Remember when: The night Brock first tasted championship gold

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August 09, 2012

In the 10 years that have passed since SummerSlam, there's no doubt that both Lesnar and The Rock have become more cerebral competitors. But in August 2002, the two giants of sports-entertainment were perhaps in their athletic primes. On his seventh reign as WWE Champion by that point, The Rock entered the arena as lean and agile as ever — the result of a stepped-up strength and conditioning program. Lesnar was characteristically burly, yet hiccup-quick. Neither Superstar would let subpar physical conditioning be the reason for losing the match.

That much was made clear by the pre-match hype video, which conjured up thoughts of Rocky Balboa and contributed to one of the most anticipatory builds toward a championship bout in WWE history. (WATCH) The WWE Universe watched with curiosity as cameramen filmed Lesnar's and The Rock's training sessions. In true outdoorsman form, the farm-strong Lesnar did road work while carrying a massive log on his shoulder. He relentlessly practiced sit-out drills and worked over a heavy bag. At the end, Lesnar jumped into an ice bath. The Rock, conversely, ran up the steps of the Orange Bowl, which was the home field for his 1991 National Championship Miami Hurricanes football team. The Great One was also shown performing foot-speed drills, leaping hurdles and muscling through sets of towel-assisted pull-ups.

Their intensified training proved necessary, as the Lesnar-Rock match got off to a furious pace and never let up. The two heavyweights plowed each other over with clotheslines and took turns whipping one another into the ringside barrier. The Nassau Coliseum crowd reacted to each big move as if it had match-ending ramifications. Lesnar defiantly pounded his chest after absorbing several big knockdown attempts by The Rock. The Great One somehow managed to survive Lesnar’s death grip of a bear hug — the same maneuver that had incapacitated Hogan only weeks earlier. Late in the match, when both men were knocked down and the referee began administering the 10-count, Lesnar and The Rock both simultaneously kipped up at five, further proving they were an even matchup.

However, nearly 20 minutes after the opening bell — following a “Brock Bottom” by Lesnar and a distraction by Heyman — Lesnar gained the upper hand in a quick exchange and lifted The Rock into the F-5. A pulverizing propeller swing later, The Brahma Bull was down on the mat and a 25-year-old Lesnar was the brand-new champion. Though Heyman had inserted himself into the action, that footnote did little to diminish the significance of Lesnar’s victory. (FULL MATCH)

As Jericho points out, the Undisputed WWE Title had become something of a hot potato by mid-2002, having bounced from Jericho to Triple H to Hogan to The Undertaker to The Rock in a matter of four months. But, Lesnar’s first title reign ended up lasting a relatively stable three months, and it all began with a hot main event at SummerSlam.

“It just brought [the title] back to a certain level because it was the first really big match, I think, that Brock had and he was really hot, and obviously, The Rock was still The Rock, even though people knew he was on his way out to do movies,” Jericho recalled. “It was almost a changing-of-the-guard, passing-of-the-torch vibe, which is really interesting, and I think the reason why the crowd reacted the way it did.”

A decade later, Lesnar will again main event The Biggest Party of the Summer, this time against Triple H in a true “Perfect Storm” of a match. Will he be able to repeat history with another remarkable win? (MATCH PREVIEW)

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