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The Rock's 15 rare Raw moments
As one of the cornerstones of WWE's flagship, The Rock has had many memorable moments on Raw, including identifying John Cena as a bowl of Fruity Pebbles ( WATCH) and his epic "This Is Your Life" party hosted by Mick Foley. These occasions have been established as some of the most iconic in not only The Rock's history, but also in all of WWE’s, and for good reason — there's not much better than a puzzled People's Champion staring down an enthusiastic Mankind and Yurple the Clown.
But The Brahma Bull had many electrifying moments on Raw during his original eight-year tenure as a WWE Superstar that mostly have been forgotten by even the most diehard sports-entertainment loyalists. WWE Classics cracked open “The People's Vault” to unearth 15 of The Rock's rarest, heart-pumping Raw moments featuring the nine-time World Champion at his finest.
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The Rock's Raw debut: Nov. 25, 1996
The Rock’s much-heralded debut as the first third-generation Superstar came at Survivor Series 1996. Countless highlight reels have been populated with a fresh-faced Rocky Maivia making his way to the ring at Madison Square Garden, smiling from ear to ear ( WATCH). And he had reason to grin. The blue chipper was the sole survivor of his Traditional Survivor Series Elimination Match that night, outlasting such luminaries as Jerry “The King” Lawler and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.
But few fans have seen Rocky’s next match against a mostly forgotten Italian grappler named Salvatore Sincere. Straight out of a Mario Puzo novel, Sincere attempted to make Maivia an offer he couldn’t refuse, but Maivia was still on a roll from his Survivor Series victory eight days prior. He pinned the mobster after an impressive shoulder-breaker, marking the start of a legendary Raw career. ( WATCH)
The Rock wins his first title: Feb. 13, 1997
The Rock's battles with Triple H during The McMahon-Helmsley Era defined WWE at the turn of the new millennium. Three years prior, on a special edition of Raw dubbed "Thursday Raw Thursday," a rookie Rocky Maivia took on Hunter Hearst Helmsley in the first of their many encounters, and it was for the Intercontinental Championship. In an astounding turn of events, the future King of Kings set up for a Pedigree, but the challenger executed a stunning reversal and locked in an inside cradle to win his first title in WWE only three months after his debut. After the bout, Rocky celebrated his victory as the youngest Intercontinental Champion in history by addressing the fans, one of the first instances of the catchphrase king speaking on the mic. ( WATCH)
It would not be the last time the two ring icons clashed for the Intercontinental Title. More than a year later, their Ladder Match at SummerSlam catapulted both Superstars to main event status. ( WATCH)
The Rock prepares for his first WrestleMania match against The Sultan: March 10, 1997
The Great One is one of the finest WrestleMania performers of all time. He’s met the best and the brightest on The Grandest Stage of Them All, including an iconic clash with Hulk Hogan ( WATCH), a "Once in a Lifetime" encounter with John Cena ( WATCH) and three career-defining wars with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin ( WATCH).
Less than six months into his WWE career, Rocky Maivia was set to defend the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 13, his very first Show of Shows. His opponent was scheduled to be the massive Middle Easterner known as "The Sultan," a Superstar brought to WWE by the unique tandem of former adversaries Bob Backlund and The Iron Sheik.
Two weeks before the big match, the champion defended his title against Tony Roy on Raw. During the bout, Backlund and the Sheik appeared at the top of the ramp alongside The Sultan. Despite an unintelligible rant by the duo throughout the matchup, Rocky ignored the distractions. Following the bout, The Sultan and his associates stormed the ring, but the Intercontinental Champion disposed of all three ( WATCH). While heading back up the ramp, Rocky spotted Tony Atlas — his dad’s former tag team partner — in the crowd. The two embraced and headed backstage together, giving Rocky the momentum he needed to be successful at his first WrestleMania. ( WATCH)
The Rock explains why he joined The Nation of Domination: Aug. 18, 1997
Rocky Maivia morphed into The Rock not after he turned his back on the fans, but after the fans turned on him. Having been in WWE less than a year, Rocky’s constant smiles and happy-go-lucky demeanor began to wear on the WWE Universe. As the Attitude Era approached its core, crowds began to chant “Die Rocky die!” and “Rocky sucks!” at arenas around the country.
After losing the Intercontinental Championship, Rocky took a leave of absence. Upon his return, he was The Rock, a cocky and entitled Superstar that recognized his own greatness. The Rock joined Faarooq’s Nation of Domination, and explained his change of heart in a game-changing in-ring interview alongside his new allies. ( WATCH)
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin forfeits the Intercontinental Championship to The Rock: Dec. 8, 1997
Beginning one of the most iconic rivalries in sports-entertainment history, The Rock stole “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s Intercontinental Championship on the Nov. 17, 1997 edition of Raw. He began to call himself “the best damn Intercontinental Champ there ever was,” even though Austin was still recognized as the champion. At In Your House: D-Generation X, The Rock finally met Austin for the very first time on pay-per-view with The Texas Rattlesnake emerging victorious.
