Fantasy Matchup Series - Brock Lesnar vs Stone Cold Steve Austin Summerslam 2002
After a several month hiatus, for obvious reasons, I am back, and ready once more to delve into the realms of fantasy matchups. The next matchup we shall be looking at, is one that could have been a very real possibility in 2002. So, in fact, this article could just as easily be called an alternate reality piece, because if the stars were aligned differently, and the superstars inclined and available, this match could have happened.
What if The Rock did not return in 2002 after leaving to shoot the Scorpion King? Also, what if Stone Cold Steve Austin didn’t walk out on the company shortly after Judgement Day of the same year? This would have meant that the triple threat at Vengeance 2002 would not have been won by The Rock. In his place, and winning his first Undisputed Championship, would most likely have been Stone Cold. Now, if we allow the rest of the events leading up to Summerslam 2002 to remain unchanged, that allows Brock Lesnar to win the 2002 King of the Ring, earning him a shot against the Undisputed Champion at Summerslam, which in this case, would be Stone Cold Steve Austin.
It is widely known that these two were actually meant to face each other in the build up to King of the Ring. It was supposed to be a King of the Ring qualifying match on Raw, with Lesnar booked to go over Stone Cold. This was one in a long line of creative decisions that Steve Austin was unhappy about, and, in addition to his mounting health problems, this ultimately led him to walking out of the WWE. He refused to do the job to Lesnar in a tournament style match with no build up, feeling that the Brock Lesnar vs Steve Austin match should have been, in his words, the “money match”. It is hard to disagree with Steve Austin on that point, as it would have been a highly anticipated bout between a well established star, and an up and coming rookie that was destroying everything in his path.
To a wrestling fan, Stone Cold Steve Austin is a man who needs no introduction. To the few who are unfamiliar, I shall do my best to keep it concise. He is a six time WWE Champion, two time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a four time WWE Tag Team Champion and one time Million Dollar Champion. He won a record three Royal Rumble matches, and became a WWE Hall of Famer in 2009. He had a unique quality about him that meant he had a broad appeal across multiple demographics. His anti-hero, anti-authority mentality, combined with his incredible charisma, in ring psychology, and unfiltered words meant that he was perfect to spearhead the WWE’s fightback against WCW in the Monday Night Wars. The WWE underwent a huge shift in style from its early 1990’s New Generation era, which was riddled with awful cartoon character style gimmicks, to something that was more gritty, uncensored and wild. This was the Attitude era, and at the centre was Stone Cold Steve Austin. His battles with the evil Mr. McMahon character are legendary and are still talked about to this day. The fans loved to see Austin triumph over his arch enemy. Stone Cold brought out the true fan passion to the extent that he became a legend in his own time. He had reached legendary status even before he became a WWE Hall of Famer.
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Brock Lesnar hit the WWE scene in April 2002, on the Raw after Wrestlemania, and made a huge statement of intent by decimating Spike Dudley, Maven and Al Snow in the middle of their hardcore match. He was a human wrecking machine, standing at six foot four, and a shade under 300 pounds. His impressive physical conditioning was matched by his explosive athleticism. For a man of his size, he possessed the agility of someone a hundred pounds lighter. He was every bit as strong as he looked, lifting huge wrestlers such as Rikishi, Mark Henry and Big Show on his shoulders with relative ease for his patented F5 finisher. He also had the devious Paul Heyman as his manager and mouthpiece, which added to the aura that surrounded him.
So, what if the booking was done to Steve Austin’s satisfaction? What if Rock vs Brock never happened and the Texas Rattlesnake took the Great One's place? It is safe to say that there would be a great deal of interest in this match. Stone Cold, despite being the champion and the much loved and well established star, would almost be considered the underdog. He was a high tempo brawler, not known for his technical ability or raw power. Lesnar had youth, strength, power, agility, speed and technical wrestling on his side. What Stone Cold had on his side was experience, and lots of it. In order for him to compete with Lesnar he would need to play to his strengths. He would need to force Lesnar into having a type of match he was not used to having: a slugfest, a brawl, or, as JR would say "a slobberknocker". The one and only fight between Austin and Lesnar on WWE programming occurred on the Smackdown before Wrestlemania 20 in 2004. Lesnar had blindsided Austin on Raw with an F5 and promptly stole his quad bike. Stone Cold showed up on Smackdown to get it back, and in the ensuing brawl he busted Lesnar open, who ultimately retreated, unable to withstand Austin’s fiery flurry of fists and stomps. So, if the same type of brawl could be converted into a big match situation, it would help Austin to level the playing field somewhat. Also, this wasn't Stone Cold's first rodeo. He had been in many main events fighting for the WWE title. He had big match experience while Lesnar did not. Brock had never played for "all the marbles" before.
