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 411mania » Wrestling » Columns

411's Roundtable Review: Summerslam 2002
Posted by Ryan Byers on 08.18.2006

Welcome, dear readers, to the last of three Summerslam Recap for August 18. We're up to 2002 in our chronological countdown, and we've got two new columnists joining us for this edition. The panel in full is:

- Scott Slimmer, one of our two new men. He normally does the Heat report, so I'm sure he's amazed by a show in which all of the matches run longer than three minutes.

- Stuart Carapola, our panel member emeritus. Usually he does This Week in Hardcore, and That Was Then.

- Andy Clark of The Shimmy. I don't know what that name means, but he's a nice guy regardless.

- John Malady of the Music Zone. He reviews all kinds of stuff, but it's not often wrestling.

- Last but not least, George Sirois is joining us for a special "Scene Anatomy 101" of the video package that ran prior to the Triple H/Shawn Michaels match. Also, because he did such a damn good job of it, I'm going to let him introduce the show:

By the time the InVasion was over, the WCW brand name was dead and buried, the ECW brand name was shoved under a rug and hidden away for a few years, and all of the top stars of the Alliance kept their jobs since they all held WWF titles. So basically, nothing was really accomplished.

But then, as soon as the next night on RAW, certain elements that could have worked in the InVasion's favor started to appear. Just imagine what the storyline would have been like if the first wave of WCW wrestlers – the ones that stood behind Shane and Stephanie and applauded Steve Austin's every word – had been able to establish themselves.

Just imagine if they had been able to become a threat to the Federation, and then, as The Rock and Undertaker and Kane and all the rest had re-established their foothold, BAM! In comes Ric Flair to lead the NEXT wave of WCW stars. Piece by piece, they all make their way into the WWF, which is what they did after the InVasion was squashed anyway. In February, the New World Order would come in, and after WrestleMania, we'll see Eric Bischoff. This would have taken many months of planning and lots of patience, and we know how Vince is about patience, so maybe all that's just a pipe dream.

But this column isn't about the InVasion, since that was already covered. This is about what happened the next year, after Triple H made his return, won the Royal Rumble, lost his title shot, got it back the next night, won the Undisputed Championship and then promptly dropped it to Hulk Hogan. Remember that suspenseful buildup and satisfying run with the belt? Me neither.

After that whole mess, the World Wrestling Federation really went into a period of utter turmoil. The New World Order was made into a joke, with the only saving grace being the return of The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels. Shawn had been away from the World Wrestling Federation for a couple years, and he hadn't been in a match since 1998, when a back injury forced him to the sidelines after WrestleMania XIV. It made sense that he would be a part of the New World Order since his friendship with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash was what started up the Kliq backstage, despite the fact that Shawn obviously never was an original member of the nWo.

Anyway, back to what I was saying. The direction of the show was in a tailspin. Scott Hall was fired. The next month, Stone Cold Steve Austin walked. Morale was definitely starting to dip. The only storyline that they had going at this point was the New World Order trying to recruit Triple H into the group. But then Kevin Nash took two steps and blew out his quad, and the next week, Vince declared the nWo d.O.a. Of course, this left the members of the nWo without a storyline, so instead of the group trying to force Triple H into coming aboard, it was changed to Shawn trying to coerce his old friend into coming to RAW. Triple H had just come back from a minor injury and was designated a free agent, so he could make the choice whether to stay on SmackDown or go to RAW. Both new RAW and SmackDown General Managers – Eric Bischoff for RAW, Stephanie McMahon for SmackDown – were vying for Triple H to wrestle on their respective shows. At the Vengeance PPV, Triple H decided to go to RAW, where he remains to this day.

What we didn't know at the time was that this was the first piece of a puzzle that would result in these two old friends – the founders of D-Generation X – facing each other in a street fight at SummerSlam. How could this have come about? What could have been the wedge that was forced between them?

Match Number One: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Misterio

Scott Slimmer: This match was a great way to open the show. This was Rey Mysterio's WWE Pay-Per-View debut, and there was nobody better for him to face than Kurt Angle. The fact that WWE booked Mysterio's first pay-per-view match against Kurt Angle rather than someone from the Cruiserweight Division clearly shows their faith that Mysterio could be a major draw for the company. Mysterio was able to showcase his unique style and demonstrate to the WWE fans why he most certainly deserved to play with the big boys. I obviously enjoyed getting to see most of the usual moves in Mysterio's repertoire, but what really caught my attention were the subtle ways that Angle modified his standard plan of attack to more effectively deal with such a small opponent. Angle's forte is always going to be his technical offense, but in this match he also used some power moves in order to exploit his size advantage over Mysterio. That was simply great work by Angle to show that he's always searching for the best way to defeat each specific opponent he faces. The other impressive thing about this match is how hot the crowd was for the opening match of the show. Mysterio and Angle really engaged the crowd with the fast paced action and excitement in this match, and that definitely helped to prime the crowd for a great overall show. I guess the only downside of this match is that I've always thought that this particular singlet made Angle look like a freaking candy striper, but that's hardly enough to detract from the otherwise high quality of the match.

Stuart Carapola: Angle had been in kind of a slump ever since his main event run in 2001 came to an end, and I was really worried that Mysterio was going to go over here since he was the hot newcomer. I say worried, because I can't bring myself to believe that he has a chance in hell of beating anyone he is put in the ring with. Fortunately, Angle picks up the win here in a surprisingly good match considering how badly their styles were expected to clash at the time.

