Among WWE's famed "Big Four" events, SummerSlam typically has the least going for it.

 

After all, it doesn't have the prestige and "can't miss" element of WrestleMania, and it doesn't have the gimmicky fun of the Royal Rumble or Survivor Series.

 

And yet, SummerSlam always manages to have a charm all its own. "The Biggest Party Of The Summer" has always had a few highlights every year, going back to its debut in 1988 (when it was only the third PPV on the company's annual calendar).

 

In selecting the Top 50 SummerSlam Moments, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories looked at the following criteria:

 

  • Whether it was a match, a sequence within a match, an interview or any other aspect, how memorable was it?

  • Did it have an impact on the WWE or the business altogether?

  • How likely are we to see it replayed in highlight reels or WWE documentaries for years to come?

 

If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.

 

Ready? Here we go!

50.

Rude Trunks

Although "Ravishing" Rick Rude was involved in a heated rivalry with Jake "The Snake" Roberts during the first SummerSlam in 1988, he was instead pitted against Junkyard Dog. At first, Rude's trunks had an image of JYD on them but he then removed those to reveal pants with an image of Jake Roberts' wife!

48.

Kiss My Ass

In 1999, "Mr. Ass" Billy Gunn had been crowned King Of The Ring and he and The Rock agreed to a "Kiss My Ass" match at that year's SummerSlam. When the match came about, Gunn had procured a large woman for Rock to kiss the posterior of. This being wrestling, Rock sent Gunn into the woman's ass instead.

46.

Ladder (Re)Match

Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon had an iconic match for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania X. A year and a half later at SummerSlam in 1995, the two had an epic rematch while both were considered babyfaces. Although the rematch wasn't nearly as innovative as the original, Michaels won this time around.

44.

King's Court (Jester)

1993 King of the Ring Bret Hart was set to battle Jerry "The King" Lawler at that year's SummerSlam, but Lawler showed up injured. Instead, Hart faced Doink The Clown -- until The King interfered. Not hurt, Lawler was then ordered to face Hart and eked out a victory after The Hitman refused to listen to the referee.

42.

Who's Working For Flair?

The WWF World Title Match at SummerSlam 1992 involving babyfaces Randy "Macho Man" Savage and The Ultimate Warrior was surrounded by controversy. Which man had struck a deal with Ric Flair and manager Mr. Perfect? Turns out, neither man - The Nature Boy was trying to decieve both of them.

40.

Fiendish Debut

After months of introductory vignettes, SummerSlam 2019 was home to the in-ring debut of Bray Wyatt's alter-ego The Fiend. Following a terrifying new ring entrance (compared with a head-shaped lantern), The Fiend made quick work out of opponent Finn Balor.

38.

Universal Champion

The first Universal Champion was determined in the semi-main event of SummerSlam 2016. Finn Balor, making his main roster debut and decked in Demon King regalia, defeated Seth Rollins to become the company's first Universal Champion.

36.

Million Dollar Virgil

While Wrestling Superstar Virgil had previously gained revenge on The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase, he hadn't quite got the best of his former employer. DiBiase put his Million Dollar Championship on the line at SummerSlam 1991 against Virgil, with the former bodyguard winning the gold!

34.

Beastslayer Again

While Seth Rollins toppled Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship earlier in the year at WrestleMania XXXV, the title had found its way back to The Beast Incarnate. At SummerSlam 2019, Rollins once again slayed The Beast to regain his championship.

32.

Punked Out By The Dead Man

In 2009, The Undertaker's SummerSlam appearance wasn't a scheduled one. World Champion Jeff Hardy was defending his championship against CM Punk, who was becoming a heel. Punk won the match, only to be chokeslammed afterwards by The Undertaker.

30.

Goldberg Eliminated

Much like Hell In A Cell, there has only been one Elimination Chamber at SummerSlam, and it was for the World Heavyweight Title in 2003. The entrants were Triple H, Kevin Nash, Randy Orton, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels and the then-undefeated Goldberg. Triple H won by pinning Goldberg.

28.

Triple H vs. The Rock

Although Triple H and The Rock had squared off against each other many times, their ladder match at SummerSlam 1998 was a big part of their feud. The then-leaders of D-Generation X and The Nation went into battle, with The Game walking away with The Rock's Intercontinental Title.

26.

