The major focal point of this week’s Monday Night Raw was the 20th anniversary of Randy Orton’s WWE debut. That is a moment certainly worthy of special attention and WWE kind of nailed it, with a great tribute to Orton plus he got to dominate the main event, winning with a string of RKO’s. In something that has never been a good thing, this got me to thinking about some stuff.

Monday was indeed the 20th anniversary of Orton’s WWE debut and it made me wonder how many more of these anniversary shows we should be seeing. When you think about it, 2002 is as influential of a year on modern wrestling as you are going to find. There are all kinds of things that deserve some special attention and that is what we are going to be looking at this week.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive and is in no random order save for the very last one.

The Chamber Is Lowered

The Elimination Chamber made its debut at Survivor Series 2002 as Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff wanted something to top SmackDown’s Hell In A Cell the previous month. The match would go on to become a staple of WWE, even getting its own annual pay per view with multiple versions of the match. It started out as a bit of a curiosity and then became one of WWE’s major matches, which isn’t something you see very often.

The first match was pretty awesome too, with four very solid names and the then holy pairing of Shawn Michaels and HHH. While I wasn’t wild on Michaels running through the field and winning the title, it was a rather emotional moment and wound up on highlight reels for a long time to come. The match would change a bit over the years and have some slight modifications, but the gist has been the same since the first one and it still works.

Shawn Is Back/Rock Is Gone

We might as well tie these two together, as one of the biggest matches that never happened goes away as two stars pass in the night. Michaels returned to WWE for the first time in four and a half years with an instant masterpiece at Summerslam 2002, but that wasn’t it for the night. The show’s main event saw Brock Lesnar defeat the Rock for the Undisputed Title, more or less ending Rock’s full time status with WWE. Rock would pop back up again for a few months in 2003, but it was off to Hollywood as a result.

It was quite the transformation period for the company as Steve Austin was gone, leaving Michaels as one of the bigger imports at the time. The future was coming, but there was still a lot of work to be done to bring them along. Michaels was someone who could help do just that, but at the same time, there was no Rock to make it happen. Rock was done, and wrestling would never quite be the same as a result.

An Actual Dream Match

The term Dream Match is thrown around all the time but it is pretty rare to get a match that actually lives up to the hype. That was absolutely the case at WrestleMania X8 when the Rock faced Hollywood Hogan in as big of a showdown as you could have had at the time. Rock challenging Hogan to a match at WrestleMania was an amazing moment and the question became could they live up to the hype.

Not only did they live up to the hype, but they blew it away, with the match being an instant classic that felt as epic as it could have been. Hogan was turned into the babyface that the fans had been begging him to be since he returned to the company and Rock went with the heel side as well as he could. That Hulk Up spot is an absolute all timer and they stole the show like almost nothing has ever done before. Check this out and have some fun watching a pretty incredible wrestling match.

Out With The Old, In With The Old

Old school wrestling fans have a tendency to refer to WWE by its old name of the WWF. That is what a lot of fans, myself included, grew up calling it and that is a hard thing to drop all of a sudden. Back in May 2002, the company officially changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment because of a bunch of panda loving hippies (who do good work and had an airtight case when WWE went too far with the copyright issues).

The interesting thing though is that Hogan won the WWF Title on a pure nostalgia kick and wound up being the last WWF Champion. That is the kind of trivia that always offers some interest as Hogan is probably the name most associated with the title in the first place. His final title reign didn’t mean much at the end of the day, but he was still the final person to hold the title and it was kind of the perfect choice.

You Go Over There, You Go Over There

Back in March 2001, the WWF officially won the wrestling worlds (both Monday Night and whatever night ECW ran on wherever you were) by becoming the only promotion left standing. With WCW and ECW gone, there were a lot of wrestlers available, but there was also a need for some competition for the WWF, which is a lot easier said than done. With nothing else around, the WWF did the best thing they could and made their own competition.

That brought us to the first ever Draft, which gave us the first (of a few) Brand Splits. Monday Night Raw and SmackDown were split into different rosters, which would be the case for the better part of the next two decades. That isn’t something that would have made sense at any other time and while it has had some rocky history, the Brand Split has become one of the biggest parts of modern WWE and odds are it will be sticking around for a long time to come.

They Made An Impact

I know it’s kind of a joke and has had some absolutely terrible moments over the years but Impact Wrestling is still around and has gotten that much better in the last few years. Being around for twenty years is not something that a lot of promotions do (ECW didn’t come close and WCW made it a little over halfway) and they have almost completely reinvented themselves, which is one heck of a trick to pull off.

At the end of the day, Impact Wrestling has been around for a very long time and the company has been very influential around wrestling. How many names have you seen that come from Impact Wrestling and gone on to become a bigger star elsewhere? The bad history is there too, but there are a lot of positives as well and that is the kind of thing that deserves more attention.

They’re Still Around

As big of a deal as Impact Wrestling has been, Ring Of Honor might have been more important. The wrestlers, the style and the down to earth style has been some of the most influential material in all of wrestling over the last twenty years. The company was basically New Japan’s American home for a long time and brought those wrestlers to the states on the biggest platform they had for years.

What matters the most though was how many huge stars appeared for Ring Of Honor over the years. How many wrestlers on WWE or AEW today spent some time in Ring Of Honor? It might be a cup of coffee or a main event run but you can barely escape Ring Of Honor these days, which is one of the most remarkable accomplishments you could imagine. I’m glad that they are still going to be around, even in a very different form.

And finally, like it could be anything else:

OVW’s 2002 Class

Outside of maybe something from the 1970s, I have no idea what else comes close to this group of wrestlers. While there were some others in there, the quartet of Cena, Orton, Batista and Lesnar took over the wrestling world in just a few years. The four of them would go on to headline a staggering (so far) 12 out of 38 WrestleManias (with some of them being in the main event at the same time) and have won a pair of Royal Rumbles each. That is some other worldly success and they probably aren’t even done yet.

You do not get this kind of a run ever in wrestling and these guys all came up in the span of about six months. Sometimes you get one of these names in a generation and they did it in the span of a year. It’s amazing to see and these guys are still some of the biggest names in all of wrestling. They had something special with OVW in general, but my goodness what do you even do with this much talent coming in at the same time?

I know a lot has changed since then, but e pluribus gads things were happening back in 2002. There were all kinds of moves going on and some of them you wouldn’t have even guessed would become such big deals. Wrestling can change in the blink of an eye and that was certainly the case 20 years ago. At the same time though, it kind of says a lot that these changes are still playing such important roles today, as it might have been time to make some new moments already.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 60,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 6,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at, or check out his- Amazon author page with 30 wrestling books.

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