We’re nearing the end of summer, and for wrestling fans, that can only mean one thing — SummerSlam. As WWE’s annual summer extravaganza draws closer, the writers and personalities of Place To Be Nation thought it might be appropriate to revisit some of the greatest matches in the event’s prestigious history. 12 voters each submitted a list of 40 SummerSlam matches, ranked 1 through 40. The list of 12 voters includes Brian Bayless, Tim Capel, Marc Clair, Nick Duke, Aaron George, Steven Graham, Jason Greenhouse, Ben Morse, Greg Phillips, JT Rozzero, Todd Weber and Adam Wilcox. A points system was utilized, awarding each match 40 points for a first place vote, 39 points for a second place vote, and so on. Once the points were totaled, we came up with Place to Be Nation’s definitive SummerSlam Top 40. For each match, we’ll list the number of points it received and which voter or voters ranked it the highest.
20. John Cena vs Batista — 2008
195 points, ranked by 9 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Marc Clair and Steven Graham at No. 8
Brian Bayless: Two former OVW prospects went out and delivered in the match “six years in the making” as we got to find out who was the better man. With other storylines going on such as Cena accidentally hitting Batista on an episode of RAW a few weeks before the show and Cena also winning 73% of the fan vote when asked which of the two was the biggest star, these two had a lot going on into the show. The match itself was fantastic, with both guys busting out everything in their arsenal. Batista won after hitting a second powerbomb and proved himself to be the better man. This match certainly delivered above and beyond expectations.
19. Intercontinental Title: The Ultimate Warrior vs Rick Rude — 1989
207 points, ranked by 10 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Aaron George at No. 7
Justin Rozzero: One of 1989’s hottest feuds raged to a climax here in the Meadowlands as the Ultimate Warrior got his crack at revenge and regaining the title stolen from him by Rick Rude back in Atlantic City. They had spent the summer attacking each other and stirring the pot all over WWF TV. Just before this show, Bobby Heenan had Andre the Giant choke Warrior out to soften him up a bit before this big match. The crowd was apeshit for Warrior as he sprinted down the aisle and shook the ring ropes vigorously in his infamous lime green tights. As the match started up, Jesse bragged about how he was the only person to give Rude a chance at Mania and he thinks the champ and the Brain could outsmart the Warrior yet again. Things got amped up even more when Warrior smashes Rude with the belt on the floor and doesn’t get DQ’d. Jesse gloriously loses his mind as Schiavone tries to defend it, calling Tony “dumber than Monsoon” and calling for the head of Joey Marella. Warrior dumps Rude to the floor again, driving Jesse further off the deep end. This is some high level stuff across the board as Jesse is watching the wrestler he hates most destroy his favorite competitor. He even advocates that Rude just eat a count out loss due to the way Warrior was brawling and bending the rules. After some stiff back and forth, Rude would get his knees up on a Warrior splash and went back to work, but before he could finish the job, the crowd burst into excitement as Roddy Piper sauntered down the aisle to ringside. After Warrior survived a piledriver, Rude took a break to taunt Piper, who retaliated by lifting his kilt and mooning Rude. As Rude flipped out, Warrior caught him with a back suplex, a shoulderblock, press slam and big splash to regain his title and end the feud. The match and story were pretty fucking amazing, from the action, to the crowd heat to the tremendous commentary. The feud had been a great one throughout 1989 and it received a worthy blowoff. Jesse was fantastic throughout this whole match as well, really adding to the importance of the whole thing. Warrior takes back his gold and Rude now has a new issue to deal with.
