the ringpost for good measure, and back in HHH and Shane share a tender hug before HHH gets two. High knee gets two and he adds a suplex, which sets up the kneedrop for two. He works the count and Shane counts quicker each time, but Rock keeps escaping. Rock slugs back, so HHH grabs a sleeper, which turns into a chinlock on the mat. Rock fights up, so HHH uses the ropes (which Shane ignores) and puts himself back in control. Rock fights up and HHH clotheslines him down again for two, then pounds away in the corner until Rock hotshots him to escape. He comes back, but they clothesline each other, which gives Shane the chance to help HHH up. Shane’s performance here is something to see. And while Shane is “distracted”, Vince pops up and nails Rock with the belt, which gives HHH two. A very FAST two, at that. They’re just pushing all the crowd’s buttons with this stuff and it’s tremendous. Rock has had ENOUGH and spit-punches him in the corner, then dumps him and injures HHH’s arm in the process. They fight on the floor and Rock drops him on the table to hurt the shoulder further, and back in where Rock puts his head down and gets caught. But then so does HHH, and Rock DDTs him, but you know Shane’s not counting. And the crowd just LOSES it, so Rock puts Shane out and they fight to the floor again. If you want a textbook example of the crowd reacting EXACTLY how you want them to, it’s this match. HHH sends him into the stairs and follows with the Pedigree attempt on the table, but Rock goes low and gives both him and Shane a Rock Bottom at the same time! The crowd just goes INSANE and Vince’s open-mouthed reaction shot is awesome. So Shane is done, but Rock drags HHH in and gets jumped from behind by Vince. HHH goes low and it’s KICK WHAM PEDIGREE, but we have no ref. But we do have the Stooges in ref shirts, who beat Rocky down until you just know there’s a big payoff coming here. And just when Vince is setting up with a chair to finish things, Austin’s music hits and it’s pandemonium. Chair for HHH! Chair for Patterson! Chair for Brisco! Chair for Shane! Chair for Vince! Kinda sad because Austin’s neck is still so bad that he can hardly walk, but the crowd doesn’t care. Everyone is dead except for Rock, and finally Linda brings Earl Hebner back after the whole Jericho thing on RAW left him fired, and the People’s Elbow means Game Over, finally, at 19:23, and I’m still marking out watching it 8 years later.
Kudos to everyone involved because this was a magnificently crafted piece of professional wrestling drama and the kind of thing that made the Rock into the biggest wrestler ever. If they could pull this off with John Cena no one would ever boo him. The chinlock in the middle kind of slowed it down, but the booking paid off a million different storylines, and anything that nearly has me jumping up and yelling all those years later deserves every bit of praise I can heap on it. I daresay that from an entertainment standpoint this might be one of my favorite matches of all-time. Oh yeah, I went there. ****3/4
– The next night on RAWâ€¦
WWF title, cage match: The Rock v. Shane McMahon
Pat Patterson gets to be guest referee here. Shane immediately tries to climb out, but Rock pulls him in and elbows him down, then follows with a clothesline. Crowd lets Shane know that he’s a pussy, which according to Arrested Development means he’s a caring and sensitive guy. Shane tries to run for the door, but Rock yanks him out by the ankle with a London Bridge. Shane catches Rock with an elbow and chokes him out. Meanwhile, HHH pokes him with a sharp stick from outside. Sadly, Rock has no fresh fruit with which to counter, so he’s basically helpless. Luckily he’s able to catch the stick and breaks it on Shane, then rams him into the cage and beats on him in the corner. Rock stops to go after Patterson, allowing Shane to send him into the cage from behind and then climb. Rock follows him up and slugs away, but Patterson keeps pulling him down, resulting in Rock falling on the top rope. He hits Pat with a Rock Bottom and goes back after Shane, yanking him down and hitting the People’s Elbow. And Brisco of course slams the door on his head and HHH comes in for the beatdown, but here’s Stone Cold Earl Hebner again. He shoves Brisco into the cage and then slams the door on HHH, and Rock escapes at 9:20 to win. Fun but forgettable. ***
– Moving onto the Angle era, as Rock drops the title, which brings us to No Way Out 2001.
WWF World title: Kurt Angle v. The Rock.
