Brock’s career in his own words

Previous Chapters

Vengeance 2002
WWE Intercontinental Championship
Rob Van Dam (c) def. Brock Lesnar by disqualification

Earlier in the night, Brock came face to face with Kurt Angle for the first time. Angle said that he would love to face Brock at SummerSlam for the WWE Title. You’ll get your wish, Kurt. There is a shocking sign in the crowd regarding the age of the Olsen Twins. Put those men on all the lists. This was Brock’s best PPV match so far. The Detroit crowd was red hot for RVD, and these two had good chemistry here. RVD got more offense in on Brock than anyone else, which allowed Brock to showcase his bumping and selling more. You can see where Brock is still thinking through his control periods, but the improvement is showing. The finish is what it is, as Heyman yanks the ref out to cause the DQ. WWE never intended for Brock to win the Intercontinental Title, but needed him to stand tall. You would think they would maybe book him against someone else, but alas. ***1/2

With Vengeance out of the way, it was time to go full steam ahead to SummerSlam. Five months into his WWE run, Brock Lesnar was set for the main event against one of the biggest stars in the business. The Rock, having just come back from filming The Scorpion King, had won the WWE Championship at Vengeance. It doesn’t need to be said that the Rock was a massive draw, but the higher-ups didn’t feel like Brock was ready just yet. He needed to score one more massive scalp for the fans to believe he could go one-on-one with the Great One. Brock Lesnar needed to beat Hulk Hogan. And surprisingly, he did! 

“To get me ready for the Rock, we did a match on television against Hulk Hogan. This was a big deal, because Hogan didn’t wrestle every get into the ring with Hogan, but at the same time, I looked at things a little differently from everyone else. Yes, Hogan was the biggest star of the eighties and nineties. He drew huge gates and sold millions of pay-per-views. This guy had made more money than any other wrestler of his era, but here he was, squeezing out another run at age fiftysomething . . . just like Ric Flair. So we did this deal with Hulk Hogan where I took Hogan out violently on the WWE Smackdown! TV show. I knew the script, because Paul was the lead writer of the show, and we communicated all the time. Vince kept telling me we needed to make this as memorable a night as possible for the fans, because this was a big moment in my career. I was going to slay the immortal Hulk Hogan, bust him open, and leave him for dead…Vince didn’t just want me to “get over,” he wanted me over the top.”

SmackDown – August 8, 2002
Undisputed WWE Title #1 Contender’s Match
Brock Lesnar def. Hulk Hogan

This match had already been booked, but earlier in the night, Hogan worked an overconfident Lesnar into putting the SummerSlam title match up for grabs. Heyman was excellent in the segment. He put over how Hogan had defied the odds his entire career, including just a few months ago at Backlash when he won the WWE Title from Triple H. Brock wasn’t worried.

Watching this staredown, it feels plausible that Hogan could win the match and get the title shot at SummerSlam. Rock/Hogan II for the WWE Title in the main event of SummerSlam, six months after their legendary encounter at Wrestlemania, sounds like big box office. The crowd believed in it too, as they were all the way behind Hogan here. These Brock matches are getting more and more heat, as he’s running through bigger and bigger names on his road to the top. Hogan gets more offense in on Brock than anyone has to this point, but he can’t keep him down. Hogan hits two big boots and a big leg drop, but Brock kicks out. He goes for another leg drop, but Heyman cuts him off, leading to a big F-5. But Hogan won’t lay down for anyone brother, especially on free TV, so Brock locks on the dreaded BEARHUG and makes Hogan pass out for the win. After the match, Brock bloodies Hogan up with a chair and, in an amazing visual, he wipes Hogan’s blood across his chest. This is Hogan’s last match until February 2003, and the only time he ever wrestled Brock Lesnar. That wasn’t the plan, but that’s a story for another chapter. ***

As Brock describes, The Rock was all too willing to put Brock over strong here, knowing what it meant for business.

