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Greatest Feuds of the Attitude Era - Triple H Vs The Rock

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By 1998 Stone Cold had reached the pinnacle of the WWF but there were no main event heels to challenge him for his belt. The Undertaker battled him as a face throughout the summer and he would also combat Mankind and Kane, neither of whom were seen as top level heels yet.

There was a secret race going on though. It involved factions, the Intercontinental Title and the Royal Rumble. Someone had to be the number one heel and it was either going to be Triple H or The Rock. It was a rivalry for the ages.

Triple H joined the WWF in 1995 and because of his inclusion in the Kliq the original plan for him to win King of the Ring ’96 was ultimately changed. It’s possible that if Triple H had won the tournament the entire of WWF’s history following that point could have changed. To be honest, I don’t think he was ready for that honour yet anyway. His blueblood persona was a little dry and was very early ‘90s in comparison to what we would see later for him.

The Rock on the other hand, made his debut at Survivor Series ’96 to a loud chorus of ‘Die Rocky’ chants. He was so green it was unbelievable to imagine what he’d become. He quickly attained the Intercontinental Title but was still unable to connect to the crowd.

Just after WrestleMania 13, both men’s careers changed forever. Rocky Maivia lost the Intercontinental Title and in a shock move joined Farooq’s new faction, Nation of Domination. Meanwhile Hunter Hearst Helmsley won the ’97 King of the Ring and soon joined Kliq buddy Shawn Michaels in creating Degeneration X.

In my opinion the choice of who was going to be Austin’s rival in the future was made before Royal Rumble ’98. The last two men were Austin, who would obviously win and take the WWF Title at WrestleMania 14, and The Rock. His choice to be the last wrestler eliminated can’t have been a coincidence.

And in the end, almost mirroring each other, both men took charge of their factions. Maivia became The Rock. He was cocky and insulting and he quickly became the most hated wrestler in the WWF and the leader of the Nation, usurping Farooq. Hunter Hearst Helmsley became Triple H and following Shawn Michael’s retirement, he introduced X-Pac to DX before joining forces with the New Age Outlaws.

Naturally the two Intercontinental level wrestlers begun a rivalry. The rivalry would include both factions mocking each other:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iPlXbsJJBc

The rebellious and hilarious antics of DX meant that Triple H became a face whereas The Rock’s constant harassment of the fans ensured he stayed a heel. They had classic matches including a 2 out of 3 falls that The Rock won and a ladder match at Summerslam ’98 (this really is the best PPV apart from WrestleMania 17 and Summerslam 2000 during the Attitude Era) that Triple H won.

Unlike DX who had two Tag Team Champions and an Intercontinental level wrestler in X-Pac, Nation didn’t really have any talented wrestlers apart from The Rock. He outgrew them and it didn’t take long for his fast rise to the top to come to fruition. His devastating promos slowly turned from verbally battering the fans to other wrestlers and it was no surprise that he became a face. He became the number one contender and at Survivor Series ’98 had his chance to become the WWF Champion for the very first time.

In the final of the tournament Mankind, the Corporate Champion, was screwed by McMahon who had chosen The Rock to be his true Corporate Champion. Mankind and The Rock had a wonderful match at Royal Rumble ’99 but everyone knew the true battle was still to come. The WWF had spent a year building him up but finally The Rock was the heel that was needed to rival Stone Cold. At WrestleMania XV in a truly legendary match, Austin managed to beat The Rock to win his WWF Title back.

Also at that PPV Triple H turned on X-Pac and joined The Corporation. At Backlash The Rock was unable to win back his title and the following night he confronted Shane McMahon about his loss and with the backing of the people he left The Corporation. The WWF now had two major heels in The Undertaker and Triple H and two major faces in The Rock and Stone Cold. Triple H began challenging for the WWF Title.

The Rock started wearing his $800 shirts, cutting awesome promos and verbally destroying anybody in his path. He pretty much ended Billy Gunn’s solo career in this promo:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76TX_4qo2Pw

The Rock had a few title matches but mainly spent the summer of ’99 partnering Mankind, which created more comedy moments than you can shake a stick at including the famous This Is Your Life promo, and battling mid card talent like Gunn. Triple H was finally getting his shot at the gold and at the Raw after Summerslam, where Mankind was declared the new champion, he won his first WWF Title.

Triple H eventually lost the title to McMahon, before winning it back in a Six Pack Challenge, before losing it again to Big Show at Survivor Series in a match which also included The Rock. Triple H regained the title just after the start of 2000 and cemented himself as a true WWF Champion in memorable encounters with Mick Foley at Royal Rumble and No Way Out. The Rock won the Royal Rumble that year and in the end WrestleMania 2000 was a four man battle royal.

Triple H had his on-screen wife Stephanie McMahon in his corner, Big Show had Shane McMahon, Linda McMahon supported Mick Foley in his last full time match and Vince McMahon was in the corner of The Rock. In a swerve turn Vince decided to support Stephanie by costing The Rock his chance of winning the WWF Title when it came down to him and Triple H.

After many years The Rock and Triple H were finally battling for the WWF Title as the main heel and the main face of company. They spent the summer swapping the WWF Title with The Rock winning at Backlash. At Judgement Day Triple H regained the title when interference from The Undertaker cost The Rock his belt. On a side note, Undertaker’s return was one of the best pops of the Attitude Era and shows how a brilliant return should be dealt with:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjC6kd2mSsg

2000 was the best year for the WWF. Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Kurt Angle became main event wrestlers which allowed for a better variety and quality of match. The Rock and Triple H were hugely over as face and heel. Stone Cold and The Undertaker made brilliant returns. Kane also finally became a main eventer. This meant that the rivalry between The Rock and Triple H slowly died out. The WWF didn’t need to rely on them as much as they had anymore. They battled at Fully Loaded in a tag match and at Summerslam in a triple threat before both got involved with Kurt Angle.

This rivalry was one of the greatest of all time. Two of the biggest names in the history of wrestling mirrored each other for years. They both were unable to connect to the audience at first, then they joined successful factions, battled for the Intercontinental Title and eventually became members of The Corporation and WWF Champions. Over four years they went from mid card obscurity to main event legends. They had brilliant matches, legendary promos and in the end will be remembered as true greats of the business.

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Comments

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  1. kiltbill's Avatar
    I would have this as my favourite feud ever.

    The ones listed are great, the STSA v MacMahon more important, but for week in, week out tension, this one was the best.
  2. The Next Big Thing's Avatar
    didnt mention before but this is actually my fave feud ever.... 2 guya in their prime... and ive seen loadsa main events, but backlash 2000 was by a mile the greatest main event i ever saw
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