The Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment DVD Review

Disc 2 –

I love The Rock as much as everybody: This guy’s great, knows he’s electrifyin’ and all that stuff. But hey! Kurt Angle is a true American hero. He’s even wearing the colours of the United States: red, white and blue – this guy won a Gold Medal. Why is everybody feeling that The Rock is going to win this match with his eyes closed?

(Tazz, No Way Out 2001, 25/02/01)

People’s Champion: The second disc kicks off with a recap of the events that led to The Rock going from top heel to one of the top two babyfaces (along with Austin) when he decided to leave The Corporation after losing a rematch to ‘Stone Cold’ at Backlash. Yes it was ‘The Great One’ himself who made the choice (compare Randy Orton’s 2004 babyface turn where Orton was the one kicked out of Evolution by Triple H) and we learn that Triple H (and Chyna) had similarly decided to leave D-X, that Hunter was on his way to main event status and a renewal of their feud. Whilst its hardly a big omission it’s a shame it doesn’t mention that at the time Triple H joined The Corporation (WrestleMania XV) Rock was still the top star of group. I only mention that because it would have been nice to see one of the tag matches they had together in that period since they spent most of their careers opposing each other.

Steel Cage Match – The Rock vs. Triple H, RAW (05/07/99): Another odd choice, we kick-off Disc 2 on much the same note Disc 1 ended with an ‘‘Attitude Era’’ scrap. Yes, the main event of Raw the week after the one where Steve Austin won the WWF Title back from The Undertaker was given to the companies top two young stars and it’s good to see the roles reversed yet again, now with even better results as Rocky is back on the side of good and Tripper starting to come into his own as the Number 2 heel (behind The Undertaker). “I think he’s a very self-centred human being” says Jim Ross of Triple H who had just gotten the storyline credit for injuring Mankind/been responsible for Foley finally getting knee surgery, Hunter was on the way to winning his first World Title (which wouldn’t happened until the night after SummerSlam ’99).

The action itself is pretty basic – lots of punch-stomp in this one, in-between which Triple H uses a pair of handcuffs supplied by Chyna as a weapon – but the thing that really stood out to me most was that this match showed they could have a relatively strong match without either of them ever needing to hit their respective finishers. This was a ‘Number One Contenders’ match with “no time limit” (according to JR) and the lack of a referee inside the Cage means the only way to win is by escaping the steel structure. Simple, right? Wrong. Despite the fact that there is no referee and it is in a Cage to prevent outside interference/the wrestlers leaving the ring they still manage to work in outside interference, a ref bump and even manage to brawl up the aisle! They achieve this three-in-one after Chyna interferes by taking out Tim White, slams the door in Rock’s face in a throwback to WCCW, and physically drags her man out of the Cage. Predictably Rock follows and they brawl around ringside before The Rock finally drags Triple H back into the Cage to restart the match. A steel chair becomes involved in the finish and we get an unusual ending as the over-confident Triple H’s arrogance backfires on him when he accidentally crotches himself on the top rope when he is trying to climb back into the Cage so he can walk out the door, allowing Rock to escape instead. Interestingly Hunter’s fall was foreshadowed by the commentary at the start of the match, where Jerry Lawler talked about ‘The Game’s’ over-ambitiousness being his downfall: “The only gripe I have with Triple H is that that ego of his and that pride and that blind ambition almost split The Corporation in half but fortunately Mr. McMahon’s got all of that smoothed over” (oh, the irony!)

The DVD cuts out Mr. Ass’ post match attack on ‘The Great One’. Whilst not as good as the one they had at Rebellion later that year this was still a strong effort for a TV match.

Rating: ***¼

Rock ‘n Sock Connection: Details how the former rivals became tag team partners with highlights from their comedy promos with Mankind campaigning to be The Rock’s partner and the infamous twenty minute “This Is Your Life’ segment where Foley brought out The Rock’s former Home Economics teacher, Football Coach, and high school sweetheart, and “delivered a jacket to The Rock officially dubbing their union The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection.” It is worth noting that the next match is actually from before that angle.