Andy Clark: Our opening contest is a doozy. This is Rey Mysterio's first WWE PPV appearance and I believe that this is only his fifth or sixth match with the company period. I remember a lot of people at the time complaining that they were throwing Rey in there with main eventers right away instead of having him work around in the Cruiserweight Division first, but after watching this match (and really most of his work in 2002) you understand WWE's desire to push him right away. Let it be said that Kurt Angle is wearing perhaps the ugliest singlet in the history of professional wrestling. Stripes do not look good on you, Kurt, sorry. Tazz and Michael Cole start off the show with some excellent commentary, damn they were a good team. Even you've seen any of these two men's matches against one another you at least know the general principle behind the storytelling; Angle uses his intensity and ring savvy to try and ground Mysterio, while Rey uses his speed and a bevy of high risk maneuvers to his advantage. I am impressed early on that the Long Island crowd, typically a smarkier audience, is actually booing Kurt Angle (perhaps for his wardrobe alone). We eventually get to the spot where the referee moronically stops Mysterio from jumping over the top rope at Angle only to have Mysterio leapfrog the ref to get to the floor. Cool spot, but it really doesn't make sense when you think about it. To my dismay as the match nears its climax there are now dueling chants for both Rey and Angle. Hey, at least they aren't booing Rey at this point. The finish comes when Rey strings together a flurry of offense but then has his hurracanrana attempt reversed into the anklelock. Mere moments later and Mr. 619 is "tappin' like a drunk man." *** ¼ Great match and an awesome way to start off the show. The crowd gives both men a nice ovation after the match, even though they do make the effort to let Kurt Angle know that he does, indeed, suck.

John Malady: This was Rey Mysterios first pay-per-view after his Smackdown debut in the WWE and he could not have been paired with anyone better than Kurt Angle. Kurt and Rey would have many matches over the last couple of years but this opener for the 2002 Summerslam was a damn fine one. Angle got the win with the ankle lock. A great showcase of Rey Mysterio's talents and a great 1rst WWE pay per view match for him.

Match Number Two: Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho

Scott Slimmer: Damn, I'd forgotten how much I hated the creepy goatee that Jericho was sporting for this match. Anyway, the thing that struck me most about this match was that there were times that I almost felt like I was watching the Ric Flair of 2002 facing the Ric Flair of 1989. Jericho did a great job of using all of the dirty little tricks that Flair made so famous years ago. I loved the spot where Jericho climbed up to the top turnbuckle only to get caught by Flair and sent back down to the mat the hard way. We've seen Flair get caught on the top turnbuckle for years, so it only made sense for him to know exactly what to do when his opponent made the exact same mistake. I also loved the spot earlier in the match where Flair tossed Jericho over the top rope only to have Jericho skin the cat back into the ring. That was a nice homage to the return of Shawn Michaels later in the show. Jericho's admiration of Shawn Michaels would then be the theme used to set up their match at WrestleMania XIX. My biggest problem with this match is that I've never understood why Flair tapped out at the same moment he grabbed the rope when Jericho had him in the Figure Four Leg Lock. Flair obviously knew that he had grabbed the rope, so he should have known that the referee would force Jericho to break the hold within a five count. Why would he tap out if he knew that Jericho was going to be forced to break the hold anyway? I could maybe understand booking a spot like this as the finish of a match in order to create a controversial ruling, but there's no reason for this sort of thing in the middle of a match. That's really the only blemish on an otherwise solid match.

Stuart Carapola: Flair had come to the WWF about nine months before this, but had lost some important matches over the spring and summer, and I expected Jericho to win here, which I really didn't dislike the thought of because I really like Jericho, but thought it was a shame that Flair was being made to job to everyone considering who he was. Now it's four years later and it's really too late, but Flair gets the win here with the figure four and he gets to be Ric Flair again for one night, even thought he returned the job the next month.

Andy Clark: This match should have been good. In many ways it was a "dream match" and the build to the match was pretty enjoyable. I unfortunately never thought they hade much chemistry together in the ring, which is evidenced by this match. We open up the contest with, what else, chops. And more chops. In the opening minutes Flair is looking good. That doesn't sound all that surprising now since he's been an active competitor for the last four years, but at a time that we all thought he'd be winding down that is a pretty awesome feet. Oh, JR mentions Flair's broken back, take a shot. Surprisingly enough JR doesn't mention that Chris Jericho's dad used to play for the New York Islanders, despite the fact that they are in Long Island. We get to the point that happens in all submission move-based feuds where each person uses the other persons own hold against them. Flair locks in an ugly Walls of Jericho, which Jericho naturally gets out of, and Jericho answers with his own version of the Figure Four. Jericho eventually uses his own hold, and Flair even taps but he's in the ropes so it doesn't count. Flair hits his patented low blow and then locks in the Figure Four on Jericho, causing the shocking tap out. Total BS ending that should have seen Jericho go over as even though Flair looked good, he wasn't that believable at this point. ** ½

John Malady: This was also a good solid match between the 2. The dirtiest player in the game actually tapped out to a figure four put on by Jericho with his hand on the rope but the match was ordered to continue and Flair got the win with the figure 4 over Jericho. I remember Jericho mocking Flair throughout the match by copping his moves and the Flair strut which was just one of many great Jericho moments in the ring.

