wrestling / Columns

Building The Ultimate SummerSlam Card: A Puzzle Game

August 10, 2019 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
AJ Styles John Cena WWE SummerSlam

Building The Ultimate SummerSlam Card: A Puzzle Game

-Welcome to the latest edition of Building The Ultimate Card. Thanks to everyone who read the Bash at the Beach column and passed on their thoughts. Also thanks for checking out my Austin/Hogan podcast review. As I promised in my Bash at the Beach card, SummerSlam was the next PPV on the schedule. Obviously, it only makes sense since the WWE presents their biggest show of the summer this Sunday. As with WrestleMania, SummerSlam has a deep history and this is going to be a massive card with 31 matches.

-Now for the rules as since this show is so deep, I will follow the rules I set Mania, and include as many of the titles as possible. The interesting thing here is that 1 title I couldn’t get on the show as it meant leaving off another one. Yes, the Cruisweight/Light Heavyweight Title has only been defended on the main card at SummerSlam once and that was in 2001. That same show featured another title appearing for the first and only time, which means I had a decision to make. So for this card we have to use: WWE Title, World Title, Universal Title, WCW Title, ECW Title, Intercontinental, United States, European, and Hardcore. For the Tag Titles, I split them into 2 eras: Classic Tag Titles (prior to the 1st brand split) and New Tag Titles (post 1st brand split). The Women follow a similar set-up as I separated before the initial brand split as well. The reason being, there’s not enough history to do Woman’s, Diva’s, RAW Women, and SmackDown Women. For those curious enough to try, please do. As a reminder my goal is to finish the puzzle while getting as many big stars on the card and in case of picking one match vs another, I try for personal preference.

1988: WWF Tag Titles: Demolition (c) vs. The Hart Foundation (10:49)

-We start by using my Classic Tag Title Match on two of the greatest teams of all time. These two had a much better match two years later and that was going to be the one I used, but as happens, the card started falling a certain way and I needed a different match for 1990. Now by having to use this match it cost me Warrior vs Honky Tonk Man, which I tried to avoid for as long as possible, but I couldn’t save the greatest SQUASH match in history. Still, this is a very solid match between two of the most popular teams of all time. And yes, I am aware that this match has burned Bulldog/Bret at SummerSlam 92.

1989: Dusty Rhodes vs. The Honky Tonk Man (9:36)

-Next up is a show that thankfully featured a lot of non titles matches with Hall of Famers all over the place. The great thing about these early shows is they put a bunch of matches on the card and it gives a lot of options. In this case I opted for this match as it does involve two Hall of Famers and gets Dusty on the card which made for a cool touch when I get to a couple later matches. This isn’t a good match by any stretch, but both men had charisma for days and the crowd was into it.

1990: Hulk Hogan vs Earthquake (13:16)

-Obviously Hulk Hogan had to be on the card and for the longest time I had his match with Shawn Michaels pegged for this card. I really wanted to keep it, but soon realized I was leaving someone else off and was easier to take away that match. The issue with Hogan is that he was in a lot of tag matches in the early years and that keep taking people away from me. That left me with this match and his 2 matches in the mid 2000s. By choosing this match, I had to ditch Harts/Demo II and thankfully was able to put them in the 1988 spot. This match is actually pretty good and had amazing heat as this was a pretty strong money making feud. It was so strong in fact that Hogan only got the win by count-out so they could continue the feud on the house shows. It also features a few crazy spots with Hogan slamming Quaker on a table and then blasting him with a metal stepladder that left some nasty welts on his back.

1991: Jailhouse Match: The Big Boss Man vs. The Mountie (9:38)

-It’s amazing how much from these early shows I can clearly remember while the stuff from the last 10-12 years kind of blends together outside the Main Event matches. These two were obviously made to feud with each other and like all these early shows, the crowd heat was crazy good. The match is your solid, standard mid-card match, but the stipulation and all the post match stuff with The Mountie going to jail made this an amazing moment. He crushed it in the jail segments that popped up throughout the night. This was the only match I considered and only for a brief second did I think I may have to change it when I thought I was going to have to use Boss Man for a Hardcore Title match. The only other match worth considering for me was Hart/Perfect for the IC Title, but that would have meant shuffling around for a different Classic Tag Title match.

