We are seven days away from “The Biggest Party of the Summer”. SummerSlam debuted in 1988 and was the last of the “Big 4” to be brought to the WWF. SummerSlam was always viewed as the second biggest show of the year. In recent years, the Royal Rumble has taken that spot as it is the kickoff to the Road to WrestleMania. Still, SummerSlam is a major show in WWE’s calendar year that over the years has brought us many great matches and moments. If you remember, last year before the 2012 edition of SummerSlam I had a three part column series called “The SummerSlam 70”. If you want to read that again or for the first time you can do that here: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

In that series of columns I just went through SummerSlam year by year and picked out the 70 biggest moments and matches. That column wasn’t a countdown. This one is. These are what I feel are the 15 best matches in SummerSlam history. Of course that is always up for debate but my column, my countdown.

If you read the SummerSlam 70 then the write-ups will be pretty much the same. I apologize for being redundant but free time is fleeting this week and after last year I really wanted to do a countdown for SummerSlam as opposed to just listing things chronologically. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. So, let’s stop the yapping and countdown The 15 Best Matches in SummerSlam History.

(15) 2003- WWE Championship Match- Champion Kurt Angle defeated Brock Lesnar to Retain the Championship (***3/4) 20:45

These two had a classic bout in the main event of WrestleMania XIX and this was the rematch. After WrestleMania, Angle needed neck surgery and was sidelined until July. Upon his return, Angle pinned the then WWE Champion, Lesnar in a Triple Threat Match to become the Champion at Vengeance. The two were portrayed as friends but Lesnar turned on Angle and sided with Vince McMahon out of jealousy and in order to gain another shot at the gold he once held. This match wasn’t on the level of their WrestleMania match but it was still pretty damn good. Lesnar controlled the early part of the match but he crashed shoulder first into the ring post allowing Angle to get back in the match. Angle hit an Angle Slam for a long two count and after Lesnar kicked out he locked in the Ankle Lock but Lesnar rolled through and sent Angle flying into the referee. While the referee was down Angle locked in the Ankle Lock again causing Brock to tap but there was no referee to see it. Vince McMahon came down with a chair to help out Brock. He smacked Angle with the chair allowing Lesnar to hit a one-legged F-5. Angle remarkably kicked out at two. Brock went for another F-5 but this time Angle countered it into another Ankle Lock and got the former Champion to tap with the referee upright this time and Angle retained his title after a hard fought match.

(14) 1991- Intercontinental Championship Match- Bret Hart defeats Mr. Perfect via Submission to become the NEW Champion (***3/4) 17:30

I can remember almost every move in this match and that’s because I must have seen it two hundred times as a kid. This match was on a four match VHS called “The Best of SummerSlam”. I can’t honestly remember any of the other matches on that tape but I’ll always remember this one. It was a fantastic wrestling match. If you ever read Bret Hart’s book, and you should, then you’ll know just how much pain Mr. Perfect was in during this match. Perfect shouldn’t even have been in the ring but he wanted to go out there and pass the torch to Bret. They damn near had a classic. If Perfect would have been healthy they could have had one of the best matches in company history. This was Bret’s first significant singles win and just a year later he’d be WWF Champion. I love the ending to this match. Perfect went to leg drop Hart between the legs but Bret grabbed Perfect’s leg and ended up locking in the Sharpshooter to pick up the win.

(13) 1992- WWF Championship Match- The Ultimate Warrior beat Randy Savage via Count Out. Randy Savage Retains the WWF Championship (****) 26:15

Everyone remembers the classic bout these two had at WrestleMania VII and this match was right up there with that match. It may have surpassed the WrestleMania match if there was a clean finish. Once this match was made official, rumors began to run wild that either Savage or Warrior purchased the services of Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair to ensure that they’d leave SummerSlam as the WWF Champion. The first 15 minutes of this match were really great. Each man showed their desire to be Champion as they would constantly go for covers. After that point things slowed down a bit because Perfect and Flair made their way to ringside. It appeared as if Warrior was the one that sold out as Savage was tripped up by Perfect as he neared the ropes. Then it seemed as if Savage had sold out as Flair cracked Warrior with brass knuckles when the referee was out. Savage didn’t see this and dropped the elbow from the top for a long two count. These two would continue to battle when Warrior got smacked in the back by a chair from Flair. Savage went up top to drop another elbow but realized that he didn’t do the damage to Warrior so he leapt off the top and tried to hit Flair but Flair saw it coming and hit Randy with a chair on the way down. Savage tried to get back in the ring but the ref counted to ten and declared Warrior the winner. Flair and Perfect continued to wreak havoc after the match so it was clear that they weren’t bought by either man but rather just wanted to create trouble in the title match. A really strong wrestling match that deserved a clear winner but I understand why they did it. It’s hard to have one man go over the other cleanly since they were the top babyfaces at the time.

