WWE's Undisputed Champions
At WWE TLC, WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena to unify the two titles and become the first-ever WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Unsurprisingly, The Viper’s historic achievement has drawn comparisons to the Undisputed Championship, which brought together the WWE Title and the WCW World Title in 2002.
In the wake of this monumental shift in the title picture, WWE.com looks back at the six Undisputed Champions that reigned supreme during summer 2002 following the unification of the WCW and WWE Championships.
Following the WCW/ECW invasion of 2001, the WCW World Heavyweight Title remained active in WWE with Superstars like Booker T and Kurt Angle carrying the championship. For a time, WWE promoted two World Champions, but at Vengeance 2001, the first-ever Undisputed Champion was crowned following a tournament.
That night, on Dec. 9, 2001, Chris Jericho defeated The Rock to claim the WCW World Title and advance. By the end of the evening, Y2J came face to face with the WWE Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who had beaten Angle. During the bout, absolute chaos reigned supreme with The Rock, Angle, Booker T, Ric Flair and Mr. McMahon all getting involved. However, Booker T took out Austin with the WWE Title, allowing Jericho to secure the pinfall and become WWE’s first-ever Undisputed Champion.
WrestleMania X-8 will long be remembered as the site of the “Icon vs. Icon” encounter between The Rock and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan, but the main event in Toronto’s SkyDome pitted Undisputed Champion Chris Jericho against Triple H.
Leading into the contest, Jericho had momentum in his favor. Defeating The Rock and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to capture the first-ever Undisputed Championship propelled Y2J to new heights, and defeating Triple H at The Show of Shows would make him virtually unstoppable. In addition, Jericho had the support of Stephanie McMahon, making the odds seemingly insurmountable for The Game to overcome. Nevertheless, The Cerebral Assassin proved how good he truly was by defeating Jericho to become the second Undisputed Champion.
Following his victory, Triple H unveiled the WWE Undisputed Championship — a title that captured the majesty of both the WWE and World Heavyweight Titles.
A month after the WWE Universe witnessed the dream match between The Rock and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X-8, they were treated to another seemingly unimaginable bout when Triple H defended the WWE Undisputed Championship against Hulk Hogan at Backlash.
At the time, Hogan had returned to his classic red and yellow colors and the WWE Universe experienced a massive resurgence of Hulkamania. Many doubted that The Hulkster could keep pace with a Cerebral Assassin who was very much in his prime, but Hogan was poised to prove that “Hulk Still Rules.”
Neither Hogan nor Triple H could maintain a dominant advantage during the clash. In an effort to ensure Triple H’s victory and a title opportunity, Chris Jericho attacked Hogan, but The Game refused to win in such a manner. Hogan reciprocated when The Undertaker attacked Triple H with the same motivations as Jericho. Hogan dropped The Deadman, and then executed his patented Atomic Leg Drop to ensure victory against The Cerebral Assassin and win the Undisputed Championship.
Hulk Hogan’s victory at Backlash ensured that The Undertaker would have an opportunity to challenge for the Undisputed WWE Championship. More than a decade earlier in 1991, The Undertaker defeated The Hulkster at Survivor Series to claim his first WWE Championship. The Phenom was poised to come full circle at Judgment Day 2002 and defeat Hogan for the Undisputed Championship.
Similar to his bout against Triple H at Backlash, Hogan once again proved that he still had the ability to go toe-to-toe with WWE’s best. Relentless in his offense, The Hulkster forced The Undertaker to readjust his strategy throughout much of the contest. As the titans of WWE battled back and forth, Mr. McMahon went to ringside to exchange heated words with Hogan. The Undisputed Champion delivered an Atomic Leg Drop to The Chairman, but in turn allowed The Deadman to attack with a steel chair. Unable to hulk up following the crushing blow, Hogan’s final WWE title reign ended at the hands of The Undertaker.
Following interference from The Rock that nearly cost The Undertaker the Undisputed Championship at King of the Ring 2002, The Deadman requested a match against The Great One. In the weeks that followed, The Phenom battled Kurt Angle to a draw, making the case for The Olympic Hero to have an Undisputed Title opportunity. The answer was simple — a Triple Threat Match for the Undisputed Title at Vengeance.
The battle that raged inside Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena kept the WWE Universe on the edge of their seats with each Superstar proving he would make a worthy Undisputed Champion. Alliances were forged and broken, momentum swings were short-lived and near-falls were abundant. Angle, The Rock and The Undertaker threw everything they had in their respective arsenals at each other, but it would be the final sequence that determined the winner.
The Deadman took down The Rock with a big boot and, in turn, The Olympic Hero took out the Undertaker with an Angle Slam. Quickly recovering, The Great One executed a Rock Bottom on Angle and secured the pinfall — and the Undisputed Championship — seconds before The Phenom could break up the pin.
SummerSlam 2002 saw Brock Lesnar’s opportunity to secure his place in history in his rookie year in WWE by challenging The Rock for the Undisputed Championship. The Anomaly earned the opportunity by winning the King of the Ring tournament. However, few believed that Lesnar could actually defeat The Great One for the title — let alone at age 25.
At The Biggest Party of the Summer, Lesnar immediately proved he was a force to be reckoned with, dominating The Great One with an array of powerful maneuvers. However, experience was on The Rock’s side and he staved off an early defeat and proceeded to provide his young challenger with an uphill struggle. Paul Heyman tried to get involved in the bout, but was sent crashing through the Spanish announce table following a Rock Bottom. Proving his resilience and pure endurance, Lesnar countered a People’s Elbow and executed the F-5 to become the youngest WWE Champion in history.
Following Lesnar’s victory, the WWE Championship became exclusive to SmackDown, resulting in Eric Bischoff unveiling the World Heavyweight Championship as a Raw-exclusive title. As a result, the WWE Title was disputed until WWE Champion Randy Orton defeated World Heavyweight Champion John Cena at WWE TLC on Dec. 15, 2013.