SummerSlam is upon us! One of the big 4 PPV’s of the year is the lead off hitter for the WWE lineup. Here is my Top 5 SummerSlams and my Top 6 SummerSlam matches of All-Time.
Top 5 SummerSlams of All-Time
5 SummerSlam 1990 – The Spectrum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I will admit I am a bit bias when it comes to this time in WWF/WWE however, this event was a star studded with wrestlers during the golden era of Pro Wrestling. 1990 was probably the last year wrestling crowds were on fire for cartoonish pro wrestling where ever character had an occupation attached to it and good guys were loved and bad guys were hated. There is no better example of this when Hulk Hogan was attacked on television by the Earthquake and put out of action for most of the summer. SummerSlam’90 was going to be Hogan’s return to the ring to face his new found foe. When Hogan’s music hit the philly crowd loses their minds and when he lifts the over 400 pounder over his ahead the crowd is thrown back into the same frenzy. This was a time of great story telling for feuds that didn’t include titles such as Dusty Rhodes and the Million Dollars Man Ted DiBiase. Dusty’s manager Sapphire spends the weeks leading up to the event receiving lavish gifts from an anonymous suitor. It is revealed at the event that she indeed sold out and was bought off by Ted DiBiase. This is a classic example of storytelling that plays with your emotions that could still hold up today. The pre-match back stage interviews were also very memorable including an excellent one from the Hart Foundation before they captured the Tag Team Titles in an excellent contest vs. Champions Demolition(description below). The Main Event was the Ultimate Warrior defending his title against Rick Rude. This title match was held inside the blue steel cage instead of the fence style cage which we see now. Rick Rude always brought the best out in the Warrior. This was Rude’s last PPV match in the WWF/WWE and it was a great one that included blood, near victories, and the typical Bobby Heenen rule breaking. If you ever want to get nostalgic for some old school wrestling this event is a great place to start.
4 SummerSlam 2000 – Raleigh Entertainment & Sports Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina
You can judge wrestling cards by the elite quality of the main events. It doesn’t get much more elite than The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle in the year 2000. Each superstar was young and on top of the business. In a year that was missing Stone Cold Steve Austin due to injury; each one of these superstars stepped up their game and proved to be big time players in sports entertainment for years to come. The card was stacked with intriguing matchups such as an intergender match featuring Eddie Guerrero as his highly entertaining Latino Heat persona, a 2 out of 3 falls Intercontinental Title match with Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, and an Undertaker and Kane match with Taker as the American Bad Ass. With all that being featured on the card this event with forever be remembered for having the first ever TLC match (description below). This match clearly stole the show and knowing about all these superstars as we do know will go down in my book as the greatest stipulation match of all-time.
3 SummerSlam 1998 – Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
If SummerSlam 1997 was a launching point for the attitude era, then the 1998 edition was its destination. The Highway to Hell themed event, featuring AC/DC classic song of the same name, was centered on Stone Cold Steve Austin and his first run as the champion and face of the company. His feud with the Undertaker was at its height at this juncture and made for some entertaining storytelling. Triple H led DX and Rock led Nation of Domination was on the under card but stole the show. Their ladder match was a wild collision between two stars that were right to shoot into the atmosphere. The promos leading up to this match were some of DX’s and the Nation best work. A back and forth match that had interference, some creative uses for the ladder, and a classic finish had the MSG crowd on feet with every twist and turn. In pro wrestling venues and crowds can elevate an event. Madison Square Garden was no exception here. The Garden has always been home for the WWF/WWE and the New York City crowd never disappoints.
2 SummerSlam 1997- Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Attitude era was upon us during this edition of the summer classic. Three Matches made this event and became the launching point for major changes in the business. The opening match pitted Hunter Hearst Helmsley inside of a steel cage with Mankind. These two never disappointed when they went one on one during their careers. This would be the last we would see of the blue cage on PPV. This match started the slow climb for Hunter to get out of that blue blood persona and into the DX Triple H that would join Shawn Michaels later that year. The intercontinental title was on the line with Stone Cold Steve Austin facing champion Owen Hart. The finish of the match saw Stone Cold injuring his neck on a botched pile driver but still finishing the match. This event led to Stone Cold having to give up his title and sparked the greatest feud in wrestling history with Vince McMahon. This feud had many of an employee dreaming about giving their boss a Stone Cold Stunner and a two finger salute. The main event featured 3 of the greatest superstars of all time. WWE champion Undertaker faced off against Bret Hart with Shawn Michaels as the special quest referee. These three legends began a feud that led to the first ever Hell in a Cell match, the Montreal screw job, Michael being forced into retirement, Bret Hart leaving for WCW, and the Undertaker continuing his legendary run.
