Top Five SummerSlam matches

Craig Wilson, Atlee Greene & Jamie Lithgow

Bret Hart and The British Bulldog shake hands after their epic SummerSlam 1992 clash (Image courtesy of WWE.com)

Bret Hart and The British Bulldog shake hands after their epic SummerSlam 1992 clash (Image courtesy of WWE.com)

When wrestling fans discuss classic matches and moments they tend to think of Wrestlemania – the showcase of the immortals. However, another one of the ‘big four’ PPVs has arguably contributed as many memorable moments and matches. From The British Bulldog winning the IC title in front of a home country crowd way back in 1992 via the HBK v HHH street fight a decade to the clash of two legends as Shawn Michaels faced Hulk Hogan in 2005, SummerSlam has been an event that lit up the wrestling calendar.

It’ll come as no surprise, then, that our ‘Top Five’ this week will continue the countdown to the hottest event of the summer. This week the team are joined by Atlee Greene from the excellent Midnight Logic blog to list their favourite matches from SummerSlam history.

Craig

Honourable mentions:

Shane McMahon v Test (SummerSlam 1999)
Edge & Christian v Dudleys v Hardys (SummerSlam 2000)
Ultimate Warrior v Rick Rude (SummerSlam 1990)
The Rock v Brock Lesnar (SummerSlam 2002)

5 Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon (SummerSlam 1995)

It was between this and Shane McMahon v Test but this one got the nod instead. Some argue that the Wrestlemania X match is better but I disagree as both men had improved in the year and a half since the first ladder match and they had threw in a few extra spots in this one to make it even better. Add to that the fact that Michaels was by this point a face and the match has a whole new intensity. Not as appreciated as their Mania match, this match helped launch HBK and within six months he would be on top of the WWF Mountain as the champion after Wrestlemania XII.

4 IC Champion Mr Perfect v Bret Hart (SummerSlam 1991)

The first of three Bret Hart matches in my top five list: The Hitman had many great SummerSlam matches and what better way to kick off than with this one. Hart and Hennig were quite possibly the two best workers in the WWF at this point and despite Perfect’s back injury the two were able to put on a masterclass. Within a few months the roided physiques were largely gone and the WWF focussed more on in-ring talent, this match helped show that it could work. Which is remarkable when you consider just how bad a condition Hennig’s back was in.

3 Shawn Michaels v Triple H (SummerSlam 2002)

HBK turned back time in this one and you certainly wouldn’t have thought he’d spent the previous four years on the shelf. This match is a classic from a very solid SummerSlam card. It may not be HBK’s best match – it may be his most brutal though – but based on the fact that he made up for anything he lost physically to tell a great story puts this at number 3 on the list. It may be one of Triple H’s finest moments as well. A classic match no doubt as the two told an incredible story and their chemistry certainly helped make this match

2 Bret Hart v Owen Hart (SummerSlam 1994)

Bret and Owen tangle in the cage at SummerSlam 1994 (Image courtesy of WWE.com)

Bret and Owen tangle in the cage at SummerSlam 1994 (Image courtesy of WWE.com)

This is an oft forgotten classic from WWF history and is quite unlike every other cage match from that time and what had gone before. Traditionally a cage match had been a slow and methodical affair but not this one. Here, instead the Hart brothers put it all on the line in a fast paced match up that lit up the 1994 SummerSlam that is perhaps more (in)famously been remembered for the awful Undertaker v Undertaker match up and all the silly celebrity involvement during that angle.

1 Bret Hart v The British Bulldog (SummerSlam 1992)

As far as this list goes, nothing comes close to this match for me. I vividly remember the lead up to the 92 Summerslam. There was a buzz, which I can remember despite being 8 at the time, and although my parents didn’t have Sky a family friend did and taped the event as well as much of the lead up for me. It’s difficult not to be amazed by this one even now. The stories surrounding this match are legendary and primarily focus on the condition of Davey Boy and the fact that Bret Hart had to carry him through this match – Smith had struggled with both injuries and drug problems ahead of this. Boy, did Hart drag an incredible match out of the Bulldog and showed the WWF he could be trusted to be the top man. A fantastic conclusion to the event, especially for the British fans and the Bulldog himself.

