The other day I was walking the dog when he discovered a skateboard broken in two pieces lying on the grass, which he promptly tried to get on and when that didn’t work sat down and started to chew the bottom half. More surprising than a seven month old Bouvier des Flandres puppy trying to skateboard, was when I noticed the old ‘WWF Attitude’ scratch logo on the half-skateboard Shaggy had in his mouth. Turning over the other half, I was greeted by the image of a familiar face with one eyebrow raised above his sunglasses in dramatic fashion… Yes, The Rock. What are the chances that the same day I get this DVD to review the dog finds an item with his picture on?
Length: Approx running time 7 hrs 58 mins
- Samoan Royalty
- WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Rocky Maivia
- Rock the Ruler
- WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Owen Hart vs. The Rock
- Nation vs. DX
- King of the Ring Quarterfinal Match
Triple H vs. The Rock
- Rock’s Big Chance
- WWE Championship Match (Final Round)
Mankind vs. The Rock
Survivor Series (15/11/98)
- Rivalry with Mankind
- Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship
Mankind vs. The Rock
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (14/02/99)
- So it continues…
- Ladder Match for the WWE Championship
Mankind vs. The Rock
- Two of the Most Charismatic Superstars Ever
- WWE Championship Match
Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
WrestleMania XV (28/03/99)
- People’s Champion
- Steel Cage Match
The Rock vs. Triple H
- Rock ‘n Sock Connection
- World Tag Team Championship
The Rock / Mankind vs. Undertaker / Big Show
- The Verbal SmackDown!
- No Holds Barred Match
The Rock vs. Kane
- McMahon – Helmsley Regime vs. The Rock
- WWE Championship Match
Triple H vs. The Rock
- The Following Night…
- Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship
The Rock vs. Shane McMahon
- The Great One vs. The Olympic Medalist
- WWE Championship Match
Kurt Angle vs. The Rock
No Way Out (25/02/01)
- The New Title
- WCW Championship Match
Booker T vs. The Rock
- The Undisputed Champion
- Undisputed WWE Championship Match
Chris Jericho vs. The Rock
Royal Rumble (20/01/02)
- Icon vs. Icon
- The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
WrestleMania X8 (17/03/02)
- Triple Threat
- Triple Threat Match for the WWE Undisputed Championship
Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker vs. The Rock
- Just Bring It
- The Rock vs. Eddie Guerrero
- Third Time’s A Charm?
- Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock
WrestleMania XIX (30/03/03)
- Transcending Sports Entertainment
- The Rock: The Most Electrifying in Sports Entertainment
- Heat July 11, 1999 – “Billy’s Prayer to God”
- RAW August 9, 1999 – “The Big Slow”
- RAW September 6, 1999 – “My Name is Kane”
- RAW November 15, 1999 – “Doughnuts”
- SmackDown! August 10, 2000 – “Hermie”
- RAW December 4, 2000 – “Armageddon Opponents”
- RAW August 13, 2001 – “Thomas Jefferson Sucka”
- RAW September 10, 2001 – “The People’s Strudel”
- SmackDown! September 20, 2001 – “Great Balls of Fire”
- SmackDown! January 3, 2002 – “Copacabana”
- SmackDown! January 17, 2002 – “Camera Man”
- SmackDown! January 24, 2002 – “The Charleston”
- No Way Out February 17, 2002 – “NWO”
- SmackDown! July 11, 2002 – “Busta Rhymes”
- RAW March 10, 2003 – “The Superhero”
- RAW June 21, 2004 – “Miami Dolphins”
- The One-Liners
Proof if ever it were needed that The Rock gets everywhere. It wasn’t that long ago that The Rock was once ‘The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment’ considered by most experts to be one of the three biggest stars of the modern era of U.S. wrestling alongside Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin, crossing over into legitimate celebrity status.