World Tag Team Championship – The Rock / Mankind vs. Undertaker / Big Show, RAW (30/08/99):  Our heroes are already in the ring as Tag Team Champions ‘The Unholy Alliance’, billed at a combined weight of 828 lbs and carrying numerous injuries (in the case of Undertaker), sloooowly walk down to the ring. On the babyface side Foley looked the worse for wear due to his injuries and weight problems, even compared to his matches earlier that year with The Rock.

Show dives in and takes on both opponents by himself and from there the match is worked as a handicap match. ‘Taker gets in some cheap-shots outside but doesn’t ever tag-in as Foley plays Ricky Morton/Face In Peril to some humourous commentary (“How dare you insult Mrs. Foley!” JR to The King). Five minutes in, Paul Bearer starts sloooowly making his way down to ringside, tells Undertaker something I don’t think we ever found out and they leave together. With Big Show all alone, Foley hits a low-blow and hot tags The Rock who uses a chair-shot, followed by a Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection Double People’s Elbows for their first run as Tag Team Champions. Much, much better match than I remembered it being but still the weakest bout on the set so far. If they needed an R ‘n’ Connection match they should have used their match with The Dudleyz.

Rating: *¾

The Verbal SmackDown!: This chapter deals with The Rock’s growing popularity, particularly how “SmackDown! – A term coined by The Rock was utilised as the name of the WWE’s first weekly broadcast on Network programming” and the word itself became part of the common vernacular earning a place in Webster’s Dictionary.

No Holds Barred Match – The Rock vs. Kane, SmackDown! (30/12/99): Rock is crazy over by this point as he takes on old-school Kane (you know when he still had the one arm covered). Set-up by an angle in which Stephanie McMahon accused The Rock of “oooogling” (Michael Cole’s word) Kane’s girlfriend Torri, this was the WWF’s last televised match of the Millennium. This leads to a humourous mistake later in the match when Cole remarks “Kane may be doing this for Triple H, but he’s doing it more for Terri!”

At 5:13 this is a short but action packed brawl, that more resembles an ‘‘Attitude Era’’ pay-per-view main event that starts out at a fast-pace as they fight up the ramp, use the steel structures as weapons, exchange low-blows, etc., etc. Kane takes a big bump off the stage. Rock takes a Chokeslam through the table. In the end ‘The Great One’ uses a steel chair, followed by a Rock Bottom for the win. Similar to the Owen Hart match in that the action was slightly better than expected, but far too short to leave an impact.

Rating: **¼

McMahon – Helmsley Regime vs. The Rock: Despite his success in 1999 we are told “His banner year paled in comparison to one of his familiar foes” as we get footage of the McMahon-Helmsley Era including Triple H and Stephanie’s wedding and Triple H ‘retiring’ Mick Foley at No Way Out 2000, which left The Rock as their remaining arch-enemy. The result? “When The Rock and Triple H met at Backlash 2000, the odds were undeniably in favour of Triple H: He was not only WWE Champion but essentially running the WWE with his wife Stephanie and to make matters even worse for The Rock Triple H’s brother-in-law Shane McMahon was serving as Special Guest Referee.” If only we knew then, what we know now…

WWE Championship Match – Triple H vs. The Rock, Backlash (30/04/00): Actually Triple H is accompanied not only by Steph, but her dad as well! Before the match Vince announces that Special Enforcer ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin won’t be there, making the situation look even bleaker for The Rock. The pressure is on since, ‘The Great One’ had taken a leaf out of McMahon’s play-book and “guaran-damn-teed” victory.

