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.
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)
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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