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With Summerslam just around the corner, I plucked out what I consider as the best matches in the event’s history. It was difficult selecting these 20 matches from the vast variety, it was a lot of fun! Remember that this list is just based on my opinions. You may disagree with the selections and that’s fine.
Stinger Splash: Top 15 Singles Matches at WWE Summerslam History [Twitter: (@thestinger_)
15. World Heavyweight Championship: CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy (TLC) – 2009
****1/4 This was the main event of that particular year’s Summerslam. The other big match on that card was between John Cena and Randy Orton for the WWE Championship. The seeds were planted when CM Punk cashed in his 2nd Money in the Bank contract on Jeff Hardy just moments after he won the title from Edge in a gruelling TLC match. Punk turned heel soon afterwards and began to get under Hardy’s skin with constant jabs towards Jeff’s lifestyle and problems with drugs, claiming that he was more superior because of his Straight Edge lifestyle. There were a lot of great moments happening in this match. I remember Hardy going through a table and getting powerbombed off the Ladder. That Super-plex from the top of the Ladder really made me shudder because I honestly thought both guys would end up seriously injured after that! Hardy’s offence with the steel chair was memorial because as a fan, you wanted to see Punk get his ass kicked after all the things he said about Hardy leading up to this match. He did a Swanton off the ladder onto Punk, who was lying on a table. I remember he did something similar at Wrestlemania 25 where he did a legdrop from the top. The finish came after Punk wacked Hardy in the ribs, Hardy fell off and Punk won the match. That was a great match which lasted almost 23 minutes. On Smackdown, Jeff Hardy left the WWE after losing a Steel Cage match against Punk. He re-joined TNA in the New Year and was the centre of controversy after turning up to a pay per view under the influence.
14. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho in a 2/3 Falls Match: 2000
****/2 These guys had been feuding since around Wrestlemania, and so they face each other here, in a best of 3 falls match for no particular reason. . This was a tremendous match, but it’s a shame that certain things on the undercard couldn’t have been dumped for the sake of giving these guys twenty five minutes instead of thirteen, especially for a 2/3 falls deal.
13. World Title: Randy Orton vs. Christian (No Holds Barred): 2011
****/2 Christian and Randy Orton had–without a doubt–the show stealing match of the night. A No Holds Barred match issued by Triple H, witnessed the introduction of kendo sticks, steel steps, steel chairs, tables, and trash cans. Christian attempted to RKO Randy into the Spanish announce table, but was impeded by an RKO through the table. Back inside the ring, Christian connected with the Killswitch only for a two count. Later Orton DDT’d Christian into a trash can, which ensued to an RKO on top of the steel steps positioned in the ring. This won him his ninth WWE World title. Christian’s original plan was to have his best friend Edge in his corner, but the “Rated-R Superstar” didn’t quite approve of how Christian had been conducting himself. And though Edge remarked that he had done some downright despicable things during his career, he did it with style and panache. He didn’t go around crying, whining, and even DQ’ing to win World titles.
12. WWF Title: Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin: 2001
****/2 In terms of their work, Austin might have had his best year ever in 2001 while Angle was as good as anybody in the business despite being in WWE for under two years. The match was fresh and action packed. Early on Austin hit the Stunner and Angle kicked out.What does an angry Austin do? He repeatedly rammed Angle's head into the ring post, which drew blood and it added to the story of the match because Kurt looked physically out of it, yet he kept fighting back. There were also memorable moments like the Angle's Ankle Lock on the floor and a belly to belly on the floor that couldn't have been good for Austin's neck.The last five minutes of the match were heart wrenching as Angle kicked out of the Stunner again, Austin kicked out of the Olympic Slam and Angle snapped on the Ankle Lock. Everybody wanted Austin to tap, but he kept fighting. Then Austin attacked the referees (punch to Hebner, Stunner to Chioda, belt shot to White) and finally the fourth referee Nick Patrick rang the bell, disqualifying Austin at the 21 minute mark.This match worked on so many levels because both guys were on their games as well as I could ever remember. I can't think of a match where Angle wrestled better as a babyface. Austin was at his heel best here. People who think his heel run didn't work because the crowd was reluctant to boo him need to watch this match. He got massive heat and Angle had them jumping for everything he did too.