Ramon & Payton

In 1994, Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels had been feuding for some time, including Michaels' bodyguard Diesel defeating Ramon for the Intercontinental Title. To regain the belt at SummerSlam, Razor recruited NFL Hall of Famer Walter Payton, who was able to keep Michaels from interfering in the match.

24.

Best vs. Beast

CM Punk and Brock Lesnar were both known as Paul Heyman Guys, but what would happen if they ever faced off? The match took place at SummerSlam in 2013 in a no-disqualification match. Punk, who didn't have Heyman in his corner for this one, lost the match to The Beast Incarnate.

20.

Hart & Soul

Shawn Michaels was in a bind at SummerSlam 1997. As special referee for the WWF Title match, he could rebel against challenger Bret Hart and be banned from the U.S. Or he could count  champion The Undertaker's shoulders to the mat, which ended up being the course of action that Michaels took.

18.

Champion vs. Champion ... vs. Champion?

The main event of SummerSlam 2011 was to determine who the rightful WWE Champion was - CM Punk, who briefly walked out on the promotion, or John Cena, who won the belt in a tournament. Punk won the championship, but then Alberto Del Rio cashed in Money In The Bank to defeat Punk for the title.

16.

Age of Orton Begins

Randy Orton had primarily been known as an upper midcarder when he challenged Chris Benoit for the World Championship at SummerSlam 2004. Orton won the contest and at age 24, he became the youngest World Champion in WWE history, the first of numerous world championships.

14.

HBK Returns

One of the most anticipated comebacks in recent wrestling history was when Shawn Michaels returned in 2002 after a four year injury layoff. At SummerSlam, The Heartbreak Kid took on Triple H in what was called an "unsanctioned" street fight. HBK won, setting the stage for a full-time return.

12.

Suplex City

The main event of the 2014 SummerSlam was a WWE World Championship match between champion John Cena and challenger Brock Lesnar. Lesnar dominated most of the match, including an incredible 16 German suplexes to Cena, before winning the championship in a very memorable performance.

10.

Legends Battle

SummerSlam 2005 featured one of the top legends of the 1980s against of the top legends of the 1990s when Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels squared off. The match wasn't a technical classic - Michaels bounced around comically due to backstage political maneuvering - but it was still a dream matchup.

8.

Team WWE vs. Team Nexus

In 2010, John Cena fired back at The Nexus, which had been terrorizing WWE for months, by assembling his own Team WWE, which included Bret Hart, Daniel Bryan, R-Truth, John Morrison, Edge and Chris Jericho, against Team Nexus. Cena won for his squad when he made Wade Barrett submit to the STF.

6.

The Ultimate Substitute

In 1988, Brutus Beefcake had been injured and couldn't make his Intercontinental Title match at SummerSlam against The Honky Tonk Man. Honky claimed he could beat "anyone in the back," so imagine his surprise when The Ultimate Warrior answered the challenge - and captured the belt in 31 seconds!

4.

The Body Is Back

Jesse "The Body" Ventura was the referee for the very first SummerSlam main event in 1988, so it was fitting that he returned to that role in 1999 while working as Governor of Minnesota. The Body refereed a WWF Title Match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H and Mankind - where Mankind surprisingly won.

2.

Undertaker vs. Undertaker

Immediately following the previously-referenced Hart vs. Hart match, the WWF presented another rarity at SummerSlam - The Undertaker vs. The Undertaker. The original Dead Man, who was managed by Paul Bearer, triumphed over the evil Undertaker, managed by Ted DiBiase, in a match straight out of a horror flick.

49

Rowdy Champion

Although she officially debuted in WWE earlier in 2018, UFC crossover star Rowdy Ronda Rousey truly arrived at that year's SummerSlam with her first championship match. Rousey made Raw Womens Champion Alexa Bliss tap out in just four minutes to capture her first championship belt in wrestling.

47.

Kiss My A... Maybe Not

Shockingly, there was ANOTHER "Kiss My Ass" match at SummerSlam, this one in 1997 and between Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. While Austin won, the stipulation was never fulfilled - Stone Cold was (legitimately) temporarily paralyzed after a botched piledriver.

45

Shield Reunion

Although The Shield had gone their separate ways years earlier, a reunion of sorts took place in 2017, with former members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose reluctantly bringing their alliance back, just in time to capture the Raw Tag Team Championship from The Bar at SummerSlam that year.