Atlee

Honorable mentions:

Ladder Match – The Rock v Triple H @ Summer Slam 1998
Cage Match – Bret Hart v Owen Hart @ Summer Slam 1994
Ladder Match – Shawn Michaels v Razor Ramon @ Summer Slam 1995
Singles Match – John Cena v Batista @ Summer Summer 2008
The Entire Event – Summer Slam 2002

5 Test v Shane McMahon (Summer Slam 1999)

Nope. This is not a typo. Shane-O-Mac was pushing his corporate weight around during the Attitude Era and set his sights on Test when he and his sister, Stephanie McMahon, started dating. “The Love Her or Leave Her” Greenwich Street Fight was set. Shane pulled out every trick in the book in order to keep his sister from dating “some wrestler”. Test had some tricks of his own as he hit Shane with a vicious power slam outside the ring and threw him into the front row suite of the Mean Street Posse. Not to be humiliated, the Posse interfered, which gave Shane the opening to put Test through the Spanish announce table with an elbow drop from the top rope. Test kicks out, Patterson and Brisco take out the Posse, and Test comes back with his signature pump handle slam and follows up with an elbow drop for the 1-2-3. Watching this live put my friends and I through a loop and it was the match we most talked about the next day. This Summer Slam classic proved to be the best match they ever had.

4 Randy Orton v Christian (Summer Slam 2011)

This was the match that ended the summer long feud as the Viper got his revenge against Christian who cheated him out of the World Heavyweight title a month earlier. The fans inside the Staples Center were with this one every step of the way as the action was put into full throttle. Christian attempts to add insult to injury with an RKO on top of the announce table, but Orton blocked it and hit his patented maneuver. Tables, trash cans, chairs and kendo sticks were all used as the two put a beating on one another as the back and forth thrill ride felt that it was never ending. The amazing finish came when Orton timed Christian’s springboard off the second turnbuckle and nailed him with an RKO on the steel steps to win his 9th world title. This show steeling match was Orton’s best in quite some time and erased any doubt that Christian didn’t have it anymore.

(Image courtesy of seekextreme.com)

(Image courtesy of seekextreme.com)

3 Mr. Perfect v Bret Hart (Summer Slam 1991)

Mr. Perfect was one of the best heels in the business as a mid-card. Bret Hart was looking for his piece of the singles wrestling pie. Mr. Perfect was used to outwrestling the competition, but this was the first time he had met an opponent who matched him move for move and hold for hold. The drama was at a fever pitch inside the Garden as Hart kicked out of the Perfect Plex. Perfect would get his leg caught during a series of leg drops to the abdominal as Hart snatched his leg up and locked up the Sharpshooter to win his first IC title. The amazing part about all of this is that Mr. Perfect worked the match with an injured back. He could have bowed out, but it meant that much to him to put over Bret Hart in such grand fashion.

2 Stone Cold Steve Austin v Kurt Angle (SummerSlam 2001)

I remember watching this event at a restaurant where the patrons were watching various baseball games. This match turned every one of those heads as they traded the sounds of cracking bats for smacking chairs The Invasion angle was quickly losing steam, but that didn’t prevent that year’s Summer Slam from being an amazing show. The event that was topped off by the co-main event featuring Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle. The Rattlesnake had turned heel and joined the Alliance while Angle was determined to bring the WWF title back where it belonged. This match was action packed from bell to bell. The fans were eating up every second of this one as Angle kicked out of three Stone Cold Stunners. The Olympic goof was gone, and the bad ass wrestling machine had arrived. Besides the stupid finish with referee Nick Patrick disqualifying Austin, this match is a classic of the highest magnitude.

1 Bret Hart v British Bulldog (SummerSlam 1992)

Watching this match is like hav-ing a religious experience that just fills you up with so much joy and reaffirms your pride in professional wrestling. Savage vs. Warrior may have sold the show, but Bret Hart and Davey Boy Smith stole the show in breathtaking fashion. Poetry in motion doesn’t begin to describe what these two accomplished that evening. The drama was already booked. Davey Boy is married to Bret’s sister, Diana, and is looking to fulfill his dream in front of 78,927 of his countrymen. Bret Hart takes exception not only to the fact that his brother-in-law would challenge him for the belt, but his own sister has decided to remain neutral. Once the bell rang, they told a phenomenal story where Smith used an exquisite blend of power moves and mat wrestling to counter the Hart technical expertise. Knowing his intercontinental title was in jeopardy, the Hitman lived up to his moniker and released a forgotten mean streak that didn’t break any rules but definitely didn’t exude brotherly love. Bret kept working the national hero until he made that one mistake that got him pinned in the middle of the ring. It was clear after this match that mid-card status was no longer an option for the pink and black attack as 42 days later, Hart won his first WWF title.

