Vengeance 2003 is one of the best, most underrated pay-per-view events in WWE history. The first of the SmackDown-exclusive shows, it featured a roster tired of having its show considered the "B-brand" and was determined to deliver a product far superior to that of the more celebrated Raw.
With matches such as Billy Kidman and Rey Mysterio challenging Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas for the WWE Tag Team titles, Vince McMahon squaring off against Zack Gowen, and Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero clashing over the vacant United States Championship, the PPV did just that.
A night of tremendous in-ring work by all involved was capped off by a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship. Defending the title he had won months earlier at Wrestlemania XIX, Brock Lesnar faced rival Big Show and the returning Kurt Angle for the strap.
With two worthy challengers, it was sure to be among the biggest tests of Lesnar's career. Would he escape Denver's Pepsi Center with his title intact, or would one of his opponents end the Next Big Thing's lengthiest title reign to date?
Find out in a moment.
But first, let's set the stage for the huge pay-per-view main event.
At the aforementioned WrestleMania XIX, Brock Lesnar defeated Kurt Angle to capture the WWE Championship in the main event. It was a monumental win for Lesnar and his official coronation as the top star in World Wrestling Entertainment.
As the leader of the SmackDown brand, the face of wrestling's future and the most freakish athlete to ever set foot inside a squared circle, it was a good time to be the Minnesotan.
That is, until he incurred the wrath of the Big Show.
At Judgment Day in May 2003, the World's Largest Athlete challenged Lesnar for the title in a brutal and violent Stretcher match. The match featured the Superstars beating and battering one another with weapons in an attempt to incapacitate the other long enough to put him on a stretcher and roll him past the finish line.
With the assistance of a forklift, Lesnar retained his title. Big Show, as it turned out, was not willing to go away. He returned to the title picture a few weeks later, competing in an infamous match against Lesnar on the June 12 episode of SmackDown.
In that match, Lesnar delivered a breathtaking superplex to the giant, a move that collapsed the ring and made for one of the most stunning visuals in WWE history.
At the same time that Lesnar and Big Show were warring over the top prize in professional wrestling, Kurt Angle was gearing up for his return to the ring after a three-month hiatus. Around the time that he faced Lesnar at WrestleMania, he learned of a significant injury to his neck that would need to be surgically repaired.
After a revolutionary procedure, he would return much faster than anyone ever thought possible. Set to Coldplay's "Clocks," video packages hyping his return began airing on SmackDown.
On June 5, he made his return to the company. Within two weeks, he was reintegrated into the championship picture, both he and Big Show gunning for Lesnar's title. With so much hype surrounding Angle's return to the ring, he emerged as a favorite to capture the title.
It was against that background that the three competitors rolled into Denver for the biggest championship clash in SmackDown history (at least to that point).
It was almost as if WWE recognized that the big money was in an Angle-Lesnar match since Big Show's involvement in the bout was limited. As a result, the match quality benefited exponentially. Lesnar and Angle renewed their rivalry and set the stage for the countless matches between them that would take place over the next three months.
Most assumed Big Show would be the Superstar taking the pin, so imagine the surprise when Angle pinned Lesnar to win the championship. It was somewhat questionable booking, but it left no doubt in anyone's mind that Angle deserved to be the champion.
More importantly, it proved that Angle was back and as good as ever.
The loss would trigger rage within Lesnar that would result in a heel turn a few weeks later.
At SummerSlam in August, he challenged Angle for the championship. Despite every attempt to wrest the title away from the former Olympic gold medalist, Lesnar failed. Angle scored another victory over his rival, infuriating him that much more.
On September 18, during an edition of SmackDown, the competitors met in an Iron Man match for the WWE title. Lesnar defeated Angle in that match, winning five falls to Angle's four and becoming champion for the third time.
It was the last of the major matches between the two in WWE.
They would meet one last time in 2007 while Angle was competing for TNA and Lesnar was starring in Japan.