For thirty years now, the hottest night of the summer takes place on a Sunday in mid to late August, when the WWE presents its annual SummerSlam event. Long thought to be the WrestleMania of the summer, the company has really pushed that aspect big time these past few years.
As we approach the second SummerSlam since the second Brand Split has taken effect, it’s time to take a look back at the history of one of the greatest PPVs WWE puts out. Since its inception, Vince and co. have taken great pains to make each even special, and true enough there is enough in every single SummerSlam event to be truly memorable.
But of course there’s plenty of bad to go with the good – Here are 10 Things Vince McMahon Wants To You To Know About SummerSlam And 10 He Doesn’t
20. WANTS: The Mega Powers Secret Weapon
The premier event of the summer needed a big time main event to kick things off. The inaugural SummerSlam took place in 1988 and featured some marquis matchups, headlined by one of the biggest main events of the Hulkamania Era.
It started with a good ol’ fashioned classic Tag match between The British Bulldogs and The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. Another great Tag match on the card was Demolition defending their Tag titles against The Hart Foundation. With Brutus Beefcake out with an injury his opponent, “The Greatest Intercontinental Champion of All Time,” The Honky Tonk Man didn’t care who challenged him and was thoroughly trounced by The Ultimate Warrior.
Then it was the power of money, The Mega Bucks – Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase taking on their arch rivals, The Mega Powers and their secret weapon – Miss Elizabeth and her “itsy–bitsy–teenie–weenie bikini,” which 1980s WWE was just Miss Elizabeth revealing her red bathing suit bottom – but it was enough to stun the Bucks and help the Mega Powers to victory.
19. DOESN’T WANT: Zeus Can’t Work
Yes he looked like a complete monster and yes he was the co-star to Hulk Hogan in No Holds Barred, but if you ask any fan worth his weight in WWE Ice Cream Bars would know that the big guy who had the lazy “eye of the madness,” couldn’t work worth a damn!
As the rumor and innuendo go, Zeus was supposed to main event WrestleMania VI against Hogan and the road to that match started with this one, which featured The Human Wrecking Machine teaming with the Macho Man against Hulk and Brutus Beefcake. It was clear here that Tiny “Zeus” Lister didn’t have a big interest in becoming a wrestler – he was an actor and that’s fine by him.
18. WANTS: Excellence Vs. Perfection
The first true dream match in SummerSlam history – The Excellence of Execution vs. Perfection–Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect. While fans all over the world remember the war with Bret and Shawn, possibly the better money feud had he not gotten injured would have been Bret and Perfect. The two were mirror images over each other. Two excellent (sorry, one excellent and one perfect) technicians, that if not for Henning’s cockiness, would have been pretty much the same wrestler.
The match had Madison Square Garden rocking; the fans knew they were watching something special. One year before, Bret had Neidhart with him as they defeated Demolition in a classic. But this was different; this was Bret being given a chance to run as a singles and Mr. Perfect helping him along the way.
The back and forth instant classic from Summer Slam ‘91 was hands down the best match Perfect ever had, he finally found his “perfect” opponent, sadly at the end of his run, while Bret got to celebrate with his folks and begin his epic run to the top of the card.
17. DOESN’T WANT: The Ultimate Hold Up
SummerSlam ‘91 was billed as “The Match Made in Heaven and the Match Made in Hell.” While Randy Savage marrying Miss Elizabeth was the blissful Match Made in Heaven, the other half of that double bill was a lot more Hell that Vince probably bargained for.
The match itself was Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior against Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan, and Col. Mustafa with the debuting Sid Justice as the guest referee. The only problem was, a certain meathead with a painted face had his contract coming up at the time, and the Ultimate Warrior decided to play hardball and ask for a lot of money.
Like any good promoter, the Chairman’s only goal is get the advertised match in the ring and actually paid the Hall of Famer the exorbitant rate he was asking for – 500,000 dollars for the match, had asked Hogan and Slaughter to stay professional (they both wanted to threaten Warrior), and then fired him immediately after the match, hopefully while Hogan and Justice were posing in the ring.
16. WANTS: Battle Of Brother-In-Laws
The first (and to date only) PPV emanating from across the pond was dubbed “The SummerSlam You Thought You’d Never See!” Perhaps that’s because of the epic rematch between the Macho Man and The Ultimate Warrior, this time for Savage’s WWE title. Or The Road Warriors and Precious Paul riding down on bikes (the only way the Legion of Doom should have ever entered the ring), and The Phenom coming to the ring on a hearse.
