Torch Flashbacks SUMMERSLAM FLASHBACK - 10 yrs. ago: Triple H, Michaels, Lesnar in top matches; Summerslam Preview & PPV Report looks at Lesnar's rise to WWE champion
Aug 14, 2012 - 3:01:36 PM
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WWE Summerslam Flashback - 10 yrs. ago
- Top matches feature Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels and Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock - three of the four top players involved in Summerslam 2012 ten years later.
TORCH NEWSLETTER #718: COVER STORY
Summerslam 2002 Preview: Rock-Brock, Triple H-Michaels
By Wade Keller, editor
One of the challenges facing WWE's creative team anytime one of their biggest PPV comes around is finding something worthy for their top stars to be involved with. They have done so with this year's SummerSlam as far as Rock and Triple H go. The top two remaining established main eventers from the peak period a few years ago find themselves facing two dream opponents, although very different.
The Rock, who for a while was written off as being more of a movie star than a wrestler, has had enough of a presence over the past few weeks that he seems to be a full-fledged member of the squad again. His match has a high intrigue factor since he has never faced Brock Lesnar before. With the spotlight on these two on the second biggest WWE Title match of the year - second to WrestleMania - the pressure is on Lesnar to not only hold his own, but come out of the match with enough momentum to help fill the void that will be created by Rock's next extended absence.
Brock came though well on last Thursday's Smackdown, facing Hogan in a well-booked, well-executed match. Hogan and Lesnar had the emotions of the crowd in the palms of their hands. The match played off of a pattern established for decades of Hogan facing the supposed "next big thing" of that month or year, but after selling and looking a bit vulnerable, eventually Hulking up, no selling, hitting the boot, and finishing off the monster with a big legdrop. The Lesnar challenge played out the same way, except Lesnar got up after the big boot and dominated Hogan from there.
Lesnar eventually destroyed Hogan, putting him out with a bearhug that normally would be seen as a resthold, but in this instance had the fans standing. The wind came out of the fans' sails - visibly on camera - when Hogan's arm dropped for the third time and the ref called for the bell. Lesnar didn't stop there, returning to the ring to bash Hogan a few more times. Hogan sold as convincingly as he ever has for anyone, and never before has he been utilized as a stepping stone for a monster challenger. Usually he's the climax of a feud; in this case he was a transition.
That transition is to Rock, the biggest attraction in the business today. Because Lesnar was given the gift of being the first wrestler Hogan agreed to put over in such a way under such circumstances, he has added momentum. The looks on the faces of the fans in the arena when Lesnar destroyed Hogan had to make WWE's creative team happy - they were shocked. Even better for WWE is that Brock's win wasn't seen primarily as the "end of Hulkamania" (which it very well may be, at least as we've known it), but instead it has seemed to be interpreted as the confirmation that Lesnar is "the next big thing."
It was one thing for Hogan to have a great match with Rock at WrestleMania. After all, both were established megastars with tons of big match experience. That had Pat Patterson, Rock's top advisor, helping lay out the match. And they had the benefit of a rabid crowd and the spotlight of the biggest show of the year shining down on them.
Lesnar and Hogan didn't have nearly as many of those elements, yet the match stood out as something special. Lesnar isn't the smooth worker that Rock is. Hogan isn't as hot today as he was at WrestleMania, when his return to WWE seemed fresh. Yet those two pulled off a memorable match that really will be remembered as the moment WWE successfully elevated Brock to superstar level - something Brock had a role in making happen because of how he handled himself in the match.
Brock has been criticized for not being of the pro wrestling mentality, having dedicated his life to amateur wrestling and not really following wrestling. He's learned a lot, because he pulled off enough of the subtle intangibles that are necessary to make a match stand out and have impact.