Angle attacks to start, but Rock hits him with a lariat out of the corner and they slug it out. Rock elbows him down and follows with a legsweep for two, but Angle fights back with a clothesline and stomps him down. Rock slugs back, but Angle takes him down into the anklelock, forcing Rock to make the ropes. Angle hits him with a pair of belly to belly suplexes, so Rock fires back with his own. He follows quickly with the Scorpion King Deathlock, but Angle makes the ropes. Rock keeps coming with a samoan drop for two. Angle comes back with a backdrop suplex and goes up, but Rock crotches him and brings him down with a superplex for two. Angle dumps him and Rock teases a leg injury, so Angle hauls him in and DDTs him. And with both out, we get a walk-in by the Big Show, as he chokeslams everyone (including the ref) and then leaves. I still have no idea what that was supposed to accomplish. Angle gets the cover out of that, for two. Funny bit there as Earl Hebner and Tim White carry the poor traumatized ref out, but Earl drops him to make the count. He’s a REFEREE, dammit, that’s what he does! Rock recovers and hits Angle with the title, for two. Rock is openly limping now, so Angle POUNCES and hooks the anklelock, then hauls Rock into the middle of the ring, slams the knee on the mat, and hooks it again. This gives us the classic “TAP OUT OR I’LL BREAK YOUR FUCKING ANKLE!” quote, but Rock makes the ropes. Kurt keeps on the leg, but Rock fights up until his leg gives out, which allows Angle to pound on him. Rock gets a desperation spinebuster and People’s Elbow, but that only gets two. Nice touch with Rock limping during the Elbow. The crowd chants “bullshit” at Angle kicking out of it, because THAT’S the ludicrous thing — someone kicking out of the People’s Elbow. It’s amazing how something so silly can become a deadly finisher. Rock gets upset with the ref, which allows Angle to hit him in the People’s Junk, and he undoes a turnbuckle for full heel effect. Rock tries Rock Bottom, but Angle sends him into the steel, and into an Angle Slam for two. Where’s the bullshit chant now, Las Vegas? Rock slugs away in the corner, but Angle goes with the easy solution and kicks him in the leg, so Rock sends him into the steel and it’s Rock Bottom…for two. Angle didn’t actually kick out, but the ref stopped counting for some reason. So Rock hits another one and regains the WWF title at 16:52. This was a war of attrition, although you have to know that given another year of development for Angle it would have had another 10 minutes of trading finishers added onto it. ****1/2
– The end of the Monday Night Wars brings us toâ€¦
WCW World title: Booker T v. The Rock
From Summerslam 2001. Slugfest to start and Rock runs Booker into Shane, then puts him down with a samoan drop for two. Booker comes back with chops, but Rock clotheslines him and cradles for two. Yeah, Rock busted out La Majastral, wanna fight about it? Book kicks him down again for two. Slugfest is won by the Rock and he tosses Booker, as they brawl on the floor. Rock puts him on the table and gives him the most blatant nutshot in PPV history, but Booker recovers and rams him into the stairs, followed by an atomic drop onto the railing. They head into the crowd, where Booker whips him into a barricade and follows with a clothesline, then they head back to ringside. They slug it out, but Rock gets whipped into the post, and Booker drops him on the railing to follow. They just can’t seem to get their chemistry together out there. Back in, Booker slugs him down for two and puts him down with a short clothesline. Kneedrop follows, and Rock fights up only to get put down by a forearm that gets two. And Booker hits the chinlock as this is just going nowhere. Rock comes back with the Scorpion King Deathlock, but Shane McMahon distracts the ref and Rock breaks, only to walk into a superkick that gets two for Booker. Rock takes him down again and catapults him into the corner, followed by a DDT for two. Shane sneaks in with the belt and puts Rock down, but the APA chases him into Bradshaw’s clothesline. Lemme tell ya, Shane selling the Clothesline from Hell is like * by itself. In the ring, Bookend gets two, but Rock slugs back and gets the flying forearm. Overhead belly to belly gets two. Spinebuster and People’s Elbow get two, as Shane pulls the referee out. Rock stops to give him a Rock Bottom on the floor and then lays the smackdown on Booker in the corner, but Booker comes back with his own spinebuster. However, he makes the fatal error and stops for the Spinarooni, which allows Rock to pop up and finish with the Rock Bottom at 15:17, improbably marking the first time the WCW World title would change hands on a WWF PPV. The match was competent enough, but they just had no flash together. ***
– So at Vengeance 2001, Chris Jericho unifies the belts into the Undisputed title and defends against Rock at Royal Rumble 2002â€¦
Undisputed World title: Chris Jericho v. The Rock