Or perhaps because it is still the only PPV ever main evented by the Intercontinental title match, which at this point Bret Hart had elevated it to main even status and convinced Vince to put the match with he and his brother-in-law, England native, The British Bulldog for the IC strap as the main event of the Wembley Stadium card.
As Bret has regaled fans with his memory of the match over the years, he worked with a Davey Boy, who was still recovering from a staph infection and after he blew up early from not being able to train, Bret basically worked against himself for twenty minutes and made his brother-in-law look unstoppable as he used the match to launch himself to the top tier of the card and his first world title run a few weeks later.
15. DOESN’T WANT: Dumbest Victory Celebration Ever
He slammed Yokozuna aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid on the Fourth of July. He toured back and forth in a tour bus on a cross country campaign. In 1993, Lex Luger was being booked to not only become WWE Champion, but to Vince McMahon’s brand new blonde muscle bound meathead babyface.
The match was set for SummerSlam 1993 – Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna and every single sign in the universe pointed to the Lex Express pulling out the Palace of Auburn Hills with the new WWE Champion in tow. Yoko’s US Rep, James E. Cornette even had a clause in the contract – this would be Luger’s one chance, hi one and only chance.
But in the end, in one of the biggest head scratchers in history, Luger decked Yoko with the bionic elbow for the count out victory and instead of being dejected that he didn’t win the title he celebrated as if he just became king of the universe much less WWE champion. Way to make your top baby face look pretty dumb
14. WANTS: Kliq Ladder Match II
We all know that 1995 is a pretty bleak year for wrestling in general but one of the brighter spots of the year is the big rematch from WrestleMania X between now both babyfaces, Razor Ramon now challenging for the Intercontinental title against defending champ, Shawn Michaels, and once again in a ladder match to settle the debate between the two Kliq members.
To watch it now, over 20 years later the match seems a little plodding compared to the high impact, super-fast, super insane, 85 people involved in the match kind of ladder matches the WWE loves to do nowadays, but in 1995 these two squared off once more to reinvent the ladder match they innovated a year earlier.
While it certainly didn’t save the show at all (more on that in a moment), the match showcased once again why Shawn is one of the best ever, and even though he’s seldom in that conversation, Razor should be included on that list.
13. DOESN’T WANT: The Rest of SummerSlam 1995
As for the rest of SummerSlam 1995 – well, we all know that 1995 was a pretty bleak year for wrestling. But while HBK and Razor were having at the least, a four star match, the rest of the card for the evening was a complete hodge-podge of nonsensical nonsense. It was clear the company was in transition and tossing things up to see what sticks.
Would you spend about 40 bucks on a PPV that included Skip vs. perennial journeyman, Barry Horowitz? Or a green Game against and even greener Bob Holly? Still not interested? – How could you not fork over your hard earned cash to see The Undertaker in a truly gratingly paced Casket match against Kama.
But the main event can sav- actually the main event can’t save anything since it was Diesel against Mabel. Vince sure does love his big burley men doesn’t he? They don’t get much better than Big Daddy Cool and the future Big Viscera. Nash is way better than he’s given credit for, but not even HBK could have saved this match. Truly the worst night of summer ever.
13. WANTS: Boiler Rooms Are Hotter In The Summer
The night after WrestleMania XII saw Mankind debut and dismantle the Undertaker. No one had ever seen the Deadman look so human before and possibly since. Because it was Mankind who was able to get a few over on the Phenom and show that the guy actually can be not just hurt but defeated as well.
Being a thorn in the side of the Undertaker, one would think you’d have a death wish, but Mankind was a complete nutbag after all. He was a nutbag with a plan, but a nut nonetheless. After it was clear a ring couldn’t hold these two, a new match was devised for them to destroy one another – the Boiler Room Brawl.
The goal was simple – beat the stuffing out of your opponent, exit the boiler room, head for the ring and grab the urn from Paul Bearer, who the Undertaker has been with for over five years. Just when it became apparent that the Phenom was going to score the victory, his only friend clocked him with the urn and then gave it to Mankind instead.
