SummerSlam 2002 was the 15th edition of WWE’s annual August spectacular. It was the first SummerSlam that took place following the company changing its name from the World Wrestling Federation to World Wrestling Entertainment and also the first SummerSlam after the Raw/Smackdown brand extension. There were also big changes in the main event scene because this was the first time Brock Lesnar main evented a WWE PPV while Steve Austin was sitting at home after refusing to put over Lesnar in the King of the Ring tournament with no build to that match. I agree with Austin’s thinking regarding that decision, by the way. It should have been handled better, though.
Even without Steve Austin on the card, the star power on this show is incredible. There were 18 wrestlers on the show and 15 of them went on to become World Champions in WWE either before this event or after it. The three that didn’t were Goldust (one of the best guys ever to not win a World Title), Test and Lance Storm. That shows how loaded the card was.
The two biggest matches on the card were The Rock defending the WWE Title against Brock Lesnar and Shawn Michaels competing in his first WWE match in over four years against Triple H. In terms of PPV buys, it was a success with 540,000 people in North America ordering the show. That number is about the average of a typical SummerSlam. It was the fourth-highest WWE PPV buyrate of 2002 after WrestleMania 18, Royal Rumble and No Way Out, which was bigger than normal due to the return of the New World Order.
If you want to re-live every WWE PPV in company history you can do so in my Listing of Every WWE PPV Ever archive here. Let’s get to 2002.
This review was originally written several years ago. I am adding some additional 2021 thoughts in blue font as well.
WWE SummerSlam 2002
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York
August 25, 2002
The show gets a TV14 and “S” for Sexual Content on WWE Network.
It started with a pyro display and a packed house. No video package to start the show is weird. There was a shot of WWE’s restaurant The World in New York City as well.
Analysis: It was so weird to not see a video package start the show.
Kurt Angle entered first to boos and the “you suck” chants. The Smackdown announce team of Michael Cole and Tazz were at ringside to call the SD matches. The Spanish announce team is at ringside as well. Rey Mysterio didn’t walk down the aisle. He attacked Angle from behind with a hurricanrana and the bell rang from there.
Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio
Pre-match notes: Angle was the heel and Mysterio was the face. This was Mysterio’s WWE PPV debut after signing with the company in the summer of 2002. I was excited about this match because Rey was one of my favorites in WCW and Angle was arguably the best overall performer in WWE by this point, which was just his third year on the main roster. They were Smackdown guys.
Mysterio with a headscissors, dropkick and a monkey flip that sent Angle across the ring. Angle went for the ankle of Mysterio, but Mysterio got to the ropes. Mysterio with a drop toe hold that sent Angle in 619 position, but Angle moved and pulled Mysterio out of the ring to finally slow Rey down. Back in the ring, Angle hit a suplex. Mysterio went for a bulldog, but Angle caught him and hit an impressive German Suplex. Mysterio got a rollup for a two count leading to Angle coming back with a stiff clothesline for two. Backbreaker by Angle. The crowd got on Angle with an “Angle Sucks” chant as Angle worked over the back of Mysterio by stretching the back against the ropes. Mysterio went for a headscissors again, but Angle caught him with a sidewalk slam for two. Angle slapped on a single leg crab working on the left leg of Mysterio. Counter by Mysterio with a rollup got two, but Angle came back with a stiff clothesline for two. Mysterio with a jawbreaker, Mysterio went for a sunset flip that didn’t work, Mysterio ran the ropes and Angle hit an overhead belly to belly suplex. Mysterio went for an Angle Slam, arm drag by Mysterio and Mysterio lowered the top rope to send Angle over the top to the floor. Mysterio with a dropkick that sent Angle to the floor. Mysterio wanted a dive, referee Jimmy Korderas stopped him because he wanted to check on Angle. Mysterio ran the ropes and hit a somersault dive over the top to take out Angle on the floor. That was great. The crowd started a “holy shit” chant because of how amazing it looked. Back in the ring, Mysterio hit a springboard leg drop to the back of the head for two. Great nearfall that got a two count. Angle caught Mysterio on his shoulders, Ankle Lock attempt by Angle, Mysterio kicked him off and Mysterio hit the 619 dropkick. Mysterio with a springboard attack leading to the West Coast Pop (springboard hurricanrana) for a two count. That’s an even better nearfall than the one earlier in the match. Mysterio got back up with a spinning heel kick. Mysterio up top, Angle charged in and Mysterio hit a springboard dropkick. Mysterio went for a hurricanrana off the top, Angle slipped out of it and Angle slapped on the Ankle Lock. Mysterio tapped out to give Angle the submission win at 9:22.
Winner by pinfall: Kurt Angle
Analysis: ****1/4 This was one of the best ten-minute matches I’ve ever seen. You can call it a “sprint” meaning they worked at a very fast paced from the moment the bell rang and it didn’t slow down. This is the kind of match where you wish they could have got 5-10 more minutes, but they made the most of their time. Angle getting the win was fine because he was the more established top guy in WWE while Mysterio was still trying to prove himself in the company. Losing to Angle didn’t hurt Mysterio at all. They ended up wrestling eachother a lot in singles and tags as part of the “Smackdown Six” group of wrestlers that had some incredible matches together.