Match Number Three: Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero

Scott Slimmer: This is the first time I've gone back and watched an Eddie Guerrero match since Eddie passed away last year, and it was just, I dunno, a bit strange to see him so vibrant and full of life here. It was also strange to hear the crowd boo him. Sure, I know that Eddie was an absolutely phenomenal heel at various points in his career, but now it just seems counterintuitive to hear him getting booed. Anyway, what really sticks out for me about his match is the storytelling. On the whole, Edge and Eddie did a really good job of selling the fact that Edge's injured shoulder would be the focus of the match, and that provided a coherent theme that ran throughout the match. However, there were also a couple of spots that I thought should have been planned a bit better. The first thing that bothered me was the two times that Edge tried to suplex Eddie over the top rope and down to the arena floor. Normally you see a guy use a move successfully to establish it and then try to use it again later in the match only to have it countered by his opponent. However, in this match Eddie countered Edge's first suplex into a neck breaker onto the top rope, but then later in the match Edge actually was successful in suplexing Eddie over the top rope. My question is why Edge would try that move again after learning that Eddie was quite capable of countering it. The second thing that bothered me was the finish of the match. Edge overcame the odds and speared Eddie for the win, but Edge used his injured shoulder for the spear. Why the hell would he do that? Why would he risk further injuring himself or not being able to complete his attack when he could have simply used his good shoulder? That was just a poorly planned way to end the match.

Stuart Carapola: Not much to say except that this was a good match, but I thought at the time that Edge had really hurt his arm bad when he took a spill to the floor early on, but he seemed okay after that so I guess it was just a great job of selling. This was more build to Edge's main event run which didn't come until this year.

Andy Clark: This match had about zero build, but really, who cares? Eddie comes out first and he's got the mullet! Michael Cole calls Edge the "future of SmackDown." Yeah, how'd that work out? Apparently the build that they are giving this match is that Eddie is jealous of Edge being a sex symbol. Right. I suppose that Japanese shampoo commercial made him really popular with the ladies. Edge takes the early advantage, tying up Eddie in the rope and hitting a spear on him. Cool spot. Eddie begins working on the shoulder of Edge, the one his injured while spearing Kurt Angle off of the top rope from their cage match a few months back. Good psychology with the injured shoulder deal, and it results in a slower paced match then you might expect with these two. Edge manages to suplex Eddie over the tope rope in a really wicked move. That looks like it could have hurt Eddie. Edge flies (!)…but it looks like he does more damage to his shoulder in the process. Edge shakes off his injury and hits the Edgecution (Implant DDT) on Eddie FROM THE TOP ROPE. Holy shit! 1, 2, kickout! Eddie kicked out of that?! Eddie starts to pick up some momentum and hits a dropkick on Edge's injured shoulder. Eddie's feeling Froggy…but Edge gets his knees up! Edge hits another Edgecution, this time on the mat, and Eddie kicks out again! Man, Eddie is looking like a million bucks in there tonight. Again, Eddie gets some momentum off of his kickout and goes up top for another Frog Splash attempt, and this time he connects, right onto Edge's shoulder. Unfortunately he isn't able to capitalize and Edge hits the spear out of nowhere for the win. This match was a lot better than I remember. *** The psychology with Edge's shoulder injury was sound, and the fact that they let Eddie kick out of Edge's finisher twice, including once off the top rope, showed that they had some faith in Eddie as a main eventer, two years before he got his run with the belt.

John Malady: My two favorite wrestlers forever were Eddie and Benoit. I actually got to see Eddie win his championship live at the Cow Palace in San Francisco in the 3rd row. Here Edge was being given his momentum as a singles wrestler and got the win over Eddie with the spear. This was all part of the famed Smackdown 6 days and no matter who was paired with who great matches usually came out of any combo. I remember this match being great all the way through but when Edge hit his spear he had a bad shoulder at the time and seemed to forget it when he hit Eddie with his bad shoulder, blowing some of the in ring psychology but nevertheless a good match front to back. Eddie sold everything like the pro he was. Eddie, Eddie!!!!

Match Number Four: Lance Storm & Christian (c) vs. Booker T. & Goldust for the WWF Tag Team Championships

Scott Slimmer: The thing that always bugged me about this match is that it seems like WWE just barely managed to miss an opportunity for a really hot angle. On one side you had Lance Storm & Christian, the Un-Americans, the evil Canadians. On the other side you had Booker T, who overcame humble beginnings and youthful indiscretions to achieve his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. I guess you could say that's pretty much the American Dream. You can probably see where I'm going with this. And then you had Goldust. Hmm, is there any way that WWE could have made Goldust fit into the American Dream theme? Like, I dunno, getting him some good makeup remover and turning him back into Dustin Rhodes, grandson of a plumber? I'm just saying, I think that Booker T and Dustin Rhodes, calling themselves "The American Dreams," could have had an amazingly hot feud with the evil Un-Americans. Remember, it was less than a year after 9/11 at this point. Properly booked and promoted, this feud and this match could have been a license to print money. Somebody really needs to tell Vince McMahon that there's nothing wrong with booking your midcarders in hot feuds. Anyway, the match itself was solid if otherwise unmemorable. I'm normally not a big fan of run-ins during a pay-per-view, but having Test insinuate himself into this match and help the Un-Americans pick up the win actually served to set up the finish of the Undertaker / Test match later in the night. I guess this was probably the worst match of the night, but that's mostly because of the unwaveringly high quality of the rest of the matches on the card.

Stuart Carapola: The Unamericans were a great concept because you took four guys who weren't really doing anything and put them together in the most over heel group on Raw in years, but the whole thing got killed because Christian and Test didn't want to cut their hair. Then they did it like a year later anyway. Oh well. Unamericans get the win when Test interferes.

