Since it debuted from Madison Square Garden in 1988, SummerSlam has regularly acted as the second biggest and most important show of the year for WWE and its superstars. There have arguably been as many memorable SummerSlam moments as there have been WrestleMania moments, and just as many careers started thanks to an incredible performance during sports entertainment’s summer showcase as have from the so-called bigger show that takes place in March. Of course, there have been just as many terrible SummerSlam moments as there have been in any major WWE produced program, as well, and that’s what we’re going to focus on today.
Vince McMahon loves to micromanage his product to death, but sometimes even when things turn out exactly the way he had planned, the crowd and wrestling public in general can still tend to disagree with him on what exactly constitutes a good show. SummerSlam has had dozens of great matches, but it has also produced some of the worst of all time, including a few that were supposed to have been classics if you were following the way the show was advertised. Worse than simply bad matches, there have been dozens of confusing and convoluted sports entertainment moments that left most fans other than McMahon himself scratching their heads, wondering what any of this had to do with wrestling. McMahon likes to rewrite history and claim his company has done little wrong, and therefore most of these moments are swept under the rug during retrospectives about the biggest summer spectacle in the WWE Universe. Keep reading to learn all about 15 SummerSlam moments Vince McMahon would probably want you to forget.
15 Lex Luger Celebrates Nothing, 1993
There were brief moments in Lex Luger’s career when he was being primed to take over the wrestling world as the next top babyface, either to combat Hulk Hogan in a rival promotion, or to take Hogan’s place when Luger finally made the jump to WWE. Luger always managed to connect with fans, and usually in a major way, thanks mostly due to his impressive physique and strong understanding of the classic babyface mannerisms. Unfortunately for Luger, fans always ended up burning out on him rather fast when it became obvious he was never going to win “the big one,” and never was that more apparent than in his battle against Yokozuna for the WWE World Championship at SummerSlam 1993.
Luger had spent all year riding The Lex Express around the United States of America, promising to once and for all defeat the big foreign monster for the pride of his country. Fans were supporting the patriotic Luger louder than ever before, and continued to do so when he won the match against Yoko by countout. However, the celebration didn’t last long before everyone realized the fact Luger won by countout meant Yokozuna was still the WWE World Champion. Balloons reigned from the sky and the top babyfaces of the era still raised Luger above their arms, but the next night on Raw, Yokozuna still had the belt and Luger wasn’t even allowed to challenge for it again. The match basically killed Lex Luger’s career in WWE, and it's only because Vince doesn’t care too much about Lex Luger that the shame of this one probably doesn’t weigh on him too heavily.
14 John Cena Overcomes The Nexus, 2010
John Cena is the top star and franchise player of WWE, and he has been for the better part of the past decade. Cena made his debut in 2002 in a match against Olympic Gold Medal winner Kurt Angle, and although Cena lost the match, his “ruthless aggression” was already on display, and he received backstage praise from future WWE Hall of Famers Ron Simmons and Rikishi as a result, along with earning the respect of The Undertaker. Despite the huge boost this respect from his fellow superstars gave Cena fresh out the gate, he’s been less generous about doing the same thing for the stars of tomorrow now that Cena himself is on the top of the mountain.
Cena’s entire gimmick is to always rise above hate and never say die, so love him or hate him, you just have to accept that he’s going to win most of his matches without so much as a scratch. However, when the odds get stacked high enough, and a completely understandable loss could serve to elevate multiple performers at once, maybe it would have been all right for Cena to take a loss. This is what fans were begging for in 2010, when Cena lead a team of WWE superstars against the rebelling Nexus. Cena’s team was gradually dispatched until he stood along against three of the most promising Nexus hopefuls, but ever the trooper, Cena overcame the odds and defeated them all with little trouble. McMahon is probably okay with how things turned out, but he also probably doesn’t have an answer if Wade Barrett fans were to ask how this match was supposed to jumpstart Barrett’s career.