(What a great choice for an opening match. It’s one of the most exciting under ten-minute matches ever. They killed it. I wish they got more time, but I understand wanting to keep it shorter also. They worked so well together and Rey was so popular since it was his first PPV match while Angle was arguably the best in the world at this point. It’s such a fun match to watch.)
Post match, Angle celebrated the win while Mysterio was selling the injury post match.
Stephanie McMahon, the Smackdown General Manager, was shown walking backstage to some dude in a headset. She was looking good. Stephanie walked in her office only to find Eric Bischoff in there. Bischoff said this is the only office for a GM. He suggested they just share the office. They sat down to watch the show together.
Analysis: Stephanie was nearly 26 years old at the time of this show. She was a heel on TV from late 1999 to early 2002, but this was her first time in a face role. Bischoff was brought into the company about one month earlier.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler were shown by their perch near the entrance, which is where the Raw guys were seated in this era.
Chris Jericho made his entrance. A clip aired of Jericho brawling with Flair on Raw to set up the match. Ric Flair got a nice ovation for his entrance with JR noting that Flair was 52 years old. There was some sound overdubbing going on for this entrance.
Chris Jericho vs. Ric Flair
Pre-match notes: Jericho was the heel and Flair was the face. There’s a “Flair is Old” sign in the crowd. That is true, but he could still go. This was a Raw rivalry.
Jericho was aggressive early on with a back body drop followed by a clothesline. Jericho hit a belly to back suplex, but an elbow drop missed and Flair worked him over with chops. The crowd was loud chanting “woo” for the chops. JR noted that Jericho was only two years old when Flair made his wrestling debut. Flair tried to do his bump over the top to the floor, but he couldn’t do it, so Jericho hit a clothesline to knock him out of the ring. Jericho sent Flair into the barricade. Jericho jumped off the top with a punch to the back of Flair. Jericho was in control again with punches, a back elbow and a missile dropkick for two. Jericho tried to expose the turnbuckle, the ref was distracted by that, so Jericho choked Flair with his wrist tape. Suplex by Jericho. Jericho up top, Flair chopped and Flair slammed Jericho off the top in the same manner that most wrestlers slam Flair. The offense continued for Flair with chops, a back body drop and a belly to back suplex. Jericho avoided a suplex, he went for the Walls of Jericho and Flair managed an inside cradle for two. Jericho with a clothesline. Jericho with a bulldog that Flair didn’t sell well. It looked awkward. Jericho went for a Lionsault, Flair moved and Flair hit him with a chop. They each went for each other’s finishing move and Jericho was able to lock in the Figure Four Leglock submission. Flair managed to get to the ropes to break it. Flair tapped after his other hand grabbed the rope. Jericho grabbed the ref Charles Robinson and he shoved Robinson. Jericho went for an attack to the back, Flair moved and Jericho hit the ropes. Jericho bumped into the ref, so the ref grabbed his eye and Flair hit a low blow punch. Flair slapped on the Figure Four Leglock and Jericho tapped out to give Flair the win at 10:22.
Winner by submission: Ric Flair
Analysis: **1/2 It was a decent match, but it didn’t really get into that next gear where it might be considered a great match. Flair had a rough 2002 where he wasn’t wrestling that much and wasn’t in the best of shape. This was a big win for Flair at the time. In Jericho’s book covering this period, he talked about how the finish was an inside cradle, but Jericho wanted it to be the Figure Four Leglock because he thought it would help Flair.
(It’s interesting looking back on it now since Flair was 52 year and as I write this in 2021, Jericho turns 51 in November. I think Jericho has been pretty good at that age just like Flair was, so they are definitely two of the best of all time and two guys that had a lot of longevity as well. It’s nice that Jericho wanted to help Flair by putting him over and helping Ric gain some confidence back since Ric had some confidence issues during this period.)
Brock Lesnar was in the locker room with his manager Paul Heyman. There was a pep talk from Heyman saying that Brock has to take this guy out. Heyman said that Rock is going to bring everything he has, but Brock has to take him out early and leave as the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. Heyman said that Lesnar is the “Next Big Thing” and tonight, the Next Big Thing will arrive. Lesnar smiled.
Analysis: Good pep talk from Heyman as you would expect. Lesnar didn’t say a word.
Eddie Guerrero made his entrance with a smug look on his face. A fan sign mocked the mullet of Guerrero. Edge made his entrance at a time when he was getting a solid midcard face push. Edge had the “never gonna stop me” theme song. Good ovation for him.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Edge
Pre-match notes: Guerrero was the heel and Edge was the face. Both guys would have their most success in the opposite roles. They were part of Smackdown.
