Throwback Thursday: The Very Best of SummerSlam, As Seen on WWE Network

August 25, 2016 by Brock Allen

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The 29th annual SummerSlam is in the books. An event filled with a slew of classic matches including Seth Rollins/Finn Bálor, Brock Lesnar/Randy Orton, and of course the AJ Styles/John Cena masterpiece, SummerSlam 2016 proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that SummerSlam is every bit as big and every bit as important as WrestleMania itself.

WWE SummerSlam 2016 - Logo
WWE SummerSlam 2016 - Finn Bálor Wins WWE Universal Championship

As the debate rages over the historical significance of this year’s event and where SummerSlam 2016 ranks, Throwback Thursday on WDN caps off SummerSlam season with a look back at ten of the very best matches in the 29-year history of one of WWE’s biggest events.

WWF World Tag Team Championship – “No Disqualification, No Count Out Match” (WATCH – 1:29:23)
The Legion Doom (Road Warrior Hawk & Road Warrior Animal) vs. The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs & Jerry Saggs)(c) w/Jimmy Hart
WWF SummerSlam ’91 ? August 26, 1991

After winning the WWF Tag Team titles from the Hart Foundation at WrestleMania VII The Nasty Boys went to work cleaning out the division. Only one team stood in their way, The Legion of Doom. The Nasty Boys started a war of words with LOD in April that soon became physical. To settle the score this “no DQ, no count out” match was signed for SummerSlam ’91, a match that saw two of the stiffest tag teams of their era meet in as wild a match as the WWF could come up with at the time. A match full of potatoes and receipts, it still, 25 years later, stands as one of the very best tag team matches in SummerSlam history. This match saw the end of The Nasty Boys one and only WWF Tag Team title reign at 155-days, and was the start of LOD’s first of two reigns as Tag Team Champions, a reign of 165-days.

WWF Intercontinental Championship (WATCH – 2:11:10)
“The British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith w/Lennox Lewis vs. Bret “Hitman” Hart(c)
WWF SummerSlam ’92 ? August 29, 1992 (AIRED: August 31, 1992)

The Very Best of SummerSlam on WWE Network - The British Bulldog Wins Intercontinental Championship

No list of the greatest SummerSlam matches would be complete without this masterpiece from SummerSlam ’92. Over 80,000 fans packed London’s Wembley Stadium (WWE’s largest legitimate crowd until WrestleMania 33) to see one of WWF/E’s greatest matches ever. This match is required viewing for anyone who calls themselves a fan of professional wrestling. This ended Bret Hart’s second and final Intercontinental title reign at 146-days and marked the one and only Intercontinental title win of the late British Bulldog’s hall of fame career, a reign of 59-days.

WWF World Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:19:43)
Vader w/Jim Cornette vs. Shawn Michaels(c) w/Jose Lothario
WWF SummerSlam ’96 ? August 18, 1996

The main event of the 1996 edition of SummerSlam was to be the start of a long program between Vader and then-WWF World Champion Shawn Michaels. Vader’s stiff style and HBK’s volatile personality, however, caused the program to be scrapped after this event, with Vader’s “spot” (not the dog Spot) going to Sycho Sid. Famous for HBK’s temper tantrums, this match was actually, to that time, the best WWF World title match to take place at a SummerSlam behind Bret and Owen’s classic cage match from 1994. Another match filled with potatoes and receipts, this match lived up to the hype and stands, to this day, as one of the best World title matches in SummerSlam history.

WWF Intercontinental Championship – “Ladder Match” (WATCH – 1:36:31)
Triple H w/Chyna vs. The Rock(c) w/Mark Henry
WWF SummerSlam ’98 ? August 30, 1998

The Very Best of SummerSlam on WWE Network - The Rock vs. Triple H, Ladder Match

Few matches in wrestling manage to elevate all parties involved the way this ladder match did at SummerSlam ’98. This program was so hot in the summer of 1998 that this match could have easily been the main event. Rock and Triple H effectively swapped spots in this match with The Rock moving into the WWF’s main event scene and Triple H assuming Rock’s place as the “next big thing” in waiting. As for the match, it instantly became the gold standard that all other one-on-one ladder matches were and are measured against, taking what Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon did to an entirely different level.

WWF Tag Team Championship – “Tables, Ladders, & Chairs Match” (WATCH – 1:26:30)
The Dudley Boyz (Bubba Ray & D-Von) vs. The Hardy Boyz (Matt & Jeff) vs. Edge & Christian(c)
WWF SummerSlam 2000 ? August 27, 2000

These three teams stole the show nearly 5 months prior in the first-ever “Triangle Ladder Match” at WrestleMania 2000, and did it again in this, the first ever “TLC” match in WWE history. This match is nothing short of a war from start to finish. Featuring incredible spots and insane bumps, the first “TLC” continues to shine as one of the very best ladder matches in wrestling history.