13 Mabel vs. Diesel, 1995
Nelson Frazier has one of the strangest career trajectories in WWE history, and it’s quite possible he receives far more hate than he deserves simply for the fact his look and gimmick prevented him from being a particularly talented wrestler. Whether Mabel, Viscera, or Big Daddy V, Frazier always played his part to the best of his ability, and there was no nepotism or favoritism that anyone could contrive as having caused his brief run at the top of WWE. The only explanation was that Vince McMahon must have been a huge fan of the guy, and unfortunately, Vince was absolutely the only one.
Mabel started in the company as one half of Men On A Mission, a pair of hip hop fans rapped to the ring by the always positive Oscar. Mabel and his partner Mo turned on Oscar and rapidly rose up the card, with Mabel winning the King of the Ring tournament in 1995. Mabel donning the crowd was considered one of the worst decisions in the wrestling world that year, and it was only made worse by a terrible main event between the new King and Diesel for the WWE World Championship at SummerSlam. Mabel was quickly shunted back down the card after the debacle, so it’s likely even McMahon noticed his mistake on that one and wanted to hit rewind on Frazier’s career.
12 Jake Roberts vs. Jerry Lawler, 1996
Timing can mean everything in entertainment, and professional wrestling is no different from the many other forms of media in this respect. On paper, a prolonged feud between Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Jerry “The King” Lawler sounds like it could have been amazing and filled with endless fantastic interviews, but unfortunately, it came at the worst time possible for virtually everyone involved. By 1996, Roberts had been in and out of WWE multiple times due to his well-noted drug and alcohol problems, and Jerry Lawler was gaining traction as the most offensive and insulting heel commentator in the history of the business up to that point.
Due to the poor timing of the feud, Roberts and Lawler mostly battled over the fact the Snake was still in recovery, and the King thought that was absolutely hilarious. Drug and alcohol problems have taken countless lives in the wrestling industry, so for Lawler to so flagrantly mock Roberts for trying to get better left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. The taste left in Jake’s mouth might have been worse, as the match ended when Lawler poured whiskey down his throat. Amazingly, taking Jerry Lawler off commentary didn’t even help the match, either, as he was replaced by a very inexperienced and out of his element Mark Henry.
11 The Rock vs. Billy Gunn, 1999
He had already won his first WWE World Championship the year prior, but in many respects, the summer of 1999 was the period when The Rock turned into The Great One. He had recently split from The Corporation once and for all, and fans were “finally” prepared to cheer their hearts out for the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. His war with Steve Austin persisted as a begrudging respect while they were both babyfaces, and Rock likewise turned his blood feud with Mankind into a comedic friendship, and as a result, The Rock was left without any viable opponents equal to his rising star power.
WWE couldn’t just sit on one of their biggest superstars while he was starting to show signs he could revolutionize the business, and they put Rocky into several stop gap mini-feuds to bide the time until things were ready for him to feud with Triple H the next year. Included amongst The Rock’s short-term rivals were names like Mr. Ass, Al Snow, and The British Bulldog. Snow and Bulldog were at least competent wrestlers, but Mr. Ass was extremely out of place, and the only memorable part of his SummerSlam match against The Rock was the pre-match promo where The Rock murdered his career through a fake conversation with God, in which God told Billy he absolutely sucks.
10 Kai En Tai vs. The Oddities, 1998
Kai En Tai were one of the most strangely misused talents in WWE during their run, and that goes for the entire extended version of the group, including Taka Michinoku, Funaki, Dick Togo, and Men’s Teioh. Taka had a lengthy run as perhaps the only respectable WWE Light Heavyweight Champion throughout most of 1998, but unfortunate matches like this one were a huge mar on his reign, and are probably a good part of the reason why the cruiserweight division of WCW was far more fondly remembered than the Light Heavyweights of WWE.