18. WWF Title: The Ultimate Warrior vs Randy Savage — 1992
213 points, ranked by 9 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Greg Phillips at No. 9
Adam Wilcox: The anticipation for this WWF World Championship showdown was very high heading into Wembley Stadium. Savage and Warrior had competed in a much-heralded Retirement Match at the previous year’s WrestleMania and were now squaring off as the company’s top two babyfaces for the Federation’s most coveted prize. Mr. Perfect, who had been acting as Executive Consultant for former Champion Ric Flair, announced in the weeks leading up to the event that both participants had attempted to acquire his services as cornerman for the bout. Perfect and Flair arrived during the match and the former Intercontinental Titleholder teased allegiances with champion and challenger until it was eventually revealed that Perfect had been hired by neither man, and instead remained loyal only to Flair. Savage is counted out following a chair shot to the leg by “The Nature Boy” in a terrific contest and I did not mind the constant interference by Flair and Perfect, as it played into the main story of the match. This is also a rare instance where I am fine with the countout finish in pay-per-view World Title bout, seeing as Perfect’s loyalties were the key focus here. Fans can debate whether or not SummerSlam surpassed the WrestleMania VII classic, but Savage and Warrior unquestionably delivered on this night.
17. Kurt Angle vs Rey Mysterio — 2002
218 points, ranked by 9 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Marc Clair, Justin Rozzero and Adam Wilcox at No. 11
Jason Greenhouse: Kurt is out first in this opening match from the Nassau Coliseum. Angle is rocking an incredible candy striped singlet. While Kurt makes his way to the ring, Michael Cole sells that Kurt vowed to break Rey’s ankle in this match.
Rey’s music hits as Angle is looking towards the entrance way. Mysterio is seen on the other end of the ring and hits Angle with a springboard hurricanrana, followed by a head scissors and a drop kick before whipping Kurt into the corner and landing a monkey flip on Angle. Both men go through a series of counters before Kurt goes for an early Ankle Lock. Rey manages to grab the ropes. Kurt breaks the hold and Rey sets up for the 619. Angle gets out of the way and pulls Rey to the outside of the ring. At this point, Michael Cole explains that Rey has a pinfall victory over Kurt in a tag-team match on Smackdown. Kurt lands two kicks to Rey’s kidney area as the crowd heat for Kurt kicks up a notch from the Long Island faithful in attendance.
Following the kicks to Rey, Kurt whips Rey into the ring corner and Rey is able to counter and goes for a wheelbarrow. Angle counters into a tremendous German suplex. Kurt goes for a second German, but Rey grabs the ropes and counters into a sunset flip getting a two count on Angle. Kurt is up fast and hits a clothesline on Mysterio followed by a back breaker. Kurt then locks Rey into the ropes and begins working the upper back and neck of Mysterio.
Kurt brings Rey over to the ring corner and continues his punishment. Rey counters a punch for Angle and whips him into opposite ring corner. Rey goes for a head scissors, but Kurt counters it into another back breaker. Kurt goes for the cover and gets a two count. He follows up with a half Boston crab, working the knee of Mysterio. Rey is able to counter and goes for a small package on Angle and gets a two count. Kurt gets up and hits a running clothesline on Rey. A huge, “Angle Sucks” begins to be heard from the Nassau Coliseum crowd.
After a flurry, Kurt drops his singlet straps, which means it’s go time for him. Angle goes for the Angle Slam, but Rey counters into an arm drag. Rey hugs the ropes and Kurt charges Rey, but Mysterio pulls down the top rope and Kurt goes flying to the outside. Angle tries to get back in the ring, but Rey lands a baseball slide into Kurt leaving him on the outside of the ring. Rey goes for a dive over the ropes but is stopped by referee, Jimmy Korderas, to the course of boos by the crowd. While being checked on by Korderas, Rey bounces off the ropes, leaps over the ref and lands a senton on Angle. The crowd goes insane for this.
Mysterio rolls Angle back in the ring and hits a springboard leg drop on the back on Kurt’s head. Rey goes for the pin and Kurt kicks out at 2.9. After a series of counters, Rey goes into the ring corner, bounces off the middle ropes, lands on Kurt’s shoulders and Angle drops Mysterio in the Ankle Lock. Rey kicks out of Kurt’s finisher and Kurt’s head lands on the middle ropes. Rey goes for the 619 and hits it successfully. Mysterio is quickly up and hits the West Coast Pop on Angle. Rey goes for the pin and Kurt kicks out at 2.9. Rey kicks Kurt and then heads to the top rope. Angles charges at Rey, Kurt jumps over him and Kurt feet land on the middle turnbuckle. Rey bounces off the middle ropes and kicks Kurt, but doesn’t fall from the middle buckle. Mysterio heads to the top turn buckle on top of Kurt and goes for a hurricanrana. Kurt counters and applies the Angle Lock. Rey can’t reach the ropes to break the hols and is forced to tap out at 9:20.