(12) 2000- Triple Threat WWF Championship Match- Champion The Rock beat Triple H and Kurt Angle to Retain the Championship (****) 24:28

The WWF Championship was on the line here but that was just merely a backdrop to what was the big story in the WWF at the time. It was a love triangle between Stephanie McMahon, Triple H and Kurt Angle. The Rock got caught in the middle because he was the WWF Champion and these two were the two top contenders for the gold. HHH jumped Angle and the fight started before The Rock even made it to the ring. Things spilled to the outside and Triple H went to Pedigree Angle through the Spanish Announce Table but the table couldn’t support their weight causing it to collapse before the move could be performed and it gave Angle a legit concussion. It is amazing that he came back and finished the match. Angle left for a good while leaving it as just a Rock/HHH singles match for the majority of the match. Kurt only made his way back to the ring after Stephanie pleaded with him while he was on a stretcher to go out there and help HHH for her. Once he got out there the intensity and drama of the match picked up. HHH asked Stephanie to give him his sledgehammer but Angle intercepted it and when Hunter tried to get it back from him he inadvertently punched Stephanie. Triple H got drilled with the sledgehammer and Angle went for the cover but Rock tossed him out of the ring and dropped the People’s Elbow on HHH and made the cover to retain his title. This was a hell of a match all the way around and you really have to give it up to Kurt Angle for coming back out there and finishing the match when he probably had no idea where he was.

(11) 2009- Tables, Ladders and Chairs World Heavyweight Championship Match- CM Punk defeated Jeff Hardy to become the NEW Champion (****) 21:33

These two were the focal point of the SmackDown Brand in the Summer of 2009. The feud was really simple and sometimes simple works. Punk was mad that the fans would boo him, a man that lives a sober lifestyle while they would cheer a man that has had his troubles with drugs. This match was like watching a series of head-on car crashes as JR would say. I thought they weren’t going to top the top rope superplex onto a ladder that Punk delivered to Hardy, but they proved me wrong. Hardy absolutely wore out Punk with a chair, leaving him laying on the ECW announce table. Then Hardy went and grabbed the biggest damn ladder you ever saw and hit the Swanton Bomb onto Punk from all the way at the top of the ladder. That was just an insane leap. The medics wanted to stretcher out Hardy but he wanted none of it because Punk had recovered and started to climb the ladder. Hardy met Punk at the top and the battled for a bit until Punk laid him out with a punch and was able to grab the title and become the new champion.

(10) 1992- Intercontinental Championship Match- The British Bulldog pinned Bret Hart to become the NEW Champion (****) 23:55

This was the main event of the 1992 edition of SummerSlam. That particular PPV was the only WWF/E PPV to ever be held outside of North America. It was in Bulldog’s home country of England in Wembley Stadium in London. Bret’s book (it’s awesome, read it if you haven’t) goes into great detail about this match. He wanted to go on last and put over Bulldog in his home country but Bret wasn’t happy with Bulldog’s performance. He almost hurt Hart twice. Once when Bret slingshot over the ropes and Bulldog was out of position and the other when Bulldog was supposed to drop Bret across the top rope crotching him but he was too tired to make it and he let Bret go getting him tangled in the middle rope. Bret said in his book that Bulldog gassed out early and he had to do his best to keep him rested in the match. The subplot of the match was that Bret and Bulldog were brother-in-laws and they kept showing Bret’s sister/Bulldog’s wife, Diana at ringside. The finish was very well done with each man avoiding getting beat by the other’s finishing hold. In the end Bret tried a sunset flip but Bulldog blocked it, dropped down and cradled Bret to win the title. This loss didn’t hurt The Hitman as he graduated from the Intercontinental Championship by this point and was on his way to becoming the top dog in the company. I know a lot of people that rate this match a lot higher than I do but to me it was just missing that little something extra to put it into that rarified air.

