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The 411 Wrestling Top 5 08.12.13: Week 230 – The Top Summerslam Matches

August 12, 2013 | Posted by Larry Csonka

Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.

So, onto this week’s topic…

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5. The Honky Tonk Man vs. the Ultimate Warrior, SummerSlam ’88 Okay, it’s not really much of a match. But in terms of impact and importance, it’s one of the biggest ever that made the first SummerSlam a memorable event. For a year and a half, fans watched comedy midcarder Honky Tonk Man hold the Intercontinental title, cheating his way to victory time and again, annoying fans big-time. He was to face Brutus Beefcake but Beefcake was injured so HTM arrogantly challenged anyone from the back to come out and face him. The rocking music hit and the Ultimate Warrior charged out to the ring and proceeded to destroy HTM in 30 seconds. The pop from the Madison Square Garden crowd when the pin was made was one of the biggest I’ve ever heard, the fans erupting to finally see HTM’s reign end and welcomed the Warrior as a hero. As a wrestling match, poor but as a memorable moment in the history of the show, its impact remains huge.

4. Shawn Michaels vs. HHH, SummerSlam 2002 As laughable as it may seem now, when Shawn made his comeback in 2002, most fans expected just a brief run with little to go for it. The set-up was poor with HHH revealing himself as the mystery man to attack Shawn, setting up a no-DQ battle. HHH dominated the match for the most part, Shawn bloody (apparently by capsule rather than blade job due to how it vanished fast) and not much else. But then Shawn made a stunning comeback, on fire like not seen in years as he nailed HHH with garbage cans, a ladder, leaping off the top rope to splash Hunter through a table and more. In the end, he managed to flip a Pedigree into a pin and while he was beaten down afterward, Shawn was reborn in the eyes of fans, launching a new segment for his Hall of Fame career and reminding everyone why he is still the Showstopper.

3. Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith, SummerSlam ’92 It’s true that (by his own admission) Bret had to carry the majority of this match due to Davey Boy being so blown up early on. But having worked constant battles over the years, the two brothers-in-law were able to put on a great match in front of 80,000 people in Wembley Stadium. The flow was fantastic, each trading moves and countermoves, trying to keep it clean but their frustration leading to some harsh slaps and punches. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands, respecting this technical battle and leaping to their feet at every big move. In the end, the Bulldog reversed a sunset flip into a roll-up to get the pin and the IC title, he and Bret celebrating together with Bret’s sister, the crowd roaring to the spectacle they had witnessed in arguably the best main event in the card’s history.

2. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon, SummerSlam ’95 We all know how their WrestleMania X ladder match set the bar for all who followed. But personally, I think the rematch was better. Both men were faces now, Michaels the IC champ defending against Ramon for some strong clashes. It used the flow of that first match well such as when Michaels tried to slide-kick the ladder at Ramon but Ramon was ready, dodging so Shawn slid outside to get punched. An addition was Ramon smartly working on Shawn’s leg so to keep him from climbing up the ladder for some nasty shots as they traded wicked blows and falls. In the end, Shawn was able to rise up the ladder to grab the belt and provide a great bookend for the match that amped up wrestling majorly while proving he and Ramon massive stars still.

1. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, SummerSlam ’91 Watching this match remains a joy, two masters of the mat clashing wonderfully. The fact that Curt Hennig’s back was screwed up six ways to Sunday and he shouldn’t even have been wrestling makes it all the more impressive. Bret was on fire as he took the battle to Perfect who fought him right back hard, milking the boos of the crowd with slaps and arrogant taunts to Bret. But Hart kept at it, his parents watching from ringside as they traded moves and counters with fantastic skill so even the normally judgmental MSG crowd was rooting them on. It ended with Perfect trying a leg drop only to get tied into the Sharpshooter, forced to submit fast due to his bad back. Bret then tore off his singlet to celebrate his first singles title win, a fantastic match that reminded you of the power of the IC title but also the respect of the two men who wanted to put on a great show and more than succeeded.

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5. Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith, SummerSlam 1992 – To me, this match has been overrated throughout the years. I am NOT saying the actual bell-to-bell contest was terrible or anything like that. It was clearly great. However, after more than 20 years later, this just does not stand the test of time. In the early 1990’s, Bret vs. Bulldog was probably the greatest match fans had ever seen. Now though? I am sorry. Even with that, this gets a good reputation because of two things – the men involved and an IC Title match being treated as the main event. Anything with Bret and Davey Boy is automatically going to get ‘FIVE STARS!’ from certain fans. Plus, the fact that mean old Hulk Hogan was pushed to the side for the night also plays into their favor. Just going by actual in-ring action? Barely makes the top five in Summerslam history…

4. John Cena vs. Batista, SummerSlam 2008 – Now, we are talking! Like it or not, this was their first ever HUGE match on pay-per-view. For historical value alone, this deserves a spot. When you add in the fact it was a rare clean loss for John Cena and a big selling point for years and years, it bumps up the prestige even more. What makes this different from Bret/Bulldog is that is can be viewed at any time and still be worth watching. That is the mark of a truly great match. It lives on forever!

3. Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan, SummerSlam 2005 – Shocked? You shouldn’t be. All that means is you have never seen it before. Right off the bat, the financial success of this main event was off the charts. I believe it was one of the most purchased PPV events of this current era, not counting any WrestleMania shows. Plus, you had the epic (yes, epic!) heel HBK going after Hogan each week leading into the once in a lifetime battle. Once the bell rang, my house full of friends and family were pumped! Both men delivered the goods and put on a worthy main event for Summerslam 2005. The entire event that night was wonderful, but seeing HBK/Hogan one on one was special. In fact, I think I will go watch it again right now!

2. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, SummerSlam 2002 – To me, HBK is the greatest of all-time. Thus, it is no surprise he appears on this list once again. Back in 2002, I expected his return to spawn a few matches a year. Just think of Chris Jericho and Brock Lesnar nowadays for a comparison. Never, ever did I imagine a full-time comeback was in the cards…for multiple years! That all started in August 2002 with this classic Unsanctioned Street Fight against Triple H. In many cases, this could be the number one choice. However, one other match just barely tops it…

1. Dudleyz vs. Edge/Christian vs. Hardyz, SummerSlam 2000 – The first ever TLC match was something I will never forget. We had seen ladder matches before (at past Summerslam events no less). We had seen tables being smashed for years. Chair shots were really nothing new in 2000. However, you add it all together and mix it six talents looking to make a mark on wrestling? Forget about it. WCW and ECW never stood a chance with matches like this taking place. I give each and every one of these guys major props and putting it all on the line for our enjoyment.

Wwe-Fr.Net – #1 TLC Match – Summerslam 2000 by WweFrNet

Ryan Byers
5. Triple H vs. The Rock (Ladder Match, 1998) – This is one of those matches that is just as memorable for who it elevated as it is for the action that occurred from bell-to-bell. Before meeting each other here, Rocky and Trips were midcarders with popular gimmicks, though the jury was still out on whether they were ever going to push their way in to the main event. Once the smoke cleared, it was patently obvious that they were two names to watch, and it was just as obvious that they were going to have many more run ins with one another as they continued to work their way up the card.

4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (2002) – Are matches that are “unsanctioned” by WWE still eligible for Top 5 consideration? Hopefully they are, because these two guys went in to the ring after Shawn Michaels had been out of wrestling for over four years and absolutely tore down the house. This match was an example of a rare phenomenon in which a relatively modern, smarky crowd was convinced by the wrestlers that they should be legitimately concerned for the well being of one of the competitors. HHH and Shawn told a story so compelling that every shot Michaels took to his injured back elicited a reaction from the audience as though it was going to put him on the shelf for ANOTHER four years. It was a thing of beauty and the perfect way to set up an HBKomeback.

3. Davey Boy Smith vs. Bret Hart (1992) – If you believe the story that Bret Hart has told about this match in many interviews, the Bulldog “blew up” very early in the bout, and the contest that we saw largely consisted of the Excellence of Execution walking his opponent through motions. If true, that makes the match a thousand times more impressive than it appears watching the battle without the backstory. One man essentially wrestling himself for twenty-five minutes is incredible. One man wrestling himself for twenty-five minutes and putting on a match of this caliber is nothing short of miraculous and is a testament to just how great the Hitman was. Combine that with a red-hot live crowd that just happened to be the largest in the history of WWE, and you’ve got an instant classic.

2. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (1991) – I admit that there is a lot of nostalgia involved in my ranking this match so highly. This is the first match from my childhood that I remember watching and thinking, “Holy cow, that was a great match!” as opposed to watching a match and caring more about who won and lost than I did about the performance. The performances of Hart and Hennig in this one lead to something clicking in my young head that caused me to look at wrestling in a way that I had not previously. The performances also have remained indelibly etched in my memory to the point that I still get excited when thinking about it, even though I have not actually watched the match for several years now.

1. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Cage Match, 1994) – Jesus, looking at my top three, you may as well dub Bret Hart “Mr. Summerslam.” The Best Their Is, the Best Their Was, and the Best Their Ever Will Be also had the best string of matches at this pay per view that could be imagined. The capper of it all was his main event cage match against brother Owen, who was the only man in the WWF in 1994 who was rivaling the Hitman and Shawn Michaels as the company’s best in-ring performer. The brothers Hart built a beautiful match around the WWF blue bars and “escape” rules for cage matches, which normally drive me crazy, as they are the inferior variety of cage match. Instead of just having a five star match inside of the cage, the brothers had a five star match that integrated the cage and made it a vital part of what they were doing. That’s the mark of a truly classic gimmick match, right there.

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5. Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan, SummerSlam 2005 Here was a feud that happened a decade too late; an nWo-era Hogan versus a DX-era Shawn would have been one of the hottest matches anywhere on the planet in 1997. But since it happened in 2005, everyone knew going into the match that Shawn was going to carry the whole thing and that Hogan was going to win. The rivalry had an incredible amount of marquee value and almost zero chance of being watchable thanks to Hogan. And make no mistake, this entire program was a Shawn Michaels production from start to finish, with him doing the best comedic heel work of his long career for what was essentially a throwaway feud that benefited no one except Hogan. And when it came time for the match, Shawn proved once and for all that he was more entertaining than Hogan by essentially wrestling himself in a comic pantomime of Shakespearean scope and quality. SummerSlam 2005: good times.

4. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, SummerSlam 1991 in 1991, Bret Hart was still largely seen as the quiet half of the Hart Foundation, despite the alleged beginnings of a singles career. If one solitary match can be credited with beginning Bret’s legendary singles run, it is this one. Mr. Perfect was the ideal opponent for Bret, able to match him hold for hold and yet capable of such feats of crowd manipulation. These two threw everything they had at each other, and for all the world looked like absolute equals. Bret won when Perfect went to the well one too many times on a cheap leg drop to the groin, and reversed it into a Sharpshooter; this match combined storybook simplicity with unrivalled in-ring chemistry.

3. Bret Hart vs. Owen, SummerSlam 1994 Well, maybe not unrivalled. For all the talk of Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels being perfect antagonists for each other, I’ve always felt that Owen was his brother’s true foil. Their match at WrestleMania X proved that Owen could match his brother if given the chance, and his subsequent King of the Ring victory solidified him as a top contender to his brother’s WWF title. And it all led to this match, the best of Owen’s career and one of Bret’s. Brother against brother in the (big blue) steel cage; the drama doesn’t get any more primal than this.

2. Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith, SummerSlam 1992 If Shawn Michaels is Mr. WrestleMania, then Bret Hart is Mr. SummerSlam; this is, after all, his third appearance on this list. And he was involved in one of the biggest anomalies in the history of the event itself: a face vs. face matchup for the Intercontinental championship which was the main event despite the fact that a WWF title match — a rematch of the legendary Savage/Warrior battle from WrestleMania XII, no less — was also on the card. Hart and Smith were given the chance to be great and they took it, delivering a wonderful match and generating probably the loudest crowd reaction of all time as Davey Boy’s UK fans watched him win the championship and the crowning jewel of his career.

1. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, SummerSlam 2002 When Shawn Michaels returned from what was supposed to be a career-ending injury in July of 2002, most fans were wondering how much of the old HBK would be left after half a decade on the shelf. Those fans were very likely surprised when the opening sequence of the match involved Shawn leapfrogging Triple H and hitting a plancha. Shockingly, the time off was a boon to Shawn and he returned a more mature, polished, and masterful performer. The match itself is filled with symbolic depth: the ladder representing the heights of Shawn’s former glory; the trading of belt shots as the two men try to claim metaphorical supremacy; the inclusion of a table spot, to signify that HBK had missed no steps and would easily integrate himself into the new order of WWE. Shawn Michaels’ second run was going to be better than his first, and this was the match that convinced us that was possible.

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Csonka’s Top 10 For Fun
10. Edge vs. John Cena (2006)
9. Edge vs. Undertaker (2008)
8. The Rock vs. HHH (1998)
7. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (1991)
6. The Brainbusters vs. The Hart Foundation (1989)
5. HHH vs. Shawn Michaels (2002)
4. The Hardys vs. The Dudleys vs. Edge and Christian (2000)
3. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (1994)
2. Bret Hart vs. Davey Boy Smith (1992)
1. Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (1995)


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
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2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation

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Larry Csonka is a Pisces and enjoys rolling at jiu jitsu class with Hotty McBrownbelt, cooking, long walks on the beach, Slingo and the occasional trip to Jack in the Box. He is married to a soulless ginger and has two beautiful daughters who are thankfully not soulless gingers; and is legally allowed to marry people in 35 states. He has been a wrestling fan since 1982 and has been writing for 411 since May 24th, 2004; contributing over 3,000 columns, TV reports and video reviews to the site.

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