Thursday Morning Backlash: The Rock’s 10 Best WWE Matches (Stone Cold, Brock Lesnar, Mankind, Chris Jericho)

by Jake Ziegler

In honor of The Rock coming back to the WWE on Monday, I decided to put together a couple of top ten lists. Also, I would like to brag that I have interviewed him in person twice.

Top 10 Favorite Rock Matches

10. The Rock & Mankind vs. Ric Flair, Batista & Randy Orton, WrestleMania XX – This one doesn’t seem to get a lot of love but I thought it was tremendous fun and if it is indeed his last match, it’s a good one to go out on.

9. The Rock vs. Triple H, Judgment Day ‘00 – People scoffed and said neither man could pull it off, but they did. The Rock and Triple H had a very entertaining Iron Man.

8. The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam ‘02 – Rock absolutely made Lesnar with this match. He was always willing to do the right thing.

7. The Rock vs. Chris Benoit, Fully Loaded ‘00 – This might have been an awkward clash of styles, but these two meshed really well together and with Shane McMahon running around ringside, it made for a really fun match and the crowd was into it the whole way.

6. The Rock vs. Mankind, Royal Rumble ‘99 – This match attained almost mythical status due to its inclusion in Barry Blaustein’s “Beyond the Mat.” This is a difficult one to watch still, and that makes it memorable.

5. The Rock vs. Triple H, Backlash ‘00 – I also love the Iron Man match from the following month, but this match is such a fun match to watch, as it really encapsulates the era and makes me want to stand up and cheer at the end. Review:

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.

Rating: ****½

4. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle, No Way Out ‘01 – This was one of the first matches that made Angle look like a legitimate badass, and lo and behold look at who made him look it. They messed up the finish a little bit, but this match was off the charts hot. Review –

Rock vs. Angle NWO ’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.

Rating: ****

3. The Rock vs. Chris Jericho, No Mercy ‘01 – Rock had a way of making his opponents look good, and even with an interfering Stephanie McMahon he managed to make Jericho look like a million bucks in this exciting match.

2. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan, WrestleMania X8 – It may not be a technical masterpiece, but the spectacle of seeing these two square off is the definition of “WrestleMania Moment.” I still enjoy watching this one on DVD. Review –

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.

Rating: ****

1. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, WrestleMania X-Seven – The absolute pinnacle of the feud between two of the biggest and greatest of all time. Just watch the crowd lose their minds for every move these guys make. Orton and Cena WISH the crowd cared about them this much.

Honorable Mention –

– The Rock vs. Mankind, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

– The Rock vs. Chris Jericho, Vengeance 2001

– The Rock vs. Chris Jericho, Royal Rumble 2002

– The Rock vs. Eddie Guerrero, Raw 7.22.02

– The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin, WrestleMania XIX

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