Andy Clark: Storm and Christian are part of the Un-Americans with Test at this point. They come out with the upside down American flag which prompts JR and King to hate them. Booker T and Goldust are uber-over at this point, and I think they were probably the second best odd couple tag team besides The Rock'n'Sock Connection. Storm and Christian show some great teamwork early with frequent tags. Goldust plays face in peril for the majority of the match, including making the tag to Booker but the ref not seeing it and thus not allowing it. Goldust is pretty motivated in this match but the face in peril routine goes on a bit long. Things pick up when the champs go for a Con-chair-to on Goldust and miss, allowing Goldust to make the hot tag to Booker T. Booker is a house of fire and the fans and the announcers are smelling a title change. Naturally this all leads to a ref bump and, surprise surprise, Test gets involved in the match allowing the Un-Americans to pick up the victory and retain the titles. ** ¼ Fun tag match, but pretty formula. The finish was a bit deflating and the belts really should have changed here. It's a shame that when Booker and Goldy finally won the belts in December they only got to keep them for about two weeks. I think this show was them at there peak and the fans would have popped huge to see them win the titles.

John Malady: I don't have a high opinion on this match because I am never into the whole America is great VS. they or he/she hates America angles. I did love Goldust and Booker T as a team but this match didn't do much for me and it had the lame Sports Entertainment finish when Test came down and gave the boot to Booket T allowing Christian to get the pin. After the 3 solid matches previous to this I didn't really get into this one.

Match Number Five: Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit (c) for the WWF Intercontinental Championship

Scott Slimmer: Okay, this one was just bizarre. Chris Benoit and Rob Van Dam went out and put on a perfectly fine little match. It certainly wasn't one for the ages, but like I said, it was a fine little match. The weird thing is that the crowd was absolutely DEAD for almost the entire match. I seriously have no idea what the hell was happening. Benoit and Van Dam are each usually quite skillful at getting a crowd involved in a match, so it was surprising to see the crowd more or less ignoring them here. It really did seem as though something else was going on in the arena that was diverting the crowd's attention away from the match itself. In fact, there's one spot where Benoit whips Van Dam to the ropes, waits for him to rebound, and then sends him down to the mat with a shoulder block. Benoit covers Van Dam, and we jump back to the hard camera. The referee starts his three count, but the real story is in the crowd. Everybody on camera is standing (for the first time in the match) and looking up towards some distant section of the arena. Nobody is actually watching the pin attempt. What the hell was happening? I understand that nobody really expects a title match to end on a shoulder block, but it would have been nice to see some members of the audience actually watching the match. Seriously, if anybody knows the details here, I'd love to know the rest of the story. That being said, the spot where Benoit focused his attack on Van Dam's elbow by substituting three Northern Lights Suplexes in place of his usual three German suplexes was really sweet. Just like Angle did against Mysterio in the fist match of the night, this really showed that Benoit is always searching for the best way to defeat each specific opponent he faces.

Stuart Carapola: The story was that Benoit beat Van Dam for the title due to chicanery and then jumped to Smackdown, but had to sign a rematch on the way out. Pretty good match, though not what you might have expected out of these two.

Andy Clark: This is only the eighth Interpromotional Match since the Brand Extension for those counting at home. The question at stake here is whether the IC Title will end up on SmackDown (with Chris Benoit) or Raw (with RVD). Benoit had beaten RVD for the title on Raw before jumping over to SmackDown with Eddie Guerrero as part of Vince McMahon's greener pastures offering. Stacy Kiebler served as a mole on the SmackDown side of things and rescued RVD's rematch contract from being destroyed by SmackDown GM Stephanie McMahon, and took it with her over to Raw. Hence we have this match. Plus, RVD was beaten up by a pissed off Big Show the week prior to this match but there isn't much sign of that here. Got all that? We have two ring announcers for this contest which is a cool added touch for the Interpromotional nature of this contest. Man, I've completely forgotten what a heel Benoit is like. He's got a busted lip to boot. Both men go for their finishers early in this match, which ultimately leads to a missed flying headbutt and a missed Five Star Frog Splash. They annoyingly cut to the General Managers watching backstage. I don't care, show me the damn match! Benoit works over the arm of RVD. Benoit is incredibly smashmouth tonight, something JR points out as soon as I write it down. RVD gets the advantage and goes for Rolling Thunder, but Benoit counters it into the Crippler Crossface! That was freaking awesome! RVD escapes and his ponytail is gone! Man he looks weird without his hair tied up. Freaky. Benoit goes back on the offensive and hits three Northern Lights German Suplexes with hammerlocks. Benoit is a beast. RVD gets out of that sticky situation and goes for the Crippler Crossface himself! Of course Benoit can get out of his own hold and he sets up RVD for a superplex. RVD works out of the superplex in a really awkward spot that looked pretty painful. With Benoit off the top rope RVD flies in with the Five Star Frog Splash a picks up the win. *** ¾ Great, fast paced, high intensity match. The ending was a bit abrupt, but overall the match was awesome. I'd love to see these two hook up again.

John Malady: One of the most interesting things about this match is Fit Finllay was at ringside. What goes around comes around. RVD brought the IC title back to Raw when he won this match. Interesting note on that is this was the first big Pay-per-View after the brand extension. I thought this match was pretty damn good when I watched it at the time. 2 styles that are different but Benoit can work with anyone and any style. RVD and Benoit put on a great match here of course since Shawn and Hunter would have their match later this was put in front of the next match which was the match of all matches Test VS. The Undertaker.