When the WWF’s popularity in the Europe exploded again in 2000 it was The Rock’s face that was on the cover of magazines, newspapers and journals. I had never seen anything like it involving a wrestler before or since. Whilst many of these articles were based on the WWF’s massive popularity or its tours of the UK, some of it had to do with The Rock’s other endeavours such as his (admittedly poor) autobiography The Rock Says… (HarperCollins, 2000) following in the footsteps of Mick Foley’s excellent Have A Nice Day (HarperCollins, 1999) which reached #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List; his cameo appearances in popular television series Star Trek: Voyager and That ’70s Show; his role in Wyclef Jean’s single “It Doesn’t Matter” (2000) – famously named after one of The Rock’s catchphrases – which debuted at #3 in the charts over here; and his heavily-hyped but relatively small role as The Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns (2001). The Rock was featured so prominently in the advertising and promotion for that even non-wrestling fans were complaining at how little he was in it after they saw the film. When The Rock reprised the role in The Scorpion King (2002) he as earned $5.5 million and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest salary for an actor in his first lead role, signalling the beginning of the end for his in-ring career. Wrestling, the printed word, television shows, music, film… It was hard to avoid the guy. Another one of his catchphrases even made it into the dictionary…
“Main Entry: smack-down Pronunciation: ‘smak-daun’ Function: noun Date: 1997 1: the act of knocking down or bringing down an opponent 2: a contest in entertainment wrestling 3: a decisive defeat 4: a confrontation between rivals or competitors” Credit: Merriam-Webster Online
Now a relatively successful actor, having recently starred in his first Disney film The Game Plan (2007), earlier this year The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock stated he would be billed simply by his real name Dwayne Johnson in his films from now on. Yet while Johnson may have moved on from wrestling, it’s safe to say wrestling fans haven’t forgotten about Johnson’s former career as evidenced by the reaction he received at his most recent wrestling-related appearance inducting his grandfather and father into the 2008 Class of the WWE Hall Of Fame, the night before WrestleMania XXIV. This three disc set gives them a trip down memory lane to the late nineties and early naughties when he was cutting ‘electrifying’ promos and tearing up the ring with mssrs Austin, Foley, Helmsley, and Angle. Rather than the typical format of a biography / documentary with a series of as extras matches like Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen or The Triumph and Tragedy of World Class Championship Wrestling or a series of matches presented by the wrestler ala Mick Foley: Greatest Hits & Misses or The Legacy of Stone Cold Steve Austin, the set consists simply of a collection of matches interspersed with short segments giving a summary of that stage of Dwa… I mean, The Rock’s career. In light of the different format, then rather than give a summary of what’s included, what isn’t include, and whether it’s any good I’ve gone through things in chronological order more like a wrestling card – just think of this as a hybrid of your standard DVD Review and an issue of Now That’s What I Call Wrestling…
Disc 1 –
“I’m telling you: It’s good to be The King but it’s great to be The Rock.”
(Jerry Lawler, WrestleMania XV, 28/03/99)
Samoan Royalty: Before focusing on the man himself, we get some background into The Rock’s roots starting with his grandfather the late Peter Maivia. In a nice touch, a graphic shows Samoa (where Peter Maivia was legitimately elected to the position of High Chief), New Zealand (where he learnt to wrestle) and San Francisco (where he became a big star in the 1960s/70s). For the record, his time in England, where he was sufficiently over that fans of glory days 60s British wrestling still mention him to me to this day, is not mentioned. Since Peter was the Patriarch of “The Samoan Wrestling Dynasty” we get a family tree showing how he was related to The Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika), ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka, Rikishi, Samu, Yokozuna, Haku, and The Tonga Kid. After he was diagnosed with cancer, his wife Lia took over his NWA Hawaii promotion and was even elected Vice President of the National Wrestling Alliance. Their daughter Atta married ‘Soul Man’ Rocky Johnson. Their son grew up to be The Rock.
