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[2002-08-25-WWE-Summerslam] The Rock vs Brock Lesnar

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WWE Champion The Rock vs Brock Lesnar - WWE Summerslam 2002

 

Really interesting crowd dynamics. Big Rocky Sucks chant early. Lets Go Lesnar when Lesnar is in the Sharpshooter. When Rock breaks out of the bearhug, big Rocky chants and as they push to the finish Lesnar sucks. Almost Japanese like in how they would cheer for the underdog of different points in the match.

 

The match is an entertaining main event, but it is just a hodgepdoge of the best hits of each and really does not have much rhyme or reason. Lesnar tried to be sensible in his approach, but Rock was all over the place. They start the match with Lesnar as the monster heel ala his Cena performance in 2014 where he throws Rock around and Rock looks like he has no hope. They have this injured ribs story that Lesnar goes back to, but Rock does not seem to give a fuck about. Then Rock is like fuck it lets do Clash of the Titans. So Lesnar does that. Then Lesnar goes into cheating, big bumping heel mode, but also does a monster bearhug. Early Lesnar is one of the most impressive bumpers ever. Rock starts to work underneath and then he is like fuck it lets do Attitude Era brawl spot. Lesnar takes a fucking ridiculous bump off a Rock right hand over the top rope and then catches wicked air on the catapult into the post. Rock puts Heyman through the table which was awesome. Finish sequence time. I forgot this was the height of finisher stealing so we get the Brock Bottom after a Rock Bottom. I liked the teases before we get the F5 to crown Brock as the new champ. Rock is selfless in the ring and did the job clean as a sheet in the middle. This match was all over the place. Still entertaining. Brock is just awesome to watch. ***

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People are sleeping on this match big. It doesn't have the crazy stunts of the HBK/HHH match from before this, but I've always found this to be a far more engaging match due to having a much more cohesive structure.

 

Rock takes it to Lesnar early, trying to sucker him into a brawl and it just doesn't work as Lesnar seemingly effortlessly throws him around like he's a gorilla in there. The cool thing about this match is Rock never beats Rock in any of the exchanges or overpowers him. I've often thought that Brock's first WWE run was a great missed opportunity with how you often had him pinball bumping around for guys half his size and playing the chickenshit heel, but there's none of that here. Rock gets over Brock as this monster from the beginning and never strays from that, only ever gaining the advantage by capitalizing off some mistake from Lesnar.

 

The crowd is also incredible and gives this match an unparalleled big match feel. This match represents an important turning point in WWE as they finally made a pronounced effort to move away from the Attitude Era stars and bullshit in the main events, and the crowd is up for the occasion as they cheer on Next Big Thing while he ascends to the throne. As great and fitting as the crowd is, though, possible even more important for the match is how The Rock acknowledges and responds to the crowd turning on him. It's a short moment, but it's really a sight to behold his look of shock as the crowd erupts into the first "Rocky sucks" chant of the match. There's some other cool moments of him jawing with the crowd throughout the match and even a low blow that was probably called on the spot.

 

Another cool moment of the match would be the spot with them both kipping up at the same time to really get across Lesnar as more than the monster of the month. They also have Lesnar hurting The Rock's ribs for a little bit to set up for a bearhug that actually functions as a really good callback to the finish of Lesnar/Hogan match. I think it's pretty impressive that they found a way to get the crowd to buy a bearhug as a credible near fall going right after HBK did all kinds of crazy shit.

 

I do have a few nitpicks, though. When Lesnar took the bump to the outside, I thought it looked a little too obvious that he was taking a jump over the top top and would have liked for something a little more impactful from Rocky to set it up rather than just a regular slap. I also thought they missed the peak of the match doing a couple shitty looking reversal attempts. I think it would have been a bigger exclamation point on the story they were telling if Brock just hit the F5 after murdering Rock with a clothesline off an attempted People's Elbow. But those are just minor flaws and do little to diminish what these guys did here.

 

This is actually a really good example of WWE making a star and following up on it well. Lesnar comes out looking like a beast whose only real issue is his inexperience, which is great to set up for the next feud against Undertaker. Meanwhile, Rock gives us shades of the Hollywood heel he would return as in a few months. I think this is a real feather in The Rock's cap as he plays off the crowd perfectly to give this match a big fight atmosphere that WWE has only rarely matched, getting Lesnar over big in the process. This is a match that never gets old for me no matter how many times I see it. ****1/4

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Between this and his performance in the Hogan match, The Rock was quite good in 2002. Pretty awesome subtle heel performance, adapting well to the crowd. Young Brock was also good: powerhouse and a bump machine. A really fun match. ***1/4


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Great main event. Brock had his first legitimately great match and got put over huge as a main eventer by The Rock no less. Brock's work on the ribs ruled. Probably the only guy who could work on the ribs in the way he did and make it compelling. You can buy it just looking at his arms. Rock solds it really well I thought. The match had some good brawling on the outside with Heyman getting took out but the bread and butter was when they were in the ring. The atmosphere was great too. Loved Brock and hated Rock. Made for an awesome dynamic and made Brock look even more of a star. ****1/4

 

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This is a star-making match for Lesnar, but I also thought that Rock's performance here was one of his best. Despite being the babyface going into this, the fans have soured on him so he instead decides to rile them up instead of being the babyface that he thought he was going to be when he stepped through the curtain on this night. After using it to score a clean win over Hogan, Brock's bear hug feels like it might actually end the match instead of feeling like a rest hold. Rock fighting out of the move was the last babyface thing he did before he embraces being a heel and striking Lesnar square in the balls. Rock's punch combo features extra taunting, a neat addition added solely to get under the audience's skin. Brock was decent here and he jumped through all the hoops that Rock (and Heyman to a lesser extent) set up for him. You start to see Lesnar's formula in play once you watch his old matches in order, but he's still got exceptional timing and pacing so such a young wrestler. ★★★★

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