Where does SummerSlam rank among the year's PPVs? WrestleMania is the biggest spectacle, full of celebrity and fan pleasing moments and the Royal Rumble is a unique event on its own. Survivor Series is fun but its gimmick usually means that nothing is at stake. SummerSlam's specialty is that it's almost as big as WrestleMania but it doesn't have to please the crowd and/or drown itself in celebrities in order to draw the mainstream fan. SummerSlam can be for the hardcore fans that wouldn't dream of missing a PPV no matter how nice the weather is. The good guy doesn't have to win at SS. You can't end a WrestleMania with Lesnar destroying Cena the way he did at SS '14. It's the reason Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars. It's a dark middle act where anything can happen.
SummerSlam is also one of the longest running WWE Events, starting way back in 1988 This long history means the first SummerSlam is incredibly different from the last. The disparity between them makes it much more challenging to properly rank them. Nostalgia always plays a role and I grew up watching Hart versus Mr Perfect at '91, an incredible match then and now.
The older cards look far worse on paper compared to the stacked lineup of the last 10 years, yet execution, 'feel', and overall enjoyment are elements that can never be judged from the paper alone. These events must be judged on the actual experience of watching them, that's why they exist after all.
As wrestling has evolved the in-ring work has become faster and flashier, but the psychology and selling can lack. It seems like everyone can do a hurricanrana or powerbomb but if they pop up immediately after it really doesn't matter. Jake Roberts once finished people off with a DDT, now it has the same impact as a bodyslam.
The review process looked at the match quality first and foremost. Most 'Slams have at least one great match worth watching today, but the undercard varied wildly throughout. A great SummerSlam should be fairly watchable for the duration. A few throwaway matches here and there is almost unavoidable but if used as a breather or comic relief they can add to the overall show.
So let's go ahead and take a look at the top 10 worst SummerSlams in WWE history! Do you agree with the list? What would you say is the worst of the show's 27, soon to be 28, events?
I don't believe there are 10 'bad' SummerSlams, but I'll put this one in the bottom 10.
This card was loaded with names and looked great on paper, but bad storylines, booking, and execution left the event lacking. It also felt quite rushed as half of the matches were under 10 minutes. Jerry Lawler must have booked this show as they still managed to squeeze in the Diva's Dodgeball game!
Benoit and Orton had an intense matchup worth re-watching and Guerrero versus Angle is their usual high quality. The crowd is also a highlight as Toronto always makes their presence felt. The rest of the matches never really got going and it really hurts the card as a whole.
Surprise surprise. This one is looked at very fondly because of the two main events and the stellar London crowd. But beyond those three elements it becomes a mediocre house show. (Side note: Vince is a terrible partner for Heenan on commentary)
Yes Hart and Bulldog had one of the greatest SummerSlam matches of all time and Savage/Warrior is one of the best Warrior matches of all time. But the rest of the card is two squash matches, two tags, and not much else.
If you can believe it, Crush and Nailz were the benefactors of those squashes. Crush squeezed his old Demolition partner's head (Repo Man) while Nailz choked poor Virgil for four minutes. The worst part is that neither of them did anything with their push.
LOD had the better of the two tag matches with Money Inc but it was nothing special. This was also the era where Vince thought LOD needed a ventriloquist dummy to help them connect with the crowd. The most bad-ass team in WWE history is not made better with the lamest form of entertainment this side of mime.
Meanwhile the Natural Disasters defended their titles against the Beverly Brothers in a bland match made exciting by the roaring crowd. Seriously, listen to them pop for Earthquake's finisher like it's the People's Elbow!
Martel versus Michaels was the only other match with the potential to be great but it was mired in it's own 'not in the face' gimmick and Sensational Sheri side story.
The last rough year in this period before the Attitude Era really kicked off. Around this time Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and Bret Hart were doing their best to carry the thin WWE roster but Bret would take a rare PPV off and miss this one.
Michaels and Vader in the main event is great stuff. It even has a Michaels temper tantrum after a Vader botch that easily could have been covered up. But other than that, this card is stretched dangerously thin.
Owen and Savio also deliver some great stuff in a perfect opener that features a fast pace, humor, and plenty of entertainment. It's really bittersweet to see just how charismatic and talented the youngest Hart was.
The rest of the night however is skippable. Undertaker and Mankind's Boiler Room Brawl is noteworthy as it sets the tone for the Attitude Era brawls but it offers little beyond historical importance. It also features a shocking moment, as Paul Bearer turns on The Undertaker to side with the deranged Mankind.
