Wrestling

Hidden Gems #9: Chris Jericho vs. The Rock – November 5, 2001

In 2001, the WWF ran its controversial “Invasion” angle. After WWF purchased its competition of WCW and ECW earlier in the year, they decided it would be a good idea to run the dream storyline that fans all across the world in the 1990s wanted so badly. WWF vs. WCW, McMahon vs. Bischoff, Austin vs. Hogan, DDP vs. Rock. Jericho vs. Mysterio. There were so many dreams matches that fans were clamoring for. However due to ill timing, as well as many other factors such as injuries, what fans got wasn’t what they’d originally envisioned.

The Invasion was a watered down attempt at a great storyline, with the only stars from WCW and ECW took seriously on TV being Booker T and Rob Van Dam. Due to the lack of star power on the invading side, WWF opted to add Steve Austin, Tazz, The Dudley Boyz, and eventually even Kurt Angle, to the WCW/ECW group. It quickly became a case of the WWF showing how superior they were, and the storyline became an ego stroke more than anything else. Despite this, the Invasion did have its high points. One of those high points being the feud between The Rock and Chris Jericho, who were both on the side of the WWF during the Invasion. The Rock returned from filming a movie just in time for SummerSlam 2001, where he would go on to the main event and win the WCW World Championship from Booker T. While Chris Jericho wrestled lower on the card, feuding with ECW’s Rhyno.

Chris Jericho would soon become obsessed with winning “the big one” and with him and The Rock butting heads constantly, the decision was made to have these two men face each other at No Mercy that year for the WCW World Championship. In what was (in my opinion) a five-star classic, Chris Jericho captured the title, successfully acquiring his first “major” championship in his career. The Rock would not go silently into the night, however, as he would get his title rematch on this November edition of RAW is WAR. With Survivor Series around the corner, these two superstars needed to settle their differences here, as they would be on Team WWF in the Survivor Series main event, and if there was any hope of the WWF staying in business, their whole team had to be on the same page. At least for that one night. With all of that being said, tonight is not that night, tonight is Rock vs. Jericho for the WCW title. Let’s get into it.

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Look at the hair on Chris Jericho. It is immaculate. Rocky makes his entrance first, and the crowd is into it, but it still feels somewhat lifeless. Out next is Chris Jericho looking like a true rock star. That’s why I like to call him the WWE’s original rock star. Take that, Nakamura. Seriously though, I think a Nakamura/Jericho feud would be great in the future. Apparently, Survivor Series 2001 was sponsored by Xbox, which is cool. I know Royal Rumble 2002 (also featuring a Rock vs. Jericho match) was sponsored by Final Fantasy X, and as some people know, I’m all about that Final Fantasy life. JR is on edge as he talks about Survivor Series and how Rock and Jericho will be fighting for everyone’s jobs. This match begins with some brief pacing, and then a lockup, which both men break out of. They’re clearly feeling each other out. Not like they’ve ever had a match together before. Nuh-uh. Never.

We get another collar and elbow tie-up, and another break. Immediately after this, however, Jericho slaps The Rock in the face and follows that up with right hands, and a few chops. Here we go, now we’re getting into the good stuff. Jericho now with some knees to the midsection of The Rock, who is propped up against the ropes. Jericho shoots Rock off, but The Brahma Bull comes back with a huge lariat to the WCW Champion. Rock with a right hand, he then sends Chris Jericho into not one, but two different top turnbuckles, before he Irish-ly whips the champ into the ropes, who comes back with a beautiful flying forearm. That was one of my favorite moves to use in Just Bring It and Shut Your Mouth. Christopher unloads with some right hands, and now stomps the back of The Rock’s head. Jericho with some basic offense, strikes, chops, etc. I’m sure you can imagine what’s going on here. More Irish whip action as Rock manages to reverse and sends Jericho crashing to the mat with a big Samoan drop. Rocky gets himself a two count off that maneuver, while the crowd audibly chants “Rocky sucks.” This seems to be the beginning of the end of traditional Rock, as he’d leave at SummerSlam 2002 and come back in early 2003 as a Hollywood heel (no Dolph Ziggler).

