Note from Graham: Beginning Nov. 27, 2005, I informally polled the Internet Wrestling Community via message boards to find out what they regard as the top 10 feuds in the history of the company. These boards consisted of The History of WWE, Wrestling Classics, the Smart Marks, Death Valley Driver, and New Millenium Blues. On Dec. 4, I tallied the nominations to determine the top 10. Tie-breakers were decided by members of The History of WWE.
January 15, 2006
The Rock vs. Triple H
The #10th top feud in the history of the company, as voted by the IWC
The young upcoming guys. Sometimes there are guys that you think won’t make it and they do. The guys you think are a sure thing, and they end up being obscure footnotes in wrestling history.
At the 1996 Survivor Series from Madison Square Garden there were a few younger upcoming guys in an eight man elimination match pitting Marc Mero, Rocky Maivia, Jake Roberts, & The Stalker (Barry Windham) vs. Crush, Jerry Lawler, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, & Goldust. Goldust was the son of the wrestling legend, Dusty Rhodes, and by this time was actually quite experienced. There was Marc Mero, who was considered quite a good worker, but eventually became overshadowed by his wife Sable. Then there is The Rock and Hunter Hearst Helmsley.
Hunter Hearst Helmsley was actually at the time best buddies with WWF World Champion Shawn Michaels, and with him had been part of the infamous clique. Trained by Killer Kowalski, he eventually made it into WCW in 1994, making little impact. He moved to the WWF in 1995, and was given at the time a typical cartoonish gimmick as the Greenwich, Connecticut, Blueblood snob Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He garnered an undefeated streak, until losing his WrestleMania debut to the Ultimate Warrior in about 90 seconds. He was slated to win King of the Ring 1996, but ended up getting punished for participating in the MSG Incident. He was let out of the dog house, and about a month before this event he won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Marc Mero.
Rocky Maivia was a third generation wrestler. Real name Duane Johnson he took on the worked first name of his father (Rocky Johnson), and last name of his grandfather (Peter Maivia). He trained in 1995, and debuted. He was given a try out in the WWF, and was offered one of the first two developmental contracts (along with Bull Buchanan). He was sent to USWA to gain experience. Jim Cornette said Rocky would be main-eventing WrestleMania in five years (something he said about Dave Batista in 2000). He came into the event as a smiling third generation blue chipper. In reality the handsome Samoan was a rather dull character.
The match went on. Rocky and Helmsley were in the ring several times together. The main purpose going into the match was build heat on the Helmsley-Mero feud. But going out, it was clearly to make Rocky look big by winning a two on one situation against Crush & Goldust.
Rocky and Helmsley crossed paths again. This time Helmsley’s Intercontinental title was on the line. At Thursday Raw Thursday (which was a one time Thursday night Raw special, also known for when Shawn Michaels “lost his smile” and gave up the WWF World title), Rocky and Helmsley put on a rather good television match. This match simply looked like a buildup for Helmsley as we went into the upcoming Final Four Pay-Per-View. But Rocky ended up getting his first taste of gold from Helmsley, as he beat him with an inside cradle. Rocky then beat Helmsley in a rematch at the Final Four PPV, but that match was more about building heat for the HHH-Goldust WrestleMania match. It should be noted at that match Joanie Lauer made her first appearance as Chyna.
Throughout the next year, both guys would continue to rise. On television they stayed apart from each other, and both changed dramatically. Helmsley lost the final remnants of his blue blood gimmick, and was christened “Triple H” a cocky best buddy to World Champion Shawn Michaels. Triple H was getting heat, but some of that may have been due to the fact he was hanging out with the top heel. Rocky, by the time of winning his Intercontinental Championship, was getting boos as a babyface. Within weeks of his win, he was getting viciously jeered by fans. He had to be almost completely remade. He was off TV for a while, and finally returned as a heel in the Nation of Domination. His name was shortened to simply “The Rock.” The Rock’s natural charisma and attitude got him the heat he needed and was rising. He eventually regained his Intercontinental Champion (by forfeit, when Steve Austin refused to fight him for the championship, and in reality when Austin refused to job to him).
Behind the scenes, Triple H and The Rock were still something of enemies. Maybe not directly, but they both were in the same position, and in a few years both wanted the same position – the top. Bret Hart was someone who helped The Rock in his early days. He gave him advice and told him to stay way from the likes of HHH and Michaels (who Rock had a distaste for already). Bret Hart did not like Triple H, and refused to put him over one time before he was leaving. The Rock and Triple H were almost on opposite sides in the locker room.
Eventually Triple H landed in a feud (on screen) with Bret’s brother- Owen Hart. Owen came in strong as a babyface. Triple H however (especially since Michaels left) was gaining popularity among fans, for being a cocky bastard and telling people to “suck it.” The revamped D-Generation X was gaining popularity with Helmsley as the head (with X-Pac, Chyna, and the New Age Outlaws as members). Owen suddenly joined the black militant stable- The Nation now headed by The Rock. This is what led to the next stage in the feud.
