Since its inception back in 1988, SummerSlam has been a mainstay on the WWF pay-per-view schedule and is looked as second only to WrestleMania. This summertime classic has seen some great action over the years starting off in Madison Square Garden with Hulk Hogan and the “Macho Man” Randy Savage beating the “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant.
Some other notable main events from early SummerSlams include the classic battle between Bret Hart and The British Bulldog for the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Wembley Stadium in London and the real Undertaker vs the fake Undertaker from the United Center in Chicago in 1994.
SummerSlam stayed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles from 2009 to 2014 before going to Brooklyn where it will stay until at least 2017. This year’s SummerSlam event will be headlined by Brock Lesnar vs Randy Orton, two guys who have certainly had their share of main events at the summer classic over the years.
SummerSlam has had star studded matches and lots of highlights over the years and the landscape of the WWE certainly changed in 2001 when WCW was purchased by the McMahons. Here is a look back at the best match from every SummerSlam of the past 15 years since 2000.
16 2015 – The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar
SummerSlam 2015 had two main events, The Undertaker against Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins facing off against John Cena in a winner takes all match for Rollins’ World Heavyweight Championship and Cena’s United States Championship. The problem with both of these matches is the way they ended. Rollins and Cena had a good back and forth match, but interference from of all people Jon Stewart helped Rollins win both titles. The best match was the resurrection of the feud between The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar although it had a bad finish. Lesnar hit two F5s on Taker before the two each applied their trademark submission maneuvers. The Undertaker tapped out to Brock’s Kimura Lock, but the referee didn’t see it. The Undertaker then hit Lesnar with a low blow and then put him in the Hell’s Gate which earned him a tap out victory. A cleaner finish would have been nice, but with these two it’s difficult to let one get too over on the other.
15 2014 – Roman Reigns vs Randy Orton
The main event of SummerSlam 2014 was John Cena defending his WWE World Heavyweight Championship against The Beast Incarnate, Brock Lesnar. The Beast destroyed Cena in one of the most one-sided main events in recent history. Lesnar would go on to win the title, but this match can’t be considered great unless you are a Cena hater and love seeing him get crushed. The match between Roman Reigns and Randy Orton earns the honors here for best match. No titles were on the line, but this was a very even matchup between two skilled grapplers. There were lots of finishers being countered in this match including Roman’s spear being countered by a DDT and his Superman Punch being countered by an RKO which Reigns kicked out of. Orton went for his punt kick, but Roman tripped him and hit the spear for the win which helped catapult him towards a championship run.
14 2013 – John Cena vs Daniel Bryan
This is one of the tougher SummerSlams to declare a best match for as Brock Lesnar squared off against CM Punk in a No Disqualification match that lasted over 25 minutes. That match took a close second to the main event of John Cena defending his WWE Championship against Daniel Bryan with Triple H as special guest referee. The Authority was doing everything they could to hold Bryan back from winning the belt and it showed in this match. Although Cena has certainly never been an Authority guy, Triple H certainly didn’t want Bryan to capture the championship and showed some favoritism towards Cena. Bryan was finally able to win the match after hitting his running knee to win his first WWE Championship and second World title. That victory was short lived as Randy Orton cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase after Triple H hit a pedigree on Bryan.
13 2012 – Triple H vs Brock Lesnar
This SummerSlam featured a triple threat match for the WWE Championship that saw CM Punk successfully defend against both John Cena and the Big Show. The best match of the night, however, was the main event of Brock Lesnar against Triple H. Lesnar focused on Triple H’s injured arm and the announce table came into play more than once. Helmsley hit a pedigree for a near fall but Brock went with a low blow followed by an F5 which was not yet enough. He got HHH in the Kimura lock and would not break it once Triple H got to the ropes even though the referee warned him. Triple H hit another pedigree and then Brock put him in another kimura lock which proved to be enough. This had many wondering whether Triple H would retire from wrestling, although he is now “semi-retired” and runs things behind the scenes.
12 2011 – John Cena vs CM Punk
The 2011 edition of SummerSlam featured two world title matches as Randy Orton won the World Heavyweight Championship from Christian in a No Holds Barred match and CM Punk defended his Undisputed WWE Championship against John Cena with Triple H as guest referee. Both men failed to answer the referee’s ten count outside, but Triple H wanted a winner so he allowed the match to continue. After going back and forth, Cena hit his AA but Punk kicked out. The same happened when Punk hit his GTS. Punk hit a second GTS and went for the pin. Cena’s foot was on the ropes but Triple H “didn’t see it” which allowed Punk to be the Undisputed WWE Champion. After the match Kevin Nash attacked Punk with a jackknife power bomb. Alberto Del Rio came down to the ring and cashed in his Money in the Bank contract. He then hit a shining wizard and pinned Punk to become the champion.