At SummerSlam, the goals of WWE are to entertain the PPV viewers, and more importantly, have Lesnar come out of the match even stronger than he entered. Presumably he'll win the WWE Title given Rock's upcoming movie schedule. If Rock and Brock can each have "special matches," each having at least some qualifications that are required of match of the year candidates, they should be able to deliver something special against each other. Normally, there'd be concern that Brock might be nervous in his first major PPV main event, but this will probably be nothing compared to the nervousness he felt in his amateur wrestling tournament championship matches.
Just underneath Rock vs. Brock is another intriguing, SummerSlam-worthy main event - Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels. Triple H has had a down year. The string of match of the year candidates he had a few years ago with Mick Foley, Steve Austin, Rock, and Kurt Angle have been replaced with a series of disappointing matches that haven't lived up to his rep. Is it lesser competition, or his apparent obsession with being a bodybuilder over being a worker, or just wear and tear on his body through aging and injuries, or just a conscious shift down because he's established himself and can afford to be in cruise control? No matter what the reason, this is a chance to break that streak.
Because Shawn Michaels declared that he's no longer the "show-stopper," and called it a "fight" instead of a wrestling match, many people are expecting very little from this match. That's a mistake. Triple H is conscious of his own damaged rep as a worker. Michaels is not returning to be a shell of his former self. Of course, they want to set the expectations low; Michaels might not have agreed to come back unless he would be allowed to set the expectations low. Although WWE could have justifiably pulled out the Michael Jordan analogy, they haven't; Michaels doesn't want that kind of pressure. However, that doesn't mean he doesn't badly want to have a match of the year candidate at SummerSlam.
As linked as the careers of Triple H and Shawn Michaels are, they have never wrestled in a high-profile singles match. But, as true good friends outside of the ring, they have every incentive to make each other look good. If Michaels makes it through the match without pain and feels as if he didn't disrespect his reputation, he might come back for more.
Although the Raw vs. Smackdown rivalry is manufactured, there are elements of it that are real. Rock vs. Brock Lesnar is the top billed match. Triple H and Michaels are going to try to upstage it. Triple H was upstaged by Rock when Rock's match with Hogan was considered much, much better than his the next month. Triple H and Michaels, who value their working reputations, don't want to be upstaged by a part-time wrestler/movie star and a rookie. Watching them try will be one fun reason to watch SummerSlam.
The undercard looks good, too. The next tier of talent underneath Rock and Triple H includes Chris Jericho, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, and Rob Van Dam. Jericho and Angle are both in intriguing matches. Like Rock and Triple H, each of their opponents is very different from the other. Jericho will be working with a motivated, if not a shaken, Flair after his very disappointing showing against Rock last month on Raw. Flair doesn't want to go out that way, and Jericho will give him a chance to rehab his reputation. Jericho will be motivated to outshine his top contemporary rival, Angle, also.
Angle gets to take on the sizzling hot "12 year old," Rey Mysterio Jr. Angle has had an amazing first few years of his career, and this is a twist that he probably didn't see coming. Rey Jr. is still a spectacular wrestler, despite not being the athlete he was 10,000 bumps and highspots ago. Although Angle perhaps deserves a "higher spot" on the card in some people's minds, this is a match that can be memorable and will give him a chance to shine with a completely different style worker than he's ever faced before.
Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit has a chance to be the show-stealer, but that depends on what Benoit is able to bring. Benoit hasn't been the same worker lately that he was before his neck surgery.
Undertaker vs. Test shows that Taker is settling into a more appropriate role for himself. He just isn't what WWE needs right now at the very top of the card, but he can be utilized to add some star power to the mid-card matches. Hopefully along the way he'll take pride in helping potential future stars such as Test move to the next level. How this match plays out will be a sign of how Taker is approaching this stage of his career. There's a strong storyline behind this match, the same as the tag title match.
Lance Storm & Christian vs. Booker T & Goldust for the tag titles involves a variety of characters, but is a welcome change from Billy & Chuck in forgettable, meaningless tag title matches.
Overall, a very strong line-up is taking shape.