Match Number Six: The Undertaker vs. Test

Scott Slimmer: I absolutely LOVED the Undertaker as the American Badass. Sure, Taker has the greatest entrance ever when he's the Deadman, but he's much better in the ring as the American Badass. The slow, methodical, no-selling style of the Deadman often prevents Taker from displaying the speed and skill that he can more easily showcase as the American Badass. I guess I just prefer skillful in-ring action to a flashy entrance, but that's just me. Anyway, this is one of the better big man / big man matches I've ever seen. Sure, there have been better (Undertaker vs. Diesel from WrestleMania XII comes to mind), but this one has to be pretty near the top. Watching Taker fly around the ring here was truly a sight to behold. Kevin Nash certainly knows a thing or two about big man matches, and he has said that the only way for a big man / big man match to actually work is if one of the guys can somehow create movement. Taker was all over the place in this match, and the result was that both Taker and Test looked great. In addition, I always get a good chuckle out of that spot after the match where Taker heads out into the crowd, gets an American flag from a member of the audience, heads back into the ring, climbs up to the second rope, and raises the flag UPSIDE DOWN! Jim Ross had been going on and on all night about how disrespectful it was of the Un-Americans to fly the American flag upside down, and then the guy that just dispatched all three Un-Americans accidentally does the exact same thing. I understand that it was totally accidental, and Taker quickly rectified the problem, but like I said, it's still always good for a laugh.

Stuart Carapola: It didn't suck that bad, but it was still the weakest match on the show.

Andy Clark: Well this is certainly a change of styles from our previous match. Hmmm, I wonder who's going to win this one? Man I miss biker Taker, he was so kick ass. Taker dominates early and goes up for Old School but gets crotched on the attempt. I don't think I've seen that before. Test takes advantage of this and cockily works away on Taker. I shall call him "Mini-Nash." Quick, hide the cruiserweights! Oh, and for those wondering, Test looks a lot less like a jacked up freak here than he does nowadays. WWE must see a future for good ol' Andrew because they let him kick out of Undertaker's chokeslam. Nice. Test's Un-American buddies Lance Storm and Christian are here to help a Canadian brutha out. Unfortunately they just get their asses handed to them by the Deadman. Yeah, squash the tag champs! While Taker's busy showing the young members of the Spirit Squad what their future holds (and La Resistance, and the Bashams, and…), Test manages to position himself for the Big Boot. He nails Taker with the boot! 1,2, no! Man, that was surprisingly close. That's a close as Test is going to get though as Taker finishes him off with the chokeslam. ** Decent big man match, it gave Taker a good opponent for the card. Test can work better than a lot of other guys his size and he got in a good amount of offense on Undertaker.

John Malady: I just am not even going to comment on this one. You know I bought the pay-per-view just for this a 5 star classic...sarcasm.

Match Number Seven: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H in a Street Fight

George Sirois: It starts off with a look at 1997, the year their friendship was put on camera. We hear some uplifting music as the look of the flashbacks plays like a dream. (It's funny how Vince McMahon is always looking to re-write history, yet whenever he chooses not to ignore it, the storyline is successful.) We can hear Jim Ross on commentary as we see various shots of Triple H and Shawn Michaels clowning around in the ring and out of the ring, the early days of D-X.

JIM ROSS (on commentary): Shawn Michaels and Triple H, they're the-the best of friends. They're closer than a lot of brothers.

Shawn and Triple H are in the ring now, making it official to the world.

SHAWN MICHAELS: Triple H is my friend. Is that a lie, or is that the truth?

TRIPLE H: That is the ever! Loving! Truth! But let me ask you a question! Who is the show-stoppa?


TRIPLE H: Who is the main event?


Then, just in case you didn't hear it the first time, Jim Ross' commentary is repeated.

JIM ROSS (on commentary): Shawn Michaels and Triple H, they're closer than a lot of brothers.

Then, we jump ahead to 2002. The image is now in full color since we're dealing with events that only took place a few weeks ago. Triple H is in a RAW ring for the first time since he was about to drop the title to Hogan. His draw as a babyface wasn't setting the world on fire, so a jump to a different brand would hopefully give him the jumpstart he needed.

TRIPLE H: Tonight, The Game brings you his best friend, Shawn Michaels!
Shawn comes into the ring, and the two old friends embrace.

JIM ROSS (on commentary): Shawn Michaels and Triple H, they're best friends.

JERRY LAWLER (on commentary): That friendship is what swayed Triple H. That's what brought him here to RAW.

Then, we cut ahead, further into that same episode. Triple H has gotten the crowd back on his side by coming to RAW, and now he's about to make them go into a frenzy by re-starting D-Generation X to drive Eric Bischoff crazy. The fans definitely reacted to this, and they all leapt to their feet as one as soon as they heard the opening chords to the D-X entrance theme.

Now we see them both in the ring, wearing their D-X T-shirts, and Triple H is finishing up the faux-Michael Buffer announcement he used when he was the leader of the group.

TRIPLE H: LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLet's get ready to SUCK IT!!!!!!!!

The crowd chants along, ready for whatever chaos these two best friends are going to give to Eric Bischoff.

But then, suddenly, as the image shifts from full color to sepia tone and the steady-cam option is shut off, Triple H quickly turns and kicks Shawn Michaels right in the gut, then hits him with his finishing move, the pedigree.

JIM ROSS (on commentary): WHAT?! What the hell?! Triple H with the pedigree on Shawn Michaels!

In one episode, Triple H has done all three elements to revitalize his character. He performed for a different audience. Then he brought back a beloved part of his past. Then he turned heel.

Then we cut ahead to the next RAW, where Triple H had to explain his actions.

TRIPLE H: Shawn Michaels and I were never best friends! I used Shawn Michaels to get to the top, just like Shawn Michaels used me to stay at the top! Now I am the show-stopper! Now I am the Icon!

Suddenly, a backstage technician runs over to ringside. He beckons Triple H to come back with him.

TRIPLE H: What the hell do you want?!

The two of them go backstage and see a group of WWE superstars surrounding Shawn Michaels. He is unconscious and bleeding from his head. Beside him is a busted open window of a car. Broken glass is everywhere.

TRIPLE H: What the hell happened?! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?!!

