The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Twenty years ago, The Rock debuted at Survivor Series 1996, kick-starting a career that broke down barriers and blazed a trail from the ring to Hollywood and all the way back again. Picking one definitive moment out of The Brahma Bull’s unique career is a tall task, but gave it a shot nonetheless. In celebration of his two-decade career, presents the 20 most definitive moments featuring the jabroni-beatin’, pie-eatin’, trailblazin’, eyebrow-raising People’s Champ, The Rock.



The Blue-Chipper

The Rock makes his WWE debut: Survivor Series 1996

He's a long way from being The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment, but The Rock certainly looks like a Superstar in the making in his WWE debut at Survivor Series 1996.

In one of the most high-profile debuts in WWE history, an out-of-nowhere “Blue-Chipper” named Rocky Maivia skipped to the ring in New York City’s Madison Square Garden and became the Sole Survivor of his very first match, to the delight of the audience assembled for Survivor Series 1996. A change in fan sentiment would force Rock to abandon the goody-goody act soon enough, but it was clear a star had been born, even if he hadn’t quite gone supernova yet. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



Fastest Match Alive

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

The Rock often asks his opposition if they can “smell it.” Odds are, Erick Rowan didn’t have time to. Being interrupted by The Wyatt Family during his historic announcement that WrestleMania 32 had drawn over 100,000 people in attendance at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas, The Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment proved he was always ready for a fight. He ripped off his warm-ups to reveal he was in full gear, challenging one of The Wyatts to step up. Rowan accepted, but the behemoth walked right into a Rock Bottom. Just like that, The Rock defeated Rowan and, in the process, made more history by acquiring the quickest WrestleMania victory ever at a swift six seconds. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



One “Giant” win

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Returning to MSG for the biggest match of his career since the Survivor Series contest, The Great One — now fully immersed in his new persona — once again came up huge, upending Big Show to earn his first-ever Royal Rumble Match victory. True, there were some whisperings that Big Show was never actually eliminated, but the record book shows The Rock won the match, and Big Show got a haircut in disgrace after. Controversy schmontroversy, I think we all know who took the “L” here. — ANTHONY BENIGNO




The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Don’t call it a comeback. Following his monumental defeat of John Cena at WrestleMania XXVIII, the only thing that made sense for The Rock was to refocus his attention back onto the WWE Championship, and its record-setting bearer of 434 days, CM Punk. Held at Royal Rumble 2013, the title contest was back and forth and multi-layered, including interference from The Shield and a complete re-start of the match at one point. Ultimately though, The Rock proved that he repelled ring rust stronger than any human alive, defeating Punk with The People’s Elbow to capture his eighth WWE Championship. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



Live from New York

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

On March 18, 2000, at the height of the Attitude Era, The Rock reached across the aisle to mainstream entertainment, hosting Saturday Night Live for the very first time. Surprise, surprise, he crushed it. Not only did Rock go on to conquer every aspect of entertainment, but the mental image of The Great One in that “Ladies Man” sketch lingers to this day. — ANTHONY BENIGNO


O Captain My Captain

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

In the biggest calculated risk of Mr. McMahon’s life, he put the control of WWE on the line against Shane and Stephanie McMahon’s Alliance at Survivor Series 2001, in a massive Winner-Take-All Traditional Survivor Series Match. Who would Mr. McMahon select to captain the squad in the most pressure-filled night in company history? Yup, The Great One. When the match came down to The Rock and Team Alliance Captain “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, The Rock came through in the clutch, defeating Austin and saving the company in the process. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



Bye, Rocky, bye

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

After his hotshot debut, the WWE Universe cooled to Rocky Maivia, to the point that they demanded “Die Rocky Die” for months. So, he obliged them. After returning from an injury, “The Blue Chipper” did a complete 180, to the point where he joined The Nation of Domination, degraded the fans and, ultimately, denounced his name on live television. The name he picked in its place? The Rock. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



Iron Men

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Unlike Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels’ inaugural WWE 60-Minute Iron Man Match —a tactical and strategic contest in ’96 — The Great One and Triple H went full bore at Judgment Day 2000. The two exchanged pinfalls and submissions back and forth at a furious pace until the closing moments when, due to some outside foul play, Michaels (who was the guest referee for this contest) disqualified The Rock, wholost the final tally 6-5. Even though he wasn’t victorious, the mere fact that The Rock was involved in one of the most incredible matches in WWE history could not be discounted. — RYAN PAPPOLLA


Steel drivin’ man

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Most people know of The Great One’s days as a trash-talking fan-favorite, or his current status as a wholesome movie star. However, when the chips were down, The Brahma Bull showed his horns at Royal Rumble 1999 by brutalizing Mick Foley in an “I Quit” Match, to the tune of too many swings with a steel chair to count. That he robbed a fan favorite of the WWE Championship was the last thing on anyone’s mind: They were just glad the punishment had stopped. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



The Voice of God

The Rock has a message for Billy Gunn: Sunday Night Heat, July 11, 1999

It's a classic Rock promo from Sunday Night Heat.

