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The biggest event of the summer. Call it what you will, Summerslam is one of the historic events in WWE history. One of the ‘big four’ pay per views along with Wrestlemania, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series, Summerslam was created in 1988 and held at the historic Madison Square Garden in New York City. The main event on that night saw the Mega Powers (Hulk Hogan & WWF Champion, Macho Man Randy Savage) take on the Mega Bucks (Million Dollar Man & Andre the Giant.). Fast forward to 2013, we’ll be seeing WWE Champion, John Cena defending the title against Daniel Bryan and the clash between CM Punk & Brock Lesnar.
With Summerslam just around the corner, we at Rif Rasslin’ have plucked out what we consider to be the 10 greatest matches in the event’s history. How did we do it? First off, we jotted down what matches could be a potential contender and from that list, we trimmed it down to 10. It was difficult but selecting from a list of 40 matches, it was a lot of fun! Remember that this list is just based on our opinions. You may disagree with our selections and that’s fine.
With that out of the way, let’s go back in time to 2009….
10. World Heavyweight Championship: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy (TLC) – 2009
This was the main event of that particular year’s Summerslam. The other big match on that card was between John Cena and Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. The seeds were planted when CM Punk cashed in his 2nd Money in the Bank contract on Jeff Hardy just moments after he won the title from Edge in a gruelling TLC match. Punk turned heel soon afterwards and began to get under Hardy’s skin with constant jabs towards Jeff’s lifestyle and problems with drugs, claiming that he was more superior because of his Straight Edge lifestyle.
There were a lot of great moments happening in this match. I remember Hardy going through a table and getting powerbombed off the Ladder. That Super-plex from the top of the Ladder really made me shudder because I honestly thought both guys would end up seriously injured after that! Hardy’s offence with the steel chair was memorial because as a fan, you wanted to see Punk get his ass kicked after all the things he said about Hardy leading up to this match. He did a Swanton off the ladder onto Punk, who was lying on a table. I remember he did something similar at Wrestlemania 25 where he did a legdrop from the top. The finish came after Punk wacked Hardy in the ribs, Hardy fell off and Punk won the match. That was a great match which lasted almost 23 minutes. On Smackdown, Jeff Hardy left the WWE after losing a Steel Cage match against Punk. He re-joined TNA in the New Year and was the centre of controversy after turning up to a pay per view under the influence. I hate having to read about Jeff Hardy in that light but re-watching this match reminds me just why Jeff Hardy (and Punk as well) is an amazing athlete.
9. Edge vs. Undertaker (Hell in a Cell) – 2008
When you look back at WWE 2008, there was a huge change taking place around the summer time. After a decade of being a TV14 rated programme, the WWE returned to a PG rated show after the whole Chris Benoit tragedy from the previous year. This feud was a highlight from that year (along with the amazing HBK/Jericho feud) but I remembered thinking, how will they pull off a Hell in a cell match without blood? Blood was a common novelty in these kind of matches.
The big spot in this match was when Edge speared Undertaker though the side of the cage. They must have gimmicked that part of the cell in order to create that effect. Edge continued the assault by hitting him with a monitor to the head and then speared Undertaker through one of the announce tables while running across all of them. It was a very memorable spot. Undertaker managed to get back up, they went into this crazy sequence of near falls that was big move after big move. The turning point came when Edge mocked Undertaker by going for “old school” but Undertaker countered the move and chokeslammed though a table! I liked how they incorporated different weapons in the match, think of it as a mix of Hell in a Cell and a TLC match. That’s the uniqueness of the match right there! Some of the Undertaker’s spots in this match involved a spear to Edge, a camera shot to the head, a conchairto and the finish was a Tombstone Piledriver. After the match, Undertaker chokeslammed Edge “to hell”. In reality, Edge took some time off to heal some injuries. What I liked about this was the way Undertaker treated Edge like his equal rather than the underdog and allowed him to get in a lot of offence too. Most of all, I’d consider this to be one of the best matches of the PG era so far.