Now, Triple H is the worried friend again. He's giving everyone reason to believe he's a full-fledged heel again, but now he's concerned for Shawn like he was before.

TRIPLE H: Somebody get some help. Somebody go and get some help!

JERRY LAWLER (on commentary): Somebody obviously ran his head through that car window.

We cut ahead another couple of weeks, in the middle of a segment involving Triple H and Eric Bischoff in the ring and Shawn Michaels on the TitanTron. Shawn's head is bandaged up and he is being recorded from an undisclosed location.

SHAWN MICHAELS: The only thing I know for sure is that the guy jumped me from behind.

TRIPLE H: Shawn, I swear to you, and I swear in front of all these people, I'm gonna find out who did this to you. And when I find out who did this, that person is a marked man!

We then see a security camera video of an out-of-focus wrestler assaulting Shawn Michaels. The camera zooms in and the picture sharpens. We immediately see the large long-haired body in the white T-shirt with the Triple H logo. (He was never one for disguises, as we'll see a few months later during the Katie Vick fiasco.)

The music shifts to a choral crescendo, as the whodunit mystery is solved.

SHAWN MICHAELS: It was you, Hunter!

Triple H slowly allows a smile to form on his face, as he is now back to the true heel form we always knew he was capable of becoming once again.

TRIPLE H: You're damn right it was me, Shawn! I was trying to prove a point, that you are weak! You are vulnerable!

SHAWN MICHAELS: I recognize that I'm not in the best of shape right now, but the doctors have told me that I'll make a full recovery. They say I'll be a hundred percent by, say, uh…

The fans are now at the edge of their seat, waiting for Shawn to say the magic word. (My friends and I were also at the edge of our seats, since we already had bought our tickets.)

Finally, after the dramatic pause that a veteran like Shawn Michaels knows to take, he says the final word, the magic word.


And just like that, as the crowd explodes, the theme song for the SummerSlam Pay-Per-View begins. The song is called "Fight," composed by music producer Jim Johnston.

We then see Eric Bischoff backstage with Triple H. Considering this will be Shawn's first match back after a four-year layoff, Eric knows that if he was to sanction this match, then he would be responsible if Shawn was injured again.

ERIC BISCHOFF: I'm not gonna sanction your match at SummerSlam. Officially, your match'll never happen.

Triple H leans closer to Eric, smiling.

TRIPLE H: But it will happen, Eric.

We fade to black and begin a series of shots of Shawn Michaels. In between his shots of him standing in the ring alone are different moments of him in action. The only problem for him is that these shots are several years old.

The lyrics to "Fight" are played over these shots.

I will fight,
till there's nothing left
till my legs are gone

you won't forget me

We then cut to similar shots of Triple H in the ring.

'cause I will fight,
till my final breath
just to see you fall

I'll make you fear me

Now we see various shots of the two old friends now at each other's throats. The tone of this video package is literally off the charts, as we have seen them closer than ever, and then we have seen their relationship wither away.

Every time,
you think I'm done
I'll come back stronger (come back stronger)

and every time,
you think that you've got me
I will fight you

and I will put you in the ground

We continue seeing different shots of both combatants, and we hear a mixture of commentary from Jim Ross and bits of promos by Triple H.

JIM ROSS (on commentary): Shawn Michaels is an amazing, an amazing athlete, one of the best I personally ever saw. But after a four-year absence, what does Shawn Michaels have left in his tank?

TRIPLE H: Face facts! You can't wrestle anymore! You're done! It's over! I will cripple your ass! H! B! K! Is dead!

JIM ROSS (on commentary): Shawn Michaels! And The Game! Non-sanctioned!

And then we get our final shots of both men, as they are prepared for the fight of their lives.

'cause I will fight,
till there's nothing left
till my legs are gone

you won't forget me

Fade to black, and then we cut back to ringside for the match that would end up stealing the show at SummerSlam.

At first glance, this would seem like a very basic promo with not too much action in it. But considering everything that went into this, it becomes one of the best the WWE ever put together. We saw how these two men were on top of the world as best friends, how one of them walked away from the sport while the other one not only thrived, but surpassed his friend in accomplishments, and then how the one who walked away came back only to be struck down by the friend who stayed. It's a hell of a story to tell in just a three to four minute video package, but that's what had to be done in order to get the mood ready for a match of this magnitude.

Plus, it was ideal that the final words of the package were the lyrics, "you won't forget me." For a lot of fans, this would be their first chance to see Shawn Michaels live in action, and nobody knew how his body would react during and after the match. So this could very well have been his first match and his last match, after his four-year layoff. So everything about this match had to represent everything that we had grown to love about Shawn Michaels all rolled up into one.

Thanks to the hype provided by the video package, Shawn Michaels had a lot of expectations to live up to, and not only did he exceed them in this match, but he became the show-stoppa, the icon, and the main event once again, still performing in the ring to this day. Just like the song says, we won't forget him.

Scott Slimmer: I need to be honest right from the start and openly admit that there is absolutely no way for me to objectively analyze this match anymore, because this is far and away my favorite wrestling match of all time. I was a huge Shawn Michaels fan in the nineties, but my interest in wresting seriously waned after Michaels retired in 1998. Sure, I caught bits and pieces of the Attitude Era, but it was just never the same for me. Then, four and a half years later, I heard rumors that Shawn Michaels might be returning for one more match. The day after Summerslam, I scoured the internet in search of the results. I had to know if Shawn had stolen the show one last time. Every report I read said that Shawn had put on one of the greatest matches of his career. One of those reports was on a little site called 411Mania.com that I discovered just that day. Summerslam 2002 was the first wrestling DVD that I ever bought. I had to see Shawn's last match for myself. Shawn's return to wresting was also my return to wrestling and my introduction to the IWC. I could rant and rave about all of the little spots in the match that make it so memorable, but what I remember most about this match is the impact that it has had on me as a wrestling fan. I'm a wrestling fan today because of Shawn Michaels and because of this match. I write for 411Mania.com today because of Shawn Michaels and because of this match. When Byers asked for volunteers to help with the Summerslam Feature, I was the first one to volunteer. I had to make sure that I got the chance to talk about my all time favorite match. But like I said, it's a little hard for me to look at it objectively anymore.

