What is there left to do after wrestling on the grandest stage of them all at WWE’s WrestleMania in April? The answer; set up a summer feud, and make it compelling. History seems to tell us that some of the best feuds in the history of wrestling have come after WrestleMania, and fall into the summer season. Summer blockbuster feuds usually culminate in their own big show, paying off months of storylines at WWE’s SummerSlam.
A summer feud can do a few things for a WWE Superstar who is coming off of a long rivalry that just ended. First, it can launch one competitor into a different slot on the card, such as John Cena being pushed into the mid-card picture after winning the United States Championship at WrestleMania 31. Second, it can give the WWE a chance to shake things up, by putting together two guys (or girls) that haven’t met before, and giving the WWE Universe a chance to watch something new. Lastly a summer feud can reinvigorate an old rivalry that has been laying dormant for a few years, and possibly settle an unfinished story.
So maybe we should narrow down what exactly we are looking for on this list. In order to make it on as an entry, you must have had a great match in the summer months. The match must be on a pay per view, and does not have to be at SummerSlam, as many great matches have occurred at King of the Ring, Fully Loaded, Money in the Bank, etc… Also we are not limiting this list to only singles competitions, with all matches being up for consideration. Whether you agree with our list or not, be sure to sound off in the comments below and let us know what we missed, and what we got wrong.
10. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle – SummerSlam, 2001
Let’s set the stage for this match by saying that backstage comedy segments were the buildup for this feud . During the summer of 2001, both Kurt Angle and Steve Austin were taking time away from the ring to recover from serious injuries. Angle needed time to heal from his hellacious match with Shane McMahon at King of the Ring, and Austin needed time off due to a bad back bump he received at the hands of Booker T.
Some guys fight over women, some over money, but these two were fighting over the attention of Vince McMahon. The two starred in a few iconic backstage segments, before returning to the ring during the InVasion angle. Austin turned on Angle and McMahon which set up the SummerSlam match to come. While the Invasion storyline was an abomination, the rivalry between Austin and Angle was a saving grace and is often overlooked in both men’s careers.
This match did a few things, first it showed that Steve Austin could still go with someone who had an unstoppable motor (quite like his own). Secondly it put Kurt Angle so over with the crowd, that he became the top star in the company, surpassing all others as the top babyface. Angle was able to kick out of three Stone Cold Stunners before defeating The Rattlesnake, and eventually captured the title a month later in his home town of Pittsburgh.
9. Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley – SummerSlam, 2006
There was no love lost between Ric Flair and Mick Foley in the early 2000s, with both men throwing shots at each other in books and interviews. With a rocky relationship that stemmed from Foley’s WCW days, the two legends would finally meet in a match at 2006’s SummerSlam. Flair’s comments in his book calling Foley a “glorified stuntman” would spark this rivalry, and Foley’s claims that The Nature Boy sabotaged his career would pour gas on the fire.
An interesting note about this match is that Flair a traditional heel, and Foley a traditional babyface, had swapped roles for the feud. This was an intentional move by the WWE to get sympathy for Flair who had a fraction of the hardcore experience of Foley, going into their I Quit match scheduled for SummerSlam.
Their match was brutal, and left both men a bloody mess especially Flair, whose hair was crimson red by the end of it all. Flair shocked the crowd in attendance, by taking a back bump onto thumbtacks in his 50s. The Nature Boy also showed his own hardcore ability by giving Foley barbed wire wrapped Flair Chops.
8. Bret Hart vs. Undertaker (HBK – Special Referee) – SummerSlam, 1997
What is more impressive than a double turn in a wrestling match? How about a triple turn (arguably a quadruple turn if you include Vince McMahon) for three of the most successful stars in the company. In 1997 The Undertaker and Bret Hart met at SummerSlam for the WWE Championship, with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. This is one instance where the build up wasn’t nearly as exciting as what the repercussions that followed.
The match itself was great, as expected from the three legends. It blended some elements of a brawler and technical style, and sprinkled in some interesting interactions between the three stars that would forever change their careers. The bout finished off with Bret Hart spitting in the face of HBK after the latter pulled a chair away from Hart, and featured The Undertaker being accidentally hit with the chair right after. The match managed to morph each man into a different version of the character that they were portraying, vastly different than the ones they started as.
Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart both left that match as tweeners, not necessarily being a heel, but definitely not babyfaces. The Undertaker, who up to that point seemed like a soulless machine, left the match seeming paranoid and strangely humanized by the events. Harking back to what was mentioned earlier, even Vince McMahon changed following SummerSlam, with his in ring interviews having much more attitude than usual. All in all, this is a match that helped spark the Attitude Era, with Hart and Michaels both set to take part in the infamous Montreal Screwjob.
7. Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon – King of the Ring, 2001
In what is a growing trend on this list, this entry involves blood, brutality, and a great story. Kurt Angle and Shane McMahon’s match at 2001’s King of the Ring is an unique entry on this list, as it really doesn’t have a great storyline going into the contest. The match was actually made after only two weeks of build up, and the feud was initiated by McMahon mocking Angle on an episode of Raw.
Now to the good part, which is without a doubt, one of the best street fights in WWE history. Fans should understand that although Shane McMahon has had some match experience, he was not and never has been a wrestler. Everything that Shane O’Mac did was very dangerous, and very crazy, but the fourth generation McMahon would do ANYTHING to get over with a crowd.
Fast forward to a brawl happening near the entrance ramp, and an injured Kurt Angle is about to throw McMahon through faux glass. Well of course the glass was plexiglass, and Angle didn’t have enough strength to power Shane through to the other side; Shane landed on his head as a result. He did this two more times before actually breaking the glass, and the match actually continued. Angle would go on to tell Jim Ross on his podcast “The Ross Report” that Shane was actually asking him to do it, but has no memory of doing so.
6. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho – Fully Loaded, 2000
It all started with a kiss, and ended with one of the bloodiest battles in WWE history. Triple H and Chris Jericho had been feuding off and on since Jericho signed with the WWE in 1999, but the two had a classic, that was sparked by Jericho kissing Triple H’s wife Stephanie McMahon. Well actually it may have been sparked by the fact that every week Jericho was insulting McMahon, and interfering with Triple H’s matches.
The two men would lash out at one another, and the feud intensified after Jericho won, and was stripped of the WWE Championship on the same night at the hands of the power couple. Their hatred for one another would culminate in only the second televised Last Man Standing match in WWE history, and the first televised one to have an actual winner.
The match took place at the criminally underrated Fully Loaded pay per view in 2000, and was an instant classic. The two told a story in the ring, which included Triple H methodically attacking Jericho’s injured ribs, and Jericho fighting from the underdog spot against the unjust power hungry Cerebral Assassin. The match was filled with blood, sledgehammers, people tapping out, broken tables, and great commentary from Jim Ross. Though the match went to Triple H, this is a textbook instance of where losing the match can make a wrestler look just as strong as winning it.
5. Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog – SummerSlam, 1992
At the fifth annual SummerSlam in 1992, The British Bulldog took on Bret Hart for the Intercontinental Championship in the main event. This match is actually the product of a last minute booking decision to move the pay per view from Washington D.C. to Wembley Stadium in Bulldog’s home country of England.
The contest between the two is a blueprint of how to put on a match, and could be used as a “how to” video for new wrestlers in the business. Today, due to the internet or the situation, most fans can predict what is going to happen in any given match. In 1992 most fans could have predicted that Bulldog was going to win the title, but Bret Hart never let you completely believe it. After a grueling back and forth, Bret Hart was able to put a Sharpshooter on Bulldog, while laying flat on his back (amazing). Bulldog managed to grab the ropes and later score a quick pin, securing the victory.
The story between the two was closed out with Hart raising his real life brother in law’s hand in victory. Although Vince McMahon’s commentary is a little overdone, this is one of the greatest matches in WWE history.
4. The Rock vs. Triple H – SummerSlam, 1998
The professional wrestling careers of Triple H and The Rock run down a parallel path, with both men taking the same steps up the ladder at the same time. The match that perhaps propelled both men into superstardom was their 1998 classic Ladder Match for the Intercontinental championship at SummerSlam.
At the time both wrestlers had something to prove in the WWE , with everyone playing catch up to the white hot Stone Cold Steve Austin. Though both men were in the mid-card at that point, they had eyes on the main event and sought to get there through each other. A problem that plagued both men in 1998, was that they were perceived as relying on their factions, and weren’t proven to be tough or intense enough to carry a rivalry.
Their SummerSlam match was merely an exclamation point on the end of the great feud they carried during the months following WrestleMania. All summer the two were feuding, with jokes escalating to matches, matches escalating to personal attacks, and personal attacks escalating to violence outside of the ring. The match itself is a classic, ending with Triple H winning the title, and The Rock winning the main event push.
3. Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels – SummerSlam, 2002
In what was one of the best wrestling stories ever told, Shawn Michaels and Triple H faced off in a near perfect match. HBK had suffered an apparent career ending back injury in 1998 and retired soon after. The Showstopper took four years off before rejoining active competition in the WWE. His first contest was not a match, but a fight against his former best friend Triple H.
Triple H would cement himself as the era’s top heel by betraying Michaels, and leaving him in a pool of his own blood on multiple occasions. Finally Shawn Michaels was pushed over his boiling point after The Game vowed to leave Michaels paralyzed, and unable to hold his children. The two met at SummerSlam in 2002 in a brutal blood filled match, that ended in HBK winning via roll up. Triple H would follow HBK’s victory with a vicious shot to the back with a sledgehammer.
The match is considered one of the best of all time, for the story driven match, along with the memorable commentary by Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. The feud would continue for years after, but it all started with this epic fight.
2. TLC – SummerSlam, 2000
Many people confuse the Ladder Match at WrestleMania 2000 as the first TLC, but they are wrong, as the first official TLC match was at SummerSlam of the same year. The match consisted of three onscreen sets of brothers, who had back and forth altercations for over a year against one another.
The Hardy Boys along with Edge and Christian had reinvented the Ladder Match during the previous year, and fans had come to expect an exciting yet graceful style with ladders involved. Enter The Dudley Boyz, who along with tables, brought an ECW level of physicality to their match. The TLC match highlights featured Jeff Hardy leaping off ladders, and Bubba Ray Dudley going through four tables on the outside of the ring.
The result of this perfect combination of wrestlers/weapons, was a show stealing match that was cheated out of the title of Match of the Year by PWI. Just as a reminder of how good these teams were during that year, the match that won the Match of the Year award was the previously mentioned Ladder Match at WrestleMania 2000.
1. CM Punk vs. John Cena – Money in the Bank, 2011
The “Summer of Punk” was in full swing in 2011, and was at its peak during Money in the Bank of that year. Punk had dropped the infamous pipebomb promo, and was seemingly on his last leg with WWE. The straight edge star told the WWE Universe that he was sick of being held down within the WWE system and would leave the company after defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship.
In his hometown of Chicago, Punk made good on his promise defeating John Cena cleanly to win the WWE Championship. Punk followed the victory with a knee to the face of Alberto Del Rio, who tried to cash in his Money in the Bank contract. After holding up his title, Punk left the arena and left the WWE for a few weeks, gaining mainstream media attention not seen since the Attitude Era.
The pipebomb when combined with the match that followed, amplified by the Chicago crowd make this a storyline classic. The storyline combined with the amazing payoff this match provided gives it the no.1 spot on the countdown.
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