(9) 1995- Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match- Champion Shawn Michaels defeated Razor Ramon to Retain the Championship (****) 25:00

This match often gets overlooked because of the first Ladder Match between the two at WrestleMania X but it shouldn’t. WWE seemingly puts the WrestleMania Ladder Match on every DVD release they have. I even think it’s on the recently released ECW Unreleased Volume 2 DVD set. The original Intercontinental Championship Match at this PPV was supposed to be Sid challenging HBK. Gladly it was changed. I don’t feel like this match is on the level of the WrestleMania one but it’s still an excellent match that people should check out if they haven’t already. I like this one more than the WrestleMania match because HBK wins and I’ve always been a big Michaels fan. The finish saw each man climb a separate ladder trying to retrieve the belt. HBK kicked Razor off his and then fell off his own. Razor went to hit the Razor’s Edge but Shawn backdropped him over the top rope and climbed the ladder. The ladder wasn’t set up right so Shawn fell off trying to grab the belt. He set up the ladder in the right spot and grabbed the gold to retain the title.

(8) 2011- Undisputed WWE Championship Match- CM Punk defeated John Cena to become the Undisputed Championship. Triple H served as the guest referee. (****1/4) 24:07

2011 was the Summer of Punk. Punk cut his famous “shoot” promo back in June and then earned himself a WWE Championship Match in his hometown at Money in the Bank. Punk stated he would leave the WWE after MITB as Champion because his contract was running out at midnight. He won the title and left, just like he said. In Punk’s absence, there was a tournament held to crown a new Champion, Rey Mysterio won that tournament and then ended up losing the title the same night to John Cena. Punk returned to WWE and Triple H made this match to see who would be the Undisputed Champion and then named himself referee to make sure everything went smoothly. Their match at MITB was a mistimed move or two away from being a five star classic. This one was just a notch below but it was still an excellent match and main event to a major PPV. These two battled back and forth all night hitting all of their big moves. Cena thought he had the match won after he hit the Attitude Adjustment but Punk kicked out at two. Cena then went for his top rope leg drop and missed. Punk capitalized by hitting the GTS but Cena kicked out right before three. These two would battle back and forth some more until Punk was able to hit another GTS and pin Cena. The caveat in all of this was that Triple H missed the fact that Cena’s foot was on the ropes. There’s the old rule that the referee can’t call what he can’t see so CM Punk was crowned the Undisputed WWE Champion.

(7) 2011- No Holds Barred World Heavyweight Championship Match- Randy Orton pinned Christian to become the NEW Champion (****1/4) 23:40

The major title matches at the 2011 edition of SummerSlam really delivered. Christian finally became a World Champion in WWE back in April at Extreme Rules but his title reign didn’t last long because on the very next episode of SmackDown, Orton beat him for the title. Christian had several chances to regain the title but it wasn’t until Money in the Bank that Christian was successful in regaining his title. That was mostly because there was a stipulation in the match that stated if Orton got disqualified he would lose the title. Christian spat in Orton’s face in that match causing him to go into a blind rage getting himself DQ’d and losing the title. This match was made by COO Triple H to ensure none of that would happen again. I loved this match. These two had the best chemistry together. Christian really brought out the best in Randy Orton. If you remember during their feud, Orton had trouble breaking the announce table whenever he tried an RKO on one. Not this time. Christian tried to RKO Randy first but Orton didn’t feel like tasting  his own medicine and delivered the RKO to Christian through the table. This was an evenly contested match most of the way through but Orton made the win very matter of fact after he caught Christian in midair with an RKO onto the ring steps. Orton made the cover and became a nine-time World Champion. This is one of the best No DQ type matches in company history, needless to say one of the best in the PG Era.