The Oddities were an even stranger group than Kai En Tai, and the version present at SummerSlam 1998 consisted of Kurrgan, Golga and Giant Silva, with Luna Vachon and the Insane Clown Posse offering moral support at ringside. None of The Oddities were particularly good wrestlers at this point in their career, with Golga past his prime and the other two never quite getting down the basics of the sport. Nonetheless, their size meant they made fools of the much more talented Kai En Tai, and continued the burial of the Light Heavyweight division at the sake of a few laughs. Unfortunately, as per usual with these things, the only two people laughing were Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler.
9 Divas Dodgeball, 2004
You would think wrestling promoters, and especially Vince McMahon, have learned by now that when it comes to faking the show, you go big or go home. Wrestling fans are well aware the sports entertainment they enjoy isn’t on the up and up, and any efforts at maintaining the illusion that it is usually results in everybody winding up embarrassed in one way or another. WrestleMania 14 had the infamous Butterbean-Bart Gunn boxing match, and SummerSlam 2004 had the far more ridiculous embarrassment of Diva’s Dodgeball.
SummerSlam 2004 took place smack dab in the middle of the original Diva’s Search, and featured a 5-minute intermission with the WWE hopefuls participating in a brief game of dodgeball against the then-current female superstars of WWE. Joy Giovanni, Amy Weber, Tracie Wright, Maria Kanellis, Christy Hemme and Michelle McCool challenged Victoria, Gail Kim, Jazz, Stacy Keibler, Molly Holly, and Nidia. Gorgeous women will always have their place in wrestling, but a random dodgeball game doesn't seem like it has anything to do with WWE, regardless of who's playing. As if the concept wasn’t a big waste of time, things were made worse when the wannabe’s beat the WWE superstars, and the male portion of the locker room felt like it made the company look weak. Frankly, that’s almost even more ridiculous than the fact the dodgeball game took place in the first place, but either way its clear McMahon probably regretted the whole thing.
8 Kane and The Undertaker vs. Chris Kanyon and "Diamond" Dallas Page, 2001
The WCW Invasion of WWE in 2001 was one of the most highly anticipated and horrifically botched angles in the history of professional wrestling. It’s hard to explain to a modern audience just how huge the concept felt, and a big part of that difficulty stems from how quickly and summarily Vince McMahon made it clear WCW wasn’t going to be viewed as a threat on the same level of his top superstars. An easy way to recap the entire era is to view the feud between The Brothers of Destruction and WCW mainstays Chris Kanyon and “Diamond” Dallas Page as a microcosm of everything that would eventually go wrong. Kanyon was one of the last true rising stars in WCW, and DDP was one of the few standouts of their most successful era that WWE was able to get involved with the Invasion. The two had an alliance in WCW, so it made sense to pair them together and have them win the WWE World Tag Team titles.
Unfortunately, DDP’s debut was already botched insofar as he entered the company not as a top rival superstar, but as a man stalking The Undertaker’s wife. A match between Page and his partner against The Undertaker and his fake brother was the result, contested in a steel cage as a smokescreen to pretend this match wasn’t going to be a complete farce. Instead, Kane and The Undertaker absolutely squashed Kanyon and Page, making all of WCW seem like a complete non-factor as a result. McMahon actually might be fine with this one since it proves his point that WWE would always beat WCW, but fans who wanted a real Invasion will never forget it.
7 The Mountie Goes To Jail, 1991
WWE and professional wrestling used to be an extremely cartoonish environment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything was PG. To this day, wrestlers are larger than life personalities with bombastic characters, but they don’t exactly compare to the outright caricatures of yesteryear, and if you think we’re kidding, try and picture a wrestler named The Mountie becoming one of the most hated heels in the sport in 2016. It doesn’t seem likely, but that’s improbably exactly what happened in 1991, when Jacques Rougeau parted ways with his fabulous brother Raymond and went solo as a member of the Canadian mounted police.