8. Intercontinental Championship: Triple H vs. The Rock (ladder Match) – 1998
Embroiled in a feud for much of the summer, D-Generation X leader, Triple H challenged the then leader of the Nation of Domination, The Rock to a Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. At this stage in their careers, neither man had held the World title but they would eventually go on to win a combined total of 23 World titles between them. They made this match work without having too many crazy spots which a match like this is famous for. Early in the match Rocky worked on Triple H’s knee and that set up the first part of the match. Hunter kept on fighting back, showing the classic toughness and heart which you’d expect to see from a babyface. They fight on the ladder, Hunter falls off, Rock’s ready to get the title and then Hunter bounces into the ladder, which knocks Rock off. Then a cool spot as Rock did a People’s Elbow while using the Ladder. It looked ridiculous, but the NYC crowd was cheering for Rock because his heel character was catching on at this point. Hunter comes back, he goes for the title again, but Rock hits a Rock Bottom. Hunter follows that up with a Pedigree. Then Rock’s ally Mark Henry threw powder in Hunter’s eyes to blind him and keep him from climbing.
The finish came when Chyna, who was with Triple H, punched Rocky in the balls, causing him to fall off the ladder and allowing Hunter to win the title. The crowd was loud for the entire match. They were even cheering for Rocky too. It was a respect thing and both guys earned their love from the New York crowd. Later in the year, The Rock won his first WWF title at Survivor Series and Triple H won his the following year on an episode of Raw. I think it’s fair to say that everybody knew these two would be World Champions one day. They had a far better match at Judgement Day 2000 but they were more experienced at that time and this match laid the foundation for their careers as main event players in the most successful era in WWE history. They are unquestionably two of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history and this is their breakout match.
7. WWF Intercontinental Championship: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Mr Perfect – 1991
This match is in my personal top 10 favourite matches ever and it only seems right to include it in the top 10 Summerslam matches of all time. Mr Perfect was the cocky Intercontinental Champion whiles Bret Hart was in the early stages of his singles run after the Hart Foundation split. As a kid, I was interested in this match because I was too used to seeing Bret as a tag team wrestler and thought he’d come up short against Perfect. In his book and DVD, Bret mentioned how hurt Curt was with an on-going back injury he had but he was determined to have a classic with Bret because they were very close friends and had great respect for one another. The highlight for me was when Bret Hart kicked out of the Perfect-Plex. Kicking out of finisher moves nowadays is far too common but back in 1991, it was very rare. Perfect sold it great! He couldn’t believe it and neither did the NYC crowd. The commenters (Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan and Roddy Piper) put over how no one else had ever kicked out of the Perfect-Plex.
The finish came when Perfect went for a legdrop. While on his back, Bret caught the leg and locked in the Sharpshooter. A victory over Mr Perfect gave Bret a lot of momentum in his single’s career because Perfect was such a dominant champion. It was 20 minutes of straight up wrestling with no gimmicks. This is the perfect (no pun intended) way to put someone over in a clean and effective manner. This is one of the most famous and memorable matches in the careers of these two hall of famers!
6. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Street Fight) -2002
When Shawn retired in 1998, I honestly believed that he would never wrestle again…I was wrong! As I said, Shawn retired in 1998 because his back was in so much pain and would need to have surgery on it. Between 1998 and 2002, Shawn had made massive changes in his life. He became a husband, a father and had accepted Christ into his life. He was a changed man with a different outlook on life. When he returned to the ring at Summerslam, I wondered how good he would be. Would he still deliver the goods like the HBK of old, or would he be a shell of his former self? Well, guess what? He was the same old “showstopper” that we all know and love!
