|Date||Sunday July 21 2002|
|Venue||Joe Louis Arena|
|Location||Detroit, Michigan, USA|
WWE Vengeance 2002
WWE Vengeance 2002 occurred at a time when WWE was in a state of flux (a statement that Vince McMahon himself had used a few weeks beforehand). Between declining ratings, the forced name change, a rapidly deteriorating well of fresh ideas and Stone Cold Steve Austin walking out of the company, WWE were doing everything possible to make it appear to its audience that everything was hunky-dory despite the off-screen reality. That may explain why this particular card did not leave much of a lasting impression, except of course for a truly legendary main event match between three of the biggest stars that WWE has ever produced.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS TV SHOWS? READ OUR PRE-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!
Tag Team Tables Elimination Match
Bubba Ray Dudley & Spike Dudley vs. Chris Benoit & Eddie Guerrero
The first match of the night felt like something out of a wrestling videogame where you tweak the rules to make things more interesting, and throw in some rather random participants to boot. Why else would Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero, both renowned with demonstrating their skills in a technical wrestling environment, find themselves scrapping in a Tables match with the 50% Dudleyz? If nothing else, WWE was trying to position Spike Dudley as a threat on the Raw brand, even if his diminutive size and lack of menace ultimately made it a failed mission. Though this was a somewhat strange presentation on paper, at least we got a decent match out of it. After Spike drove Eddie through one table and Benoit put Spike through more wood, Bubba sealed the win for his team by hitting Benoit with a Bubba Bomb through one final table. Benoit and Eddie would move to SmackDown little over a week later, at which point they began to really climb the ranks within WWE. I should also mention that though this was a Raw bout, SD commentators Michael Cole and Tazz handled the announcing, as they did for the first half of the PPV (Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler took over after that) in the first step towards the brand’s own commentators covering corresponding matches on supershows from SummerSlam onwards.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE PREVIOUS EDITION? READ OUR WWF VENGEANCE 2001 REVIEW!
WWE Cruiserweight Championship Match
Jamie Noble (C) vs. Billy Kidman
At this time, WWE was still trying to get the cruiserweight division over, headed up by Jamie Noble, who captured the title at King Of The Ring. His defence here against Billy Kidman was entertaining enough, but it hardly stood out in the way that WCW’s classic cruiserweights had done in the late 1990s. It didn’t help, either, that Kidman hadn’t really done much in the previous few months, so while he was certainly a credible challenger on paper, in the fan’s eyes he was not someone who could truly get them invested into a PPV bout at this stage. Noble won with a Tiger Bomb, though Kidman would eventually won the gold in a rematch at Survivor Series. Nevertheless, the real star of the WWE cruiserweight scene would ultimately be the guy who is best remembered as the greatest junior heavyweight in WCW history as well: Rey Mysterio, who would debut on SmackDown later that week.
WWE European Championship Match
Jeff Hardy (C) vs. William Regal
Here we have an unusual situation. On the one hand, Jeff Hardy had recently competed in a famous Ladder match against The Undertaker on Raw, then he won the European Title from William Regal (Regal hilariously began crying after that loss), and he successfully retained in a rematch against the Brit here. What’s more, afterwards he was endorsed by both Ric Flair and Hollywood Hulk Hogan, thus really giving him that “rub”. But on the other hand, Hardy looked and performed as a shadow of his former self, with injuries, fatigue and a loss of passion starting to really weigh him down. Ultimately, despite these attempts to elevate Jeff, he would leave WWE nine months later and wouldn’t return until 2006, at which point he was ready to start achieving the potential that had been forecast for him at times like this. Incidentally, just 24 hours after this PPV, the European Title would be retired forever after a unification Ladder match with IC Champ Rob Van Dam.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FIRST EDITION? READ OUR WWF VENGEANCE 2001 REVIEW!
Chris Jericho vs. John Cena
Now for your historical footnote of the card, as this marked John Cena’s first of many PPV appearances for WWE. Here, he wasn’t The Champ, or even the Doctor Of Thuganomics, but instead a white-meat babyface who, nonetheless, had garnered some real momentum in the previous four weeks. His match against Chris Jericho was a way to showcase him on a big stage, as well as giving Y2J something to do during a turbulent period in his career. According to Jericho, he was supposed to win, but instead he wanted to elevate Johnny boy, and he got his wish when Cena reversed the Walls Of Jericho into a pinning predicament to score the biggest victory of his career up to that point. Cena would end up dropping like a stone for a few months before recuperating and establishing a legacy that few in WWE history can match, so Chris was certainly spot-on in believing at this stage that Cena would become a major player. As for the match itself, as I mentioned, it’s a historical footnote, and that’s all you need to know really.
WWE Intercontinental Championship Match
Rob Van Dam (C) vs. Brock Lesnar
Next up, we had the culmination of the forgotten yet enjoyable feud between rising star Brock Lesnar, who was about to main event SummerSlam after winning King Of The Ring, and RVD, who Brock had beaten in the KOTR tournament final. I had assumed that Lesnar would win the IC crown either to further establish his dominance en route to becoming the new face of WWE one month later. However, WWE decided to go down a different route: after a logical yet largely uneventful match (at least by Van Dam’s standards, since he was in his prime at this stage), RVD hit Brock with the Five-Star Frog Splash, and it took Paul Heyman dragging the referee out of the ring to cause a disqualification that would see Lesnar lose, but not by pinfall or submission. Afterwards, Brock did hit Rob with an F5 onto a steel chair, so he did look powerful as he left the ring, but it was still odd to have Lesnar, who was in the midst of a Goldberg-style push at this point, losing on PPV (even by DQ) just a few weeks before the biggest match of his career. Mind you, looking at what Brock went on to achieve, it’s not like the defeat did him any harm.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE LAST EDITION? READ OUR WWE VENGEANCE 2011 REVIEW!