We see photos of a young Dwayne Johnson as a kid backstage with Freddie Blassie and André the Giant and press clippings from his (American) Football days at the University of Miami (where he helped the Dolphins win the National Championship), before jumping straight into his wrestling career where he amalgamated the ring names of his father and grandfather to become Rocky Maivia. The real reasons behind this change in career path (see The Rock Says…, HarperCollins, 2000) are glossed over in favour of the phrase “the call to wrestling could not be denied” and we get footage of him practising moves with Dr. Tom Pritchard, footage from his (television) debut at Survivor Series ’96 and hear commentary from his early matches with Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, and Michael Cole putting him over so strongly its no wonder some rejected his push (bearing in mind this was before he’d actually really done anything). All in all, the first chapter is probably the most interesting of any of the non-match segments and sets us up nicely by providing some information on the man behind the character.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs. Rocky Maivia RAW, (13/02/97): Our first match comes from the infamous Thursday Raw Thursday in February 1997, the night Shawn Michaels cut the promo claiming he’d “lost his smile”… and his pal Triple H his title. Basically Michaels vacated the WWF Title by not wanting to lose to Bret H… erm, I mean a “career ending knee injury”. According to comments by The Rock when asked about the subject this was the reason the decision was made to take the Intercontinental Title off Hunter Hearst Helmsley and give the fans something positive: “This kind of thing happens in our business sometimes. Guys will refuse to do a job or balk at following a story line. What Shawn’s reasons were… I don’t know. And I don’t care. I only know that it lead to another opportunity for me.” (The Rock Says…, HarperCollins, 2000).
As everyone knows Rocky Maivia getting this “opportunity” was not well received by many fans at the time, but the match in which he won his first Federation Title was a good one which gave us an early indication of the chemistry these two would have together. There is “no time limit” according to JR, and this turns out to be a nice basic match, featuring some mat-wrestling and plenty of counter-moves, a contrast to their 1998-1999 style brawls. It is as good a match as you could expect from these two in that era considering at the time, Rocky was green as grass and the skinny looking Helmsley was developing his skills. Both characters would change a lot over the next few years: Hunter is still the snooty blue-blood and Chyna had yet to debut (she would do so at that months In Your House 13: Final Four); and it’s always interesting to see Maivia as a smiley babyface in a gimmick that was the polar opposite of The Rock… and to see him throwing dropkicks. (For the record, Rocky’s early finishers were the shoulder-breaker and a high-cross body-block from the top rope).
As an added bonus, the commentary features a few inside jokes such as McMahon informs us Helmsley’s ‘butler’, Mr. Hughes was “conspicuous by his absence” (i.e. he had been released) and later on when The Honkytonk Man, who at the time was searching for a protégé (and what a let-down that story ended up) joins the announce team and mocks Vince’s obsession with pushing Rocky so hard. Honky gets in some great one-liners regarding his real-life cousin (“When it comes to The King, he’s full of royalty”) and (unusually for a heel of that era)offers criticism of both babyface (“Rocky Maivia – I don’t think he fits the category of what The Honkytonk Man’s looking for”) and heel (“Hunter Hearst Helmsley’s a good Champion but he’s not great by far”), as well as the match itself (“I’m not very impressed by anything I’ve seen so far”). In another interesting note years before he would become ‘The Cerebral Assassin’, Jim Ross helps coin Hunter’s future nickname…
Jim Ross: “Many say that Helmsley is the most cerebral Intercontinental Champion since The Honkytonk Man”
Vince McMahon: “HAHAHA, most cer-ee-bral, eh?”
Jerry Lawler: “Yeah, for you morons out there that means that he’s a ‘thinking man’s champion’!”
In-ring Helmsley carries the bulk of the match, playing off his experience advantage as he works Rocky’s arm over, building nicely to the upset finish. ‘The American Blue-Blood’ looks as smooth as he ever has here, including a nice piledriver. Say what you will about Rocky’s Intercontinental Title push: the match in which he won it was very well executed. They wouldn’t have a non-gimmick match this good again for many years to come. Afterwards, we have the post match interview with Michael Hayes, while in the background Triple H storms to the locker room.
