Since 1988, SummerSlam has been WWE’s second biggest show of the year. And now, just days removed from SummerSlam 2016, we will take a look at the most recent event to see how the matches rank year-by-year to determine the best SummerSlam matches of all time.
We are back to Brooklyn, as the Beast takes on the Viper!
SummerSlam 2016 – August 21, 2016, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Having been a WWF/E fan for more than 30 years now, I can usually see where WWE is going with their booking philosophy. There are other times when they leave me scratching my head, wondering what they were thinking. A good chunk of SummerSlam involved the latter. The show featured a number of heels going over – a lot of the time for no reason – and a main event that could be considered absolutely bewildering.
Since Brock Lesnar returned back in 2012, a lot of people wondered why WWE never programmed him with Randy Orton, since it’s a relatively fresh match-up. The match was signed for SummerSlam as WWE planned the brand split, and Orton-Lesnar became the show’s “Battle for Brand Supremacy” – and with all the jokes about how Raw was clearly favored over SmackDown during the brand split, Lesnar’s sheer destruction of Randy Orton was a pretty apt metaphor.
But Orton is still one of the faces of the company, a long-standing member of the roster and a gatekeeper to the main event. And Lesnar left him beaten and bloody – VERY bloody – in the middle of the ring, having won by a knockout. It was announced as “Technical Knock Out,” and my boxing knowledge is pretty limited, but that didn’t really sound right.
I have no idea why WWE decided to book the match the way they did, and I certainly have no idea why they thought they should end the second biggest show of the year with an evisceration. If they were going for a non-title match moment to end the show on, John Cena leaving his armband in the middle of the ring after his match may have been a better visual that Orton’s blood and Shane McMahon getting up from an F5. Speaking of Cena…
Best Match: AJ Styles defeated John Cena. No special stipulations. No overbooking. Just two great talents going in the ring and giving it their all. The match is definitely helped by the fact that John Cena laid down “for that three second tan,” as his entrance theme goes. Cena selling his disbelief that he couldn’t put AJ away with his finishers before getting knocked out by a Styles Clash and a Phenomenal Forearm made the moment even better. Another really great match and, right now, I’d call it one of the best SummerSlam matches.
Worst Match: Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss and Natalya defeated Becky Lynch, Naomi and Carmella. The match started with so much potential, with the hilarious announcement that Eva Marie was fighting exhaustion and was off to vacation. And then the Nikki Bella pop happened, which was weird from a semi-dead crowd. I have absolutely no idea what the point was for 1) giving these women 11 minutes on the main show and 2) not just putting them on the preshow instead of, say, Cesaro-Sheamus. The match went too long for who was in the ring and just became a Bella showcase.
More Questionable Booking: Of the first three matches of SummerSlam 2016, where heels went over in force, I’d say the first and third matches should have had different endings. Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens are an entertaining team, but I would have loved to hear the pop when Enzo and Cass beat them in Brooklyn. These guys were left off the card of last year’s NXT Takeover: Brooklyn show (where they arguable should have won the tag team titles) and they miss out on a chance to get a big win at their first SummerSlam. I honestly don’t get it.
And then we have the Intercontinental Title Match between The Miz and Apollo Crews. Crews is still getting his feet wet on the main roster, and he maybe should have stayed down in NXT a bit longer, but they put this guy with a lot of talent and a lot of charisma in the ring with the Miz for the title. In New York City. It would have been great to see them copy the Warrior-Honky Tonk Man moment from SummerSlam 1988. But instead, Miz wins clean in just under 6 minutes. I honestly don’t see Crews having much of a future with the company if they job him out to the Miz – clean – that quickly.
Vicious Fight: While Lesnar-Orton ended the show with a bloody mess, I spent more time cringing at how violent the WWE Women’s Title match between champion Sasha Banks and challenger Charlotte was. The women looked like they were legit trying to break each other down with some of the most vicious moves I’ve ever seen in a WWE women’s match. I would not be surprised to hear either of them ended up with injuries after that. While not as good as some of their previous matches, it was still likely the best SummerSlam women’s match of all time.
Back to Two: SummerSlam 2016 was the start of the second dual World Title era, with neither title really being called a “world title.” SmackDown’s championship has historically always been called the WWE Title, and the new Raw title is the Universal Championship. Which really is kind of dumb.
Dean Ambrose defended his WWE Title against Dolph Ziggler in what was a fairly disappointing match when you consider what both are capable of and the amazing promo Dolph cut on Ambrose during a MizTV segment to promote the match. There wasn’t much energy in the match, the crowd wasn’t into it and it didn’t seem like Ambrose or Ziggler were into it either. The inaugural Universal Title Match between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins seemed to have the same problems, although I think the match was better overall than the WWE Title match.
Celebrity Involvement: Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart returned to SummerSlam and instead of hitting someone with a chair, he almost had his crotch rammed into the ringposts by Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson, as the Club tried to win the tag titles from New Day. I love having celebrities who are also fans come in and be part of the shows, but Stewart really doesn’t need to be getting involved in matches. Big E, who has been suffering from “ringpostitis” ran in for the save, causing the DQ and New Day retains the belts. Why wasn’t Stewart’s involvement a DQ? Well, he didn’t actually touch Gallows or Anderson, they were beating him up, so no reason to disqualify New Day.
The SummerSlam Top Twenty!
Our final installment! Where do your favorite matches rank?
*DISCLAIMER* The Top Twenty is for discussion purposes only and is in no way an official or authoritative list. It is simply my opinion.
1 – Undertaker defeated Edge – Hell in a Cell (2008)
2 – CM Punk (c) defeated John Cena (c) – Undisputed WWE Championship Match (2011)
3 – Shawn Michaels defeated Triple H – Street Fight (2002)
4 – Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) defeated Owen Hart – WWF Title Steel Cage Match (1994)
5 – Brock Lesnar defeated CM Punk – No Disqualification Match (2013)
6 – AJ Styles defeated John Cena – 2016
7 – Shawn Michaels (c) defeated Razor Ramon – Intercontinental Title Ladder Match (1995)
8 – Kurt Angle beat “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (c) by DQ – WWF Title Match (2001)
9 – Bret “Hitman” Hart defeated Mr. Perfect (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1991)
10 – Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena (c) – WWE Championship Match (2013)
11 – Davey Boy Smith defeated Bret “Hitman” Hart (c) – Intercontinental Title Match (1992)
12 – Randy Orton defeated Christian (c) – No Holds Barred World Heavyweight Championship Match (2011)
13 – Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard defeated the Hart Foundation (1989)
14 – Edge and Christian (c) defeated the Hardy Boyz and the Dudley Boyz – TLC Tag Team Title Match (2000)
15 – Randy Orton defeated the Undertaker (2005)
16 – Brock Lesnar defeated The Rock (c) – WWE Title Match (2002)
17 – CM Punk defeated Jeff Hardy (c) – TLC World Heavyweight Championship Match (2009)
18 – The Hart Foundation defeated Demolition (c) – 2-out-of-3 Falls Tag Team Title Match (1990)
19 – Seth Rollins defeated Dean Ambrose – Lumberjack Match (2014)
20 – John Cena (c) defeated Randy Orton – WWE Title Match (2007)