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Triple H vs. Rob Van Dam for the World Heavyweight Championship

Four years before he finally won the WWE Championship, Rob Van Dam got a rare shot at the World Heavyweight Championship when he challenged Triple H in the highly anticipated semi-main event of the 2002 version of Unforgiven.

Triple H was only two weeks into his sixth World Championship reign when he arrived at Unforgiven. The Championship had literally been handed to him by RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff after World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar left RAW to sign an exclusive contract with SmackDown.

Van Dam had already won WWE gold in the form of the Intercontinental Championship, but had yet to reach the top of the mountain in the WWE. The high-rising ECW icon came prepared for battle at Unforgiven, and at one point he was just seconds away from becoming the World Heavyweight Champion before an outside source would cost him his shot at the gold.

The contest provided for the ultimate styles clash. Triple H had the overwhelming advantage in strength and experience in championship matches. RVD possessed the edge in speed and agility, and the contrast provided for the most interesting of sports-entertainment matches.

Early on, Triple H kept Van Dam grounded. The Cerebral Assassin took the action to the outside, battering the ECW veteran from pillar to post, throwing him into the ring steps and barricade to disable the high flyer. For a while, it appeared as though Triple H would have an easy night and easy defense of his World Heavyweight Championship, until the resilient Van Dam fought back.

A motivated Van Dam was able to turn the tables, taking advantage of his speed to pick his spots and alluded the seasoned champ. Van Dam eventually reached into his arsenal and unleashed an aerial assault, bringing Triple H’s title reign to the brink of extinction.

Unfortunately for Van Dam, an untimely accident involving the referee would provide the distraction that allowed Triple H to survive as Champion for another day. In the midst of the action, the referee was inadvertently knocked unconscious. Van Dam hit the Five Star Frog Splash, but with the official down, there was nobody to make the count.

As Van Dam tried to resuscitate the referee, Triple H came to his senses and hit the aspiring champion with a low blow. With the referee still out of it, the King of Kings went outside to retrieve his favorite weapon, the sledgehammer. Upon his re-entry to the ring however, Van Dam was ready and spin kicked the sledgehammer out of the Cerebal Assassins hands.

With both men down, an energized Ric Flair made his way to the ring. For several weeks, the Nature Boy and longtime friend Triple H had been at odds, leaving many to believe that their relationship was over. Flair was not known as the dirtiest player in the game for nothing though, and he quickly showed what the saying was all about.

Flair picked up the sledgehammer and it appeared to the WWE fans that he was about to knock Triple H out of his boots with the object. Instead, Flair swung and connected with RVD, setting the high-flyer up for a devastating Pedigree, and a three count. Once again, Triple H had pulled out the victory, and remained, the King of Kings. 

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