Non-Sanctioned Street Fight” (WATCH – 1:36:01)
Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
WWE SummerSlam 2002 ? August 25, 2002

The Very Best of SummerSlam on WWE Network - Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, Street Fight

Shawn Michaels hadn’t worked a match since dropping the WWF Championship to Stone Cold Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIV, forced into a self-imposed sabbatical with a serious back injury and growing drug problems. In 2002, however, with HBK’s back improved and his demons under control, Shawn Michaels decided to return for what was to be one night only. This match was as close as the WWE ever got to an old school NWA blood and guts “death match”. There is little doubt that this classic SummerSlam moment ranks as one of the greatest comeback matches in pro wrestling history, and stands as one of the greatest matches of the “Heartbreak Kid’s” Hall of Fame career.

“‘I Quit’ Match” (WATCH – 1:05:03)
Mick Foley vs. “Nature Boy” Ric Flair
WWE SummerSlam 2006 ? August 20, 2006

The biter feud between Ric Flair and Mick Foley started as a war of words in the pages of the others autobiographies. Foley ripped Flair’s booking decisions in WCW and Flair called Foley “a glorified stuntman”, leading to a backstage altercation between the two at the December 13, 2004 RAW. The real-life drama would play out in front of the world in 2006 after Flair interrupted Foley (57:59) on the June 12, 2006 edition of RAW in a classic encounter. The two squared-off in a best of three falls match two weeks later at Vengeance 2006 that included a “Socko Nature Boy” and a brutal post-match attack by Foley that left Flair a bloody mess and set the stage perfectly for this gory battle.

WWE Championship (WATCH – 2:09:15)
Randy Orton vs. John Cena(c)
WWE SummerSlam 2007 ? August 26, 2007

The Very Best of SummerSlam on WWE Network - Randy Orton vs. John Cena

Randy Orton and John Cena’s paths to WWE superstardom followed nearly identical paths. Randy Orton debuted on OVW TV on June 24, 2000 and John Cena a little over a year later on August 15, 2001. Both men debuted just weeks apart; Orton against Hardcore Holly on the April 25, 2002 edition of SmackDown! and John Cena on the June 27, 2002 edition of SD! against Kurt Angle. Randy Orton won his first World Heavyweight Championship over Chris Benoit (2:11:56) at SummerSlam 2004 while John Cena didn’t win his first WWE Championship until dethroning JBL at WrestleMania 21. And while the two had run-ins with one another it wasn’t until the fall of 2006 that the seeds of a John Cena/Randy Orton feud were planted. This match marked the first singles match between the two on PPV and was as eagerly anticipated as any WWE Championship match in SummerSlam history, with many fans praying it was Orton’s “destiny” to topple the reviled John Cena in what turned out to be a true SummerSlam classic.

World Heavyweight Championship – “Ladder Match” (WATCH – 2:18:33)
CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy
WWE SummerSlam 2009 ? August 23, 2009

After years of false stars and creative roadblocks CM Punk finally got the break that would make the “best in the world” a WWE mainstay for years to come. After winning “Money in the Bank” for the second straight year at WrestleMania XXV, Punk cashed in on Jeff Hardy at Extreme Rules 2009 moments after Hardy had won the World Heavyweight title from Edge in a ladder match. The two would meet the next month at The Bash, with Hardy winning by DQ, and again in July at Night of Champions, where Hardy would win the World Heavyweight title from Punk, setting up this classic main event of SummerSlam 2009, the 8th “TLC” match in WWE history.

WWE World Heavyweight Championship (WATCH – 2:19:06)
Brock Lesnar w/Paul Heyman vs. John Cena(c)
WWE SummerSlam 2014 ? August 17, 2014

The Very Best of SummerSlam on WWE Network - Brock Lesnar Beats John Cena for World Heavyweight Championship

When Brock Lesnar returned to the WWE in 2012 “The Beast” set his sights on John Cena, and the two had a brutal match at that years Extreme Rules event, which Cena won. Two years later Lesnar defeated The Undertaker at WrestleMania XXX to end the vaunted “Streak”, and John Cena won his 15th World title in WWE at July’s Money in the Bank event, filling the vacancy left after Daniel Bryan was forced to relinquish the title due to concussion issues. On the July 21, 2014 edition of RAW Brock Lesnar was named the number one contender (2:03:36) for SummerSlam after Randy Orton (Plan A) and Seth Rollins (Plan B) were unable to accept, thanks to ongoing feuds with Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose respectively. Lesnar claimed he’d conquer John Cena like “The Beast” had conquered “The Streak”, and that’s exactly what Brock Lesnar did. In the most shocking match in SummerSlam history, John Cena took 15 German suplexes and three F-5’s before finally succumbing to Lesnar. This solidified Brock as the man to beat and the unstoppable “Beast Incarnate” of WWE. This ended Cena’s 15th (and most recent) World title reign at 49-days and marked Lesnar’s 4th WWE World title win, Lesnar’s first since 2003.

