A question is posed. Two Pulse Wrestling writers go head-to-head. But only one will move on to next week to the face off with another member of our staff. This is VS., and this weekâ€™s question isâ€¦ With Smackdown having just celebrated its 10th anniversary… what was The Rock’s best match and why?
Pulse Glazer: I adore the Rock. Heâ€™s absolutely among the most talented individuals to ever step inside the wrestling ring and he had many amazingly memorable matches and moments. Of course, that doesnâ€™t change the fact that this is, for me, an easy choice. First, letâ€™s run down some sure to be popular choices. Luckily, I have my Top 100 American Matches list handy to help me go through some big matches.
The match of the Rockâ€™s thatâ€™s still most talked about today is his Wrestlemania bout with Hulk Hogan. This battle of the icons had one of the most memorable crowd responses ever, as those in attendance in Toronto overwhelmingly supported Hulk Hogan. This is an unforgettable moment, one of the best in wrestling historyâ€¦ but thatâ€™s what it is- a great moment. The match was both men working a routine and while it was a load of fun, it certainly wasnâ€™t a great match, let alone the Rockâ€™s greatest.
Next, we have probably the best match that the Rock appeared in, but not the best Rock match. Steve Austin was the Rockâ€™s main rival in the WWE as top dog during the attitude era and their second ever Wrestlemania match, this at 17 (or X7 if youâ€™re retarded), showed exactly why. These two engaged in an absolute physical war that was amazing storytelling of the younger Rock overthrowing the older Stone Cold. Unfortunately, the match would end with Stone Cold joining forces with Vince McMahon, which is the moment most remembered for the match. That and the fact that this was clearly a match about Stone Coldâ€™s place in the WWE make it more Austinâ€™s match than the Rockâ€™s, even though it was still incredible and on the biggest stage. It would be number one for those last two, if Rock didnâ€™t have a similar amazing performance against his ultimate rival, the only man he had more issues with than Austin- Triple H.
When the Rock was rising through the WWE ranks as IC champion, one man was there to be his rival, Triple H. When the Rock was coming up in the Nation of Domination, there was one other major heel stable he feuded with- Triple Hâ€™s Degeneration X. When the Rock rose to the World Title at first, as a heel, Triple H lagged behind. The Rock was made as champion by Mick Foley who sacrificed his body to make the Rock look great. A year later, Triple H was the big heel champion and again, Foley sacrificed his body to cement Triple H as champion. Their first encounter as both true main eventers should have headlined Wrestlemania, but politics and nepotism, Wrestlemania that year had a four-way (also with Foley and the Big Show) including all the McMahons uniting to keep Triple H the champion over the Rock. So, instead of Wrestlemania, the Rock and Triple H would get their moment at Backlash in 2000. While they had great matches earlier (their IC title ladder match which is when they arrived as real stars) and, later (their Iron Man Match with a poor ending), none could touch Backlash 2000 in terms of quality and importance.
The 2000 Backlash saw what is the only match of Rockâ€™s career that is as technically great as the Steve Austin X-7 match and this time, it was all about the Rock and his career long rivalâ€™s moment. Triple H and the Rock went out and put on a classic, with the match going long, being intense, hard hitting, and, most importantly, about their rivalry. Not being at Wrestlemania hurt it, but back then, with wrestling so hot, every Pay Per View did huge numbers, so not as much as it would now. The Rock defeated Triple H to get his first major face title run and become The Rock we all remember so fondly. Before this he was either a top heel or a number two face to Austin. After this, The Rock never took a backseat to anyone in wrestling again. When you add that importance to the match quality, it easily outshines.
The Rock put on several other great matches, notably with Kurt Angle at No Way Out the next year and in a three way with Angle and the Undertaker, these matches donâ€™t have the importance or sheer quality of the Triple H Backlash match. Rock also made several stars, helping to try to get Jericho to the next level with the WCW Title, putting over Goldberg for the benefit of the WWE audience, and helping to make Brock Lesnar a top guy, but the match quality was never again as high as my pick for the best Rock match ever, Rock vs. Triple H from Backlash 2000.
Great recap of some of my favorite/most memorable Rock matches (what, though, no love for Rock vs. Hurricane?!)â€¦ and I had actually almost forgotten about the Backlash 2000 match. Youâ€™re right that it was outshined in the history books by Rock vs. Austin and then Rock vs. Hogan I. But thinking back, it was definitely a great one from The Great One, and an excellent selection.
Will Pruett: In looking at the amazing career that The Rock had, we must remember one thing, his run only lasted about seven years. The Rock did not have a long career. Some would say that he left in his prime to work on other projects. In looking at that, I would say that the greatest match that The Great One ever participated in was his Wrestlemania XIX encounter with Steve Austin.
It was the third in their trilogy of Wrestlemania main events. The Rock was coming off of the beginnings of his Hollywoood career and beginning his last run as an active competitor. Steve Austin had just returned to the WWE after walking out after being told that he would lose to Brock Lesnar with no fan fare (an interesting situation to look up, by the way).
The Rock was motivated. That may be the most important element of all of this. He was motivated to win. He had never beaten the Texas Rattlesnake on the grandest stage of them all. The buildup to this match was masterful. It involved everything from desperation promos to â€œRockâ€ concerts. In the end, this match came down to telling a story.
This was Steve Austinâ€™s last match. Neck injuries had slowed him down to the point that one bad bump would paralyze him for good. Austin knew that when he walked down the aisle, he would be doing so for the very last time.
And so the match began. The two put on a show that was expected for athletes of their caliber. Injuries could not slow them down as the two greatest athletes of their era wrote the final chapter in their epic rivalry.
The match involved two desperate men. Austin wanted to go 3-0 against The Rock at Wrestlemania and further cement himself as the greatest. The Rock wanted to prove that he could beat the Bionic Redneck and wipe away the shame of his past two losses. This story came across loud and clear as the two battled it out.
The real art of this match was the finish. It saw The Rock and Steve Austin use not only their own finishing maneuvers, but the finishing maneuvers of their opponent. The crowd popped when Austin hit the Stunner and The Rock classically oversold. However they popped even louder for The Rock using the Stunner against Austin.
In the end, it took three Rock Bottoms from The Rock to keep the Texas Rattlesnake down for the three count. The Rock was vindicated and his losses in the past meant nothing to him as he stared victory in the face. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin had the greatest rivalry of the Attitude Era. It began at the dawn of Attitude in 1997 over the Intercontinental Championship. This match ended what was left of the Attitude era and managed to pave the way for the superstars of the future.
This was, without a doubt, the greatest battle of the Great Oneâ€™s career.
Wow, another good example here. And it truly was a great match. Unfortunately, the â€œRock concertsâ€ as funny as they were kind of took away from the build for this match â€“ at least in my eyes â€“ and to steal from Aaron, with this as Austinâ€™s final WWE match, even though Rocky won, itâ€™s hard for me to put this in the â€œgreatest Rock matches everâ€ echelon. This was a close one, but Iâ€™m going with Aaron here, by a hair. Iâ€™m almost ready to call a rematch, but something tells me weâ€™ll be seeing these two go head-to-head againâ€¦ unfortunately we canâ€™t say the same for Rock vs. Austin.
Winner of VS. #30: Pulse Glazer
Do you agree with Aaron or Will or do you have an entirely different opinion? Let us know in the comments section, below!
Until next timeâ€¦
Tags: HHH, Hulk Hogan, Smackdown, Steve Austin, The Rock, wrestlemania, WWE