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WWE SummerSlam
August 25, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


The just completed WWE SummerSlam pay-per-view event was sold by many (myself included) as a rare top-to-bottom interesting card.  In theory, seven of the eight scheduled matches had blow-away potential.

In reality, SummerSlam will likely go down as a two match card.  But oh, what a pair of matches.

Shawn Michaels scored a win in his comeback match, defeating Triple H 25 minutes into a superb brawl that included chairs, tables, and even Michaels' trademark step-ladder.  A crowd that may have been hesitant to back Michaels in the early stages of the match were quickly won over:  he may not have been as crisp and quick as vintage HBK, but Michaels looked good, and most importantly, didn't lose his knack for telling a story and involving the crowd in the match

And then, in the main event, Brock Lesnar pinned the Rock cleanly, following an F-5, becoming the youngest WWE Champion in history (a title which had also, until tonight, belonged to the Rock).  Though not without slow moments, the match had an undeniable Big Match atmosphere, much like Rock/Hogan at WrestleMania, with Rock getting mostly boos, while Lesnar slowly established himself as the favorite of most fans in the arena.  

Also on the show:  Rob Van Dam won the IC Title from Chris Benoit, while the UnAmericans retained the tag titles from Booker T and Goldust.

Here are complete segment-by-segment results of the 2002 SummerSlam PPV:

