Photo by Met Kendrick.
In its recent list of the top 10 SummerSlam events in history, WWE.com awarded SummerSlam 2002 the top spot. There's a strong argument for that, too, considering how notable the card was for its top two matches, never mind the fact that the entire card delivered solid action up and down.
In the main event, Brock Lesnar defeated The Rock in a strong match to win his first WWE championship and kickstart his run as the face of the promotion for the next two years. But it was the co-main event, the featured the in-ring return of one of the greatest of all time, that stole the show.
Indeed, Shawn Michaels had his first match back in four years on this date in history (Aug. 25, 2002) when he defeated Triple H in an unsanctioned street fight.
Back in 1998, "The Heartbreak Kid" was cruising right along as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) champion, embroiled in a feud with Undertaker that saw the two have a few classic matches. At the Royal Rumble, Michaels took a bad bump on a casket on the outside of the ring and completely exploded his back.
This led to his dropping the title to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania 14 (something that was going to happen anyway) and disappearing from television for a while, effectively retired as an active wrestler. He would make sporadic appearances over the next couple years as a referee, or a commissioner, or a commentator. But his world was spiraling out of control, as he turned to pills and his drug addiction got even worse.
At some point, though, he discovered "god" and became a born again christian. Then he got clean and his back healed up enough that a return to the ring wasn't out of the question.
So he made his return to the company on-screen as a member of the New World Order (nWo) on June 3 but didn't actually take the plunge and work a match until SummerSlam after building a feud against his real life best friend, Triple H. "The Game" was the only guy Michaels felt he could trust with his body.
Amazingly enough, the two had a near five-star encounter that still holds to this day as one of the best matches you'll ever see. Despite leaving the game for four years with what was thought to be a career ending back injury, it was like "HBK" never missed a day. It's why he's one of the greatest ever.
Watch the match after the jump.