The roster was so thin they even threw Lawler and Roberts together in a real stinker. Roberts seriousness clashed poorly with Lawler's jokey Memphis style and the too-true alcoholism storyline was tacky.
I could go the rest of my life without watching Marc Mero, The Smoking Gunns or The Godwinns but here they all are.
Bulldog and Sid are an interesting fantasy book and manage to put together a decent bout but it's far from a classic.
A rough patch for the WWE made worse by the McMahon family overdose. Over half of the non-dark matches had a McMahon involved one way or another. The family drama also reached a new low with the 'Bischoff raped Linda McMahon' storyline... There are no words.
Looking back through WWE PPV history it's alarming how many mediocre opponents The Undertaker is given. One of the company's greatest assets has routinely drawn guys like A-Train to deal with. The best part of this match is that Sable is at her hottest after she finally ditched her 80s hair for something more modern (she's even on the promo poster!)
Shane McMahon and Bischoff have a match that should have NEVER happened. For some reason it's given just 14 seconds less than Guerrero and Benoit's Fatal Four-Way with Rhyno and Tajiri.
Kane and RVD have a match that goes nowhere. RVD wrestles a very specific style and Kane isn't the type to elevate it. They also did nothing in the ring to match the fire of their angle.
Lesnar and Angle had the worst of their three-match series here. Vince is the involved McMahon this time and ends up taking a sweet Angle Slam through a chair. A nice moment but this tilt couldn't match the hype. This was a strong showing for Brock however as he took the match much further than Angle's usual shtick.
The Elimination Chamber was fun but felt like desperation booking in order to get everyone on the card and perhaps cover for Triple H's injury. This becomes more apparent as HHH plays dead for most of the night only to come back and give Goldberg his first WWE loss (sweet deal). Like most of the card, screwy booking killed a lot of the entertainment.
A strange lineup mixing old and new for drab results.
Chavo and Rey seemed like a great idea to kick off the card but their storyline was too intense for that. The Vickie angle slowed things down and as a result the crowd didn't ever get behind it. Not a great start.
Hogan's comeback was losing its nostalgic shine at this point but he somehow managed to convince Vince to give him a win over the up and coming Randy Orton. Orton made for a great opponent with his cocky legend-killer gimmick and even beat The Undertaker the year before, but Hulkamania still ran wild. After the match it was quite strange to see Hogan do his old end-of-PPV ring celebration halfway through the event, only to walk back down the aisle to the backstage. Weird stuff.
D-X versus The McMahons was a 'sports-entertainment' type match that had some interesting moments but definitely doesn't need to be watched again. Booker and Batista felt about the same. Solid enough, but instantly forgettable.
Edge and Cena's main event was very well received at the time and still holds up. Lita's act mostly gets in the way but overall this was a great moment for both guys. Edge delved further into his opportunistic heel character and Cena was himself.
Flair and Foley had the match of the night with their brutal and bloody battle. It may seem like it was booked 10 years too late but Flair proved he could do something other than his usual match. Flair totally let loose and for once wrestled as crazy as one of his promos.
This card seriously lacked wrestling. The longest match at only 14:24 was a great two-out-of-three falls match between The Hart Foundation and Demolition. (Bret was already the company's workhorse and would provide the best match the following year with Mr. Perfect). Hogan and Warrior each headlined their own main event but they only went 13:16 and 10:05. The rest of the matches were all less than 10 minutes and THREE of them didn't even make it to five minutes. Could you imagine forking over PPV money for that? Fans must have known what was coming because this was the least-attended out of the first seven SummerSlams.
Hogan and Earthquake was the poor man's WrestleMania II (or the rich man's Hogan versus The Shark). Warrior and Rude had the worst of their matches with the highlight being Piper destroying Warrior on commentary, calling him a stupid pony, amongst other gems.
1993 was a tough transition for the WWE. Hogan was leaving the company but instead of dropping the title to Bret in a SummerSlam dream match, he quietly lost to Yokozuna at a King of the Ring two months earlier. This must have really stung Hart after the WrestleMania IX debacle. A match between the two would have passed the torch picture perfectly from one generation to the next, but Hogan's ego got in the way.
McMahon had tried to quickly transition the Narcissist Lex Luger into Hulk Hogan II with the Lex Express summer tour in preparation for SummerSlam but it didn't pan out. Luger has never fully gotten over as the top dog and fans weren't buying into it then either. This resulted in a bizarre match where it felt like the finish was changed but the celebration wasn't. Luger won by countout and Yoko retained the title yet the confetti rained down and other wrestlers came from backstage to hoist him on their shoulders. It all felt like a Make-a-Wish moment.
