SummerSlam 2002

WWE Championship
The Rock (c) vs. Brock Lesnar
Brock has been pushed to the moon since debuting the night after WrestleMania only five short months ago. He has been allowed to destroy everyone he has encountered, including one Hulk Hogan. Not Steve Austin though, who famously walked out of RAW because he thought the creative that called for him to put Brock over in a throwaway match was idiotic. It was, but the fact WWE were going to do it shows how serious they are about Brock. His opponent had a similarly explosive career trajectory, though it took him a comparatively mammoth two years from his debut to become the WWE Champion. Kurt Angle, who of course like Lesnar is a former amateur wrestler, did it in less than a year. Lesnar’s rise is even more astonishing, though a little less organic. Kurt got over to that level because of how good he was. Brock is at this level so soon because WWE wants him to be and has forced him to be.

If Brock has an inferiority complex going into a match with the mainstream superstar, he doesn’t show it. Rather he dominates immediately, catching Rock with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex and then going to town on him. Not for the first time on a major pay-per-view this year, the crowd turn on Rock and start cheering for the heel. They are resentful that Rock is trading his tights and boots for the lights and cameras of Hollywood, and they are not shy about letting him know it. Chants of “Rocky sucks,” ring around the arena as Rock fires up, and New York respond with loud cheers when Paul Heyman interferes to help his charge. A double nip up spot pops the crowd, which it should because it looks kick ass, and the few in the crowd who don’t know that Rock is done after this show start chanting for him. It’s obviously women who find him too irresistible to boo, and children who don’t know what is going on. Rock applies a shitty Sharpshooter, prompting a loud “Let’s go Lesnar,” chant from the crowd. At this point Rock realises that he is the heel, and makes the same decision Shawn Michaels made at Survivor Series ’96 against Sycho Sid, deciding to play villain due to the reaction of the live crowd rather than sticking to the script and playing to the much more substantial PPV audience. Personally I don’t mind that, because at least it gives the match heat. It is better than pretending otherwise by playing ignorant and dumb.

Lesnar goes to the Hogan-killing bearhug of doom, which Rock fights out of to loud boos. Rock goes low and pulls some angry facials, quite comfortable slipping into the role of resident asshole. Rock switches the pacing so that he delivers a beating to Brock, taking him out with a clothesline on the floor and slingshotting him into the ring post. Heyman doesn’t escape either, as Rock drills him through the announce table with Rock Bottom. That gets him cheered by everyone, because no one likes Heyman. Rock looks to finish Lesnar with the same move, but Lesnar kicks out to big pop. “Let’s go Lesnar,” chants New York, who now firmly believe he can win. Lesnar hits a Rock Bottom of his own, but Rock kicks out. Spinebuster from Rock, but Lesnar pops up before the People’s Elbow and hits a clothesline. Brock goes for the F-5, which Rock avoids, they trade attempts at their finishers, then Brock finally hits the F-5 for the win at the title. Good match, fun crowd, and one helluva finish. Like Shawn-Hunter, this meant so much more at the time, but it is still really entertaining to watch back.

Final Rating: ***½


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