The fourth and final match between mssrs Helmsley and Maivia is the best of their matches shown here. The wrestling itself is nothing fancy, consisting mainly of punch-stomp combinations and plenty of finishers. In fact Rock’s offence here doesn’t expand much beyond punches… And you know what? It doesn’t matter!!! They have the audience in the palm of their hands from start to finish. Everyone knows their role here: This is the ‘version’ of The Rock, a lot of people remember when they think about him and he was at possibly his most over here as a fiery babyface, Vince provides outside interference and classic facial expressions, Women’s Champion (remember that?) Stephanie screams, Shane helps his brother-in-law out any chance he gets with fast counts (JR: “Why is he patting Triple H on the leg? Affirmation?”) and flat out refusing to count for The Rock, and Triple H is in his absolute prime here as he heels it up, slows the babyface’s momentum down  with a long sleeper and a chin-lock spot, and bumps all over the place for Rocky’s comebacks. Add in a white hot crown, ref bumps, run-ins by Patterson and Brisco, steel chair shots, a finish involving appearances from ‘The Rattlesnake’, Linda McMahon and Earl Hebner, and the constant bickering between Ross and Lawler on commentary and you’ve got an entertaining slice of Sports Entertainment. Of course, the Spanish Announce Table gets smashed this time courtesy of a double Rock Bottom onto Shane and ‘The Game’. The only real criticism of this match is that the anticipation for Steve Austin’s arrival overshadowed some of the action as the live audience breaks into BOOMING chants of “Austin! Austin!” at various points throughout. When he does arrive, the ovation is incredible. Unfortunately ‘The Bionic Redneck’ was clearly struggling following neck surgery (he would make his comeback that September) which meant he couldn’t perform the Stone Cold Stunner (instead using a chair to take out the baddies) and found it difficult to get back up after falling down. After Austin delivers chair-shots all round, The Rock dropped The People’s Elbow for the win. (N.B. Rock lost it straight back to Trips in the Iron Man Match at Judgement Day the following month!)

Whichever way you slice it, this is a fun match and a perfect example of the familiar ‘babyface overcomes the odds’ storyline with a hugely over hero, a hated heel and some good storytelling. The post-match celebration involving Austin, a tow-truck, the D-X Express, and some beers is included.

Rating: ****

The Following Night…: A short section setting up The Rock’s first title defence, a Cage Match on the following night’s Raw…

Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship – The Rock vs. Shane McMahon, RAW (01/05/00): There’s some more selective history involved here since they made a big deal out of the fact that if Rock lost he’d be “the shortest reigning WWF Champion in history” when in fact that ‘honour’ already belongs to Yokozuna (again!) at WrestleMania IX. Poor old Yoko’ being ignored in his family member’s DVD!

As far as the match itself goes, the Cage gimmick plays to Shane’s strengths (he takes a big bump late on) and with his dad, sister, and Triple in his corner and Patterson and Brisco as Special Guest Referees there are enough distractions to disguise any flaws in the ‘wrestling’ which includes the usual outside interference, low-blows, and biased officiating in favour of the heel including Brisco slamming the door in The Rock’s face like he’s Terry Gordy on Christmas Day 1982. Whilst the second Cage Match of the set doesn’t quite live up to the first it is still a fun TV-style match. For the second night in the row, it’s a case of the babyface having to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds after Rocky’s pal Earl Hebner helps him out. Hot on the heels of the previous night’s title change the live crowd was really into this one, meanwhile on television this match drew a HUGE rating being watched by an incredible ten million viewers! Much better match than it had any right to be.

Rating: ***

The Great One vs. The Olympic Medalist: After crediting, The Rock for crossing over and becoming a mainstream celebrity through his role in The Mummy Returns (2001), we are introduced to Kurt Angle. At the time a lot of fans (particularly of the on-line variety) moaned, groaned and complained that Angle was presented as an ‘out-of-his-depth’ transitional Champion during his first Title run. Here the current TNA star is put over very well as the narrator discusses his amateur credentials, him defeating The Rock for the WWF Title at No Mercy 2000, and his success at retaining the belt against ‘The Brahma Bull’ in their subsequent series of rematches.

WWE Championship Match – Kurt Angle vs. The Rock, No Way Out (25/02/01): These two always had great chemistry together (perhaps because of their friendship), going back to Angle’s early days in the Federation and this one was arguably the best match of Angle’s career to that point. Many have claimed this loss did more for Angle than any of his wins as Champion and in many ways the match itself is worked to put both men over as equals. With everyone expecting Austin-Rock to headline WrestleMania X-7, the commentary team of JR and Tazz do their best job of presenting the defending WWF Champion as a possible winner during the intense pre-match stare down.

