PPV REVIEW: WWE Summerslam 2002

August 25, 2002, 
Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, New York

There once was a time when one of the biggest complaints of the average professional wrestling fan was that authority figures in general, and the McMahon Family in particular, hogged too much screentime and often overshadowed the actual in-ring competitors. 

If you ever needed a prime example of why this was problematic, look no further than the run up to WWE Summerslam 2002. 

With the brand-split still in its infancy, Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon had replaced Ric Flair and Vince McMahon as the GMs of Raw and Smackdown respectively.

The two had then begun feuding as they tried to snatch up all of the company's top talent and secure a fully-loaded roster. 

This storyline overshadowed everything else on TV, including two storylines which really should have taken center-stage during this time:

The Rock defending his WWE title against the young, unstoppable monster known as Brock Lesnar, and Shawn Michaels competing in his first WWE PPV match in four years (albeit an "unsanctioned" one) against former friend turned rival, Triple H.

Would the Bischoff/Steph saga overshadow Summerslam as a whole, or would matches like the ones above steal the show?

Let's get down to it to find out. 

The Hottest Night in the North East

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Tazz and Michael 'Bad Ass Mofo' Cole call the show
In lieu of the usual epic opening video, Summerslam 2002 began with a quick graphic intro and the usual fireworks and crowd shots as Michael Cole welcomed us to “The Hottest Night in the North East.”

With that done, it was straight onto the action.

Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio

After a few weeks of hype, Rey Mysterio had debuted on the first Smackdown after Vengeance in a great match against Chavo Guerrero. That was followed by an equally as enjoyable encounter with Tajiri before the former WCW star dived headlong into a feud with Kurt Angle.

Tonight, Mysterio made his WWE PPV debut and wrestled in his first PPV altogether since WCW Greed, delivering a thrilling opening contest with The Olympic Gold Medalist.

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Kurt Angle hurts Rey Mysterio
Angle countered his opponent’s lightning quickness and breathtaking ability with some seriously heavy-duty slams, making for a truly exciting bout.

Kurt won in the end when Rey had no choice but to tap to the ankle lock, but before that, the supremely over Mysterio looked absolutely awesome.
Your Winner: Rey Mysterio

Out in the back, Stephanie McMahon sent a lackey to tell Eric Bischoff that there was no way his Raw brand could top that excellent opening match from Smackdown.

On entering her office, however, the Smackdown GM found Bischoff waiting for her.

As it turned out, there was only one office for General Managers, so the rivals agreed to watch the show together in one office, mainly so that they could bicker about who’s brand was better all night.

This took us to our Raw announce team of Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and Jim Ross.

Getting himself confused, King welcomed us to “the Raw portion of Smackdown” before quickly correcting himself.

This is Summerslam,” said JR, who has obviously never made a goof in his entire career.

Chris Jericho vs. Nature Boy Ric Flair

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Chris Jericho hurts Ric Flair
Chris Jericho
and Ric Flair had been beating the hell out of each other on Raw, culminating in Flair disrupting Y2J’s Fozzy concert and destroying all the equipment in an angry rage that was a lot of fun to watch.

Tonight, the two locked up in what was the Nature Boy’s first-ever Summerslam match, one in which he came out to different theme music than the usual Sunrise section of Also Sprach Zarathustra.

Flair relied almost entirely on a single offensive move -the knife-edge chop- for the duration of this contest yet despite that it was still plenty entertaining.

Jericho battered and bullied his olde opponent and even locked in a Figure Four.

Flair got the ropes, planted a sneaky low blow and then won with a Figure Four of his own.

Before that, this was a strong match with a lot to like.
Your Winner: Ric Flair

Post-match, King and JR analysed a controversial spot in the ropes where Flair seemed to simultaneously grab the ropes and tap out to Jericho’s figure four at the same time.

Brock Destroyed Hulk Hogan

Out in the locker room, Paul Heyman reacted to a Hulk Hogan video that isn’t shown on the Network version of this event.

The former ECW boss boasted about his man Lesnar destroying Hogan on Smackdown before giving The Next Big Thing a pep talk about taking out The Rock in tonight’s main event.

Eddie Guerrero vs. Edge

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Edge hurts Test
Just in case you had any doubts at all, let me reassure you that yes, this was a damn fine match.

After a good bit of back and forth, Edge fell to the outside and appeared to aggravate the shoulder injury that had recently taken him out of action for a few weeks.

Naturally, the dastardly heel Eddie Guerrero spent the bulk of this very good match working on that shoulder, only for his resilient opponent to continue fighting back.

Eventually, after a top performance from both men, the 2001 King of the Ring drilled Guerrero with a spear to pick up the win.
Your Winner: Edge

After a promotional video espousing the fact that WWE season never ends, we next went backstage where Jonathan Coachman interviewed The Un-Americans.

As Test cackled in the background while holding the group’s upside-down US flag, Christian explained that he and Lance Storm couldn’t wait to defeat Booker T & Goldust. For his part, Storm got plenty of heat on his team by insulting the Long Island crowd.

Their match was next.

WWE Tag Team Championship
WWE Tag Team Champions The Un-Americans (Lance Storm & Christian) vs. Booker T & Goldust

This wasn’t the most action-packed match in the world, but the way they played up Goldust being cut off from his partner was masterfully done and made for very enjoyable viewing.

When Booker did eventually tag in, the pace picked up and things got even more entertaining until a ref bump allowed for a run in by Test that had been predictable since before the match even began.

That run in gave the bad guys the win.

This wasn’t the best match on the show, but it was perfectly good for what it was.
Your Winners and Still Tag Team Champions: The Un-Americans

Over at The World, Jamie Noble cheered on his girlfriend Nidia as she picked some dude to make out with and then snogged his face off on a sofa.

