We’re nearing the end of summer of, 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.
But before we jump into those matches that made the cut, let’s see those honorable mentions that received votes, but missed the final list.
86 (tie). D-Generation X vs Legacy — 2009 — 2 points
86 (tie). World Heavyweight Title: CM Punk vs JBL — 2008 — 2 points
85. Women’s Title — Alundra Blayze vs Bull Nakano — 1995 — 4 points
83 (tie). Wade Barrett vs Daniel Bryan — 2011 — 5 points
83 (tie). Flag Match: Rusev vs Jack Swagger — 2014 — 5 points
81 (tie). Triple Threat Match for the WWF Title: Steve Austin vs Mankind vs HHH — 1999 — 6 points
81 (tie). Hair vs Hair Match: X-Pac vs Jeff Jarrett — 1998 — 6 points
80. Bubba Ray, D-Von and Spike Dudley vs Rey Mysterio, Paul London and Billy Kidman — 2004 — 7 points
79. World Heavyweight title: Sheamus vs Alberto Del Rio — 2012 — 8 points
77 (tie). Daniel Bryan vs Kane — 2012 — 9 points
77 (tie). Jailhouse match: Big Boss Man vs The Mountie — 1991 — 9 points
75 (tie). Lion’s Den Match: Ken Shamrock vs Owen Hart — 1998 — 10 points
75 (tie). Intercontinental Title: Shawn Michaels vs Mr. Perfect — 1993 — 10 points
73 (tie). Steel Cage Match for the WWF Title: The Ultimate Warrior vs Rick Rude — 1990 — 11 points
73 (tie). No Holds Barred Match for the World Heavyweight Title: Batista vs JBL — 2005 — 11 points
72. The British Bulldogs vs The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers — 1988 — 13 points
71. Mark Henry vs Sheamus — 2011 — 15 points
70. Edge vs Eddie Guerrero — 2002 — 16 points
69. Rey Mysterio vs Chavo Guerrero — 2006 — 17 points
66 (tie). Rey Mysterio vs Chavo Guerrero — 2007 — 19 points
66 (tie). WWE Title: John Cena vs Edge — 2006 — 19 points
66 (tie). Intercontinental Title: Razor Ramon vs Diesel — 1994 — 19 points
65. Hakushi vs 1-2-3 Kid — 1995 — 20 points
64. Hardcore Title: Steve Blackman vs Shane McMahon — 2000 — 21 points
62 (tie). Randy Orton vs The Undertaker — 2005 — 22 points
62 (tie). Intercontinental Title: The Honky Tonk Man vs The Ultimate Warrior — 1988 — 22 points
61. No Countout, No Disqualification Match — Brock Lesnar vs Triple H — 2012 — 23 points
60. Triple Threat Match for the WWE Title: CM Punk vs John Cena vs Big Show — 2012 — 24 points
58 (tie). Title Unification Match for the WCW Cruiserweight and WWF Light Heavyweight Titles: X-Pac vs Tajiri — 2001 — 26 points
58 (tie). Intercontinental Title: Edge vs Lance Storm — 2001 — 26 points
57. Tag Team Titles: Demolition vs The Hart Foundation — 1988 — 27 points
56. ECW Title: CM Punk vs John Morrison — 2007 — 28 points
55. European Title: D’Lo Brown vs Val Venis — 1998 — 30 points
54. Hulk Hogan vs Earthquake — 1990 — 33 points
53. Chris Jericho vs Dolph Ziggler — 2012 — 34 points
52. Kurt Angle vs Eddie Guerrero — 2004 — 36 points
51. WWF Tag Team Titles — The Steiner Brothers vs The Heavenly Bodies — 1993 — 42 points
50. WCW Title: The Rock vs Booker T — 2001 — 46 points
49. Elimination Chamber Match for the World Heavyweight Title: Triple H vs Shawn Michaels vs Goldberg vs Chris Jericho vs Randy Orton vs Kevin Nash — 2003 — 49 points
48. WWE Title — Randy Orton vs John Cena –2007 — 50 points
47. Million Dollar Title: Virgil vs Ted DiBiase — 1991 — 51 points
46. Triple Threat Match for the WWF Title: The Rock vs Triple H vs Kurt Angle — 2000 — 52 points
45. World Heavyweight Title: Chris Benoit vs Randy Orton — 2004 — 54 points
44. Intercontinental Title: Rob Van Dam vs Chris Benoit — 2002 — 55 points
43. Intercontinental Title: Dolph Ziggler vs Rey Mysterio — 2009 — 59 points
42. 2/3 Falls Match: Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho — 2000 — 60 points
41. WWE Title: John Cena vs Chris Jericho — 2005 — 63 points
With those out of the way, let’s begin the countdown!