An all time classic and one of the best opening matches in WWE PPV history. This was Rey Mysterio’s WWE PPV debut and he didn’t disappoint. This match served it’s purpose as the WWE ring veteran battled the high-flying new comer. A clash of styles that blended very well. This was the kick off to an amazing fall of 2002 on Smackdown featuring two of the Smackdown Six.
16. Hell in a Cell Match: The Undertaker vs Edge — 2008
220 points, ranked by 10 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Brian Bayless at No. 6
Brian Bayless: Vickie Guerrero, who was married to Edge at the time, got revenge on her husband after being cheated on by reinstating the Undertaker and having them both face off in a Hell in a Cell match. These two guys beat the living hell out of each other here in the first HIAC match of the PG era. The lack of blood did not take away from anything here at all. I loved the layout of the match and the story of Edge trying to neutralize the HIAC advantage Undertaker had by using tables, ladders, and chairs but was ultimately unable to put away the Undertaker without the help of La Familia. I actually had this match ranked as the sixth best match in SummerSlam history and feel that it warranted a much higher spot.
15. Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match for the World Heavyweight Title: CM Punk vs Jeff Hardy — 2009
229 points, ranked by 11 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Nick Duke at No. 7
Nick Duke: I’ll open with this — I’m an unapologetic mark for CM Punk. I think the guy is one of the best in-ring performers of his generation, and one of the great talkers of all time. His ability to talk was certainly on display during his first heel run in WWE, as he began to portray a version of his “Straight Edge Means I’m Better Than You” character from Ring of Honor in the spring and summer of 2009. But every heel needs a compelling babyface, and I’m not sure you could have picked one more suited for that version of CM Punk than Jeff Hardy. Beloved by most of the audience, Hardy was able to garner support while Punk called him out for his history of drug use.
All that made for a fantastic feud, a feud that reached its crescendo at SummerSlam. I often criticize matches with ladder or TLC stipulations for being all about spots and not enough about story. That doesn’t quite ring true here, as these two play their roles perfectly. Punk is willing to cut corners throughout to get what he feels he deserves, while Hardy is always seeking to thrill the fans rather than putting Punk away. Ultimately, it’s Hardy’s hubris that costs him the match and his title. Fantastic stuff from two guys who were pretty much tailor made for each other.
14. No Holds Barred Match for the World Heavyweight Title: Randy Orton vs Christian — 2011
238 points, ranked by 12 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Greg Phillips and Adam Wilcox at No. 13
Greg Phillips: For a guy so reviled by much of the Internet Wrestling Community, Randy Orton has had a boatload of great matches, and this may be at or near the top. Orton was at the top of his game in the summer of 2011, having a string of excellent title bouts against everyone from Sheamus to Kane, but what anchored his title run and the best year of his career was this half-year-long feud with Captain Charisma.
13. Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Title: The Rock vs Triple H — 1998
273 points, ranked by 12 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Jason Greenhouse at No. 5
Jason Greenhouse: We start off with a video package telling the history of these two along with their stables, DX and the Nation of Domination. After a 2 out of 3 falls match that ended in a draw at Fully Loaded and several run-ins during each others matches, HHH challenges Rock to a ladder match for the Rock’s IC title at SummerSlam.
