By Graham "GSM" Matthews
Here on SummerSlam Recall, I will be ranking my top 20 favorite matches in WWE SummerSlam history. A new installment will be posted every day leading up to SummerSlam 2016, culminating with my No. 1 favorite match on Saturday, August 20th. Each article will offer an in-depth look at each match and an analysis of why it is among my favorites.
I often talk about my retrospective admiration for 2005 in WWE (meaning I wasn't watching at the time but looking back I appreciate how awesome of a year it was), and 2002 was no different. From the institution of the Brand Split to the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton and others to SmackDown catching fire, there was a lot to love about 2002, including its incredible SummerSlam pay-per-view that hailed from the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island.
I already discussed how stacked of a show it was earlier on in SummerSlam Recall when I reviewed Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, so I'll try no to echo those same thoughts here, but it was quite the perfect storm for WWE. Speaking of the perfect storm (what a segue!), SummerSlam was destined to be Brock Lesnar's night, who after months of running rampant over the Raw roster, was ready to take his place atop the card as the new WWE Champion.
It is definitely a different dynamic when you look back at this bout. Since his arrival on Raw the night after WrestleMania 18, Lesnar had been built up to be this unstoppable monster, decimating everything and everyone who dared to step foot in his path of destruction. Hell, he even annihilated fan favorite Hulk Hogan and put him on the shelf for months on end! There was nothing redeemable about this guy other than he was a fresh face, yet the fans respected that greatly.
Meanwhile, The Rock was the farthest thing from a fresh face in WWE. He had only been around for six years, which is nothing compared to the likes of Big Show and even John Cena this day and age, but the audience was tired of him, nevertheless. They were simply resentful of how he kept leaving to go film movies only to return and take the WWE Championship for himself. If the fans had their way, that would cease at SummerSlam when Lesnar contended for the gold against The Great One.
All that said, the crowd was firmly behind The Beast throughout this bout. He had been well-received as a ruthless antagonist in the months preceding the pay-per-view, but something about this rowdy crowd in Long Island turned the tide in his favor. Similar to at WrestleMania 18, The Rock was vehemently booed by the audience, though that didn't stop him from putting forth an exceptional effort in attempt to retain his title at all costs and prove he could still hang with the best of them in the twilight of his career.
As such, Rock wasted no time in taking the fight to the hungry challenger, rushing to the ring the second his music hit the Nassau Coliseum. It wasn't long before their brawl spilled out of the ring and into the crowd, and once Lesnar regained control of the match, he went back to working over The Great One. Granted, Paul Heyman made his presence known at various points during the matchup, but make no mistake about it: Lesnar was fully capable of conquering Rock all on his own.
Brock's performance on this night wasn't nearly as dominant as it was 12 years later at the same event, and in fact, he was spent spiraling into the ring post on the outside by Rock. When The Brahma Bull took Heyman out of the equation with a Rock Bottom through the commentary table, Lesnar's chances of triumph were put into question. However, after powering out of a Rock Bottom and delivering an F5 of his own, he was crowned the new champion, and thus, a star had been born.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #13: Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian, SummerSlam 2013"