Since 1988, SummerSlam has been WWE’s second biggest show of the year. As we count down the days to the 2016 edition, the Top Ten will rank the annual event’s matches year-by-year to determine the best SummerSlam matches of all time.
This time around, we return to SummerSlam’s first home to get on the Highway to Hell!
SummerSlam 1998 – August 30, 1998, Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY
I’m not going to lie, while watching this show, I felt absolutely no connection to what was happening. I was about a year removed from my first pro wrestling break, brought on by not having a TV at college. I followed along week-to-week online while I was at school, but the summer after my freshman year was a real departure from any connection to wrestling. I know I’ve watched this show before, but it was never with a very careful eye, so much of this was really new to me.
Honestly, I didn’t really care for it overall.
I know that the Attitude Era was the most popular time in all of wrestling and the rise of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a great boon for the company. But, almost 20 years later, I don’t think any of it really resonates, at least not with me. There are highlights, of course, and a few matches will stand the test of time, but as a whole, I wasn’t impressed with the show.
Best Match: Triple H defeated The Rock (c) – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match. The feud between DeGeneration X and The Rock-led Nation is one of the few real high spots of 1998 and really proved Rock and Triple H were going places in this business. After years of a much beefier Triple H, though, in his purple tights here I kept thinking it was a ladder match between The Rock and Edge, and now I really wish that match happened. Regardless, it was a great match that showcased the guys who would be taking over in the next few years.
Worst Match: The Oddities defeated Kai En Tai – Handicap match. Other than John Tenta in a gold mask and a Cartman T-shirt dancing around like an idiot, there is nothing about the Oddities I find redeeming in any way. And while Kai En Tai should be able to go, they were nothing but a comedy act. This handicap match was a waste of 10 minutes.
Everything’s Connected: There are a lot of threads throughout this show that weave everything together in a way that only Vince Russo could do. The Main Event was between Steve Austin and The Undertaker. The Undertaker’s brother, Kane, attacked his partner, Mankind, after Mankind lost the tag team titles to the New Age Outlaws, who were part of DeGeneration X. DX member X-Pac took on Jeff Jarrett while DX’s leader, Triple H, was fighting the Rock, who was head of the Nation. Nation member D-Lo Brown defended the European title against Val Venis while fellow Nation member Owen Hart took on Ken Shamrock in a Lion’s Den match. That’s six of the eight matches on the show that can all be woven together. You never see that any more.
Worked MMA Is Not OK: The Lion’s Den match between Owen Hart and Ken Shamrock was obviously supposed to evoke the Octogon and Shamrock’s MMA background, especially with Dan “The Beast” Severn in Hart’s corner. But the match was clearly just a regular wrestling match put in what a Wikipedia writer called “pseudo-circular polygon cage.” Even with the cross-promotion between WWE and the UFC after the recent Brock Lesnar fight, it’s still weird to see a WWF pay-per-view try and copy an MMA fighting format. The nine-minute match was really nothing special, though, with Shamrock getting the win with an ankle lock and Severn walking away in disgust.
What A Mess: I can’t think of a mixed tag team match in the WWF that didn’t feel like a cluster, and the one featured at SummerSlam 1998 was no different, especially since the feud was between Sable and Marc Mero, and Jacqueline and especially Edge were complete afterthoughts. This match was probably better than most, though, given the people involved. Edge was Sable’s surprise partner to battle Mero, so it was his first real shot in the spotlight before joining up with Christian and Gangrel. Mero, however, who had a very disappointing WWF career, was not long for the company.
That Main Event Style: I may have chosen the Intercontinental Title Ladder Match as the best match of the show, but the WWF Title match between Austin and the Undertaker was definitely an enjoyable brawl that continued the WWF’s move away from a style used by Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart. Sure, it was accommodating Austin’s broken neck – suffered at last year’s show – but the main event followed a structure that WWE continues to use to this day. I wasn’t really a fan of the continued Austin-Kane-Undertaker shenanigans, but it led to some great things with The Rock and Mankind, so I guess it was worth it.
The SummerSlam Top Ten!
No changes to the Top Ten this time around. Maybe we’ll expand to the Top 20 sometime soon.
*DISCLAIMER* The Top Ten is for discussion purposes only and is in no way an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion.
1 – Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) defeated Owen Hart – WWF Title Steel Cage Match (1994)
2 – Shawn Michaels (c) defeated Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (1995)
3 – Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Mr. Perfect (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1991)
4 – Davey Boy Smith defeated Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1992)
5 – Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeated the Hart Foundation (1989)
6 – The Hart Foundation defeated Demolition (c) – 2-out-of-3 Falls Tag Team Title Match (1990)
7 – Ultimate Warrior defeated “Ravishing” Rick Rude (c) – Intercontinental Title Match(1989)
8 – “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan defeated Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant (1988)
9 – Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Undertaker (c) – WWF Title Match (1997)
10 – Ultimate Warrior defeated Honky Tonk Man (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1988)