Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Five Count: The Great One's Greatest

This week's Five Count coincides with our latest poll, we're taking a look at The Rock's best matches. This is kinda tough to narrow down because depending on who you ask, The Rock wasn't necessarily the best pure wrestler, but you can't deny that he's one of the greatest performers to step foot in the ring. But The Rock had some really good wrestling matches as well, so do you pick the technically good matches or the entertaining matches? I've always seen good wrestling as something of a mixture, maybe 60% entertainment, 40% technical wizardry, so this list will reflect that. Here are my picks for The Rock's five greatest matches, vote for your favorite in the poll to the right of your screen:

5. The Rock vs. Chris Jericho - No Mercy 2001
What I liked the most about this match was how much it broke from the mold of what was typical from WWE at the time. Up until the point Jericho gets Rock Bottomed through the Spanish Announce Table, it's almost an Anti-Attitude Era match, they stay in the ring for the most part and just have a wrestling match. I don't want to call it "old school" or make it sound basic, but it's definitely traditional and could fit in just about any era of wrestling.

The final moments of the match fall more into what we were used to seeing at the time, but the crowd exploded the minute Jericho locked in the Walls and didn't quiet down until the bell. I could've done without the shenanigans with Stephanie McMahon, but she played an integral role with both guys at the time and it allowed Jericho to win his first major title in WWE. It's interesting to go back and watch this match now because Jericho's style has changed so drastically since then. Rock's at his best here though (okay, except for that Dragon Screw) and made Jericho look like a legitimate threat, even if WWE was still nervous about getting 100% behind him.

4. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker - Vengeance 2002
The Rock is a rare case where he kept getting better as time went on, and while 2002 was really his last "full" (almost full) year as a wrestler, he did some of his best work then. This match probably shouldn't have been as good as it was, WWE was in the middle of a rough patch - the Invasion bombed, the Brand Extension was going through growing pains, they had to change their name, Steve Austin had walked out, The Undertaker wasn't exactly setting the world on fire as Undisputed Champion, and Vengeance really just seemed like a filler PPV before SummerSlam, but this match is one of my favorite underrated classics.

Sure, a lot of the story is just these guys stealing each other' finishers, but it was so much fun and the crowd ate it up. Pretty brutal too, especially once Angle gets busted open and goes crazy with a steel chair. A great WWE style Triple Threat match that gave The Rock his only run with the Undisputed Championship and final title reign as a professional wrestler.

3. The Rock vs. Eddie Guerrero - Raw: July 22, 2002
How many wrestlers have had one of their greatest matches one night, and then put on another less than 24 hours later? Well The Rock did it in July of 2002, less than one day after the Vengeance Triple Threat with Undertaker and Angle, he puts on an even better match with Eddie Guerrero on Raw. Like I said, 2002 was a great year for the Great One.

Eddie was in a tough spot in the summer of 2002, he was really starting to catch on as a singles performer, which I don't think WWE ever anticipated, and was handpicked by Steve Austin as his next opponent. Unfortunately for Eddie, Austin walked out of the company before their match at King of the Ring and didn't get his shot to prove that he could hang with the big guys. Well, they sent him out there against The Rock the night after Vengeance and not only did they tear it up in the ring, Guerrero gave one of his finest performances on the mic as well. Eddie told a great story about his daughter loving The Rock and he tore her poster off the wall since he should've been her favorite wrestler.

Simple storytelling, excellent wrestling and even though his run at the top wouldn't come for another year and a half, Eddie proved in this match with The Rock that he was ready for the big time in one of my favorite Raw matches in history. He reversed the Rock Bottom into an arm drag!



2. The Rock vs. Steve Austin - WrestleMania 17
Take your pick out of the Austin vs. Rock WrestleMania Trilogy and they could be on this list. Honestly, they could probably fill up 3/5 of this list, but I like to keep things varied up, so which mast best sums up their rivalry? Well, using Star Wars logic, you gotta go with The Empire Strikes Back, and that's why their second WrestleMania encounter gets my vote. Of all their matches, it felt the biggest, the atmosphere was unmatched, the crowd was electrified, and these two threw everything they had at each other and still kept going at it.

This match wasn't just one of the best WrestleMania main events in history, it was the main event to the greatest WrestleMania in history. The only reason it's not #1 on this particular list is that, in retrospect, the ending probably wasn't the best idea and since it's The Rock's list, I can't finish it on a loss for him. It ends on such a down note, and that's what life is, a series of down endings.

1. The Rock vs. Hulk Hogan - WrestleMania 18
What more can be written about this match? Icon vs. Icon, Hulk Hogan's mind-blowing return to WWE after a nine-year absence, and The Rock's finest performance ever. And yes, I'm including Doom in that list of performances. This match wasn't supposed to be good, Hogan's last great match was years behind him and The Rock wasn't a miracle worker, but never underestimate the power of crowd energy and the magic of WrestleMania.

People often describe this match as "good, but..." using the same logic behind the criticisms of Hogan vs. Andre at WrestleMania 3, "good, but..." implying that it wasn't a technical masterpiece, but they still liked it. Well, it's not a math problem, it's wrestling and good is good. No, The Rock didn't throw any devastating strong style suplexes and Hogan didn't hit a corkscrew swan dive 450 splash (he stopped doing that in the 80s), but they epitomized what American professional wrestling is, a spectacle. That's what The Rock did best, he wasn't Ric Flair or Ricky Steamboat in the ring, but he knew how to make every match extravagant, and this match was his finest example of this skill. If you ever want to show your friends that don't watch wrestling what it's all about, show them this match.



FasterThe Rock: The Most Electrifying Man in Sports EntertainmentWWE All Stars

6 comments:

  1. I loved how the finish with Stephanie McMahon sliding the chair into the ring and Jericho using it to beat Rock played into the rest of the story.

    Jericho still had to prove he could beat Rock for real, setting up a rematch, and whether he'd remain a good guy or tap into his dark side. That feud got lost a bit in the Invasion-to-NWO shuffle, but it was rather great.

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  2. Steph bumped like a champ in that match too. I'm glad man-on-woman violence is mostly a thing of the past in WWE, but she was tough and worked her ass off in those days. I don't think she gets nearly enough credit for being the Vickie Guerrero of her day.

    There was a lot of good stuff in 2001 that gets overlooked. A lot of great stuff within the Invasion itself, it's just a shame the overall story wound up being so underwhelming.

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  3. I personally wouldn't put the triple-threat match on a Top 5 Best Rock Matches, simply because I don't like it as much as other people do. It's a fine match, but I can think of better triple-threat matches in general, and better matches involving The Rock that I would put in its place; specifically, Brock vs. Rock (among others), which I find to be a great match to watch because Rock bumps like a machine and really makes Lesnar look great, without making himself look weak.

    Good call on the Jericho and Austin matches, and I'd never seen the Guerrero match before. Again, maybe not in my top 5, but good choice. Hogan, of course, is a natural even though the match is flawed and doesn't necessarily hold up. I enjoyed reading this, thanks!

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  4. You should check out the Eddie match, it's on The Rock's DVD, great match.

    Brock vs. Rock was good and I loved the hype for it, I'd put it in Rock's top 10 for sure.

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  5. Great list as usual. While it might not quite make my personal top 5, it would be nice to see The Rock's ladder match with Triple H at Summerslam 1998 in the poll. The Rock may not have won that night, but it marked the point at which he won over quite a few of his detractors, perhaps setting the wheels in motion for what was eventually to become a push to the very top of the wrestling business.

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  6. Yeah, I struggled with no including the ladder match in my own list and it probably should've went on the poll along with their Iron Man Match.

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