The 20 Greatest Matches in the Rock's Legendary WWE Career
Photo by Wright Way Photography
The Rock's return has many fans dizzy with nostalgia, pulling out old DVDs and combing through YouTube videos to relive some of his great matches.
The Great One's skills on the mic sometimes overshadows his ability in the ring, but there's no doubt he has put on his share of classics.
Forging incredible chemistry with Mankind, Triple H and Stone Cold, he made the most of every moment in the spotlight.
There are of course more than 20 great matches featuring the Rock, but here are the ones that told the best stories, had the most exciting action and had us wrapped in white-knuckle anticipation.
20. RAW March 15th, 1999: Rock/Big Show vs. Steve Austin/Mankind
The charged up crowd gave this RAW match a pay-per-view feel.
Building for the Austin and Rock WrestleMania match, the tag partner of the winning team would get to serve as special referee.
This added stipulation amped up the already pulsating drama that these men could create on their own.
While it was an intense fight with few slow moments, the lack of an ending was unsatisfying.
It did serve its purpose, though, leaving fans wanting to see more Austin and Rock.
19. Backlash 2000 vs. Triple H for WWF Championship
Whenever these two megastars stepped into a ring together, they elevated their games.
With everyone from the referee (Shane McMahon) to Pat Patterson against him, it felt as if there was no way the Rock would win this. The seemingly insurmountable obstacles in front of him made for a particularly dramatic match.
The double Rock Bottom through the table was an unforgettable moment.
When Stone Cold's music came on, the crowd couldn't have exploded any louder. The story and the action kept the audience tense and satisfied throughout.
All in all, it was a tremendous addition to the resumes of both the Rock and Triple H.
18. Royal Rumble 99 vs. Mankind (I Quit) for WWF Championship
One of the most famous matches for both the Rock and Mick Foley was a mixed bag.
While it certainly had excellent buildup and the benefit of their odd-couple chemistry, it was sometimes too brutal for its own good.
The "I quit" stipulation created drama. It had to make the fans wonder how in the world Mankind could possibly lose this kind of match.
The two men beat each other with microphones, steel steps, the ring bell and a ladder. The violent fight between them had maybe a handful of actual wrestling moves.
Rock put on a pair of headphones mid-match to talk trash and sing to try and lighten the mood.
There were times when the action wasn't fun anymore, but cringe-inducing instead.
17. Rebellion 2001 vs. Steve Austin for WWF Championship
Of course you'll see a number of Austin vs. Rock encounters on this list. And while not as inspired or hyped as their WrestleMania matches, this one is certainly underrated.
These two men were made for each other.
It's hard to imagine what the Rock's career would have looked like without his redneck foil and vice versa.
What brought this one down some was that the fighting on the outside was overdone, and Stone Cold used the middle finger salute far too much.
16. Rebellion 99 vs. Triple H (Cage Match) for WWF Championship
This back-and-forth, dramatic battle is one of the best cage matches WWE has ever put on.
Triple H and the Rock had their usual superb chemistry and made full use of the violence possible in a steel cage.
The ease in which the Rock scaled the cage again and again is a testament to his otherworldly athleticism.
The chaotic and surprising ending is what makes this match special.
Earl Hepner taking the chair from Triple H, Chyna slamming the door on Rock's head, the Rock leaping off the side of the cage; it all added up to awesome.
15. RAW 2/15/99 vs. Mankind (Ladder) for WWF Championship
The usual Rock and Mankind thrilling chemistry was heightened by the addition of a ladder and Steve Austin on commentary.
It featured all the chair, steps and ladder violence you'd expect.
They brawled like they do so well, until a barricade collapsed in the crowd.
Had it been on a pay-per-view, it could have been longer and aided by the hype of such an event. As it stands, it's a great RAW match for the archives.
14. SmackDown 11/15/01: Steve Austin/Kurt Angle vs. Rock/Chris Jericho
A Survivor Series table setter, this tag-team match featured four of the company's biggest stars doing what they do best.
