SummerSlam is WWE’s second biggest event of the calendar year and is billed as ‘The Hottest Show of the Summer’. It has been the home to some of the company’s biggest moments and matches and WWE is currently laying its plans to make their 28th iteration another classic event next month.
Countless iconic moments including the Macho Man and Elizabeth wedding, both Brock Lesnar and Randy Orton becoming the youngest World Champion, CM Punk and John Cena’s champion versus champion battle, Daniel Bryan finally winning the big one, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels Ladder rematch, and many, many more all happened at WWE’s summer extravaganza.
But it hasn’t all been quite so bright, as SummerSlam has had its share of terrible moments too. Here we will look at the worst booking decisions in the history of the event. For clarification, this is not necessarily the worst moments in SummerSlam history. This is the worst decisions by WWE’s creative staff when it comes to its second biggest show of the calendar.
15. Diesel vs. King Mabel (1995)
Throughout his career Nelson Frazier Jr. wrestled under several different gimmicks, most famously Mabel, Viscera and Big Daddy V. During these runs WWE frequently flip-flopped on whether they wanted him to be a main event player or lower card muscle, sometimes even a comedy act. The first time they really got behind the big man came in 1995, whilst he was one half of the rapping Men on a Mission tag team under the name Mabel. Mabel won the King of the Ring tournament and was set to challenge WWE Champion Diesel in the main event of SummerSlam.
There were several problems with this match-up. First was that Mabel was not a very good worker, to the point that his recklessness almost led to him being fired during the build to the event. Secondly there this was a difficult match to sell for two reasons. Mabel was not really bought into by audiences as a big act but worse still was the he ended up eclipsed during the promotion of the event. On the final edition of Raw before the pay-per-view, the British Bulldog turned heel by betraying Diesel in a tag match against Men on a Mission. So fans were more invested in seeing Bulldog and Diesel settle their score than Mabel.
Unsurprisingly, the event did only a 0.9 buyrate – down from 1994’s 1.4 – and the match only went nine minutes, during which Mabel still managed to injure Diesel.
14. Ultimate Warrior Ends Honky Tonk’s Reign (1988)
This is a contentious one as there are as many people who like this decision as dislike it. Additionally, it was undeniably instrumental in skyrocketing The Ultimate Warrior towards the main event and his classic champion versus champion clash with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI.
Going into SummerSlam, The Honky Tonk Man was scheduled to defend his Intercontinental Championship against Brutus Beefcake. This wasn’t exactly an exciting prospect, so having a last second change of opponent was a good choice, and created an excuse for Honky Tonk’s legendary reign to end. Ultimate Warrior was the chosen one to take the strap, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
Honky Tonk’s reign at that point was 454 days, a record that still holds up to this day as the longest Intercontinental Championship reign ever. But Warrior ended it in 31 seconds. One of the longest reigns in the history of the company ended in one of its shortest championship matches. Honky Tonk’s career began to plummet from there and never recovered.
13. Dominick (2005)
The story of Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio’s breakdown as a team and becoming bitter enemies was one of the greatest modern feuds. The duo had a series of fantastic matches together during the course of the spring and summer of 2005, culminating in one final clash at SummerSlam.
During the build-up to Great American Bash Eddie threatened to reveal a secret, one that both his and Rey’s families begged him not to. Rey defeated Eddie at the pay-per-view with the stipulation that the secret would never be told. Yet the following show, Eddie told the world that he was actually the biological father of Rey’s son Dominick.
Worse still, the custody for Dominick was put on the line at SummerSlam in a Ladder Match. The match itself was magnificent but the story was ridiculous. And as previously mentioned, both superstars families were brought into the story on air, including Dominick himself.
12. CM Punk Scrapes Through (2008)
A large portion of fans probably don’t remember CM Punk’s first world championship in WWE, and with good reason. Punk captured the World Heavyweight Championship by cashing in his Money in the Bank contract on his first night on Raw, capitalizing on Batista attacking champion Edge.
Punk would put the title up for grabs against Batista at Great American Bash but only retained it due to a double disqualification after the interference of Kane. This booking of CM Punk as a weak champion continued throughout his brief run and saw his defense against JBL at SummerSlam actually happen in the midcard of the event. Punk would narrowly retain his title against an over-the-hill challenger but the damage in his weak booking was done.
Punk wouldn’t even be in the World Heavyweight Championship match at the following pay-per-view Unforgiven, getting attacked backstage before he could enter the Championship Scramble to defend. He wouldn’t even receive a rematch, his whole reign just forgotten about.