11. WWE Title: Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar - 2003
****1/2 The best feud in WWE in 2003 was between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. They had a classic match to main event WrestleMania 19 that saw Lesnar beat Kurt clean. Angle was out of action for a few months following neck surgery, so Lesnar had a good title reign until Angle returned as a babyface to win the title in a triple threat (with Big Show) at Vengeance a month prior to this. Angle was booked in a match against heel Vince McMahon on Smackdown with Lesnar as the referee. It was inside a steel cage and Lesnar turned heel. That set up this match. This was a really fun match that I enjoyed in its original airing and also when I watched it again recently. I think I liked it more watching it again because the psychology of the match was so good. The story of the match was Lesnar being a heel beast while Angle kept fighting back from everything Brock did. There was also a focus on Brock's ankle. Kurt did an amazing job of working on it and Brock, who didn't show weakness a lot, was fantastic at selling the pain. Kurt kept going after the ankle and the crowd loved him for it, but Lesnar's a tough bastard that kept hanging on. Angle put Lesnar in the ankle lock again, Brock was tapping, but there wasn't a ref to see it. Cue Vince McMahon, who hit Angle in the back with a chair. I thought Lesnar was going over here especially after that one legged F5, which was spectacular. That's what I want to see! Sell the pain of a move while you do a move. That's what everybody needs to do more often. When Angle kicked out of that it was shocking. I thought that was it. McMahon tells Brock to do it again, but this time Kurt gets out of it and slaps on the Ankle Lock. Brock gets the ropes three times although not for long, so Kurt keeps pulling him back. Then Lesnar tapped out at the 21 minute mart. It was surprising because the idea of Lesnar tapping clean was a crazy thought at this point. That's why I liked the match, though. It was unpredictable and gave us a strong finish. The heels cheated, but they still lost. This is also the match that led to the fun "YOU TAPPED OUT" chants that greet heels whenever they tap out in major matches. I love that chant. A month later they had a five star 60 minute Ironman Match on Smackdown. These two had amazing matches together every time. This one is no exception.
10. Edge vs. Undertaker (Hell in a Cell) – 2008
****1/2 When you look back at WWE 2008, there was a huge change taking place around the summer time. After a decade of being a TV14 rated programme, the WWE returned to a PG rated show after the whole Chris Benoit tragedy from the previous year. This feud was a highlight from that year (along with the amazing HBK/Jericho feud) but I remembered thinking, how will they pull off a Hell in a cell match without blood? Blood was a common novelty in these kind of matches. The big spot in this match was when Edge speared Undertaker though the side of the cage. They must have gimmicked that part of the cell in order to create that effect. Edge continued the assault by hitting him with a monitor to the head and then speared Undertaker through one of the announce tables while running across all of them. It was a very memorable spot. Undertaker managed to get back up, they went into this crazy sequence of near falls that was big move after big move. The turning point came when Edge mocked Undertaker by going for “old school” but Undertaker countered the move and chokeslammed though a table! I liked how they incorporated different weapons in the match, think of it as a mix of Hell in a Cell and a TLC match. That’s the uniqueness of the match right there! Some of the Undertaker’s spots in this match involved a spear to Edge, a camera shot to the head, a conchairto and the finish was a Tombstone Piledriver. After the match, Undertaker chokeslammed Edge “to hell”. In reality, Edge took some time off to heal some injuries. What I liked about this was the way Undertaker treated Edge like his equal rather than the underdog and allowed him to get in a lot of offence too. Most of all, I’d consider this to be one of the best matches of the PG era so far.