Every combination here was magic.
Jericho delivered a gorgeous springboard kick to Austin on the apron. Both teams doled out some heavy, echoing chops in a well-paced match.
The Rock was not that involved, being saved on the outside until the hot tag towards the end.
This would have likely been ranked higher had it been given a proper ending, but for the sake of the storyline and buildup to Survivor Series, everyone hit their finishers on each other in a chaotic finish with no resolution.
13. SummerSlam 2000 vs. Kurt Angle vs. Triple H for WWF Championship
In a way, the Rock felt like a third wheel in the Kurt Angle and Triple H rivalry.
At the same time, the Brahma Bull more than carried his weight in an exciting battle.
Kurt Angle was not involved for so long; it was easy to forget it was a Triple Threat match. So when he finally did come in, it felt like we were receiving a bonus match.
The Triple H and Angle tension over Stephanie McMahon was crafted well, and the in-ring action itself built beautifully to a fevered pitch.
12. No Way out 2001 vs. Kurt Angle for WWF Championship
The Rock and Angle had some decent battles before this, but their chemistry really clicked at No Way Out.
With the crowd screaming almost from start to finish, both wrestlers delivered crisp moves and kept much of the action high impact.
You will not see Angle clamp on a more vicious ankle lock than he did here.
As a bonus, we got some monster chokeslams from the Big Show without ruining the flow of the match.
11. Backlash 1999 vs. Steve Austin for WWF Championship
There's one more non-WrestleMania Rock and Austin tussle to cover before we get into their classic trilogy.
The pace of this match was often more frenzied than the WrestleMania ones.
From the moment Stone Cold tossed his title in the air as he charged into the ring, fans knew they were in for glorious intensity.
Shane McMahon added some additional drama as well.
Austin and the Rock made full use of everything in and around the ring, crashing into the Backlash set, banging each other with camera equipment and the Rock creating an unforgettable moment by filming himself laying the smack down.
10. WrestleMania 19 vs. Steve Austin
The third installment of their WrestleMania rivalry featured no title on the line, a rarity for them.
It had the same intensity that made their other two battles great, and it was a necessary match to provide closure on their feud.
Perhaps the only thing this match suffered from was that we'd seen it all before.
Both Austin and Rock gave it everything they had, though. You could certainly sense the kayfabe hatred between them.
Rock wore Austin's vest and they stole each other's finishers.
The perfect ending allowed Austin to leave with dignity, while saturating the night with drama.
9. Vengeance 2001 vs. Chris Jericho for Undisputed Championship
Winning the Undisputed Championship was a huge moment on a huge night for Jericho.
But before he pulled that feat off, he had a gorgeous match with the Rock.
Jericho was especially springy and high-flying that night. He also demonstrated some classic cockiness, posing while stepping on the Rock.
Both men dished out some particularly sick chops. Countering the sharpshooter with another sharpshooter was one of my all-time favorite spots.
Rock and Austin or even Rock and Triple H were better overall feuds, but just going on in-ring chemistry, Rock and Jericho may have been better, especially if they went up against each other more often.
8. WrestleMania 18 vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan
Their star power alone puts this in classic territory.
In a poetic passing-of-the-torch moment, Hogan actually agreed to get beat cleanly, something he rarely does.
Everything about this match felt epic. Even when the two greats were standing face to face, drama flooded the arena.
Every Hogan pose got the crowd to explode.
Seeing Hogan do the Rock bottom was surreal, but I suppose not as surreal as seeing this matchup in real life, one that fans might have thought would have been limited to video games.
In a fitting ending, despite Hogan hulking up and hitting the leg drop, the old guard could not defeat the new guard.
7. SummerSlam 98 vs. Triple H (Ladder Match) for Intercontinental Championship
A slow, grinding pace built to a highly-charged climax.
This was not as innovative as some other ladder matches, but it was brutal and exciting enough to make up for that.
Triple H took more than his share of nasty bumps on the steel. In retribution, he delivered a baseball slide, knocking the ladder into the Rock's chin.