1992: WWF Title: Randy Savage (c) vs. The Ultimate Warrior (28:00)

-I got over half way done with this card and realized I still hadn’t picked a WWE Title match. There were so many I wanted to use, but it just wasn’t working. Bryan vs Cena was a leading candidate, but I figured I could use Cena somewhere else. Most remember this show for Hart/Bulldog, but again, I had Bret in the tag title match. So when I ended up having this as a back up plan I was quite happy. We have two Hall of Famers here and two of the most popular wrestlers in history having a fantastic match (with a cheap ending). Some put this match ahead of their Mania VII classic, and while it is very good, I won’t go that far. Once I knew I couldn’t take the IC Title match, this was my next choice and nothing else was really considered.

1993: Razor Ramon vs Ted Dibiase (7:32)

-Another match featuring two Hall of Famers and a kind of passing of the generations as Dibiase puts over Razor Ramon in his first year with the WWE. This is also a battle of future nWo members which is kind of cool. Razor was penciled in for the IC Title spot with his classic ladder match against Shawn at SS 1995, but then I thought I was getting Hogan/Shawn. Then I ended up not getting either, so this is where we get Razor. Initially I had a more fun than it had any right to be 6 man tag from this show (Gunns and Tatanka vs Bigelow and The Headshrinkers), but I somehow needed Tatanka for the 1994 show.

1994: Tatanka vs. Lex Luger (6:02)

-I needed a match here and I didn’t really want to use any of the title matches. I soon realized though that one of the top stars I left off this card was Diesel, but really I didn’t have much to choose. Instead I opted to get Luger on the card and this was a semi-famous angle with Tatanka accusing Luger of selling out to Dibiase, before revealing he was the one who sold out. At one point I had Blayze/Nakano as my Classic Woman’s Title Match, and while I wanted to keep it, the 1999 show kind of forced my hand.

1995: Hakushi vs. The 1-2-3 Kid (9:27)

-As you would expect this was all action as they made the most of their 9 plus minutes. In a perfect world this is where Razor/Shawn gets used, but again, I needed Shawn for something else. Nothing else on the card was noteworthy, so go with the next best match and that was this one. It also gets me another Hall of Famer on the card. It also helps this is a fun match with two guys that worked well together. Also, shout out to Pittsburgh who hosted this show. I wasn’t there though as I was only 14 and my parents weren’t taking me.

1996: Goldust vs Marc Mero (11:01)

-There were 3 matches to choose from here with this one, Bulldog/Sid or Lawler/Roberts. Lawler/Roberts has 2 Hall of Fame members, which usually carries weight, but I like the idea of getting Goldust on the same card with his father. The match was kind of slow, but did feature Mero busting out a Shooting Star Press which blew me away and made we rewind the VHS tape several times to make sure I saw what I thought I saw.

1997: Intercontinental Title: Owen Hart (c) vs. Steve Austin (16:16)

-Goldust/Pillman was what I originally had planned for this spot, but realized that Steve Austin wasn’t anywhere on the card and Owen hadn’t appeared either. An easy solution as this also fills my IC Title spot and why HTM/Warrior was canned. This match is remembered for the botched ending, but it was building to a very good match prior to the botched piledriver. You can actually make a case the botch helped Austin became an even bigger mega star as him being out of the ring and being the tough guy going against WWE corporate stooges took him to another level. This was just another step on Austin’s ascent up the card and it’s tough that one of the nicest and safest guys dropped Austin on his head, but as JR says, “this ain’t ballet.”

1998: European Title: D-Lo Brown (c) vs. Val Venis (15:31)

-Now we are in the time frame for things like the European, Hardcore, and Light Heavyweight Title. I opted to go with the Euro title match here because I always liked Brown’s run with the title. These two were actually given a decent amount of time to open this show and they set the table well. HHH and Rock became stars with their IC Title Ladder Match and Austin/Taker would have been a great WWF title choice, but with so few European Title chances this was the best bet for me.