The two began clashing in tag-team matches, but it became evident as the leader of the two groups, it would lead to a singles match between the two. What really put steam on the singles feud is when D-Generation X came out and parodied the Nation, and Triple H dressed up as The Crock. Finally, a match was setup for Fully Loaded 1998, title vs. title, and two out of three falls. Things changed, as the week before the match on Raw, Triple H lost the European Title to Nation member D-Lo Brown after receiving a Rock Bottom from an interfering Rock.
The Fully Loaded match was a complete disappointment. The two young studs weren’t quite ready to put on a solid thirty minute match. Even with multiple run-ins and several ringside brawling sessions the match was overall boring and dull. Part of the reason is The Rock as heel was leading the match, and Triple H had become stuck in something of a rut where he would get beaten up for most of his match before making a comeback using his knee moves. While this works fine on the three minute Raw match, a thirty minute match where The Rock was poor at offense, lead to an incredibly boring match. Both men picked up falls, and Triple H hit the pedigree with only seconds left, but time limit expired.
Things moved on to Summerslam, which that year took place in Madison Square Garden (which is where the two first met). They fought for the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match. This match was an exceptionally better than their previous match. With the ladder gimmick, and both guys giving it their all, they put on something of a forgotten classic. Triple H won the title, but injured his knee in the match. He was forced to vacate the title, and take time off.
When Triple H came back, they were still at odds. Triple H’s D-Generation X was at odds with The Corporation of which the Rock was a part. They faced twice on episodes of RAW following a pay-per-view. At this point The Rock had made it to the top of the mountain and had proved he was worthy of being there. However, there was still doubt if Triple H could do the same. Triple H at the time, put on very generic matches which just had him get beat up for most of the time, except when making a comeback. But these two managed to put on some good matches.
Eventually, Triple H joined the corporation. For a month they were on the same side, even tagging together against Steve Austin & The Big Show on an episode of Raw. But soon The Rock was out of the corporation, and they were at odds again. They faced each other at Over the Edge (they were the first match to go on after it was announced to the PPV audience, Owen Hart had died) and Fully Loaded. After this Triple H held the World title for a large part of the last part of 1999. Rocky wanted the title, and as a result the two clashed many times.
At the beginning of the next year, The Rock won the Royal Rumble, and was on his way for a match for Triple H’s WWF World title at WrestleMania 2000, but things happened and Mick Foley & The Big Show were interjected into the match. Rocky fell short of capturing the title at WrestleMania when Vince McMahon turned on him, but now with Mick Foley retired, and Big Show going down on the card. The Rock and Triple H were the main guys feuding over the WWF World title. The Rock would either chase Triple H, or Triple H would try and make the WWF World Champion’s life a living hell.
Their first PPV singles match since Fully Loaded 1999, was at Backlash 2000. The Rock and Triple H put on an excellent match. They had great heat. The Rock was the perfect babyface for the new millennium. Triple H truly gotten over as a heel through some great booking, and as Mick Foley said “truly bringing back the art form of being a prick.” At a time when most heels ended up getting to a degree over by being too cool or through catchphrases (like he ended up doing in his DX days), Triple H was able to stay hated, and he is really underrated for being a excellent heel at the time. The story of the match was whether Austin would be in the Rock’s corner or not. He wasn’t at first, but eventually came out to help The Rock against the onslaught of McMahon-Helmsley Regime. The Rock was able to gain the title.
The next month, they put on a match, almost completely different from anything being done at the time. They put on a one hour Ironman match. At the time, no one think either man had the stamina or moveset to put on a match of that caliber, but they were proved wrong. Not only did they do it, they did it with relatively little gimmicks (almost the first forty minutes had nothing but wrestling). The match ended with a 6-5 score after The Undertaker returned and attacked Triple H. The next month The Rock would regain the title, in an unspectacular six man tag-team match involving himself, The Undertaker, & Kane against Triple H, Shane & Vince McMahon. He pinned Vince McMahon to win the title.
Through the rest of the year, Triple H & The Rock mostly stayed at odds, with the exception of when Triple H made a brief face turn. They had a good match at Summerslam which involved Kurt Angle (but he played virtually no part for the first fifteen minutes, because Triple H attacked him earlier). Through the next few years The Rock would periodically leave for Hollywood, while Triple H had a major quad injury, so they continued to feud, but not as strongly as before.
Their last match against one another was on August 19, 2002 from the Norfolk Scope on a live episode of Raw. Rock defended his WWE World Title against Triple H. It ended in a no contest when both Brock Lesnar and Shawn Michaels interfered. After this, The Rock was done with full time wrestling and left to pursue a career in Hollywood.
However, the story isn’t quite over. While The Rock wasn’t wrestling full time he was still coming back to wrestle periodically. His contract expired in December of 2004. Rumor has it Triple H was the one who suggested The Rock not be offered a new contract. Eventually he was, and he accepted, but backstage the Rock and Triple H feud seems to still be going.