Top 10: The All-Time Greatest SummerSlam Matches

WE SummerSlam 2015 will be underway in just a few hours, and the WWE marketing machine is in full effect. Brock Lesnar has made rounds at ESPN and John...
Edge vs. Undertaker
WWE SummerSlam 2015 will be underway in just a few hours, and the WWE marketing machine is in full effect. Brock Lesnar has made rounds at ESPN and John Stewart has been tapped to host the show. For a show that celebrates its 28th installment tonight in Brooklyn, N.Y., SummerSlam trails only WrestleMania in terms of overall magnitude, causing Superstars and Divas of every era to step up their game.

With that said, here is our Top 10 list of the greatest SummerSlam matches of all time.

10. Chris Benoit vs Randy Orton (2004)

While for some it can be easy to forget, Chris Benoit was the man back in WWE circa 2004. At this time he was, four months removed from a career-defining moment and was carrying the WWE World Heavyweight Championship with pride. He was also a breath of fresh air in the midst of Triple H’s reign of terror over the Raw brand between 2002 and 2005.

What Benoit lacked in charisma, he more than made up for with his work in the ring. He was a throwback to the old school territory champion who needed to be able to make his challengers look just as viable as he was. As a result, there appeared to be no better challenger to Benoit than Randy Orton at the second biggest show of the year.

WWE was taking a big risk rolling with Benoit vs Orton as the SummerSlam main event. While a good champion, Benoit was no mega star and while Orton had oozed potential, he was still largely unproven and had yet to main event a pay-per-view. But the match delivered. Orton showed surprising resilience to Benoit’s attacked, surviving the Sharpshooter, Crippler Crossface, and a series of German Suplexes to eventually sink Benoit with an RKO out of nowhere to win the company’s crown for the first time in his career.

9. Edge and Christian vs The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz (2000)

A showcase of some of wrestling’s future stars, this match brought innovation unlike anything seen before—it was the first Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match in WWE history. While Michael Hayes was later criticized for pushing for the inclusion of such a dangerous spectacle, none of the participants in this match would be anything near what they are today.

Interestingly enough, the gimmicks of each tag team played a role in the creation of the match. Edge and Christian were very fond of a good “Con-Chair-To. ”The Dudley Boyz had been getting the tables for years up to that point, and at the same time, the Hardy Boyz excelled in the air and really knew how to get the most out of a ladder. The result was a high-octane match that constantly left the fans thinking how the competitors were going to top their last move. One moment in particular saw Jeff Hardy attempt to hit Bubba Ray Dudley with the Swanton Bomb through a table, only for Dudley to move, sending Hardy through the table himself.

Edge and Christian would end of retrieving the WWF Tag Team Championship, but the stage was set for a WrestleMania X-Seven TLC match that cemented each team’s legacy.

8. Bret Hart vs Mr. Perfect (1991)

If the previous match on our list was the epitome of controlled chaos, the WWF Intercontinental Championship match between Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam ’91 might as well be the exact opposite.

Fans tuned in knowing that a technical tussle between two wrestlers with the ego and skill of both Hart and Perfect had all the makings of a match of the night candidate. But no one knew how historically significant the match would be.

The match was seen a classic duel between the savvy veteran and the rising star, which ultimately helped the two tell a brilliant story inside the ring. In addition, every move was so crisp and well executed that the Madison Square Garden crowd had no choice but to become emotionally invested. While Perfect dominated the early portion of the match, Hart’s kick out of the Perfect-plex provided him with a second wind that even energized the crowd. In great wrestling fashion, Hart was able to feed off the crowd and finish off Perfect to win the the IC strap.

7. Eddie Guerrero vs Rey Mysterio (2005)

Eddie Guerrero, who was stewing on a series of losses to his former tag team partner, made things personal when he revealed that Rey Mysterio’s son, Dominic, was actually his son. While part of a storyline, it brought about the first interaction WWE fans would have with Vickie Guerrero, who would later become a General Manager that we all loved to hate.

The match wasn’t the wrestling clinic that the duo put on at WCW Halloween Havoc 1998, but it was a total package that successfully told the story of a mildly-believable conflict playing out in the ring with a resolution to the liking of the fans. Sure enough, Mysterio got the better of Guerrero one more time.

When you take the athleticism and intensity of both men, combine it with the innovation that comes with the territory of a Ladder match, it’s a patented recipe for success.

6. Brock Lesnar vs The Rock (2002)

Brock Lesnar is getting ready to main event in one of the biggest SummerSlam shows of recent memory. But perhaps the biggest reason why Lesnar is in the position he is today is because of the rub he received courtesy of The Rock at SummerSlam ’02—one of the most complete WWE pay-per-views of all time.

As great as the undercard was, it was an event that will be always remembered for the breakout of Lesnar.

The match succeeded because both men played to their strengths while covering their weaknesses. Paul Heyman’s involvement certainly didn’t hurt matters either. Ever the agitator, Heyman found himself on the receiving end of a Rock Bottom through a table, though his sacrifice would not be done in vain, as Lesnar came away from the match not only with his first Undisputed WWE Championship, but also the respect of the fans.

5. Bret Hart vs Owen Hart (1994)

Who doesn’t love an intrafamily conflict? Not too many.

Who doesn’t love an intrafamily conflict between two technical wrestlers from the same family? Probably even fewer.