(6) 2000- Tables, Ladder and Chairs Tag Team Championship Match- Champions Edge and Christian defeated The Hardy Boyz and Dudley Boyz to Retain the Championship (****1/4) 14:50

This match was off the wall insane! This was the middle match of the tag team trilogy these teams had. We had tables matches and we had ladder matches but never a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match and people didn’t know what to expect but what we got was amazing. On the way to SummerSlam each team had their preferred weapon, E&C had the chairs, the Hardys had the Ladders and the Dudleys had the tables so WWF Commissioner, Mick Foley threw them all in one match. The spots in this match were absolutely breath taking. You had two tables set up on the outside and Bubba Ray was on the tables. Jeff Hardy busted out the big ladder and went for the Swanton Bomb but Bubba moved and Jeff got nothing but tables. Then there were two tables stacked on two tables and Bubba was climbing the big ladder trying to retrieve the titles but E&C tipped over the ladder sending Bubba through four tables. Matt Hardy had his hands on the gold but Devon tilted the ladder causing Matt to go backward through two tables. In the end E&C were the only ones left standing and climbed up the ladder and retained their titles. This is a definite must see match that often gets overlooked because of the two WrestleMania matches but this is something you should go out of your way to see if you haven’t already seen it. Just an awesome match and hats off to all six men.

(5) 2001- WWF Championship Match- Kurt Angle beat Steve Austin via Disqualification. Steve Austin Retained the Championship (****1/2) 23:15

This is everything you would want in a wrestling match and a match that main events a big PPV. Two big stars with a heated back story laying it all on the line to put on a great match. Wrestling at its best. Austin turned on the WWF back at Invasion and sided with The Alliance because he didn’t feel like the WWF appreciated him and he immediately targeted Kurt Angle because he felt Angle was the new golden boy of the WWF. These two put on an awesome show and beat the holy hell out of each other. Angle was a bloody mess and the fight spilled to the floor and even into the crowd where he locked in the Ankle Lock and dragged Austin over the barricade, up the stairs and back in the ring. That was pretty awesome. Austin hit three Stunners in this match and even busted out the old Million Dollar Dream and none of it was enough to put Angle away. Angle locked in the Ankle Lock and at that moment Austin realized that he couldn’t beat Angle on this night so he knocked out three referees trying to get disqualified. During the Invasion Angle there were WWF and WCW referees and a fourth referee, a WCW referee DQ’d Austin while Angle had him pinned, effectively screwing Angle out of the title. This is a no doubt five star match with another five minutes and a pin/submission finish. Even with that said, this was pretty damn awesome.

(4) 1998- Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match- Triple H defeats The Rock to become the NEW Champion (****1/2) 26:04

I don’t like using the term “war” for a sporting event or a wrestling match, but this was a war. When people think of a Ladder Match they expect to see a lot of high flying spots but these two went a different route and just beat the living hell out of each other. I especially loved it when Rock was coming after HHH with the ladder and Hunter smacked a chair into the ladder knocking Rock down and then drilled Rock with the chair a couple more times with the ladder on top. The People’s Elbow while HHH was lying on the ladder was a pretty cool spot. Austin/McMahon was the focus of WWF in the Summer of 1998 but the Nation of Domination vs. D-X really carried the midcard. Some of the best stuff WWF did in 1998 came from these two factions. Their leaders faced off in this epic Ladder Match as a culmination of that feud. This was just a taste of how great these two could be as they would go onto carry the company in 1999-2001 while Austin was out with a neck injury. This was two of the best all-time WWF/E Superstars battling right when they were on the cusp of greatness and on this night you just knew the company would be in good hands with these two. Mark Henry was in Rock’s corner and Chyna was in HHH’s corner and they both played a factor in the match. HHH just nailed Rock with the Pedigree and it looked like Hunter was about to ascend the ladder and win the gold but Henry threw powder in his eyes slowing him down. Rock recovered and started to climb the ladder but just as he was about to retrieve the gold Chyna hit him with a low blow allowing HHH to finally grab the belt and become the new champion. Just an awesome, awesome match.