Jim Ross: “Everybody’s expecting The Rock to win this match. I tell ya what: I believe that The Rock, I think from talkin’ to him today, he knows what kind of challenge this is going to be.”

Tazz: “Everybody’s sayin’ The Rock is going to win this match. Hey look, I’m tellin’ ya right now: I’ve been in the ring with both these guys, specifically Angle – Kurt Angle a Gold Medal Winner, this guy has never been an underdog and he ain’t an underdog today.”

Workrate-wise this is probably the best actual match on the set (at least up to this point) and you can see how the WWF/E Main Event style had evolved from the punch-stomp style of the late 90s as they exchange suplexes, submission moves (Sharpshooter, Angle Lock), belt shots, chair shots, a moonsault from Angle, and in the finishing sequence trade counters and reversals of finishers (that would become Angle’s trademark). Of course, they still throw in a ref bump and some outside interference from The Big Show (which has surprisingly little effect). The closing moments were particularly gripping with Angle swearing and showing a new intense side to his character as he desperately tried to hold on to the belt. They kick out of each others finishers, before Rock wraps things up with two Rock Bottoms… Actually it should have ended after the first Rock Bottom (being as Angle didn’t kick out!), but according to Kurt Angle’s autobiography the referee made a mistake:

“Instead of slapping the mat for the third time, he stopped his hand, the way he would if I was going to kick out. Only I didn’t kick out. The ref didn’t realize this was the finish. So he looked at us, then he looked at the announcer’s table where the bell was, and he knew he had messed up. He should have just said, “It’s a fall. The Rock wins.” But I guess he thought it would look bad, since he hadn’t finished the count. So he said, “No fall. The match continues.”’ (It’s True, It’s True, Collins Willow, 2001).

Rock improvised by nailing Angle with by far the hardest Rock Bottom you’ll see for the win. The crowd was hot, the action was fast-paced, and they ended one of the PPVs WWF/E have ever on a high-note that made both winner and loser look strong.

Rating: ****¼

The New Title: Acknowledging this title win it says The Rock was back on top, but interestingly the bout where he lost the title to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin (arguably the best and most famous match of his career) at WrestleMania X-7 is not mentioned or shown in the highlights! Instead we hear all about how the WCW buy-out led to an influx of new talent, including WCW World Champion Booker t At this point the narrator notes, “While this major overhaul was taking place The Rock was in Hollywood filming another movie” (veiled criticism?) and we get some highlights from the build-up to their match at SummerSlam ’01.

WCW Championship Match – Booker T vs. The Rock, SummerSlam (19/08/01): Perhaps the most often cited problem with the Invasion angle is that the WCW/ECW Alliance guys were never (or at least rarely) made to look as strong as the WWFers and at SummerSlam ‘01 (the only WWF/E pay-per-view in history where the WCW Championship was defended in the main event) Booker certainly doesn’t come across as The Rock’s equal. In this case that is not entirely WWE’s fault because it would have been nearly impossible to find anyone from WCW they could have done that with against Rock and Austin. No-one at that point really could have with the exceptions of Hulk Hogan, Goldberg, Sting, and possibly Scott Steiner and Kevin Nash.

Right away, you’re reminded what an entertaining announce team JR and Paul Heyman were, with their constant bickering and the very real sense of tension you got from them. They do a good job here of hyping the importance of this WCW Title Match. Built as The Rock’s return to pay-per-view (his last being the previous PPV bout being at WrestleMania X-7 back in April of that year) after he had taken time off to film The Scorpion King, our man receives a great reaction. Rock’s problems with ‘The Book Man’ related to Booker claiming The ‘Spin-a-roonie’ was “The Most Electrfying Move In Sports Entertainment” and that he invented The Bookend (Rock Bottom) finishing move. Booker is accompanied by WCW ‘Owner’ Shane McMahon guaranteeing a truck-load of outside-the-ring shenanigans.

