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, the Mastodon battles the Boy Toy!
SummerSlam 1996 – August 18, 1996, Gund Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
If SummerSlam is supposed to be the second biggest show of the year, then I think we can all agree that 1996 was a terrible year for the WWF. The summer spectacular this year was an uneven show and was once again a poor use of the roster.
This show is the best example of how the company was hurt by Bret Hart taking a few months off after losing the title to Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII. While the card had a memorable moment or two, the show suffered by not having the focus that some of the Bret Hart programs have had going into previous years.
And of course, after two years of having the WWF Champion face the King of the Ring winner at SummerSlam, this year, the King of the Ring winner was pushed off to the pre-show to face Yokozuna.
Overall, 1996 was not a great year for SummerSlam.
Best Match: Owen Hart defeated Savio Vega. Hey, if Bret Hart isn’t around to have the best match on the show, at least Owen is around! Of course, this means that the show peaked with the first match… Savio Vega had a surprising number of sharp matches with guys before he became a heel, and this may have been one of his best one-on-one matches. The contest was built around the cast on Owen’s arm and whether he actually needed it (a la “Ace” “Cowboy” Bob “Father of Randy” Orton). And of course, the match ends after Owen hits Savio with the cast, knocks him out and puts him in the Sharpshooter. Great match, great story.
Worst Match: Jerry “The King” Lawler defeated Jake “The Snake” Roberts. And here we have a terrible match with a terrible story. I’m never really comfortable watching the whole “Jake’s a recovering alcoholic, so let’s make him drink” angle, and it’s made MUCH worse by the fact that Roberts really shouldn’t be in a high-profile match at this point. Lawler was also death in anything but matches with Bret Hart. The most notable part of this horrible match was the introduction of Olympian Mark Henry doing commentary.
Monster Mash: Immediately following the Lawler-Roberts crapfest was a new match concept: The Boiler Room Brawl, between Mankind and Undertaker. Two years before these two perfected the spectacle match with the Hell in the Cell, they also perfected putting me to sleep with a ridiculous gimmick match that took place mostly backstage, had almost no commentary and mainly featured both guys throwing things around backstage before wandering to the arena. Paul Bearer turning on Undertaker to try and freshen the character up is one of the few memorable moments of the show, but it’s preceded by a LOT of boring.
Crazy Over: The charisma just oozing off of Sid as he came down to the ring for his match against the British Bulldog was crazy. But for as great as he was connecting with fans, doing the fist bumps and getting them to cheer for him, even 6 minutes in the ring with Bulldog felt like too much.
Lost In Cleveland: I remember watching this live as a 16-year-old and really wanting Vader to beat Michaels and be a dominant WWF Champion in the same way that he seemed like a dominant WCW Champion. The two false finishes leading into the win by Shawn Michaels – after HBK threw an OBVIOUS hissy fit in the ring – really annoyed me. The most frustrating part to me? Vader countered an attempt at a Victory Roll on the outside by POWER BOMBING MICHAELS ON THE FLOOR! It was the same move that turned Mick Foley into a homeless guy wandering around Cleveland (the site of SummerSlam 1996!), and it was just a random counter that was forgotten within minutes. At that point, I knew for certain that Vader was never going to be WWF Champion. And I was sad.
Another Disappointment: I was also weirdly a big fan of Ron Simmons as a kid (maybe because he beat Vader for the WCW Title), so when he finally showed up in the WWF, I was looking forward to him beating Ahmed Johnson for the Intercontinental Title (throw in having Sunny as a manager, and I was all in on the weird gladiator gimmick of Farooq Asad). But that didn’t happen, because Ahmed had a kidney injury and the Intercontinental Title was held up. But it led to a tournament. And everyone loves tournaments, right?
The SummerSlam Top Ten!
No movement in the Top Ten this time around, but some very close calls.
*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 – Ultimate Warrior defeated Honky Tonk Man (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1988)
10 – Ultimate Warrior beat “Macho Man” Randy Savage (c) by countout – WWF Title Match (1992)