WWE Champion The Rock may hail from Miami, but when it comes to WWE, New York City is his home. The Brahma Bull’s history with The Big Apple is long and storied. The Rock has won championships, reached career milestones and electrified the denizens of The City That Never Sleeps more times than the WWE Universe can possibly remember. Most exciting of all is that The Great One’s history with New York is still being written. He’ll add another chapter in a few weeks when he defends the WWE Title against John Cena at MetLife Stadium in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline at WrestleMania 29 ( PREVIEW). But before The Rock adds to his epic tale, WWE.com presents a look back at the legend thus far with this list of The Rock’s career-defining moments on both sides of the Hudson in New York and New Jersey.
Not many Superstars can lay claim to having begun their WWE career under the roof of The World’s Most Famous Arena, and the fact that The Rock — then Rocky Maivia — first stepped through the ropes before a Madison Square Garden crowd just reinforces that he was destined for greatness from the get-go. “The Blue Chipper” first introduced himself to the WWE Universe at Survivor Series 1996 as part of the Traditional Survivor Series 8-Man Elimination Tag Team Match and immediately lived up to his pedigree as WWE’s first third-generation Superstar, pinning Goldust to become the bout’s sole survivor.
Unfortunately for Maivia, the WWE Universe didn’t immediately take to his million-dollar smile and clean-cut personality, and chants of “Rocky sucks!” soon followed The Blue Chipper wherever he went. But as you’ve probably figured out by now, they soon changed their minds in a big, big way.
Flash-forward to 2000 and Rocky Maivia was no more, replaced by the rude, crude attitude of The Rock: an electrifying, muscle-bound warrior in thousand-dollar shirts and ten thousand-dollar watches who took on all comers and suffered no fools. By the time the Royal Rumble pay-per-view came to Madison Square Garden in January 2000, Rockamania was in full swing and The Brahma Bull — already a multiple-time WWE Champion at this point — was a favorite among the WWE Universe to triumph in the Rumble’s eponymous 30-man melee and claim a WWE Championship Match at WrestleMania. The Great One delivered as only he can, entering the Royal Rumble Match at No. 24 and notching four eliminations in the bout, last hauling Big Show over the ropes to seize glory in one of WWE’s most chaotic contests.
Controversy erupted over The Brahma Bull’s Royal Rumble triumph when camera angles showed The Rock’s feet may have potentially hit the ground before Big Show’s, and The World’s Largest Athlete cried foul on The People’s Champion. The unrest persisted for months until finally, a match between the two was made in New Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena to settle the score, with a unique stipulation to boot: Should The Rock win, his WrestleMania title opportunity would be secure but, if the giant slayed The Great One, then The Brahma Bull would quit WWE. After a long, grueling battle in the swamps of Jersey (and despite the best efforts of guest referee Shane McMahon to rob Rock of the victory), The Great One toppled The World’s Largest Athlete and stamped his ticket to WrestleMania as the legend of The People’s Champion continues to grow.
That’s right, WWE Universe: Even Long Island isn’t safe from the omnipotent reach of The People’s Champion. One of The Rock's most unusual championship victories came not in the Garden or the Meadowlands but under the lights of Nassau Coliseum when he defeated Chris Jericho to capture his second of two WCW Championships. The rivalry between Rock and Y2J was long and storied at this point, with Jericho having taken the “Big Gold Title” from around The People’s Waist at No Mercy 2001, only to capture the WWE World Tag Team Championships the next day with Rock as his partner. The two gladiators had it out for all the marbles in the Coliseum, and when the dust settled it was The Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla who was felled for the 1-2-3. Jericho would ultimately have the last laugh when he deposed The Rock to reclaim the title as one half of the Undisputed WWE Championship, but on this particular night, it was The People’s Champion who had all the glory.
By WrestleMania XX, The People’s Champion had largely retired from in-ring competition thanks to a burgeoning career in Hollywood. But even the palm trees, swimmin’ pools and movie stars of Beverly Hills couldn’t keep The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment from coming to the aid of his old friend Mick Foley when the three-time WWE Champion found himself targeted by the supergroup Evolution. With The Show of Shows returning to Madison Square Garden, The Rock and Foley reformed their old tandem of The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection and took on three of Evolution’s members — Ric Flair, Batista and a young up-and-comer by the name of Randy Orton — in a 3-on-2 Handicap Match. Although Rock’s return to the Garden certainly had an air of destiny about it, victory eluded The Brahma Bull when Orton struck Foley with an RKO to claim the victory for himself and his friends. Despite his bout ending in defeat, however, the New York City faithful welcomed The Rock back with open arms. You can’t win ‘em all, especially in Madison Square Garden.
When The Brahma Bull returned to WWE in 2011 after a nearly 10-year sabbatical, it wasn’t long before he made his intentions known and accepted John Cena’s challenge to a match at WrestleMania XXVIII. But in a bizarre twist of fate, The Rock’s first official match back wasn’t against the Cenation leader butalongsidehim when the two teamed up at Survivor Series 2011. In a coalition that was dubbed as “Never Before, Never Again,” The Rock joined forces with the 10-time WWE Champion to battle the renegade team of The Awesome Truth — The Miz and R-Truth — under the same roof where The Great One made his WWE debut, in Madison Square Garden. The alliance between the two titans was — as expected — tenuous at best, but Rock came through in the clutch and dispatched Miz and Truth without a hint of ring rust, bringing the Big Apple crowd to its feet in elation ( PHOTOS). Satisfying as it was, though, the victory wasn’t quite sweet enough to dissuade Rock from pummeling Cena with a Rock Bottom after the contest. It was a promised preview of their WrestleMania bout that The Brahma Bull would eventually make good on when he defeated Cena at The Show of Shows five months later ( PHOTOS | VIDEO).
Of course, we all know by now that the fateful Miami match would not be the last time The Rock stared down John Cena on The Grandest Stage of Them All. Moments after John Cena won the 2013 Royal Rumble Match, The Rock defeated CM Punk for the WWE Title ( PHOTOS), setting the wheels in motion for the high-stakes rematch between the two warriors at MetLife Stadium in just a few weeks’ time. Whether The Great One can prevail against his foil and add to his New York/New Jersey legacy is a chapter of his history that has yet to be written. But as always with the jabroni-beating, pie-eating, trailblazin’, eyebrow’ raisin’ People’s Champ THE ROCK, it will be an outcome that echoes through the ages.