Debuting way back in 1988, SummerSlam has gone on to become one of the biggest annual events for WWE. Known as "The Biggest Party of the Summer," this show is often considered the second or third most important show of the year, behind WrestleMania and in the same conversation as the Royal Rumble.
There have been so many phenomenal SummerSlam moments and matches in its thirty-year history. A truly great show often needs to start with a bang. That's why putting on a strong opening contest is almost as important as a top-notch main event. We're here to list the 10 greatest openers in SummerSlam history.
10 The British Bulldogs vs. The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers - 1988
The very first match to ever happen at SummerSlam turned out to be a very good one. During the 1980s, two of the most talented tag teams were the British Bulldogs and the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. Seeing them go at it made for a pretty exciting way to start things off.
A notable bit about this bout was that it ended in a time limit draw. That's not something you see in WWE anymore, so re-watching it makes for some cool nostalgia. The match picked up the pace as they got closer to the 20-minute mark and ended just as Dynamite Kid was about to claim victory.
9 Enzo Amore And Big Cass vs. Chris Jericho And Kevin Owens - 2016
Not counting the Kickoff show in 2016, this was the match that started the official pay-per-view broadcast. Enzo Amore and Big Cass were wildly popular and new to the main roster at the time. Combine that with the way Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens expertly drew heat and you had a match with a raucous crowd.
The previous match listed may be better from a technical standpoint, but this one had all the little character moments we love. Who could forget Kevin Owens hilariously mocking Enzo's signature dance on the apron? The highlight was the finish, where Owens and Jericho busted out their Popup Codebreaker combo to win.
8 Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler - 2012
In 2012, Dolph Ziggler was on the cusp of superstardom. Fresh off of winning the Money in the Bank briefcase, he began a rivalry with the man who came up with that match concept, Chris Jericho. Though Jericho was older, he had no problem matching Ziggler move for move.
These two impressive athletes put on an opener that was evenly matched. Neither could gain the advantage on the other for most of the action. In a surprising result, Jericho secured the win by using his old Liontamer submission. Their feud continued into 2013 but this first encounter may have been their best.
7 D-Lo Brown vs. Val Venis - 1998
SummerSlam 1998 was one of the biggest to ever happen, emanating from Madison Square Garden and featuring a massive main event between Steve Austin and The Undertaker. That show got off to a hot start thanks to this European Title match between D-Lo Brown and Val Venis.
Viewed by many as an underrated gem, these two young stars went out and attempted to steal the show. They were pulling out high octane offense that wasn't exactly the norm in the 90s. Seriously, this wouldn't be out of place in 2019. The only thing that held it back from being higher on the list was a lame disqualification ending.
6 Alberto Del Rio, The Miz, And R-Truth vs. John Morrison, Kofi Kingston, And Rey Mysterio - 2011
WWE often features a loaded roster with many incredible wrestlers. With 2011's SummerSlam card already including CM Punk, John Cena, Randy Orton, Christian, Sheamus, and Daniel Bryan, some guys may have been left off of the show. That's where this six man tag team contest came in.
All six superstars were talented and knew how to string together an entertaining bout. With so many moving parts, they were able to keep things clipping at a fast pace. Even if this was a match that was thrown together at the last minute, all six men worked hard to make it fun.
5 Dolph Ziggler vs. Seth Rollins - 2018
The most recent entry on this list came just last year. The rivalry between Dolph Ziggler and Seth Rollins for the Intercontinental Championship came out of nowhere, but produced some strong contests. The intensity level picked up when Rollins brought Dean Ambrose back to combat Ziggler's buddy Drew McIntyre.
This match was given a lot of time and they built toward something really good. The early portions focused on the guys outside, but once things picked up in the ring, we were getting something really worth checking out. Rollins brought out moves he hadn't used since his Ring of Honor days before regaining the title with the Curb Stomp.
4 The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi - 1995
Sometimes all you need for an opener to work is for it to be exciting. That's just what the 1-2-3 Kid and Hakushi did in 1995. WCW was still a few months away from making cruiserweight wrestling popular, so this match felt ahead of its time. These two men put on a breathtaking match filled with innovative spots.
When you consider that this SummerSlam was headlined by Diesel vs. Mabel, the juxtaposition of starting with this was even smarter. Hakushi and the 1-2-3 Kid were able to showcase how much variety you can get in wrestling. In a documentary a few years back, Finn Balor praised 1995 as his favorite SummerSlam ever and this match was a big reason why.
3 Dolph Ziggler vs. Rey Mysterio - 2009
The third appearance of Dolph Ziggler will ultimately find him tied for the most entries on this list when it's all said and done. In 2009, he was still rising through the ranks of WWE. He and Rey Mysterio had a great match at Night of Champions the previous month, but this was the big time.
It was this incredible match that really solidified the potential in Ziggler. They built upon what they did in their first encounter and bested it. Ziggler came across like the desperate challenger who threw everything at the Intercontinental Champion, while Mysterio was the veteran who had just enough in the tank to overcome him.
2 The Brainbusters vs. The Hart Foundation - 1989
Many would consider the Brainbusters and the Hart Foundation to rank among the greatest tag teams in wrestling history. They faced off in a rare match to start the second ever SummerSlam. For about 16 minutes, the four men involved put on a clinic of crisp tag team wrestling.
Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard worked like a well-oiled machine, while Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart complemented each other perfectly. The chemistry these four shared was something special. It was only a non-title match, but the Hart Foundation picked apart the champs in hopes of earning a title shot. To prevent that, the Brainbusters used some illegal tactics to steal this match.
1 Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio - 2002
Rey Mysterio ties Dolph Ziggler for most appearances on this list. SummerSlam 2002 is widely considered to be the best SummerSlam of all time and one of the great pay-per-views period. One reason was this outstanding opening contest. Kurt Angle was a wrestling machine, while Rey Mysterio was new to the company and looking to make an impact.
This match began with Mysterio taking Angle down with a springboard hurricanrana, and never slowed down. Though this only went nine minutes, they packed a ton of action into it. Mysterio let the world know why he was so good and looked like a million bucks. But in the end, Angle countered another springboard move into the Ankle Lock and made Mysterio tap. It closed out a fantastic match that remains one of the best openers in history.