Summerslam. It's the biggest party of the summer according to World Wrestling Entertainment. Since 1988, WWE has held the Summerslam pay-per-view event and it's considered one of the company's big four PPVs along with WrestleMania, Royal Rumble and Survivor Series. This year's Summerslam will be the 25th version of the event and it's sure to give us more memories. What I'm here to do is look back at the previous 24 years of Summerslam to pluck out the 25 greatest Summerslam matches of all time.
How did I do it? I looked at every Summerslam card on paper. I used my memory of these matches to jot down (or type in Notepad as it were) the ones that stood out to me. Then I used DVDs, tapes and youtube to re-watch them. I watched every match that could be considered a contender for this list. If I knew a match sucked, like Undertaker vs. Undertaker, then I wasn't going to waste time watching it again.
After watching them, I jotted down a star rating for the match along with some notes and from there I was able to come up with the list. By the way, we're going with Summerslam as the spelling here rather than Summer Slam or SummerSlam. That's the way I like it.
A couple of things to note:
- Obviously it has to take place at a Summerslam PPV. There have been 24 of them. Total number of matches: 194. From that total I've cut it down to 25.
- The write-ups of these matches won't be play by play except for the two matches that occurred at Summerslam 2011 because I covered it live and there's no point in re-writing them again. The majority of the write-ups will be a synopsis. I'll give some backstory in some cases while in other cases I'll talk about the action more. I'll try to touch on what made it great and what you might want to look out for if you're watching the match.
- If the match happened before 2002 I'm saying WWF. If it's 2002 or later I'll call it WWE. My column. My rules.
- The match will be listed with the name of the winner of the match first. You'll also see the year the match took place, what title was on the line if there was one and the match type (ladder, 2/3 falls, etc.). I'll also do my best to list the time of the match rounded to the nearest minute.
- I will include Chris Benoit matches. They happened and I can write about them. Do I enjoy them as much as I did on my original viewing? No, but if the quality is there then it will make the list.
- I won't be posting links to the matches. However, if you search any of the matches on YouTube by the names of the competitor and you put the year of their Summerslam match you'll be able to find them if you're curious about something. YouTube—I love you. That's a whole other column.
- I use the 5-star scale to rate matches. It's the same scale a lot of people use to rate a movie. Just like The Godfather is a 5-star film, I think a match like Bret Hart vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13 is a 5-star wrestling match. I think there are probably 25-30 5-star matches in WWE history. Some people have more. Some people have less. If you strongly disagree all I can ask is that you realize this is my column and I'm using these as a guideline for you the reader.
I believe it's an effective way to judge a wrestling match because saying "pretty good" is too vague. Five stars is another way of saying 10/10 or A+. In the following column every match will be ***3/4 or better. In other words they are all worth your time.
- Here are a listing of matches that were close to making it into the top 25: Martel/Rougeaus vs. Rockers/Tito 1989 (fast paced action), Warrior/Rude 1989 (Warrior got tired so early), Steiners/Heavenly Bodies 1993, Mankind/Undertaker 1996 (too slow), BHart/Undertaker 1997 (they had much better matches), Austin/OHart 1997 (memorable match that would be #27), Hart Foundation/Demolition 1990 (fun tag match that would be #26), Test/Shane 1999 (more of a spotfest than a match), RVD/Benoit 2002, Lesnar/Rock 2002 (on paper sounds great but the chemistry wasn't great), Orton/Benoit 2004 (call this one #28), Hogan/Michaels 2005 (basically Michaels bumping around in a comedic manner at times), Flair/Foley 2006, Cena/Orton 2007 (very average), Mysterio/Ziggler 2009 (a top 30 match), Team WWE/Team Nexus 2010 (maybe if the heels went over). Also some of the worst matches ever like Undertaker/Undertaker 1994, Diesel/Mabel 1995 and Lawler/Roberts 1996 are not going to make it.
- You may have read this in 2011 when it was originally published minus the two matches from 2011 that made it in. If so, enjoy reading it again. If not, enjoy reading it for the first time.
- The last rule is the most important: It's my list so it's my order. I won't take anything personally if you disagree. It's just a list. I don't write a lot of list columns even though I get asked to do them all the time. I think for special occasions like this they are warranted in order to relive, start debates and educate those that may not know some of the best matches in the history of WWE. I spent a lot of time on this. I'm proud of it and I hope you enjoy it.
TJR: WWE Summerslam's 25 Greatest Matches #25 to 21
25. Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero - 2004
Guerrero had lost the WWE Title a few months prior to JBL while Angle wasn't wrestling post WrestleMania to heal up from his various injuries, which led to him running the show. The idea was that Angle was so hurt that he had to be pushed around in a wheelchair by bodyguard Luther Reigns. Guerrero won their match at WrestleMania, so this was their rematch after Angle had cost Eddie the WWE Title during a match against JBL. The story of the match was Angle working on Eddie's ankle the entire time while Eddie did a great job of selling it. Late in the match, Guerrero kicked out of the Angle Slam, which led to a frustrated Kurt taking off Eddie's boot. That's a nice way of referencing the WM20 match where Eddie won by taking off his own boot. Eddie ended up using the boot as a weapon, faked being hurt Eddie style, then he hit a Frog Splash and Angle kicked out. Great nearfall. I thought that was it. Angle recovered, slapped on the Ankle Lock, dropped down and Eddie tapped. What prevented this match from being better? It only went about 14 minutes. The pacing wasn't what I would have liked to see, but they are still two of the best workers and they had great chemistry with one another.