Following a very fast start, the match maintains its quick pace to the extent that – reminiscent of Blanchard and Anderson/Luger and Windham at Clash Of The Champions I (and Undertaker/Batista at WrestleMania XXIII – at times it is like watching two heavyweights moving in fast-forward!  Some smooth exchanges (at one point Rock even utilizes a La Magistral cradle) are complimented by plenty of outside interference, finishing moves, chair shots, and a run-in from the APA. In the end,  Booker’s overconfidence costs him the match as he takes time out to perform a ‘Spin-a-roonie’ and walks right, slap, bang, into a Rock Bottom giving ‘The Great One’ his first WCW Title.

Rating: ***½

The Undisputed Champion: Explains the decision to unify the WCW and WWF Titles at the first Vengeance pay-per-view where Chris Jericho pulled an upset by defeating The Rock and Steve Austin in the same night (and went on about it for the next thirty years) to become the first The Undisputed Champion.

Undisputed WWE Championship Match – Chris Jericho vs. The Rock, Royal Rumble (20/01/02):

Jim Ross:I don’t ever recall coming into a Championship Match where seemingly the Champion was the underdog!

Jerry Lawler:Well, Y2J has been given very little respect by not only The Rock but by the rest of the >censored< Superstars. As of late everybody’s been coming up to The Rock and saying that when they win the Royal Rumble they’re going to be facing The Rock at WrestleMania. They’re just assuming that The Rock is going to walk over Y2J, he’s like a walk in the park. Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

‘Love It Or Hate It’, describes the following match and in fact every match from then on in the set. Some call this a “forgotten classic” and label it a 2002 Match Of The Year Contender. Others found it to be “overbooked”, a glorified “squash match”, and claiming it made an already weak looking Champion look even weaker (no mean feat). For those who have forgotten, the storyline leading into the match was that everyone thought The Rock was going to win. This even led to a series of backstage segments in which all the main potential Royal Rumble winners confronted ‘The Brahma Bull’ and informed him that they were going to be challenging him for the Undisputed Championship at WrestleMania X-8. Naturally, this annoyed Jericho who claimed he was “not a joke”.

Following a long and dramatic stare down, complete with trash talk and culminating with  Jericho sticking his hand in front of The Rock’s face ala The Rock’s trademark “Just Bring It!” hand-signal, Rock starts with some fast punches and we are in for a near twenty minute action-packed match featuring numerous false finishes. The blonde Canadian delivered a pair of Lionsaults which only scored a two. Moments later, The Rock finished a  comeback by making Y2J tap to the Sharpshooter but a run-in from Jericho’s countrymen Lance Storm and Christian were able to distract the referee. ‘The People’s Champion’ took out both interferers, but the distraction allowed Jericho to deliver a Rock Bottom which only got another count of two. Avoiding Jericho’s version of The People’s Elbow, Rocky smashed ‘The Ayatollah Of Rock ‘n’ Rolla’ through Ross and Lawler’s announce table (Lawler: “Are you okay, JR?…  It doesn’t matter if you’re okay!”).Jericho slapped on The Walls Of Jericho, but ‘The Great One’ made the ropes. After a ref bump (allowing corrupt referee Nick Patrick to replace him) Jericho used his Undisputed Title to blast The Rock but ‘The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment’ kicked out and scored a visible pin with a regular DDT… Which Patrick predictably refused to count. After Rock Bottoming Patrick, Rock delivered the famous spinebuster/People’s Elbow combo for another visible three count but with no referee to count Jericho was given time to recover again. In the end, despite all the assistance (intentional and coincidental) he had received when he was clearly beaten throughout the match, it took three forms of cheating for Jericho to score the win as he delivered a low-blow, rammed Rock’s head into an exposed turnbuckle and then put his feet on the ropes. As a result Y2J beat The Rock for the “fifteenth time”, by Jericho’s counting.

Rating: ****¼

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