11 2010 – Team WWE vs The Nexus
Top to bottom, SummerSlam 2010 was not a great card. Sheamus retained his WWE Championship by getting disqualified against Randy Orton, and Kane defended his World Heavyweight Championship by defeating Rey Mysterio. The main event was not that great, as Team WWE faced off against the villainous faction of The Nexus in a 7 on 7 elimination tag team match. The only good thing about this match is that it gave fans the opportunity to see some of the all-time greats team together which would not typically occur under normal circumstances. Sure fire Hall of Fames John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Bret Hart, Edge, and Chris Jericho teamed up with John Morrison and R-Truth to beat down Wade Barrett, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield (Ryback), Heath Slater, Darren Young, and Michael Tarver. None of those Nexus guys have gone on to accomplish much but seeing some of the all-time greats team up made the match worth watching.
10 2009 – Jeff Hardy vs CM Punk
The 2009 edition of SummerSlam gave us a great matchup featuring Jeff Hardy defending the World Heavyweight Championship against CM Punk in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match. These are two very exciting superstars to watch, and the added stipulation made the match even better to observe. Earlier in the card Randy Orton successfully defended his WWE Championship against John Cena in a good contest, but the TLC match that saw CM Punk win the World title was the best match of the evening. This was a hard fought match that was back and forth, but in the end Punk was able to grasp the championship from the top of the ladder. Like many SummerSlams, this event ended with a surprise, as The Undertaker appeared in the ring and choke slammed CM Punk to end the show. This pay per view also saw a couple of great pairings as Chris Jericho and Big Show retained their tag titles and Triple H and Shawn Michaels beat Cody Rhodes and Ted DiBiase.
9 2008 – The Undertaker vs Edge
SummerSlam 2008 saw a chock full of championships matches starting with an interesting intergender tag team match for both the WWE Intercontinental and WWE Women’s Championships which saw Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix win those respective titles from Kofi Kingston and Mickie James. We had Matt Hardy beat ECW Championship by DQ in just 30 seconds followed by CM Punk successfully defending the World Heavyweight Championship against John “Bradshaw” Layfield. Triple H then defeated The Great Khali to retain his WWE Championship. On top of that, we also saw Batista beat John Cena before the main event when Edge tried to defeat The Undertaker at his own game in a Hell in a Cell match. The Undertaker used Edge’s con-chair-to on him after a spear and then followed that up with a Tombstone for the win. The Undertaker came back to the ring and choke slammed Edge off a ladder right through the ring’s canvas before flames engulfed the ring which led Jim Ross to say that Edge was sent to hell.
8 2007 – John Cena vs Randy Orton
SummerSlam 2007 was a little bit lackluster looking back on it. At the time ECW Champion John Morrison defeated CM Punk and Batista beat the World Heavyweight Champion The Great Khali by disqualification. The main event of John Cena defending his WWE Championship against Randy Orton was the longest match of the night at less than 14 minutes. These two could still headline SummerSlam almost 10 years later. This match between two future Hall of Famers went back and forth with Cena hitting his trademark maneuvers including the FU (now known as the AA) and the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Orton went for his punt kick but Cena was able to counter that into the STFU submission hold. Orton was able to get out of it and hit his RKO but Cena hit a second FU to secure the pinfall and retain the championship. This match will not go down in the history books but it was a decent ending to an average card.
7 2006 – Ric Flair vs Mick Foley
The 2006 edition of SummerSlam certainly had some good matchups as Big Show successfully defended his ECW World Championship against Sabu in an Extreme Rules match, Batista defeated World Heavyweight Champion King Booker by disqualification, Triple H and Shawn Michaels beat Mr. McMahon and Shane McMahon, and Edge retained his WWE Championship against John Cena. The best match of the night goes to Ric Flair taking on Mick Foley in an “I Quit” match. These two Hall of Famers rarely crossed paths as they two were heels in WCW and didn’t have much opportunity to square off in WWE. Many foreign objects were used including a barbed wire baseball bat which Foley got the worst of. There was some drama in the match associated with Melina and the ending was not great as Foley quit in order to protect her and gave Flair the win.
6 2005 – Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio
SummerSlam 2005 had some great matchups with Randy Orton beating The Undertaker, John Cena successfully defending his WWE Championship against Chris Jericho, Batista retaining his World Heavyweight Championship in a No Holds Barred match against John “Bradshaw” Layfield, and the first ever matchup between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels in which Hogan was victorious. Although the premise was a bit odd, the best match was the ladder match between Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. The winner would retrieve a briefcase containing legal documents to have custody over Mysterio’s son Dominick. There were some great spots in the match including a power bomb off the ladder and Dominick himself became involved in the match. Guerrero hit his Three Amigos onto a ladder but Vickie Guerrero interfered and pushed down the ladder which helped Mysterio retrieve the briefcase and win the match. This would have been better off as a normal ladder match without outside interference but the storyline made things personal which made the feud better.