Chris Jericho fires back, eventually hitting a dropkick from the middle rope for a nice pop. That dropkick produces a two count for the Ayatollah of Rock n Rolla. Jericho now slaps The Rock around while the crowd chants “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” Make up your mind goddammit. I know what it is, it’s that John Cena predicament. Men booing Rock, women, and children cheering him on. It’s top star stuff. The Rock attempts a Rock Bottom off an Irish whip, however, Jericho is able to fight out of it. After they get separated, Jericho attempts The Walls, but Rock is able to get to the ropes and slide onto the apron. That turns out to be a mistake, however, as Jericho hits a springboard dropkick, and down to the arena floor goes The Great One. The WCW World Champion meets Rocky outside the ring, where he proceeds to lay into him with kicks and punches, before dropping The Rock ribs first onto the ringside barricade. Jericho rolls into the ring and heads to the top rope, though before he can take action, he gets crotched, thanks to The Rock running himself into the ropes. That might just be my favorite thing in all of the wrestling. Nothing better than a good crotching. Remember when AJ Styles got crotched last year on SmackDown and stayed there until well after the show went off the air? That was amazing. Or dare I say, phenomenal.

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Rock goes up the ropes and grabs hold of Chris Jericho, to land a big superplex. The Rock then goes for a cover in a very desperate looking way, yet can only get a two count. I absolutely loved that pin that Rock did. He sold it like he was hurt in a bad way. Very nice. I just noticed the referee for this match is our favorite WCW ref Nick Patrick, granted here he does not have his sick mullet deal like he has in the Nitro Saga. Then after The Rock does one of his odd twinkle-toe kicks, I noticed a sign in the crowd that says “Marry Me Y2J.” Y’know, now I kind of wish that this match was happening in Kentucky, just so I could say “strange Kentucky people” but alas. Rocky shoots Y2J off the ropes and hits him with a big back elbow. He attempts to follow that up with some right hands, however, Jericho is able to fight back. Y2J tries his luck by running off the ropes, and it does not pay off, as Rocky takes him down with a clothesline straight to the throat. Reason number 1,284 for why I could never be a wrestler. I don’t like my throat getting hurt. The People’s Champ goes for a cover off of said clothesline, and can only get a two count. He then grabs Y2J by the hair and throws him face first into the turnbuckles. He follows that up with some knife edge chops, which gets some “WOOO’s” from the crowd, all the while threatening referee Nick Patrick. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

The Rock takes his eyes off the prize for a split second, which leads to Jericho taking advantage, and getting The Rock in the corner for a chop fest. This ends abruptly however as Rocky rakes at Jericho’s eyes. Oh my goodness, what a babyface. Chris Jericho manages to get hold of The Rock and drive his head into the mat with a DDT. Both of these superstars are down now. They’re spent, they’re tired, but that WCW World Championship is on the line. It’s all or nothing for these lads. This is way better for a rest spot than holding someone in a god damn sleeper for three minutes. They manage to get up by the count of eight and then continue striking each other. Jericho runs off the ropes and hits a back elbow, then immediately after that hits a swinging neck breaker. Cover, two, no! Way to go Nick. Y2J gets up onto the top rope to stalk The Rock while he recovers. Once Rock gets up, Jericho hits a flying back elbow for another two count. An increasingly angry Y2J mounts The Rock to land some right hands then picks him up. While he’s doing that though, I can clearly see The Rock caLLING SPOTS. AT LEAST TRY TO HIDE THAT MY DUDE. OH MY GOD. Anyways, Jericho lifts up The Rock and drops him onto his knee for a backbreaker, which leads into yet another two count. Bet that was what The Rock was telling him to do. He’s EXPOSING THE BUSINESS.