11. The Legend Killer Comes Up Short (2006)
After Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan had returned the previous year for a one-off match at SummerSlam and won (more on that later), many thought that his return would be to help the current roster. Especially when the man he rivaled with was ‘The Legend Killer’ Randy Orton.
Orton himself had had a rough year, after losing most of his big matches and serving a two month suspension, and needed the boost. So when he started calling out Hogan, and flirting with his daughter to bait him into a match, it was hoped that it was to help Orton find his way back to his path to greatness.
It had seemed at first like it had happened. Orton was named the victor despite Hogan having his foot under the ropes, protecting the legend. However the match was restarted and Orton dispatched with not long after. Orton would then have to align with Edge as Rated RKO to get back into a main event feud.
10. Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez Rematch (1993)
Who was The Undertaker’s worst WrestleMania opponent? Giant Gonzalez. So you would assume that WWE would swiftly move on afterwards, right? Wrong. Against all logic, WWE decided to prolong the rivalry a further four months as one of the main events for SummerSlam. This means that their story ran nearly a full year.
Gonzalez was such a poor wrestler that this feud with Undertaker was his only program with the company. The only thing worse than his ability was his character – a tall man dressed in a muscle suit with patches of fake hair that made him look like he was supposed to be half-beast.
9. The Undertakers (1994)
There is one thing worse than Undertaker fighting Giant Gonzalez, and that is The Undertaker fighting himself. Or at least, a fake version of himself.
At SummerSlam 1994 the headline fight, placed higher than the amazing WWE Championship Steel Cage Match between champion Bret Hart and his brother Owen, was between Undertaker and Ted DiBiase’s impostor Undertaker.
DiBiase’s Taker was a poor impersonation, played by Brian Lee. Lee isn’t necessarily a bad performer, but Lee was far from a main event star and this resulted in a match suitably bad to such a terrible story.
8. Patsy Mankind (1999)
Mick Foley never had the greatest of luck with the WWE Championship. Despite having one of the most memorable crownings ever, turning around the Monday Night War, his longest championship reign was a mere 26 days. His shortest reign was one day, and it is this reign that we would like to call into question.
During 1999 WWE had put a lot of effort behind building Triple H into a top star, a plan that was to culminate in having him take the WWE Championship from top dog Stone Cold Steve Austin at SummerSlam. This is not what actually happened though. Instead Mankind was thrown into the match, won the title and then lost it to Triple H the next night.
There are two stories behind it, one that Austin’s knee was so hurt that inserting a third man alleviated the workload. The other, more popular, theory is that Austin refused to drop the belt to Triple H and so Mankind was added as a solution, transitioning the belt between the two. In either instance, there is no reason why Triple H shouldn’t have left Minneapolis with the title – preferably in a singles match, but even in a Triple Threat scenario.
7. Dusty Rhodes vs. Randy Savage (1990)
When two of the biggest legends in the history of the business met in the ring at SummerSlam in the prime of their careers, it seems like perfect business sense. And it should have been. But WWE had other ideas.
The build-up to the event was focused around each man’s valet, Sensational Queen Sherri and Sapphire. This resulted in both the ladies and the men getting their own singles matches against each other at SummerSlam. Sapphire no showed her match, peculiar in itself, but she was never a wrestler. When it came time for Savage and Rhodes to throw down, Ted DiBiase came out and announced that he had ‘bought’ Sapphire. This distraction led to Savage getting a quick roll-up victory over Rhodes.
This was done to write Sapphire out of the show, but meant that there was never a pay-off to the Savage/Rhodes story. Equally, Rhodes’ brief feud with DiBiase saw his in-ring career brought to a close. This was a damp ending to such a legendary career – at least in-ring. So nobody got a satisfactory conclusion.
6. Kiss My Ass (1999)
When D-Generation X started to dissolve, WWE appeared to have big plans for ‘Mr. Ass’ Billy Gunn. It was easy to see why. At 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, Gunn was a pure athlete with a typical WWE look.
In June of 1999, Gunn won the King of the Ring tournament – seeing off Ken Shamrock, Kane and former stablemate, X-Pac to do so. This led to a rivalry with The Rock but instead of this feud making Gunn a star, it left him humiliated so badly that he would end up back in The New Age Outlaws a month later.
The reason why Gunn was done so much damage by the feud was that The Rock took him to task on the microphone with relentless insults during the entire run-up, treating him like he wasn’t a serious act. This would have been okay for Gunn if he was to win at SummerSlam but he lost the ‘Kiss My Ass’ match and was left humiliated.
5. Hogan vs. HBK
The match between Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels at 2005’s SummerSlam was a mess. Worse still, it was a mess that was main event of the show. There are several reasons for the match being such a mess but a lot of comes down to ego.
