One of WWE’s biggest annual events is SummerSlam, and it has seen many notable moments take place throughout its history. There was Miss Elizabeth revealing her skirt to distract the Mega Bucks, and there was Daniel Bryan capturing the WWE Heavyweight Championship, only to lose it when Triple H hit him with a pedigree and Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank opportunity. For all of the surprises that have taken place, however, there are a number of planned scenarios that didn’t work themselves out.
Whether they were alleged appearances, backstage altercations, hidden injuries, contract ransom demands being made or bar tabs being run up the day of the event, SummerSlam has had more secrets than many fans might know about. For example, we know about Michael Cole has been the primary presence behind the WWE commentators table for many years, but what some may not know is that a current manager stood up for him to be a major part of one year’s announce team for the main event.
While not all the decisions that were made were good ones, it would have been interesting to see some of the alleged ones that didn’t end up happening. We could have been looking at a very different WWE today than what we are seeing. Here are the 15 backstage SummerSlam stories and urban legends you probably didn’t know about:
15. John Cena Was Not Originally Booked To Win At SummerSlam 2010
One of the hottest storylines for the WWE back in 2010 was The Nexus vs. WWE, and John Cena was the focal point of the feud in this storyline. However, Cena capturing the win for Team WWE wasn’t the original plan; the original plan came down to Edge and Chris Jericho against The Nexus – without John Cena involved. And Edge and Chris Jericho wanted to have Wade Barrett, the face of The Nexus, go over. However, per Edge and Jericho, John Cena didn’t want that and lobbied to be the eventual winner of the match. However, with some time and convincing, Cena eventually changed his tune. However, by that point, the booking was changed. The unfortunate part is that Barrett could have used the push and it didn’t ultimately work out that way.
14. Ric Flair Was Supposed To Be At SummerSlam 1988
Ric Flair has been known for his longstanding feuds and main eventing everywhere, during his time in both WCW and the WWE. This almost applied to one particular SummerSlam, too. In 1988, Flair, who wasn’t with the WWE at the time, was rumored to be a part of the main event. The actual main event was “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, The Mega Powers, against Andre the Giant and “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiasie. Fans may remember that DiBiase was champion for only a few days before having the title taken away. The plan that Vince McMahon had envisioned was to offer Flair more money to leave Jim Crockett’s NWA promotion to join the WWE, and have him challenge Savage for the WWF Championship. While the Flair-Savage feud eventually happened, it was conceived about three years before.
13. Alberto Del Rio Got The SummerSlam Shaft In 2011
When Alberto Del Rio captured the Money In The Bank briefcase in 2011, it seemed like all was well and it would position him to capture the championship that same year. However, it didn’t work out that way. Del Rio was originally slated to compete against John Cena for the WWE title during the 2011 SummerSlam main event, but that was the “Summer of Punk” – as in CM Punk. Punk’s threats to capture the title and then leave the WWE worked beautifully, as the company rode his hot hand and set up a match between Punk and Cena for the title. While this was a great feud and storyline, it did nothing for Del Rio. He would later cash in his Money In The Bank opportunity, but it was Punk who defeated Cena for the championship at the 2011 event.
12. Shawn Michaels Wrestled At SummerSlam 1990 With An Injured Knee
He is the showstopper, he is the main event, but in 1990, Shawn Michaels demonstrated that he also was incredibly tough. Michaels and his tag team partner Marty Jannetty, who were collectively known as The Rockers, had a match at SummerSlam 1990. What wasn’t reported was that Michaels was walking around on crutches, and had a brace on his leg. There weren’t reports of him being injured, but when asked about the apparent injury, Michaels said that it was his knee. He didn’t specify the extent of the injury, but one presumes that if crutches and a brace are needed than it was impairing his mobility. For that match against the tag team of Power and Glory, Paul Roma and Hercules, Jannetty wrestled the entire match. His lack of involvement was based on the hidden knee injury rather than anything else.