The Mountie didn’t last long, so we understand if you don’t remember that much about his tenure in the company. There was, however, a more endearing lawman who most fans probably do remember, and his name was The Big Bossman. With similar professions but from different countries, it was natural The Mountie and The Bossman would feud in the cartoon world of WWE, and it wasn’t particularly surprising when the USA prevailed and The Bossman vanquished his Canadian foe, either. The surprising part came after, when Mountie was forced to spend a night in jail as a result of his lost. Through a series of vignettes, fans saw The Mountie dragged kicking and screaming into his holding cell. It was an appropriate enough joke until the punch line, which was that he shared his cell with a lisping criminal who asks him, “Don’t you love the way leather feels against your body?” Gorilla Monsoon reacted to the segment by very clearly implying The Mountie was about to be raped, and Roddy Piper seemed to find the news utterly hilarious. McMahon may not have many regrets about the cartoonish part, but when things got adult, he clearly had no idea where the line was when it came to “comedy.”
6 Owen Hart vs. Steve Austin, 1997
Most of the moments on this list are embarrassing in hindsight due to the implication that McMahon and his cohorts actually thought it was a good idea at the time. The nature of a mistake means that nobody thinks it’s a good idea at the time, and if the mistake is severe enough, most people can tell it’s a disaster from the moment it happens. Such was the case in one of the worst botches in wrestling history, when Owen Hart broke “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s neck with a Tombstone Piledriver at SummerSlam 1997.
The timing of this injury couldn’t have been worse, as it was only months before Austin was poised to completely take over the wrestling industry and make more money than anybody else ever had in the sport. Austin’s injury meant he would be spending several months on the shelf, and the extent of the injury had some people questioning if the Rattlesnake would even be able to walk again, let alone step back into the ring. Luckily, Austin recovered well enough to change the business and spearhead the Attitude Era as we all know. However, the match his injury took place remains one of the scariest moments ever to take place on a WWE Pay-Per-View, and Vince McMahon probably wishes he could remember the fear and worry he felt that day, although he probably never will.
5 Stephanie McMahon vs. Brie Bella, 2014
Stephanie McMahon doesn’t step inside the wrestling ring as a competitor often, as she’s often too busy embarrassing her father in other ways. Therefore, whenever the Billion Dollar Princess decides to do battle, it’s considered a pretty big deal on WWE programming. The primary focus of 2014 was the never ending feud between Daniel Bryan and The Authority, which extended to include Bryan’s eventual wife Brie Bella once it was clear Bryan was too injured to compete in the ring himself. While the beginnings of the feud were some of the most memorable moments of the year, up to and including Bryan winning the WWE World Championship at WrestleMania XXX, things started to fall apart with Bryan’s injury, and the match between his fiancé and Stephanie McMahon would pretty much be the moment the storyline died altogether.
Bryan’s final WWE Championship reign truly ended when he had to give up the belt due to injuries, but the continued story between Brie and Stephanie is really what ensured the Yes Movement would never continue past that summer. Stephanie mocked Bryan and his integrity for months building towards the match, and when it came time for Brie to get her revenge, Nikki Bella made her return after several months and turned on her sister instead of allowing Stephanie to have her comeuppance. Making matters worse, it was only a few months before The Bella Twins were teaming together again, and the whole thing was forgotten about.
4 Kane vs. Bray Wyatt, 2013
There have only been a handful of Inferno Matches in WWE, and most of them took place around the same general time frame and involving the same select few wrestlers, due to the fact they were considered extremely risky and dangerous for anyone to get involved with. The idea behind a true Inferno Match is that the winner is the first person to set their opponent on fire, and there’s almost no way to fake setting a person on fire in front of a live crowd, so for the first few iterations of the bout, Kane was actually set ablaze thanks to some sort of protective padding on his ring gear.
Two Inferno Matches took place in the years after the concept was first invented in 1999, and the first of them was fairly similar to the original concept. At Armageddon 2006, Kane set MVP on fire, and again the fire was real, contact with it being the entire point of the match. To make things safer, when the concept was revived as a “Ring of Fire” match at SummerSlam 2013, the fire was just set dressing and wasn’t part of the actual match. Kane faced Bray Wyatt in what was basically a normal match near fire, and fans were almost immediately underwhelmed by the imitation of a once great match type. There’s little surprise McMahon hasn’t returned to the fiery well these matches came from ever since.
