WWE's Look Back At Legends: Best Feuds By the Biggest Stars in PPV Era, Ep. 2
Triple H and The Rock will no doubt find themselves Hall of Fame bound, likely sooner rather than later.
The Rock (along with Austin) led an explosion of the WWE into mainstream media during the attitude era.
Triple H, while not as high profile outside of the wrestling world, carried the company as the top heel into the new millennium.
Before either were main eventers, they rose to prominence in a tremendous undercard feud in the summer of 1998.
After WrestleMania XIV, Shawn Michaels left WWE and Degeneration X, a stable formed around him. Triple H took the name, the valet, and the attitude and formed a new DX with X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws, Road Dogg and Billy Gunn. Their first major rivalry in this new form was against another faction who had recently undergone some changes.
The Rock had been promising young face before being forced to turn villain by fan rejection. Rock, now the current intercontinental champion, had seized control of the Nation of Domination by taking over for the excommunicated Faarooq.
The Nation, as it was now known, and DX had had their run-ins before, and Triple H’s recent rival Owen Hart gave the two a reason to clash once again.
How It All Got Started
The rivalry kicked off in May of 1998, with the feud between Owen Hart and Triple H morphing into one of DX and the Nation.
While the Rock prepared to settle his score with Faarooq at the Over The Edge PPV, DX readied for a 6 man battle with other members of the Nation.
On Raw, the two faction heads squared off with Rock having some choice words for HHH.
The Build Up
Triple H and the Rock would square off again in the quarterfinal round of the King of the Ring tournament with the Rock advancing and then losing in the finals to another former DX foe, Ken Shamrock.
After KOTR, the feud became more intense between the two groups and the two heads, including the infamous parody of the Nation by DX on a July Raw.
The Showdown (Part 1)
Triple H and the Rock showed the world that they were performers to be reckoned with at the July In Your House PPV: Fully Loaded. The two wrestled a 2 out of 3 falls match for Rock’s I-C title, with each man winning a fall and the final one ending in a time limit draw (old-school!).
The match served its purpose by keeping their feud alive as they headed into SummerSlam. The Nation and DX were no longer feuding with each other, leaving just these two men to square off in a ladder match for the I-C gold.
The Showdown (Part 2)
The Rock & HHH would go toe-to-toe again at SummerSlam 1998, this time in a ladder match. With only a handful of high profile ladder matches in WWE history at this point, the two were able to be fairly inventive without having to go to extremes. They put on a great show as a part of an excellent card at Madison Square Garden.
In the end, as the Rock ascended toward retaining his title, DX’s Chyna delivered the necessary low-blow to assure her man captured the gold and ended the Rock’s 9 month I-C title rein.
The Feud Ends (For Now)
The outcome of this feud allowed both men to climb to the next rung of their respective careers. The Rock was less than three months away from his first WWE championship, and Triple H would wear that same strap after the next year’s SummerSlam.
Both superstars went on to meet up in a later feud, this time for the WWE championship while headlining WrestleMania 2000 as well as subsequent PPVs, including a 60-minute Iron Man match at that year's Judgment Day.
Their rivalry never really died as they never became allies and, when both were healthy, could always been counted on for a relevant fight if needed.
Triple H and the Rock both needed this feud to elevate their careers to the next level. A combination of their in-ring chemistry, their feuding stables, and their exceptional mic work allowed them to take hold of the opportunity and never look back.
What Can Be Learned Today
Never underestimate the power of a good stable. Whether it is two formal factions at war or a heel group which creates a face coalition, groups can serve as excellent means to elevate individuals.
Looking at the New Nexus and the Corre today, the writers would do well to put them up against other groups. Even if it is not against other factions (because sometimes, that can be too forced- anyone remember the Union???), creating a cohesive alliance amongst the babyfaces in the feud can provide for compelling stories and big-time pushes.
Recent efforts at stables (The Straight Edge Society, Legacy) have lacked the steam needed to really make an impact. Their momentum may have been more sustainable if they had developed feuds with other factions or cohesive groups of superstars.