11. Paul Heyman Had To Fight To Get Michael Cole & Tazz To Call The SummerSlam 2002 Main Event
We all know him today as the advocate for the “Beast Incarnate,” Brock Lesnar, but back in 2002, Paul Heyman was advocating for someone else. Heyman was the head writer for the SmackDown brand, and had an argument with Vince McMahon leading up to the 2002 event. He wanted the Smackdown announce team of Cole and Tazz commentate the main event, a SmackDown match up pitting The Rock against, coincidentally, Brock Lesnar. However, that wasn’t McMahon’s preference; he insisted that Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross be the ones to call the match as the top announce team. Heyman eventually won the fight, and Cole and Tazz were named the commentators for the main event. It was the first time a main event on a WWE pay-per-view was announced by someone other than the top announce team.
10. The Undertaker Was Slated To Compete Against The Shield At SummerSlam 2013
In recent years, appearances by the Undertaker outside WrestleMania have been rare. Fans may recall as that on the night after WrestleMania 29, when the Shield attacked the Undertaker and left him for dead after a triple powerbomb on to the announce table. The initial plans that were leaked out in June 2013 was that The Undertaker was slated to compete at SummerSlam, seeking retribution against the Shield. He wouldn’t, however, be competing alone. The idea was that Kane and the Undertaker would compete against Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins (as Reigns and Rollins were an active tag team at the time). As it turned out, Taker wasn’t well enough to compete, so the plans for the scheduled match were changed.
9. The Original Booking For Sting At SummerSlam 2015
While he competed at WrestleMania 31 and at Night of Champions in 2015, these were the only appearances that the icon Sting made in a WWE ring. As the build towards SummerSlam 2015 was taking place, the original booking included the idea of having Sting as a part of one of the WWE’s major events for the year. Bray Wyatt was waging war against Roman Reigns, and the idea was that there would be a six-person tag match involving The Wyatt Family. Reigns and Dean Ambrose had maintained a very close on-screen friendship, but the third person rumored be part of it was Sting. As it turned out, Erick Rowan was injured so the match was pulled, and in its place the Undertaker faced Brock Lesnar. They never teased Sting’s presence, but it would have been interesting to see how that dynamic turned out.
8. Ric Flair’s Alleged SummerSlam 1992 Bar Tab
Two-time Hall of Famer and 16-time world champion, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair has earned as much of a reputation outside the ring as he has inside it. As the Nature Boy, he had to carry on the mystique of the kiss stealing, wheeling-dealing, jet flying son of a gun. During Flair‘s initial run with the WWF, he captured the WWF Heavyweight Championship, and he also managed to achieve something outside the ring that no one else had done. As he has mentioned on more than one occasion, during the weekend of SummerSlam 1992, he ran up a bar tab that ran into the thousands of dollars. What is also of note is that he wasn’t even competing at the time. For those wondering, the bar tab was approximately $3,600 dollars.
7. Jesse Ventura Was Taken To Court Over His SummerSlam 1999 Appearance
One WWF personality that was as colourful in the ring as he was on the microphone was Jesse “The Body” Ventura. However, Ventura distanced himself from professional wrestling for some time. After he departed WCW, he pursued other interests, most notably politics. When he did reappear in WWE, it was subjected to criticism. Ventura’s political adversaries were so upset at his appearance at SummerSlam 1999, they pursued legal action against him. David Schultz, the President of Common Cause of Minnesota, filed a “conflict of interest” complaint with the state of Minnesota, where Ventura was governor, saying that Ventura had traded on his political office to earn additional income. This could create future conflicts on issues such as regulation, taxation or subsidy for entertainment within the state. As it turned out, the statute did not apply to elected officials and Ventura was able to appear.
