It's a lesson that has been driven home time and time again in stories about the behind the scenes world of professional wrestling: Wrestlers do not like to lose. They go to extravagant lengths to avoid having to lose matches and put other people over, because the (not unreasonable) belief is that losing matches hurts your momentum and makes you a less valuable commodity.
Therefore it must say something about Dwayne Johnson that so many of his best matches are famous losses where he put someone else over in a big way. But this match may be the best example of that, because the Rock made something special here and turned a loss into one of the greatest triumphs of his career.
The success of this match began with the build to it. The undefeated Lesnar had ripped through everything in his path to this point in his career, but had never really been pitted against a top-level star. The Rock was riding high after having gotten back the WWE title not long before.
The videos hyping the match showed both men training like Olympic athletes for this match, highlighting the differences between them, and making it clear that the Rock was taking this match 100 percent seriously. That part is important.
The fact that he lost despite giving his best effort is so incredibly significant to making something like this work, and so often ignored when trying to make a new star. The Rock wasn't surprised by Brock Lesnar, he wasn't tricked, or outsmarted, or cheated. He gave everything he had and it was not enough.
When the match came, the Rock was in charge and he walked the still green Lesnar through an absolutely incredible match. They went at it like two out-of-control bulls and in the end, Lesnar was just to much for him, and he beat the Rock clean with an F-5 to crown a new king for a new era.
It's easy to ignore this as a passing of the torch moment, because Lesnar didn't stick around long enough to really do justice to that, and fan sentiment was leveled against the Rock for leaving for the movies right after this. But none of that should take away from what may be the best torch-passing match ever contested, where the Rock carried a green monster to the match of his life, and handed him stardom on a platter.
The Rock would have bigger matches, as we'll see, but I'm not sure he ever had a better one.