The Paul Heyman factor would also need to be considered. He had history with Stone Cold. Heyman brought him into ECW and gave him a platform to vent his frustrations about his time in WCW. This helped to springboard him to the WWE and begin his rise to superstardom. Heyman also had, at that point, recently been involved in the Alliance storyline with Austin and had failed in their quest to put the WWE out of business. Given the history between these two, I would have Paul Heyman launch a volley of verbal attacks on Austin in the weeks building up to Summerslam. Heyman would mock Austin for his failure as the former leader of the Alliance, and would make reference to their ECW days, gloating that without him Stone Cold wouldn't have existed. He would also attack Stone Cold's age, declaring that "nobody in their right mind would consider this a competitive match". Stone Cold would return fire, mocking Heyman for ECW going out of business and having to reduce himself to being "Brock Lesnar's bitch". Austin would ultimately take out Heyman the Smackdown before Summerslam, challenging Brock to "win the title on your own". With Heyman out of the picture, Lesnar would have to do just that.
The match started in typical Stone Cold fashion, with Austin storming to the ring where Lesnar stood waiting, and the two exchanged right hands. Austin briefly got the advantage until Lesnar gave him a german suplex, then drove him into the turnbuckle and pounded away with shoulder thrusts. Lesnar attempted to clothesline Austin in the corner, but the Texas Rattlesnake got his foot up for Brock to run into, and he staggered back and was floored by a diving clothesline from Austin. Stone Cold quickly hit two of his trademark pointed elbows, attempted an Irish Whip which was reversed and Austin took two more german suplexes. Lesnar used the middle rope to choke Stone Cold, and then used Austin’s own leapfrog body guillotine against him. Lesnar shot Austin off the ropes, Stone Cold reversed, Lesnar ducked a reverse elbow, came off the opposite ropes and got Lou Thesz pressed to the delight of the crowd. After his customary mounted punches, Austin twice came off the ropes to hit Lesnar with his pointed elbows in an attempt to keep him down. Lesnar got to his feet, Austin shot him off the ropes, Lesnar reversed, but telegraphed the back body drop so Austin came off the ropes and gave Lesnar a swinging neckbreaker. Lesnar got to his feet again quickly, only to be clotheslined out of the ring.
The crowd roared as Austin climbed out onto the apron, flipped Lesnar the double bird and hit him with a diving clothesline. Staggering to his feet, Lesnar absorbed several hard right hands to the head before tackling Austin and ramming him into the ring apron. He then stomped Stone Cold multiple times before giving him a military press and dropping him on the announcers table. Lesnar tried hitting Austin’s head against the announcers table, but Stone Cold blocked it, and then slammed Lesnar's head instead, and followed up with a clothesline. Austin tried to Irish Whip Brock into the crowd barrier, but Lesnar reversed with such force that it sent the Texas Rattlesnake over the barrier and into the crowd. Lesnar followed, pushing past the crowd, and floored Austin with a couple of hard punches. He attempted a clothesline, but Austin ducked and gave him a back suplex on the concrete floor.
Recovering, Austin basked in the moment amongst the crowd with his signature taunts, whipping them up into a further frenzy, before resuming his attack on Lesnar with mounted punches. Brock was keen to get away, and Austin helped, by punching him all the way back to the crowd barrier and clotheslining him over it, sending him crashing to the mats at ringside. Austin climbed the barrier and attempted a double axe handle, but Lesnar caught him, rammed him into the ring apron, and gave Austin a sickening belly to belly suplex on the arena floor. Lesnar threw Stone Cold back into the ring, pinned him, but Austin kicked out at 2.