Rock the Ruler: This section covers the fans’ negative reaction described here as an anti-Maivia mob”. Contrary to revisionist history (and even the way it is presented here), the legendary “Rocky Sucks!” chants did not begin when Maivia won the Intercontinental Title – as a fan at the time I distinctly remember they were a part of his matches since at least January (see his Shotgun match with Savio Vega for example). When he won the belt they just got louder. Indeed many fans at the time resented the clean-cut and unproven youngster been shoved down their throats, leading to some incredible (negative) reactions for a babyface at the time most famously at Wrestleania XIII (of course, Cena has topped them since). Listening to the fans, WWF were smart enough to capitalise on the reaction by turning him heel after he attacked Chainz (Brian Lee) and joined The Nation of Domination (renamed ‘The Nation’). We get some nice clips of his super-cool Nation Titantron, his early heel promos, and a rushed description of how he usurped Farooq as ‘Ruler’ of the stable.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match – Owen Hart vs. The Rock, RAW (06/04/98): This was a surprising choice for a match. When I read the match listing, I presumed the date was wrong and we would get the match from 1997 in which the still-babyface Rocky Maivia lost the Intercontinental Title to the late Owen Hart. Instead we get new Nation ‘Ruler’ The Rock taking on ‘The Black Hart’ in a random match from Raw. I didn’t even remember (yes, even though it happened on my birthday). The only reasoning I could think of, although it isn’t mentioned here, is that Rock was something of a protégé of Bret and Owen Hart. Your commentators are the unusual team of Jim Ross and Michael Cole, the latter of whom blasts the former with the following line about Vince McMahon: “He convinced you to turn Corporate – you’re wearing that Stetson hat!”
Around two minutes in, the ref kicks Rock’s sidekicks D-Lo Brown and Kama Mustafa out for interfering. It’s interesting to see Owen kick out of ‘The People’s Elbow’ (which was at that point a transitional move) mid-match but other than that there wasn’t much of a match here as they kept things really basic until the end when Owen makes his comeback and locks on the Sharpshooter only for Chyna to come down and whack him with a baseball bat giving Owen the DQ win at 5:47.
Nation vs. DX: Explains how Owen became co-leader of The Nation alongside The Rock, leading to a faction vs. faction feud with Owen’s existing enemies Degeneration-X along with highlights of this feud. Ironically we get more footage of D-X than The Nation! Of course the problems between the respective gangs lead to a rivalry between their respective leaders which leads us to…
King of the Ring Quarterfinal Match – Triple H vs. The Rock, RAW (22/06/98): This is from the Quarter Finals of the 1998 King Of The Ring Tournament that were broadcast on Raw before the pay-per-view. At the time, I was surprised this match was on free television rather the pay-per-view portion of the Tournament (where The Rock met Dan Severn in the Semi-Finals and Ken Shamrock in the Final, whilst Hunter provided guest commentary on the Final) since they were two of the more over guys in the Tournament. This is another unusual pick and I think a better bet would have been the Final against Shamrock. Although one of the better matches of the Tournament and possibly one of the better matches on Raw that summer but not even the best match on TV that night (to put things into perspective, over on WCW’s Monday Nitro we got Bret Hart versus Chris Benoit).
We saw their great chemistry again, this time with their roles reversed in this ‘battle of the champions’ as heel Intercontinental Champion The Rock takes on babyface European Champion Triple H. You can tell right away that we are now squarely in the ‘Attitude Era’ and the match is typical for those two in that era featuring: punches, kicks, trademark moves (once again, The People’s Elbow was still a mid-match move at this point, just called a “very artistic elbow” by JR) and interference from Chyna. In a nice twist, her meddling actually backfires causing a distraction that allows The Rock to deliver a low-blow followed with a Fisherman Suplex (he should have used that one more often) for the win. The match serves to set up a post-match brawl between The Nation and D-X. Not the best match they ever had, but it is nice to see one of their rarer matches.