There was some brawling to start. Edge with a flapjack. Guerrero came back using a neckbreaker where he drove Edge’s neck into the top rope. Edge with a monkey flip followed by a front slam for a two count. Edge charged at Guerrero against the ropes, but Guerrero moved and Edge went crashing to the floor. Guerrero drove Edge’s left shoulder into the steel steps at ringside. Back in the ring, Guerrero with an armbar takedown. Guerrero went up top and hit a single arm DDT like move for a two count. Guerrero stomped on the left arm. Guerrero slapped on an armbar on the left arm of Edge. Guerrero with a clothesline, but Edge came back with a powerslam. Both guys were down. Edge with a back body drop, but Guerrero came back with an elbow to the face. Edge with a facebuster slam for two. Edge sent Guerrero to the floor. Edge went up top and hit a cross body block on Guerrero on the floor. They battled by the turnbuckle with Edge connecting on a front suplex out of the corner for a two count. Edge charged in leading to Guerrero hitting a dropkick to the left shoulder of Edge. Guerrero up top with a Frog Splash, but Edge got his knees up to block it. Edge hit the Edgecution DDT for a two count with Cole noting that he wasn’t sure if anybody has kicked out of that before. Guerrero with a Northern Lights Suplex for a two count followed by a neckbreaker. Guerrero up top again, Edge back up, Guerrero knocked him down and Guerrero hit a Frog Splash to the injured left arm/shoulder of Edge for a two count. Guerrero was stunned by that. Edge slammed Guerrero off the top, Edge ran the ropes and Edge hit a Spear with the left shoulder for the pinfall win at 11:50. Good pop for that.
Winner by pinfall: Edge
Analysis: ***1/4 That was a competitive match with Edge selling the left arm/shoulder the whole time and coming back to win the match. I didn’t like the finish that much because Edge pinned him after a Spear with the injured shoulder. It should have led to a false finish and then they could have done something else after that. Perhaps Edge could have done another Spear with the other shoulder or they could have gone with the Edgecution. I liked the story of the match. It was well done, which is no surprise when an elite Eddie was in there with a quality opponent like Edge.
If you want to check out the best Edge vs. Eddie match, they had an incredible match one month later on September 26, 2002 on Smackdown that you can watch here on Youtube or on WWE Network.
(Good match here with the younger guy Edge picking up the big win over the veteran although they were around the same spot on the card at this point in their careers. I would probably rate that Smackdown match around ****1/4 or so, which means a full star higher than this match. Guerrero was starting to get more comfortable in WWE around this time while Edge was getting better all the time.)
A commercial aired for “World Wrestling Entertainment: Our Season Never Ends.” It’s a shot at other sports that have seasons.
The Un-Americans trio of Christian, Lance Storm and Test did an interview with Jonathon Coachman. They ripped on the fans for not appreciating them performing at a world class level.
The challengers Goldust and Booker T entered first for the WWE Tag Team Title match. Christian and Lance Storm were the champs with an upside-down USA flag, which JR noted was the universal symbol of distress.
WWE Tag Team Titles: Christian and Lance Storm vs. Booker T and Goldust
Pre-match notes: Christian and Storm were the heel Tag Team Champions. Booker and Goldust were the faces. These guys were on Raw.
Goldust with a jumping hip attack on Christian and a powerslam on Storm. When Storm tagged in, Goldust hit him with an atomic drop followed by a clothesline. Booker tagged in with a sidewalk slam on Storm followed by a knee drop for two. Goldust back in, Christian with a cheap shot, Storm with a thumb to the eye and Storm launched Goldust over the top to the floor. The heels took control as the fans chanted “USA” to support the challengers. Backbreaker by Christian on Goldust. Storm back in and Goldust dropped him with a one armed slam. Christian went back in to prevent Goldust from tagging out. Goldust tagged out, but the ref was distracted, so the ref made Booker leave the ring. Fans chanted for Booker as Goldust fought out of his corner. Goldust with a catapult that sent Christian into Storm and then Goldust did a double clothesline spot with Christian. Storm attacked Booker to prevent a tag, Christian took down Goldust and Storm brought two chairs in the ring. Christian and Storm went for a Conchairto (ref was looking at Booker), Goldust moved and all three guys were down. The fans chanted “USA” again. Booker got the hot tag with clotheslines, a back body drop on Storm, chops on Christian and a running forearm by Booker on Christian. Booker went up top and connected with a missile dropkick for two on Christian as Goldust sent Storm out of the ring. Booker with a flapjack on Christian. Storm back in, Booker moved and Storm hit the ref with a kick. Booker hit a Scissors Kick on Christian and Storm at the same time. Booker did the Spinarooni to a huge ovation. Booker hit a jumping side kick on Christian, but ref Nick Patrick was down. Storm back with the ring bell, but Booker and Goldust got ride of him with a clothesline. Test ran into the ring, boot to the face of Booker and Christian covered Booker. The ref did the slow count to give Christian the pinfall win for his team at 9:37.
Winners by pinfall: Lance Storm and Christian
Analysis: *** It was a pretty good tag team match with the heels working over Goldust, Booker getting the hot tag and the cheap finish due to the numbers game with the champs retaining. The crowd was into the match because they hated the Un-Americans.
(A title match would have been well-received, but it wasn’t meant to be as the evil Canadians found a way to win. Cheap victory to get more heat. The Un-Americans had mild success, but didn’t really last that long or make a big impact in WWE.)
There was a clip of The World in New York City. Nidia was there with Jami Noble. She had to pick one of two guys there to make out with. Nida jumped on the guy and they kissed. Noble: “You like that boy? Give that tongue to him!” She kept going and that was it.
Analysis: What a classy segment.