The following night on Raw, Mr. McMahon ordered Austin to defend the title again in a rematch, but “Stone Cold” refused and decided instead to surrender the title. He felt the Intercontinental Championship was now beneath him, and planned to pursue Shawn Michaels’ WWE Championship. Austin forfeited the title to The Rock, and immediately delivered a Stone Cold Stunner to the new champion ( WATCH). The championship’s look evolved during The Rock’s reign, and he held the title for more than 265 days, which hasn’t been matched by any Intercontinental Champion since.
The Rock awards gifts to The Nation of Domination: Feb. 21, 1998
To show appreciation to his Nation comrades, The Great One presented Kama, D’Lo Brown and Mark Henry with $15,000 solid gold Rolex watches. But he saved the most extravagant gift for Nation leader Faarooq. As the big man tore open the wrapping paper on the large, flat object, it was revealed to be a portrait of The Rock holding his Intercontinental Championship. ( WATCH)
The Nation leader was furious. After losing a match to Steve Blackman due to The Rock’s interference, Faarooq snapped the portrait in half with several quick jabs of his fist. The other Nation members departed the ring with Faarooq, but they sided with The Rock the following month, marking a changing of the guard in The Nation’s leadership. ( WATCH)
The Rock Rock Bottoms Mr. McMahon: Nov. 9, 1998
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s rivalry with Mr. McMahon defined the Attitude Era, and many fans remember the very first Stone Cold Stunner executed on The Boss ( WATCH), but do you remember The Chairman’s first Rock Bottom received?
After disbanding The Nation of Domination, fans started warming up to The Rock’s entertaining performances and he began referring to himself as "The People’s Champion." With Mr. McMahon’s rise as WWE’s ultimate villain, The Rock demanded that if The Chairman has a “problem with the people,” he should target The People’s Champion. The week before the Deadly Games Tournament at 1998’s Survivor Series, The Rock finally tossed his boss into the ring and delivered an earth-shattering Rock Bottom ( WATCH).
The whole ordeal turned out to be a massive setup by The Rock and Mr. McMahon, who turned out to be in cahoots with one another ( WATCH). The Rock was crowned "The Corporate Champion" at Survivor Series, changing the balance of power among the roster.
The Rock vs. Mankind, Ladder Match for the WWE Championship: Feb. 15, 1999
As 1998 came to a close, The Rock engaged in a brutal rivalry with Mankind over the WWE Championship. The two battled several times leading to WrestleMania XV, including Mick Foley’s emotional title win on Raw ( WATCH) and their infamous “I Quit” Match at 1999’s Royal Rumble ( WATCH).
What many fans don’t remember is what happened after that steel chair classic at the Rumble. Their final clash was scheduled to be a Last Man Standing Match at St. Valentine’s Day Massacre to determine who would advance to WrestleMania as champion, but neither Superstar could answer the referee’s 10 count. The following night on Raw, Mankind battled The Rock in the final bout of their legendary rivalry — a rarely-seen Ladder Match for the WWE Championship ( WATCH) — setting the stage for an epic clash with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at WrestleMania.
The Rock 'n' Sock Connection win the World Tag Team Championship: Aug. 30, 1999
“This Is Your Life” has become an iconic Raw moment. The highest-rated segment in the history of Raw’s 999 episodes has been replayed and reenacted on several occasions, but few fans remember the night The Rock and Mankind actually won the World Tag Team Championship that made them a team in the first place.
The "Unholy Alliance" of Big Show and The Undertaker brutally attacked The Rock on the Aug. 30, 1999, edition of Raw, denying The Great One an opportunity at Triple H’s WWE Championship. Frustrated, The Rock demanded to face Big Show and The Undertaker for their World Tag Team Championship. When Mankind offered his services as a partner after similarly missing a chance to earn a title opportunity, The Rock reluctantly accepted. The fan favorite still had not swallowed the thought of aligning himself with his scruffy former rival.
The duo reminiscent of Felix and Oscar pinned The World’s Largest Athlete with a double People’s Elbow shockingly to win the titles in the main event ( WATCH). The pair had two additional reigns as World Tag Team Champions ( WATCH) and became one of the most revered, yet mismatched champions ( WATCH) to have ever hold tag team title gold.
The Rock vs. Shane McMahon, Steel Cage Match for the WWE Championship: May 1, 2000
At WrestleMania 2000, a Fatal 4-Way Match for the WWE Championship featured a McMahon family member in the corner of each competitor. After Mr. McMahon betrayed his Superstar, The Rock, Triple H managed to retain the title to mark the first time a hero was unable to wrest the WWE Championship away from a despised villain at WrestleMania.
