SummerSlam has traditionally been known as the WrestleMania of the summer. It has been going on for 26 years, the first event coming in 1988 from Madison Square Garden. It went through a rough period for a few years, failing to produce the memorable moments that we typically would associate with such a big pay-per-view. Last year, we saw the beginning of an eight-month feud between Daniel Bryan and Triple H, and CM Punk had possibly his last great WWE match, facing Brock Lesnar.
This year’s main event is locked in with John Cena and Brock Lesnar battling for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It’s a blockbuster main event as there should be every year at SummerSlam, seeing that it’s the second-biggest event behind WrestleMania, possibly third behind the Royal Rumble.
Its long history has given us many classics, so without further ado, here are the top 10 SummerSlam matches in history.
10) Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, 1995
Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had perhaps the most famous ladder match at WrestleMania X, but for the gimmick match’s legacy to grow, it was important to follow it up with a great sequel. These two performers delivered a year and a half after their first meeting and they didn’t disappoint.
By this time, both men were babyfaces and Shawn Michaels was in the process of being elevated to a main event star. Due to this, Razor displayed heelish tendencies in this match, attacking HBK’s leg.
The ladder was used as a weapon far less in this encounter than the first one, but both men still managed to make the match highly entertaining with several near-victories by both men.
Finally, HBK climbed one ladder while Razor was climbing another. HBK hit Sweet Chin Music from his ladder and wound up grabbing the suspended belt.
The only blemish on this match, was no one bothered to test whether the belt was at an appropriate height for Shawn Michaels, as HBK struggled to snatch it even when he was at the top. He fell over twice trying to grab the belt, before finally reaching it the third time.
9) Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, 1991
Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect had many battles, particularly for the Intercontinental Championship. Prior to SummerSlam 1991, their matches would typically end in a draw, frustrating those who wanted to see Hart break through and win his first singles title.
It finally happened here, with Hart forcing Mr. Perfect to submit to the sharpshooter. Hart then ripped off Perfect’s singlet, signifying that he had conquered his rival.
This match was of the utmost importance to Hart’s career as he had to prove himself as a singles competitor. Luckily he had the perfect opponent at the right time, an opponent who allowed him to display his full ability.
When Hart got the win, the reaction he got from the New York crowd told you all you needed to know. He was a guy that fans were ready to see carry the company into the next generation.
8) Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena, 2013
Last year’s main event gave us a taste of the long awaited Daniel Bryan title win, only to take it away and make us wait another eight months for his true crowning moment. The bell-to-bell action itself was fantastic and even the build up was better than many initially expected.
Cena represented the dynasty of the WWE, the guy fans had grown familiar with at the top of the food chain. Bryan was the guy coming in, riding a wave of momentum, having gained significant popularity in the prior 18 months. Bryan’s 18-second loss at WrestleMania XXVIII made fans care about him even more and root for him harder. There was also a big X-factor, with Triple H being the special referee.
The two battled for nearly half an hour. Finally, Bryan got a clean win over Cena with the running knee. Cena congratulated Bryan, as did Triple H, before Randy Orton came out to cash in his briefcase. Triple H made a shocking heel turn, delivering the pedigree to Bryan, costing him the title he had just won.
The fact that the two had a great match, worthy of a main event for any show, and still managed to kick start a long program leading up to WrestleMania was a masterpiece, having seen how everything unfolded the following spring.
7) Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, 1994
It was perhaps the least violent cage match of all time, but the Hart brothers were such great performers that they were still able to make this one of the best cage matches ever.
The WWE was heavily pushing a family friendly product, so Bret and Owen were severely restricted in what they could do, despite their feud being as personal as you could get.
The two technicians relied on high tempo, their technical prowess and in-ring psychology. It had as many near-escapes as you’ll ever see in a cage match. It had some very memorable spots as well, including a superplex of the top of the cage and Owen’s leg getting caught on the outside of the cage, allowing Bret to hit the floor.
In a year where SummerSlam severely lacked a big event feel, Bret and Owen saved the show with their half-hour beauty.
6) Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker, 1997
Having Bret Hart face The Undertaker was appealing enough. Adding HBK to the mix as special referee took this match to another level. It helped cement HBK as the company’s next top heel, and Bret Hart and Undertaker delivered in perhaps the two’s best head-to-head matchup.
Undertaker became the first wrestler to break the sharpshooter, even sending Hart flying out of the ring.
When Michaels was down, Hart tried to use a steel chair. When HBK came to, he confronted Hart, which led to Hart spitting on HBK. Michaels swung the chair, but Hart ducked and Undertaker was struck instead. Michaels was forced to count, and inadvertently helped his rival win his fifth championship. HBK went on to feud with Taker before eventually facing Hart at the infamous 1997 Survivor Series.
5) The Rock vs. Triple H, 1998
Talk about a match that elevated both participants. The Rock and Triple H‘s rivalry in general helped turn both men into big stars. How many guys in history have feuded over both the Intercontinental title, then the world title?
SummerSlam saw their feud end the IC chapter. The Rock was accompanied by Nation of Domination member Mark Henry, while HHH of course, had Chyna with him.
After a back and forth battle, both men saw themselves duking it out at the top of the ladder. Chyna delivered a crushing low blow to The Rock, allowing HHH to retrieve the belt and win the Intercontinental Championship.
The Rock would then break off from the Nation, and won his first WWE title three months later at Survivor Series. Triple H’s first title win would come a year later.
4) CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar, 2013
Punk’s desired vengeance toward Heyman made for a great story, as his desire cost him in his match with the beast Lesnar. Brock’s brute force going up against Punk’s quickness and guts made for classic storytelling. It had great explosiveness and this match stole the show at last year’s SummerSlam event.
Punk gave Lesnar his best match since his 2012 return to the WWE. Lesnar’s style didn’t mesh well with Triple H, nor with Undertaker’s aging body at WrestleMania this year. Punk made the perfect dance partner for Lesnar.
Heyman ultimately cost Punk the match getting Lesnar more heat and amping up the support for Punk.
3) TLC 1: The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge and Christian vs. The Dudley Boyz
People regularly talk about these three teams’ tag matches, particularly their WrestleMania TLC match in 2001. However, if this TLC match wasn’t as great as it was, we would’ve never gotten that epic sequel in Houston.
The match had the high spots you’d expect, including Jeff Hardy missing a swanton bomb from the top of a ladder and going through a table. Matt Hardy and Bubba Ray Dudley both crashed from the top of a ladder in the ring, through tables on the outside. Edge and Christian were victorious in this one as well.
2) Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, 2002
The fact that Shawn Michaels was able to pull off a performance like this after four years away from the ring proves many folks’ claims that he’s perhaps the greatest performer in the history of professional wrestling.
This match took place at the greatest SummerSlam in the event’s history, and stole the show. The personal feud between Michaels and Triple H made it an unsanctioned street fight on screen as the WWE didn’t want to be responsible for any injury that would occur to Michaels.
HBK performed out of his mind for 27 minutes and Triple H set a good pace with him, allowing the bursts of athleticism and high spots to explode at just the right times. Michaels didn’t skip a beat, and not only looked as good as before, he looked better than ever! It’s easily the greatest comeback match in WWE history and both men deserve a ton of credit for the work they did.
1) Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog, 1992
It’s pretty simple; without this match, SummerSlam probably isn’t held in such high regard that it is today.
In what was a first and probably last time occurrence, the Intercontinental Title match went on last, after a WWE title match, at SummerSlam. Due to the popularity of Davey Boy Smith, and Hart for that matter, in England, it only made sense for the two to go on last at Wembley Stadium.
Bret Hart was starting to build his reputation as Mr. SummerSlam, as you’d be hard pressed to find a bad Bret Hart match at the summer blockbuster.
The two men put on a clinic and told an amazing story, two brothers-in-law fighting to see who was the best. Both men were faces and the crowd was torn as to who to root for, but they had to go with their English native.
When Davey Boy reversed Hart’s sunset flip for the three-count, it was one of the loudest pops in the history of wrestling. The two embraced after the match and it concluded an amazing SummerSlam. The crowd of 80,355 is still a SummerSlam record.