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The Top 10 Rock Matches

May 2, 2021 | Posted by Blake Lovell
The Rock Steve Austin

Hello, fine readers! I thought it would be fun to start a new monthly series spotlighting favorite matches of one particular wrestler or tag team.

First up in the series is a look at my favorite matches featuring The Rock, who is celebrating his 49th birthday (happy birthday, Rock!). I actually went back and rewatched all of these so they would be fresh on my mind, which led to reshuffling my rankings quite a bit.

Just for clarity: These are my favorite Rock matches based on my enjoyment of the match. For example, the No. 2 choice on my list may not be as good technically as other Rock matches, but in terms of enjoyment, it’s impossible to slot it any lower. So, I’m not so much ranking these as a definitive top 10 for everyone, but rather the matches I found most entertaining going back and watching numerous matches from his career. Everyone enjoys different aspects of wrestling, so I fully expect other wrestling fans to have both a different order and different matches included. That’s what makes it a fun discussion!

While I have ranked these matches, the difference between the No. 8 and No. 7, the No. 7 and No. 6, and so on, is a matter of personal preference. There isn’t much that separates most of these (aside from 1-3 on the list).

As for the rewatching process, it was a lot of fun to look back at Rock’s matches due to it being my favorite era in wrestling history. I pretty much all the Attitude Era pay-per-views at my late grandfather’s house, and those three hours on Sunday nights were often the highlight of my week.

So, let’s sit back, pull up the frustratingly hard-to-navigate Peacock streaming service, and enjoy a stroll down Jabroni Boulevard and reminisce on some of The Great One’s most entertaining matches.

Let’s jump into the list.

Other Favorite Rock Matches

– The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. The Undertaker vs. Rikishi (Armageddon 2000)
– The Rock vs. Kurt Angle (No Way Out 2001)
– The Rock vs. Chris Benoit (Fully Loaded 2000)
– The Rock vs. Mankind (Halftime Heat)

I specifically want to mention the Halftime Heat match because while it wasn’t an in-ring classic, I forgot how entertaining it was until watching it back. Here are some of the things Rock did in this match: Mocked Mr. Socko and stuck him in oven, stuck Mankind into the oven, drank Jack Daniels, spit out popcorn because it was too salty, answered an office phone multiple times using a “Hello, SmackDown Hotel” greeting, and much more. I absolutely loved it for the reason that it didn’t take itself too seriously. Vince’s over-the-top reactions as the solo commentator only added to the entertainment. At one point, he offered this line that had me laughing: “Those of you just tuning in might say, what the hell am I watching?” I guess he was foreshadowing the typical viewer experience of RAW in this era! I kid, I kid. Rock jumping on commentary before Mankind brought out Mr. Socko on him was another fun spot. Even with the Empty Arena Match being commonplace these days, it’ll be hard to replicate the true uniqueness of the Halftime Heat showdown between two legends.

10. The Rock vs. Steve Austin – No Holds Barred Match for the WWE Championship (Backlash 1999)

I’ve always preferred the Backlash match to the WrestleMania XV match, and the rewatch didn’t change my opinion. They brawled all over the place, and each man getting thrown onto one side of the chain fence set was a nice touch. Given all the hatred and animosity, this match was deserving of a brawl, not a technical wrestling bout. Rock showed off his charisma yet again by putting on the headset and telling Austin that he was a piece of trash, but the real treat was Rock playing cameraman on top of the announce table before Austin gave the double salute into the camera prior to hitting the Stunner. Now that’s creativity! This is just one of those matches that played out like it needed to for the story, and I greatly enjoyed it.

9. The Rock vs. Steve Austin (WrestleMania XIX)

The Rock Steve Austin

Here we go again! The story was what it needed to be – Rock had never beat Austin at WrestleMania, and this was his final opportunity. He’d earned millions of dollars, become a Hollywood star, and portrayed the “bigger than WWE’ persona to perfection. But he had never beaten his biggest rival at the biggest show of the year. Rock putting on Austin’s vest midway through the match was a thing of genius. Having these two icons steal the other’s finisher video-game style was also fun. Rock sold the Stunner like only Rock could, and Rock’s facial expressions after Austin kicked out of the second Rock Bottom said it all. So did the pause before the third Rock Bottom to win it. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe Rock’s character work, and this being Austin’s last match only adds to its place in the historic rivalry between the two.

8. The Rock, Chris Jericho, The Big Show, Kane, and The Undertaker vs. Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Booker T, Rob Van Dam, and Shane McMahon (Survivor Series 2001)

It was only fitting that Rock and Austin would both start and finish a match that was built up as the most important in wrestling history. The suspense was well done, and for the most part, every fall at least felt significant because of the stakes involved. Heyman’s reaction to Shane receiving multiple finishers before being eliminated by Jericho was hilarious. Speaking of Jericho, Heyman also had a tremendous reaction to Jericho attacking Rock late in the match. The crowd was into every counter in the final part of the match featuring Rock and Austin, the fans lost it when Angle turned on Austin to give the good guys the victory. Vince McMahon celebrating triumphantly on the stage after the match was quite a scene, but he was never gonna turn down an opportunity to bask in the glory of squashing WCW.

7. The Rock vs. Triple H – WWE Championship (Backlash 2000)

The Rock Triple H

For many, this righted the wrong of having Triple H retain the title in the Fatal 4-Way Match at WrestleMania 2000. As was typical during the era, this wasn’t your traditional one-on-one match, with McMahons all over the place – Vince as the instigator, Stephanie as Triple H’s lover, Shane as the special guest referee, and Linda as the ally for The Rock. Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco were also there as the stooges. And then there was Steve Austin, who took the roof off the place when he finally showed up to help Rock. But my goodness did the crowd also love them some Rock. He was in such a groove as Triple H’s top rival. Yes, there was interference aplenty in this match, but it was understandable for the payoff. The crowd certainly pushed this match up a notch.