40. “I Quit” Match: Ric Flair vs Mick Foley — 2006
67 points, ranked by 5 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Steven Graham at No. 17
Steven Graham: An amazing match on a truly forgettable show. ECW was back and Ric Flair tried to re-invent himself as a hardcore wrestler. This match was the highlight of that and included a wonderful story led by the heel Mick Foley with his friend Melina. If you want to watch two veteran wrestlers show everybody how a vicious hardcore brawl should be, then this is the match for you! A truly bloody classic that doesn’t get nearly enough praise.
39. 14-Man Elimination Tag Team Match: Team WWE (John Cena, Edge, Chris Jericho, Daniel Bryan, Bret Hart, John Morrison and R-Truth) vs The Nexus (Wade Barrett, Skip Sheffield, Justin Gabriel, Michael Tarver, Heath Slater, David Otunga and Darren Young) — 2010
68 points, ranked by 4 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Adam Wilcox at No. 6
Adam Wilcox: In hindsight, the Nexus angle appeared doomed almost immediately, beginning with the firing of Daniel Bryan due to the Justin Roberts tie-choking incident on the night of the group‘s debut. Bryan was reintroduced here as the seventh member of Team WWE and as a stand-alone match, this was a very entertaining and well-worked main event which acted as a showcase for both the future “Yes!” Movement leader as well as Skip Sheffield (the future Ryback). In the end, John Cena overcomes a two-on-one disadvantage against Wade Barrett and Justin Gabriel to tap out the Nexus leader with the STF in an inane booking decision which mystifies me to this day. Unfortunately, Nexus would never fully recover coming out of this event and the group staggered along until finally disbanding the following year.
38. Steel Cage Match: Triple H vs Mankind — 1997
73 points, ranked by 5 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Ben Morse at No. 15
Ben Morse: The resolution to a months-long feud between rising heel Hunter Hearst Helmsley and insurgent crowd favorite Mankind—aka Mick Foley—marked the first use of a steel cage at SummerSlam since the Hart brothers put on a clinic three years earlier, not to mention one of the final uses of the “big blue bars” variation before the WWF made the switch to chain link. And it opened the show to boot!
Foley and HHH have always had tremendous chemistry, and this outing proved no exception. They brilliantly used the cage as a tag team partner, with well-utilized, steel-aided abuse, and solid brawling to fill the gaps and both guys selling like champs. Chyna also played a crucial role, with great interference throughout, capped by slamming the door brutally on Mankind’s skull. The hot finishing sequence came when Foley ascended the cage and opted to drop an elbow in tribute to childhood hero Jimmy Snuka before escaping moments before Chyna could drag her charge out; as icing on the cake, Dude Love’s music revived the fallen Mankind post-match, providing a hot open to a classic SummerSlam.
37. Rick Martel & The Fabulous Rougeaus vs Tito Santana & The Rockers — 1989
74 points, ranked by 7 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Justin Rozzero at No. 15
Justin Rozzero: This match is a superb six-man tag featuring six tremendous athletes. The Rockers and Rougeaus had been battling on the house show circuit and they are set to lock horns while each teaming with a former Strike Force member. After walking out on Tito Santana at WrestleMania, Rick Martel officially cemented his heel turn by picking up Slick as a manger. He also switched up his tights from the classic white to a powder blue. Martel really took the heel role almost immediately, ratcheting up the smarmy arrogance, facial expressions and showboating whenever he had any control in this one. He also was sure to play mind games with Santana, diving out of the ring whenever he crossed paths with his former partner. I thought Martel and the Rougeaus worked really together when on offense, quick tagging constantly while really laying it into Tito. Also, Tito is awesome at building heat on himself with his selling and timing and that is all on display here. The finish was great too with some heel trickery and stiff Martel clothesline giving the French Canadians the win. That match was a non stop sprint and I really was not ready for it to end but it was perfectly worked across the board. The crowd loved it and stayed hot for it, everyone worked hard and we even got a little dose of revenge by Santana before Martel got to look strong in grabbed victory for his team. This is a great hidden gem that should be sought out if you haven’t seen it before.
