REWIND: Brock Lesnar vs The Rock
When Brock Lesnar first debuted on WWE TV, he did so by appearing suddenly and ripping through whoever was in the ring in a matter of seconds. I still remember the way he mauled Spike Dudley and was captivated by this absolute maniac.
When Summerslam 2002 rolled around, Brock was already becoming a favorite despite clearly being pushed as a heel. I was in my first semester of college when this pay per view happened and I remember watching it at a new friend's apartment, all of us eagerly awaiting Brock tearing through The Rock.
Brock enters to a good amount of cheers and The Rock has, at best, a mixed reaction. Rock charges the ring and starts throwing fists with Brock before quickly succumbing to a belly to belly suplex for a quick near fall.
It's already chaos in the opening moments with Brock in control.
The fight spills to the outside, and even into the crowd, with Brock press slamming Rocky over his head which just looks insane. Even though he's not yet as jacked as he would eventually become, The Rock was still no small dude and Brock just lifts him with ease.
Less than 5 minutes into the match and the crowd is booing The Rock whenever he gets some offense, their boos transitioning into a hearty "Rocky Sucks" chant.
There's a fun spot with both men out on their backs and kipping up at the same time. Rock hits the ropes and comes back with a couple of clothesline attempts that barely budge Brock before finally taking him down with a third.
Rock slaps on his dreadful Sharpshooter and the crowd works up a "Let's Go Lesnar" chant to Rock's befuddlement.
As he would become for a lot of Brock's career, and then Roman Reigns', Paul Heyman is a pest at ringside causing enough of a distraction to take Rocky's mind off of the matter at hand a couple of times early on.
With the referee distracted midway through the match, Brock rams a chair into the ribs of The Rock before slapping on the same bearhug that took out Hulk Hogan a couple short weeks previous. Rock pulls some ridiculous faces while in the bearhug, his eyes rolling back into his head as Brock jolts him around. He hadn't really nailed down those acting skills just yet.
With Heyman on the apron again, it's Rocky who takes advantage and hits Brock with a low blow. As Gorilla Monsoon would argue, turnabout is fair play.
To the glee of Taz(z), Rock drives Heyman through a table with the Rock Bottom while Lesnar recovers from being catapulted into the steel ring post moments earlier.
Back in the ring, Rocky preps for the Rock Bottom and drives the challenger down hard in the center. He covers and Brock miraculously kicks out as the champion begins to show some doubt and frustration as the crowd once again chants "Let's Go Lesnar".
Rock's momentary pause gives Brock a chance to deliver his own (B)Rock Bottom but only garners a two count.
Nearing the end, in a spot that still lives in my brain, Rocky sets Brock up for the People's Elbow. He hits the ropes once, hops over Brock and hits the ropes a second time – but Brock pops up and fucking levels Rock with a clothesline.
From here, it's academic – or is it? The crowd explodes as Brock lifts Rock for the F5. Rock escapes and goes for the Rock Bottom but Brock reverses it, twists around and pulls Rock in for the successful F5 and the win as the crowd once more goes wild!
In this moment, as if there had been any doubts, Brock was made. He kicked out of The Rock's finisher and kept fighting, but it only took one F5 to take down one of the greatest champions of his generation.
This was one of those moments as a wrestling fan when it truly felt like anything could happen. We all loved Brock the minute he showed up, but I don't know if we were fully convinced that he would actually be given the chance to run with the title so quickly.
Thankfully, we were wrong.
I fell off of WWE for a while in college because it just became pure misery to try and enjoy. I don't watch it at all anymore. I have to wonder if this early 2000s era was the last truly great era of WWE, or if this initial Brock Lesnar run is just a pair of rose-colored glasses.