As part of an ongoing series on the Place to Be podcast, Scott Criscuolo and Justin Rozzero have been reviewing pay-per-view cards from the WWF/WWE month-by-month and putting together their all-time shows, plucking one match from each year. It’s made for some awesome shows and riveting discussion.
But have you been listening and found yourself now and again yelling “That’s not how I would have done it!” and becoming that weirdo on the train or in your office in the process? Well, I certainly have, and I’ve decided to do something about it.
Every time Scott and Justin build their all-time cards, I will do the same, offering my commentary on the PiCs’ selections.
-One match must be selected from each year
-No competitor can be used more than once unless they undergo a drastic gimmick/persona change
-The WWF/WWE, World, Intercontinental and WWF/WWE Tag Team titles must all be defended
With that out of the way, let’s get to it…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Jake Roberts vs. Hercules
Ben’s Pick: Hulk Hogan & Randy Savage vs. Andre the Giant & Ted DiBiase
Ben’s Take: In the same way—but to a far lesser degree—that I felt I needed Hogan/Andre on my all-time WrestleMania card for its iconic value, this match to me embodies SummerSlam to some extent. By 1988, the WWF already had Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble on the books, but this became the second biggest show of the year ahead of those by virtue of its first main event and the star power involved. For my money, none of the four guys involved, all true stalwarts of pro wrestling lore, have anything to top this—with a couple notable close calls that I’ll get to—plus it’s an opportunity to incorporate Jesse Ventura’s great special referee turn and Elizabeth’s eye-catching moment to set up the finish. This serves as the foundation around which the rest of my card will be built.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Jim Duggan & Demolition vs. Andre the Giant & The Twin Towers
Ben’s Pick: Dusty Rhodes vs. The Honky Tonk Man
Ben’s Take: Andre’s off the table for me by virtue of my first choice, meaning I can’t go the route Scott and Justin did, and 1989’s main event would also be unavailable due to both Mega Powers. Dusty Rhodes making his WWF pay-per-view debut stands out as a nice minor historical moment, and Honky’s a great character who had a key role in the first SummerSlam but I didn’t want to burn my Intercontinental title match there. Speaking of the IC title, I sniffed around Warrior/Rude a bit here, but decided against it, which I’m not 100% sold on because I lose not just the match but both of them as well.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake
Ben’s Pick: The Warlord vs. Tito Santana
Ben’s Take: Going up and down a fairly weak 1990 card and not having Hogan at my disposal, I settled on an inoffensive Warlord squash where Tito gets to bump around like a pinball.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Million Dollar Champion Ted DiBiase vs. Virgil
Ben’s Pick: The Big Boss Man vs. The Mountie in a Jailhouse match
Ben’s Take: If anything made me question my 1988 choice, it would actually be this, as that Virgil win ranks as one of the best feel good moments the WWF ever pulled off and the culmination to a four-year storyline to boot. Ultimately, weighing Mega Powers/Mega Bucks against the Million Dollar title match came closer than I would have initially thought, but I went with the big ticket item over the value buy. Boss Man/Mountie makes a nice consolation as it had a ton of crowd heat with Jacques Rougeau probably as over as he’d ever get and the hilarious post-match shenanigans as well.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog
Ben’s Pick: Intercontinental Champion Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog
Ben’s Take: SummerSlam has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the Intercontinental title: Warrior’s big win over Honky Tonk Man in 1988, Warrior/Rude from 1989, Bret/Perfect from 1991, HBK and Razor Ramon’s Ladder rematch in 1995, the Rock/HHH Ladder match in 1998, and of course the Texas Tornado victory in 1990 that cemented me becoming a wrestling fan. But, at the end of the day, the IC title only closed one SummerSlam in front of a record outdoor crowd at Wembley Stadium, so that gets the nod. Incidentally, Randy Savage’s WWF title match with the Warrior here got minor consideration from me, but I had other plans for the belt and thus does the Ultimate one become my perpetual SummerSlam bridesmaid.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers
Ben’s Pick: Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns vs. Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers
Ben’s Take: The mid-90’s SummerSlams start becoming interesting because you don’t have exceptional title matches and want to avoid burning those, so you have to take a lot of mid and lower card matches. This one won’t make or break anything, but it’s got some solid New Generation performers who deserve a spot so it works.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano
Ben’s Pick: Women’s Champion Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano
Ben’s Take: Like Scott and Justin, I consider this a nice little treat as it’s a nice gem that helps avoid some crappy matches, but also such a different and entertaining women’s wrestling match; definitely not a case of needing to go to the Divas because you’re out of options, instead it may be the second best thing on this card. I enjoy the Bret/Owen match, but not more than Bret/Bulldog and not enough to use my WWF title match.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi
Ben’s Pick: The 1-2-3 Kid vs. Hakushi
Ben’s Take: Another welcome sight during the mid-90’s doldrums with two extremely talented performers working a style rarely seen in America at the time making for a standout match.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Owen Hart vs. Savio Vega
Ben’s Pick: Owen Hart vs. Savio Vega
Ben’s Take: Going into SummerSlam 1996, I remember the announcers pimping this as a potential show stealer—which kind of undercuts the idea of a “show stealer,” but I digress—and it lived up; a good match to stick in the middle of the card, and I also like being able to get Owen on there.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns
Ben’s Pick: The Legion of Doom vs. The Godwinns
Ben’s Take: Looking up and down the 1997 card, I remember it fondly—and have watched it a lot—and there’s a lot of good matches and hot angles, but involving titles or guys who have yet to reach their full peak. Between this and, say, Goldust against Brian Pillman, I’ll go with LOD stiffing the crap out of the Godwinns in probably their last standout match.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: European Champion D’Lo Brown vs. Val Venis
Ben’s Pick: WWF Champion Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker
Ben’s Take: There’s no shortage of great WWF/WWE title matches when it comes to SummerSlam; Savage/Warrior from 1992, Bret/Owen from 1994, Austin/Angel from 2001, Rock/Lesnar from 2002 and even Cena/Punk from 2011 crossed my mind as potential picks. For pure work rate, I don’t think you can beat Austin and Angle—screwy ending or not—but I knew I could get the in-ring stuff elsewhere on this card. Few matches scream marquee quite like Austin and Undertaker from 1998; with one of the best builds of any Attitude Era feud, actually spanning several months, it really legitimized “Stone Cold” in his early days as champ. With two of the biggest stars in WWF/E history, this one feels special, and matches up nicely with Mega Powers/Mega Bucks as another lynchpin from the next boom period.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Shane McMahon vs. Test in a Love Her or Leave Her match
Ben’s Pick: Shane McMahon vs. Test in a Love Her or Leave Her match
Ben’s Take: Such an unexpectedly great match from two guys I have no desire to use elsewhere, this one fits nicely. Shane had actually proven himself at WrestleMania XV, but Test got to show he could hang here.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWF Tag Team Champions Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz in a TLC match
Ben’s Pick: WWF Tag Team Champions Edge & Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz in a TLC match
Ben’s Take: I picked this as the best tag team match in SummerSlam history in the most recent Five Count, so no question I wanted to do what I could to get it. It caused me a few headaches about a decade down the line, but none big enough to want to go back and restructure.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: WWF Champion Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle
Ben’s Pick: WCW Champion Booker T vs. The Rock
Ben’s Take: It pains me still to not go with Austin/Angle, and I understand the rationale that Justin and Scott used to pick it, but I’m sticking with the 1998 title match as being more important to the overall card. With that decided, looking up and down where I saw myself headed, I didn’t have the Rock anywhere else, so it made sense to get him in the mix somehow with a decent match against another key player in Booker T that has the WCW title defended on WWF pay-per-view for a little curiosity factor.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H in a Street Fight
Ben’s Pick: Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H in a Street Fight
Ben’s Take: Like Scott, I’ve got this high on my all-time favorite SummerSlam matches list if not at the very top. So much fun to watch, and as a Shawn Michaels fan, a really important match to me that I think also has a huge place in WWE history; got to have this one.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: The Undertaker vs. A-Train
Ben’s Pick: Kane vs. Rob Van Dam in a No Holds Barred match
Ben’s Take: For a lot of the next few, it became about getting key players on the card and loading up on star power. 2003’s a pretty lousy year for SummerSlam, so I couldn’t gain much, but Kane and RVD provide me with two bonafide main eventers and with the No Holds Barred stip you at least get a garbage brawl if nothing else. I had the added benefit of already having Undertaker slotted in via 1998, so I didn’t need to find a place for him.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: World Champion Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton
Ben’s Pick: Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero
