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.
Once again, we revisit SummerSlam 2002 here on SummerSlam Recall, which should come as zero surprise given how star-studded the card is from top to bottom. As much as I enjoyed Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio in the opener and The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar in the main event, my favorite matchup of the night was undoubtedly the No Holds Barred co-main event between Triple H and Shawn Michaels, a match that had been nearly five years in the making.
On the July 22, 2002 edition of Raw, Michaels (who had a random run with the New World Order) and HHH (who had just been moved over from SmackDown) reunited as D-Generation X for the first time in several years, and the fans were hot for it. They did their usual shtick... until HHH surprised his "best friend" with a Pedigree to the stomach, leaving the audience shocked, stunned and silent. What motivated The Game to promptly stab his longtime partner in the back? Why, Trips, why?!
The following week, Michaels was "mysteriously" attacked in the parking lot, and the search began to find out who the culprit was. The thing that I never understood (and I wasn't watching at the time so perhaps someone can help me out), is how no one (in storyline) assumed it was Triple H from the get-go. Even The Heartbreak Kid needed to review the video evidence to assure himself it was HHH... despite the fact he was ambushed by him a mere week earlier. Should we chalk that up to silly wrestling logic?
At any rate, Michaels later revealed that the doctors said he would make a fully recovery from the attack by SummerSlam, where he would wrestle his first match since WrestleMania 14 four and a half years earlier. I say "match," but as a Street Fight, it was anything but your average wrestling competition. The amazing video package covered up the aforementioned logic gaps and made fans desperately want to see HBK give his former friend his comeuppance in the form of a brutal beating at SummerSlam.
Let me repeat myself: Michaels hadn't stepped in the squared circle as an active competitor in nearly five years. Fans had no idea what type of shape he would be in when he reentered the ring, and if he would be the HBK of old. As they soon discovered, he was every bit as good if not better than he was before, having not lost a step and not showing any signs of ring rust whatsoever. As a result, Michaels surprised not only the fans but also HHH, who completely underestimated his opponent.
As previously mentioned, this was the farthest thing from a true match, but as a brawl, it was extremely entertaining, and different from everything else on the card. Neither man couldn't care less about emerging victorious. Sure, it would have granted them bragging rights, but rather, they were more hell-bent on inflicting as much pain as possible on the other, and in an environment where nothing was off the limits, they had free range to do just that.
In what was a fight for the ages, HBK and HHH literally pulled everything of their respective arsenals in an attempt to put the other away, but to no avail. As such, it was only fitting that Michaels scored the win by the skin of his teeth via a roll-up, only to be blindsided from behind by Triple H afterward. That kept the feud alive for a few more months, nay, years! From an Elimination Chamber to Hell in a Cell to Three Stages of Hell, I would argue that nothing could beat this bout.
SEE ALSO: "SummerSlam Recall, Match #9: The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar, SummerSlam 2015"