Lesnar began to control the middle part of the match, slowing the match down to a methodical pace, and working on Austin’s back, which had been hurt from the belly to belly outside the ring. Each time Austin would begin to build momentum, Lesnar would shut it down with clotheslines or a volley of german suplexes. During this time, Lesnar's frustration started to build, as he was unable to put Austin away. Rib breakers, spinebusters and more suplexes failed to finish off the champion. With high impact moves not getting the job done, Lesnar switched to submission, and at one point, with Austin on the mat reeling from yet another suplex, he locked in a side bearhug. Brock held on like a pitbull, squeezing the life out of Stone Cold. Austin tried several times to escape the bear hug, but was floored each time he attempted to fire up, and each time Lesnar tenaciously locked the bear hug back in. Austin looked to be in trouble, but he finally managed to break free from Lesnar's grasp, and hit him with a clothesline. Austin, still feeling the effects of the prolonged bear hug, fell to the mat in exhaustion.
Both men got to their feet at the same time, Lesnar tried to clothesline Austin, who ducked and gave Lesnar a piledriver. Brock kicked out at 2 and a half. Stone Cold motioned for Lesnar to get up, looking for the Stone Cold Stunner, but Brock caught Austin’s leg in mid kick, spun him around, and hit him with six german suplexes in a row. Austin tried to counter the first couple, but Brock was relentless and quickly wore Austin down, throwing him around the ring like a rag doll. Lesnar, not missing a beat, hit Austin with the F5, certain that he'd just won his first WWE title. Austin shocked everyone by kicking out just before the 3 count, showing the guts, the tenacity and will to survive that Lesnar had not yet encountered.
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Lesnar argued furiously with the referee over the pin fall, but it proved pointless and costly as it gave Austin time to recover, pulling himself up in the corner. Brock charged at Stone Cold, attempting a shoulder thrust in the corner, but Austin rolled out the way, causing Brock to collide with the ring post, his shoulder taking the brunt of it. Turning around to face Austin, he was met with a Stone Cold Stunner, and then both men were down. Crawling slowly over to Lesnar's prone body, Austin was barely able to hook the leg for a pin, and this time it was Lesnar's turn to shock everyone by kicking out just before 3. Getting to his feet, Austin kept his advantage by pummeling Brock with pointed elbow drops and right hands, with Lesnar crashing to the mat after each strike. Austin got Lesnar in the corner and began "stomping a mudhole" in his foe. Stone Cold stalked Lesnar, waiting for him to get to his feet, and attempted one more Stunner. Lesnar countered and sent Austin into the ropes and then gave him a hard clothesline. Lesnar got Stone Cold on his shoulders for the F5, but Austin elbowed his way out of it, tried for a Stunner again, Lesnar caught his leg, spun him around, ducked a clothesline attempt from Austin and hit him with a second F5. Lesnar covered him, but Austin showed great ring awareness by getting his arm on the bottom rope a split second before the 3 count.
Lesnar began celebrating, convinced that he had won the WWE title, and it took a lot of persuading from the referee that the match was still continuing. During this time, Austin was slowly getting to his feet, albeit with great difficulty. Lesnar went for a third F5, but Stone Cold slipped out of it, and shoved Lesnar into the turnbuckle. When Brock turned around, he was hit with a second Stone Cold Stunner. Both men were down and remained motionless, until Austin began to crawl over to Lesnar. He tried to drape an arm over Brock for the pin, but Lesnar rolled over onto his stomach at the last moment, just out of reach of Austin’s arm, which now lay on the mat mere inches away. Both men were exhausted, and Austin was the first to get to his feet while Lesnar was still on his knees. Sensing victory, Austin tried to pull Lesnar to his feet to deliver another Stunner, but as he stood over the challenger, Brock suddenly leapt to his feet with Austin on his shoulders and delivered a third F5, and pinned him for the 3 count to win the WWE Undisputed Championship.
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Well there you have it. Austin puts over Lesnar in a type match I hope he would have wanted to have against the "Next Big Thing". Austin gave Lesnar everything he had, but ultimately it was the youth and explosive power of Brock Lesnar that proved to be the difference maker in the match. Again, this is a match that could have happened, and it's a shame that it didn't, as it could have been an all time classic, and a symbolic "passing of the torch" moment. Still, in reality we got Rock vs Brock, which itself wasn't a bad match at all wasn't it? Let me know in the comments what fantasy match you would like to see next, and I promise you won't have to wait half a year for the next one.