Jamie

Honourable mention:

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (2002) – Just misses out. 4 years out and HBK comes back even better than before!
Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy (2001) – Fought under ladder match rules, this is possibly the best HardcoreTitle match you’ll find.
Bret Hart vs. Mr Perfect (1991) – I’ve never actually seen this match, but I better at least acknowledge it, if only to avoid a slagging!

5 CM Punk v Jeff Hardy (SummerSlam 2009)

This TLC match for the World Heavyweight Championship main evented Summerslam 2009, and quite right too. This was the climax of a great feud, both creatively and in the ring, which introduced the mainstream to a heel CM Punk. The definitive end to the feud game on the following Smackdown when Punk beat Hardy in a loser leaves WWE match. The Summerslam encounter was a great match within a great feud, which left me wanting more – maybe one day. Even better is that I didn’t expect Punk to win, it was a genuine shock because I thought Hardy would agree a new contract and have a lengthy title reign. The looks on his fans faces when Punk won…

HBK climbs the ladder at SummerSlam 1995 (Image courtesy of wwe.com)

HBK climbs the ladder at SummerSlam 1995 (Image courtesy of wwe.com)

4 Razor Ramon v Shawn Michaels (SummerSlam 1995)

Technically better than their original Wrestlemania 10 ladder match, this one is often forgotten due to its more famous predecessor. This one has a bit more polish, a bit more drama and a different dynamic due to both men being babyfaces (Michaels was a heel first time around). I’m always impressed when wrestlers improve upon gimmick matches. Granted this was early in there evolution when compared to the heights (literally) they reached five years later, but there’s only so much you can do in a one-on-one ladder match, making this an impressive performance by both men.

3 Bret Hart v Owen Hart (SummerSlam 1994)

Like my number 4, this is also a rematch from Wrestlemania 10. However it is harder to judge these two, because one was a cracking singles match, the other was blistering cage match. This, of course, was the latter and up for grabs was the WWE Title that Bret had won at ‘Mania, after Owen had defeated him in the aforementioned singles match. You can’t take your eyes of this match, it’s a cracker, no wasted motion at all. It was a traditional, and fitting, feud ender. Having said that, although their run of matches ended they maintained a rivalry up until Owen joined Bret in The Hart Foundation in 1997.

2 Edge & Christian v The Dudley Boyz v The Hardy Boyz (SummerSlam 2000)

This was the original TLC match, a concept these guys perfected so well there is now an entire TLC PPV. Mick Foley coined the term “TLC” due to The Dudley’s fondness for tables, The Hardy’s proficiency with ladders and E&C’s love of steel chairs. In reality the first TLC match was fought between these three teams at Wrestlemania 16, but the bout at Summerslam was the first to actually bare the name. I like this match because they took some of the stunts from the original match and amped them up, yet at the same time made them look safer. Obviously (judging by the condition of Edge’s neck) nothing about this match was safe, but there seemed to be less reckless abandon In the pursuit of high spots and big bumps to get over. These guys had already cemented their legacy by this point, freeing them up to tell a story rather than put on a spot-fest. Having said that, they didn’t disappoint with the stunts either.

1 Bret Hart v The British Bulldog (SummerSlam 1992)

As a British WWE fan there is no other alternative. Not only is this match the Summerslam match, this event is the Summerslam. I can recall watching this event live at a friend’s house, and being completely enthralled by the main event. We genuinely didn’t know what side to pick; Bulldog was our boy, but The Hitman was our favourite guy. The fact that I can remember this, some 21 years later, indicates the impression it left on me. Not only that, I have since learned of the circumstances surrounding this match and Bulldog’s physical and mental condition. Hart deserves all the praise in the world for carrying Davey Boy to an epic match, but fair play to Bulldog himself. He was obviously messed up (which is of course his own fault, which I in no way condone), but he got it together enough to play his part in one of the all-time great matches, and on front of his own fans too.

You can read all the previous Top Five pieces here.

2 thoughts on “Top Five SummerSlam matches

  1. Pingback: It’s time to Ring the Damn Bell with Summer Slam. | Midnight Logic

  2. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling | Ring the Damn Bell

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