Bischoff said that a woman like Nidia knows her place in this business. Stephanie said women in this business are like herself…on top. They trash-talked about the Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit match.
Chris Benoit of Smackdown made his entrance first. He was the Intercontinental Champion. Benoit was on Raw, won the title and then he jumped to Smackdown. Rob Van Dam got a much bigger ovation. He represented the Raw brand and he was the former champion.
Intercontinental Championship: Chris Benoit vs. Rob Van Dam
Pre-match notes: Benoit was a heel champion at this point. He was on the Smackdown brand as I mentioned. RVD was a very popular face that was part of Raw.
RVD opened up with kicks to the chest. Benoit with a shoulder tackle, RVD with a springboard cross body block and RVD hit a jumping back kick. Benoit hit a German Suplex that sent RVD right on the back of his head. The ref is Chad Patton, who is still a regular referee in WWE 16 years later. Benoit sent RVD into the turnbuckle. Benoit remained in control with a backbreaker followed by a suplex. Van Dam with a backslide and a monkey flip, but Benoit came back with a clothesline. Benoit was bleeding from the mouth because sometimes those RVD kicks would connect on guys hard enough to cause some blood. RVD had a rep for that. RVD tried to come back with a split-legged moonsault, but Benoit got his knees up to block. Benoit went up top, he jumped off with a headbutt, RVD moved and Benoit hit the mat hard. Van Dam with a leg drop. RVD up top with a Five Star Frog Splash, but Benoit moved leading to RVD hitting the mat. Benoit slapped on the Crippler Crossface with RVD managing to get to the ropes after about 30 seconds. Stephanie and Bischoff were shown watching backstage on a TV. RVD went up top, Benoit followed and Benoit shoved Benoit off the top into the barricade. Benoit sent RVD’s left arm into the ring post.
Back in the ring, Benoit with a shoulderbreaker on the left arm. Benoit with a running back elbow. The crowd was distracted by something since they were not paying attention to the match, so Benoit slapped on a submission with a knee to the back. Benoit pulled back on the arms of RVD. After about two minutes, RVD got back into it with a kick to the back, but Benoit slammed him down by the back of the head. RVD with a back heel trip, he went for Rolling Thunder, Benoit moved and Benoit slapped on the Crippler Crossface submission. RVD broke free with elbows, Benoit with a rollup and that was good for two. Benoit sent RVD shoulder first into the steel ring post. Benoit slapped on a Northern Lights Suplex, he picked up RVD and hit a second Northern Lights Suplex. Benoit hit RVD with three Northern Lights Suplexes in a row while hooking on RVD’s arm. That was so impressive. Benoit slapped on the Crippler Crossface submission again. RVD broke free, he slapped on his own Crippler Crossface and Benoit broke free quickly with a dropkick to RVD’s left arm. RVD came back with a springboard kick to the face for two. Van Dam with a step over spin kick followed by the Rolling Thunder splash connecting for a two count. RVD sent Benoit in the corner, shoulder tackle and a spinning heel kick connected for two. Van Dam went up top, Benoit tripped him up and RVD was crotched on the top rope. Ouch. Benoit went for a belly to back suplex off the top, RVD countered by landing on top and both guys were down. RVD got up quickly, he went up top and hit a Five Star Frog Splash for the pinfall win at 16:30.
Winner by pinfall and New Intercontinental Champion: Rob Van Dam
Analysis: ***1/2 I enjoyed that match. I had forgotten about it, but it was well done. It was given a lot of time to try to put over RVD in a big way as the IC Champion. I know it’s hard for some people to watch Benoit matches and it is for me too at times, but he was incredible in this match. That’s why Benoit was regarded as one of the best in the world because his offense looked so credible and his ring psychology was perfect. I thought RVD could have sold the left arm even more than he did, but it was fine. It’s not like it hurt the match. The finish was creative with Benoit going for the suplex off the top, RVD countering and then RVD popping up for the exciting Five Star Frog Splash to win.
(This was an entertaining match that got a lot of time. I think they could have taken off two minutes from here and given it to Angle/Rey. The fans loved RVD and he worked well with Benoit even though their styles weren’t that similar. Still a good match.)
Post match, there was a shot of Eric Bischoff celebrating the win by Raw’s Van Dam while Stephanie McMahon was mad about the loss for Smackdown’s Benoit. Smackdown eventually introduced the US Title as a secondary title.
RVD was shown celebrating with the IC Title.
Back to the office, Bischoff told Stephanie she can watch the Intercontinental Title on Raw. She just laughed in his face and left.
Test made his entrance with the upside down American flag since he was part of the Un-Americans group. Test’s song was very generic after the “this is a test” start of the song.
The Undertaker made his entrance on a motorcycle. Good ovation for him.
Test vs. The Undertaker
Pre-match notes: Test was a heel that was part of the Un-Americans group. He was a guy that WWE management wanted to push to the top, but he didn’t get that far. The Undertaker was a heel earlier in 2002, but he was back in the face mode here as The American Badass.