Triple H is out first as he is escorted by the neon green dress Chyna. The DX band plays Hunter to the ring. The Rock is out next along with his fellow Nation member, Mark Henry. Rock looks very focused and determined. Before hitting the ring he climbs the ladder set up in the aisle and gets some great heat from the MSG crowd. Both men watch the IC title rise above the ring and we’re off with a quick brawl. Rock goes for an early Rock Bottom, but Hunter counters. Hunter goes for the Pedigree, but Rock back drops him to the outside. Rock heads for the ladder in the aisle, but Hunter catches him and brings Rock back in the ring. Triple H goes for the ladder this time, but Rock stops him. A “Rocky Sucks” chant can be heard from the MSG crowd. The Rock grabs the ladder, but his stopped by Hunter. Rock counters, down goes Hunter and Rock brings the ladder into the ring. Rock begins to climb the ladder as Triple H climbs the top rope. Hunter jumps off the ropes, both Rock and the ladder falls, but the ladder lands on Hunter. Both men are selling very well at this point.
Hunter gets up first and climbs the ladder, but is knocked off by Rocky. At this point, Rock begins working on Hunter’s injured knee. Jim Ross explains that Hunter’s knee is heavily taped and has a brace on it from an attack during Sunday Night Heat earlier that evening. Rock rams Hunter’s knee into the ladder, followed by trapping Triple H’s leg in the ladder and smashing it. Rock grabs a chair and smashed the ladder with it. Great selling by Hunter and great heat from the crowd for Rocky. Rock rams Hunter’s leg into the ring post, followed by smashing the ladder into his leg. Rock begins to climb the ladder as the ref checks on Hunter. He makes his way back in the ring and shoves Rock off the ladder. Both men are down.
Hunter is up first and throws Rocky to the outside. He leans the ladder on the guard rail at ringside. Rock counters and slingshots Hunter into the ladder. Hunter begins crawling up the aisle in pain and Rock follows him. A brawl breaks out in the aisle. Hunter goes for a pedigree, but Rock counters and backdrops him on the ladder. Rock grabs the ladder and heads back in the ring. Chyna goes over to check on her man, who looks to be in a lot of pain. At this point, Mark Henry grabs a second ladder from under the ring and slides it inside. Rock begins to climb one of the ladders as Hunter gets up and hits Henry a few times on the outside. He makes his way back in the ring, but Henry grabs his leg. Chyna attacks Mark from behind allowing Hunter to make his way back inside. He knocks the ladder over that Rock was climbing.
Both men are down and Hunter is selling his knee. Rock crawls to the outside and Hunter gets up and does a baseball slide into the ladder that was down and is rammed into Rock on the outside. Rocky gets busted open from this. Hunter sets up a ladder as Rock is slow to get up. He makes his way back in the ring and shoulder tackles the ladder, causing Triple H to fall off. Rock pounds on him, followed by setting a folded ladder on the top rope. Hunter begins to get up, but Rock hits a DDT on him. Both men are down as we get a look at Chyna and Henry who are back in their respected corners. Rock is up first and begins to climbed a ladder. Hunter is up and begins to climbed the other end. We get a quick brawl at the top until Rock tosses Hunter off. Hunter lands on the ladder that was placed on the top rope earlier. Both men are down and Rocky is a bloody mess.
From there, Chyna grabs the chair that was used earlier on and slides it over to Hunter. Both men get up, Rock charges Hunter with a ladder, but is hit with the chair by Triple H. The ladder lands on Rock and Hunter begins smashing the ladder with chair. Hunter picks up the ladder, but Rock gets up and hit and punch followed by a kick and then body slams Triple H onto the ladder. Rock goes for the peoples elbow and hits it on Hunter who is laying on top of the ladder. Rock goes down too as the blood continues to pour from his head. Rock is up first and sets up a ladder. Hunter gets up and kicks Rock over. Hunter begins to climb the ladder. Rock tries to pull him off, but Hunter jumps off landing on his feet and Rock catches him and hits a Rock Bottom. Rock begins to climb the ladder as Hunter tries to grab Rock’s leg. Rock kicks Hunter in the head, but Hunter is able to grab Rock and toss him off the ladder. Rock runs towards Hunter, but takes a knee in the guy and Hunter hits a pedigree on Rock.