1999: WWF Women’s Championship: Ivory (c) vs Tori (4:08)

-Now here is where the Hardcore Title started to screw with me. Boss Man vs Al Snow for the Hardcore Title was a fun match, but I used Boss Man in the Jailhouse Match. Shane vs Test is a fun match as well that looked like it was setting Test up as a break out star, but I realized Shane was needed elsewhere. Ken Shamrock vs Blackman in the Lion’s Den was intriguing, but again, I needed a Hardcore Title match and Blackman ended up in that spot a year later. So with my choices dwindling, I nixed my earlier Classic Women’s Title match with Bull vs Blayze and chose this much weaker choice. To be fair the women weren’t really given a chance to shine in this era, but this was okay and Ivory is a Hall of Famer.

2000: WWF Hardcore Championship: Shane McMahon (c) vs Steve Blackman (10:17)

-Here is were I used my Hardcore Title spot and why couldn’t use either of these men for the 99 show. In my WrestleMania card I used the Triangle Ladder Match from Mania 2000 and that burned 6 guys at once, and I almost did it again here with TLC II, but decided it was for the best to save some of those guys for later. This is a solid Hardcore Title match with Shane falling off the rigging around the Tron and then Blackman took his own crazy (though shorter) leap of faith to land on Shane for the pin. Fun stuff all around that the crowd ate up.

2001: WCW Championship: Booker T (c) vs. The Rock (15:19)

-This is where the dilemma kicked in for me as I had to make a choice between the WCW Title and the Light Heavyweight/Cruiserweight Title. The WCW Title only appearing on this one show isn’t shocking, but the fact that no version of the LH/CW Title has appeared on any SummerSlam main card other than this one is crazy. Technically the WCW Tag Titles were defended on this show too, but it was in a match involving the WWF Tag Titles as well and I wasn’t going to be forced to burn that one too. Since I made the decision to include the WCW Title this was the only match I could use which is fine as it gets 2 more Hall of Famers on the show. This was a sort of dream match for some as in the dying days of WCW, they tried to position Booker as their Rock, which was unfair to him. For those who want to eliminate the WCW Title, that’s fine, but you’ll be forced to pick the X-Pac/Tajiri CW/LH Title match.

2002: Unsanctioned Street Fight: HHH vs Shawn Michaels (27:50)

-As I started putting this card together, I realized HHH was missing and that seemed wrong. So I made the decision to ditch Hogan/Michaels for this match. Hogan/Michaels is a guilty pleasure for me as it is a match I always wanted to see, but obviously HHH/Shawn is a much better match. This was Shawn’s return to the ring after a 4 plus year absence and the man didn’t miss a beat. It seemed as if it would be a one off to end his career on a high note, but Shawn was better than 99% of the roster still, so he had a nearly 8 year run that made him an ever bigger legend. This show is also noted for Brock going over Rock in his rookie year for the WWF Title, but I needed Brock for later and the Rock had to be burned in the WCW Title Match.

2003: World Tag Titles: La Resistance (c) vs. The Dudley Boyz (7:49)

-For those keeping track, Rey defended the CW Title against Shannon Moore, but it was on Heat before the PPV. This was one of the final matches I put in place as I realized I needed a post brand split Tag Title match. This probably isn’t the best choice, but The Dudley Boyz are one of the greatest teams of all time and getting them on the card makes a ton of sense. The only other match that I thought I may have to use was Kane vs RVD, but I needed a Tag Title Match.

2004: Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero (13:38)

-I had this one penciled in pretty early as these two were made to wrestle each other and this was the rematch from their Mania XX classic. Nothing else was really considered though when I was struggling for a HHH match, I thought I may have to use his match with Eugene from this show. Instead I was able to keep this match between two of the greatest wrestlers of all time and while it didn’t hit the level of their Mania XX match, it’s still pretty darn sweet.

