In the blockbuster film The Dark Knight, the Joker famously quips to his archnemesis Batman – “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” Not only does this represent the relationship between the Caped Crusader and Clown Prince of Crime but it sums up one of the greatest rivalries in professional wrestling history. The career-spanning feud between The Rock & Triple H.
The Brahma Bull and the Cerebral Assassin are drawn to each other, forever destined to cross paths. Their rivalry is driven by personal and professional motivation to prove who is the better man. It’s a story fans have watched play out over two decades.
Chapter One: Blue Blood vs Blue Chipper
Debuting in WWE in 1995 as Hunter Hearst Helmsley, the man who would become The Game, did everything in his power to draw hatred from the fans.
His pompous blue blood persona made it easy for fans to dislike him.
In his first year in WWE, Helmsley earned the Intercontinental Championship from Marc Mero. As Intercontinental Champion during the 1996 Survivor Series, Helmsley teamed with Crush, Goldust, and Jerry “The King” Lawler in a traditional Survivor Series elimination tag match. On the opposing side, making his WWE debut, was third-generation wrestler Jim Ross famously dubbed a blue-chipper, Rocky Maivia. Teaming with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Marc Mero, and The Stalker, Maivia was the definition of a cookie-cutter babyface.
Entering with a huge smile and a can-do attitude, it’s surprising the sometimes-snarky Madison Square Garden crowd didn’t eat him alive.
The match came down to Maivia facing off with Goldust and Crush. And it was here wrestling fans caught a glimpse of the greatness to come from Rocky Maivia. With the crowd chanting his name, Maivia finished off both opponents to remain the lone survivor of the match. Winning the crowd over was something The Rock remembers fondly –
“And 22,000 people did something at this moment that defined my career and literally changed my life in one night and it something you can’t write, it’s something in wrestling you can’t write, you can’t script it, you can’t script it in Hollywood, because you just can’t script how people are going to react to something and that thing that they did was 22,000 people started chanting my name.”
A few months later the Blue Blood and the Blue-Chipper met during an episode of Monday Night Raw. That night Rocky Maivia won the Intercontinental Championship from Hunter Hearst Helmsley in their first of many matches for the championship.
The two met again for the gold at In Your House: Final Four. And once again Maivia emerged victoriously. Earning the victory after interference from Goldust. With their first major confrontation in the books, Rocky Maivia and Hunter Hearst Helmsley were on the cusp of bigger and better things.
The Rock & Triple H – Part 1 | Rivalries
Chapter 2: Factional Warfare
By the summer of 1997, Rocky Maivia found himself on the receiving end of the fan’s ire. The chants of “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky” had been replaced with “Die Rocky Die” and “Rocky Sucks”.
This about-face from the fans motivated Maivia into joining the heel faction known as the Nation of Domination. During his first promo with the group, Maivia venomously criticized the fans for turning their backs on him.
Soon after he dubbed himself The Rock and began speaking in the third person. A trait that followed him the rest of his career. Meanwhile, Helmsley found himself side-by-side with WWE Champion Shawn Michaels from D-Generation X. Gone was the stuck up, snobbish persona. Replaced by a more immature degenerate. Hell-bent on rebelling against authority.
Midway through 1998, both superstars found themselves in leadership roles within their respective factions. Triple H took over as leader of D-Generation X after Shawn Michaels lost the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 14.
He recruited his old friend X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws. Truly making this new version of D-Generation X feel like his own.
The Rock, with support from D-Lo Brown, Mark Henry, and Kama Mustafa supplanted Faarooq as the leader of the Nation.
With these two charismatic stars leading the two most dominant factions in the WWE, it was only a matter of time until they crossed paths once again.
Throughout the summer of 1998, the Nation of Domination and D-Generation X went to war. Various tag, singles, and multi-man matches were featured on Monday Night Raw each week. D-Generation X infamously impersonated the Nation during a controversial segment. That could only fly during the Attitude Era.
The Rock & Triple H – Part 1 | Rivalries
But when it came down to the factional feud, The Rock and Triple H were the marquee. After Rock eliminated Triple H from the King of the Ring tournament, the two met in a two out of three falls match at Fully Loaded.
Once again, the Intercontinental Championship was on the line. Only this time The Rock entered as champion. It was a match littered with interference and booking shenanigans.
A D-Lo Brown distraction helped The Rock pick up the first pin. But Chyna assisted Triple H in fall number two. But the match ended as a no-contest when time expired. Having no clear-cut winner set the stage for their pièce de résistance of their Intercontinental Championship feud, their SummerSlam Ladder Match.
In front of a hot Madison Square Garden crowd, Triple H and The Rock stole the show. Most ladder matches rely on death-defying spots to entertain the fans. The Rock and Triple opted for hard-hitting violence. Both men wielded the ladder and chairs with reckless abandon. Hell-bent on incapacitating their rival.
The Rock’s use of the ladder as he performs the People’s Elbow is one of many highlights in the match. In the end, a perfectly placed low blow by Chyna assisted Triple H in securing the championship. With their Intercontinental Championship feud reaching its zenith it wouldn’t be long until these two were feuding for an even richer prize.
Check back in tomorrow for part two of my Rock versus Triple H Rivalries feature.
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