6. Vader Was Originally Supposed To Defeat Shawn Michaels At SummerSlam 1996
During the height of his run as champion, Shawn Michaels was known for a lot of different things, one being that he wasn’t easy to work with. When Vader came into the company, a great deal was made about him; he was a huge draw in both WCW and in Japan. So the plan was to have him defeat Michaels for the title. However, Michaels refused to put over Vader and lose the title in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Unfortunately for Vader, his push was never quite the same after losing to Michaels at SummerSlam. While he did compete for some time in the company, and was used as a perennial main event wrestler, he was never positioned to become champion after Michaels’ refusal to put him over.
5. Road Warrior Hawk’s Condition At SummerSlam 1992
One of the most notable tag teams in wrestling history is Hawk and Animal, the Legion of Doom, The Road Warriors. However, on the night of SummerSlam 1992, the evening was filled with drama as it pertained to the WWF Tag Team Champions. Prior to the event, it was alleged that Hawk, driving his motorcycle under the influence, nearly missed a parking spot. Animal, who was riding with Hawk, had to jump off the motorcycle, causing him to suffer burns on his legs – an injury he had to wrestle with that night. That same night, the team ended their partnership. After the match, Hawk was nowhere in sight, leaving his longtime partner to make a career on his own. It was actually a tragic story because when they did work together again five years later, the industry had changed and they were never quite the same.
4. The Infamous Vince McMahon vs. Nailz Fight
One of the most notorious altercations, which has earned more and more notoriety over the years, involved ownership and talent. In the early 1990s, the WWF had a character that went by the name of Nailz, a former prisoner that was subjected to abuse by the Big Boss Man and wanted to exact his revenge. While the Boss Man eventually went over in his feud with Nailz, that wasn’t the end of the character; he competed against other wrestlers including the Undertaker. On one occasion, Nailz, whose real name is Kevin Walchoz, had an altercation with WWF owner and CEO Vince McMahon. Walchoz allegedly cornered McMahon and screamed at him for 15 minutes. Bret Hart recounts that Walchoz threw McMahon off his chair violently and choked him. The animosity was believed to be over Walchoz’s pay for his match against Virgil.
3. The Ultimate Warrior Demands A Raise The Day Of SummerSlam 1991
WWE Hall of Famer and former WWF Heavyweight Champion, the late Warrior was among the most popular characters of his time. Throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, he was an enormous draw for the promotion. The problem, however, was that he and McMahon didn’t always see eye to eye, and to say their relationship was rocky would be putting it mildly. While both men let bygones be bygones, the reality is that prior to SummerSlam 1991, the Ultimate Warrior was demanding more money. Former champion Sgt. Slaughter recounts how McMahon told him that, to ensure the event would go on as planned, he would honor the Warrior’s request, but terminate his contract the moment the match was over. The speculated amount was close to half a million dollars.
2. Arguably The Greatest Match In SummerSlam History Was Not The Original Plan
What has long been considered one of the greatest matches in SummerSlam history almost never happened. In 1992, Davey Boy Smith and his brother-in-law Bret “Hit Man” Hart put on a classic match that is still talked about to this day. The match was built on trust and respect, and the results of their labour really showed. According to the WWE creative team, the original plan for the match would have involved Hart, but not Smith. The original idea was to have Shawn Michaels defeat Hart for his Intercontinental Championship. This idea was conceived well in advance. However, once the event was booked for Wembley Stadium, the match booking was changed to involve the hometown Smith. While Michaels and Hart eventually had a rivalry of their own, the landscape of this particular match could have been very different.
1. The U.S. Didn’t See SummerSlam 1992 Until Two Days Later
One of the most memorable SummerSlams was in 1992, as we’ve mentioned multiple stories from that specific event. The event was also memorable because it was the first pay-per-view event outside North America, held in Wembley Stadium in London, England. The event was originally slated to take place in Washington, D.C., but changed because of the growing popularity of the promotion in the United Kingdom. What is remarkable is that the event actually took place on August 29, 1992 in London – an entire two days before fans in the United States had access to the event or its results on August 31. While it would be impossible to hide now because of the internet, results were kept under wraps at the time.