Chris Jericho tries another pin, and can again only get a two count. He continues his striking assault with kicks and punches and chops until The Rock counters an Irish whip by pulling Jericho’s hair and taking him down. Rock and Jericho trade momentum back and forth for a bit here, until Rock hits a giant belly-to-belly suplex, almost sending Y2J to the outside of the ring. Man oh man, that really was awesome. Jericho reverses an Irish whip, then attempts what I can only assume was going to be a hurricanrana, however, The Rock countered it and locks in his god-awful Sharpshooter. After a bit of struggle, Y2J is able to get to the ropes to force a break. The Rock once again takes his eyes away from his opponent to threaten Nick Patrick, which Jericho tries (and fails) to take advantage of. Rocky hits a spinebuster! Awwwwww here it goes! People’s Elbow time! Rocky seductively takes off his elbow and throws it into the crowd, which leads to the first few rows fighting over it like mothers fight each other over the last PlayStation 4 on Black Friday. The Rock does his leaps and kicks, and only BARELY misses the elbow, as Jericho got out of the way at the last possible second. Rock selling this like he just got shot in the elbow is quite great, I must say.

Once The Rock gets back to his feet, he turns around to go after Y2J but ends up getting caught in a Rock Bottom. Jericho, one, two, no! Kick out!… what a surprise. Not. When has anyone ever beat their opponent with the opponent’s finisher? Besides Seth Rollins vs. Triple H, that doesn’t count. I legitimately can’t remember the last time, if ever. Maybe when Seth beat Randy Orton with the SKO? I don’t know, regardless, Jericho has a fit while the crowd chants The Rock’s name. After nailing The Rock with some strikes, Y2J sends him flying over the top rope to the outside of the ring. He follows up by sending Rock face first into the steel ring steps and then sliding back into the ring to break the count. After rolling back out, Jericho stares at the commentary table, then begins to tear it apart. Y2J grabs The Rock and stands him up on the table, then slams him down with a Skull-Crushing Finale type of maneuver, which caused Paul Heyman on commentary to freak out saying “IT’S THE BREAKDOWN! IT’S THE BREAKDOWN,” and that my friends, is one of my favorite commentary lines ever.

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After a while of both men being down on the outside, Jericho rolls into the ring, hoping for a count out victory. We get a shot of The Rock who is now bleeding from his head. Ouch. What a breakdown that was, eh? Referee Nick Patrick goes out to check on Rocky while Chris Jericho removes a turnbuckle pad inside the ring. Y2J ignores the referee telling him to stay in the ring and lays in with right hands to the cut of the downed challenger. This is getting brutal now. Jericho slams The Rock’s face right into the exposed turnbuckle three times, while still laying in with punches to the skull. The Rock tries to fight back, however, Jericho overcomes it and locks in The Walls of Jericho. Oh snap. Rock struggling here, with blood pouring down his face. It’s like a less significant version of the iconic shot of Stone Cold in the Sharpshooter at WrestleMania 13. The Rock is starting to fade, as his eyes closed, and his body lay limp on the mat. He manages to hulk up soon after and gets a hand onto the bottom rope to force a break. Y2J tries once again to lock him into The Walls, but The Rock rolls him up for a one, two, three! This one is over! We’ve got a new WCW World Heavyweight Champion. The People’s Champ, The Rock. What a match.

Match Rating: 4 gems

After the bell rings, Chris Jericho grabs the WCW World title, which is no longer his, and hits The Rock in the face with it. He then grabs a chair and whacks The Rock with it not once, but twice, with the second time being to an exposed arm. We see Rocky grabbing his hurt arm while laying on the mat as we close out this edition of RAW.

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That was fantastic. Lots of back and forth action, false finishes, and we even got an announce table spot. This one helped to establish Chris Jericho even further as a dastardly heel while getting sympathy on The Rock. Not to mention this succeeded in putting doubt into the fans minds. Maybe Team WWF won’t be able to get it done at Survivor Series after all. Maybe their egos won’t let them work together. Just awesome storytelling all around. I highly recommend viewing this one. It’s not quite as good as their No Mercy match, but in my opinion, it’s better than the match they’d go on to have at the Royal Rumble in 2002. Definitely a true hidden gem here, as no one seems to ever talk about it.

Stay tuned for next week as we go back to 1998 to review a forgotten Hell in a Cell match that took place on RAW is WAR. Until then, I am JeriKane, and this is the Hidden Gems series.

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