The Rock vs. Stone Cold and WWE's Most Captivating Rivalries at WrestleMania

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

The Rock vs. Stone Cold and WWE's Most Captivating Rivalries at WrestleMania

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    Dave Allocca/Associated Press

    WrestleMania remains the centerpiece of WWE's pay-per-view calendar, but it has morphed somewhat from the event that once served as the final stage for wrestling's biggest storylines.

    Beyond the scale and star power on display, WrestleMania isn't significantly different from most of WWE's other PPVs anymore. Whereas the biggest matches at the marquee event once revolved around months—or perhaps years—of buildup, the sheer number of PPVs each year makes that almost impossible today.

    The rivalry between Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock is a perfect example of how WrestleMania could not only provide long-term payoffs but also set the table for years to come. Two of the Attitude Era's biggest stars, Austin and The Rock wrestled on three occasions at WrestleMania, and each match built off the last.

    Below are six of the most engaging rivalries at WrestleMania that have helped make it WWE's most anticipated annual event. 

The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin

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    Generally speaking, sequels are never better than the first. When it comes to The Rock and Austin's WrestleMania rivalry, that couldn't be further from the truth.

    They first wrestled at WrestleMania XV in what was an overly complicated match that featured interference by Vince McMahon and Mankind—the latter of whom counted the final pinfall.

    The Rock and Austin's second encounter is one of the best main events in WrestleMania history, as Austin made a deal with the devil and solicited McMahon's help in order to defeat The Rock. The match built on the years of history between The Rock and Austin as well as the dynamic between Stone Cold and McMahon, adding more emotional weight to the heel turn.

    Two years later, The Rock and Austin would give fans one more WrestleMania clash, as both guys were on their way out as full-time wrestlers. It was a fitting conclusion to their legendary feud.

Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant

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    One could argue no match is more significant in WWE's history than Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant at WrestleMania III. The match itself was a bit of a mess, but that takes nothing away from its magnitude.

    Until WWE terminated Hogan's contract and scrubbed him from the company website in 2015, the image of The Hulkster bodyslamming Andre was a staple of any retrospective on WrestleMania and WWE as a whole.

    Hogan and Andre crossed paths a year later at WrestleMania IV in what was supposed to be their rubber match after Andre and Ted DiBiase used a fake referee to steal the WWF title at The Main Event in February 1988.

    Their third match was largely forgettable, though, as it came in the second round of the WWF title tournament eventually won by Randy Savage.

    Still, WrestleMania probably isn't what it is today without Hogan vs. Andre in the Pontiac Silverdome.

Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage

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    Hogan and Savage only wrestled once at WrestleMania, but the length of their feud—and the way it unfolded—elevated it into legendary territory.

    Fans didn't know it at the time, but Savage and Hogan were on a crash course for WrestleMania V the second Savage beat DiBiase to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV. 

    Together, they formed The Mega Powers, teaming up to defeat DiBiase and Andre at SummerSlam 1988 before being the final two survivors in the main event of Survivor Series 1988.

    Tensions started building when Hogan eliminated Savage during the 1989 Royal Rumble, and things came to a head at The Main Event on Feb. 3, 1989. Savage inadvertently fell on Miss Elizabeth, and Hogan carried her back to the dressing room. Savage subsequently attacked Hogan in the locker room where Elizabeth was being tended to.

    The slow build to the breakup of The Mega Powers made the angle one of the most memorable from the 1980s. 

Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels

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    Like Hogan and Savage, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels only wrestled once at WrestleMania, but it's everything that happened before and after WrestleMania XII in 1996 that elevated their battle in Anaheim, California.

    Things wouldn't get truly personal between Hart and Michaels until well into 1997, culminating in The Montreal Screwjob at Survivor Series 1997.

    Even after putting that aside, WrestleMania XII holds a special place in the hearts of WWE fans of a certain generation.

    Not only were Michaels and Hart two of WWE's biggest stars at the time, they were also two of the company's best in-ring technicians. A 60-minute Iron Man match was the perfect way to showcase their abilities and set them apart from the bulk of the roster.

Edge & Christian vs. the Hardy Boyz vs. the Dudley Boyz

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    It's not a stretch to say these three teams revolutionized tag team wrestling in WWE when they first crossed paths at WrestleMania 2000 in a ladder match. Edge & Christian defeated The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz in what proved to be by far the best match on the card.

    The stakes were raised a year later at WrestleMania X-Seven when the six men met in a Tables, Ladders & Chairs match. Edge & Christian once again walked away champions.

    Edge and Jeff Hardy combined to create one of the most replayed moments in WrestleMania history. Hardy was dangling from the rope holding the title belts when Edge speared him in mid-air.

    One would be hard-pressed to find two better tag team matches ever at WrestleMania.

The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels

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    This a rivalry in which the storyline is largely secondary to the narrative the wrestlers told inside the ring.

    Michaels and The Undertaker wrestled plenty of times throughout the mid-1990s, but their match at WrestleMania XXV still felt pretty fresh because it had been so long since they crossed paths. They were also among the few remaining holdovers from the Attitude Era and had the distinction of largely being WWF guys for their entire careers.

    That lengthy history meant there was little required to get fans interested in seeing Mr. WrestleMania battle The Deadman.

    Yet, nobody could have expected the classic Michaels and The Undertaker put on at WrestleMania XXV, and they followed up with what might be a better match a year later at WrestleMania XXVI.

The Rock vs. John Cena

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    Technically speaking, this is a rivalry that spanned three different WrestleManias.

    The Rock delivered a Rock Bottom to Cena at WrestleMania XXVII, which allowed The Miz to retain the WWE Championship. A year later, The Rock prevailed against Cena in a match that was billed as "Once in a Lifetime." Cena avenged his defeat at WrestleMania 29.

    By the time WrestleMania 29 rolled around, the bloom was off the rose to some extent. There wasn't as much novelty to seeing Cena vs. The Rock for a second time, and it felt like WWE merely wanted to manufacture a WrestleMania moment rather than putting in the work to make this rematch necessary.

    The farther fans get from WrestleManias XXVIII and 29, though, the more their opinions toward Cena vs. The Rock may soften.