10 Things You Didn't Know About WWE In 2002

Shawn Michaels made his in-ring return at SummerSlam 2002. "Officially," anyway.

Triple H Shawn Michaels

WWE fans have fond memories of the year 2002.

The product wasn't hot, but when it peaked, it was exceptional. Shawn Michaels made his in-ring "return" and in the process told a new generation of wrestlers what selling should look like. The First Elimination Chamber match, while too violent for its own good, was an indication that WWE wasn't woefully out of ideas. The SmackDown Six elevated the in-ring standard to a level of consistency not witnessed on WWE television since 1994, or perhaps ever.

Hulk Hogan Vs. The Rock was one of the greatest matches in company history. Half of what they did looked like garbage, and the other half was as basic as it gets, but it didn't matter. If there's ever a match that cannot be reduced to the sum of its parts, it was Icon Vs. Icon: a display of pure incandescent star power and masterful, fluid crowd psychology. Even the dreamlike, euphoric aura of that match collides with the bleak reality that was WWE in that period of time.

A lot of people loved the WWE product of 2002, and hold fond memories of it.

WWE, the organisation, absolutely does not share that opinion...

10. The Rock Was Always A BIT Gotten-To

Triple H Shawn Michaels

The Rock is in the time-tested downfall arc of his Hollywood career.

He will make a comeback - that is how the cycle works - but at present, the fans are turning on him. His box office magic has faded. Certain ill-fated excursions into different mediums - remember the rap?! - have portrayed him as an alienating, arrogant figure under the delusion that he can do anything and everything. In an interesting wrestling parallel, film fans have buried the Rock for making the same movie over and over again, wearing khaki shirts against tropical backdrops in five different features. He's effectively getting "Same old s***!" chants. He might even be approaching laughing stock territory, ruining his unflappable cool guy image by doing defensive mental gymnastics to spin the underwhelming revenue generated by 'Black Adam'.

In an interesting tidbit from the September 2, 2002 Wrestling Observer Newsletter, people probably should have seen this coming.

He was booed in his match against Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam, and while he claimed in a WWE.com interview that he had a laugh with it, Dave Meltzer wrote:

"Others in the company were saying the opposite, and Rock waffling back and forth all day about appearing on Raw seems to indicate he didn't consider it fun."

The Rock didn't end up appearing; he might have guested with Tech N9ne, but on August 26, 2002, he couldn't face the music.


Michael Sidgwick is an editor, writer and podcaster for WhatCulture Wrestling. With over seven years of experience in wrestling analysis, Michael was published in the influential institution that was Power Slam magazine, and specialises in providing insights into All Elite Wrestling - so much so that he wrote a book about the subject. You can order Becoming All Elite: The Rise Of AEW on Amazon. Possessing a deep knowledge also of WWE, WCW, ECW and New Japan Pro Wrestling, Michael’s work has been publicly praised by former AEW World Champions Kenny Omega and MJF, and surefire Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Cody Rhodes. When he isn’t putting your finger on why things are the way they are in the endlessly fascinating world of professional wrestling, Michael wraps his own around a hand grinder to explore the world of specialty coffee. Follow Michael on X (formerly known as Twitter) @MSidgwick for more!