But later that month at Backlash, The People’s Champion was finally able to defeat The Game despite Shane McMahon’s assigned role as special referee ( WATCH). The following night on Raw, Mr. McMahon scheduled The Great One in a title defense against his son in a Steel Cage Match. The deck was stacked against the new champion with both Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco acting as referees and Mr. McMahon, Stephanie McMahon and her husband patrolling ringside. ( WATCH)
The Brahma Bull prevailed and retained the title in a thrilling steel cage classic that has gone mostly forgotten when remembering Raw’s great main events.
The Rock & The Undertaker vs. Edge & Christian, World Tag Team Championship Match: Dec. 18, 2000
The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection looked like Simon and Garfunkel compared to the odd couple of The Great One and The Undertaker.
Two of the greatest Superstars in WWE history joined forces to battle Edge and Christian for the World Tag Team Championship on Raw as 2000 came to a close. The match spilled out of the ring as The Phenom and The Great One took control. Back on the canvas, The Undertaker nailed a Last Ride on Christian, and The Brahma Bull laid a People’s Elbow onto Edge to score the pinfall and the titles ( WATCH).
Blink and you’d have missed it. The pair lost the titles back to Edge & Christian later that same week on SmackDown. The Rock also won the titles in a similarly unlikely pairing with Chris Jericho a year later for 10 days. Martin and Lewis they ain’t.
The Rock vs. Ric Flair: July 29, 2002
The Rock has never backed down from a challenge and has met many of sports-entertainment’s best throughout the course of his career. Longtime fans remember The Great One’s battles with The Undertaker, Triple H, Brock Lesnar, Mick Foley, Goldberg and his WrestleMania trilogy with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. But even the most fervent WWE fans may not remember the night on Raw when The People’s Champion met Ric Flair one-on-one in the heart of "Flair Country" — Greensboro, N.C.
The match was as thrilling as any mat historian would have hoped for, with several reversals from People’s Elbow to Figure Four to Sharpshooter. In the end, The Nature Boy suffered a Rock Bottom, sending The Great One to a stylin’ and profilin’ victory on this night. ( WATCH)
The Rock returns to Raw: Feb. 24, 2003
The Rock, one of the most beloved Superstars in WWE history, began to turn his back on the WWE Universe. After starting to achieve success in Hollywood, he noticeably had one foot out the door in WWE. The People’s Champion lost the "Superstar of the Decade Award" to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and made a rare appearance on Raw to address the issue.
Having been mostly a SmackDown-exclusive Superstar in recent years, The Great One returned following a cryptic new entrance video and theme music that would come to define his now established A-list status. This edition of Raw was in Toronto, the site of his epic bout with Hulk Hogan at the previous year’s WrestleMania. Not pleased with how he had been treated at that event, The Rock launched into an angry tirade, used colorful language to describe the local Canadians and announced his intentions to target The Texas Rattlesnake for one more WrestleMania matchup. (WATCH PART 1 | PART 2)
The Rock Concert targets Goldberg: April 21, 2003
The third time was the charm for The Rock at WrestleMania XIX, when The Great One finally defeated “Stone Cold” Steve Austin on The Grandest Stage of Them All ( WATCH). The night following his monumental victory, the cocky veteran claimed he had defeated all worthwhile Superstars in the sports-entertainment industry.
The Rock’s words incited the WWE debut of the legendary Goldberg, who speared The People’s Champion and challenged him to a match at Backlash ( WATCH). Three weeks later in Goldberg’s hometown, Atlanta, The Great One retaliated by holding one of his infamous Rock Concerts. The Brahma Bull went too far, though. In the ultimate demonstration of disrespect, The Rock introduced not Goldberg, but Gillberg to view his concert up close, but Goldberg entered and tore through The Rock’s security team while his Backlash opponent narrowly escaped the ring. With Goldberg was distracted by the obnoxious Gillberg, The Rock stormed back and planted the former WCW stalwart with a momentum-shifting Rock Bottom. ( WATCH)
The Rock 'n' Sock Connection reunites to battle Evolution: March 1, 2004
They say that diamonds are forever. But for The Rock, socks are forever.
In March 2004, having not regularly appeared on WWE programming for nearly a year, The Rock made a momentous return to help his old friend Mick Foley in his ongoing battle with Randy Orton and the rest of Evolution.
The Hardcore Legend’s rivalry had brewed over the ensuing year with The Legend Killer continuing to taunt Foley. Orton was constantly flanked by his Evolution allies, and apparently did not count on Mick having anybody to come to his aid. But Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy did have an ace in the hole, and it wasn’t just any tag team partner, it was the nine-time World Champion The Rock.
The Great One stormed the ring, reuniting The Rock ‘n’ Sock Connection in a heart-pumping moment as the WWE Universe erupted ( WATCH). After appearing in “Walking Tall,” The Great One stood tall with Foley, proving that sweat socks are thicker than blood.