12. DOESN’T WANT: Owen Almost Killed Stone Cold
Even according to Bret Hart himself, Owen was the best wrestler the Hart family had to offer and during a year that the saw the family become the biggest heals in the company, Owen had the dubious honor of carrying on Bret’s feud with Stone Cold, since The Hitman had moved onto the world title.
Owen being the little stinker of a heel that he was had gotten Austin so hot that he told the world if he couldn’t beat Owen, he’d kiss his ass. The two had engaged in a series of oneupsmanship all summer long, which included Owen pinning Austin at Canadian Stampede and Austin and Dude Love beating Owen and Davey Boy for the Tag titles.
So the match was set and Owen and Austin had the Meadowlands going crazy until the one of the most famous botches in wrestling happened – Owen dropped Austin on his head doing a Tombstone Piledriver, leaving Austin temporarily completely paralyzed and fearing he’d wind up like Christopher Reeve.
10. WANTS: First Ever TLC Match
At WrestleMania 2000, Edge, Christian, The Hardy Boyz, and The Dudley Boyz shocked the world and stole the show from just about everyone else that night. They put their bodies and literally their lives on the line just to entertain a few wrestling fans. They worked the first ever Triangle Ladder match in WWE history, and happened to incorporate chairs and tables into the mayhem as well.
So, might as well do it all over again in a couple of months. SummerSlam 2000 featured the first official TLC match in company history and all parties involved once again captivated the WWE universe with their antics.
The match was every bit the riot the unofficial first one was – the six young guns dismantled one another and heaved each other through all of the furniture around the ring. Even Lita got into the mix as well. Somehow, much like ‘Mania a few months prior, Edge and Christian managed to take everything thrown at them and still walked out with the tag team titles.
9. DOESN’T WANT: Fans Cheer Brock Over Triple H
For some reason or another, The Beast Incarnate does not rule SummerSlam the way does any other event. Since his return after WrestleMania XVIII, with the exception of John Cena, whoever he faces off with at the biggest party of the summer just doesn’t seem to be anywhere near a classic encounter.
Case in point – “The Perfect Storm” showdown with Triple H. The match was a bit of a lumbering match – Triple H’s days as a full time performer were removed a few years now and Brock had not yet gotten fully back into WWE mode yet. Their first encounter suffered because of it and the big main event of the show left little to be desired.
Worst of all, the big storyline to come out of the show – was Triple H done? Was the Game going to retire? It was all blown to heck when the crowd at the Staples Center were cheering you tapped out at a dejected looking Triple H, clearly not getting the sympathy the angle needed.
8. WANTS: Shawn Michaels’ Returns
Conversely speaking, this angle did get the desired result, especially since it allowed the greatest in-ring performer of all time to make his long awaited comeback. It had been revealed that Triple H was insanely jealous of Shawn Michaels and had masterminded a diabolical plot against him.
The stubborn HBK didn’t care that he was “retired” and demanded a fight The Game. In reality backstage, Michaels was set to comeback but was leery of working with the boys and knew his friend would protect him in battle (even when leveling him with a sledgehammer of course).
The legendary Hall of Famer was able to come back and go just as good as used to be able to go before he went. A testament to how amazing the Heartbreak Kid is. While it would sully the guy’s actually retirement, but it would be interesting to see if he could come back yet again for a match with Shinsuke Nakamura, Dolph Ziggler, Kevin Owens, or of course AJ Styles.
7. DOESN’T WANT: Cena Gets His Way
A few weeks ago, John Cena said in an interview that he lets guys do whatever they want to do with him, get over, but then some do not keep up that same momentum heading into the next chapter in their career. While that may or may not be true for some people, how does Cena explain his booking suggestions at the 2010 SummerSlam.
After a shocking debut, the NXT rookies renamed themselves The Nexus and obliterated the entire roster. They were all booked to be the future of the company and at the 2010 event they faced off against Team WWE – Cena, Bret Hart, John Morrison, Y2J, Edge, R-Truth, Daniel Bryan in an Elimination bout.
But just when it looked like The Nexus were going to win and extend their heat and star power, Super Cena kicked in and killed any push for the group before it could truly start. According to Chris Jericho, the original idea was for him and Edge to go down to Barrett, putting him over and protecting Cena as well – all the bases were covered. But Cena called a big audible and overcame insurmountable odds, which effectively killed any of The Nexus’ effectiveness.