No Disqualification Match
Booker T vs. Big Show
Booker T was climbing the ranks himself during this time, with his unlikely comedic duo with Goldust starting to pay real dividends. However, he was still more than capable of making an impact on his own, as evidenced by this match. This occurred in the aftermath of the nWo being suddenly disbanded, and Big Show tried to fly a flag of sorts as an unofficial nWo rep to punish Booker, who had been removed from the new World order’s ranks and raised their ire in the weeks leading up to Vengeance. Despite the awkward build, Booker made the most of this opportunity with a fantastic showing. At one point, he Scissor Kicked Show through an announcer’s table in an awesome spot (even if Show bending forwards made the suspension of disbelief hard, as you can see above), and T sealed the win with a cool-looking Houston Hangover front-flip legdrop off the top rope. T was definitely going places, then, though somehow it took four years and a transformation into a King for Booker to finally become a World Champion in WWE.
Triple H Segment
At this point, it was time for Triple H to make a decision. Originally, HHH was meant to give his answer about whether or not to join the nWo, but because the faction was broken up six days earlier, the plan changed. Now, he would choose between going to Raw or staying on SmackDown. Addressing both Raw GM Eric Bischoff and SD GM Stephanie McMahon (both of whom had been appointed a few days beforehand, with Bischoff debuting acting as one of the biggest shocks ever in WWE), HHH made it clear that he didn’t particularly want to work for either of them. Nevertheless, The Game hinted that he would stick to the devil he knew (Steph) rather than the devil he didn’t know (Eric), until Shawn Michaels came out. Sans the nWo gear, Michaels was feeling a bit rebellious, just like his old self in D-Generation X, and he managed to convince HHH to move to Raw and have fun with his old buddy. Afterwards, Eric insulted Steph, who slapped him in retaliation. She would state later that she would get her own back, which led to her stealing away Brock Lesnar, thus instigating a series of trades between the shows. As for HBK and HHH, their DX reunion the next night was cut short when H3 Pedigreed Michaels, leading to Shawn’s iconic in-ring return against The Cerebral Assassin at SummerSlam.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING PPV? READ OUR WWE SUMMERSLAM 2002 REVIEW!
WWE World Tag Team Championship Match
Hollywood Hulk Hogan & Edge (C) vs. The Un-Americans
WWE likes to make a meal out of the fact that Hogan and Edge were Tag Team Champions, and Edge was admittedly delighted at getting to partner up with his childhood hero. However, their reign only lasted a few weeks, and whilst it made sense to elevate Lance Storm and Christian by pitting them against The Real American and, erm, a real Canadian here, it felt like Hogan was being downgraded by participating here. Mind you, he was over like rover, and though the wheels were starting to come off his nostalgia tour, he still added prestige to what would have otherwise been a run-of-the-mill Tag Team Title match. After some unmemorable action, Test interfered by nailing Edge with a Big Boot, though Rikishi saw him off; in the meantime, Chris Jericho interfered too and clocked Edge with one of the Tag belts, allowing Storm to score the pin and win the gold. Edge would beat Jericho in a Cage match later that week, while Hogan would soon disappear from television for a few months.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING EDITION? READ OUR WWE VENGEANCE 2003 REVIEW!
WWE Undisputed Championship Triple Threat Match
The Undertaker (C) vs. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle
The final match saw The Rock make his first PPV in-ring appearance since WrestleMania X8, albeit in the midst of an unresolved Undertaker-Kurt Angle title controversy (Angle had been pinned while simultaneously making Taker tap out to a triangle choke during a title defence on SmackDown). This was absolutely incredible. All three men brought their A-game, and they put on a three-way war that was thoroughly compelling from start to finish. At one point, we saw Angle nail Rock with his own Rock Bottom move, Taker hit Kurt with an Olympic Slam, before Rock Chokeslammed UT in an unpredictable and awesome sequence. Further big moves, near-falls and pin break-ups occurred, with fans left guessing as to who would walk away with the Undisputed Title. In the end, it was The Rock who triumphed, as he hit Angle with a final Rock Bottom, and though Taker tried to break up the pin again, it was too little, too late. Rock was now a seven-time heavyweight champion in WWE, and fans were ecstatic. This set up Rock vs. Brock for the Undisputed Title at SummerSlam. While Rock being WWE Champion again was great, it wouldn’t last very long, and when he lost the belt, the seeds for sown for him to turn heel the following year. As for Taker, he turned babyface the next night, while Angle would soon start noticing that he was sharing the SmackDown locker room with Brock, thus beginning the slow build to their WrestleMania XIX dream match.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE FOLLOWING TV SHOWS? READ OUR POST-PPV REVIEWS OF RAW & SMACKDOWN!
WWE Vengeance 2002 was a one-match show, but what a match that was. Undertaker vs. Rock vs. Angle is an absolute must-see, and arguably the best Triple Threat match of all-time. The rest of the card is very much forgettable and, if anything, demonstrates the creative rut that WWE had entered into. Still, at least the show ended on a high with such an amazing main event.
WANT TO RELIVE WWE VENGEANCE 2002? WATCH IT RIGHT NOW ON WWE NETWORK!