wrestling / Columns

Top 7 WWE SummerSlam Matches

August 8, 2021 | Posted by Steve Cook

We’re coming up on the biggest event of the summer. SummerSlam ranks as one of WWE’s biggest shows every single year, and will (barring unforeseen circumstances) be the biggest of 2021 from a “butts in seats” perspective. It’s also usually one of the best shows of WWE’s year, with at least one or two matches on each card that stands out from the pack.

Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the best SummerSlam matches of all time. Lots of choices, there’s a good chance I missed one of yours. After all, SummerSlam is usually a pretty magnificent event. As it turns out, even though 411 has previously featured articles with various writers listing best SummerSlam matches, I didn’t make it in any of them. Which is a shame, it would have been fun to compare a list I made ten years ago to now!

7. John Cena vs. AJ Styles (SummerSlam 2016)

Styles had been one of the biggest stars in non-WWE wrestling since the early 2000s, having classic matches wherever he went. While he was propping up companies like TNA, ROH & New Japan, Cena was the top star in WWE most of the time. Wrestling nerds like me would tell you Styles was the superior in-ring talent, but Cena was the one making the money. And, to be honest, Styles wouldn’t have been able to carry a feud with Cena from a character standpoint for most of his career. By the time he got to WWE, he was ready.

This wasn’t their first match with each other, they had a title match at Money in the Bank. No titles on the line in this one, just pride. Styles had needed help to win at MITB, this time he did it on his own in front of one of WWE’s most rabid fanbases who were heavily into it. It was the fourth match on a nine match main SummerSlam card, and you got the sense Styles & Cena wanted to make their act as difficult to follow as possible. Cena definitely got a kick out of working guys like Styles & Kevin Owens & getting to do some of those moves you didn’t see in WWE back in the 2000s. It was always a highlight when Cena would pull out a Code Red or something like it.

6. Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk (SummerSlam 2013)

I remember people telling me that Punk would make a terrible opponent for Lesnar. Their reasoning was that Punk didn’t look believable. Nobody would buy him having a chance against the ginormous Beast. Brock needed to face people that were as big as he was, like Undertaker, or somebody in his stratosphere, like Triple H. I wondered if these people had seen Brock’s match with Eddie Guerrero at No Way Out 2004, which I had as Brock’s best at that point. It was all about Brock decimating his smaller opponent, and Eddie surviving. The Best vs. The Beast seemed like a pretty great way to re-create that formula, with Punk re-establishing himself as a babyface against somebody whose opponents you have to feel sorry for.

As I suspected, Brock would have his best match I’d seen since 2004 with CM Punk. The two most well-known Paul Heyman Guys were looking to put on a show with each other, and they did exactly that. Punk took a beating, weathered the storm and gave one of his own. Yep, Brock got the win, but Punk earned even more respect than he already had from the fans. Later on, Brock would have other classics with “small” competitors like AJ Styles & Daniel Bryan, further proving the crowd that thought he needed large opponents wrong.

5. Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (SummerSlam 1994)

Occasionally, Larry Csonka & I would find reason to talk about cage match psychology. Larry always loved the NWA cage matches, stuff like Magnum TA vs. Tully Blanchard and the old War Games matches. The WWF ones didn’t really speak to him. They had a big blue cage without the sharp points that the NWA fence cages had. In WWF cage matches, you won by exiting the cage. Other places, exiting the cage wasn’t the point, the point was pulverizing your opponent into nothingness.

The Bret vs. Owen feud was never about that, unless you were an Owen fan for some reason. This match was built on escaping the cage, which was there to keep other Hart family members out. I’ve never seen so much hair-pulling in a men’s singles match. Bret eventually got the win, as we all expected. Then the Anvil clotheslined Bulldog & his wife over the guardrail and all hell broke loose.

4. Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (SummerSlam 2002)

Back when this match took place, there was serious doubt over what HBK would be able to bring to the table. He’d been inactive since WrestleMania XIV, and this was in the days befoe people came back from back injuries like they were nothing. I still remembered Ricky Steamboat. Could HBK live up to what we remembered? The bright side is that he was wrestling Triple H, who here in 2002 was as good a brawler as anybody on the roster. H would make him look good, and they could definitely get by on the history involved between the two.

