By Luke Dorsch @Luke_Dorsch
WWE Summerslam 2002
With the “Attitude Era” winding down and “Ruthless Aggression” rapidly approaching the horizon WWE really nailed a solid pay per view for their annual summer extravaganza. This is the summer of 2002 during the initial brand extension, The Undertaker was an “American Bad Ass” the most electrifying move in Sports Entertainment wasn’t a Destroyer it was still “The People’s Elbow” and a young “Beast Incarnate” would be making his Summer Slam debut in his first championship match in a big way. Additionally, ECW and WCW were both gone but in WWE the company (much like today) had a plethora of talent at its disposal with such Hall of Fame names like: Ric Flair, Eddie Guerrero, Edge, Kurt Angle, and Shawn Michaels. Plus it’s worth mentioning with a card that has Rob Van Dam vs Chris Benoit for the Intercontinental Championship what match could possibly top that? The return of “The Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels.
HBK hadn’t wrestled a full match in WWE since WrestleMania 14 when he lost the championship to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin which was over four years prior to his Summer Slam return. To paint a picture of what we had that night: Shawn Michaels had made his return the month prior at the Vengeance Pay Per View in which RAW GM Eric Bischoff and Smack Down GM Stephanie McMahon were arguing over which show would feature “The Game” when his best friend Shawn Michaels offered to reform D-Generation X which swayed HHH to take himself over to the RAW brand. On the night of the reformation HHH turned on his best friend and destroyed him with a pedigree. Later in the month, we found Michaels laid out and busted open after the classic parking lot attack which we later found out was orchestrated by…HHH. Eric Bischoff (due to Michaels’ kayfabe injury) couldn’t sanction the match officially…but there would be an “unsanctioned street fight” between the two former DX members at Summer Slam.
The match between HHH and Shawn Michaels was the first of several that we would have that year and in the subsequent years to follow before they did inevitably bury the hatchet and reform DX albeit briefly. But, back to Summer Slam. Michaels worked this match in jeans and cowboy boots to further hammer home that it was indeed an unsanctioned street fight. HHH used heavy back offense and his deliberate (boring) pace and the pain etched in the face of the returning hero, and the difficulty he would have just returning to his feet after hitting an offensive spot told quite the story. HBK started off with brawling techniques using mostly punches and kicks to get him going, but the real story of this match is that it went for nearly a half an hour, there were ladder spots, high spots, inspiring story telling from both men, and the realization that Shawn Michaels has been and always will be one of the best damn in-ring talents professional wrestling has ever seen. HBK won that night after overcoming sheer adversity from an opponent much larger and in their prime, with his patented “Sweet Chin Music”. Michaels impressed everyone so much, that at the Survivor Series of that year he went over HHH, Y2J, Kane, Rob Van Dam, and Booker T to become the RAW Brand’s World Heavyweight Champion, after over 4 years of non-active competition. Shawn Michaels would compete actively for several more years including his 5 Star Match of the year bout with The Undertaker, the rematch a year later, and finally his WWE Hall of Fame induction.
Of all the Summer Slam events both good and bad from my childhood in the late 80’s till the modern era, this one from 2002 stands out and still holds up as a very watchable and enjoyable wrestling event.
Kurt Angle def. Rey Mysterio
Ric Flair def. Chris Jericho
Edge def. Eddie Guerrero
World Tag Team Championship Match
Lance Storm & Christian def. Booker T & Goldust to retain
Intercontinental Championship Match
Rob Van Dam def. Chris Benoit to become new champion
Undertaker def. Test
Shawn Michaels def. Triple H
WWE Championship Match
Brock Lesnar def. The Rock to become new WWE Champion