6. WANTS: 16 Suplexes
After Brock returned in 2012, nothing really seemed too special about him. Sure he’s Brock and all, but whenever he appeared it was kind of a “meh, Brock’s gonna smash” moment that we all have seen a bajillion times. Then, a certain Streak got broken. All bets were off – Brock was once again un-freaking-stoppable, and set to face John Cena for the WWE world title.
All the posturing and grandstanding Cena would do, all of the great promos he have meant not a damn thing and the Beast launches Cena all over the ring German Suplex after Suplex was delivered – an astounding 16 times to the Cenation leader. In other sports that would account for 16 uncontested points.
The biggest beat down for the WWE title since Diesel beat Bob Backlund had taken place, Cena was left laying in a heap and Brock and Heyman’s smirking faces was the last image of SummerSlam 2014 – although the phrase was uttered until WrestleMania 31, Suplex City was born.
5. DOESN’T WANT: TakeOver is Better
Although he does own NXT, Vince doesn’t like to hear that their shows are better than his. It’s his ego that will start to think “Triple H is better than me,” if the NXT product gains more traction than he does. To us mere mortals that seems like a pretty silly concept. But remember this is the guy who bought his own competition and then buried it, and brought back his other competition to reinvent it in his image only to kill that too.
2015 was the first year that the WWE would be spending SummerSlam weekend in Brooklyn for not just SummerSlam, but TakerOver and Raw as well. But while SummerSlam had a stacked card that was headlined by Brock and Taker, it would be NXT that was the toast of the town.
Primarily because of two little ladies that put one of the best matches of all time. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley who not only stole the show, but the weekend, and for that one moment in time both had reached their full potential and were allowed to. Sasha had moved onto the main roster, and the ladies were still able to tell an amazing story.
4. WANTS: Summer of the Demon
Vince was clearly listening to his son-in-law (and just about everyone else), when Finn Balor got drafted to Raw and had a rocket strapped to his back and pushed through every ceiling imaginable. He defeated Roman Reigns on his first night to earn a shot and the brand new Universal title against Seth Rollins.
In the weeks leading up to the event, those who weren’t watching NXT would learn more and more about Finn and The Demon and it was becoming more and more apparent that Vince was actually going with the guy, giving him all kinds of “a star is born” moments. And in the very arena where he retained his NXT title a year earlier, he would make his main roster PPV debut and do what seldom few do in that position – he won the Universal title.
3. DOESN’T WANT: Randy Beats Benoit
A brash upstart challenger comes full of arrogance and confidence and finds a way to actually back up what he has been saying all along. He defeats the world-weary and long traveling veteran superstar in the middle of his first reign, and Randy Orton becomes the youngest World Champion of all time.
We all know why this one winds up on the wrong side of history. What should have been a crowning achievement for the company in pushing and established veteran and creating a new top star is all but marred because of heinous real life actions.
2. WANTS: Nassau Boos The Great One
The rise of Brock Lesnar is just crazy to fathom. The guy came out, dismantled The Hardy Boyz, RVD, and several other world class athletes in record time to gain a title opportunity at the 2002 SummerSlam – the future Beast was the The Next Big Thing and The Next Big Thing was only on the main roster for six months.
In making the future legend, Brock had to defeat the Rock for the WWE Championship at SummerSlam 2002 at Nassau Coliseum. Although a heel and even then having Paul Heyman in his corner, the Long Island New York crowd didn’t care and Brock could do no wrong on his meteoric rise.
1. DOESN’T WANT: Brock Fails Drug Test
During all of the buildup for last year’s SummerSlam, which was main evented by the first ever match between The Viper and The Beast, it was announced that Brock Lesnar was going to fight one more time, at UFC 200. The sports world was abuzz and Vince McMahon was salivating at the idea of getting to promote that the recently victorious conquerer is coming to SummerSlam to decimate Randy Orton.
Even though he was able to fight and win his match against Mark Hunt, the result was changed to No Contest when it was revealed he failed not one but two drug tests. While initially thought to be a huge gaping hole in SummerSlam was swept under the rug asap and it was announced that Lesnar would not face WWE suspension for failing UFC drug tests since he is not a full time performer.
While none of this has curtailed Lesnar, it is all a pretty black mark on the WWE’s Wellness Policy.
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