Date: August 25, 2002
Venue: Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Commentators: Raw Matches: Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler Smackdown Matches: Michael Cole & Tazz
Well, Well, Well, we have arrived to the number one pick on my SummerSlam countdown and we have finally left the 1990’s. So now without further ado the greatest SummerSlam of all time is 2002. This event takes place during the time of the “Brand Split”. If you don’t know what that is basically Monday Night Raw and its roster were in direct competition with Smackdown and its roster. Each show even had a separate general manager which you will see during the backstage promos of the event. So I’m sure some of you are asking yourselves why SummerSlam 2002? Well let me enlighten you.
SummerSlam 2002 was the first SummerSlam after the WCW Invasion the previous year. I only mention that because by this time the invasion angle was completely squashed and as I mentioned it was during the brand split. Which say what you will about the brand split but I thought it was a great effort to create some competition again? It really set a fire under some of the guys who wanted to prove their show was best and it gave us some incredible matches. SummerSlam 2002 is stacked from top to bottom with nothing but main event matches. There is not really any gimmick matches and every superstar really gives it their all. SummerSlam 2002 deserves to be called “The Greatest SummerSlam of All Time” and after you watch it on the WWE Network for only $9.99 I’m sure you will agree.
Match #1: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio
Kurt Angle is one of the most gifted athletes to ever step foot in the ring. He is an Olympic Gold Medalist and from the second he debuted in the WWE he had “it”. He never disappoints when he is in the ring and he definitely didn’t disappoint that night. Rey Mysterio has been wrestling since he was a young kid. He has wrestled Legends all over the world and is now himself a Legend. These two really bring down the house in this match. This could easily have been the main event of the night but it’s not. It is the FREAKING Opening Match! And what a match it is.
Technical holds, high-flying, submissions, dives, on the apron, on the floor, this one has everything and goes all over the place. A great match to start the show.
Match #2: Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho
Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho. Do I really have to say anymore? Just that alone you should already be foaming at the mouth to see this match. A dream match that was worthy of the hype and the wait. I would have love to seen this match when Flair was in his prime, but in 2002 the living legend could still go with the best of them and it indeed shows in this match. This is a great technical bout, a lot of back and fourths and close finishes. It eventually turns into quite an amazing submission battle that is one to remember.
Match #3: Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero
I don’t want to sound like a broken record and keep using words like Great, and Amazing, but that’s what this whole card is. We are on match three and the previous two matches could have easily both been main events. This one is no exception. A technical war is the only way to describe it. Edge was trying to gain momentum as a singles wrestler and Eddie never disappointed when in the ring. This is another main event quality match. It is really nice to watch a show that has straight wrestling, no cheesy gimmicks, or stipulations to get over. Just true talented athletes in one on one matches.
Match #4: WWE Tag Team Championship: The Un-Americans (Lance Storm & Christian) (c) vs. Booker T & Goldust
I don’t know why it worked and I still can’t explain it. But Booker T and Goldust were truly amazing together. They not only could make you laugh in an instant but they also had really good in ring chemistry together. The Un-Americans all though they didn’t last long (Lance Storm always seems to get stuck with these type of gimmicks) they were a force to be reckoned with and a damn good tag team. The fans are really into this one, and both teams work really well together. This is just a good old classic tag team match.
Match #5: WWE Intercontinental Championship: Interpromotional Match Chris Benoit (c) vs. Rob Van Dam
This is actually the only “Interpromotional Match” on the card. Chris Benoit was on Smackdown and was the current I.C. Champion and RVD was on Raw. If RVD wins the title then the IC title then would be exclusively on RAW (Remember the Brand Split). This match is everything you could want between two such amazing superstars. Both guys really knew how to work the crowd and were performing at their top-level. I really like the backstage back and fourths between then Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff and Smackdown General Manger Stephanie McMahon during this match.
It’s matches like this that remind us why the IC title was considered the workhorse title and was once considered to be more prestigious than the World Title at least in my opinion.
