2002 was one of the most pivotal years in professional wrestling history. Following arguably the most popular years of wrestling history in the Attitude Era and Monday Night Wars from 1995-2001, a new era had big shoes to fill in order to maintain viewer interest. With WWE officially defeating their competition in 2001 with the end of WCW, the concentration shifted to commencing a new era for fans to experience.
After WWE tried to maintain the war against WCW and ECW with the Invasion angle, 2002 marked more of an emphasis on building new stars. As a result, names such as John Cena and Randy Orton were at the first stages of becoming notable names. In addition, WCW stars such as Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Booker T, as well as ECW star Rob Van Dam increased their popularity as WWE competitors. One name, however, helped give the WWE it’s newest, and biggest, heavyweight attraction.
Brock Lesnar’s WWE Debut and Meteroric Rise
WWE SummerSlam 2002 – held at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, – was a pivotal moment for WWE, as it was the dawn of NCAA Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar. Lesnar debuted alongside Paul Heyman on the Raw after WrestleMania of the same year, destroying Al Snow, Maven, and Spike Dudley.
Just two months after his debut, Lesnar defeated RVD to win the King of the Ring tournament, which guaranteed a WWE Undisputed Championship match at SummerSlam. At SummerSlam, Lesnar defeated The Rock to win the WWE Championship in the main event, having one of the most meteoric rises in pro wrestling history.
SummerSlam 2002 Matches
In addition at Lesnar’s SummerSlam WWE title match win, several other impressive matches occurred at the pay-per-view. Mysterio, who debuted in WWE just two months earlier, was unsuccessful against Kurt Angle. 16-time world champion Ric Flair was able to defeat Chris Jericho, as well as RVD winning the Intercontinental Championship against Chris Benoit. The Un-Americans tag team of Lance Storm & Christian retained their WWE Tag Team Championship against Booker T & Goldust, and Edge defeated Eddie Guerrero.
Kurt Angle was able to pick up one of his biggest victories of his career, defeating Hulk Hogan by submission. Test had a major opportunity by competing against The Undertaker, but the match concluded with Undertaker executing a tombstone piledriver and holding up the American flag. Shawn Michaels returned to the ring in his first match in over four years to compete against Triple H in an Unsanctioned Street Fight. The match lasted nearly 30 minutes, with HBK ending up victorious.
Lesnar’s Shocking Return at Money in the Bank
17 years later, Lesnar has become one of the most successful competitors in WWE history. Along with being a four-time WWE Champion and a two-time Universal Champion, Lesnar made a surprising return at WWE Money in the Bank after losing the Universal Championship to Seth Rollins at WrestleMania.
Lesnar allegedly attacked Sami Zayn earlier in the show, and entered the MITB match as the eighth participant at the conclusion of the match. Lesnar seized the briefcase, winning the match and contract to cash-in against the Universal or WWE Champion.