The Rock vs. Steve Austin No Holds Barred Match, Backlash 1999

The Rock About To Put Steve Austin Through Table

The feud between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock is era-defining, at the very least. Forever etched in wrestling fans’ memories, the two monuments the sport delivered classic matches and moments time after time. Many consider The Rock vs. Stone Cold at WrestleMania X-7 to be among the all-time most important matches of all time. Before that match, The Rock and Stone Cold clashed numerous times, including at WrestleMania XV. This Backlash 1999 match served as the much anticipated sequel to the XV match, a common theme for The Rock’s eventual rise to Hollywood superstardom. This match is not as celebrated as other confrontations between Rock and Austin, but the fun moments and hard-hitting action makes it worth a re-watch.

At Backlash 1999, the Brahma Bull and the Rattlesnake battled for Austin’s beloved custom Smoking Skull championship belt, as well as their position as the number one guy in the company. With special guest referee Shane McMahon, everything was on the line in this No Holds Barred title bout. One of the best moments in this match occurred when The Rock took the camera from its operator, and began to trash-talk Stone Cold. The Rock’s commentary is hilarious, and he ends his verbal jab with a rude gesture. Not one to be insulted and turn the other cheek, Stone Cold returns The Rock’s middle finger with a pair of his own, as well as Stone Cold Stunner, collapsing The Rock and his camera.

While this is a comedic and entertaining spot, the rest of this match is full of glorious brutal violence and stage production destruction. After a botched attempt to hit Austin with the belt, referee Shane accidentally hit The Rock and exited the match. Vince entered the fray with a new ref, who counted one, two, three on an Austin pin, giving Stone Cold back his beloved Smoking Skull belt.

The Rock vs. CM Punk, Elimination Chamber 2013

The Rock and CM Punk In Ring

The Rock’s return to wrestling was solidified by his championship victory over CM Punk at the Royal Rumble 2013, in a classic match that saw The Great One capturing the WWE Championship for the seventh time. The Rock’s victory ended Punk’s historic year-plus reign as champion, creating a huge level of interest in the rematch. At the time, the trio of Punk, Rock, and John Cena were the highest-level main event players, competing in a series of high-profile matches against one another. This Elimination Chamber main event may not have been the most popularly remembered of these epic clashes, but it was a well-worked wrestling match that helped build The Rock’s comeback and CM Punks’ overall star power and notoriety.

The two mega-fan favorites of different generations once again clashed at Elimination Chamber with the WWE Championship on the line. Both made claim to be The People’s Champions, and the crowd reaction to this title fight was electric. The disrespectful Punk attempted to goad The Rock into a disqualification by spitting in his face, as a DQ would have resulted in a CM Punk victory under the match’s stipulation. In another disrespectful move, Punk used his opponent’s move against him, giving The Rock a Rock Bottom onto a non-breaking Spanish announce table. A Go To Sleep kick could have given Punk his title back, if not for a ref bump to the outside. In the end, a second Rock Bottom from The Great One gave The Rock a title-retaining win. While this match may not be as oft-recollected as much as others that defined The Rock’s second major run in the WWE, it is well worth a rewatch.

Kurt Angle vs. The Rock, No Mercy 2000

The Rock With Kurt Angle In Hand

The megastar versus the Olympic wrestler was a defining feud for both The Rock and Kurt Angle during their exceptional careers. The differences in style and attitude by both men made them excellent rivals, proven by this underrated match. The action in the no-disqualification WWE Championship contest was hard-hitting and exciting, as the two athletes battered one another with anything they could, including multiple steel chairs.

As was common in Rocky’s career, the most electrifying man in sports entertainment was forced to contend with outside interference from a member of the McMahon family during a match. Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley threw her backing behind the challenger Kurt Angle, and the pair did everything in their power to take The Rock’s championship. Stephanie was heavily involved in the match, including distracting the referee when The Rock had Angle in a sharpshooter that Angle tapped out to, but the ref did not see due to her interference. The Rock got his revenge, delivering a Rock Bottom on McMahon, and even attempting The People’s Elbow, which was blocked by Angle. This interference summoned Triple H, who hit Angle with a Pedigree and then dragged his wife Stephanie out of the ring. The outside interference continued with Rikishi attempting to help The Rock but Angle was able to evade Rikishi’s attack, which instead hit The Rock. This allowed Angle to hit an Angle Slam and become the new WWE Heavyweight Champion for the first time in his career. The Rock was the usual victor in big matches such as these, but Angle’s victory was unique and a moment that should be more celebrated than it currently is.

Mankind vs. The Rock Empty Arena Match, Half-Time Heat

The Rock Dump Trash Can On Mankind

Of the many battles that The Rock and Mick Foley/Mankind had as both partners and enemies, their Empty Arena match was one of the most unique and entertaining. Most people remember The Rock ‘n’ Sock connection with nostalgic love, but their matches against each other deserve more acclaim, including this match that was not in a premium event or even on "Raw." Broadcast at the same time as the Super Bowl XXXIII halftime show, which featured Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder, and Big Bad Voodoo Baby, and the game played between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, this wild match was an example of the unique booking and innovation that made The Rock and the Attitude Era so beloved by wrestling fans to this day.