Match #6: The Undertaker vs. Test
Ok, I did say that every match on this card could have been a main event. Yes even this one. Whether you liked him or not Test could perform and was quite talented. The Undertaker is well, the Undertaker. This is also the Undertaker during his American Badass stage. I think it is safe to say that the American Badass version of Taker is probably the closet to the real life Mark Calloway (Undertaker) that we will ever get to see. The Undertaker (as I mentioned in my number four countdown on the list) always would change and evolve his character at the perfect time to go with the direction the WWE was going in. American Badass was and always will be one of my favorites versions of the Undertaker and anytime I get a chance to see him do what he does best, I am always entertained and SummerSlam 2002 is no different.
Match #7: Unsanctioned Street Fight: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H
This match is Shawn Michael’s first match since Wrestlemania 14 back in 1998 (that’s over 4 years). When Shawn returned to the WWE the month before it seemed like HHH and HBK were going to reunite DX but HHH had other plans. On Raw when the game pedigreed his “Best Friend” I was in complete shock. Over the next month they built this epic match between these two. The match was “Unsanctioned” because Eric Bischoff and the WWE didn’t want to take responsibility for what might happen.
This is not the first time HHH and HBK have met in the ring but the previous time was for the European Championship and was not a legit match as they were just pulling one over on the fans and HBK laid down for the game. This however would not be a fun joke to pull on everyone. This was going to be a FIGHT! Not a wrestling match a FIGHT!
After all the injuries Shawn had suffered through when he did come back for this match no one really knew if this was going to be a one time thing or not. Even Shawn and HHH have said in interviews that they were not sure and it wasn’t until after the match that Shawn decided he was well enough to return to the ring full-time again.
Although in 2002 HHH was already a former world champion he wasn’t in the shadow of HBK but I think fans always wondered who was truly better. I know I did. This match is everything I wanted and more. It is “The Greatest SummerSlam Match of All Time”. I wouldn’t change a thing. Both guys really take their time and tell quite a story. Jim Ross and The King calling the action is perfect. All the elements and stars that had to align for this match to happen is truly a miracle. This match is the reason Shawn comes back to the WWE and reignited his career for the years to come. He may be called Mr. Wrestlemania but you might want to add Mr. SummerSlam to his list of nicknames too.
Match #8: Undisputed WWE Championship: The Rock (c) vs. Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman
What ending the streak at Wrestlemania 30 did for Lesnar in 2014. All started here at SummerSlam 2002. Now Lesnar had already been destroying the roster of the WWE before he got here to SummerSlam. He even won the King of the Ring tournament just 2 months prior and The Rock had defeated the Undertaker and Kurt Angle to win the Undisputed Championship the month before. These two seemed destined to meet from the second Lesnar stepped foot in the WWE and it finally was set for SummerSlam.
I remember the build for this match was huge. The Rock winning the month before really was a shock. I was a huge Rock fan and I just could not imagine Lesnar fairing well against the great one. Up until now in the countdown I have stayed spoiler free but I have to talk about this match in more detail. *SPOILER: Lesnar didn’t just come into SummerSlam and beat the Rock for the title he destroyed him. What makes it even more of a shock is that Lesnar had only debuted on WWF TV back in March of 2002. I also want to add at the time he beats Rock he became the youngest WWE Champion ever. (Orton would break that record one year later.) The match may not be the most technically sound but it is a brawl and was a shock to say the least. *SPOILER ENDS*
Both guys really bring it and you can feel the energy in the arena coming through the tv for this one. Also knowing where each of these Superstars respected careers have gone since 2002 it is quite an amazing journey.
SummerSlam 2002 is truly the greatest SummerSlam. There is not a dull match on the card. Every performer goes out with the intention to steal the show. The competition between Raw and Smackdown really was felt during the event and only elevated each superstar to be that much better. This is a card full of main events. We don’t even get PPVs with one or two matches that are close to the level that SummerSlam 2002 is on. Kurt Angle, Rey Mysterio, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Chris Benoit, Rob Van Dam, The Undertaker, Brock Lesnar, The Rock, HHH, and Shawn Michaels, the list goes on and on. They are Legends, Hall of Famers and Future Hall of Famers. I don’t think we will ever get another PPV of this caliber and quality for a long, long time, if ever. But I could be wrong.
Today is SummerSlam 2015 and anything can happen in the WWE.
Thanks for counting down the Top Five Greatest SummerSlam events with me.