2005: United States Title: Orlando Jordan (c) vs. Chris Benoit (0:25)

-This was Hogan/Michaels from the start and was that way up until I realized I needed a HHH match. Once I figured out I could make it work by finding a match for Hogan, I then needed a match from this show. This was a rather stacked card and every match had someone I had pegged for a different match, so I was kind of screwed until I realized I needed a US Title match. If not here, then Nakamura vs Hardy from last year’s SS would have been used. Instead we get this quick match that crowned a new champion.

2006: I Quit Match: Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley (13:14)

-Another match I wanted from the start and that I was able to keep. This is a tremendous brawl with both men bleeding buckets and just showing great, old fashioned hate for each other. Some hated the ending with Melina, but man did everything else deliver. This was also the show where the ECW Title was defended for the first time, but thankfully it was on a few more shows which gave me options. Hogan vs Orton was briefly considered when I needed a Hogan match, but that would have hurt me later in the card when it comes to Orton.

2007: ECW Title: John Morrison (c) vs. CM Punk (7:09)

-Now we get to the ECW Title spot and I am good with this choice. Punk would go on to be bigger than this spot and this title, but I had no other way to really get him on the card. His match with Brock is amazing, but I needed Brock for the Universal Title spot. There were a few ECW Title matches and this is the best of the batch so it all worked out in the end and again, getting Punk on the card adds to the star power. Morrison is no slouch either as he has done quite well for himself coming from Tough Enough.

2008: Hell in a Cell: The Undertaker vs Edge (26:10)

-This was only a 7 match card which limited my options and MVP vs Jeff Hardy was looking like my pick, but thankfully I realized I had Edge and Taker free for this great HIAC contest. This was the blow-off to their feud that ended with Taker putting Edge through the ring and apparently to Hell judging by the flames shooting up through the hole in the canvas. Seriously though, these two had great chemistry and delivered a great match to close the show.

2009: Kane vs. The Great Khali (5:56)

-This came down to 2 choices and I went with this battle of giants over Jack Swagger vs. MVP. I’m sure Swagger/MVP was technically a better match, but sometimes it’s fun seeing two giants do battle. Kane and Khali are also both former World Champions and at least Kane will end up in the WWE Hall of Fame one day. Punk/Hardy for the World Title in a ladder match was briefly considered, but I liked using Punk in the ECW Title spot.

2010: Divas Championship: Alicia Fox (c) vs Melina (5:20)

-This show as a pain as there were only 6 matches and 4 of them were Title Matches. The other two were a handicap mach with Big Show vs Punk, Mercury, and Gallows and then the NXT vs WWE Elimination Match. I wasn’t touching the Main Event as it would have cost me 14 wrestlers. All it really left me with was this Divas match or Kane vs Rey for the World Title. I really wanted a different World Title match, so I opted to use the Divas Title for my post brand split Women’s division match. It’s not the Women’s Revolution, but it works fine for what I was trying to do here.

2011: No Holds Barred: World Heavyweight Title: Christian (c) vs. Randy Orton (23:43)

-We finally get to my World Title Match and I am quite pleased it worked out this way. This is a wonderful match that ended their feud in proper fashion. It was great to see Christian get a World Title run even if it was only for a brief run with Orton. They had some good to great matches, but this was the best of the bunch. When I was looking at other World Title matches, my only other choice for this show was a throw away Mark Henry vs Sheamus match that ended in a count-out, so things worked out for the best.

2012: Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler (13:07)

-This show was dominated by title matches that I already used, so I was left looking for a non title match and this show only featured a few of them. HHH vs Lesnar wasn’t going to be picked as again I had Lesnar pegged for a Universal Title spot. So that left me with this match or Bryan vs Kane. I opted for Kane earlier and I had Bryan in mind for later. So Jericho vs Ziggler it is and I am fine with it as more star power and gets one of the greats in Jericho on the card.

2013: Cody Rhodes vs Damian Sandow (6:40)

-This show features two all time classics with Punk/Lesnar and Bryan/Cena, but I couldn’t make either of those work. My options came down to this match or Wyatt/Kane. I used Kane earlier, but it would have been easy to swap that match for his Ring of Fire match here, but I had a soft spot for getting Dusty and his two sons on this card. This was a standard TV match and there’s nothing wrong with that considering everything else that happened on this show. They also weren’t given much time to do anything, but again, this show will always be remembered for the classic 1-2 punch and then the HHH heel turn with Orton cashing in on Bryan.

