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.
Whenever I'm asked what SummmerSlam shows are the greatest and/or my favorite of all-time, I would be remiss if I didn't include the 2002 installment. It is widely regarded by fans as one of the best pay-per-views period, and even though I wasn't a fan at the time it occurred, watching the event in its entirety for the first time back in 2014 was a treat to say the least. Thus, it shouldn't come as any surprise that you will see a handful of matches from that show on this elusive list.
One of the main reasons why the event is remembered so fondly by fans is because of how the show started with Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio opening the event on a high note. Needless to say, this SummerSlam is filled with extraordinary wrestling, but you can't get much better than Angle vs. Mysterio, a dream match for many upon Mysterio's arrival in WWE. He debuted on the SmackDown brand a mere month before this bout, so he had the opportunity of a lifetime when he faced Angle at the August extravaganza.
Before we break down this marvelous match, let's take a brief moment to appreciate how great of a year Angle had in 2002. While he wouldn't win world title gold until December's Armageddon event, he was contesting potential Match of the Year candidates on a near-monthly basis with the likes of The Rock, The Undertaker, Edge, Chris Benoit, and eventually Mysterio. Hell, he managed to get a good match out of Hulk Hogan at King of the Ring that year! And his strong streak of stellar PPV matches would continue at SummerSlam.
Heading into the event, Mysterio was in the driver's seat, despite being fresh on the scene in WWE. He owned a victory over Angle in tag team action, in addition to costing him a match on SmackDown against Billy Kidman. The Master of the 619 was also the master of mind games, and that surely worked to his advantage in this one-on-one affair. But being the seasoned veteran he was, Angle wasn't going to allow Mysterio get one over on him so easily.
First and foremost, this match was perfectly positioned in the opening slot of SummerSlam. Granted, it would have done well at any other part of the card, but the crowd was engaged in the action the entire time and as noted, Mysterio and Angle did a wonderful job of setting the bar for the rest of the night. Obviously, their two styles meshed very nicely with Angle constantly utilizing his technical wrestling prowess and Mysterio dodging his attempts at every turn with his impressive quickness.
Those aforementioned mind games came into play early on as Mysterio attacked Angle from behind before the bell even rang. No more than a minute into the matchup, Angle went for his patented ankle lock and Mysterio looked to connect with the 619, but neither man was successful. From there, they put on a wrestling clinic and brawled some more, with Angle on offense more often than not. His smug smirk seemed to indicate he thought he had the match in the bag, but Mysterio put up one hell of a fight versus the Olympic Gold Medalist.
Just as Mysterio started to battle back, Angle met with him with a series of suplexes, similar to those executed on John Cena at the hands of Brock Lensar 12 years later. But Mysterio didn't stay down for long, launching himself over the referee and the top rope to land straight on his adversary on the outside. Unfortunately for the former Cruiserweight Champion, a springboard legdrop, a 619 and a Dropping the Dime weren't enough to put Angle away, who ultimately forced Mysterio to tap out to the ankle lock to close out an exciting contest.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #16: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam 2014"