WWE SUMMERSLAM PPV REPORT
August 25, 2002
Uniondale, N.Y. at Nassau Coliseum
Report by Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
(1) Kurt Angle pinned Rey Mysterio Jr. at 9:25. Michael Cole and Tazz did commentary. There was no shame in being in the opening match on this loaded card. They set the tone with a furious opening minute of action. Rey hit a lot of nice spots, but Angle played the role of the favorite, dominating most of the offense. It worked, as fans popped for any Rey Jr. comeback. In the end, they did the right finishâ€”which was the much larger, credible, and proven Angle scoring the clean win. The finish saw Rey attempt to give Angle a hurancanrana off the top rope, but Angle escaped and applied his ankle lock for a quick tapout. (***)
Stephanie entered her office backstage and Eric Bischoff was waiting for her on a leather couch. She asked what he was doing there. He said since they're at a PPV, it's neutral ground and they should share an office. Steph said since both Raw and Smackdown are represented, she wanted to see the look on his face as he watches Smackdown reign supreme.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler, from their announcing position near the entry stage, talked about the rivalry between Raw and Smackdown. They handled commentary for the following Raw brand match.
(2) Ric Flair pinned Chris Jericho at 10:25. The second good match of the show. Flair continued to show signs of age slowing him down, including a failed attempt at his signature Flair flip in the corner. He did, though, work his ass off in an attempt to prove he still belonged in the ring. It seemed as if Jericho was trying to emulate the subtle things that Flair does so well, such as trying to sell Flair's figure-four leglock as well as Flair sold for his figure-four attempt earlier in the match. In the end, Flair gave Jericho a low-blow then applied the figure-four leading to a quick tapout. The finish was certainly a surprise, going against conventional wisdom, but it wasn't a finish that should be upsetting to Jericho fans since this was the night of surprising finishes. (**3/4)
Paul Heyman gave Brock Lesnar a pep talk in his locker room. Brock grunted and smiled... Back to Cole & Tazz on commentary.
(3) Edge pinned Eddie Guerrero at 11:44. The best match of the opening hour, and in some ways the best match of the night. Guerrero kicked out of Edge's Edgecution finisher during the match, an apparent consolation to Guerrero since he was ultimately doing the clean job. Cole said he didn't know if anyone had ever kicked out of that before. They did some nice moves at ringside, but it was the in-ring exchanges that carried the match. In the end, Guerrero climbed to the top rope, but Edge yanked him off, then followed up with a spear and a pin. Very good match with a strong internal storyline that made sense as it played out. (***3/4)
Johnathan Coachman interviewed Christian, Lance Storm, and Test backstage. Christian said they can't wait to expose Goldust and Booker T as the shams they are. Storm said the Long Island crowd typifies American audiencesâ€”they are lazy, unappreciative, and spoiled.
(4) Lance Storm & Christian beat Booker T & Goldust at 9:40 to retain WWE Tag Team Titles. The match settled into Goldust selling for the UnAmericans. At 7:00 Storm and Christian attempted to bash Goldust from two sides with chairs, but Goldust ducked and the chairs clashed with each other instead. Goldust then hit a clothesline and hot-tagged Booker at 7:30 for a decent pop. Booker ended up dominating the heels, then doing the Spinarooni to a huge pop. When Booker had Christian down for an apparent pin, the ref had been bumped. Test then gave Booker the Big Boot, the ref recovered, and the match ended. (***)
They went live to The World where two men had been picked out for a make-out session with Nidia. She chose one of them and then leaped onto him on the couch and aggressively made out with him.
Bischoff said Nidia would make a fine addition to Raw because "she knows her place in this business." Steph said the place for women in the business is "on top." Not their best segment.