This was scheduled to be Jericho v. RVD for quite a while, actually, before Rob’s push got yanked out from under him in rather abrupt manner. This is something of a lost classic as well, which is why I’m glad it’s getting exposure again on this DVD. Jericho talks some trash and tells him to just bring it, so Rock brings it. Samoan drop gets two and Jericho runs away, right into a spear from the Rock. Rock slugs away, but Jericho hits him with a forearm and a corner clothesline before charging and hitting the post. Rock charges in and Jericho hotshots him, then punts him into the corner. He throws chops, but Rock fires back, so Jericho hits a leg lariat for two. Suplex and the ARROGANT COVER~! get two. He undoes a turnbuckle and tries the Walls of Jericho, but Rock reverses out, so Jericho gets a low dropkick and pounds away on the mat. Missile dropkick gets two. He goes to a chinlock and then heads up, but Rock crotches him and throws chops to set up a superplex. Rock slugs away and hits the overhead suplex for two, but Jericho rebounds out of the corner with the bulldog and Lionsault. Another one gets two. He goes up with another missile dropkick, but Rock catches him with the Scorpion King Deathlock, which draws Christian and Lance Storm out for the distraction, as Christian uses the belt to knock Rock out. I seem to recall some sort of Canadian Horsemen idea floating around at the time before it got shot down and forgotten about soon after this. Jericho gets a senton, but stops to go for the Canadian Elbow and gets tossed by the Rock as a result. They head to the floor and Jericho drops Rock on the table to set up for Jericho Bottom, but Rock fights out and gets his own, putting Jericho through the OTHER table as a result. Back in, that gets two. Rock tries another Rock Bottom, but Jericho reverses to the Walls, which actually draws a FACE pop from the crowd, or at least a good chunk of it. Rock makes the ropes and then cradles for two, but Jericho boots him down again. Rock pops up with the flying forearm, but wipes out the ref, and Jericho hits him with a belt and Evil Ref Nick Patrick counts two. Rock fires back with a DDT, but Patrick won’t count because he’s EVIL. Rock gives him Rock Bottom for his impudence and hits Jericho with the spinebuster and People’s Elbow, but there’s still no ref. Jericho goes low and rams Rock into the steel turnbuckle, then uses the ropes (but sadly not the tights) to pin him at 19:11 and retain. That’s like Ric Flair’s Greatest Hits all in one shot. Still great stuff, hard work from both all around. ****
The Rock v. Hollywood Hogan
Man, this is STILL an interesting match to watch. Here’s the original review, with some added comments and my new rating.
I had the feeling that this was going to be one of those matches that was gonna earn me hate mail no matter which side of the fence I went with. I was right. I also wouldâ€™ve thought that this would go on last, since it was being promoted as the main event and all. Hogan gets a MONSTER pop, as I once again worry about the future of mankind. Rock gets a big heel pop. Hogan wins a lockup and the crowd ROARS. JR interprets this as a â€œmixed reactionâ€. Iâ€™d hate to hear what theyâ€™d sound like if they were booing Rock, then. Hogan pounds away and gets a clothesline, but Rock back with the forearm and gets roasted by the crowd. This is just vicious. Shoving match and Rock slugs Hogan down and out. Back in, Rock with the lariat, but Rock Bottom is blocked. Hogan gets the elbowdrops. That limp is getting really pronounced on Hoganâ€™s part. Backdrop suplex gets two. Abdominal stretch into a rollup gets two. Man, that was his rear special in WCW v. nWo World Tour, but thatâ€™s the first time Iâ€™ve seen him use it in real life in like the past 20 years. Hogan goes to the BACKRAKES OF DOOM (which Rock sells like heâ€™s being clawed by the fingernails of a Sinanju Master) and of course the crowd eats it all up. Rock chops him, but Hogan chokes him out for a while. Rock gets tossed and Hogan beats on him outside. Table is prepped but goes unused. Back in, ref bumped, and Rock gets a spinebuster and Sharpshooter, no ref, but a big heel reaction. Jesus, Toronto, just because the Leafs suck, donâ€™t take it out on someone who CAN win the big one. The crowd just completely turns on Rock, so Hogan goes low and gets a huge face pop and then uses his own Rock Bottom for two. Hogan uses the belt, but Rock DDTs him and fires right back. JR is still insisting that the reaction is mixed. Stuff like that makes him sound like Tony Schiavone. Hulk Up time. Big boot and STINKY WART-INFESTED GIANT-KILLING LEGDROP OF DOOM, but Rock kicks out at two. Big boot again, but the legdrop misses. Rock gives him two Rock Bottoms for good measure, and finishes with the Peopleâ€™s Elbow at 16:22. That was one of the best-booked bad matches Iâ€™ve seen â€“ Iâ€™ve gotta admit, even I was cheering pretty vociferously for Rock (more than usual) by the end and getting into it.