Test tried to get some offense going, but Undertaker came back with a leaping clothesline. Test jumped into the bump. which makes it look cheesy. Taker went to the top rope for the old school punch, but Test pulled the refer into the ropes to crotch Taker. Test knocked Taker off the apron and sent him into the crowd. Some fan was calling Test an “asshole” with the cameras picking it up. Test whipped Taker knee first into the ring steps. Back in the ring, Test connected with elbows to the head. Test with a corner clothesline. Test grounded Taker with an armbar. Taker came back with a belly to back suplex. Undertaker with a running DDT for a two count. Taker walked the ropes leading to the punch to the back. Taker sent Test into the top turnbuckle, Test ducked the big boot, a slam attempt didn’t work and Taker landed on his feet. Test went for a big boot, Taker avoided it and Taker hit a huge Chokeslam leading to a slow cover for a two count. Lance Storm and Christian went down to the ring. Taker hit corner splashes on both guys and a Chokeslam for Storm. Taker with a Chokeslam for Christian too. Test back in with a boot to the face for two. That was a good nearfall. Test brought a chair into the ring, Taker kicked the chair and Taker hit a Tombstone on Test for the pinfall win at 8:18.
Winner by pinfall: The Undertaker
Analysis: **1/4 It was a basic match that had an obvious outcome with The Undertaker getting the win because his next feud was with Brock Lesnar. Test’s offense was fine, but it’s not like the fans believed in him having a chance to win this match. That hurt the match because the crowd was dead for most of Test’s offense. This was the shortest match on the PPV.
(A bit of a squash match. Test got his ass kicked and Taker got the decisive win.)
Post match, Undertaker grabbed a US flag from a fan. Undertaker posed in the ring with the US flag in his hands.
The video package aired for Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels in an Unsanctioned Match. It focused on their friendship going back to 1997 into 1998 and then Shawn Michaels was out of action after major back surgery. About a month before SummerSlam, Triple H teased bringing back Degeneration X with Shawn Michaels, but Triple H attacked him. They also had a famous scene where Michaels was beaten up in a parking lot. The security footage revealed that it was Triple H. That led to Michaels challenging Triple H to a match at SummerSlam.
Shawn Michaels entered to a thunderous ovation. The pop for Michaels was huge. It was arguably the loudest reaction for Shawn Michaels ever, which was well deserved. Michaels was 37 years old at the time.
Analysis: I remember watching this with about five buddies. We were so excited to see Shawn back in the ring because we all thought he was done in 1998. He had back surgery, after all. There was also nervous tension because we had no idea if Shawn would be okay. I should point out also that he had a match for his Texas wrestling school in 2000, but it was very gimmicked and a lot of us never saw the match. This was the real comeback with the last WWE match taking place at WrestleMania 14 against Steve Austin. I was so excited going into this match because Michaels was my favorite wrestler ever and still is. I was just so happy to see him back in action.
(The only thing I would add to that is in terms of anticipation level, I was as excited about this match as any wrestling match in my life. I wanted to see what Shawn could do after 4+ years and had no idea how good he might be in the ring again.)
Triple H made his entrance. They had a long staredown. Michaels even posed on the turnbuckle as Triple H made his slow entrance.
Analysis: Hunter was a face when he came back from injury in January 2002, but he turned heel to set up this match. I always thought Hunter was better as a heel.
Unsanctioned Street Fight: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
Pre-match notes: Triple H was the top heel in the company. I’ll refer to him as Hunter during the review. Michaels was the legendary face making his return to the ring after over four years on the shelf due to injury. Michaels wrestled in jeans and cowboy boots while Hunter was in his traditional wrestling tights and boots.
Michaels attacked with punches right away. Hunter pushed him off, Michaels fought back and Michaels did a leapfrog followed by a toss over the top to the floor. Michaels with a slingshot plancha over the top onto Hunter on the floor. They battled on the floor with Michaels whipping Hunter into the ring post. Michaels brought a garbage can into the match, so that allowed Hunter to drop Shawn chest first against the barricade. Michaels with a trash can lid to the head, skin the cat by Michaels back in and a trash can to the head of Hunter. Michaels jumped off the top with a double axehandle. Michaels wanted a superkick, Hunter avoided it and hit a backbreaker with Michaels selling like it big time. Triple H did another backbreaker. Hard whip into the corner by Hunter leading to Michaels going back first into the turnbuckle. Another hard whip into the corner by Hunter followed by a crotch chop taunt. Hunter brought in a chair leading to a hard chair shot to the back of Michaels. The crowd reacted to every back bump in a big way. That got a two count. Michaels got a rollup for two, but Hunter came back with a knee to the face facebuster. Hunter hit a DDT on the steel chair for a two count. Michaels did a blade job from that because he was bleeding from the forehead. Hunter took off Shawn’s belt and whipped Shawn in the back with it. Hunter punched Shawn in the face while the belt was around his fist. Hunter brought in a sledgehammer, ref Earl Hebner tried to stop him and that allowed Michaels to come back with punches. Hunter put down the sledgehammer. Hunter with a hard whip into the corner followed by an abdominal stretch. When Hunter grabbed the ropes, Hebner yelled at him, so they got into a shoving match. Hebner yelled at Hunter to knock it off even though it was legal in the match. This was a ref showing compassion. Michaels tried to fight back, Hunter put him on the top rope, Shawn punched him off and Hunter shoved Hebner into the ropes to crotch Michaels on the top. Chair to the back by Hunter drew more heat from the crowd. Triple H hit a backbreaker onto a chair that was opened up, so it was on the seat of the chair. That got a two count. Sidewalk slam on the chair by Hunter for another three two counts as fans chanted “HBK” for Shawn. Hunter wanted a Pedigree, Michaels fought out of it and hit a low blow punch to a big pop. Well played. Both guys were down. Hunter grabbed the chair, he walked towards Michaels and Michaels hit a huge superkick into the chair that knocked down Hunter at the same time. Both guys were down again because Shawn was too hurt to make a cover. Triple H bladed and he was bleeding way more than Michaels.