36. 2/3 Falls Match for the WWF Tag Team Titles: Demolition vs The Hart Foundation — 1990
84 points, ranked by 9 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Jason Greenhouse at No. 12
Jason Greenhouse: Fall one starts out with Bret and Smash. Following a quick Harts double-team on Smash, we go back to Bret and Smash. A great arm drag by the Hitman followed by a couple of quick tags by the Harts. Smash makes the tag to Crush and shows off his power display while Bret bumps nicely in the ring. Both teams make tags as Neidhart and Crush take over in the ring. The Anvil tags Bret back in and and he is able to take advantage of a Demolition double-team. The Anvil gets knocked to the outside by Crush as the two power men brawl on the floor. Bret goes for a cover on Smash in the ring, but Crush breaks the pin up. Crush had gotten the best of their brawl on the floor and was still on the outside as Demolition is able to double-team the Hitman in the ring and hit the Demolition Decapitation on Bret to pick up the win in the first fall.
Fall two starts with Bret and Crush as the Anvil came to check on his partner, but the ref made him go back into his corner. Some quick Demolition tags are next while Vince puts over the power of Crush. Bret is able to hit a clotheline on Smash and makes the hot tag to Neidhart. We get a double-team by the Harts as the Hitman swings the Anvil into Smash who is in the corner. Bret knocks Crush to the floor and the Hart’s hit the Hart Attack on Smash. A slow count by the ref allows Crush to come back in the ring and break up the pin by jumping on referee Earl Hebner. Crush picks Hebner up followed by Earl calling for the bell. Demolition was DQ’d, which would tie the match up at one fall a piece.
Before we start the third fall, Crush knocks Bret to the outside. While Crush and Smash have the referee in the corner with his back towards the aisle, Ax makes his way down the aisle and hides under the ring. Bret makes his way back in with a sunset flip over the ropes onto Smash. A quick Hart’s double team which includes the Anvil power slamming Bret off the ropes onto Smash. Smash rolls to the outside and switches with Ax. the third member of Demolition is in the ring and begins pounding on the Hitman. Ax goes for a series of two counts on Bret, followed by throwing Bret head first into the turnbuckle. Some great selling by the Hitman here. Ax makes the tag to Crush, followed by a two count broken up by the Anvil. Ax drags Bret to the outside as Crush and the Anvil brawl in the ring until the ref makes Neidhart go back to his teams corner. Smash comes back up from under the ring as the ref is tide up with Neidhart. Ax and Smash double-team the Hitman on the outside. Seconds later, the Spectrum crowd erupts as the Legion of Doom, Animal and Hawk make their way to ringside. The two had made the WWF debut a few week’s prior to this show, making this their first WWF PPV appearance. As they make their way to ringside, they drag Ax out from under the ring who had gone back under after he and Smash double teamed the Hitman. Crush is on the ropes about to hit the Demolition Decapitation on the Anvil, but Hawk jumps on the apron to distract Crush. LOD start making their way back up the aisle as Smash has some words with them. On the other end of the ring, the Anvil hits a sling shot clothesline over the ropes onto Crush, followed by a quick roll up by the Hitman to get the three count on Crush. The Spectrum crowd explodes as the Hart Foundation take the third fall to once again become WWF Tag Team Champions. All three members of Demolition are in disbelief as the Hitman and Anvil celebrate in the ring.
A fantastic 14:24 by two of the elite tag teams from the late 80s and early 90s. Some great heel work by Demolition along with some great selling by the Hitman and the WWF PPV debut of the Road Warriors. Vince and Piper were great on commentary and the Philly Spectrum crowd were into this one big time.
35. The Mega Powers vs The Mega Bucks — 1988
85 points, ranked by 8 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Ben Morse at No. 17
Tim Capel: You know what I miss? Good ol’ fashioned main event tag team matches. And here we have not exactly the first, but certainly the Federation Era template that would be looked to for several subsequent years. It’s really the perfect fallback during any period where a promotion finds itself in a holding pattern: you don’t upset the apple cart, but still provide the audience with a scorching hot match that fits within the context of the long term storyline you’ve committed to telling. Admittedly, that means low stakes, but who needs ’em when you’ve got characters so incredibly over? DiBiase brings his working boots and does the heavy lifting for the Mega Bucks side of the equation. Meanwhile, Andre is kept in the main event mix as a bankable commodity, albeit protected by the tag format. Hogan and Savage are, of course, on another level and completely untouchable at this point – the definition of striking while the iron is hot.
Then there’s the intrigue surrounding Jesse Ventura’s officiating (Heenan and DiBiase’s smirks, giving way to maniacal laughter, after he’s announced as the referee is one of those all-time great shit-eating moments.) Liz and the breakaway dress in an iconic moment. Truly, everyone is well-served by the booking and plays his or her part to perfection.