Rock’s Big Chance: Now this is where things start to get really interesting as we see highlights of Rock tapping to Ken Shamrock in the KotR Final before jumping into his babyface turn (no mention of his Ladder Match loss to Triple H at that year’s SummerSlam surprisingly) and subsequent problems with Vince McMahon (“Your’e nothing but The People’s Ass”) in the build-up to the Survivor Series 1998: Deadly Games WWF Title Tournament. Clips from the matches themselves show how the odds were seemingly stacked against ‘The Great One’ as we see his four second pin on McMahon’s henchman, The Big Bossman ,in the First Round, Bossman ‘throwing his nightstick to Ken Shamrock’ but Rock ‘intercepting’ it in the Quarter-Finals, and Kane interfering in Rock’s Semi-Final with The Undertaker giving ‘The People’s Champion’ a DQ win and spot in the Final against McMahon’s ‘Chosen One’ Mankind…
WWE Championship Match (Final Round) – Mankind vs. The Rock, Survivor Series (15/11/98):
Jim Ross: “There is no time limit in this match-up and we will stay with it until there is a winner!”
Jerry Lawler: “Yeah, you’re gonna get to see all of this pay-per-view!”
Jim Ross: “That’s not very nice, King. Making fun of those less fortunate.”
Jerry Lawler: “It’s not nice but it’s accurate!”
Ah, The Monday Night Wars, you can’t beat ‘em (bonus points to those who remember what they were referring to here). Less about great matches and more about tying together two months worth of angles, swerves, and storyline twists, the Deadly Games Tournament at Survivor Series 1998 is widely remembered for producing one of the most fun pay-per-views of all time. Watched in its entirety it is an entertaining show, more comparable to a movie than your standard pay-per-view, that all makes sense at the end. Taken out of this context, the Final loses much of its appeal.
With The Rock’s parents in the audience, we get off to a sloooow start and the first three minutes are disjointed and dull until Rock slaps on a chin-lock, bringing the match a standstill. As Mick Foley put it in his first autobiography, “Our match was literally dying, and as the senior member in the match, I would be held to blame” (Have A Nice Day, HarperCollins, 1999). Fortunately, they are just about able to rescue it thanks in part to Foley’s willingness to sacrifice his health as the action picks up with some violent chair-shots, low-blows, a dive through the Spanish Announce Table (which left Foley with a dislocated knee-cap and torn medial meniscus), a well-executed double-cross, and the use the obligatory ‘screw job’ finish. Yes the match-ending Sharpshooter was a direct reference to the Montreal Double-Cross at the previous year’s Survivor Series with Vince revealing his true intentions in a moment of revelation – “McMahon said ‘Ring the damn bell!’” (Jim Ross) – double-crossing Mankind and transforming The Rock into ‘The Corporate Champion’. The set wouldn’t feel complete without Rock’s first WWF Title win, by far the most important moment in his career to this date, winning the top title at the same event where just two years earlier he had made his television debut. Looking back it may seem predictable but at the time, although obvious to everyone who paid attention to wrestling The Rock was on his way to the top, it was still surprising just how quickly it all happened. We hear the post-match promo with the infamous line “Vince McMahon didn’t screw The People. The People screwed The People” but don’t get the post-match angle with Austin. The ending set up an immediate feud between Mankind and The Rock who would go on to have better matches against each other…
Rivalry with Mankind: Highlights The Rock’s run as ‘The Corporate Champ’, my personal favourite era of his career. Sticking with the fictional story of The Rock being “the youngest” WWF Champion up to that point (in reality his cousin Yokozuna held that record), we get Rock’s reasons for his decision to double-cross ‘The People’ (he never forgave the fans for their earlier chants). It then moves on to his feud with Mankind. At the time (winter 1998-1999) I thought this the most interesting thing going on in U.S. wrestling but this is the most disappointing section of the DVD in so far that whilst there is a good collection of clips, there is little in the way of explanation, meaning it is confusing for newer fans. For the record, following Survivor Series the two battled each other in a rematch at December’s Rock Bottom, Mankind won the title in a No Disqualification Match on Raw later that month, Rock regained it in the violent (and difficult to watch) ‘I Quit!’ Match at Royal Rumble ’99, and Foley won it back off him in an Empty Arena Match broadcast on Half Time Heat during the 1999 SuperBowl. This led to the next match…
Last Man Standing Match for the WWE Championship – Mankind vs. The Rock, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (14/02/99): Defending Champion Mankind is selling his leg injury from an earlier angle (included here) on the live Heat prior to the pay-per-view where Rock attacked his knee with a fire extinguisher whilst he doing step-ups as part of a training with his mentor Dominic DeNucci, and former WWF Champions Bob Backlund and Sheiky baby (allowing them to play off Foley’s legitimate bad knees).