The Michaels comeback began with the flying forearm followed by the kip up by Michaels that drew a huge ovation. There was a back body drop by Michaels followed by a chair to the head. Hunter got his left hand up to soften the blow. Michaels whipped Hunter over the top rope to the floor. Michaels hit Hunter in the back with the leather belt followed by a trash can to the head. The fans chanted “We Want Tables” as Michaels took off a boot from a Spanish announcer and hit Hunter in the head. JR called it a “heel for a heel,” which is pretty good. Michaels hit a DDT onto the steel steps at ringside. Michaels pulled out a ladder from under the ring with the crowd cheering loudly. Michaels hit Hunter in the head with the top of the ladder. Michaels with a catapult that sent Hunter into the ladder that was against the ring post. Hunter was bleeding a lot. They went back into the ring with Michaels getting a two count. Hunter with a baseball slide into the ladder that went into the ribs of Michaels. They went back to the top rope with Michaels hitting a superplex for a two count. Michaels got a sunset flip for two. Hunter came back with a high knee to the face for two. Hunter brought the bottom half of the steel steps into the ring. Michaels with a drop toe hold that sent Hunter face first into the steps. Clothesline by Michaels that sent Hunter over the top to the floor. Michaels grabbed a table from under the ring and set up the table on the floor. Michaels hit Hunter with a fire extinguisher leading to Hunter landing on the table. Michaels went up top, did the “crazy” hand gesture and hit a splash off the top rope through Hunter on the table. That drew a massive pop and I remember cheering with my buddies at that moment. The fans chanted “holy shit” for that. Michaels set up a ladder against the turnbuckle, Hebner held the ladder steady and Michaels jumped off the ladder with an elbow drop to the chest of Hunter. Michaels fired up with the crowd cheering loudly for him. Michaels tuned up the band for the Sweet Chin Music superkick, Hunter caught the foot and wanted a Pedigree. Michaels flipped over with a bridging pin and covered for the pinfall win at 27:50. The fans went wild for this! It was a great moment. JR: “In 25 years I’ve never seen as much courage and a will to win!”
Winner by pinfall: Shawn Michaels
Analysis: ****1/2 This was such an awesome match and it’s my favorite match they had together in terms of singles matches (the WrestleMania 20 triple threat is better). I have reviewed a lot of the other matches they had. This one is the most special because of the story going into it with Michaels selling the back injury and that was the focus of Triple H’s attack all match long. At nearly 30 minutes it is a bit long, but I don’t think it hurt the match at all. It’s not like they did a lot of rest or submission holds to stretch the match to nearly that long. There was a lot of action with plenty of believable nearfalls. The finish was perfect. I know some people don’t like it when a guy wins a match without their finish, but I think it was the right call in this match because it showed that Michaels barely beat him. I like how the match was a mix of big spots by Michaels while also featuring a lot of psychology since Hunter kept going after the back of Michaels. The match was an excellent brawl that was better than I thought it would be at the time. Who knew that Michaels would come back after four years to be this good again? I’ve seen Triple H remark over the years that only one person could do that and it’s Michaels. He’s probably right.
(It’s a great match and probably their best singles match against eachother. I loved the emotion of it all. It’s pretty crazy to think that Michaels would agree to go nearly 30 minutes in his first WWE match in over four years, but that’s exactly what happened. It’s one of my favorite matches ever. No question about it. Shawn was amazing at selling the back, Hunter was terrific in terms of attacking the back and all of the drama grew during the match. I’ll never get sick of it.)
Michaels was helped to his feet by ref Earl Hebner and Michaels kissed Hebner on the cheek. The celebration ended because Triple H hit Michaels in the back with his trusty sledgehammer. Michaels collapsed. With Michaels on his knees, Hunter hit him in the back again and Michaels was out on the mat. Hebner called for help. Hunter did a crotch chop over a fallen Shawn Michaels.
Analysis: It was a huge post match angle that got massive heat on Hunter for being a jerk that attacked a guy in the back after Hunter lost the match. It worked perfectly. Even though Hunter lost this match, a few weeks later he was handed the new World Heavyweight Title on Raw.
The doctor and EMTs went into the ring to check on Michaels. JR: “Triple H is going to rot in hell for what he did tonight! Do you have no soul you son of a bitch? Do you realize what you’ve just done!” Hunter limped to the back with a smirk on his face. Michaels was shown being put on a stretcher. A replay aired of the finish of the match. Michaels was shown getting wheeled out on the stretcher. The crowd didn’t know how to react to it.