Final Thoughts

With a legacy every bit as rich as WrestleMania, SummerSlam has produced some of WWE’s greatest matches and moments for the last 29 years. These are only ten of the dozens of classic matches to have taken place at WWE’s summer classic, an event that continues to prove that in WWE the best is always yet to come.

WWE SummerSlam 2016 - AJ Styles Beats John Cena
WWE SummerSlam 2016 - Stage & Pyro

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  1. Anan says:

    Honorable mentions:
    Rey vs Angle – As pointed out by previously by VeryLowKI, this was a great entertaining opener which you need to set the tone and everything else of the rest of the event. A good opener gets the live and home crowds excited and looking forward to the rest of the show.

    “it’s the best opening match of any SummerSlam and it set the tone for what I think is the greatest ‘Slam of them all.”

    Certainly has the right to his/her opinion. Was it the greatest opener of any Summerslam? Maybe. Both are talented enough for that. In the pre-Rey-Angle WWF/WWE days, the best SSlam opener for me was either 6 Man Tag from 91, LOD vs Money Inc from 92, Razor vs Dibiase from 93 or Savio Vega vs Owen Hart from 96. I can’t just single out one of those 4 as my favorite opener of SSlam or 5 if you add Rey vs Angle from 02. I think the greatest SSlam is still 98. Loved 2015 and 2013 also. 2002 was great as well. Aside from the disrespectful Toronto crowd, I enjoyed 2004 also.

    Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect – For me, the match of the night from Summerslam 91 and like many matches of that era, symbolized the IC Title as what was then known as the worker’s title as it was a title held be the ring generals and skilled ring workers while the WWF Title was held by the big muscle guys who may not have had the ring skills the IC Title holders had.

    Bret Hart vs Owen Hart – Match of the night from 1994. Not the best Summerslam. This match saved it from being a complete dud.

    Taker vs Mankind – From 1996. This event featured some good to great bouts. This being one of them though it was far from a wrestling mat classic and was more of a as JR put a prison riot. Still have visions in my head of them brawling throughout the locker room with many faces and heels opening their doors and watching.

    Taker vs Bret Hart – Some say the opening cage match was the best match. As far as wrestling goes, this has to be the match of the night. Loved Taker’s pain withstanding here and the acknowledgement of that threshold by the commentary team. I remember watching it the first time thinking had HBK not been a factor, Taker would have won because what else could Bret Hart have done? Two figure 4’s, twp sharpshooters, one of each being done around the ring post, chair shots, Paul Bearer, Pillman & Owen, and none of that could put Taker away. That was all before HBK’s chair shot to Taker, intended for Bret. Taker rolled his eyes back at Bret. To me that meant a rematch for them which they got at the UK at One Night Only. Had Bret stayed in WWE, I figure they would have had a rematch in the US too at some point.

    Taker vs Austin – The best match these two had against each other, at least o PPV was at the 1998 Summerslam. Loved everything – the hype, build, entrances, match, aftermath.

    RVD vs Jeff Hardy – Keep going back n forth on whether I like this Summerslam 2001 more than their Invasion match.

    RVD vs Benoit – From 2002, one of the best IC title matches of Summersam. Plus it had an extra stake – RAW vs SD. I think this was in fact the first ever RAW vs SD match as far as I know that happened at a PPV.

    Rock vs Brock – Also from 2002. The hype really sold this. The match was as god as you’d expect from a talent like Rock and a physical specimen in Lesnar.

    Eddie vs Angle – From 2004. For me personally, just as good as their WM20 match. Though the ending wasn’t as creative as their WM20 match was.

    Taker vs Edge – From 2008. This was the end of the feud that began when Edge cashed MITB in on an injured bloody Taker in May 2007. The sending Edge to Hell aftermath may have been a little too over the top much for that particular era. But the match itself is still one of my favorites HIAC’s that Taker’s been in.

    Christian vs Del Rio – From 2014. What I loved from this match most: Christan’s performance of a man doing all the can to win.

    Bryan vs Cena From 2014. Bryan bought the best out of Cena. Match of the night. Bryan’s Championship win over Cena was very well deserved. Enough said.

    I agree with most of Brock’s list. But to be honest, would have replaced some of what’s there with some of the above honorable mentions as they to me would fit a Very Best of Summerslam list. But lists are subjective and whoever creates the list gets to put whatever they want on it. Singling out 10 matches for list out of I’ve lost count how many matches Summerslam’s had it its history, very very hard to do. Overall, nice job, Brock 🙂

  2. Nicolas Hébert says:

    Where’s Bret Hart vs Mr Perfect for the IC Title a SS 1991?