Held before 19,028 at The Pyramid in Memphis, in many ways this was an ‘Attitude Era’ tribute to the classic Memphis brawls of the 1970s and 80s. It really has it all: comedy, violence, trademark moves, lots of brawling around the arena, ref bumps, low-blows, and big bumps (at one point Mankind takes a backdrop off the Announce Table!). They work in some of their best spots from previous matches, use tables, chairs, steel ring-steps as weapons, and the various ’10 Counts’ are well executed. We start with some great psychology as Foley put his hands behind his back in a reenactment of the handcuff spot from the Rumble’s ‘I Quit!’ match to show how much punishment he could take before dishing out some of his own and the match builds from there. As usual Mankind takes loads of abuse but the match has much more than that. From his then-trademark slow walk to the ring (for me, one of the highlights of his heel act), to his ‘trash talk’ with fans and the ref throughout the match, the tracksuit-wearing Rock puts on a tour de force which highlights what a great all-round entertainer he was. At one point, he follows up three suplexes on the floor by commandeering Michael Cole’s chair to provide some commentary alongside Jerry Lawler. Later he grabs a microphone and does his impression of Memphis’ other King, treating the live audience to his rendition of “SmackDown! Hotel” (to the tune of “Heartbreak Hotel”).
We are also treated to some hilariously bad commentary from Cole like when he notes “Rock’s in trouble: SIX HUNDRED pounds of weight on that table, King!”, just before Foley delivers a Double-Arm DDT. I guess they both must have spent a lot of time in the canteen that day (hopefully the table was reinforced). Nothing can top the following exchange as they are showing a replay of the match-ending double-chair shot:
Michael Cole: “Mankind and The Rock knocked each other out with the steel stairs and they could not get up!”
Jerry Lawler: “They used chairs, Michael Cole!”
Michael Cole: “They used stairs all night – chairs, what’s the difference?”
(I wonder what Michael Cole sits on when he’s having dinner and what he climbs up to get to bed)
Ah yes, the finish. At the time the main criticism was that this match was used to set up yet another rematch (the result seemed to set-up a Triple Threat Match at WrestleMania XV, but it was not to be and instead lead into the following night’s episode of Raw) rather than provide a conclusive winner. The live audience obviously agreed because the ending is greeted by a HUGE and sustained chant of “Bulls***!” The post-match stretcher job is also included.
Whilst not as memorable, haunting, bloody or disturbing as the violent match at the previous month’s Royal Rumble this is arguably the better match (not to mention easier to watch) and possibly the best match of the Rock-Mankind series. Shame about the non-conclusive finish.
So it continues…: A quick recap explaining why they had a rematch the next night on Raw…
Ladder Match for the WWE Championship – Mankind vs. The Rock, RAW (15/02/99): You can tell which ‘Era’ this is from due to the abundance of signs with black marker. Before the action gets underway, we are treated to Rock’s pre-match promo at the expense of the crowd, Steve Austin, tequila, and Mick Foley. Then Steve Austin joins Lawler and Cole on commentary and does a decent job. Between swearing a lot, insulting both wrestlers and gently mocking Cole’s commentary skills, ‘Stone Cold’ provides some funny and insightful remarks that actually add to the action .