6. The Rock vs. Chris Jericho – WCW Championship (No Mercy 2001)

The Rock Chris Jericho Dwayne Johnson

Click, click, boom! Rock being the WCW Champion was always weird, but he didn’t have to worry about that after Jericho won the title here (with an unlikely assist from Stephanie McMahon). They really played up Jericho not winning the big one, which would obviously change both in this match and at Vengeance 2001. Something that stood out in rewatching all these matches: It’s easy to think about how over Rock was, but actually hearing the crowd lose its mind is a great reminder of how special this dude was as a wrestler. Something else that the rewatch reminded me of is how excellent Paul Heyman is as a commentator. Awesome sequence with Jericho hitting Rock with the Rock Bottom but missing The People’s Elbow. The Spanish announce table got its usual dose of destruction with Rock hitting the Rock Bottom on Jericho. The crowd started to boo Rock at one point, and Jericho reversing the People’s Elbow into the Walls was FANTASTIC. This is one of those forgotten classics that had all the elements of what I enjoy as a wrestling fan.

5. The Rock vs. Triple H – Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship (SummerSlam 1998)

I wasn’t sure how this one would hold up watching it for the first time in a while. But even with all the insane ladder matches since, I still thoroughly enjoyed it as a monumental stepping stone for both Rock and Triple H. Rock was only 26 at this point, which is pretty wild to think about. As far as ladder matches go, this one didn’t have the high spots we’re used to in this era of wrestling, but the psychology and selling from both men were great. Every big move felt important. Rock using the ladder and a chair to decimate Triple H’s injured knee (due to Rock attacking him with the belt on Sunday Night Heat) made complete sense, and there were several innovative spots for a 1998 ladder match. Also, the MSG crowd went NUTS when Rock hit the People’s Elbow on Triple H on the ladder. The Rocky chants afterward told you all you needed to know about this dude’s potential as a mega star. Of course, the real highlights of this match were Triple H’s purple tights (still one of my most prized action figures) and the old school yellow ladders!

4. The Rock vs. Triple H – 60-Minute Iron Man Match for the WWE Championship (Judgment Day 2000)

This match has garnered a variety of opinions over the years. Rewatching it, I still prefer it to Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII. In this particular era in 2000, the zero falls before overtime probably wouldn’t have worked. I thought there was lots of creativity in planning out the falls, knowing that the pacing was gonna be everything for a match like this one. You also had some of the biggest stars in history involved in some fashion – Rock, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. The final stretch leading to the finish is pure adrenaline, and the crowd reaction to Taker riding in on the bike is one of the loudest of the Attitude Era. Sure, the ending was far from perfect. But in terms of entertainment and atmosphere, it didn’t get much better than this with Rock matches.

3. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker – Triple Threat Match for the WWE Championship (Vengeance 2002)

“Can I break away, push me away, make me fall, just to see, another side of me.” Still a favorite from Trust Company, and it made the video package for this match that much better. The setup came after the controversial pin/tapout ending between Taker vs. Angle on SmackDown, leading to Vince making the triple threat. In terms of triple threat matches, in my opinion, this is one of the best ever. Pure action for 19 minutes and 35 seconds, with all three men working their asses off. So many great sequences, including Rock hitting a chokeslam on Taker, then going to the Ankle Lock on Angle, which led to Angle using the Rock Bottom on Rock before Taker hit the Angle Slam on Angle. While Rock winning was significant ahead of his eventual match with Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, Angle portraying the desperate heel was one of the many stellar performances in his career. So many incredible pin attempts and so much suspense. The chemistry between these three was simply incredible.

2. The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania 18)

Hulk Hogan Rock WrestleMania 18 Matches

The crowd, the stare, the charisma. You knew as soon as Hogan hit the ring that this thing was gonna be nuts. From the crowd’s reaction when Hogan throws Rock into the corner to Rock’s mannerisms in reaction to the crowd, this was a spectacle. This Jerry Lawler line would prove to be spot-on: “Years from now, people will be talking about this match saying I was there and I witnessed The Rock and Hulk Hogan.” He wasn’t wrong. Hogan hitting the low blow and Rock Bottom for a two count was great. Then you had Hogan kicking out of Rock Bottom and doing the Hulk up to sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy, and Rock kicking out of the Leg Drop at two garnered a similar reaction. The post-match handshake, Rock and Hogan fighting off Hall and Nash, and Rock bringing Hogan back into the ring for Hogan’s pose before the two walked up the ramp together capped off an unforgettable piece of wrestling history.

1. The Rock vs. Steve Austin – WWE Championship (WrestleMania 17)

Steve Austin Vince McMahon WrestleMania

I’m not sure what more needs to be said that hasn’t already been said about this match. WrestleMania 17 is still the only wrestling pay-per-view I’ve watched again from start to finish immediately after the first run was over (I did something similar with WrestleMania 19 but only watched select matches). I can vividly recall still being wowed by Rock getting screwed over via the Austin heel turn at 2 AM, and while it’s a little different watching it this many years later, it remains a masterpiece. In hindsight, it’s easy to second-guess the Austin heel turn, but it doesn’t change my opinion on this being one of the greatest matches ever. Everything from build to bell, including the memorable sit-down interview with Jim Ross and the “My Way” video package, was as close to perfection as it gets for a match of this magnitude.

And now, it’s your turn!

What are your favorite Rock matches? Share your thoughts in the comments section! For more of my thoughts on pro wrestling, subscribe to the 411 On Wrestling podcast and follow me on Twitter @wrestleblake. Thanks for reading!