    Can you explain why the Summerslam 92 match between Bret and Davey Boy Smith was TAPED on August 29th and Aired 2 days later on August 31st?

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello, Nicolas. First, in respect to Bret/Perfect, it will be featured in a more appropriate TBT next week. In fact I had to choose between the two matches for both articles. We’ll see if I made the right decision after next week.

      Secondly, SummerSlam 1992 was the first WWF PPV to happen outside of either North or South America. For whatever reason, one I’m not certain of (except maybe for financial reasons seeing as there was no guarantee the event would be as big as it was when the venue was booked), the show was taped on the 29th and included 3 matches not seen on the North American version. The unseen matches were: Bushwhackers & Jim Duggan vs. The Nasty Boys & The Mountie; Tatanka vs. The Berzerker; and Papa Shango vs. El Matador.

      The event was shown live on PPV in the UK uncut and unedited, which was not the case, obviously, for the US fans. Not only was the card trimmed for the US audience, but as many flubs and botches as could be spotted as well. Since there was no way the results could leak out to the US fans the WWF felt they were safe. Considering a good number of fans from that era still have no idea the event was taped, I’d say they made the right call. But, whether for money, as I mentioned above, or for technological/logistical reasons, SummerSlam ’92 remains, if I’m not mistaken, the only tape-delayed PPV in company history.

      Thanks for reading, Nicolas, and taking the time to leave a comment. Take care.

      • LP1 says:

        Just to add a couple of things to the reason why SummerSlam 1992 was taped 2 days earlier. First and foremost was the time difference. All WWF PPVs began at 8pm ET back then, so for it to air live that would mean it would have to begin at 1am in London. On the flipside, if they aired the show at 8pm in London, it would’ve aired at 3pm ET, which the WWF wasn’t going to do on a Monday afternoon workday. So taping it was the only option. Why they decided to tape it 2 days earlier is because the WWF already had a TV taping scheduled for Tuesday September 1, 1992 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The wrestlers flew back to the US on Sunday August 30th. They wanted to give the guys plenty of time to rest up after the long flight back to the US, so they were off on Monday the 31st.

        As for the UK airing of the PPV, it didn’t air live and uncut. In the UK the Crush vs Repo Man match and I believe the Tatanka vs Berzerker match was not included on the broadcast. Crush vs Repo did air on the US version though. The problem was the live taping ran long and they had to make edits to the PPV. Why the US got Crush vs Repo and the UK didn’t, I have no idea. The other 2 matches, the 6 Man tag and the Santana vs Shango match were both dark matches that were never advertised to be taking place on TV beforehand. Both Crush vs Repo and Tatanka vs Berzerker were advertised on TV, however. When the UK home video came out, Silver Vision included the full 11 match lineup. The US Coliseum Video release only included the 8 matches that aired on PPV. I’m actually surprised the WWE Network didn’t upload the full version of the show. They obviously have the show in their archives since it was released on video back in the day.

        • Brock Allen says:

          Thank you for the information, LP1. I forgot that SummerSlam was still on Monday’s at that point. I had always heard/read the UK got the event live and complete, so thank you for clearing this up. It makes perfect sense that unless they were willing to change the date and time of the event for the US audience the show would have to be tape-delayed. Once again, thank you for the info. I’ll be sure to make note of it for future reference.

          Thanks for reading and taking the time to clear the matter up. Its greatly appreciated. Take care!

          • Nicolas Hébert says:

            If I remember, all the matches not showing on the US version of Summerslam 92 was showed days later on a edition of Prime Time Wrestling in Septembre 1992.

            • LP1 says:

              That’s correct. The 3 matches that didn’t air on PPV in the US aired on Prime Time in the weeks that followed. They showed one match a week.

  3. VeryLowKi says:

    Can an honorable mention go to Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio from SummerSlam ’02? Picking just ten matches from almost thirty years’ worth of shows is all but impossible and I have no argument against any of the bouts that made the cut. That said, I still love Angle vs. Rey. I think it’s the best opening match of any SummerSlam and it set the tone for what I think is the greatest ‘Slam of them all.

    • Brock Allen says:

      Hello, VeryLowKi. I very nearly included the match, as it’s one of my all-time personal favorites (even if Angle looked like a giant box of popcorn), but opted for the HBK/HHH match instead based more on the history of the match than the match itself, though the match remains an epic. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy call as the match is hands down the greatest opener in event history.

      Thanks for reading, VeryLowKi, and taking the time to tell us what you think. Take care.

      • VeryLowKi says:

        Ha, Brock, you’re right — Angle’s choice of ring gear is maybe the only sour note in that entire match. I actually agree with your choosing the HHH/HBK match, by the way. That was a match that seemed impossible at the time and now it’s hard to deny that it’s an outright classic.

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