WWE Classic of the Week: Examining Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H at SummerSlam '02

Justin LaBar@@JustinLaBar Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2013

Photo courtesy of WWE
Photo courtesy of WWE

It was a new millennium. He may have been rocking jeans—not spandex—and sporting a bible verse, but Shawn Michaels was still the same incredible talent in the ring at SummerSlam 2002 when he returned.

A street fight with Triple H was the return of Michaels to the ring since he left in 1998 for retirement due to back problems and drug addiction. The quality of the match from a storytelling aspect was one of the best ever in HBK's career, which means it was one of the best ever in wrestling.

It was billed to be a one-night return and from reading HBK's book, I believe that he really did think this would be a one-off return. Therefore, nothing was left for him or anyone to say in terms of “I wish they would have done this.” There wasn't anything left to be desired. There was something in this match for everything. Every style, every emotion and every possible weapon was featured.

The ending was dramatic, with Michaels getting the win and celebrating his triumph. It was a proud moment, and HBK made sure he helped make the monster heel Triple H was even bigger following his victory. Vicious blows with a sledgehammer would interrupt Michaels' celebration, including one of the most brutal shots that the back of any wrestler has ever taken with the notorious weapon.

I've often wondered what WWE was thinking putting the WWE Championship match between Brock Lesnar and The Rock right after this violent battle. The crowd got a half-hour contest of a returning star and had to be worn out by the end. At least put a match in between the street fight and title match to break them up on the card.

Michaels would end up fighting three months later at Survivor Series in the first-ever Elimination Chamber match, where he would win the WWE Championship for the first time in five years. It would launch the second run/chapter in HBK's career at age 37, and it was arguably his best run and string of matches ever.

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