Creature Versus Creature: Best Match Ever
A professional wrestling match should tell a story. A professional wrestling match should take you on an emotional roller coaster. A professional wrestling match should be memorable.
The "I Quit" match at the 1999 Royal Rumble between Mankind (Mick Foley) and The Rock was all of the above and more. The first thing that goes into creating a great match is a great build-up to that match.
Certainly this bout had that.
The rivalry between The Rock and Mankind got kicked off at the 1998 Survivor Series, when Vince "screwed" Mankind and crowned The Great One his new "Corporate" champion. Following a loss at In Your House: Rock Bottom, Mick Foley would finally capture his first WWE (then WWF) Championship, on January 4, 1999 on Raw is War.
Following multiple attempts that ended in interference from the Corporation, Foley accomplished a lifelong dream.
The Rock would plead for a rematch. Foley said "no." The Rock said "no disqualifications." Foley said "no."
The Rock promised that no Corporation members would interfere. Foley retorted that The Rock "wasn't championship material." The Rock said that he quits in trying to convince Mankind. Foley accepted! Mankind named the stipulation the "I Quit" match at the Royal Rumble.
The two would talk a lot of trash over the next several weeks.
Foley would cut some of his best promos during this time. In order to get us emotionally behind Foley, they told the story of him finally winning his WWE Championship. They told the story of his career. He has been blown up, wrapped in barbed wire, thrown on tacks and nails, thrown from a cell and had his ear ripped off and never uttered the words "I Quit."
The Rock was a young, cocky up-and-comer. He was everything Vince McMahon wanted in a champion. The Rock and Mankind were polar opposites. A McMahon prototypical sport entertainer versus a chubby kid from Long Island who scratched, clawed and went through hell to get to the top.
The stage was set for an epic encounter!
Before the match, on Sunday Night Heat, Foley cut a promo saying he'd make The Rock scream "I Quit, I Quit, I Quit." Afterwards, McMahon gave him a tune-up match against Mabel, which resulted in Mankind getting a huge splash from the 500-pounder. That wasn't going to break Mick Foley.
The two stars made their entrances for the showdown.
Before Howard Finkle could introduce the competitors, the bitter rivals started brawling. Mankind had the edge early. A few attempts to make Rock quit resulted in some rather humorous replies from the former champion.
Once Rock launched Mankind into the ring steps (a classic Foley maneuver), he gained the upper hand. The Rock would show his inexperience and immaturity when he put on the headsets for some commentary. Foley battled back. Eventually, Foley locked in Mr. Socko (the mandible claw). Jerry Lawler said it best: "He can't talk with his mouth full."
Mankind was going to destroy The Great One. They battled into the crowd. Foley embraced his loyal fans until The Rock suplexed him over the barricade. The Rock would use the ring bell and hammer to disorient Mankind.
An attempt to Rock Bottom Mankind through the Spanish announcer table (poor Spanish announcer table) failed when the table collapsed under the weight.
They battled up the ramp, where Rock introduced a ladder. Mankind turned the tables and knocked Rock out with it, but missed an elbow drop.
The fans were getting really into the match and you could feel the electricity building. The Rock asked Foley if he quit, but was met with yet another "Noooo."
The Rock and Mankind headed for the technical area, where The Rock climbed into the stands. Mankind followed him up. They were 12 feet above the floor.
The Rock nailed Mankind and caused him to sail onto the electrical circuit board. Sparks flew, the lights went out, the crowd went crazy. Michael Cole and Lawler sold the mover really well. Foley was wrapped in cables.
Shane McMahon came out to stop the match. However, The Rock snapped. The Rock screamed "That son of a [expletive] is gonna say 'I quit' and I'll be damned if he don't." The Rock dragged the beaten Mankind back to the ring.
Then came the handcuffs.
The Rock handcuffed Mankind's hands behind his back. Mankind tried to fight back with low blows and biting. However, once Rock slammed him, things got even more intense. The Rock grabbed a chair and laid it across Mankind's face and landed the Corporate Elbow.
You could hear the gasps and the scream. The scream was from Foley's wife, consoling her frightened children. Foley would not take a few more shots. The Rock tried again to make Foley utter the forbidden words, but Foley told The Rock "You'll have to kill me."
It was a sobering phrase. Fans, who were emotionally connected to Mick Foley, were now hoping for a miracle. The Rock would hit Foley a total of 11 times with a steel chair.
Finally, Foley stumbled up the aisle and passed out. The Rock stood over the fallen hero and the words "I quit, I quit, I quit!" filled the arena. The emotional roller coaster ride was over...for that night.
The Rock was the champion, once again.
It would turn out that The Rock used a recording of Foley saying the words, from his interview earlier that night on Heat.
The two warriors would battle several more times in empty arenas, last man standing and ladder matches. None of those would ever compare to that night in Anaheim at the Royal Rumble.
The "I Quit" match between Mankind and The Rock would help propel The Rock into stardom.
The match was seen from a different point of view in the documentary Beyond the Mat. That was when we realized the emotional toll the savage encounter was taking on the fans and family of Mick Foley. It was truly an unforgettable bout and worthy of consideration of "Best Match Ever."
Professional wrestling matches should tell a story. Professional wrestling matches should take you an emotional roller coaster. Professional wrestling matches should be memorable.
The "I Quit" Match between The Rock and Mankind did so much more! For the competitors. For the WWE. Most importantly...FOR THE FANS!
Please feel free to comment on your memories of the match and anything else. Thanks for reading my submission for Creature versus Creature!