In the summer of 1999, then-King of the Ring winner Billy Gunn would incite a rivalry with The Rock. Bad, bad idea for Mr. Gunn. One night in particular on Sunday Night Heat, The Rock would just totally lambast the incumbent King, “imitating” Gunn praying to God for tips on how to defeat The Great One. The result was one of the greatest moments in WWE history. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



Going rogue

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

At the height of his villainous bonafides, The Rock was the handpicked champion of none other than Mr. McMahon himself and The Corporation — that is, until the tide turned and The Chairman began shoring up new assets. The Rock ultimately responded to his ouster with a Rock Bottom and People’s Elbow to his boss, proving “Stone Cold” Steve Austin hardly had the market cornered when it came to that sort of thing. — ANTHONY BENIGNO


Sing-a-long with The Rock

The Rock Concert: Raw, March 24, 2003

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin does his best to ruin The Rock Concert in Sacramento.

The Rock couldn’t stay popular forever, and before long, his increasingly frequent jaunts to Hollywood landed him once again in the WWE Universe’s bad books. What did he do? Well, once again, he told his detractors to go shove it, strutting to the ring in sunglasses, a shaved head and a leather vest and clowned on his enemies in song in what came to be known as “The Rock Concert.” Haters gonna hate. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



Halftime Heat

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

In one of the more surreal matches in WWE lore, The Rock defended his WWE Championship against Mankind at halftime of the Big Game in 1999 … inside an empty arena. The two Superstars — joined only by the ring official, Mr. McMahon on commentary and a few stray arena employees — engaged in a “Halftime Heat” match that saw Mankind go toppling down arena steps, and the weaponization of massive bags of popcorn and salad bowls, all leading to The Rock’s defeat after being pinned under a forklift. By the time the contest was over, it was easy to forget that the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons still had a whole second half left to play. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



Rock ‘n’ Sock connected

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

If in January of 1999 you had told the WWE Universe that The Rock and Mankind would win the Tag Team Titles together before the end of the summer, you would have been uproariously laughed at. However, that is precisely what occurred. The definition of an unlikely duo, these sworn rivals came together to dethrone a common enemy in The Undertaker & Big Show, and ultimately formed a tandem that the WWE Universe would cherish for decades to come. — RYAN PAPPOLLA



 The Corporate Champion

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

The Rock’s rise to the top was breakneck even for WWE’s Attitude Era, and the way in which he won his first WWE Championship proved he held no fear of controversy. In a near-mirror of Survivor Series 1997, Mr. McMahon swindled Mankind out of the WWE Championship at Survivor Series 1998, once again handing the title to a personally-chosen champion. Love it or hate it, the moment definitely got people talking about The Rock. And they haven’t stopped since. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



 Third time’s the charm

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

“Act One, Act Two … they don’t matter. The only thing that matters, everyone remembers … Act Three,” The Rock famously said before his WrestleMania XIX showdown with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The Rock had come up short in his two previous WrestleMania encounters with his greatest rival (at WrestleMania XV and X-Seven, respectively) and, in what would ultimately be Austin’s final match, The Great One and The Texas Rattlesnake closed out their rivalry with a barnburner that tore the house down in front of the 54,097 inside Seattle’s Safeco Field. The Rock ultimately defeated Austin, but not without having Austin kick out of two Rock Bottoms before the third finally put him away. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

This is Your Life

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

Oh, man, this thing. The legendary, highest-rated segment in the history of Raw didn’t see The Great One throw a single punch, though his reactions as Mankind wheels out his old coach, an old flame and Yurple the Clown need to be seen to be believed, even if we can’t repeat any of the best lines on this website. You know what? Just watch it on WWE Network. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



Cena’ Nuff

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

In front of his hometown Miami, The Rock channeled a performance that will be forever talked about in sports-entertainment lore. Having not competed in a singles match in nearly a decade, The Rock hung with John Cena step-for-step. Surviving through the 15-time World Champion’s best, The Great One rallied to defeat Cena with a Rock Bottom in an absolute classic that had been more than a year in the making. — RYAN PAPPOLLA




The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

In one of the most legendary matches in the history of WrestleMania, The Great One went nose-to-nose with “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan in a battle of larger-than-life icons at WrestleMania X8. Somewhat unexpectedly, a Toronto crowd that was presumed to be cheering for The Brahma Bull abruptly switched allegiances, though it’s safe to say that Rock ultimately won them over thanks to an all-time performance on The Grandest Stage of Them All. — ANTHONY BENIGNO



Finally …

The Rock’s 20 most definitive moments

It had been a while since the electricity had been felt, but when The Rock returned to Raw on Valentine’s Day 2011 to announce that he would be the Special Guest Host of WrestleMania XXVII, the surge that coursed throughout the entire arena was absolutely palpable. Not having been a prominent force on WWE television since 2004, The Rock did not miss a beat in his 2011 homecoming, electrifying the fans and spawning a once (OK, twice) in a lifetime rivalry with John Cena that would dominate WWE headlines for the next two years. — RYAN PAPPOLLA

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