  • On Heat, Spike Dudley beat Steven Richards.  Nothing too notable here...  just your typical Heat match.
  • The PPV opened the right way:  with a killer wrestling match.  Kurt Angle defeated Rey Mysterio via submission after about 8 minutes of action.  Rey jumpstarted the match by attacking Angle from out of the crowd while Kurt was watching the entrance way, and held a brief advantage.  But after a few moments, we entered the meat of the match, which saw Kurt dominate Rey for extended periods, trying to lock in submission holds.  Kurt's offense looked stellar (as you might expect), and Rey's hope spots kept the crowd into it.  Rey was able to mount his late match rally after hitting a huge senton (over the referee) from the ring to the floor on Angle.  He got a couple near falls in the process, but was unable to put Angle away.  The finish had Angle reverse an attempted top rope hurricarana directly into the anklelock.  Rey could not escape, and tapped out.  Angle, it should be noted, got a healthy number of cheers for his win, though during the match, the crowd was definitely pro-Rey.  I could have gone for another five minutes of this stuff, but this was still just about as tight an opener as you'll find.
  • Stephanie McMahon, proud of her SD! opening match, went to the General Manager office, only to find Eric Bischoff already camping out.  The two decided to share the office and watch the event to see which roster put on the better show.
  • Bischoff's RAW brand delivered the second match, as Ric Flair beat Chris Jericho, using the Figure Four leglock to get a submission.  Flair, who has been a very effective performer in looser, more brawling-intensive matches since his WWE return, tried to wrestle this one as a straight wrestling match.  Results were mixed.  Though still remarkably versatile for a 52-year-old performer, it's safe to say that Flair is not the performer he once was:  there were some notably sloppy spots, mostly in terms of Flair trying to sell Jericho's offense.  Still, they kept things moving for the 10-plus minutes they were asked to deliver, with the finish coming when Jericho came unhinged after he thought he'd made Flair tap out to the Figure Four (Flair had actually reached the ropes).  Flair took advantage of the confusion to lock in a Fig. 4 of his own to get the win.  Between the periodic sloppiness and (what I personally feel is) a dubious booking decision, this one didn't live up to my expectations.
  • Edge took home a win over Eddie Guerrero in the night's next contest.  The crowd seemed to not get into this one until very late, but I personally really thought they did a nice job handling the psychological aspects of the match.  In this case, that meant that Edge's shoulder (which sidelined him back in June) was the target of Eddie's offense.  Everything Eddie did was in some way directed towards the goal of hurting Edge's shoulder; you didn't need the announcers pointing it out to you, either, as it was fairly plain.  Still, the live crowd either didn't catch it, or more likely, didn't care.  Cool spots included Eddie countering a spear attempt by dropkicking Edge right in the shoulder, and Eddie deciding to deliver a frog splash onto Edge's shoulder instead of onto his torso.  Still, even one-armed, Edge rallied with an "Edge-ucution" (please, can we just call it a leaping DDT until someone comes up with a non-lame name?) and a Spear to get the pinfall win.  Well constructed and well-performed, but the lack of crowd heat took away some of the sizzle that I look for in especially commendable matches.
  • The UnAmericans (Lance Storm and Christian) retained the Tag Team Titles, beating Booker T and Goldust via pinfall, but only thanks to an assist from Test.  Storm and Christian got some pre-match mic time, so they were firmly over as heels, while Booker and Goldust were their usual popular selves.  As I expected, the result was a fun, kind of old school match. The heels did all the time-tested tricks, and referee Nick Patrick managed to miss them all (and on top of that, he also missed a couple of babyface tags when Goldust was doing the ol' Ricky Morton act).  After Dust finally did manage the hot (and legal) tag, Booker went on a tear before things finally degenerated into a schmozz.  A ref bump meant that Storm and Christian first attempted to use their title belts as foriegn objects (this didn't work); they even tried to hit the con-chair-to.  But Booker stayed on top, even taking both men out with a scissors kick.  But finally, Test made his run-in, giving Booker the big boot.  Storm was able to make the cover and the ref recovered to count to three.  Not a ***** spectacular, but this was a fun match, with a hot crowd and what I thought was a very effective finish.
  • Rob Van Dam pinned Chris Benoit to regain the IC Title.  Like the Edge/Eddie match, this one featured a shitload of shoulder-based psychology that seemed to go mostly unappreciated live.  Actually, given the participants, I have to admit that I, too, was a bit disappointed that this wasn't quite as smooth and action-packed a match as I'd hoped.  Still, Benoit did some killer work trying to loosen RVD's shoulder up for the Crossface (the hat trick of hammerlock/Northern Lights suplexes was outstanding!), and it's a shame it didn't pop the crowd a bit more.  The overall vibe I got was more of a stiff/methodical one, which leaves me hoping that these two will, at some point in the future, get to lock up and try again.  As the match reached its conclusion, both Benoit and RVD tried applying the Crossface, though neither had much success.  Finally, Van Dam was able to get just enough of an opening to hit a change-direction-in-mid-air version of the Five Star Frog Splash to get the win.  A serviceable little 12 minute match, but if you were like me, you probably had visions of something more along the lines of a match of the year candidate... visions that went unrealized.  After the match:  Bischoff tried to gloat to Steph that RAW just gained the IC Title, but Steph just sort of laughed at him and left. [RVD to SmackDown, I guess?]
  • Undertaker doled out at least some measure of punishment to the UnAmericans, as he pinned Test in their match.  I know I said my piece about how this match wasn't one that struck me as particularly PPV-worthy, and for the most part, I stand by that.  But still, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the effort from these two, who did a nice job a mostly power-move/big-man type of match until we could get to the shennanigans at the finish.  Taker seemed well in control when Storm and Christian ran-in.  But both got sent packing following chokeslams; the distraction was enough for Test to briefly regain control before Taker brought out the big guns...  Taker delivered a Tombstone piledriver to get the decisive pinfall, and then celebrated with an American flag.  You probably won't remember anything about this match at all tomorrow, but on the other hand, smarks who desperately wanted to be able to say "Taker and Test sucked ass and should never have been on the PPV to begin with" gotta be awfully disappointed right now.
  • And then, it gets really good.  Shawn Michaels pinned Triple H in the night's semi-main event.  Actually, we got off to sort of a dubious start, as Michaels made the odd fashion choice of wearing one of his old chaps/vest combos, but over street clothes (hey, either wrestling gear or street clothes... mixing and matching looked really lame!).  But once the action started, Michaels no longer looked ridiculous, opting to wrestle in just jeans and boots.  HBK came out fast, utilizing a mostly punch-kick offensive to start, but also tossing in a pescado that looked sharp and erased any concerns raised by the sloppy plancha from RAW.  After about 3 minutes, though, HHH got settled in with a series of wicked backbreakers.  JR and the King were only too quick to point out that one never really recovers fully from a broken back, and that HHH is a diabolical jerk for targeting Michaels' career-ending injury of four-plus years ago.  For the next 8 minutes or so, HHH through all the back-related offense he could think of at Shawn, but couldn't keep the Kid down.  This included bringing a chair into the ring, and using it to past Shawn across the back.  Michaels also got busted open following a DDT onto the chair.  But just when HHH's smug "I'm just toying with this guy" started to develop into more of a "I'm not sure what I'm gonna have to do to keep this guy down for three" vibe, Michaels started to rally.  Once Shawn took over control of the match, the pace just went into warp drive...  Michaels used a ladder to bloody HHH (who wore a crimson mask that far outpaced Shawn's), used trash cans, used a chair, and even set up a "Holy Shit" table spot (splashing HHH from the top rope, through a table on the floor).  One of HHH's own rallies saw another "Holy Shit" caliber spot, as he back-breakered Michaels through a steel chair (OUCH!).  Through it all, Michaels seemed to be way sharper than a guy with four-plus years of ring rust should be; at the very least, it struck me that this match was a better performance from Shawn than what he was limited to in his last few month as WWF Champ back in '98, which is quite commendable.  The finish came when Michaels started "tuning up the band" for the Sweet Chin Music, but HHH countered it into a Pedigree attempt.  But before HHH could bring the hammer down, Michaels managed a double leg take-down into a pinning combination.  Three seconds later, and Michaels was your improbable winner in what may well turn out, even more improbably, to be a match of the year candidate (seriously, this one might have fallen short of Rock/Hogan in terms of "history in the making" Big Match Appeal, but unlike that one, even if you stripped away Michaels' legendary status, this one would stand up as a great match/brawl... whereas Rock/Hogan had definitely moments of suckiness from a pure workrate perspective).  After the match, HHH used his trusty old sledgehammer, and plastered Michaels in the back twice.  Despite losing the match, HHH left the ring with a smile on his face, while Michaels left on a stretcher.  Great stuff, both the match, and the post-match stuff which should serve to ensure HHH's heel status while also dangling the possibility that Michaels will need to come back for ANOTHER revenge match in the future. 
  • To rest the crowd between the two big matches, Howard Finkel did a quick bit of mic work (in a heelish way), which was merely an excuse to bring out Trish Stratus.  Which is not an entirely bad thing.  Some awkward dialogue ensued, the upshot of which was that Trish was really just distracting the Fink so Lillian Garcia could sneak up from behind and slap him silly.  Yee haw.
  • The crowd now duly rested and refreshed, we hit the main event.  Brock Lesnar defeated the Rock to become the Undisputed Champion about 15 minutes into a match that will be long remembered for its big time feel and atmposphere.  From the get go, there was a "Rocky Sucks" chant, though much like WM18, it picked up significant steam as the match progressed (I guess people just need to hear OTHER fans chanting it to know it's OK if they chant it, too).  Boos for Rock's offense and "Let's Go Lesnar" chants weren't too far behind.  And Rock, bless him, played it up big time.  It's a shame that his schedule won't ever permit him to have a full-time heel run, because even in the brief glimpses we've seen of it, his heel persona was way more compelling to me than his "I'm too clever for my own good" babyface one.  Anyway, in the match, it was Brock's power versus Rocky's usual arsenal.  With Paul Heyman's interference peppered in from time to time.  From an action-perspective, it did seem like they tossed in some rest spots (hey, Lesnar's never been asked to go much beyond 10 minutes, so it ain't that terrible an idea to ramp him up slowly, I guess), but for the most part, they were spots that kept the crowd involved (cheering for Lesnar to escape a Sharpshooter, or booing when Rock didn't submit to Lesnar's bearhug).  Action spilled outside the ring late into the match, and Heyman, a nuisance during the earlier stages, got Rock Bottomed through the Spanish announce table.  He was a non-factor as the match got back in the ring.  Brock kicked out of a Rock Bottom, and then followed up by delivering a "Brock Bottom" of his own on Rocky (but Rock kicked out).  From there, they eventually built to a sweet quintuple reversal spot (we went from F-5 to Rock Bottom and back again a bunch of times) that ended with the Rock getting F-5'ed and pinned for the three count.  Lesnar celebrated alone in the ring with the title (to an almost all positive crowd response) as the PPV came to a close.  Maybe not a workrate classic, but a very dramatic and exciting contest, one that will also likely end up having the sort of historic import that makes "workrate" a pretty much ludicrous notion.