While selling, Triple H crawls in the direction of Mark Henry who tosses powder in Hunter’s eyes. Hunter has trouble seeing, but makes his way to the ladder and begins to climb it. Rock climbs the other end of the ladder as Hunter has trouble finding the belt do to his blurred vision from the powder. Rock hits Hunter twice causing him to slide down the ladder. Rock reaches for the belt, but Chyna comes in and hits Rock with a low blow from behind. Rock falls of the ladder as Hunter is able to climbed back up and grab the IC title at 24:32. Hunter celebrates at the top of the ladder with IC belt in hand. Chyna, X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws join Hunter in the ring to celebrate as Rock is down in the ring looking motionless.
An unbelievable twenty-five minutes by two men who each had a break out performance here. These two studs were the next big stars of the Attitude Era. They each told an amazing story, did some great selling and took some nasty bumps. An all time classic from the World’s Most Famous Arena at the biggest event of the summer during the peak of the Attitude Era.
12. Undisputed WWE Title: The Rock vs Brock Lesnar — 2002
286 points, ranked by 11 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Ben Morse at No. 6
Ben Morse: Many have called the 2002 edition of SummerSlam the greatest installment of WWF/WWE’s premiere August event, but regardless of the undercard quality and Shawn Michaels’ big comeback, if the main event hadn’t delivered, the legend would be reduced; fortunately, two of wrestling’s all-time performers refused to let that happen.
SummerSlam 2002 could have represented a real tipping point for Brock Lesnar; to that point, “The Next Big Thing” had dominated a feud with the Hardy Boyz, won the King of the Ring tournament, and handled himself ably against the likes of Rob Van Dam, but he needed the rub from a true main event star. Following his epic contest with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania X-8, Rock had taken another Hollywood hiatus—arguably his final short-term one—before returning early to cover for the departing Steve Austin and claim the Undisputed title; he had the capability to make Brock a next level star, but would he pass the torch?
People easily recall the brilliant video packages building to the match, focusing on the contrasting training styles of the two competitors, flipping the traditional face-heel dynamic a bit in a sign of things to come with Brock taking on the role of—no pun intended—Rocky from “Rocky IV,” hitting the wilderness for a down home approach; Rock used a slightly more Ivan Drago methodology, utilizing the finest tools. While other matches earlier in the night focused on blood feuds or heavy storylines, Rock/Brock stood out as a straight athletic contest with a major prize on the line, closer to a prize fight than a professional wrestling match.
To the match itself, while Lesnar more than held his own and showed off the natural poise that had him comfortable facing the biggest star in the business on a gigantic stage only a few months into his career, Rock brought his working boots, determined to make his opponent. “The Great One” didn’t roll over like Spike Dudley, but he allowed Brock to toss him around with suplexes and backbreakers and sold truly being in the ring with a monster even his experience and skill couldn’t overcome. Also to Rock’s credit, when the Long Island crowd quickly turned on him in favor of his opponent, he stayed the course, not panicking, allowing the fans to enjoy his suffering without getting vindictive.
Also not to be understated: Paul Heyman’s role in giving Rock a protagonist he could beat on without drawing jeers, allowing the crowd to stabilize somewhat. In the end, all three men—not to mention inspired commentary from a motivated Michael Cole and Tazz, eager to prove they too deserved a main event spot Heyman had to fight for them to get—danced in precision toward a common goal: complete the transaction of selling Brock Lesnar to wrestling fans as the real deal. Everybody held up their end of the bargain and rewatching this match provides a sense of satisfaction in watching skilled professionals execute their craft with brilliance.
11. Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match for the Tag Team Titles: Edge & Christian vs The Dudley Boyz vs The Hardy Boyz — 2000
315 points, ranked by 11 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Brian Bayless at No. 3
Brian Bayless: A match made by then WWF Commissioner Mick Foley to settle the bad blood between all three teams turned out to be one of the craziest, dangerous, and most historic matches in wrestling history. This match elevated all three teams and put them on the map as major players in the WWF. It even spawned a sequel at WrestleMania X-7. These guys did it all from crashing through tables, falling and diving off of ladders, and hitting each other hard with chairs. I doubt that we will ever see a match like this ever again.
Check back tomorrow as we reveal the matches that finished 10-1!