The Complete History of the WWE Championship - Part 8
Vince McMahon had found the next generation's Hulk Hogan in the shape of Stone Cold Steve Austin. However, in another stroke of good luck for the WWE Chairman, he found another diamond on his own roster, in The Rock.
The Rock had debuted for the company at Survivor Series 1996 as Rocky Maivia. He was WWE's first ever third generation superstar. Rock's father, Rocky Johnson, had been a Tag Team Champion (in fact, the first ever African-American champion - along with his partner, Tony Atlas - of any kind in WWE) and his grandfather, High Chief Peter Maivia, was a bonafide legend.
WWE recognized Rock's potential early on, furnishing him with the Intercontinental Title just three months after his debut. Just two years later, he was WWE Champion.
Rock entered WrestleMania XV as the WWE Champion opposite Stone Cold. That event was a washout as a spectacle, aside from the Rock/Austin headliner, but owing to Rock and Austin's star power, pulled a then pro-wrestling record 800,000 buys.
When Stone Cold's knackered neck finally benched him in November 1999, Rock emerged as the top star in the company.
Rock's popularity exceeded that of Stone Cold's during the Texan's absence, and WWE would become even more popular and profitable with Rock as it's figurehead.
Today, we cover five months of 1999, through the spring to the summer. Incidentally, there were a mammoth twelve - yes, twelve! - WWE title reigns during that year.
Our next chapter is coming soon, which will finally cover the last few title runs of 1999, including the first title reigns of Triple H, Vince McMahon and The Big Show as well as the first few Championship reigns of the new millennium.
Mankind (January 26, 1999 - February 15, 1999)
The feud between The Rock and Mankind was far from over following the 1999 Royal Rumble I Quit Match.
It was revealed that Rock had taped Mankind saying "I Quit" on a previous episode of Raw and instructed an accomplice to play the audio over the sound system while Mankind was unconscious.
When Rock's scheme was uncovered on the January 25, 1999 Raw, a re-match was arranged for the following night during half time of the Super Bowl.
That bout is infamous in WWE history but in truth it was a pretty lackluster brawl, not a patch on their 'Rumble collision.
Mankind was victorious when he trapped The Rock under a palette, utilizing a forklift and earned the pin and his second WWE Championship.
Mankind was WWE Champion once again and he would defend the title successfully versus Rock once more at St. Valentine's Day Massacre in a Last Man Standing Match after both men knocked each other out for a 10 count.
However, Mankind's dream of headlining WrestleMania would be delayed for a year as Rock would regain the strap from him, the next night on Raw.