The top two matches were more than enough to make this an easy Thumbs Up call for me.  It's rare enough when you get one match that stands out as having that Big Time Feel... it used to be that that was what PPV was for: the big time matches.  Now, with monthly PPVs -- combined with us smarter, more jaded fans -- it's become impossible to recreate that atmosphere every time out.
At SummerSlam, the Fed delivered it in TWO contests.  And the Michaels/HHH brawl would even stand out as an entertaining match even if it lacked that special aura of Michaels' comeback: a even rarer combination of great ringwork with great atmosphere!

Yes, there were disappointments on a show that I though had potential to be free of holes:  neither Jericho/Flair nor Benoit/RVD quite hit the mark in my book.  But Angle/Mysterio was super, the tag title match was a fun contest in a timeless sort of style that would have played as well in 1982 as it did in 2002, and even without crowd heat I loved the way Eddie and Edge set up their match... so you put two minor quibbles aside, and even the undercard has got some good stuff going for it.  This was not just a two trick pony.

And on top of all of that, it's a show that leaves me VERY curious to see where we go from here.  Is Lesnar a full-on babyface?  If so, they have to sacrifice the Lesnar/Hogan feud that I thought was a lock (unless Hogan goes heel?)...  and they also probably have to do the Lesnar/Heyman split sooner rather than later.  And what of the Rock?  Was this a one-night-only reaction, or will the Rock have to play the heel for his last few weeks in the Fed?

Some cool stuff on the horizon...  we'll get to more of it in Monday's full-length OO.  Till then, SummerSlam's a Thumbs Up, and quite possibly the Fed's best PPV effort of the year.  More tomorrow.


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

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