Massive exhibition showcase for the budding Mega Powers against worthy adversaries, which will, in retrospect, add fuel to their inevitable, fiery explosion. Sometimes, you can dispense with the belts and outsized gimmicks. Sometimes all you need is an engrossing angle paired with the right talent. This contest, a fitting main event for the inaugural late summer tradition, is a lesson in how that magic is made.
33 (tie). Intercontinental Title: Steve Austin vs Owen Hart — 1997
92 points, ranked by 6 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Justin Rozzero at No. 17
Aaron George: Once you get past the fact that Owen broke his fucking neck you start to realize that these two were indeed having a fantastic match before the…incident. Was the roll up ending terrible? Of course it was! The guy had a damn broken neck so get off your high horse and give the match the six stars that it deserves. I’m curious how we’d look at the entire card if we hadn’t all been traumatized by our new found hero nearly losing his life? If you can separate the match from its unfortunate conclusion I think you’ll find a new respect for what these two put together and will spend the rest of your days longing for what could have been. Imagine a Steve Austin that could still go far into the 2000’s. When Michael Cole in 2003 states that Austin has “another great SummerSlam memory,” he’s clearly not talking about this match. Cole must have been talking about the great memory of next year’s concussion… Or maybe the year he bled all over Kurt Angle. Wait what WAS he talking about?
33 (tie). WWF Title: Shawn Michaels vs Vader — 1996
92 points, ranked by 8 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Brian Bayless at No. 20
Brian Bayless: Billed as his toughest challenge since defeating Bret Hart at WrestleMania XII for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, Shawn Michaels, with full support from the crowd, was able to defeat Vader and retain his title. Vader had won the match by countout and by disqualification but his manager, Jim Cornette, ordered for the match to be restarted each time as they wanted to win the title. The match itself saw Michaels fly around and use his speed against Vader, who used his strength and size to his advantage. Each guy kicked out of their opponent’s finisher and the crowd bought all of their nearfalls as this match certainly delivered as the main event of the show.
32. WWE Title: Brock Lesnar vs Kurt Angle — 2003
97 points, ranked by 5 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Brian Bayless at No. 10
Greg Phillips: Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar are perhaps the two greatest legitimate athletes to ever work for WWE. The two amateur wrestling greats had a memorable, all-too-brief rivalry throughout 2003, engaging in several bona fide classics, with the two trading wins and roles as babyface and heel.
While this championship encounter isn’t one of the best matches in the rivalry, it speaks to their greatness, because it’s still pretty darn good. Lesnar, who had never really seemed comfortable playing the good guy, had just turned heel a few weeks prior, aligning himself with the evil chairman, Mr. McMahon. If the fans were at all confused who to cheer for, that confusion was gone by the end of this one, as McMahon made his presence known here, trying in vain to help Brock conquer our Olympic hero. The wrestling was strong, the suplexes were crisp and Lesnar adapted quickly to playing the heel again, showing off his unmatched bumping for a guy his size. A few lulls and an overly extended finishing sequence hurt this one, but it still showed that these two were in a league of their own athletically, and the finish provided a memorable chant that has followed heels for years – “You tapped out!”
31. Greenwich Street Fight: Shane McMahon vs Test — 1999
107 points, ranked by 8 out of 12 voters; highest ranked by Ben Morse at No. 18
Marc Clair: There was really no reason to be excited about this match in 1999 on paper. One one side we had Shane McMahon – owner’s son and non-wrestler wrestler – and on the other we have Test – generic, uncharismatic, body builder type. The match was built around a semi-interesting story line which saw the freshly face turned Test seeking the love of Shane-O Mac’s younger sister Stephanie. Like any good protective older brother, Shane expressed his disapproval of the relationship, and brought in three of his goon buddies in the Mean Street Posse as his backup to threaten test, culminating in this “Love Her or Leave Her” Greenwhich Street Fight. To say this match over delivered on expectations is like saying Hulk Hogan is just a *little* racist. These two went out and delivered an entertaining, hate-filled brawl brawl that had the crowd hot the whole way. Adding in the Mean Street Posse at ringside and interfering throughout added some hilarious moments – such as Test tossing Shane onto the couch with them as it slowly tips backwards onto the arena floor – and helped make it at least somewhat believable that Shane could hang in there with Test. Shane shocked everyone by displaying what would become one of his trademark high-risk maneuevers, delivering a huge flying elbow drop off the top rope through the Spanish announce table. In the end, Test was able to overcome the odds, and finished off Shane with a flying elbow drop of his own, and reclaiming the love of Stephanie McMahon for all eternity (or about 4 months, as it turned out…)
Check back tomorrow as we reveal the matches that finished 30-21!