It’s safe to say that Michaels exceeded all expectations. Triple H put quite the beating to him & pulled out all stops. HBK was on point from a selling and offensive perspective as he always had been, refusing to die the more that Triple H put him through. Unsanctioned street fight was the perfect stipulation, as they got to bleed, use the plunder and all the bells & whistles they could. It worked, and Shawn Michaels was back. Then HHH attacked Michaels’ back with a sledgehammer after the bell, and Jim Ross yelled at him like he was Luigi throwing shells at people in Mario Kart. Good ol’ fashioned entertainment here.

3. Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (SummerSlam 1991)

Curt Hennig wasn’t in the best of shape for this one. He had a severly injured back that would lead to taking a year & a half off to collect on an insurance policy. Under most circumstances he would have dropped the Intercontinental Championship prior to SummerSlam, and a tournament or battle royal or some such thing would have been held. Bret Hart likely would have won barring a last minute change of heart from Vince McMahon. It would have been fine, but not the star-making moment Bret’s first singles title victory deserved.

Hennig knew this, as Bret was one of his best opponents & a jam-up guy. So he gutted it out and made it to SummerSlam in order to do the time honored tradition. I haven’t seen a bad match between the Hitman & Mr. Perfect, and this one was one of the best. Given Hennig’s tendency to over-sell, you couldn’t tell much of a difference between this and one of his usual efforts. You could tell when he stayed in the Sharpshooter for approximately five seconds. Madison Square Garden went absolutely banana, and Bret had his star-making moment as a singles wrestler.

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

What can you really say about Tables, Ladders & Chairs? Other than these three teams invented the match, and it’s been imitated & duplicated countless times since? Back in 2000, this was all new, crazy stuff to us. There was a rawness to it because we really didn’t know what was going to happen. Two decades later, we’re all old and have seen more TLC matches than we care to remember. The early ones still stand out though, largely because they were the least predictable.

Well, there was one predictable part. Edge & Christian would win. They had the brains of the bunch while the Hardyz & Dudleyz were too consumed with being extreme. Or was it xtreme? Either way. It’s funny because when I was watching at the time I had the idea that Edge & Christian didn’t take as much punishment as the other two teams. They did, it’s just that it was usually Jeff or Bubba Ray falling from the furthest up.

It really is amazing that some of these people are still wrestling today. Who would have guessed?

Honorable Mentions: John Cena vs. CM Punk (SummerSlam 2011), John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (SummerSlam 2013)

These two matches are pretty much the same match with the same story going in. Hot young indy favorite going in against WWE’s Goliath. Cena puts the guy over in a really good wrestling match. Seconds later, the guy gets attacked and the Money in the Bank briefcase holder shows up to cash in. I think I would like both of these matches better if they didn’t happen so close together in the timeline. The Bryan story worked better, but it was too soon after Punk’s.

1. Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog (SummerSlam 1992)

I’ll be honest, this one is a bit of a sentimental favorite. SummerSlam 1992 was one of the first videos I rented at Blockbuster, largely because I wanted to see Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog. They were two of my favorite wrestlers growing up since they were usually wrestling on Saturday mornings. At the time it was one of my favorite matches ever, and obviously it still rates very highly considering its ranking on this list.

Now, it’s easier to tell that the match was a bit of a one-man show. Bulldog went into it at less than 100%, and wasn’t quite there at certain points in the match. Fortunately he was working with Bret, who was able to make up for any potential shortcomings on the other side, and there were also 80,000 of his countrymen that were behind him no matter what. SummerSlam has had other main events with great crowd heat & emotion, but nothing quite like this one.

One wonders if SummerSlam, or another major PPV, will return to the United Kingdom someday.

Thanks for reading! Hit me up at [email protected] or on Twitter @stevecook84 with any thoughts or suggestions, or leave a comment down in los comment section. Until next time…

article topics :

Summerslam, WWE, Steve Cook