After several viewings, I’m up to about *** for it, because it’s actually a match I can watch without getting too bored with it. I’ve seen it rated higher and lower and I won’t argue too strenuously with either interpretation. The crowd’s insane reaction to the comeback alone makes this one worthy of history. In retrospect, this was the match that turned the Rock from A-level wrestler into larger-than-life future Hollywood personality, and was perhaps the only time that Hogan actually passed the proverbial torch and never got to take it back again. Consider that Hogan not only allowed Rock to kick out of the legdrop, but then took BOTH of Rock’s finishers and laid down clean for him. Sadly (for wrestling), Rock would take that rub and become a bigger star than wrestling could support any longer. However, I’m still glad he got away when he did so he’ll always be remembered as the guy who left at his peak instead of turning into a one-note joke like Steve Austin or, indeed, Hulk Hogan.
Undisputed World title: Undertaker v. The Rock v. Kurt Angle
This is from Vengeance 2002, really another one of those forgotten PPVs, and it’s really worth picking up on DVD for cheap if you find it. Kurt is rocking the red white and blue camo tights tonight, which I don’t think can help you hide anywhere but an American flag factory, but it looks cool. Undertaker was in that weird Booger Red phase where he was kind of a biker, but with short hair and some MMA mixed in. Two-way staredown to start which has Angle feeling left out, so the other two jump him to make him feel better. Taker boots him down and Rock dumps him with a clothesline to get rid of him. Ha! Taker pounds on Rock in the corner, but Rock slugs back until Taker puts him down with the flying clothesline. Rock comes right back with a clothesline to put him on the floor and Angle tosses Taker into the railing, then we head in with Angle v. Rock. Kurt throws the release german suplex and stomps away in the corner, but Rock comes back with chops until Angle throws the overhead suplex. Crowd chants “Angle sucks”, so he throws another suplex to shut them up. Man, Kurt Angle was the shit once upon a time, back when he was having FUN with his career.
Rock comes back with a DDT for two and they brawl outside, which results in Angle getting jumped by Undertaker. Taker goes after Rock and sends him back in for some punishment in the corner, but Rock slugs back until he walks into a sideslam, which gets two. Rock actually chokeslams Undertaker, which you don’t see EVER, and that gets two. Angle gets involved again and pounds away on Rock, but Rock clotheslines him down and anklelocks him, so Angle reverses to a Rock Bottom for two. Taker breaks it up with a legdrop and hits Angle with an Angle Slam, which gets two. Rock breaks it up, so Taker elbows him down, but Rock pops up and tosses Angle, then hits Undertaker with the spinebuster and People’s Elbow. Angle saves, however, pulling Rock out and dropping him on the table, then sneaking in for the cover, which gets two. Angle pounds on Taker in the corner, but that doesn’t get him very far, and Taker fires back with a corner clothesline. Angle comes back and charges, but hits the ringpost and lands on the floor. They brawl out there and Taker sends him into the post, but Rock uses the EVIAN SPIT OF DEATH on Taker and slugs away. That only annoys UT and he pounds Rock onto the table as a result before going back to Angle, who is now bleeding. After that shot to the post, I’d hope so. Taker guillotines him on the apron and pounds him down, which gives JR his chance to say “surcease” for the match. You know he’s into it when he busts that one out.
