Last year, in honor of the 23rd annual SummerSlam PPV, I listed my Top 23 Matches in SummerSlam History. Just like we do with the WrestleMania countdown, this year I'll add one more for the 24th annual SummerSlam! The list remains largely unchanged, especially since last year's show didn't exactly set the world on fire, but there are a few minor tweaks. Let's get started with #24!
24. Chris Jericho vs. John Cena - SummerSlam 2005
This match was a major turning point for Chris Jericho, John Cena and WWE in general. While the crowd was absolutely in love with Cena up to this point (remember the reaction when he got drafted to Raw?), but he hadn't quite found his groove in the ring yet. Jericho certainly brought out the best in Cena and I think his work was great from then on, but the crowd turned on him during this match. I don't think that was entirely Cena's fault, the audience had grown to respect Jericho for everything he had done, regardless of whether or not he was a bad guy, and Cena hasn't been the same since. Jericho, of course, left WWE the following night and wouldn't return for more than two years and WWE's shift toward the Cena era was ramped up even further. The match is wonderful though and I'd say Cena's best up until this point and the divided crowd was a lot of fun before it became a cliché.
23. Bret Hart vs. Doink the Clown & Jerry "The King" Lawler - SummerSlam 1993
This is just the first time you'll see Bret Hart on this list. Shawn Michaels appeared on our best of WrestleMania list quite a bit, and it's no surprise considering he is "Mr. WrestleMania," but if anyone should be "Mr. SummerSlam," it's definitely The Hitman. Hart's first appearance on this list is a bit bizarre, but somehow worked. Jerry Lawler was constantly badmouthing Bret and Bret's family on commentary, attacked Bret when he won King of the Ring, but tried to get out of their match at SummerSlam by subbing in Doink the Clown, who was doing brilliant work as the evil clown at the time. Looking back on this match, I forgot just how good Lawler was as a heel, and how much the crowd was begging to see him get his ass kicked. This feud would go on and off for years, but I think this whole ordeal at SS93 was the highlight of it.
22. Elimination Chamber - SummerSlam 2003
The only Elimination Chamber to take place at a SummerSlam would be a lot higher on this list had it not been for the absolutely stupid finish. The crowd was absolutely on fire for Goldberg during this one and he was just starting to get into a groove in WWE, and you could argue that it came to a screeching halt with this match, despite the fact that he won the World Title a month later. This was at the height of Triple H's notorious period at the top of the Raw brand (aka "The Triple H Show"), but despite that and the dumb finish, it's actually one of my favorite Chamber matches. The aforementioned hot crowd, Jericho getting speared through one of the pods, Kevin Nash looking really funny with his Punisher haircut, and Goldberg looking like an absolute beast, all made it a really fun match.
21. Triple H vs. Eugene - SummerSlam 2004
What? A Eugene match? Seriously? When the character first debuted, I couldn't believe WWE would do something so stupid and controversial, but right around the SummerSlam match, I really came around on the character. The dynamic between William Regal and Eugene was genuinely heartwarming, Triple H was at his prickish best, and it was a classic tale of the jerks you knew in high school that would taunt the Special Ed kid, and you were begging to see them get what was coming to them. Even though Triple H won, he had to cheat to do it and a relatively new character got to look good at The Game's expense, which is incredibly rare. The Eugene character rightfully didn't have a long shelf life, but this match with Triple H was the highlight of it.
20. Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio - SummerSlam 2002
The only complaint I can say about this match is that it was way too short. In under 10 minutes, Rey Mysterio exploded onto the WWE scene, took Kurt Angle to the limit and gave us one of the greatest opening matches in SummerSlam history. If WWE would've given these guys 15-20 minutes, this match could've ended up in the Top 10, or maybe even Top 5.
19. Steel Cage Match: Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley - SummerSlam 1997
This match was right at the height of the "Three Faces of Foley," when the Hardcore Legend would switch between Mankind, Dude Love and of course, Cactus Jack. Another great opening match in SummerSlam's long history and was really something of a turning point for both characters. Mick Foley began to become more than just the deranged Mankind, and Hunter Hearst Helmsley was shedding the limiting Greenwich Blue Blood character in favor of the edgier Triple H.
18. Icon vs. Icon: Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels - SummerSlam 2005
Yes, the match is ridiculous, yes, the wrong man won, but it is also a testament to how good Shawn Michaels is and how WWE knows how to utilize Hulk Hogan to the best of his abilities. It's probably the most debatable match on the list, but despite Shawn Michaels acting like he was getting thrown around by Superman, I enjoyed it. Probably as good as a match between Hogan and Michaels could've been in 2005, and it earns it the #18 spot on the list.
17. Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler - SummerSlam 2009
With several memorable opening matches already on the list, I didn't realize how many SummerSlams have terrific first matches. 2009's encounter between Mysterio and Ziggler was one of Dolphy Z's many attempts to win the gold, only to come up short, but this is arguably the greatest match he's ever had. Rey Mysterio in 2009 was nothing short of phenomenal and Ziggler, despite the goofy name and hideous hair, managed to prove that he could perform in a big match situation.
16. I Quit Match: Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair - SummerSlam 2006
I love this match. Love, love, LOVE this match. It's far from a technical masterpiece, and I wish it would've got more time, but the chemistry between these two was nothing short of perfection. The promos leading up to the match, the legitimate heat between the two over the years, and the fact that they were both far past their primes, but can still entertain better than most, made it such a fun match.
15. The Brainbusters vs. The Hart Foundation - SummerSlam 1989
Another opening match, coming from the second SummerSlam and it's just a classic old school wrestling match. You have Bret Hart, Jim Neidhart, Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson in the ring together, so obviously it's all there on a technical level. It's also from a rare event where you get to hear Tony Schiavone on WWE commentary, but his work with Jesse Ventura was really good here as well, tackling the issue of why The Brainbusters didn't put the tag titles on the line for this match. Going back and watching this, you really realize how much of a lost art tag team wrestling is.
14. Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin - SummerSlam 2001
I generally hate DQ finishes in World Title matches on PPV, WWE used to pull that shit all the time when I was a kid, and by 2001, it was damn near inexcusable, but it worked here. During the height of the Invasion, a desperate Steve Austin would do anything he could to keep the WWE Title, especially when faced with Kurt Angle, the superior athlete. It was a great match despite the controversial finish and would've made it even better when Angle did win the WWE Title the next month, but since the Invasion was a complete mess, it kinda got lost in the shuffle.
13. Ladder Match: Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio - SummerSlam 2005
More ridiculousness from SummerSlam 2005 that actually turned into a good match. Yes, it was a ladder match for custody of Rey Mysterio's son (that was "actually" Eddie Guerrero's son), which should've been the dumbest storyline WWE had done since Katie Vick, but somehow, Eddie Guerrero made the wrestling version of Over the Top work. That's how good Eddie Guerrero was, he could make a paternity storyline entertaining with three simple words like, "I'm your Papi!" Completely absurd, but the talent that was in the ring can't be denied.
12. Ladder Match: Triple H vs. The Rock - SummerSlam 1998
Another terrific ladder match, this time from the height of the Attitude Era, SummerSlam 98. It was DX vs. The Nation with the Intercontinental Title hanging in the balance, and while both of these guys would go onto much, MUCH bigger things, I've always had a major soft spot for this match. Triple H still wore pants, The Rock's music still started with "Do you smell what The Rock is cookin'," rather than "IF YA SMEEEEEELLL...", it's fun going back and watching what these two were before becoming two of the biggest names in the industry.
11. 2 out of 3 Falls: The Hart Foundation vs. Demolition - SummerSlam 1990
It's almost a cliché to say that tag team wrestling is a lost art, and I already mentioned it earlier in the list, but watch this match and you'll see the undeniable proof. There was a time where being Tag Team Champions was almost as important as being World Champion, and when you see a match this good, that was presented as such a big deal, it just makes you wonder what the hell happened. This match is my favorite Hart Foundation match, my favorite Demolition match (and I loved me some Demolition), and it featured a run-in from the Road Warriors, who had recently signed with WWE. The phrase "tag team specialists" was coined for matches like this.
10. The Rock vs. Kurt Angle vs. Triple H - SummerSlam 2000
A match that personified the best of the Attitude Era - captivating storylines combined with big match main event style. With Angle taking that NASTY! Pedigree through the table that broke too soon, The drama of the Triple H, Kurt Angle, Stephanie McMahon love triangle and The Rock being The Rock, what more would you need in a SummerSlam main event?
09. Ladder Match: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon - SummerSlam 1995
Depending on what day you ask me, I might say that this ladder match was better than their ladder match at WrestleMania 10. Everyone talks about how great the WM10 ladder match was, and it certainly was a groundbreaking, innovative match, unlike anything done in WWE before, but the SummerSlam 95 match gets completely overshadowed. Whether you think it's the superior match or not, this match doesn't get nearly enough respect and it was the lone entertaining match on the worst SummerSlam card in WWE history.
08. Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker - SummerSlam 1998
I'M ON THE HIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHWAY TO HELL! The build-up, the hype videos, the magic of Madison Square Garden, the fact that WWE created a whole new show to hype this PPV, SummerSlam 98 is one of my favorite WWE events ever. The buzz surrounding WWE and wrestling in general was beyond electric at the time and it felt like all that energy just exploded into this match. Even after years of Hell in a Cells and TLC matches, Undertaker's leg drop off the top rope through the announce table is still a jaw-dropper and I don't know if anyone will ever capture the WWE audience like Steve Austin did. Such a fantastic match, and oddly missing from both Austin and Undertaker's DVD sets. Pick up the Greatest Superstars of the 90s DVD if you haven't seen it, it's worth the $12 for this match alone.
07. Tables, Ladders & Chairs - SummerSlam 2000
Speaking of TLC matches, there's nothing quite like the original. Edge & Christian used to drive me insane in these matches because they always won, yet always seemed to be missing from the more insane bumps. It made you hate E&C that much more and the fact that they beat The Hardyz here, in the middle of North Carolina no less, just made them the ultimate a-holes. What else do I need to say about the original TLC match that hasn't already been said? You've seen it, you know it's awesome, and if you haven't, what the hell is wrong with you?
06. TLC Match: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy - SummerSlam 2009
But you know what? I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: CM Punk and Jeff Hardy put on the greatest TLC match in history in 2009. Not to take anything away from all the previous TLC matches, but I think I prefer the one-on-one TLC matches to the two-on-two-on-two variety that made the match famous. CM Punk and Jeff Hardy tore the house down at last year's SummerSlam and earned every bit of that coveted main event spot.
05. Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs. Edge - SummerSlam 2008
Kicking off the top five, we have a match that would've been the 2008 Match of the Year, if they didn't have to compete with Ric Flair's final match at WrestleMania 24. Edge and The Undertaker had my favorite feud of that year, killing it at WrestleMania, blowing my mind at Extreme Rules (in another fantastic one-on-one TLC match), and then giving us one of the greatest blow-off matches I can recall at SummerSlam 2008. After the disastrous Hell in a Cell PPV in 2009 and the decline of that match in general, I hope that those within WWE go back and watch this match to remember how to do it right for this year's show.
04. The British Bulldog vs. Bret "The Hitman" Hart - SummerSlam 1992
As far as I know, this is the only time in WWE history that the Intercontinental Title headlined a major PPV. Bret Hart wisely convinced WWE to let this match go on last since it was in Wembley Stadium and featured The British Bulldog winning the IC Title, and what we got was the fourth greatest match in SummerSlam history and one of the greatest main events in WWE history, period. It's a shame that with the internet, we'll never see another PPV from the UK because the crowd during this match lifted it from "amazing" to "legendary."
03. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect - SummerSlam 1991
The match that kick-started Bret Hart's singles career is also one of my favorite matches from both of these guys. Hart and Perfect were like peanut butter & jelly in the ring, they just went together. Their match at the first KOTR PPV was great as well, but this was their masterpiece together. Both men were fantastic wrestlers, but the crowd, the drama of Hart kicking out of the PerfectPlex, and Bobby Heenan having a heart attack on commentary just made this one - pardon the pun - perfect.
02. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H - SummerSlam 2002
In early 2002, I never thought we'd see the day that Shawn Michaels would return to the ring. Even as he was making his way down the aisle for this match, I had a hard time believing my own eyes, and then he got in there and it was like he never left. This match is significant, not just because Triple H and HBK blew the roof off the place, but because it gave us over seven more years of Shawn Michaels in a WWE ring. Looking back on those seven years and the matches HBK had, this might be the most important wrestling match in the last decade.
01. Steel Cage Match: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart - SummerSlam 1994
It's the greatest SummerSlam match I've ever seen, the greatest cage match I've ever seen, the greatest Owen Hart match I've ever seen, and damn near the greatest Bret Hart match I've ever seen. There's a reason why he's "Mr. SummerSlam," Bret Hart never failed to give 100% in any match, but for some reason "The SummerSlam," as he called it, seemed to be where he shined. At the beginning of this list, I asked you to tell me if my list was right or wrong, but if your list doesn't have this match at #1, you're wrong. Just sayin! Bret Hart returned to SummerSlam last year and still managed a really fun performance after all this time, but when I think of the Excellence of Execution at the second biggest PPV of the year, I will always think of this match.