(3) 2008- Hell in a Cell Match- The Undertaker pinned Edge (****1/2) 26:44

The spring and summer on SmackDown in 2008 was dominated by a feud between The Undertaker and Edge over the World Heavyweight Championship. Undertaker defeated Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 24. Edge then got his revenge by defeating Undertaker at One Night Stand in a Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match. As per the stipulation in that match, Undertaker was forced to leave WWE if he lost the match. Undertaker was reinstated after SmackDown General Manager and Edge’s wife, Vickie Guerrero found out Edge was cheating on her. As revenge, she placed Edge in a Hell in a Cell Match with Undertaker. This match took place right went WWE went PG and word got out that there was a blood ban in all WWE matches. A lot of people, myself included were upset that there wouldn’t be blood in a HIAC Match. How could you have a HIAC Match with no blood? These two did and they did just fine without it. They really set the template on how to do a realistic physical match in WWE. This was just an awesome brutal fight from start to finish. Edge knew he had to go to a dark place in his soul to defeat Undertaker in HIAC. He hit two big Spears in the match. The first was when he leapt off the steel steps and Speared Undertaker through the Cell. Once they were out of the Cell, Edge ran off the SmackDown announce table, Speared Undertaker who was on the RAW table and they crashed through the ECW table. The war of attrition made its way back into the Cell. Edge tried to execute Old School on Undertaker but Taker countered it Chokeslamming Edge from the top rope through two tables on the floor. Undertaker brought Edge back in the ring and made sure he wouldn’t get up again as he hit a Spear, cracked Edge in the head with a video camera, hit the con-chair-to and then finished it all off with the Tombstone. An absolutely fantastic, must see, Hell in a Cell Match. Thank you Edge and The Undertaker.

(2) 2002- Non-Sanctioned Match- Shawn Michaels pinned Triple H (****1/2) 27:22

Only the incomparable Shawn Michaels could miss nearly 4 ½ years of ring time with an injury that everyone thought was going to retire him and then come back and make it look like he never missed a day. Shawn Michaels gutted his way through his last match at WrestleMania 14. His back was in such bad shape that everyone, Shawn included thought that would be it for him. Through nothing short of a minor miracle, Shawn became healthy enough to wrestle again. He claimed that this was a one shot deal (and thankfully it wasn’t) to gain revenge against Triple H for smashing his head into a car window. Shawn was on fire for the first few minutes of the match but then HHH hit a big backbreaker and you could hear the crowd groan loudly as they felt HBK’s pain. The story surrounding the match was how well Shawn’s back would hold up during the match. HHH abused HBK’s back with chair shots and even a backbreaker on the chair. Shawn found a second wind and then hit one of my favorite spots ever. He set a bloody HHH up on a table on the floor and then climbed to the top rope and made the universal sign for crazy and jumped and nailed a big splash on Triple H. That was so cool. The fight would wind up back in the ring where HBK would hit his trademark elbow off the top of a ladder. Shawn figured it was time to tune up the band and he went for Sweet Chin Music but HHH ducked it and went for a Pedigree that HBK reversed into a roll up and that roll up was enough for a three count. Shawn Michaels won his return match in WWE after a nearly 4 ½ year absence and looked awesome doing it. A tremendous job by both men, Triple H was the perfect opponent for HBK on this night.

 (1)  1994- Steel Cage WWF Championship Match- Bret Hart defeats Owen Hart to Retain the Championship (****3/4) 32:21

Brother vs. Brother for the Championship inside a cage. Sometimes a story is so perfect it writes itself and that’s what we had here. The WWF had been building to this point since January when Owen turned his back on Bret at the Royal Rumble. WrestleMania X rolled around and Owen pinned Bret before Bret would go onto regain the WWF Championship. These two waged an epic war inside the cage. This match is a classic example why Cage Matches should be escape only as these two had some really awesome, drama filled struggles trying to escape the cage. Both men were on the outside of the cage a few feet from the Championship. The fight concluded on the outside of the cage when Bret cracked Owen’s head into the side of the cage and Owen’s feet got caught up in the cage and Bret dropped down to victory. Hats off to these two for putting on one of the best Championship matches in the company’s history and the best match in the history of SummerSlam.

 

So, there they are. The 15 Best Matches in SummerSlam History. Agree/Disagree? Please let me know in the comments below. I’d be shocked if a match from this Sunday’s show doesn’t crack this list next year but we’ll have to sit back and watch next week to find out. Have a good week.

 

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