Remember when: The night Brock first tasted championship gold

Remember when: The night Brock first tasted championship gold

In the annals of sports-entertainment, few calls are as inexcusably underrated as the way in which Michael Cole closed out SummerSlam 2002.

“Brock Lesnar has defeated The Rock! Brock Lesnar is champion!” Cole announced after the bell had rung, signaling the end of the Undisputed WWE Championship bout between two former NCAA national champions. ( HYPE VIDEO | FULL MATCH)

At age 25, Lesnar toppled The Great One to become the youngest WWE Champion in history. The barrel-chested rookie from the woods of Minnesota couldn't have asked for a better way to notch the glorious achievement. That night, the frenzied Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum hosted a WWE Universe of split allegiances, though if a crowd favorite had to be chosen, let it be known that the chants of "Let's Go, Lesnar" and "Rocky Sucks" significantly drowned out the cries of "Rocky, Rocky."

Having already cruised to victory in the King of the Ring tournament and dealt Hulk Hogan a decisive loss within the first six months of his WWE career, “The Next Big Thing” rolled into SummerSlam with monster truck force. Though he was then, as he is now, tied at the hip to Paul Heyman, the WWE Universe was so in awe of Lesnar’s destructive energy that a significant portion of the crowd in New York couldn’t help but to root for him, even as he opposed the much beloved Most Electrifying Man in All of Entertainment.

Chris Jericho, who competed that night against Ric Flair and held the same Undisputed WWE Championship earlier in the year, vividly remembers how raucous the Long Island, N.Y., crowd was for the Lesnar-Rock match.

“This was before the ‘Let’s go, Cena’/’Cena Sucks’-type thing where it becomes more of a sports event and people are just cheering for who they like, not necessarily cheering the good guy or booing the bad guy,” Jericho said. “This time, it was like going to a Super Bowl and some fans are fans of the [New York] Giants, some are fans of the [New England] Patriots, and whoever’s doing well, they’re cheering for. It was a really special moment.”

Lesnar’s victory over The Rock wasn't easy, but in the end, the winner was academic. It was the young monster with the gold title strapped around his waist.

Remember when: The night Brock first tasted championship gold
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)

WWE Shows Latest Results

View all Shows