Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Triple H are easily two of the greatest stars in professional wrestling history. And over the course of several years for several different titles, the two engaged in one of the most fierce rivalries of WWE’s famed Attitude Era.
Following a short run in WCW, Triple H made his WWE debut in 1995, and The Rock joined the family business just over a year later.
Vince McMahon saw main-event potential in both, each had to work his way up the WWE ladder. And that’s a competitive ladder to climb. Every wrestler worth his salt wants to be the top guy, and Triple H and The Rock were no different.
In his first year in WWE, Triple H came a long way. Sure, part of that was due to some of the influence of The Kliq. But he clearly had what it took to get to the top. So it’s understandable why he was a little threatened when a third-generation superstar like Dwayne Johnson hit the scene.
The Rock and Triple H had a tense encounter the first time they met
Longtime WWE employee Steve Lombardi, who wrestled under several names for Vince McMahon, most notably The Brooklyn Brawler, was The Rock’s first-ever opponent in the then-World Wrestling Federation.
While Johnson’s TV debut was an episode of Monday Night RAW a few weeks ahead of his first televised match at the 1996 edition of Survivor Series, his first actual bout was at a house show against Lombardi in Corpus Christi, Texas.
And it was there that The Rock and Triple H came face to face for the first time, a backstage encounter Lombardi recently said was quite tense.
“Hunter walks over, he’s a little skinny guy. He looks like a pirate, and he’s like, ‘Did I hear right? This is your very first match?’ And then Rock goes, ‘Yeah.’ ‘You know I’m gonna be the Intercontinental Champion,’ Triple H said to him.
“Rock cockily, but I don’t think he wanted to be cocky, he said, ‘Oh, the same title that Don Muraco had me wear. You’re going to really like it when you wear it.’ Triple H says, ‘Maybe you could take a picture with me with it and buy some ring gear.'”Steve Lombardi on the first meeting between The Rock and Triple H
The Rock, of course, grew up around the business and was introduced to many professional wrestling legends as a youngster, one of which was apparently Don Muraco, who was actually the first to use “The Rock” nickname.
The Rock and Triple H soon after battled for the Intercontinental Championship
Not long after that initial meeting with The Rock, Triple H did indeed win the Intercontinental Championship, defeating Marc Mero, and held the title for the next 115 days.
And to whom did he lose it? Yep, The Rock.
It was the first of many title exchanges between the two future legends. When The Rock was handed the IC title by Stone Cold Steve Austin in November 1997, his second reign, he held the belt for 265 days before dropping it to none other than Triple H in an epic ladder match at the 1998 edition of SummerSlam.
The two later exchanged the WWE Championship on several occasions as both obviously reached that main-event status Vince McMahon envisioned.