Stuart Carapola: Shawn looked really good here and, although it looked like Triple H was going to put him away with the Pedigree, Shawn got a jackknife rollup for the pin. This was huge for me, because I am as big a Shawn Michaels mark as there is, and it was a great way for him to return.

Andy Clark: This is the only feud that I can think of that had two heel turns by one person. We get an awesome video package for this feud to the great homemade song, "Fight." Jim Johnston and Kevin Dunn deserve some serious praise for that one. This is Shawn Michaels return match after four years. At the time we didn't know if this was a one shot deal or not. Jerry Lawler rightly points out that many of their fans may have never seen Shawn Michaels wrestle before, a group that included myself at the time. Look, I know it's a Street Fight and all, but Shawn Michaels looks stupid. I'm sorry if I've been overly critical of the wrestler's fashion for this show, but this is ridiculous. Jeans and cowboy boots? Come on dude, is that how you want to be remembered? Regardless of what the competitors are wearing this is a huge match. They start off early focusing on Michaels' back. Triple H is working the back brilliantly and HBK is selling just as well. Triple H busts out the sledgehammer but Earl Hebner doesn't like it. Come on, Hunter, you know Hebner and Michaels are buddies. The commentary for this match is great by the way. JR and King are calling this match with as much seriousness and crispness of any WrestleMania main event. Shawn Michaels gets caught in the ropes and receives a wicked chairshot. Triple H follows up with a DDT on a steel chair. That move would have finished others off. Triple H continues with some absolutely vicious work on the back and both Shawn Michaels and JR are selling it like death itself. Unfortunately HBK's great sell job goes right out the window when he executes a picture perfect kip up for the comeback. They brawl to the outside and Michaels steals Hugo Savinovich's boot to hit Triple H with, haha! By the way, the blood that had been pouring out of Shawn Michaels head is now mysteriously gone. Weird. On the other side of the ring Shawn Michaels sets up a table and places a prone Triple H on it. This probably won't be a smart move. Michaels climbs the top rope and dives onto Triple H sending him through the table! Holy shit chants and I agree! What the hell was Michaels thinking? This is his first match back! Michaels continues to prove he has a death wish by pulling out a ladder and setting Triple H up in the middle of the ring. After telling the fans how much he loves them the man with the fused back jumps off the ladder with a flying elbow and connects with Triple H. The crowd is feeling it and so is Shawn Michaels. He's tuning up the band! HBK goes for Sweet Chin Music but Triple H blocks it and, in shades of Michaels' last match at WrestleMania XIV, spins him around to set up the Pedigree. The fairy tale is about to come to an end…no! Michaels jackknifes Triple H and the ref goes for the count…1, 2, 3! Yes! Michaels has done it! HBK soaks up the cheer of the fans but Triple H isn't done. He grabs the sledgehammer and nails Michaels square in the back with it twice. You sick bastard! They call for medical attention for Michaels while Triple H revels in the misery he has caused. **** ½ Amazing, amazing match, especially considering that Michaels hadn't wrestled in four years. The bumps the man took in his first match back were insane but they really added to the match. This was a great product in the ring for both action and storytelling.

John Malady: My only comment because this match has been talked about many times over is that the whole room I was in when watching this consisted of 5 die hard wrestling fans completely loved this match. It had a bit of everything and was insanely good. I personally loved the HHH destruction of Michaels after the match with the sledgehammer but that's just me. I respect Michaels but every time I see him live I cannot resist hating on him.

Match Number Eight: The Rock (c) vs. Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship

Scott Slimmer: This is one of those matches that are remembered more for their historical importance than for the actual quality of the match. Just like "Superstar" Billy Graham vs. Bruno Sammartino, Hulk Hogan vs. the Iron Sheik, and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels, this match marked the dawning of a new era in WWE history. You can debate all day long when the Attitude Era actually ended, but for me this match has always been the final nail in the coffin. Foley was gone, Austin had walked out on the company, and I think we all knew that this was the end of the Rock's time at the top. I still don't know if anyone has come up with a name for the current era in wrestling history, but I think we can all agree that this match served as the beginning of the next big thing. The match itself was actually pretty good, but that's probably to be expected with two guys like the Rock and Brock Lesnar in the ring. Of course, the other great thing about this match was that the crowd once again turned against the Rock. I loved watching the crowd turn on the Rock at various points in his career, because the Rock was able to work with that heat better than almost anyone in wrestling history. The Rock seemed to really understand that one of the primary goals of a professional wrester is to go out there and put on a performance that will get the crowd up on their feet and screaming; it really doesn't matter whether they're cheering or booing as long as they're into the match. On this night the crowd made it very clear that they were ready for something new. They were ready for the next big thing. We'll, for better or worse, they got.

Stuart Carapola: This was during Lesnar's initial huge push where he won the King of the Ring, put Hogan out with injury, and squashed everyone, including both Hardys at once. Finally he gets his shot here and makes the most of it: he rips Rock's head off with a clothesline as Rock tries for the People's Elbow, then hits the F5 to win his first WWE Title.

