After only 5 months after his debut on Monday Night Raw, The Next Big Thing, Brock Lesnar headed to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the main event of the 2002 edition of Summerslam. In the biggest match of his career, Lesnar was facing The Rock for the biggest prize in WWE, The Undisputed Championship. A remarkable feat for an extraordinary competitor who was only months into his career.Brock Lesnar made his WWE debut the night after Wrestlemania 18, interfering in the hardcore championship between Al Snow, Maven, and Spike Dudley. Lesnar continued to attack various superstars as he made random appearances on Raw and SmackDown on a weekly basis. Lesnar was always accompanied by his new agent Paul Heyman, who would scream at Lesnar to cause more damage and pain.
Brock Lesnar – The Next Big Thing Arrives
During the brand extension, Lesnar was drafted to RAW and, at Backlash, competed in his first match against Jeff Hardy. Lesnar annihilated Hardy, who could not answer the referee call. The following night on Raw, Lesnar defeated Matt Hardy the same way. After continuing to dominate opponents, Lesnar teamed with Paul Heyman against The Hardy Boyz. Lesnar single-handily defeated them at Judgment Day.
With the 2002 King of the Ring approaching, it was announced that the winner of the tournament this year would receive a championship shot against the WWE Undisputed Champion at Summerslam. Brock Lesnar entered the 2002 King of the Ring and defeated Bubba Ray Dudley in the first round, followed by defeating Booker T in the Quarter Finals.
This was also around the famous incident where Stone Cold Steve Austin walked out on WWE after being scheduled to lose to Brock Lesnar during the tournament, but Austin felt a match between the two should be kept for a bigger occasion. The tournament finals took place on pay-per-view, and the next big thing defeated Test in the semi-finals. The final was contested between Lesnar and Rob Van Dam in what became Lesnar’s toughest match to date.
The Next Big Thing
Brock would emerge victorious by delivering his devastating F5 to become the 2002 King of the Ring and earn his shot at the Undisputed Championship at Summerslam. On the road to Summerslam, Brock Lesnar took on Rob Van Dam in a rematch at Vengeance, only this time for RVD WWE Intercontinental Championship. The next big thing got himself disqualified in the match, allowing RVD to retain his championship, but it was Lesnar who stood tall.
On the road to Summerslam, Paul Heyman negotiated with Stephanie McMahon, the General Manager of Smackdown, for Lesnar to sign for the SmackDown brand. The Next Big Thing showed his power and dominance in his first big match on the blue brand by defeating the legendary Hulk Hogan, a match where Brock Lesnar put up his championship opportunity on the line.
The beast incarnate made Hogan pass out, and after the match, Lesnar hit Hogan with a steel chair, cutting Hogan open and making him bleed. The Rock, who made his return in the lead-up to King of the Ring, fought for the WWE Championship in a triple threat match at Vengeance against champion The Undertaker and Kurt Angle. The Rock pinned Kurt Angle to win the championship, much to the dismay of The Undertaker.In the weeks leading up to Summerslam, Lesnar begun to interfere in the Rock matches, causing mass brawls and stare-downs. The match at Summerslam saw the New York crowd turn on The Rock, who before the match was heavily rumoured to be leaving the WWE once again for Hollywood. With the crowd behind The Next Big Thing, he officially arrived at Summerslam 2002, defeating The Rock to win the WWE Undisputed Championship.
Brock Lesnar at just 25 years old became the youngest WWE Champion ever. The match was a true passing of the torch moment and one that signified a change in WWE, creating new stars that were separate from the stars of a previous era. Brock Lesnar arrival to WWE on the big stage was a different level to any other performer past or present. His rise to the top was extraordinary that changed the landscape of professional wrestling forever.