The match was almost 30 minutes. The match was a street fight, which allowed them to do tricks in case Shawn wasn’t up to his normal speed (which he was because he’s fucking Shawn Michaels!) Hunter was bleeding. Shawn’s selling was point on! He made every back bump seem as if it’s about to put him in a wheelchair! I was watching and praying that Shawn would avoid getting injured. My favourite part of the match was when HBK was propping up a table on the floor, laying HHH across it and splashing him off the top. In the ring, he hit an elbow drop off the ladder. I’ll never forget him doing the “I’m crazy” hand motion. The finish saw the Sweet Chin Music get blocked, then the Pedigree countered into a roll though cradle for Michaels. He won the match and everybody loved it. The win was out of nowhere quite literally. Post match, HHH hit him twice in the back with his trusty sledgehammer to put Michaels out for a few more months. I was expecting a re-match at Wrestlemania but I never imagined that Shawn would stick around for 8 more years and be just as good (if not, better) then his previous run in the company. This match was great for Triple H too. His face run in 2002 just wasn’t working at all. He’s more elite as a heel. The spots were perfect. Everything made sense and the timing was point on! Such a fun, emotional match which really epitomised the term, “marking out”.
5. WWF Tag Team Championship: The Dudley Boys vs. Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boys (TLC) – 2000
This was the first ever TLC match in WWE history. Edge and Christian had the chairs, The Dudleys had the tables and the Hardy’s had the ladders, put them all together, you have yourself a TLC match. I remember thinking that the Hardy Boyz would win because the event was held in their home state of North Carolina. There were a lot of spots in this match which were sickening. Bubba’s full nelson bomb on Christian off the ladder was a sick spot early on. Then there was Jeff Hardy getting shoved off the ladder by Edge, only to land on a prone ladder that ended up sling-shotting into Matt’s face while he was on the ground. They did the same spot a few years later where Joey Mercury ended up getting his nose busted! The stiff chairshots on the Dudleys by Edge made me cringe. Thankfully you won’t see anything like that nowadays. The other spots in this match were Jeff’s legdrop off the top of the Ladder, that’s somewhat of his trademark, right? Or when Christian got thrown off the top and landing on Edge while he was sandwiched in between a ladder. The finish saw E&C knock down Jeff Hardy while he was hanging from the titles, unable to pull them down and the champs made the climb to retain the titles after this one amazing match!
There were plenty of great matches between these teams throughout the years but I hold this match and their re-match at Wrestlemania 17 as the ones that stick out the most. You have to respect the six guys for putting on an unbelievable performance. It almost certainly shorted the career of Edge and that it hurt the others too. Do they regret any of it? Properly not. Huge respect to them all.
4. WWF Championship: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle (2001)
If I had to choose the greatest match ever to have ended in a disqualification, then this match would top the list. Seriously, what a fun match this was. The work rate was superb. Austin was in the middle of his heel run and the leader of the “alliance” during the poor invasion storyline. Angle was the babyface even though he had been heel for his whole WWF run at that time. He was only in the WWE for 2 years at this point but Angle was on his way to becoming the best in the business in terms of ability. The match was fresh and action packed. Austin tried to do everything possible to put Angle away, early on he hit him with the Stunner but only got a 2 count! Angry and frustrated, Austin repeatedly rammed Angle’s head into the ringpost which eventually drew blood. It added to the match because Angle looked physically out of it, yet he refused to give up and kept on fighting much to Austin’s annoyance.
The final 5 minutes were epic as Angle kicked out of a second Stone Cold Stunner, Austin kicked out of the Olympic Slam and Angle locked on the ankle lock. Then Austin began to attack the referees, he punched Earl Hebner, gave Mike Chioda a Stunner, wacked Tim White with the title belt and finally, Nick Patrick rang the bell, disqualifying Austin. Both guys were on top of their game here. This was the best match where both guys worked well in their respected roles (Angle as the face & Austin as the heel). Most people I speak to didn’t think Austin’s heel run worked because people were reluctant to boo him, I disagree. He got massive heel heat and Angle had the crowd jumping around for everything he did. Angle eventually won the title the following month at Unforgiven in his hometown of Pittsburgh before dropping the title back to Austin. Both of these guys are in my top 10 (Austin is 3rd and Angle is 8th) and its matches like this that made me into fans of both of these guys. Angle has had his problems in recent months and that’s too bad but he’s getting the help he needs and he’ll be back in TNA in no time continuing on his amazing legacy.
3. WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Steel Cage Match) – 1994
My favourite feud of all time has got to be Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. I loved absolutely everything about this feud. Seeds were planted at Survivor Series ’93, the brothers seems to make peace but Owen made the official heel turn at the Royal Rumble, then he got the victory over his older brother at Wrestlemania 10 (Bret went on to win the title later in the show). After winning the King of the Ring tournament, Owen got the chance to face Bret at Summerslam inside the Steel Cage match. The chemistry between them is excellent. Yes, I know that they are brothers but even so, everything they did just clicked. I’ve noticed this in all of their matches but they mastered the little things, the brotherly instinct was there. The other thing I like about this match is that its escape rules only. No pinfalls or submissions like you see nowadays but you had to escape the cage to win. It heightened the drama when they were trying to escape through the door and all the fans were egging Bret on to escape or to stop Owen from escaping. I was 7 and a half years old at the time and I was rooting for Owen because, like me, Owen was the younger brother.
There’s a spot in the match where Bret suplexes Owen from the top of the cage. That was crazy and unheard of back in 1994. An emotional Bret talks about that spot in his DVD and how he protected Owen during the fall and how it reminded him too much of how Owen was killed during the Over the Edge pay per view in 1999. In the closing stages, both guys were climbing down the outside of the cage. Watching it again, I noticed that Owen hooked his leg on the inside of the cage to make sure he didn’t fall out first. Bret rammed him into the cage, Owen went upside down, hanging by his leg and Bret dropped to the floor and retains the WWF title. Bret’s victory wasn’t a dominant victory. It was an evenly matched contest where both guys looked strong in the end. Post- match was great too as Bret & Owen’s brother in law Jim Neidhart attacked Bret Hart. All of the Hart family was sitting at ringside. They also attacked the British Bulldog, who was another brother in law of the family that was a babyface at this point. This led to Neidhart & Owen double teaming Bret in the cage while all of the other brothers tried to get in until Bulldog finally made it. It was such a great feud. An instant classic which I consider to be one of the best Cage matches of all time.
2. WWF Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (Ladder Match) – 1995
After their epic five star match at Wrestlemania 10, I had no idea what to expect in this one. How could they possibly top that one? Unlike their previous Ladder match, there wasn’t much of a story since both guys were babyfaces at the time. Originally, Shawn was going to face Sid but it was scrapped in favour of a Ladder match with Razor Ramon because Summerslam ’95 was a really weak show. Shawn mentioned in his book that under no circumstances should the Ladder be used as a weapon so the limitations were put in place. Shawn was over huge at the time and was in line for a huge push, Razor was doing some solid mid card work but just couldn’t seem to break out of that upper mid card position that he just seem to be stuck in. There were some crazy spots in this match, for example, Razor suplexes Shawn over the top to the floor that HBK takes on the knees! Ouch! It’s no surprise that Shawn had serious knee problems when you see a bump like that! They added in psychology with Michaels hurting his knee and Razor working on it very well. Razor was acting heelish in the match so it would make the fans feel more sympathetic towards Shawn and make it seem like a big deal when he eventually won the match.