Andy Clark: Michael Cole calls this match "the most anticipated main event in SummerSlam history." It's hard to argue that. I still think it's funny that the reason this was considered such a dream match was because their names rhyme. I guess whatever geeks up the crowd. We get a cool video package that documents the workout regimens for both men. They tried that approach with the Triple H-John Cena match at this year's WrestleMania with a little less effectiveness. This match has a real big match feel to it, and its good to see SmackDown get a match of this magnitude. Brock Lesnar and Paul Heyman are out first and Lesnar is still (by WWE and TNA standards) undefeated. The Rock comes out next and doesn't waste any time posing for the crowd, he goes right after Lesnar. It's probably a good thing that Rocky didn't try and embrace the crowd because he's getting a bit of a mixed reaction. Oh, and The Rock's ribs are bruised from an attack by Lesnar and Chris Benoit on SmackDown, something that comes in to play throughout the match. The anti-Rock sentiment is growing louder, prompting The Rock to give his patented "WTF?" look. After getting booed at two consecutive WrestleMania's you think he'd know better by now. Both men are down which leads to a double kip up! Pretty sweet. The crowd also likes it, but they seem to be even more solidly behind Brock now with chants of "Let's go Lesnar." Savor it, Brock. Brock zeroes in on the injured ribs of The Rock and gets him with the chair. Paul Heyman is doing a remarkable job at ringside, as always, getting in The Rock's face and just being an annoying little bugger. He's sort of like a taller, non-Irish Jewish Little Bastard. Finally Tazz notes the crowd on commentary just in time for Rocky to get that heelish look in his eyes. Oh it's ON now. Rock has enough of Heyman's interference and decides to do something about. Do something indeed as he plants Heyman through the Spanish announce table courtesy of a Rock Bottom. With Heyman out of the way he can devote his full attention to Lesnar. Rock Bottom to Lesnar! 1, 2…no! Brock Lesnar just kicked out of the Rock Bottom! Wait a minute… BROCK Bottom to The Rock! Man, we've been seeing a lot of that tonight. Will The Rock lose to his own move? 1, 2…no! Rocky's back in control, he's got Lesnar down; here comes THE most electrifying move in sports-entertainment today, the People's Elbow…but no! Lesnar cuts off the People's Elbow! Brock goes for an F5 but The Rock counters it, Rock goes for another Rock Bottom but Brock counters that. Brock has his up for the F5…and it connects! 1, 2, 3! Here is your winner and the NEW Undisputed WWE Champion, Brock Lesnar. Brock Lesnar is now the youngest WWE Champion ever as well as the fastest rising. This is insane, the man has only been on the active roster for five months. The crowd is eating it up as the "sellout" Rock has been vanquished. Michael Cole is sure to remind us that the "era of the animal has begun." Interestingly enough that's the same thing JR said when Batista won the World Heavyweight Title. *** ¾ That was a great match and had a great atmosphere. It was an awesome way to cap off and awesome show, and although I thought it was dumb it was smart to have the cool down period after the Street Fight. You could take this match and place it at the end of a WrestleMania and it would fit perfectly.

John Malady: Another match that has been written about numerous times. I loved the crowd turning on Rock and him just using his talent to milk it and work with it mid-match. I loved Lesner with Heyman as a unit so I loved the finish-F5 + clean pin= Youngest WWE champion ever-at the time. Seriously though this match just had a unique vibe to it with the crowd just being sick of The Rock. It was surprising at the time to see but kind of represented a new era of smart wrestling fans not really catering to the WWE's choice of babyface and heel but making their own opinions felt. It was classic in that sense. Rock was the professional using his status to build Brock. No matter what you thought of each wrestler or the match it was a classic wrestling fan moment.

Final Thoughts

George Sirois: This was a lot of fun writing these for the wrestling zone. Thanks to Ryan Byers for putting the 411 SummerSlam promotion together. I'll be back in the movies zone next week with the first of three columns dealing with the art of seduction, and it's a safe bet it won't be what you'd expect. Until then, Class Dismissed!

Scott Slimmer: Okay, here's a fun fact about Summerslam 2002. Of the eighteen guys that were booked on this show, fifteen of them were either former or future World Champions. That has to be some kind of record. Six of the eight matches on this card could have been main events under different circumstances. This was pretty much the definition of a stacked card. That doesn't necessarily guarantee that a show will be great, but it's certainly a strong indicator. In the end, this show did turn out to be one of the best pay-per-views I've ever seen. The worst match on the card was still a pretty solid tag team championship match, and the best match on the card was my favorite match of all time. There have been better pay-per-views than this (WrestleMania 17 comes to mind), but they have been few and far between. This was simply a great show from start to finish.

Stuart Carapola: After a year and a half of crappy storytelling that made me think that WWE was not quite as cool as it used to be, the build to this show really built up my hopes. They actually built up to the show and didn't flip-flop their booking decisions as they had been for months. It looked to have some great wrestling if nothing else, so I figured how could they go wrong? And for once, I wasn't disappointed. The wrestling was good to great on this show, the buildup was terrific…and then it was back to business as usual the next night on Raw. But it was nice, for one night, to enjoy being a WWE fan again.

Andy Clark: I love this show for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there are a number of really good matches on it. Also, every match on the card included at least one main eventer and the show really had a big feel to it. Just looking at the talent for this card is an smark fan's dream: The Rock, Brock Lesnar, Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam, Booker T, Lance Storm, Christian, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Chris Jericho, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle, and Rey Mysterio. Hell of a lineup, right? Even the other wrestlers on the card (Undertaker, Test, Goldust) all know how to bring it in the big environment and they do that on this show. I've always felt like this was a WrestleMania caliber event, one of the few non-Mania shows you can say that about.


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