Analysis: When it was over, I had no idea Michaels would wrestle again. There were no reports out there saying he would wrestle again. A lot of us thought it was one and done. The good news is that Michaels ended up okay after the match, his back held up fine and it turns out that Michaels would be back in action about three months later. Not only that, but Michaels wrestled for another eight years before retiring in 2010.
(We really had no idea if Michaels would wrestle again. I don’t think Shawn knew either, so that’s why they did the injury angle. Thankfully he was back in three months and stuck around another eight years. Amazing.)
Howard Finkel was in the ring doing a promo saying he had to get things off his chest. Howard mentioned this is the same arena where he announced WrestleMania 2. Trish Stratus made her entrance looking incredible. Wow. I don’t want to say I forgot how hot she was (and still is), but it’s always nice to be reminded. Stratus got in the ring. Finkel said two weeks ago she slapped him in the face and last week she pushed him into a pull of mud. Finkel said just because she’s in the arena with “long island skanks” doesn’t give her the right to interrupt him. Stratus said she came out to apologize. Stratus talked about how she realized that Howard has a sexy voice. Finkel said it’s a dog eat dog world because she’s got the puppies and he’s got his wiener. Yes, he really said that. Stratus hugged him. Finkel said that was a pleasant surprise. She said the real surprise is Lilian Garcia, who showed up behind Finkel. Garcia slapped Finkel and kicked him in the balls. Stratus’ music played as she celebrated with Garcia to end it.
Analysis: This was just comedy filler to have something in between the big Michaels match and the main event. The highlight of the segment was getting to look at Trish as usual.
(Yeah, it was pretty bad in terms of comedy and just done to humiliate Fink. Trish looked amazing, though, so I don’t mind that aspect of it!)
The Smackdown announcers Cole and Tazz took over to call the main event.
The video package aired for Rock vs. Lesnar for the WWE Title. It showed a clip of Lesnar winning King of the Ring 2002, which also meant a WWE Title match at SummerSlam. Meanwhile, The Rock won the WWE Title in a great triple threat match at Vengeance that is one of my favorite triple threat matches ever. There were really cool training videos showing both guys working out. I thought it was a unique way to put over both men. There wasn’t that much of a story going into the match, but it was a big match.
Brock Lesnar entered first with his agent Paul Heyman (Heyman never liked being called a manager) and Lesnar was looking intense. Lesnar’s nickname was “The Next Big Thing” that WWE kept saying all the time. The Rock got a big ovation for his entrance. The Rock put the title down and ran into the ring.
WWE Championship: The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman)
Pre-match notes: The Rock was the face WWE Champion that was about to take off as a big movie star. Lesnar was the heel challenger that debuted on the main roster about four months earlier. Rock was 30 years old and Lesnar was 25 years old. If Rock didn’t leave for Hollywood and Brock didn’t quit in 2004, this could have been a massive rivalry for over a decade. Instead, this is their only singles match. They did do a 3-way with Triple H in Australia as well.
Rock opened up with punches and Lesnar came back with a belly to belly suplex for two. Lesnar with three backbreakers for two. The fans were chanting “Rocky Sucks” which was rare during this period, but people saw Brock as a star. Lesnar knocked Rock out of the ring. Heyman kicked Rock in the ribs while on the floor. Lesnar hit a clothesline that sent Rock over the barricade. Lesnar did a press slam into the barricade followed by another clothesline. Referee Mike Chioda wasn’t counting them while on the floor. Back in the ring, Lesnar with another belly to belly suplex for two. Rock ran the ropes, Heyman grabbed his foot, the ref never saw it and Rock went down. Heyman with a chinlock. Rock with a boot to the face, but Lesnar came back with a spinning powerslam. Lesnar with shoulder tackles to the ribs. Lesnar charged again, Rock moved and Lesnar hit the ring post with his shoulder. Rock hit a belly to back suplex. Both guys were down for a few minutes followed by both men doing a kip up at the same time. That was cool. Rock with two clotheslines, Lesnar no sold them and Rock connected with a clothesline followed by a DDT for two. Heyman on the apron, Rock knocked him down with a punch and Rock with a leg whip. Rock slapped on a Sharpshooter, but it didn’t look that good. The fans chanted “Let’s go Lesnar” as Lesnar sat in the Sharpshooter. Heyman on the apron again, Rock brought him into the ring and went for a Rock Bottom, but Lesnar hit Rock in the back with a forearm. Lesnar grabbed a chair that Heyman brought in, Heyman distracted the ref and Lesnar hit Rock in the ribs with the chair. Lesnar slapped on a bearhug, which is a move that Lesnar did to Hulk Hogan when he beat him on Smackdown. Lesnar with a belly to back suplex while holding onto bearhug. Fans chanted “Let’s go Lesnar” again. After about two minutes of that bearhug, Rock fought back with punches. There were fans chanting for Rock. Heyman was on the apron, the ref went to him and Rock punched Lesnar in the balls.