1 SummerSlam 2002- Nassau Veteran Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York
This card is absolutely loaded. The roster at the time was great top to bottom, a great mix of veterans and young up and comers. A spectacular action packed opening match between Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio sets the tempo for the rest of the card. Chris Jericho vs Ric Flair, Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero, an IC title match between RVD and Chris Benoit could main event most pay per views. The story lines were intriguing across the board as well. The Rock was on his way to Hollywood and Brock Lesner was on his way to superstardom in the Main Event. Shawn Michaels returning after 4 years to face his former friend and put on a hardcore wrestling clinic puts this event over the top. Michaels fed the crowd everything they hungered for during his 4 year hiatus. They got breath taking aerial maneuvers off the top rope and ladders, his signature kip up, and of course his legendary finish sweet chin music. Triple H, one of the great heels ever, added to that legend by brutalizing HBK for most of the match and clobbering him after the match was already decided. All of these elements paired with a spirited Long Island New York crowd make this the best Summer Slam I have seen.
Top 6 Matches in SummerSlam History:
6 SummerSlam 1991-Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect Intercontinental Championship Match
I will always be a little partial to this match because I was in the building with my father that night. This was first experience with bribery as my dad promised me tickets to SummerSlam if I could get an 80% or above in math. Well that last quarter I got exactly an 80 and we were headed to NYC. The venue elevates matches and no venue elevates matches more than MSG. The crowd was wild and ready for the coronation of Bret “The Hitman” Hart as a singles wrestler. These two combatants didn’t disappoint. A back and forth technical wrestling match by two Hall of Famers. A great finish on a reversal by Bret Hart into a sharpshooter sealed the deal and he won his first of many singles championships. Thanks pops!
5 SummerSlam 1990-Demolition vs. Hart Foundation 2 out of 3 Falls WWE Tag Team championships
This match doesn’t get the love it deserves but is classic tag team wrestling that today’s product can use as template. First, the match had a solid story. The Hart Foundation was looking to regain their titles after 3 years. Demolition had recently added Crush, a third member to the team of AX and Smash. 2 out of 3 falls added a great element to the match. It allowed each team to get their signature moves in and had an array of bending the rules, hot tags, and involvement of Ax(the member of demolition that wasn’t involved in the match) and the Legion of Doom. The Philly crowd was on fire for this match. They maintained a sustain roar through out and popped on all of the big moments. Having Bobby Heenan’s heel humor, Roddy Piper intensity, and Vince McMahons booming voice on Commentary added to the entertainment value of the match.
4 SummerSlam 2002-Rey Mysterio vs Kurt Angle
A great example of how contrasts of styles can make for a great match. Angles ground and pound submission style combined with Mysterio’s unmatched quickness and high flying made for an action pack thrill ride throughout. This match was sped up and slowed down so much that it left the Long Island crowd on the edge of their seat with every ankle lock, counter, and aerial move. Both Mysterio and Angle are in the prime of their careers in ’02 and although the contest is only a little over 9 minutes long it gives you everything you want in a pro wrestling match.
3 SummerSlam 1992-British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart Intercontinental Championship
The story here wrote itself. Two family members (Bulldog is Bret’s real life brother-in-law) who have mutual respect for each other but once have what the other one wants and causes tension throughout the family. This tension is intensified by the match taking place in England, the Bulldogs home country. Settings can make matches great and 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium was no exception. Bret did the honors of putting the Bulldog over in this match and at the same time elevated himself in the company as a main event player. Bret would become WWF/WWE champion a little over a month later and would be the face of the company for several years.
2 SummerSlam 2002-HHH vs Shawn Michaels Non Sanctioned Match
Another great example of simple story telling made into a great match by two top performers. A friends betrayal when HHH turned on Michaels on Monday Night Raw and then attacked Michaels in the Parking lot a week later. This is a feud born from jealousy for the top spot in the wrestling business. It’s a story line that always pops if you build it with patience. This match is Michael’s triumphed return to ring action after a 4 years hideous because of a back injury. Swirling around the match was could HBK deliver after a long absence and facing a man well in his prime. On this night in Nassau Coliseum Michaels delivers as only he can with an incredible performance that included all the classics: the elbow drop, a splash through the table, a kip up that popped the crowd, and of course sweet chin music. The brutal match ended with a roll up pin and a Michaels win. However, in true asshole heel fashion triple H waffles HBK in the back and gets the last laugh. An absolute classic contest from two of the all-time greats.
1 SummerSlam 2000-TLC-Hardy’s / Dudley’s / Edge & Christian
There aren’t 3 better tag teams that epitomize an era better than the Hardy’s, The Dudley’s and Edge & Christian. The TLC matches cemented their legacy as the 3 greatest tag teams in not only WWE history but wrestling history. This was the first match of its kind and it delivered. The incredible bumps off the ladders and through the tables are incredible especially with the aerial view replays. The brutal chair shots taken by these guys to the head are hard to watch in this climate of concussion awareness however these three teams put it all on the line and stole the show at summer Slam 2000.
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