3 Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar, 2012
Triple H has been one of the most hated heels in WWE history practically since he made his debut, and the way he has been rewriting history, it might not be long before he presents himself as the preeminent villain of the industry. However, professional wrestling is the one industry where a villain can become a hero at the drop of a hat, and as a result the vile and vicious Game has occasionally turned into the sympathetic and caring protector of WWE history, and he has expected fans to loudly cheer him whenever he did so. Triple H has had several runs where his babyface turns were successful and crowds did indeed love him, but one of his most embarrassing moments as a competitor came when he completely misread how the crowd would react to his efforts at honoring WWE history were less than victorious.
Triple H faced Brock Lesnar in the main event of SummerSlam 2012, with the idea being Lesnar was an unstoppable monster with no respect for WWE or any of its superstars. Triple H did his best to stop the beast in his path of destruction, but ultimately had his arm broken by a Kimura Lock, and was forced to tap out; one of the extremely rare times in his career HHH would lose by submission. Triple H lingered in the ring with tears in his eyes hoping the fans would cheer his valiant effort, but instead he was met with half of the audience preparing to leave the building, and the other half chanting “You Tapped Out!” Hunter’s ego never recovered, and his father-in-law was probably less than pleased with the result, as well.
2 Mean Gene Gives Up, 1989
Wrestling fans have such a love of when things go wrong that there are multiple web sites dedicated to the worst of the sport. There’s Wrestlecrap, which has long been dedicated to the dumbest and most offensive angles Vince McMahon and his fellow promoters could contrive; Botchamania, which compiles videos of the silliest and most ridiculous mistakes to occur in a ring; OSW Review, which chronologically critiques wrestling past in glorious Grapple Vision, and countless others that love making fun of wrestling as much as they love watching it. Long before any of these sites were dedicated to pointing out Vince McMahon’s biggest mistakes, however, there was an infamous video clip from SummerSlam 1989 that infamously held its status as WWE’s biggest and most embarrassing blooper.
Between matches during only the second SummerSlam broadcast, a video was supposed to air showing “Mean” Gene Okerlund interviewing Rick Rude and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. For unclear reasons, an outtake aired instead, which saw Okerlund cut off his introduction to scream, “F*** it!” when part of the set collapsed behind him. Cameras immediately cut to a crowd shot, and commentator Jesse Ventura let out a big laugh, blaming Okerlund for the incident. Deep down, McMahon probably knew it was his fault, and for several years had the moment edited out of WWE home video releases to cover it up. Thanks to the Internet, the moment has redeemed its status as one of the biggest bloopers in wrestling history, but if you were to ask “Mean” Gene what he thought about it, he’d probably only have two words to give you in response.
1 The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker, 1994
There’s no denying The Undertaker has spent the past 26 years staking his claim as perhaps the greatest superstar in professional wrestling history. He didn’t make as much money as Hulk Hogan or Steve Austin, and he may not have held as many World Championships as Ric Flair or Lou Thesz, but when it comes to presenting an aura that screams “professional wrestling superstar,” few entertainers have ever come close to the man from the dark side. Mark Calaway is a truly incomparable performer, in that no other man could have made The Undertaker into the success that he is, and it would have been downright foolish for anyone else to try and imitate him.
Of course, leave it to professional wrestling to try something incredibly stupid, because if it worked once, why couldn’t it work again? The idea of two Undertakers isn’t inherently terrible, as the gimmick is cartoonish and monstrous enough that the belief has already been suspended in order to enjoy his antics in the first place. The big problem was that the second Undertaker, Brian Lee, also known as The Underfaker, had none of the charisma or natural instincts Calaway did that lead to the character becoming a huge success. The Undertakers did battle at SummerSlam 1994 after an equally ridiculous light show brought the original Undertaker “back from the grave,” and the fake incarnation was never spoken of again.