Lesnar drove Rock into the turnbuckle. Shoulder tackle by Lesnar against the turnbuckle. Rock exploded out of the corner with a clothesline, punches and the dreaded spit punch leading to Lesnar bumping over the top to the floor. That was a great bump. The crowd was cheering. The Rock cleared off the Spanish announce table. Rock with a clothesline on Lesnar. Rock with a catapult that sent Lesnar into the ring post. The ref wasn’t counting them out again. Rock picked up Heyman and gave him a Rock Bottom through the announce table. Rock sent Lesnar back into the ring with the fans chanting “Rocky Sucks” again. Rock connected with a Rock Bottom for one…two…no. Lesnar kicked out. Rock was shocked by it. The fans chanted “Let’s go Lesnar” again. Lesnar picked up Rock and gave him a Rock Bottom! That looked great. It got a two count. Rock with a spinebuster. Rock threw off the elbow for the People’s Elbow, he ran the ropes, Lesnar popped up and crushed Rock with a clothesline. The fans went crazy for that. Lesnar wanted a F5, Rock slipped out, Rock wanted a Rock Bottom, Lesnar fought out, Lesnar with an arm twist right into a F5 that connected to a huge ovation. Lesnar covered Rock for the one, two, three and Lesnar is the new WWE Undisputed Champion at 15:50
Winner by pinfall and New WWE Champion: Brock Lesnar
Analysis: ***1/2 That was a memorable match due to the fact that this “rookie” Lesnar beat Rock in the main event of a major show. It’s not an epic match, but it’s still very good. This was a passing of the torch match with Rock putting over Lesnar clean right in the middle of the ring. That’s exactly as it should have been. Lesnar dominated, Rock made the big comeback, her took out Heyman and the last few minutes were full of excitement. I like how it was booked. Since The Rock’s movie career was picking up, it was the right time to have him put over the next big thing in Lesnar. The crowd told a big story because of the way they supported Lesnar and they wanted Rock to lose.
Lesnar celebrated with the WWE Title in his hands. The fans were cheering him even though he was a heel. Lesnar celebrated by looking at the title with Cole yelling about how the Next Big Thing has arrived. The broadcast ended there without the usual WWE signature graphics appearing at the end. I don’t know why it cut out like that.
Analysis: Lesnar took the title with him to Smackdown. His next feud was with The Undertaker and then he lost the WWE Title at Survivor Series 2002 to Big Show when Heyman turned on Lesnar. I think this SummerSlam crowd was the catalyst for Lesnar’s face turn because they saw him as a big deal, so it’s no surprise that he became a face three months later.
(I wouldn’t call this an epic main event or anything like that. However, it’s still a big match and it was interesting to see the crowd siding with Lesnar for most of it. It showed that they were ready for the future with Brock as a top guy at least for a couple of years. I don’t think fans were sick of The Rock. It was just that Brock was so impressive that they wanted to see more of him.)
This event has a run time of 2:41:58 on WWE Network.
FIVE RANDOM THOUGHTS
– SummerSlam 2002 is one of my favorite wrestling shows ever. It’s also one of the best, so that’s always a plus when talking about a favorite. It’s stacked from top to bottom. The Long Island crowd isn’t the MSG crowd, but they are close enough and they were certainly loud like an MSG crowd. They were vocal all night long.
– I’ll never forget Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H at SummerSlam 2002. It’s one of my favorite matches that I have watched many times. It was a really fun, emotional match with memories that will last a lifetime. Everybody talks about the performance of Michaels as we should, but Triple H was amazing too. Triple H’s run as a good guy in early 2002 just didn’t work that well. He’s more natural as a villain and this was his first big match as a bad guy in over a year. He delivered in every way. The spots they did worked perfectly. Everything made sense, everything had the right flow and as is always the case with these guys, the timing was spot on. It was a really fun, emotional match that is one of those memorable ones that will last a lifetime. Plus, the post match angle drew a lot of heat and left us wanting more, which is the sign of a great storyline.
– The opening match was great with Rey Mysterio making his WWE PPV debut against Kurt Angle. There’s no better way to make a first impression than by going up against one of the best in the world. It would have been nice if they got more than 10 minutes, but as far as 10-minute matches go there are few that are better than this one. Angle getting the win was the right decision. They went on to have several excellent matches together.
– I mentioned it earlier, but can you imagine if Rock and Lesnar were full-timers in WWE throughout the rest of the 2000s? They would have had years of great matches together that made WWE a lot of money. Instead, Rock was gone as a regular by the next WrestleMania and Lesnar quit after the next two WrestleManias. That’s the wrestling business, though. Sometimes things happen in front of us that we don’t get to appreciate at the time, but when you look back you can realize how special it is.
– There’s very little to complain about. The worst match was The Undertaker vs. Test, but even that was kept short at about eight minutes and it was all about Undertaker getting the win in front of the appreciative crowd. I didn’t mind it at all.
(I don’t have much more to add. It’s such an awesome show that never gets old. I can watch any year and always enjoy it.)
In 2020, WWE fans voted for this show as the best SummerSlam ever.
Thank you ALL for voting in our Greatest #SummerSlam of All Time tournament …
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) August 23, 2020
- Shawn Michaels
- Triple H
- The Rock
- Brock Lesnar
- Kurt Angle
Show rating (out of 10): 9
Best Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (****1/2 out of 5)
Worst Match: The Undertaker vs. Test (**1/4)
Most Memorable Moment: Shawn Michaels beating Triple H followed by the heinous attack by Hunter after it was over.
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