5 2004 – Chris Benoit vs Randy Orton
The 2004 SummerSlam saw Edge successfully defend his WWE Intercontinental Championship in a triple threat match against Chris Jericho and Batista as well as Kurt Angle defeating Eddie Guerrero and John “Bradshaw” Layfield beating The Undertaker by disqualification to retain his WWE Championship. The main even that night was Chris Benoit defending his World Heavyweight Championship in a match against Randy Orton. The two exchanged Sharpshooters early in the match and Benoit was able to hit seven German suplexes. Orton countered Benoit’s Crippler Crossface attempt with an RKO to win the championship which made him the youngest World Heavyweight Champion in the history of the WWE. The two exchanged a handshake after the match. The next night on Monday Night Raw Benoit would get his rematch but would once again be defeated by Orton which resulted in the famous Batista thumbs up to thumbs down spot where Evolution turned on Randy.
4 2003 – Triple H vs Goldberg vs Chris Jericho vs Randy Orton vs Kevin Nash vs Shawn Michaels
SummerSlam 2003 was truly a loaded card. We saw Shane McMahon defeated Eric Bischoff in a Falls Count Anywhere match and a Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE United States Championship in which Eddie Guerrero successfully defended against Chris Benoit, Tajiri, and Rhyno. Kurt Angle retained his WWE Championship by making Brock Lesnar submit which could have easily been the best match of the night had it not been for the lineup in the main event. Rarely do you see a match with six legends and Hall of Famers, but that is exactly what we witnessed in an Elimination Chamber match for the World Heavyweight Championship. Triple H was the champion going into the match which saw Goldberg eliminate Orton, Michaels, and Jericho. Goldberg was close to capturing his first and only WWE Championship until Triple H nailed him with a sledgehammer shot in the back of the head to retain his title by any means necessary.
3 2002 – The Rock vs Brock Lesnar
SummerSlam 2002 had some star studded matchups with Kurt Angle beating Rey Mysterio, Ric Flair defeating Chris Jericho, Edge beating Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam winning the WWE Intercontinental Championship from Chris Benoit, and Shawn Michaels beating Triple H in an unsanctioned street fight that lasted almost 30 minutes. That match would have been the best of the night if it had not been for the main event promoted as Rock vs Brock for the WWE Undisputed Championship. Paul Heyman got involved and paid for it with a Rock Bottom through the Spanish announce table. Lesnar was able to stop a Rock Bottom and counter with an F-5 to win the Undisputed Championship and be the youngest world champion until Randy Orton broke that record at SummerSlam two years later. Lesnar would later defend that title against The Undertaker before the two resumed their feud several years later with The Beast ending “The Streak”.
2 2001 – Rob Van Dam vs Jeff Hardy
In 2001 SummerSlam featured members of the WWF against members of “The Alliance”, or guys that came over when the WWF purchased WCW. X-Pac defeated Tajiri to unify the WCW Cruiserweight and WWF Light Heavyweight Championships and The Undertaker and Kane defeated Diamond Dallas Page and Chris Kanyon to unify the WCW and WWF Tag Team Championships. Kurt Angle beat WWF Champion Stone Cold Steve Austin by disqualification and in the main event The Rock won the WCW Championship from Booker T. The best match of the night was a ladder match for the WWF Hardcore Championship which saw Rob Van Dam win that title from Jeff Hardy. These two popular wrestlers are very athletic and a ladder match was a great way to showcase their talents. There were some great highlights in this match including a Rolling Thunder on the ladder, a failed Swanton and Five-Star Frog splash, and a suplex and power bomb from the top of the ladder.
1 2000 – The Rock vs Kurt Angle vs Triple H
The first SummerSlam of the 2000s saw some great action as Chris Benoit defeated Chris Jericho in a two out of three falls match, Edge and Christian successfully defended their WWF Tag Team Championships in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match against The Hardy Boyz and The Dudley Boyz, and The Undertaker battled Kane to a no contest. The Main event was a triple threat match for the WWF Championship which saw The Rock defend his title against both Kurt Angle and Triple H. These men are three of the greatest of all time and the match did not disappoint. Triple H hit a Pedigree on Angle on the announce table before The Rock even made his way to the ring. Stephanie McMahon accidentally hit Triple H with the belt. She would go on to give him a sledgehammer which he accidentally hit her with and then The Rock hit a People’s Elbow to win the match and retain the gold.