On the heels of WWE SummerSlam 2016, it’s nearly impossible to not reflect back on past SummerSlam pay-per-views (PPV). Ranking the top 10 WWE SummerSlam matches of all time is no easy task. There have been 29 SummerSlams, the first debuting in 1988, averaging 10 matches per event. Of course matches like The Undertaker against The Undertaker were easily eliminated from the list and made the task easier. Brock Lesnar versus John Cena was very entertaining to watch but it could hardly be considered a match. Any contest on this WWE SummerSlam list could easily be argued to be in the No. 1 spot. All of the SummerSlam events are available on the WWE Network and they are a delight to revisit.
Top WWE SummerSlam Matches of All Time
Triple H vs. The Rock WWE SummerSlam 1998
Two future superstars and backbone of the WWE faced off against each other in this Ladder Match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This is the only match that made this list based on historic relevance alone. The match itself was solid but as far as ladder matches go it wasn’t that special. The psychology of the match was better than average and there were some good spots. This contest did end up launching both superstars up the proverbial WWE ladder and they would eventually go on to become legends in the industry. Triple H would beat the Rock to become the new WWE Intercontinental champion.
Bret Hart vs Undertaker WWE SummerSlam 1997
Coming in at the No. 9 position is Bret Hart and The Undertaker. These two faced each other several times, and although this may not be the best match the duo have had against each other, it is still a great bout. Shawn Michaels was the guest referee and this eventually led to a heel turn for Michaels, thus leading to the formation of D-Generation X. But the action between Bret and The Undertaker is what makes this match rank — but not so much the stipulation or ending.
The stipulation made before SummerSlam was that if Bret lost he could no longer wrestle in the United States. It doesn’t take a smart fan to figure out that he was going to win the match. He defeated The Undertaker thanks to Michaels missing Hart with a steel chair and knocking The Undertaker out. But it was the ring work during the contest that made this memorable and the two put on a wrestling clinic.
Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock WWE SummerSlam 2002
This SummerSlam match was historic for many reasons. In hindsight, fans can look back and realize that this really marked the end of The Attitude Era. Steve Austin had walked out on the company, Mick Foley was gone, and Rock’s time at the top was coming to an end as he pursued a career in Hollywood. This also solidified Brock Lesnar’s dominant reign in the WWE. He had beaten Hulk Hogan, he won the WWE King of the Ring, and this event was the first time he captured the WWE Championship. It’s also entertaining to revisit this and watch how the crowd turned on The Rock and embraced “The Next Big Thing.”
Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar WWE SummerSlam 2003
This was the rematch from WrestleMania XIX that everyone was waiting for and it was for the WWE Smackdown Championship held by Kurt Angle. At the time, the WWE universe was disappointed with this rematch but revisiting the contest proves that this is still a great contest. People wanted another WrestleMania match and it was hard not to compare the two since it wasn’t that long ago, but now people can appreciate this SummerSlam bout for what it is. This match was also a demonstration of pure athleticism and willpower. Brock Lesnar almost killed himself at WrestleMania XIX, when he landed on his head botching a Shooting Star Press, and Kurt Angle had just returned from neck surgery. Despite injuries these two put on an incredible demonstration.
The only downside to this was Vince McMahon interfering, and in doing so it took away from the two superstars battling it out one on one. But there were definitely some high spots in the match and it was also one of the few times that Brock Lesnar has tapped out.
Brock Lesnar vs CM Punk WWE SummerSlam 2013
This is perhaps Lesnar’s best match since returning to the WWE from the UFC. Sometimes contests involving a smaller competitor facing a giant, or in this case “The Beast,” are lackluster and not too entertaining to watch. The ring psychology of this competition was perfect and could be ranked among other “David versus Goliath” matches like Shawn Michaels taking on The Undertaker. The two wrestlers told a story in the ring, which is a rarity these days, and at any moment the audience believed that either competitor could win. Lesnar put Punk over when CM Punk pinned Brock, but the referee was nowhere in sight to make the count. Lesnar would eventually win the match but both superstars looked phenomenal and many consider this the match of the year.