Meanwhile Bret Hart was downgraded to working with Lawler and Doink.
We also got the rematch no one wanted with Undertaker and Giant Gonzales.
Ludvig Borga squashed Janetty in a build that went nowhere. Shawn Micahels and Mr. Perfect should have been a classic but it never really clicked. And that was the main problem with this card: no standout matches. The Steiners and Heavenly Bodies put on a great up-tempo nine minutes, but it was just the second match of the night and couldn't save it.
Most good PPVs start with a bang to get the crowd into it. This one however started with Kane and Finlay. Their match wasn't bad but it should have come second.
One of the few times the IC belt didn't change hands at SS and it's Umaga who keeps it? Rey Mysterio came out in the next match painted silver and looking a little bloated. When you think it can't get any more mediocre, the Divas have a Battle Royal.
CM Punk and John Morrison could have had the best match of the night but it was given only seven minutes. In fact, besides Cena/Orton and Mysterio/Chavo, every other match on the card was less than 10 minutes. It felt like the card never really got going.
Triple H's big return after a torn quadriceps suffered in January was a cookie cutter match with 'King' Booker in what was supposed to be seen as symbolic with the King of Kings returning to reclaim his throne. Meh.
Batista and Khali gave the Divas some competition for worst match of the night and Cena/Orton gave the only quality bout of the whole shebang.
The roster was pitiful that year and it showed big time.
Diesel previously had decent matches with smaller, more talented wrestlers like Hart and Michaels but this time he wouldn't be so lucky. He was responsible for somehow putting on a main event title match against the massive and plodding Mabel. They did their best by keeping it short but it was less entertaining than Undertaker versus Underfaker the year prior.
After their classic WrestleMania Ladder match, Michaels and Razor simply did it again for SummerSlam the following year. Other than a tacky temper tantrum by HBK after he couldn't unhook the belt on his first attempt, it was still a fantastic bout worth watching again and easily the best of the night.
The 1-2-3 Kid and Hakushi started the night right with a fast-paced affair but there's not much else to see here. Stars like Hart and Undertaker were mired in worthless feuds at the time. Hart squared off against Lawler's dentist and 'Taker was battling The Million Dollar Corporation's Kama in a casket match. I'd have much rather seen a very long Hart/Taker match and a very short Yankem/Kama tilt.
Did anyone want to see The Smoking Gunns and Godwinns? How about Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Bob Sparkplug Holly? They were as bland as they sound. The only other interesting part was Barry Horowitz getting his PPV win over Skip. It was a nice moment and actually an entertaining match with the storyline and end result.
Looking at this on paper it's absolutely shocking that we put this at the bottom. But this event failed to deliver on almost all counts as they attempted to transition the new stars (by having them lose to the old stars).
Ziggler and Kofi easily had the best match of the night but the finish was squandered to put The Nexus over as interfering badasses. While I loved the idea of The Nexus brutally ending a match to show their power, I wish it could have been done during any other match.
C.M. Punk and his Straight Edge Society had a numbers advantage against The Big Show but couldn't even last seven minutes. The crowd was really into this and perhaps with more time they could have really built something more. How about Big Show squashing the Straight Edge boys, The Nexus beating them all down and CM Punk running away?
A big chunk of the card went to Orton and Sheamus. Their 18:55 was the longest singles match by a full five minutes. They don't have great chemistry now and it wasn't any better then.
The biggest match of the night by far was the 35 minute, 14-man elimination tag match.
The lineup was incredible: Cena, Bryan (returning), Edge, Jericho, and BRET HART facing off against NXT upstarts Barrett, Ryback, and others.
This match had great hype with NXT building an nWo-type invasion. Unfortunately all of that momentum was spoiled by a very infamous Cena no-sell. The vicious (or so we thought) DDT to the concrete floor should have won the match, but it couldn't keep Super-Cena down. He popped up like it was nuthin' and took the win, destroying the group's credibility.
Chris Jericho and Edge told the story how they both warned Cena that the finish was flawed but he went ahead with it anyway. To Cena's credit he later came back and told the Canadian blondes that they were right. Nice gesture but too late for Barrett and co.
The whole event felt more like an episode of RAW (complete with the giant tag match of stars as a main event). What's on paper only goes so far, it's all about what happens in the ring.
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