(5) Ron Van Dam beat Chris Benoit at 16:30 to capture the Intercontinental Title. This could be called the disappointment of the night because it wasn't the balls-out show-stealer that many may have expected. Instead, it was a methodical match with mat wrestling and a slow build. Good, but not necessarily always exciting. They exchanged Crippler Crossfaces during the match. At 16:00 Benoit went for a top rope suplex, but RVD reversed it in mid-air. Then he went to the top rope and hit his Five Star Splash for the pin at 16:30. Good submission-hold-centered match with some good, strategically placed highspots in the mix. (***)
Bischoff gloated to Steph that she can watch the IC Title defenses from now on on Raw. Steph laughed in his face, perhaps signalling that RVD is jumping. Bischoff looked puzzled.
(6) Undertaker pinned Test at 8:10. Ross said Test has been stuck with the label of having "potential" for a very long time and is looking to move beyond it. Okay match, but even the little things such as intensity during mat holds didn't measure up to the previous matches. The UnAmericans eventually interfered, but Taker fought them off. When Test attempted to hit Taker with a chair, Taker kicked it into his face and hit the Tombstone for the win. Taker got an American flag from a fan in the crowd and held it in the air while standing on the ropes. Nothing memorable at all. (*3/4)
(7) Shawn Michaels pinned Triple H at 27:50. Michaels wore jeans and cowboy boots, but no shirt. He looked in shape, but thinner than during his peak years in the ring. Michaels attacked Triple H at the start. The match was really soundly booked, down to little details such as Michaels foreshadowing use of a trash can lid early in the match, and then successfully bashing Triple H with it much later. When Triple H got in his first sustained offense early, Ross played up that Michaels might end up in a wheelchair. The times Michaels took over there was usually a built in excuse, such as Triple H being preoccupied with the ref. They brawled at ringside a lot, and got in some good spots with chairs, tables, and even ladders. When it seemed Triple H had Michaels defeated, out of nowhere Michaels superkicked a chair into Triple H's face, but it seemed more a "last gasp" than a "comeback." The fans were buying into every hope spot and comeback. Triple H bled heavily after the chairshot. At 25:00 Michaels nailed Triple H with a fire extinguisher, then set him on the table, then climbed to the top rope, signalled by wagging his finger by his ear that he must be crazy, and then dove onto him, crashing through the table. The crowd chanted "Holy Sh--!" Michaels then dove off the top of the ladder with an elbow. Triple H kicked Michaels in the gut and set up the Pedigree, but Michaels quickly flipped onto Triple H and bridged into a pin attempt and he scored the three count upset. Michaels celebrated as the crowd stood and cheered. Triple H rammed Michaels from behind with a sledge hammer to cut the celebration short. He hit him a second time as the crowd booed. Michaels was out cold. The match surpassed everyone's expectations. (****1/2)
Howard Finkle did a brief skit in the ring with Trish that ended with Lillian Garcia attacking him. It was just padding to give the crowd a breather.
(8) Brock Lesnar (w/Paul Heyman) beat Rock to capture the WWE Title at 15:58. Cole and Tazz did commentary. Lesnar began with aggressive offense which may have been enough to make him "the man" in the eyes of the fans, as a sizable percentage began cheering him early on, although there were also "Rocky, Rocky" chants. Rock's first comeback was booed by many fans. Heyman interfered several times, but that wasn't enough to turn fans against Lesnar. When Rock gave Brock an early Sharpshooter, the boos became too loud to ignore. Then a "Letâ€˜s go Lesnar" chant began. Tazz acknowledged the split crowd for the first time, saying, "Some like Rock, some like Brock Lesnar, the crowd has a choice." Rock put Heyman through a table at ringside. At 15:00 Rock hit the Spinebuster, but as he set up the People's Elbow, Brock got up and nailed him with a clothesline. Brock set up his finisher, but Rock escaped and went for a Rock Bottom. Brock elbowed out of that, and then set up his finisher again. He gave Rock his finisher and went for the cover and scored the clean three count. The crowd popped huge as if the babyface won. Cole proclaimed that Brock was now the youngest WWE Champion in history. Brock came through well in his first true big test as a headliner, and a lot of the credit goes to Rock. (***3/4)
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