Ben’s Take: For a good while prepping my card I had the Kurt Angle/Rey Mysterio opener from 2002 penciled in to take, totally forgetting it came the same year as HBK/HHH because of the crazy quality of that card. Having also stiffed Kurt in 2001 by not using his WWE title match with Austin, I became pretty committed to finding something for him, because to pass up two classics and then discard the common element would suck; fortunately we’ve got this sucker which doesn’t quite live up to the ones I turned down, but does have the added benefit of adding another hall of famer with Eddie Guerrero.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio in a Ladder match
Ben’s Pick: U.S. Champion Orlando Jordan vs. Chris Benoit
Ben’s Take: I let this one slide for quite a bit and found myself constricted by having used many of the key players or titles in other places. I don’t consider much from 2005’s SummerSlam to be a standout classic—Eddie/Rey included—so I’m fine with having Chris Benoit tap Orlando Jordan out in five seconds and getting the U.S. title as a kicker.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley in an I Quit match
Ben’s Pick: Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley in an I Quit match
Ben’s Take: An obvious pick with two hall of famers going at it in a brutal match with a stipulation that can be tough to pull off but that they made work. In an early version of my card before settling on Austin/Undertaker from 1998, I considered the Boiler Room Brawl from 1996, but this makes for a better combo.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Kane vs. Finlay
Ben’s Pick: Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero
Ben’s Take: As with Kurt Angle, I couldn’t leave Rey Mysterio out in the cold after passing on two pretty good matches with him in them. This one falls on the lower end of the Rey/Chavo spectrum due to Mysterio having to shake off a year’s worth of ring rust, but even their bad stuff eclipses a lot of other decent matches.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: John Cena vs. Batista
Ben’s Pick: John Cena vs. Batista
Ben’s Take: Love seeing this here: two huge names in their historic first meeting with—amazingly—no titles on the line, so it’s a free and clear pick. I’ve got a bunch of main event caliber cornerstones already, this looks nice as a mid-show mega attraction. Only other thing I’d consider from 2008 would be the great Undertaker/Edge Hell in a Cell, but I’d much rather have the combo of Austin/Taker from 1998 and TLC from 2000.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: MVP vs. Jack Swagger
Ben’s Pick: MVP vs. Jack Swagger
Ben’s Take: Necessity pick with other dance cards all punched out. I really found myself tempted to try and blow everything up for the great CM Punk/Jeff Hardy TLC, especially since I have no World title match and limited years left, but Punk has way bigger things a couple spots down the line.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Divas Champion Alicia Fox vs. Melina
Ben’s Pick: Divas Champion Alicia Fox vs. Melina
Ben’s Take: Maybe the worst SummerSlam ever, and a pain to find a match from as well. Can’t use the main event because it’s littered with guys I have elsewhere. Can’t use the Mysterio/Kane World title match, because I already used Rey; I wish Orton/Sheamus had that belt on the line, because it would fit beautifully, but it had the WWE title. So Cameron’s all-time favorite we take…
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett
Ben’s Pick: Daniel Bryan vs. Wade Barrett
Ben’s Take: To a much smaller degree than Cena/Batista, but again, awesome to have this since it’s two more guys I want in there and no title to bog it down. These guys have nice chemistry and history, and Bryan had really started to hit his WWE comfort zone at this point.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler
Ben’s Pick: World Champion Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio
Ben’s Take: I’d rather have Jericho/Ziggler—Jericho may be my biggest regret for not finding a place for anywhere—but I need a World title match and can’t use 2013’s because it involves Christian, who I’ve got in TLC. Sheamus and Del Rio generally have good matches, but it’s a little bland for my liking; not awful, but I wish I could have found another way.
Scott & Justin’s Pick: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk in a No Disqualification match
Ben’s Pick: Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk in a No Disqualification match
Ben’s Take: Finishing things off with a huge bang with one of SummerSlam’s best matches and another era-defining main event. This one’s fresh enough that I don’t need to rifle off the superlatives, but putting this in the mix with Mega Powers/Mega Bucks, Austin/Undertaker, HHH/HBK and Cena/Batista puts a pretty amazing quintet of iconic contests on top.
Ben: This may be my favorite all-time card I’ve put together thus far. Besides the five iconic main events I just listed that I can pepper throughout the show, I’ve got the original TLC and Bret/Bulldog on my friggin’ undercard, plus work rate with Angle/Guerrero, hardcore with Flair/Foley and pretty much anything else I could want. Regrets? Not finding a way to fit in Ultimate Warrior or Chris Jericho (I don’t really miss Randy Orton) and not working out a way to use a more exciting World title match. Justin and Scott’s card doesn’t differ from mine too much, but in the crucial places it does—Mega Power/Mega Bucks and Austin/Taker over Austin/Angle and those 1988 main eventers sprinkled throughout—I stand by my choices.