Razor brought another ladder into the match. As Shawn started to climb the ladder, Razor sneaked up behind him and hit him with the Razor’s Edge off the ladder which was yet another cool spot. They both set up their respected ladders and started to climb up when Shawn hit the Sweet Chin Music knocking Razor off the ladder. The momentum caused Shawn to fall off his ladder unplanned. They had to improvise here, so they did a spot where Shawn reversed the Razor’s Edge into a backdrop sending Razor to the floor. Shawn messed up the finish again which clearly frustrated him. Finally, he grabbed the belt and retained the Intercontinental Championship. That my friends, was 25 minutes worth of action that you must see. The Wrestlemania match always gets more praise but after watching this one, felt that this was the better match between the two. I think people like the WM10 match more because it happened first and things that happen at Wrestlemania usually get glorified more. Other’s point out that Shawn messed up the finish which is a valid point but I think it would be unfair to suggest that one mistake should reflect badly on everything else that just happened. This one went on longer and the time was used wisely and effectively. They told more of a story by working over Shawn’s knee injury. The crowd was hot the entire time and gave these guys the respect they truly deserve. A true classic which has stood the test of time.
1. WWF Intercontinental Championship: British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart – 1992
So here we are, the greatest Summerslam match of all time; Bret Hart defending the Intercontinental Championship against England’s own Davey Boy Smith “The British Bulldog”. Not many people know this but the match was taped on August 29th and aired on August 31st in 1992. With the evolution of the internet and social networking sites, it would be almost impossible to do something like this again. Macho Man & Warrior fought it out for the WWF title but it wasn’t the main event, this was! I guess it was done because they thought it would be great to end the pay per view with Davey Boy winning the title in his home country. Davey Boy has gone on to say that this was the first time where he truly got nervous before a match and it showed on his face as he made his way to the ring. It was a face vs. face match with the added dynamic of Bulldog’s wife Diana being at ringside, who was also the sister of Bret Hart.
Bret says in his book & DVD that Davey Boy was blown up (tired) very early in the match and forgot everything. I guess this was down to nerves as I suggested before. Bret also claims that he carried the majority of the match which isn’t a surprise since Bret is a great technician. Through a lot of the match, Bret was working as a heel so the crowd was totally behind Davey Boy. He wasn’t aggressive in his attacks; it was just the basics that helped the match because it builds up the support for the Bulldog. You could tell Bulldog was lost because of the bump where Bret slingshot himself over the top rope and Davey was supposed to catch him. Instead, he was hunched over the side of the ring trying to catch his breath. Hart ended up grabbing Davey by the shoulder to pull him down which could have easily have seen Bret tear his knee. The finish sequence was amazing! After a double clothesline spot, Bret wrapped Bulldog up in the Sharpshooter while they were on their backs. He sits in it, the crowd is going mental. Bulldog gets the ropes and breaks the hold. Bret whips him into the ropes, does a sunset flip, Bulldog drops to his knees, hooks the arms, leans forward for the one, two and three for what might be the loudest ovation I’ve ever heard. The new Intercontinental Champion was the British Bulldog. Post-match, Bret sold the dejection and frustration of losing. He even teased leaving, but he hugged his brother-in-law and the crowd popped huge for it as Diana went into the ring for the big family celebration.
Bret mentions in his book and on his DVD that he went into this match with the idea that not only would people think Davey Boy got elevated by winning the title, but that Bret would become a bigger star because of his performance. He wanted to prove to Vince that he could be the top guy in the company one day, two months later he defeated Ric Flair for his first ever WWF title. This match was the perfect example of a match doing great things for both guys. One guy went over (Davey Boy), but the other guy became a bigger star after it was all said and done (Bret). Wrestling isn’t always about the wins and losses. It’s about getting over, telling stories and memories that last forever. The pop when Davey Boy got the victory was deafening. At the end, Vince McMahon called it one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time. He was spot on. British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart is the greatest Summerslam match of all time.
So there you go guys, the 10 greatest matches in Summerslam history. My top 3 were pretty much locked in but the rest was pretty difficult to select from and believe me, there were a ton of matches up for consideration. It wasn’t easy but looking at this list, I’m confident with what I’ve gone for. Feel free to add your Summerslam memories. We’ll look forward to reading them.
Enjoy Summerslam 2013 guys.
*Rif Van Der Sheriff