Old school time, although the crowd doesn’t know to yell that yet, but Rock pops back in and gives him a cheeky smackdown. Taker puts him down with a DDT, however, perhaps in retaliation for Rock’s “revving the motorbike” motions, I dunno. Angle tries using a chair and gets pinballed by the other two for his troubles, but neither Rock nor Undertaker can hit their finisher on each other. Rock goes low and Angle flattens Taker with his chair, then hits Rock with the Angle Slam. That gets two on Taker, and then two on Rock. Logistically speaking he would have been better off to pin Rock first, of course, but that’s half the fun here. Angle sets up again to finish Rock, but he gets taken down into the Scorpion King Deathlock, which Taker is forced to break up. Last Ride for the Rock (and another reason why Rock rules — he does a spit take as he lands to emphasize the impact!), but Angle puts Taker in the anklelock before he can make the pin. Taker powers out of it and tries to powerbomb Angle, but Kurt counters with the triangle choke. OK, was that before or after the famous UFC thing that inspired that Angle-UT draw on Smackdown, because that whole era is a blur to me. That leaves both Angle and Taker woozy and Rock swoops in for the kill, but Angle was just faking and takes Rock down with the anklelock as this just gets more awesome. Rock reverses to a cradle for two, and Taker chokeslams Angle, but walks into Rock Bottom to give Rock two. Angle rolls the Rock up for two, but Taker boots Rock down and Angle gives Taker the Angle Slam. The straps are down, but Rock gets Rock Bottom and pins him to win the title at 19:35. TREMENDOUS!
This was an awesome three-way, great because it featured all the finisher thefts and cool spots, plus it was easy to follow and not just a bunch of crazy three-way spots. Anyone could have won it and you didn’t know who was winning, which gave it a real sense of drama. Great, great stuff. ****1/2
The Rock v. Eddie Guerrero
From RAW, July 2002. Are they just picking stuff at random or what? Eddie works the headlock to start, but Rock takes him down with armdrags and then clotheslines him to block his escape. Overhead suplex, but Eddie comes back with a backdrop suplex and stomps away in the corner. They slug it out and Eddie puts him down with a cheapshot and then pounds him on the ropes. Dropkick puts Rock down and Eddie hits the chinlock, then takes him down for a headscissors on the mat. That gets two, but Rock fights up, so Eddie clotheslines him down again and goes back to the chinlock. Rock fights up and wins a slugfest, into a DDT for two. Eddie clotheslines him down again, but Rock kips up and tries Rock Bottom, which Eddie reverses into a cradle for two. Slick. Eddie necksnaps him and pops up for the frog splash, but it misses and Rock finishes with the People’s Elbow at 8:29. A decent TV match, but it was mostly chinlock and nothing special. **1/2
– And finallyâ€¦
The Rock v. Steve Austin
Their last meeting, from Wrestlemania XIX. They actually blur out Austin’s middle fingers for this DVD. What, did they lose a lawsuit over THAT, too? The promos leading up to this were almost as great as the match as the match is, which is why I’m hoping they include one in the extras. Slugfest to start and Austin tries a quick stunner, but Rock bails, so Austin follows him out and rams him into the railing. Rock meets the stairs and Austin drops him on the railing and clotheslines him onto the last surviving announce table, then prevents him from crawling back into the ring and drops him on the railing again and whips him into the stairs. And now we head back in, where Austin chokes him out and adds a backdrop suplex for two. He whips Rock into the corner and follows with a clothesline, then more choking on the ropes. Rock takes out the knee and brings him outside for punishment, then back in he goes to work on the knee properly. He wraps the knee around the post and then kicks Austin in the knee again to cut off a comeback attempt, which leads to the Scorpion King Deathlock. Austin makes the ropes, so Rock drags him out and wraps the knee around the post again. Then, the best, he steals Austin’s vest and MAKES IT WORK. He grabs the water bottle, but Austin takes him down with a clothesline to prevent any water from being spit at him. Thesz Press and Austin fires away on the mat and drops an elbow for two. Austin stomps the mudhole, but Rock fires back with a flying clothesline and kips up, only to walk into a Rock Bottom from Austin. So Rock fires back with a stunner and gets two. Slugfest and this time it’s KICK WHAM STUNNER with Rock taking his usual bump off it, and that gets two for Austin. Rock goes low, however, and tries the People’s Elbow, but Austin moves and they block each other’s finisher before Rock gets the spinebuster and the elbow for real. That gets two. Rock Bottom gets two, but Austin’s gumption just earns him another one, and that gets two as well. Great selling from Austin as you can see the pain on his face and Rock really sells the anger here. And finally, a third Rock Bottom ends the career of Steve Austin at 17:52, as there is no comeback this time. This was less of an entertainment spectacle (like in the glory days) and more of a battle of two heavyweight boxers trying for one last epic fight. Hell of a match, as JR put it. ****
And here’s where all the promos go.