2014: Lumberjack Match: Seth Rollins vs Dean Ambrose (10:55)

-I missed getting The Shield guys on the Mania card and that wasn’t happening here. Brock murdering Cena is a match I watch often for a laugh, but I was never going to use it here. Rollins/Ambrose was a heated feud that seemed to peak at Money in the Bank where Rollins won the briefcase while Ambrose looked like the babiest of all faces in defeat. The lumberjack stipulation hurt the flow of this match and they were short changed on time, but it had great intensity all things considered. As mentioned it also got 2 of the 3 Shield members on my card.

2015: Kevin Owens vs. Cesaro (14:18)

-This match was kind of buried on the card, but it was rather good and it fills a need for me. This is the time when things started to get bloated on the SummerSlam card and thankfully, they have a few matches with no title on the line that can be used to fill out things. As a bonus it’s a match featuring two guys that are pretty great at what they do.

2016: AJ Styles vs John Cena (23:10)

-I wanted this match from the start and I was determined to do everything I could to keep it. That meant bypassing a ton of Cena matches, but it was worth it as this is one of the best matches in SummerSlam history. This was a dream match and the WWE realized it in rather short order as AJ was only about 5 months in his WWE run when this match was first teased. The Universal Title made it’s debut at this show and since I wasn’t giving up this match, that meant I had no choice but to use Brock in the Universal Title spot and that’s why he also had matches bypassed. Again, all worth it though as Cena/Styles delivered in spades and some will argue this is better than their Rumble classic. I still give the nod to the Rumble match, but they are both excellent.

2017: Universal Title: Brock Lesnar (c) vs. Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman vs Samoa Joe (20:52)

-This is the ultimate example of a Hoss Fight as 4 bad dudes just beat the crap out of each other while destroying everything around the ring. This match is just carnage and it is glorious to watch. It also gets the Universal Title on the card while getting 4 top stars on there as well. There was a CW Match, but again it was stuck on the preshow and that’s great as it would have sucked to lose this match. Go and watch this match again as you won’t be disappointed.

2018: The Miz vs Daniel Bryan (23:30)

-We come to the end of our card and yes, yes, yes, I made sure Daniel Bryan was included. Some thought this match disappointed due to the crazy awesomeness of the nearly 6 year build, but I loved the match. Bryan was still working out the kinks after his time away, but this was a match that had to happen. Their feud on SmackDown and Talking Smack (more specifically) is legendary and it looked like it was building to a match that would never happen. Then Daniel got cleared and everyone knew this match was coming. Part of me hopes they can go back and touch on it with their roles reversed. For a brief moment I had Nakamura/Hardy for the US Title match here, but getting it out of the way earlier freed up Bryan/Miz. As much as I love Nakamura, getting Bryan on the card was the better option.

-For those keeping track that is 31 matches that clock in at 6:45:18. For whatever reason this was easier than the Mania card, but that could also be due to the fact that I’ve done a few of these now. The one blemish is that I didn’t get the CW Title on the card, but you can blame the botched WCW Invasion on that. Again for those playing at home make your own decision on what title match to include from that 2001 show. As a whole this card is loaded with Hall of Famers and star power. There are a few names missing with Batista, Diesel, and Big Show being three of the biggest unless I am forgetting someone else. Depending on who you ask there are about 8 matches that flirt with or top **** stars. For most the Match of the Card would be HHH/Shawn, Warrior/Savage, or Cena/Styles, but don’t sleep on the Universal and World Title matches.

-I haven’t made a decision on what card to do for September, but the In Your House challenge is still floating in the back of my mind. It also seems WWE is bringing back Clash of Champions as a PPV in September and going through the NWA/WCW clashes could be fun as well. No matter what show is next, thanks to everyone for reading and following along with each of these columns.