When the Attitude Era ended, Summer Slam was nothing but a Pay Per View with a lot of attitude, and the 2002 Summer Slam card did not disappoint. The match of the night pitted the current WWE Undisputed Heavyweight Champion, The Rock against Brock Lesnar.
Flanking the powerful rookie Brock Lesnar was Paul Heyman. In previous weeks, Lesnar was running all over the WWE Raw and Smackdown rosters. The brand split was a way to feature wrestlers that normally wouldn’t get the time on the worldwide broadcasts. With the emergence of Lesnar on Raw, laying out everyone in his path including the legendary Hardy Boys, not many people would step up and challenge the beast. However, there was another former collegiate athlete that felt that his presence was needed, and The Rock stepped up to the plate to challenge Lesnar at Summer Slam and put his Undisputed Title up for grabs.
The Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York was buzzing with anticipation with the thoughts of the chances of a newly crowned Undisputed Champion. The 14,000 fans in attendance were about to witness history in a matter of hours and they didn’t even know it. The Rock had the pedigree of being a third generation superstar, but he had never faced a man with the brute strength of Lesnar.
Rock had a huge hill to climb if he wanted to retain is title, but he was the wrestler that could do it.
He had all the talent and the training to overcome the things that he was lacking in this historic match. The company had never seen anyone like Brock Lesnar. The size, strength, and agility wasn’t seen to that point in the company's history. The WWE had an abundance of talented wrestlers - men and women. With the recent closing of WCW still fresh in a lot of fans' minds, we saw men like Booker T, Rey Mysterio, and Ric Flair who were WCW staples wrestling in the company. These men and many others who were extremely talented couldn’t measure up to the talent that Lesnar had at this time.
If it wasn’t for The Rock “putting him over” I don’t believe we would’ve seen Lesnar make such an impact on the business that he would in the coming years.
If there was any match that could follow the “Unsanctioned Match” between Triple H and the returning Shawn Michaels, it was without question this match. The build was unlike any match at this time. Everyone's favorite wrestler was The Rock trying to slay the beast that is Brock Lesnar. It was a match that would shape the careers of both of these men and so man other future wrestlers that were watching live in person and at home on pay per view. The training class that Lesnar was part of was and forever will be, the best class to ever come out of the developmental system in WWE. Long time fans of professional wrestling know the list of wrestlers that came to the company, so I will not list all the very talented people that came to the company from OVW. The unprecedented build up to the match led to the moment of reckoning at Summer Slam. When the moment was upon us and as the match went on, the crowd went from Pro Rock and quickly turned in the champion and aligned themselves with the challenger.
As the match progressed, we saw the complete dominance of the champion as Brock Lesnar dismantled The Rock move by move and hold by hold. Lesnar broke Rock down to the point that Rock ultimately had to take the match to the outside. With Paul Heyman in the corner of the challenger he was endlessly injecting himself into the match to benefit his client. With each near fall, Rock kept battling against the “Next Big Thing.” Rock then turned to using the ring post as a weapon against Lesnar's head and then gave Paul Heyman a “Rock Bottom” through the announcer table at ringside. Most thought that would keep the beast down, but Lesnar had other plans giving Rock his own finisher for a near fall and kicking out of the “People's Elbow and Rock Bottom.” With each counter, Lesnar finally hit the F5 on Rock and pinned him to become the youngest heavyweight champion to that date (Randy Orton later became the youngest champion.).
With The Rock “passing the torch” to Brock Lesnar, it clearly shaped the next decade of the WWE. This match shaped not only 2002 as a whole, it shaped fans. Lesnar soon became a force that most wrestlers couldn’t match up to. Over the next number of years, Lesnar and Rock moved onto bigger and better things outside the company. However, the end game would always be the return of both of them to the company. Regardless of wheter there was a title on the line, or if it was simply a singles match, these two competitors always put on matches that would go into the record books as some of the best matches of all time.