It was erm, well, it was a thing that happened let’s put it that way.

Back in the arena, Steph told Eric that a woman’s place in wrestling was on top before the two bickered over who would win in an inter-promotional match for the International Championship.

WWE Intercontinental Championship
WWE Intercontinental Champion Chris Benoit vs. Rob Van Dam

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Krispin Wah hurts Rob Van Dam
It was weird that this was the second match out of the last three in which the heel spent most of the match working over the babyface’s shoulder, but I’ll admit that’s a small complaint.

That aside, this was every bit as good as you might expect it to be.

Chris Benoit pulverized Rob Van Dam but simply couldn’t get him to tap to the Crippler Crossface and eventually succumbed to a Five Star Frog Splash to end yet another very high-quality match.
Your Winner and New Intercontinental Champion: Rob Van Dam

Out in the GM’s office, Bischoff gloated to Steph about the Intercontinental championship coming back to Raw, but McMahon simply laughed in his face.

The Un-Americans Hate America

Before our next match, we got a look back at how evil The Un-Americans were and how their evilness had turned The American Bad Ass back to being a babyface so that he could face Test.

Test vs. The Undertaker

WWE Summerslam 2002 - The Undertaker pins Test
I won’t lie to you, dear reader, I’ve become a bit of a fan of Test over the last year or so.

Sure, he was never the highlight of the night, but he was a decent big man who had been part of some enjoyable matches since the Invasion.

This was one of them.

While the ending was never in doubt (not was the predictable run-in from Storm and Christian), it was a solid and entertaining match in which Test legitimately looked like a threat before eating the inevitable tombstone from The Undertaker.
Your Winner: The Undertaker

Afterward, the Phenom headed into the crowd to find an American flag then held it aloft to the delight of the New York faithful.

Good Friends, Better Enemies

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H - Non-Sanctioned Street Fight
Before the next match, we got an awesome video package looking at the rivalry between Shawn Michaels and Triple H.

The video took us all the way back to 1997 and the height of the original D-Generation-X before skipping to recent weeks when The Game turned on The Heartbreak Kid and threw him through a car window.

It also showed us Hunter promising to end Shawn once and for all, and Eric Bischoff us sanctioning this match so that WWE wouldn’t be responsible.

This was excellent stuff that only got this long-time fan even more pumped up for a match I’ve been looking forward to since the show started.

Unsanctioned Fight
Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Shawn Michaels
Yes, I was very much excited about this match.

Shawn Michaels is my all-time favourite and yet I’d never actually seen his big 2002 comeback on account of this being a time when I’d taken a break from watching any wrestling at all.

Fortunately, the match did not disappoint.

OK, so it nearly did.

There was a section of the match where Triple H was in charge and was trying to systematically cripple The Heartbreak Kid once and for all. That meant long periods of Shawn lying on the floor and Hunter just pacing around the ring doing almost nothing.

That was dull, but when HBK executed his patented kick-up, it was a genuinely exciting moment.

From there, the match picked up in intensity. The Game bled like the proverbial stuck pig, Michaels flew off the top and crashed onto his adversary on the outside, both men crashing through a table.

The showstopper then flew off a ladder and hit HHH with his trademark elbow drop. Hunter blocked a sweet chin music attempt, countered with a pedigree attempt but had that countered with a flip, a cover, and Shawn Michael’s first PPV victory in over four years.

Man, that was good.
Your Winner: Shawn Michaels

Post match, The Cerebral Assassin took out his nemesis with two vicious sledgehammer shots to the spine, causing Michaels to be stretchered out of the arena.

Lillian’s Revenge

WWE Summerslam 2002 - Howard Finkel and Trish Stratus
Over the past few week, Howard Finkel had inexplicably turned heel and become some kind of creepy, egotistical misogynist as he entered into a feud with Lillian Garcia and Trish Stratus.

Tonight, The Fink took a moment to tell us that this was the first PPV he’d announced in this arena since Wrestlemania 2, and was about to put himself over even more before being interrupted by Trish.

The former women’s champion feigned having a crush on ‘Howie,’ promoting the veteran ring announcer to up the creepiness factor to an all-time high.

It was, of course, a rouse, and all designed to set up Lillian Garcia appearing, slapping him in the face and kicking him where the sun don’t shine.

This feud was dumb, but at least it didn’t last long.

All of this followed a video package hyping our main event and then, it was onto the action.

WWE Undisputed Championship
WWE Undisputed Champion The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (w/ Paul Heyman)

WWE Summerslam 2002 - The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar
This match was excellent.

Brock Lesnar came out swinging, quickly battering The Rock and taking him to a little place we’d later get to know as Suplex City.

This impressive start clearly won the crowd over, so much so that when the champion made his comeback, the crowd routinely booed him and chanted ‘Lesnar! Lesnar!’ as a means of encouraging the challenger to break out of Rock’s sharpshooter.

From there, things only got better. It was wild, it was brutal, it saw Rock looking seriously pissed off throughout the match, it saw Paul Heyman take a Rock Bottom through the announce table, but more importantly, it saw a hot finish which culminated with Brock hitting the match-winning F5.
Your Winner and New Undisputed Champion: Brock Lesnar

Yes, after just five months after his WWE debut, Brock Lesnar had captured the title in an utterly exhilarating match.

Summerslam 2002 was an exceptional show and undoubtedly one of WWE’s best of the year so far.

While the main event, HHH/HBK, and Mysterio/Angle were the highlights, everything else (apart from the weird Howard Finkel) bit delivered on a scale that ranged from good to great.

Definitely a show worth watching.

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