Original plans for the story would have had the duo meet in a three match series beginning at SummerSlam, however Hogan refused to work that many dates and instead would only compete in one match. Hogan also refused to lose this match. He also refused to turn up to promote the match, meaning that Michaels had to sell the entire story on his own – illogically becoming a heel for that time, before dropping the attitude change immediately afterwards.
As a result of all this frustration, Michaels infamously oversold the entire match as a rebellion. A simple overhand from Hogan sees Michaels nearly fly from the ring, after receiving the big boot he got back up and did a lap of the ring before collapsing to the mat, and so on.
4. Goldberg Loses (2003)
To anyone who remembers Goldberg’s run with WWE it will come as no surprise that the company didn’t know how to use the former WCW star. After a massive debut with the company two years after WCW had closed, Goldberg defeated The Rock in his final singles match for nine years.
Goldberg continued to be undefeated, as was his money-making gimmick in WCW, but instead of the 173 consecutive wins he amassed in his former home he would only last four months as such in WWE. WWE did not learn from WCW’s big mistake of the shady end to his original streak, bringing it inside the Elimination Chamber and using a sledgehammer to achieve it.
The truly illogical part of this is that Goldberg won Triple H’s World Heavyweight Championship a month later at Unforgiven, so WWE could have had Goldberg had a longer undefeated streak if not for this disappointing blot that feels like insecure backstage politics. Goldberg tearing through an Elimination Chamber match to win the title would have had a far better impact and would have served WWE better.
3. No Holds Barred (1989)
To a modern wrestling fan, WWE’s constant stream of WWE Studios movies being used for storyline purposes is nothing new. In 1989, WWE took things a step further. To promote the film No Holds Barred, WWE spent the summer running a story that saw a character from the film perform as a competitor in the company.
Zeus, the character played by Tom Lister in the film, turned up in WWE wanting to get revenge for Hulk Hogan’s character, Rip, defeating him in the climax of the movie. Even if you ignore the fact that it is a character versus an actor, rather than Lister vs. Hogan or Zeus vs. Rip, the whole premise is ridiculous. Lister was not a trained wrestler for a start.
In order to have the whole thing actually work, the SummerSlam main event had to have Zeus team up with Hogan’s then-nemesis Randy Savage, with Hogan teaming with frequent buddy Brutus Beefcake. If WWE really had to run with a No Holds Barred storyline to promote the movie, they’d have been better off having a singles match with Lister/Zeus in Savage’s corner.
2. Summer Of Punk Has Come and Gone (2011)
When CM Punk dropped ‘The pipebomb heard around the world’ he instantly became the hottest act in wrestling. WWE even allowed him to win the WWE Championship with an expired contract in an attempt to bring him back and capitalize. This was a success, as Punk re-signed and headed to SummerSlam to resolve the issue of who the ‘real’ WWE Champion was between himself and John Cena.
The rematch from Money in the Bank was a big attraction and Punk winning it was, of course, the correct outcome. Straight after the match is where it starts to get weird.
During Punk’s celebration, Kevin Nash hit the ring and attacked Punk, allowing Alberto Del Rio to cash in his Money in the Bank contract and take the WWE Championship. Thus immediately removing Punk from the title picture to place him in a rivalry with a retired wrestler who wasn’t medically cleared to compete, resulting in him facing Triple H in his place and losing. Del Rio himself dropped the title straight to Cena, and everything went back to as it was before Punk’s historic championship win.
This decision was the first of many that spelled the end for Punk’s run with WWE, and for all people say about his volatile attitude, the company only have themselves to blame here.
1. Who’s Nexus? (2010)
One year prior, SummerSlam played the home to WWE dropping the ball with another top act – however this time, there were seven careers stalled. After NXT’s first season, winner Wade Barrett made his Raw debut in the biggest way possible. He led all seven of his fellow contestants in an all-out assault on WWE, crashing the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk and destroying the competitors, staff and ringside area.
From that point The Nexus went on a continuous rampage, one that saw the stable feared by all the superstars in the company as nothing could match up to the numbers game on display. At SummerSlam, the group faced their first real challenge – a seven-on-seven elimination tag match against a dysfunctional group of top WWE superstars.
This match should have solidified just how much of a threat the unit was, but instead they failed to get the job done and lost to a John Cena comeback. Team WWE had several excuses to lose, unlike The Nexus they were far from a unified group, and The Miz ran in to screw Daniel Bryan out of the match – which arguably should have been the finish. Instead, they lost and their threat dropped so significantly that they were practically disbanded a couple of months later as the Cena story concluded.
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