An unintentional foreshadowing of the Thunderdome era of WWE, this brawl spanned the entirety of the Tucson Convention Center. The Empty Arena match was held for the WWF Championship, adding to its unique legend. The Rock’s famous trash-talking ability is second to none, and in this match, Rocky took his smack talk all around the ring, verbally berating Mankind from bell to bell while wearing an announce desk headset for part of the contest. The Rock was able to cook up a devastating blow to Mankind in the stadium’s kitchen by putting Mr. Socko in an oven. To end this truly unique title fight, Mankind used a forklift to pin The Rock under a crate, and become the new WWF Champion.

The Rock and Mick Foley’s rivals-turned-friends is one of the greatest and most fondly beloved relationships in WWE history, and this was a great early chapter in their story that every fan should return to and watch.

Booker T vs. The Rock, SummerSlam 2001

Booker T And The Rock Fight Outside Ring

Two of the most charismatic men in wrestling history put on a show in this SummerSlam 2001 main event. To have two athletes competing for the WCW title in the main event, on the same show that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin defended the WWE Championship against Kurt Angle, shows the star power of both Booker T and The Rock at the time. Fans may not consider The Rock as a WCW figure, but he did have a successful run as a member of the brand. Those that do not remember this period of The Rock’s career should revisit the time, beginning with this match.

Backed by WCW owner Shane McMahon, Booker T had an early advantage in this bout, looking to establish himself at the same level as The Rock in WWE. This match was the first time The Rock and Booker ever competed, which in of itself makes this somewhat forgotten match ever more worthy of glory. Making his pay-per-view return to the WWE, The Rock was thrust back into a title bout, with a McMahon backed in the opposite corner once again. Shane would be neutralized by The APA, as Bradshaw nailed McMahon with a nasty Clothesline From Hell. This distraction opened the door for a Rock flurry, delivering a spine-buster and People’s Elbow to Booker T. After some exciting shenanigans, Booker T was all wound up and ready to deliver his Spinarooni, but The Rock was able to avoid and put Booker away with one final Rock Bottom. The People’s Champion became the WCW Champion in a moment in The Rock’s career that should be more celebrated.

Rikishi vs. The Rock, Survivor Series 2000

Rikishi Stink Face The Rock

Two members of the famous Anoa’i family of wrestlers clashed in this physical match. The cousins fought like brothers, throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at one another. Family feuds have created some of the most beloved and intriguing matches in wrestling history, as the stakes feel heightened. This match was extremely personal for both men, and the end result matched the intensity and passion both The Rock and Rikishi had for professional wrestling. This match is not the most well-remembered on the Survivor Series 2000 card, but the familial history alone makes it underrated.

Not waiting for the bell to get it on, The Rock sprinted to the ring and immediately attacked his cousin. An early ref bump took out the official, allowing Rikishi to bring out a sledgehammer from under the ring. Selling an injured midsection, The Rock was forced to fight from behind for much of the match. The powerful Rikishi looked extremely strong in this contest, battering The Rock with every part of his thick and muscular body. This included Rikishi delivering his dreaded Stink Face, a devastating blow to the Brahma Bull. This move alone should be recalled by wrestling fans with glee, but the match is not remembered in that way. After surviving Rikishi’s best shots, The Rock would mount a late comeback nailing his family member with a spine-buster and People’s Elbow drop. The Great One’s finisher was enough to win, but Rikishi would get his revenge with a post-match beat-down. This match was an exciting contest, and proof that a match doesn’t need a title to feel important and effective.

Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Rocky Maivia, In Your House 13: Final Four

Young Rocky Maivia holds out fist

Two future hall of fame members and fierce rivals had an early clash in this In Your House contest. In this period of WWE, both Triple H and Rocky were involved in the Intercontinental Championship picture, still working their way up to the WWE Championship contenders they would become in their later years. Triple H and The Rock would become embattled rivals, their paths crossing many times in bloody and brutal confrontations. This match was not the mega-hyped clashes that the pair would have in later events, but it did showcase the potential both athletes had. This portion of The Rock’s career is not looked on with love, and this is a well-worked contest that most do not remember.

After defeating Hunter to become Intercontinental Champion on "Thursday Raw," Rocky defended a title he had captured for the first time ever. The entitled Helmsley was the more experienced man in the contest, and utilized a number of holds to wear the young and energetic champion Maivia down early. Rocky showcased the quickness and strength that would benefit him so greatly in future matches. The distraction of Goldust was enough to allow Rocky to suplex Triple H and hold the bridge for a pin and a win.