9. Intercontinental Championship: Triple H vs. The Rock (ladder Match) – 1998
****1/2 Embroiled in a feud for much of the summer, D-Generation X leader, Triple H challenged the then leader of the Nation of Domination, The Rock to a Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. At this stage in their careers, neither man had held the World title but they would eventually go on to win a combined total of 23 World titles between them. They made this match work without having too many crazy spots which a match like this is famous for. Early in the match Rocky worked on Triple H’s knee and that set up the first part of the match. Hunter kept on fighting back, showing the classic toughness and heart which you’d expect to see from a babyface. They fight on the ladder, Hunter falls off, Rock’s ready to get the title and then Hunter bounces into the ladder, which knocks Rock off. Then a cool spot as Rock did a People’s Elbow while using the Ladder. It looked ridiculous, but the NYC crowd was cheering for Rock because his heel character was catching on at this point. Hunter comes back, he goes for the title again, but Rock hits a Rock Bottom. Hunter follows that up with a Pedigree. Then Rock’s ally Mark Henry threw powder in Hunter’s eyes to blind him and keep him from climbing. The finish came when Chyna, who was with Triple H, punched Rocky in the balls, causing him to fall off the ladder and allowing Hunter to win the title. The crowd was loud for the entire match. They were even cheering for Rocky too. It was a respect thing and both guys earned their love from the New York crowd. Later in the year, The Rock won his first WWF title at Survivor Series and Triple H won his the following year on an episode of Raw. I think it’s fair to say that everybody knew these two would be World Champions one day. They had a far better match at Judgement Day 2000 but they were more experienced at that time and this match laid the foundation for their careers as main event players in the most successful era in WWE history. They are unquestionably two of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history and this is their breakout match.
8. Kurt Angle vs Triple H vs The Rock in a Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship, 2000
****1/2 After being in the triple threat main event of the 1999 event, Triple H was back at it again a year later, only this time Kurt Angle and the Rock were in place of Austin and Foley. This match showcased the top talent of WWE and ran away as the match of the evening(as the main event should, but does not necessarily always do). Due to the involvement of Stephanie McMahon and her “friendly” relationship with Kurt Angle, the Rock was able to come out on top and score the win on Triple H after a people’s elbow to retain the WWE Championship.
7. WWE Title: John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan, 2013
****3/4 It was a fantastic match from start to (first) finish. I have to give credit where credit is due, Cena worked his ass off . He is aguy that can in fact wrestle better than the fans think. He kept up with Daniel Bryan, there’s no ifs and or buts about it; John Cena worked his best match in quite some time. And really, just as an aside, John Cena has had some of the best matches in the last two years of the company. His matches with Punk were amazing. His match with Brock at Extreme Rules was brutal but fantastic. His matches with The Rock even were some of his best work. So for fans to sit in their seats whether it was in that arena or in a bar watching or even at home, and chant “you cant wrestle” at him; is a complete misnomer. Anyway, getting back to the match, at first glance, the style of the match wasn’t exactly the usual WWE style match. In fact, it had more of a pseudo Japanese style to it (without the “strong style” aspect to it.) And one example of this fact was the slaps near the end of the match. That was a very Japanese style spot in a match and these two did it perfectly. Here is another aspect of this match that I couldn’t get out of my head. With the first finish of this match, Daniel Bryan winning this match, to me, was the WWE saying, you know what? We want wrestling back in this product as a hole. Bryan winning CLEAN was a choice that the company wants wrestling over the entertainment. Now I may be wrong with this theory but I truly believe that wrestling beat sports entertainment , at least for a few minutes anyway. And speaking of the finish, that Busaiku Knee to the face of Cena was sick looking. And just another example of the style of match that they wrestled. It was an unexpected pin, but a clean pin. Nobody expected that a knee to the face would beat Cena, especially after the track record Cena has with kicking out of multiple finishing moves on several different occasions in one match. But that pin seriously “made” Daniel Bryan. It was like a mafia style thing. Bryan was “made” to become a true main eventer within the company. So Bryan gets his moment, he gets the confetti, he gets the pyro, the crowd is going nuts with the yes chants, and then all of a sudden, Orton comes out. The WWE played this perfectly. It looked like Orton was just going to stand there, let Bryan have his moment in the sun, but just remind Bryan that he had the briefcase and to let him know that he could strike at any time, and then he started to walk away… but then he stopped. And then it happened. Much to the surprise of, well pretty much everybody, Triple H turned Bryan around and gave him the pedigree.
6. CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar, 2013
****3/4 Punk/Lesnar is the kind of match that I can’t describe in just one word… the match was absolutely brutal, but it was absolutely phenomenal too. From the start of that match, I could tell that both guys were really hitting each other for real. They were beating the hell out of each other. The story the match told was perfect. Punk in fact took everything Brock had to throw at him and wasn’t scared of him at all. But the other story of Punk wanting to get his hands on Heyman was superb, because it ultimately lead to Punk losing that match. His need to get revenge on Heyman took his mind off Brock and Brock was able to take advantage of it and get the win (by the way, an F5 on a chair? Perfect way to end). I loved the UFC aspect to the match too. It had to be used, and it was used in the best way. It didnt get over played, it was the perfect amount of time to add to the match. Some of the spots in that match were pretty damn creative. Like Brock jumping on the table cover over Punks back, never saw that happen. And the chair didnt even come into play till like 20 minutes into the match, but the chair had a purpose. Way to often people just use the chair to weaken, but this match had a purpose for the chair, Brock was borderline frustrated and then he saw the chair and then he figured it out, and it was like the frustration was gone and he got calm again. And once the chair was introduced it was like the match hit a second gear and it took off in a great way. The top rope chair elbow spot onto Brock hit him directly in the chest. Not only did it look great, but it must have hurt like hell. The chair shots to the back of each guy sounded like gun shots. But what I wanna focus on is how good Paul Heyman was that night. His role last night reminded me of Bobby Heenan in his hey day. He interfered. He stopped pins, he stopped Brock from tapping out. He got on the apron. In fact, side note, when Paul stood on the apron and Punk was on Brock’s shoulders for the F5 and Punk was grabbing on to Heyman’s tie and Brock was screaming “let go!” was hilarious. Anyway, its been said for quite some time, but Paul Heyman has been the MVP of the company for months now and he proved it again last night. His actions against Punk were perfect, and Punk getting to punch him in the face and put the vice on him for a few seconds was a great tease because Brock stopped it. Punk even said after the show that its not over
5. WWF Intercontinental Championship: Bret “Hitman” Hart vs. Mr Perfect – 1991
***** Mr Perfect was the cocky Intercontinental Champion whiles Bret Hart was in the early stages of his singles run after the Hart Foundation split. As a kid, I was interested in this match because I was too used to seeing Bret as a tag team wrestler and thought he’d come up short against Perfect. In his book and DVD, Bret mentioned how hurt Curt was with an on-going back injury he had but he was determined to have a classic with Bret because they were very close friends and had great respect for one another. The highlight for me was when Bret Hart kicked out of the Perfect-Plex. Kicking out of finisher moves nowadays is far too common but back in 1991, it was very rare. Perfect sold it great! He couldn’t believe it and neither did the NYC crowd. The commenters (Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan and Roddy Piper) put over how no one else had ever kicked out of the Perfect-Plex.The finish came when Perfect went for a legdrop. While on his back, Bret caught the leg and locked in the Sharpshooter. A victory over Mr Perfect gave Bret a lot of momentum in his single’s career because Perfect was such a dominant champion. It was 20 minutes of straight up wrestling with no gimmicks. Anyone who watches this match knows that Bret was not even in his prime during this event, yet he still put on an impressive technical display similar to what we came to appreciate from the Hitman over the course of his career. This is the perfect (no pun intended) way to put someone over in a clean and effective manner. This is one of the most famous and memorable matches in the careers of these two hall of famers!
4. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels (Street Fight) -2002
***** Shawn had been out of action since WrestleMania 14 in 1998 because of a back injury, and this was the start of an eight year run before his official retirement. Michaels wrestled this match in jeans and tested the waters to see if his back would hold up from his prior surgeries. Triple H had reunited with Shawn the night after the July ppv event, and then Hunter had turned on Shawn just as quick. This was a dream match for anybody who had watched these two as the founders of DX five years prior. The match was almost 30 minutes. The match was a street fight, which allowed them to do tricks in case Shawn wasn’t up to his normal speed (which he was because he’s fucking Shawn Michaels!) Hunter was bleeding. Shawn’s selling was point on! He made every back bump seem as if it’s about to put him in a wheelchair! I was watching and praying that Shawn would avoid getting injured. My favourite part of the match was when HBK was propping up a table on the floor, laying HHH across it and splashing him off the top. In the ring, he hit an elbow drop off the ladder. I’ll never forget him doing the “I’m crazy” hand motion. The finish saw the Sweet Chin Music get blocked, then the Pedigree countered into a roll though cradle for Michaels. He won the match and everybody loved it. The win was out of nowhere quite literally. Post match, HHH hit him twice in the back with his trusty sledgehammer to put Michaels out for a few more months. I was expecting a re-match at Wrestlemania but I never imagined that Shawn would stick around for 8 more years and be just as good (if not, better) then his previous run in the company. This match was great for Triple H too. His face run in 2002 just wasn’t working at all. He’s more elite as a heel. The spots were perfect. Everything made sense and the timing was point on! Such a fun, emotional match which really epitomised the term, “marking out”.
3. WWF Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (Ladder Match) – 1995
***** After their epic five star match at Wrestlemania 10, I had no idea what to expect in this one. How could they possibly top that one? Unlike their previous Ladder match, there wasn’t much of a story since both guys were babyfaces at the time. Originally, Shawn was going to face Sid but it was scrapped in favour of a Ladder match with Razor Ramon because Summerslam ’95 was a really weak show. Shawn mentioned in his book that under no circumstances should the Ladder be used as a weapon so the limitations were put in place. Shawn was over huge at the time and was in line for a huge push, Razor was doing some solid mid card work but just couldn’t seem to break out of that upper mid card position that he just seem to be stuck in. There were some crazy spots in this match, for example, Razor suplexes Shawn over the top to the floor that HBK takes on the knees! Ouch! It’s no surprise that Shawn had serious knee problems when you see a bump like that! They added in psychology with Michaels hurting his knee and Razor working on it very well. Razor was acting heelish in the match so it would make the fans feel more sympathetic towards Shawn and make it seem like a big deal when he eventually won the match.Razor brought another ladder into the match. As Shawn started to climb the ladder, Razor sneaked up behind him and hit him with the Razor’s Edge off the ladder which was yet another cool spot. They both set up their respected ladders and started to climb up when Shawn hit the Sweet Chin Music knocking Razor off the ladder. The momentum caused Shawn to fall off his ladder unplanned. They had to improvise here, so they did a spot where Shawn reversed the Razor’s Edge into a backdrop sending Razor to the floor. Shawn messed up the finish again which clearly frustrated him. Finally, he grabbed the belt and retained the Intercontinental Championship. That my friends, was 25 minutes worth of action that you must see. The Wrestlemania match always gets more praise but after watching this one, felt that this was the better match between the two. I think people like the WM10 match more because it happened first and things that happen at Wrestlemania usually get glorified more. Other’s point out that Shawn messed up the finish which is a valid point but I think it would be unfair to suggest that one mistake should reflect badly on everything else that just happened. This one went on longer and the time was used wisely and effectively. They told more of a story by working over Shawn’s knee injury. The crowd was hot the entire time and gave these guys the respect they truly deserve. A true classic which has stood the test of time.