Owen Hart vs. Bret Hart WWE SummerSlam 1994
Breaking into the top five on this list of greatest SummerSlam matches is a story that pitted brother versus brother inside a steel cage. The two brothers first faced off at WrestleMania X and somehow they outdid themselves in this rematch for the WWE Championship (held by Bret Hart). The match was over 30 minutes and provided endless action bell to bell. Both competitors looked amazing, even Bret who had strep throat, and it came down to the wire when the two were hanging onto the outside of the cage. The crowd was on the edge of their seats waiting to see who would drop down first to win the match and Bret Hart did so to retain the title. The duo also proved you don’t have to shed blood in a cage match to make it a classic as many consider this one of the greatest steel cage matches of all time.
Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz WWE SummerSlam 2000
Anytime this trio, or any combination of the two, faced off in a TLC match, they always over-delivered and exceeded expectations. This was considered one of the best tag team TLC competitions of all time and for good reason. The trio wrestled less than 20 minutes, but it was high-spot city in this contest featuring death-defying bumps. The crowd was fully invested in this competition and added to the excitement until it ended with Edge and Christian retaining their WWE Tag Team Championships.
Bret Hart vs. Curt Hennig WWE SummerSlam 1991
Bret Hart matches are ranked several times on this list and for good reason: he is truly one of the greatest of all time. He knew how to tell a story in the ring and always performed. So when Bret Hart had a chance to wrestle another great in the late Curt Hennig, one of the greatest contests in wrestling history happened.
The two put on a wrestling clinic, despite Hennig’s bad back, and it was the first time Hart won a singles title by beating Curt for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. This was Hennig’s last match for a long time because of his bad back, but one would never know that the superstar was struggling with an injury. The two wrestled for almost 20 minutes and the crowd erupted when Hart walked away with the victory.
CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy WWE SummerSlam 2009
CM Punk and Jeff Hardy is one of the greatest rivalries in WWE history and is often not mentioned enough. The pair are very opposite when it comes to their personal lives; CM Punk is straight-edged and it has been well documented that Jeff Hardy has enjoyed an alternative recreational lifestyle. The two are similarly built and their in-ring style is different enough that they complement each other very well.
This was the rematch for the WWE World Championship, and the first time these two met, Hardy defeated Punk for the title. This SummerSlam contest was a TLC Match and the duo stunned the crowd. Hardy and Punk fought for over 20 minutes and the bout featured many high spots utilizing ladders, tables, and of course chairs. CM Punk was victorious at the end to reclaim the WWE Championship and this also would start the rivalry between him and The Undertaker. At the end of the match The Undertaker arrived, in classic mysterious fashion, and choke-slammed the straight-edged superstar.
The British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart WWE SummerSlam 1992
Once again a Bret Hart match is listed and this one ranks at No. 1. This historic contest featured the first time these two baby faces would meet on PPV and it was also the first time the WWE Intercontinental Title, held by Hart, was featured in the main event of a WWE PPV. The match took place in front of a sold-out crowd of over 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium and many consider it one of the greatest WWE matches ever. The two brothers-in-law fought for nearly 30 minutes, and at the end, Bulldog would walk away with the victory and the title.
Since that matchup, Bret Hart has been interviewed many times and revealed some interesting information. The British Bulldog was unfortunately battling drug addiction, and within the first 15 minutes of the match he was already gasping for air. There was also a blown spot when Hart leaped over the top rope onto Bulldog, but the botch went unnoticed, and the move Hart pulled off at the last moment looked phenomenal. Bret carried the SummerSlam main event but did so with such perfection that the audience couldn’t tell. Bulldog still performed at a high level that many current superstars only wish they could, and the contest was a technical display of wrestling. This match also features one of the greatest German suplexes in history with a perfect bridge. Bret has also gone on to say that this was the match where the WWE started to realize he could handle being the top guy, and he would go on to win the WWE Championship on multiple occasions.
OTHER SPORTS ARTICLES FROM THE INQUISITR
WWE SummerSlam 2016 did not make this list. Although some consider the event a success, many consider the most recent SummerSlam to be a disappointment. Certainly Cena and Styles stole the show, but that didn’t make up for a short and odd ending with Lesnar and Orton. The Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler contest was mediocre at best, since Ambrose didn’t want to sell for Ziggler, and their punches didn’t look like they would hurt a small child — not to mention the botched finish that took way too long to setup. With this list of the best WWE SummerSlam matches of all time, the WWE universe will have plenty of high-quality contests to revisit on the WWE Network.
[Image via WWE]