Photo via SweetChin.com
My head has always been in combat sports.
Whether due to having been an impressionable young professional wrestling mark, a blood lusting, mouth-breather of a teenager who loved MMA, or evolving into the savvy, informed fan of both venues that I consider myself to be today - it was, and still is, likely based in the idea of humans testing their physical will against one another in a pure and primal spectacle for the entertainment of others. A passion enjoyed by people worldwide.
At nine years old, the SummerSlam 2002 Classic between Triple H and Shawn Michaels embodied the violence and heart that impressionable children like me craved and idolized. As I grew older, it also embodied a brilliant piece of work between two of the arguably greatest performers ever to grace a WWE ring. Equal parts story and sport, the narrative and performance fortunately hold up to today's standards.
Something tells me that it will hold up to anyone's standards.
The lead-up to this match was intense. Triple H had turned on his best friend to prove a point about him being "weak." Triple H Pedigreed Michaels when they were about to reform D-Generation X, and then went on to brutally assault Michaels in the arena parking lot.
Eric Bischoff acted for the WWE and made the bout an unsanctioned street fight, which was understandable given the bad blood between the ex-friends.
After the jump, additional history and you can catch one of the best SummerSlam matches in pay-per-view's history...
Michaels spent the next couple of weeks flexing his proverbial muscle, showing the gusto and drive to prove Triple H wrong about his perceived weakness. Whether it be attacking HHH during his matches or preventing some of the dirty-handed tactics of "The Cerebral Assassin," HBK made it clear how focused and ready he was. At SummerSlam 2002, the two finally locked horns in a match that fans will never forget.
The match featured brilliant psychology from "The Cerebral Assassin," as he worked backbreaker after backbreaker, attempting to worsen the injured back that put Michaels out of the business for over four years.
Unfortunately for Triple H, there was no break in the heart of "The Heartbreak Kid."
Through the use of a barrage of weapons, most notably including a ladder and a table, Michaels fought back and stunned "The Game." In the end, HBK was able to use his opponent's Pedigree to his advantage. Michaels used that opportunity to roll Triple H up for the victory.
Sadly, HHH wasn't going to let bygones be bygones and decided Michaels needed a post-fight intervention with the "equalizer" that Trips became known for in the sledgehammer. Michaels left on a stretcher, while Triple H left with his face caked in blood. Both men certainly gave a bit of themselves away in the ring that night.
Whether you're looking for storytelling, athleticism, psychology, or just plain old violence, this SummerSlam classic had it all.