Different from your typical Ladder Match, this is in fact closer to your typical ‘Attitude Era’ brawl being less about highspots and more about violence. They set the tone early when The Rock whips Mankind knees first into the ring-steps and throughout the bout they continue to play off Foley’s knee injury from the previous night, use spots from their previous matches (such as a Rock Bottom through the table), and throw in some stiff chair (not stair!) and ladder shots, including their version of the ‘hammering’ spot from the HHH/Rock Ladder Match at SummerSlam ’98. The match ends with outside interference when new Corporation member Paul ‘not yet The Big Show’ Wight (who debuted at the previous night’s PPV) Chokeslams Mankind off the ladder, allowing Rock to grab the gold and become a three-time WWF Champion within the space of four months. As hard-hitting as the match was, at just over thirteen minutes it all seems a bit too rushed to live up to its full potential. Although long for a TV match in the ‘Attitude Era’, you can’t help but feel that an extra five minutes and it would have been better. Post-match, Austin delivers a Stunner to ‘The Corporate Champ’ which leads us to…
Two of the Most Charismatic Superstars Ever: Focuses on the build-up to WrestleMania XV and the contrasting ideologies of the two mega-stars.
WWE Championship Match – Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. The Rock, WrestleMania XV (28/03/99): We end the first disc with the biggest match of The Rock’s career to that point: his first chance to headline WrestleMania. What makes this match even more impressive is that according Rock’s book, they didn’t get round to discussing what they were going to do in the ring until the day of the show when Austin and Rock went through the match with Pat Patterson (interestingly it was at this point that The Rock suggested he kick out of the Stunner). Fortunately, the final WrestleMania Main Event of the 90’s lived up to expectations. From the red hot crowd to the announcing (McMahon brought Jim Ross back specifically to commentate on this match following his second bout of Bell’s Palsy at the request of Austin and Rock) everything fell into place and the two headliners are over to a ridiculous degree in their roles as babyface and heel. Despite his mega-heel status, Rock had been cheered by some during his feud with Foley but here it’s plain to see who the live audience are behind here from the booming chants of “Rocky Sucks!” From the start you get the feeling this is a battle between two distinct characters intense and over enough to pull it off and the iconic stare-down at the start has been shown in video packages for the past nine years since. A ‘No DQ’ stipulation was only added on the live Heat before the show went on the air, and the match is like a ‘Greatest Hits’ tour of your typical ‘Attitude Era’-style brawl consisting of brawling, punch-stomp combinations, a lengthy period of brawling around the arena, multiple ref bumps, the smashing of the Spanish Announce Table, a long chin-lock from The Rock, lots of near-falls, low-blows, nasty chair shots (even Mike Chioda takes a brutal ‘no-hands-up’/unprotected chair shot to the head), outside interference/run-ins from McMahon and Mick Foley who takes his rightful place as Special Guest Referee (another recurring gimmick in the ‘‘Attitude Era’’), and long finishing sequence in which they kick out of and counter each others finishing moves. In the end, after surviving two Rock Bottoms, it took two Stunners for ‘Stone Cold’ to win.
For many fans at the time, WrestleMania XV was the night The Rock showed he was there to stay. Still as much of a big night as it was for The Rock, it was another milestone for his opponent: the memorable ending of the pay-per-view saw Vince McMahon almost in tears, his ‘Corporate Champion’ defeated by McMahon’s arch-enemy, as the returning Jim Ross shouted “Stone Cold has become the World Wrestling Federation and he did it at WrestleMania XV!” I probably like this match more than most (hence a higher rating than I gave the heavily-hyped main event of WrestleMania XXIII), but it really was an entertaining ride from start to finish.