2. WWF Intercontinental Championship: British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart – 1992
***** The British Bulldog is the most impressive wrestler of his size in the history of the sport. The Bulldog’s run with the IC Title would begin when the Hitman put him over in this spectacular encounter at Wembley Stadium in the summer of 1992. Bret was on his way to moving into the World Title scene, and Bulldog was on the start of a big push that would end abruptly. Bret says in his book & DVD that Davey Boy was blown up (tired) very early in the match and forgot everything. I guess this was down to nerves as I suggested before. Bret also claims that he carried the majority of the match which isn’t a surprise since Bret is a great technician. Through a lot of the match, Bret was working as a heel so the crowd was totally behind Davey Boy. He wasn’t aggressive in his attacks; it was just the basics that helped the match because it builds up the support for the Bulldog. You could tell Bulldog was lost because of the bump where Bret slingshot himself over the top rope and Davey was supposed to catch him. Instead, he was hunched over the side of the ring trying to catch his breath. Hart ended up grabbing Davey by the shoulder to pull him down which could have easily have seen Bret tear his knee. The finish sequence was amazing! After a double clothesline spot, Bret wrapped Bulldog up in the Sharpshooter while they were on their backs. He sits in it, the crowd is going mental. Bulldog gets the ropes and breaks the hold. Bret whips him into the ropes, does a sunset flip, Bulldog drops to his knees, hooks the arms, leans forward for the one, two and three for what might be the loudest ovation I’ve ever heard. The new Intercontinental Champion was the British Bulldog. Post-match, Bret sold the dejection and frustration of losing. He even teased leaving, but he hugged his brother-in-law and the crowd popped huge for it as Diana went into the ring for the big family celebration. Bret mentions in his book and on his DVD that he went into this match with the idea that not only would people think Davey Boy got elevated by winning the title, but that Bret would become a bigger star because of his performance. He wanted to prove to Vince that he could be the top guy in the company one day, two months later he defeated Ric Flair for his first ever WWF title. This match was the perfect example of a match doing great things for both guys. One guy went over (Davey Boy), but the other guy became a bigger star after it was all said and done (Bret). Wrestling isn’t always about the wins and losses. It’s about getting over, telling stories and memories that last forever. The pop when Davey Boy got the victory was deafening. At the end, Vince McMahon called it one of the greatest wrestling matches of all time.
1. WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (Steel Cage Match) – 1994
***** So here we are, the greatest Summerslam match of all time; You had big brother Bret Hart defending his WWF Title against Owen in a steel cage match. This was a grueling contest that lasted well over a half hour. This particular cage match was interesting in the aspect that Bret and Owen wrestled a fast paced wrestling match without involving too much use of the cage itself. In the end, Bret was able to escape the cage and come out victorious. His successful title defense angered Owen and this would lead to him and Jim Neidhart locking themselves in the cage with Bret. This would cause the British Bulldog to jump out of the crowd and into the cage to save Bret and kickoff his big return to the company. There’s a spot in the match where Bret suplexes Owen from the top of the cage. That was crazy and unheard of back in 1994. An emotional Bret talks about that spot in his DVD and how he protected Owen during the fall and how it reminded him too much of how Owen was killed during the Over the Edge pay per view in 1999. In the closing stages, both guys were climbing down the outside of the cage. Watching it again, I noticed that Owen hooked his leg on the inside of the cage to make sure he didn’t fall out first. Bret rammed him into the cage, Owen went upside down, hanging by his leg and Bret dropped to the floor and retains the WWF title. Bret’s victory wasn’t a dominant victory. It was an evenly matched contest where both guys looked strong in the end. Post- match was great too as Bret & Owen’s brother in law Jim Neidhart attacked Bret Hart. All of the Hart family was sitting at ringside. They also attacked the British Bulldog, who was another brother in law of the family that was a babyface at this point. This led to Neidhart & Owen double teaming Bret in the cage while all of the other brothers tried to get in until Bulldog finally made it. It was such a great feud. An instant classic which I consider to be one of the best Cage matches of all time.
Final Thoughts: My hope is that this column makes you check out some of these matches that you've never seen or maybe you've forgotten. My top 5 were pretty much locked in but the rest was pretty difficult to select from and believe me, there were a ton of matches up for consideration. It wasn’t easy but looking at this list, I’m confident with what I’ve gone for. Feel free to add your Summerslam memories. Thanks For Reading...!