After Brock Lesnar’s debut victory over Jeff Hardy at Backlash, the Hardy Boyz would get their chance at revenge the next month at Judgment Day. It wouldn’t go well.
Judgment Day 2002
Brock Lesnar & Paul Heyman def. The Hardy Boyz (4:47)
The Hardys get a jump start on Lesnar as Jim Ross calls Heyman “a human urinal.” I…don’t know what that means. Is Paul Heyman into watersports? As Lesnar takes control, the Nashville crowd chants “GOLDBERG.” Some things you can’t make up folks. Matt makes a hot tag to Jeff, who gets a run in on Brock, taking him down with a Whisper in the Wind. Matt and Jeff run wild, sending Lesnar to the floor and getting their shots in on Heyman. Brock cuts them off quickly, tossing Jeff into Matt before hitting the F5. Heyman begs for the tag, stumbles his way into the ring, and pins Jeff for the win in 4:47. Brock kept it simple for the most part, and Heyman was awesome at being the weasel heel that escaped getting what was coming to him. **1/2
One month later, Brock Lesnar was set to earn the biggest win of his WWE career. A win that would legitimize him in the eyes of WWE fans worldwide. He was set to beat Stone Cold Steve Austin in a King of the Ring Qualifying match. Even though he would get some help from Eddie Guerrero, it was still a win over one of the biggest stars in company history. However, Austin was already unhappy with his creative direction, and losing a match to an upcoming star on essentially no build felt like a waste of a loss to him. So he “took his ball and went home”, seemingly leaving Lesnar in the lurch. But as Brock recounts, a slight detour wouldn’t keep him from the destination.
“Paul pulled me aside and brought me two steaks from Vince’s office. He always stole a couple of Vince’s afternoon steaks and brought them to me. I never asked if Vince knew. I was just happy to get the prime cut. As I worked on the steak, Paul explained the new swerve: Vince himself was going to wrestle Ric Flair that night, in Atlanta—a battle between two fiftysomething guys—with the story-line being a winner-take-all bet for Vince’s story-line 50 percent of WWE ownership against Flair’s story-line 50 percent. But just when it looked to the crowd like Flair was going to beat Vince, I’d come down, jump into the ring, and cost Flair the match. Vince would then owe a huge favor to the Next Big Thing. According to our quickly prepared script, Paul was supposed to call in my favor for me by telling Vince, on national TV, that if I won at King of the Ring 2002 , I would get a title shot at the SummerSlam pay-per-view. The fans watching the show didn’t know it yet, but Vince had already decided to make me the youngest WWE Heavyweight Champion in history.”
The path to the Undisputed Championship was set. After two months, Brock Lesnar went from working OVW shows in Louisville, Kentucky to having a fast track to the biggest spot in pro wrestling. But for Brock Lesnar, the position as champion was not nearly as important as the paychecks he got from it.
“That’s just it. It was always about business for me. I wasn’t in it for the fame or the glory, though I had some fun with both for a little while. I was in it for the money. I wanted to feed my family, give my parents and my children the best lives that I could provide for them, and get out while I was still relatively young and healthy. That summer on my rocket ship to the top just flew by. I don’t really remember making my Madison Square Garden debut against Ric Flair, but I sure remember getting paid for it. I don’t remember how many times we went to the UK that summer, but I remember that my paycheck got bigger each and every time I went back. I don’t remember any specifics about the King of the Ring pay-per-view, but I remember it being by far the biggest payday I had to that point in my career.”
Lucky for you Brock, that’s why I’m here! After beating Bubba Ray Dudley and Booker T in the first two rounds, it was time for Brock to take the throne.
King of the Ring 2002 Semi-Finals
Brock Lesnar def. Test (8:18)
Test walks out like a man watching his push vanish before his eyes. Brock finally has the music he would keep for the rest of his WWE career. The Goldberg chants make their way to Columbus, Ohio. You can’t make this stuff up folks. Test is the default babyface here, so he gets a quick comeback before Brock cuts him off with the old MAIN EVENT SPINEBUSTER. Things get sloppy for a minute before Test hits a pumphandle slam for a nearfall. A big boot gets a big nearfall as the crowd starts getting into it. Test sets up for another boot when Heyman catches his attention, giving Brock the chance to drop Test with an F-5 for the win. The last 2 minutes of this were good, as the crowd really bit on the big boot nearfall. Everything else was very basic and tedious. **
King of the Ring Finals
Brock Lesnar def. Rob Van Dam (5:44)
These Brock matches are all having the same issue. Brock Lesnar is a dynamic performer with a strong amateur background, yet all he’s doing is basic big man clubberin’. I can’t wait to see when the switch flips, because I can’t blame these fans for not being into him. RVD tries to chop him down, but Brock catches him on a sunset flip attempt and puts him through the mat with a powerbomb. He then locks on a bearhug, before RVD fights out. We then fast forward to the finish, where RVD hits the Five Star Frog Splash. Heyman hooks him on the ropes, but RVD falls into the cover and a two-count. Lesnar catches RVD out of a jump and hits the F-5 to become the 2002 King of the Ring. Brock Lesnar is going to SummerSlam. ***
It may not be a surprise nowadays, but you may wonder why Brock seemed so business-oriented and cold toward the business this early into his career. Between the routine of life on the road and the political gamesmanship necessary to succeed, the lifestyle of a soon-to-be top guy in WWE was quickly becoming tiresome. In the book, Brock brings up advice that Curt Hennig gave him early in his training, advice that would quickly become his mantra on his pro wrestling journey.
“Meanwhile, while I’m going through the motions on the never-ending treadmill that road life had become, all I could think of was getting home so I could see my baby daughter Mya, because she would grow up just a little bit more every day I was gone. I was missing out on all these wonderful experiences with my child, missing out on all the greatest things about being a dad, and was doing the bullshit “shaking-hands routine” with a bunch of people I just saw a few hours ago like they were long-lost brothers. It was insane. It got to the point that I remember one day looking across the locker room at Ric Flair, who was then in his midfifties, and saying to myself, “That’s not going to be me.” I don’t mean that as any disrespect toward Ric. He gave his life to the wrestling business. He was truly one of the greats, and he deserves a lot of credit for what he did. But with all the greatness that his name is supposed to represent, and all the years he had spent on top, what the hell was he still doing there? He got in, but he never got out. I wasn’t going to be the guy missing his kids’ birthday parties and graduations. I wondered how many of his own kids’ birthday parties did Flair miss? How many of their graduations? I didn’t want to be pushing sixty years old and still wearing tights. Flair was known as the best, and if the business could break him, it could happen to anyone. Even me. That’s why, every time I looked at Flair, every time I saw him climb in the ring and let out his trademark “Wooooooooooooooo!,” I heard Curt Hennig’s voice in my head: “Get in to get out.””
What are your memories of this time in Brock’s career?
Let me know on Twitter @SuitWilliams. I’ll be back next time covering the final stops on Brock’s road to SummerSlam and the Undisputed Championship.