– From Heat, July 1999. The famous “God talked to Billy Gunn” promo that produced “It doesn’t matter what your name is.”
– From RAW, July 1999. Rock busts on “The Big Slow” and notes that fans go take a leak when they hear his music.
– From RAW, September 1999. The pre-match promo where Rock makes fun of Kane’s voice box.
– From RAW, November 1999. Rock taunts police officers who are investigating the Austin case.
– From Smackdown, August 2000. Rock calls Kevin Kelly a hermaphrodite for the first time, thus turning him into “Hermie” from then on.
– From RAW, December 2000. Rock actually remembers that he called Kevin Kelly a hermaphrodite in that same arena in August, and then does his imitations of the other five guys in the Hell in a Cell match (“Which means-uh that I’m gonna have to beat the Game-uh with his slut for a wife-uh”). I love that Rock is the only guy fearless and bullet-proof enough to just go out and rip on HHH and his Neanderthal grunting interviews. You’ll notice that no one else ever got to point that out.
– From RAW, August 2001. Rock comes out to annoy Booker T and talk about his school days riding the short bus (“Beep beep!”) and answering “Thomas Jefferson, sucka!” when asked what 2+2 equals. As a bonus, Jericho is also there to launch his attack on Stephanie McMahon and her gigantic boobies. Always an easy point.
– From RAW, September 2001. “Go frost your hair or something, Michael.”
– From Smackdown, September 2001. Rock has the blues, so he drives to Memphis and meets Jerry Lee Lewis, then sings some “Great Balls of Fire”. Apparently Jerry Lee loves pie as well, although I’d have to add that he only likes pie that’s not finished baking yet.
– From Smackdown, January 2002. Rock moves onto abusing the Coach, getting him to admit he loves Barry Manilow and then forces him to sing “Copacabana” to really make him look like a dork. The bit is kind of ruined by the microphone breaking, but Rock works it out and then saves it with “Well Copa your ass on out of here and beat it.”
– From Smackdown, January 2002. Rock cuts a promo in the ring and brings the cameraman into it, taking the camera from him (which the producers immediately turn into “Rock Cam”) and doing the shoot himself while abusing the poor guy. It’s crazy how he’s so entertaining that he can just do something like this and turn it into a classic promo. Sadly the Rock isn’t as good of a cameraman as he is a wrestler, but it’s still a great bit.
– From Smackdown, January 2002. Another awesome bit of Coach abuse, as this time he’s forced to dance the Charleston to amuse the Rock.
– From No Way Out 2002. The NWO goes to hang out with the Rock in the dressing room and take a picture, and Rock goes off on them, calling them Razor Ramon and Diesel (toot toot!) before storming off.
– From Smackdown, July 2002. Rock brings Busta Rhymes out of the audience to hype the crappy new Halloween movie, and they do a song. Bleh.
– From RAW, March 2003. Newly evil Rock practices singing backstage by ripping on Cleveland, but the Hurricane interrupts. Rock calls it a no holds barred match, so all superpowers are go. Heat vision, night vision, cable vision, you name it. Rock debuts the Hamburglar bit and shows off his comic chops, then sucker punches Hurricane.
– From RAW, June 2004. Rock comes home to Miami and busts on the Dolphins at ringside (“Y’all make $20 million a year and you’re wearing free Nike gear thereâ€¦”).
– And finally, a montage of the Rock’s one-liners. Why did they include Rock’s song with Busta Rhymes earlier but not the rest of the interview, where he calls Kurt Angle “Dr. Evil”? Tons of great stuff here.
Overall, I wouldn’t call it definitive by any means and the documentary is so perfunctory that they can’t even be bothered to have the Rock involved with it, but there’s some great matches here that deserve another look and make it well worth the purchase price. As usual, though, the audio is awful, sounding like all the matches were recorded in a giant tin can with the ring mike mixed WAY too high and the announcers mixed too low, which is really surprising for a company that’s normally so careful about being on the cutting edge of technology. Maybe it comes from all the overdubbing of music and blurring of logos they have to do, but it comes across as really bush league and they need to fix it.
Anyway, it’s the Rock, it’s awesome if very flawed (Two Rock-Austin and FOUR Rock-HHH matches?), so pick it up.
Tags: HHH, Steve Austin, The Rock, WWE