Match Rating: ***3/4
24. WWF Title: Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage - 1992 Savage was the babyface WWF Champion taking on another babyface in the Warrior. This was a rematch of their classic match at WrestleMania VII a year earlier. The story was that one of the two guys had sold out (meaning turned heel) as an ally of Mr. Perfect and Ric Flair. The question was who? TheUK crowd was really hot for both guys. There were dueling chants early and it made the match special. The first portion of the match, which got about 25 minutes by the way, was mostly a straight up contest between two of the top babyfaces in the company. Once Flair & Perfect came out it made things much more interesting. Basically what happened throughout the match is every time Flair & Perfect did something, the announcers would automatically claim that they were helping one of the guys. The ref bumps were aplenty, but it was part of the story, so it's okay with me. Late in the match, Savage hit the top rope elbow and Warrior kicked out at two. You didn't see guys kicking out of finishers too much in the 90s. Warrior powered up, went into his finishing sequence and Flair hit him with a chair. Savage didn't see it. Ref didn't see it. Savage got up looking confused as Vince McMahon told the viewers that Randy didn't know who attacked him. Being the noble babyface that he was, instead of jumping on Warrior with the elbow he ended up leaping outside of the ring at Flair. Ric avoided it, though, and hit Savage in the knee with the chair. Warrior won by countout, so Macho Man kept his title. Post match, the heels went after Savage's knee while Warrior recovered before saving Savage from a chair shot by Flair. Great heat, strong work and more proof that Savage was by far the best opponent that Warrior ever had.
Match Rating: ***3/4
23. Batista vs. John Cena - 2008 The two biggest faces of WWE from 2005 up until this match met for the "first time ever" here in a babyface vs. babyface clash. While both guys had held major championships over the previous three years, neither guy walked into the match holding a title. The match was a well built match that featured a lot of power offense, counter wrestling and great nearfalls. Batista even slapped on a Figure Four Leglock to the surprise of everybody. They really worked their asses off here. It followed the typical main event formula that saw Batista kicking out of what was then known as the FU (WWE had just become a PG company) while Cena was able to kick out of a Powerbomb that Batista used to counter a legdrop off the top. It was a move that led to Cena injuring his neck, which led to surgery that kept him out for a few months. Watching it again you can see he didn't land safely. He's a 270 pound guy jumping into the arms of another guy that is spiking him straight down, so it's not an easy move to do. That kickout infuriated Batista, who picked up Cena for a Batista Bomb that ultimately led to his victory after 14 minutes. You should never confuse either guy for being a great worker, but they knew how to hit the high points and when. That's what makes this match entertaining to watch.
Match Rating: ***3/4
22. Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero in a Ladder Match - 2005
This was the culmination of a four month storyline that saw Guerrero turn heel while claiming that Mysterio's son Dominick was actually his. It all led to this ladder match that had me very excited considering the talents of the two men involved. They did some great spots early on. There was Rey dropkicking the ladder to knock Eddie down, the springboard senton on the floor while Eddie was holding the ladder and the backdrop off the ladder onto the other ladder was just sick. Guerrero did botch a flip powerbomb spot when his hands slipped on Rey's leather pants, but I think he can be forgiven considering how high he was up there while doing that. The athleticism, the hard bumps and the chemistry was all there. There was interference, though. Dominick trying to knock Eddie off was cool. The visual of that little boy trying to stop the crazy heel was perfect for the storyline. Eddie could have won, but didn't because he was occupied by the kid. The end with Vickie Guerrero (who we didn't know much about at this point) stopping Eddie was logical. I think the finish could have been something better than her holding Eddie down because if they at least ended it on a spot where Rey put him down it would have been cleaner. Instead, Rey basically won because Vickie held Eddie down. What's interesting is that Vickie actually missed her spot and Eddie was furious about it, cursing very loudly. In the end it was a satisfying win for the babyface, which wrapped up this storyline.
Match Rating: ***3/4
21. Triple H & Shawn Michaels vs. Cody Rhodes & Ted Dibiase Jr. - 2009
It's DX vs. Legacy here with Michaels making a big return after not working since WrestleMania. It was the infamous "Shawn Michaels is working as a chef" angle. Remember the superkick on the girl? I wish I could forget that angle. Hunter and Shawn had an elaborate entrance involving cannons because I guess they felt the need to make dick jokes upon the return of DX. This was an example of how good tag team wrestling can be if you give it time. This match got 20 minutes. The problem with WWE is they don't give tag matches a lot of time anymore, but in this case there was an exception because two main event level guys were in the match. I think a lot of people believed Legacy would go over because they were the younger guys. Didn't happen. After a lot of great nearfalls by Legacy, Michaels ended up alone in the ring withRhodes. The result? Sweet chin music. Match over. It was an emphatic end to an exciting match. Did the match and three month feud really elevate Legacy in the long run? Not really. However, all four guys deserve props for putting on a good match and delivering a hot finish here.
Match Rating: ***3/4