A few less attempts at each man ramming their heads into the railings would have improved this, as would less interference at the end, but as it stands, is still an incredible thrill to watch every time.
6. Survivor Series 2001 WWF vs. the Alliance (Elimination Match)
While many fans question the handling of the WCW Invasion angle, this match was an undeniable success.
With a perfect buildup and the stakes set high, anticipation throbbed throughout the arena.
Both teams were loaded with future Hall of Famers and everyone from Booker T to Chris Jericho, Undertaker and Kurt Angle were on their game.
The storyline unfolded beautifully, ending in the only way it could have: Rock and Austin facing off for the fate of the two companies.
5. No Mercy 2001 vs. Chris Jericho for WCW Championship
A hot St. Louis crowd watched the Rock deliver some of the best punches he's ever thrown, and we saw extremely crisp moves by Jericho throughout.
Grappling, athleticism, great pacing, this match had plenty to be proud of.
Jim Ross was on his game all night and made it even more of a classic.
Jericho borrowed the Rock Bottom and the People's Elbow and the Rock sent Y2J through a table.
Had the ending been less Stephanie McMahon-based, this would have been that much better.
4. Wrestlemania XV vs. Steve Austin for WWF Championship
WWE was right to make Austin and the Rock the two pillars on which to carry their franchise, and their first WrestleMania encounter justified that decision.
Few other men, maybe no one else, create as much electricity when they face off than these two.
Brawling on the outside started us off. When Austin smashed his legs against the metal frame for the lights, more than a few fans shuddered.
The last third of the match, when referees were getting eliminated in quick succession, injected adrenaline into an already intense battle.
Interference and surprise guests are not often handled well and just muddle a match's storyline. Mr. McMahon and Mankind's appearances did just the opposite, thankfully taking the drama to a whole new level.
3. Judgment Day 2000 vs. Triple H (Iron Man Match) for WWF Championship
There's an argument to be made that this epic was the Rock's finest match.
The pacing and storytelling were near perfect. Anticipation swelled as Triple H built a big lead.
The tension between Shawn Michaels, the guest referee, and Triple H added to the drama.
A planned spot or a happy accident, the Rock throwing the Game out of the ring into a cameraman was an unexpected, shocking moment.
The heartbreaking ending for the Rock could have been handled better, but still it was plenty powerful.
And if it weren't for one Texas Rattlesnake, we may be looking back at Triple H and the Rock's rivalry as being the best we've ever seen.
2. Vengeance 2002 vs. Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle for Undisputed Championship
One of the best triple threat matches we've ever seen was one of the Rock's finest matches.
With great rhythm throughout, fans saw a liberal borrowing of finishers, as the Rock chokeslammed Undertaker and hooked the ankle lock on Angle, while Angle stole the Rock Bottom and Undertaker pulled off an Angle slam.
The Great One showed off his versatility as well.
Seeing him grappling with Angle and play the power and striking game with the Dead Man made it feel like we were watching two matches in one.
The last third of the match featured a hectic pace full of drama, leaving the audience gasping at every two-count.
1. WrestleMania 17 vs. Steve Austin (No DQ) for WWF Championship
No surprises for the top spot. Even when nitpicked and overanalyzed, it's hard not to select this match as one of the greatest ever.
With perhaps the best buildup to a match ever, the hype of WrestleMania and the electricity of one of wrestling’s finest rivalries, fans knew they were about to witness a classic.
Much of the beginning of the match was a brawl, but it shifted into more in-ring grappling, carrying over the viciousness from the early going.
As Jim Ross said, it was "off-the-page intense."
Two titans went toe to toe on the world stage, the Rock delivering a Stunner and Austin giving his rival a Rock Bottom.
That Houston crowd became deafening towards the end.
Throw in the best, most realistic sell of a Stunner ever, the absolute shock of Mr. McMahon and Austin teaming up and you have the Rock's clear-cut No. 1 match.