The match is also notable for the wrestling debut of the one and only Chyna, who would of course be an influential force in Triple H’s career. Chyna shockingly emerged from the crowd, attacking Goldust’s manager Marlena, choking Marlena as a fan instead of roster member. The debut of such a legendary figure and early clash of two future icons that were on the rise, but definitely different from their final forms makes this In Your House match a unique piece of wrestling history that definitely should be discussed more than it is.

Kane vs. Mankind vs. The Big Show vs. The British Bulldog vs. The Rock vs. Triple H, Unforgiven 1999

The Rock Tosses Triple H As Big Show Watches

Six legends of the WWE clashed in this intriguing and somewhat random match up. On the line was the chance to be called the WWE Champion, a title that all six men were worthy of being so named. All of the competitors in the match were former or future world champions (save The Bulldog, one of the greatest professional wrestlers to never have won the big gold). Adding to the intrigue and star power of this championship bout was the match’s special enforcer, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. The People’s Champion was greeted with the biggest ovation during his entrance, challenged only by the special enforcer Stone Cold, who would become a large presence late in the bout. Despite the impressive star power, this match is not considered the classic that other multi-man matches of the time are.

One of the things that stick out in this match is the size and strength of the six competitors. Each athlete had their chance to show off their impressive physique and power, creating an extremely watchable and fun contest. After Triple H and Mankind began to brawl on the ramp, an arena-wide brawl broke out. This included a Mankind pile driving Triple H on the steel steps. The Rock ‘n’ Sock connection had a brief reunion, as the two looked to do whatever they could to take out the massive threat of The Big Show. Mankind broke the truce by shoving Mr. Socko down The Rock’s throat, but Rocky responded with a Rock Bottom to the deranged Mankind. After some shenanigans involving the return of the referees on strike, Austin became the de facto referee. Triple H, with some help from The British Bulldog, was able to Pedigree The Rock, and capture the WWE Championship.

Chris Jericho & The Rock vs. Kurt Angle & Steve Austin, November 15, 2001 Smackdown

Kurt Angle Puts The Rock In Ankle Lock

The originator of the catchphrase that would become the namesake of "SmackDown," The Rock was heavily involved in the early edition of the show. One underrated match during The Rock’s "SmackDown" career was this tag team contest, in which The Great One teamed with Chris Jericho against two of his greatest rivals Steve Austin and Kurt Angle. Mostly known as a singles wrestler, or as a member of the Rock ‘n’ Sock connection with Mick Foley, The Rock did win the WWE Tag Team Championship with Jericho, defeating The Dudley Boyz on an episode of "Monday Night Raw." The Rock would also capture the tag belts with The Undertaker in one of his five overall tag title reigns. The star power of this match is second to none, as the match was the main event for the go-home show to one of the most star-studded and important Survivor Series matches of all time.

Stone Cold and The Rock brawled to begin this match, giving the crowd a reason to explode. The fast and furious action is proof of the four athletes’ elite wrestling ability, who likely couldn’t have a bad match together if they tried. Angle and Austin used a classic tag team strategy in this match, isolating Jericho in their corner for as long as possible. The pop The Rock receives once tagged in is incredible, and The Rock proceeded to lay the smackdown on both Stone Cold and Angle. The match ended in no contest, as Angle and Austin looked to injure The Rock ahead of their upcoming match. The men that would compete in that WWE vs. The Alliance Survivor Series match would brawl to end this show, ending with Stone Cold delivering a Stone Cold Stunner to The Rock.

The Rock vs. Shane McMahon, May 1, 2000 Raw

The Rock Holds Title In Victory

When you’re at the top, everyone wants to take a shot at your throne, especially when you possess the brash attitude of one Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. After defeating Triple H at Backlash 2000 the previous night, the champion Rock was forced to defend his title against seemingly impossible odds in this steel cage match on "Monday Night Raw." Furious that The Rock was the new champion of his company, head honcho Vince McMahon sent his son into one of the most dangerous structures in wrestling history: the steel cage. Shane has a long history of falling off of dangerous heights, and this match saw the chairman’s son crash from the top of the cage to the ring, in a crushing blow to his back.

In the history of cage matches, this one does not rank among the highest tier classics, but it is a very effective contest. Flanked by his fellow McMahons and special guest stooge referees Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco, Shane looked to be set up in the shade and an easy victory. Shane wisely attempted to escape the cage early and often, finding himself in the middle of a tug-of-war between The Rock and Vince. This match saw a surprising amount of referee violence, as Patterson took a Rock Bottom from the champ, and Brisco was sent face-first into the outside of the cage by a returning Earl Hebner, who received a huge pop from the crowd. In the end, The Rock was able to scale the side of the cage and escape, while Vince watched on with a shocked look on his face. Rocky’s escape came just seconds before Shane was able to crawl his bruised body out of the ring through the front door, which provided a dramatic ending and crowd-pleasing title retention for The Rock.