Who doesn’t love an intrafamily conflict between two technical wrestlers from the same family inside a steel cage?


That’s exactly what the fans got in 1994. Bret and Owen Hart, as expected, delivered on another instant classic. But unlike the match the two brothers had at WrestleMania X, this match had the stronger build. After all, it was Owen who upset brother Bret at ‘Mania X, who later that night would go on to defeat the almighty Yokozuna to win the WWF Championship.

People consider this match to be one of the greatest Steel Cage bouts of all time. Give it a view on the WWE Network and see for yourself.

4.) Shawn Michaels vs Razor Ramon (1995)

Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon put on a show for the fans in Pittsburgh in the company’s second Ladder match ever. In spite of a lackluster build on television, Michaels and Ramon used the opportunity to show why they two of professional wrestling’s elite workers in 1995.

The two Kliq members had already set the bar at Wrestlemania X in an identical match, but at SummerSlam ’95, the two had the opportunity to really showcase what ladders could be capable of in a wrestling ring. As opposed to their ‘Mania classic, this time around saw both competitors up the intensity and bring something new to the table.

One moment in the match saw Michaels dive off the top of a ladder just as he did at WrestleMania, only this time, Ramon was able to get out of the way. Michaels would later rebound with the first-ever Moonsault off a ladder, which ultimately won him the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

The match also saw the ladder used as a weapon and as a platform for both competitors to battle each other on, while they desperately vied for the prize above. Without the Michaels-Ramon ladder matches, it’s hard to say if the gimmick would have taken off the way it has today.

3. The Undertaker vs Edge (2008)

Edge might be one of the greatest heels of the 21st century and the Undertaker is–well–the Undertaker. Is there anything more to add? Both men are two of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots.

The SummerSlam war between the two legends represented the culmination of the feud. Edge thought he had ridden himself of the Undertaker after “banishing” him due to a stipulation tied to their TLC match just months prior. After discovering that her husband Edge had cheated on her with Alicia Fox of all people, an irate Vickie Guerrero reinstated the Undertaker to put Edge out of commision once and for all.

This time, inside Hell in a Cell.

Sure, cages, cells, and chambers have been used as unforgiving walls and cheese graters for as long as the respective enclosures’ inception. But this match was different in that the cell could not contain the action. Edge speared the Deadman straight through the structure. But from there, the Undertaker demolished Edge with a series of violent finishing maneuvers, including a couple from Edge’s repertoire. Undertaker was far from satisfied, however, chokeslamming the Rated-R Superstar through the ring after the match as the ring went up in flames.

2. British Bulldog vs Bret Hart (1992)

British Bulldog vs Bret Hart at Wembley Stadium in 1992 worked for a number of different reasons, perhaps mainly because of the match taking place in the Bulldog’s backyard. 80,355 British fans showed up to support their national hero as he took on brother-in-law Hart for the coveted WWF Intercontinental Championship. That number is good for the all-time SummerSlam attendance record in the event’s 28-year history.

Adding intrigue to the match was the clash of styles. While Bret Hart was living up to his moniker as the “Excellence of Execution,” the Bulldog utilized a power-based style that was really getting over with the fans at the time, although both men were technically fan favorites which probably added more intrigue to the match. Laced in the middle of all of these elements was the Bulldog’s demons, which, according to Hart, caused him to forget all of the spots the two had set up prior to the match. Hart was left with no choice but to carry his brother-in-law through the entire 25-minute affair, which I guess only adds to Hart’s standing as one of the greatest in-ring talents the business has ever seen.

In the end, the Bulldog caught Hart for the three count to become the champ for the first time. Given the raucous reaction, I have no doubt that Mr. McMahon and friends thought they really had something in the Bulldog. Unfortunately, things never panned out for him. However, when wrestling fans think of the British Bulldog, it’s this moment: standing tall amongst his countrymen at SummerSlam 1992.

1. Triple H vs Shawn Michaels (2002)

As good of a match as Lesnar-Rock was, Triple H vs Shawn Michaels was truly the perfect storm. Jim Cornette has always said that pro wrestling in its truest form was wrestlers simulating a physical conflict with a resolution that people bought tickets to see.

On that fateful night in the Nassau Coliseum, thousands paid good money to see Michaels whip Triple H’s ass. He did not disappoint.

During a Raw taping, a battered and bloody Michaels was discovered in the parking lot, to which Triple H initially sold concern. It was later revealed that Triple H was the true mastermind behind Michaels’ injuries.

The match was every bit as good as it was advertised. Initially, an injury-riddled Michaels only wanted to have one more match so he could leave wrestling on a positive note. He trusted only Triple H to take care of him in the ring.

The match received rave reviews. It offered a little bit of everything: storytelling, violence, cool spots, and flawless execution. As it turned out, the Heartbreak Kid hadn’t skipped a beat.

The match was so good that Michaels—soccer mom hairdo and all—would embark on a nearly ten-year comeback tour that included many more bouts with Triple H. But as great as those matches would be, they never quite measured up to the unsanctioned match the two frenemies had at SummerSlam ’02.

Honorable Mentions

The Mega Powers vs The Mega Bucks (1988)

Steve Austin vs Owen Hart (1997)

Triple H vs The Rock (1998)

Kurt Angle vs Eddie Guerrero (2004)

CM Punk vs John Cena (2011)

CM Punk vs Brock Lesnar (2013)

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