Takin' it to the street
In the world of sports-entertainment, our fans' memories are often manifested by events that transpire inside the squared circle. On Aug. 25, 2002, particularly timeless recollections could be found everywhere around the ring within Uniondale, N.Y.'s Nassau County Veterans Coliseum. Skull-imprinted dents on steel chairs, crimson-drenched ring steps, the splintered remains of a table broken on the outside floor…. For Triple H and Shawn Michaels, their unsanctioned Street Fight was a blood-soaked embodiment of brutality they'd rather soon forget. For our fans, it's WWE.com's No. 6 Greatest SummerSlam Moment.
It had been more than four years since WrestleMania XIV, four years since a broken back had forced Michaels out of the ring, seemingly forever. In the summer of 2002, former best friend and fellow D-Generation X member Triple H decided to forcibly remind the returning Michaels that his career as "The Showstopper" was over -- by jumping HBK in an arena parking lot, and smashing his face into a car window.
Amazingly, an assault that would have forever shattered most men only prompted Michaels to come out of ring retirement and challenge the Cerebral Assassin to a match at SummerSlam. The only stipulation that both men could agree on was that it wouldn't be a typical match decided by some pinfall or submission; it would be a Street Fight, with the sole intention of maiming each other.
That even WWE officials refused to sanction Triple H and Michaels' Street Fight was testament that said contest would provide off-the-chart levels of pain and suffering. And that's precisely how it played out at the Biggest Party of the Summer. Every potential weapon seemed fair game in this foul battle, and both Superstars used them with vicious, almost gory precision.
Triple H proved particularly sadistic in his attempts to remind HBK that he was no longer physically capable of being WWE's "Main Eventer." Yet Michaels' legendary resolve appeared to grow only stronger with every passing blow. Even more incredibly, his ring form as the HBK of days gone by returned with each high-risk maneuver he executed -- including a flying elbow drop off the top of a ladder, the very item that had first catapulted Michaels to WWE Superstardom.
Every fan inside the Nassau County Veterans Coliseum remained on their feet for each cringe-inducing punch, every bone-crunching kick or slam. Yet in the end, over-the-top-rope planchas and crashing through a table on the outside wouldn't win this SummerSlam Street Fight; instead, it was a resourceful Michaels countering Triple H's Pedigree with an "old-school" rollup for the three-count.
The incensed Cerebral Assassin would vent his frustration afterward by savagely pummeling The Showstopper from behind with his personal equalizer, the sledgehammer, and sending his former friend to a medical facility. Yet there was no amount of pulverizing that could destroy Shawn Michaels' incredible accomplishment that night -- an accomplishment which emphasized to our fans that HBK was indeed back, and this time, he was here to stay.