“Dwayne, of course, is a very smart guy. He was going to have his character, the Rock, do a clean job for me because he wanted to grease the wheels for himself to come back when the time was right. Dwayne knew putting me over was right for business, and he was willing to take a loss for the team, on pay-per-view, in front of all of his fans. He saw the talent I had, and he knew it would be best for the company if there were no questions in the fans’ minds that I beat him “fair and square.” That way, after I had my ride at the top, he could beat me in a revenge match when he came back and he would look even better. It would be huge. WWE would make a lot of money. I’d make a lot of money. Dwayne would make a lot of money. That’s the pro wrestling business at its best! Dwayne also knew that it wasn’t only right for business to put me over clean, but that Vince had it in his own head that the Rock should lose clean to Brock Lesnar. If Dwayne wanted the door open for a return, he had to keep Vince happy, and have him think that “Dwayne always gave back to the company, looked after what was right for business.” Vince has ended more than one career when someone crossed him and put their own interests above the company’s. Dwayne was too smart for that, and he did everything the right way . . . the smart way. I don’t know how many other guys Dwayne would have been happy to lose to clean, but he did it for me because he knew I could carry the torch for the company until he got it back. It wasn’t a gift. It was business.”

WWE SummerSlam 2002
WWE Undisputed Championship
Brock Lesnar def. The Rock (c)

Anyone who thinks that WWE fans revolting against a character began with Daniel Bryan or is a recent revelation needs to watch this match. It is a fascinating watch, as it’s less The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, and more The Rock vs. Nassau Coliseum. From the jump, Strong Island gave Rock absolutely nothing but hate. And The Rock didn’t hide his feelings very well here, he was pissed about it. Nassau cheered Brock, but it was clearly done out of spite, since they weren’t cheering him out of the curtain. In a completely backward and unintentional way, Rock did end up getting Brock over to this tough audience.

The problem is that the match is very tough to rate. Brock’s performance here was similar to most, but he felt completely overshadowed by Long Island giving Rock all their hate. The match these guys put together ended up being eaten up by the response they were given, but it was an energetic, well-put-together match. Heyman kept getting in Rock’s way and giving Brock the advantage. We got a BEARHUG nearfall, playing off of the Hogan finish to great effect, as the crowd fires up when Rock lifts the arm. Well, they fired up with ROCKY SUCKS chants, but fire is fire. Heyman interfered again, but Rock hit a low blow to cut Brock off. Rock talked shit to the crowd while on his comeback, then sent Brock into the post with the best catapult you’ll ever see. Rock took Heyman out with a Rock Bottom through a table, before hitting one on Brock in the ring. Brock kicks out of the Rock Bottom, and they reverse out of each other’s finishes until Brock nails the F-5 for the win and the title. Easily the best match of Brock’s career so far, yet I can’t say it’s because Brock was great in it. But hey, whatever works. ***3/4

“On August 25, 2002, at age twenty-five, I became the youngest WWE Champion in history when I “defeated” the Rock for the title at SummerSlam. That night changed my life forever. I was now in a position to regularly score big paydays for a night’s work, and more. I was now able to buy a lot of things. I’ll always appreciate what Dwayne did for me and my family. If he hadn’t made me look good, things might have been a lot different. In my first-ever pay-per-view in some city I can’t remember, I beat Jeff Hardy in an undercard match and got what I thought at the time was a decent check. Now I was headlining pay-per-views, and making life-changing money every time. Not a bad night’s work. And it all literally happened overnight. Ten minutes in the ring with Jeff Hardy was really cool. But twenty minutes in the ring with Dwayne, and I was set for life. That’s why the match with Dwayne was such a big moment in my life. It wasn’t about who was better, who would really win. Come on, that’s ridiculous. It was about the fact I wanted to buy my mom and dad a house. I wanted to put money away for my daughter’s education. I wanted to be able to afford nice things in life for me and my family. I was the undisputed WWE Champion, on the fast track to fame and fortune. I was on top of the world. And I was already looking over my shoulder, because I knew that the clock was ticking and my days were numbered.”

We’ll be back next time, as Brock makes his first defenses as champion against a certain locker room leader. Any thoughts or memories on Brock’s first title win? Let me know on Twitter @SuitWilliams.