43.

Dead Man Tapping

The main event of SummerSlam 2015 featured a WrestleMania XXX rematch between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker. While The Dead Man won, the match wasn't without controversy. The Undertaker tapped out to Lesnar's Kimura lock, but the referee didn't see it -- causing the match to restart and Lesnar to lose.

41.

Last (Limo) Ride

The Undertaker was well on his way at SummerSlam 2004 to winning the World Championship from John Bradshaw Layfield. Then The Dead Man's temper got the better of him and he clocked JBL with the title belt. After being disqualfied, Undertaker chokeslammed the champion -- right through the roof of JBL's limo!

39.

The Perfect Tornado

At SummerSlam 1990, Mr. Perfect was set to defend his Intercontinental Title against Brutus Beefcake when The Barber was injured in a parasailing accident. His substitute was The Texas Tornado, who had recently began with the WWF, and stormed through Perfect to win the title.

37.

Triple Threat

During the 2000 installment of SummerSlam, WWF Champion The Rock defended his belt against Kurt Angle and Triple H. Angle and The Game were feuding over Stephanie McMahon, which helped The Great One overcome the numbers game and win the match.

35

Cena On The Edge

At SummerSlam 2006, John Cena set out to regain the WWE Championship he'd lost to Edge (who himself had lost the belt to Cena earlier in the year). Most fans expected The Champ to get his revenge (especially given that Edge had beaten up Cena's father), but The Rated R Superstar still retained the championship.

33.

Hell In A Cell

There have been dozens of Hell In A Cell matches in WWE history, but only one took place at SummerSlam. In 2008, Edge battled The Undertaker in such a match, the blow-off to their rivalry that year. Undertaker won the bout after chokeslamming Edge off a ladder.

29.

Justice Is Served

Special referees aren't usually a big deal, but at SummerSlam 1991, it definitely was. Sid Justice had only appeared in WWF vignettes and interviews prior to refereeing Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter, Gen. Adnan and Col. Mustafa. In the end, Hogan's team was served Justice.

27.

Lex Express Derailed

The WWF dedicated a healthy part of its summer 1993 programming to The Lex Express, a political campaign-style tour bus which Lex Luger rode on route to challenging Yokozuna for the WWF Title at SummerSlam. Luger won the match.... by countout, and as a result, his push was derailed significantly.

25.

What A Rush!

The Legion of Doom don't have a ton of highlights from their WWF run, but their biggest one came at SummerSlam in 1991. That year, Hawk and Animal had been feuding with The Nasty Boys over the WWF Tag Team Titles. The LOD toppled Knobbs and Sags in a streetfight to win their first WWF titles.

23.

Boiler Room Brawl

The Undertaker and Mankind had been feuding in 1996 when Mankind challenged The Dead Man to his type of match - the Boiler Room Brawl. After a brutal battle, Undertaker went to reclaim his urn to win the match, but his manager Paul Bearer shockingly turned against him.

21.

Tatanka Turns

In the summer of 1994, The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase suggested he had signed babyface Lex Luger. While Luger denied the rumor, his good friend Tatanka was angered and challenged him to a match at SummerSlam. In the end, Luger was telling the truth and Tatanka was the one that would turn heel.

19.

Champion vs. Champion

SummerSlam 2015 was the first to feature a match between the United States and WWE World Heavyweight Champions, with the winner taking home both championships. U.S. Champ John Cena appeared to be on the verge of winning when Jon Stewart, of all people, interfered, giving Seth Rollins both belts.

17.

Tables, Ladders and Chairs - oh my!

The very first Tables, Ladders and Chairs match (let alone the first in SummerSlam history) took place at the event's 2000 instalment at the order of WWF commissioner Mick Foley. Edge and Christian defeated rivals Matt and Jeff Hardy and Bubba Ray and D-Von Dudley in a groundbreaking TLC match.

15.

SummerSlam Screwjob

At SummerSlam in 2013, Daniel Bryan defeated John Cena for his first WWE Championship. The victory didn't last long, as Randy Orton came to ringside to cash in his Money In The Bank briefcase. While Bryan was preparing for Orton, guest referee Triple H pedigreed Bryan, ensuring the title would change hands.

13.

The Perfect I-C Title Match

One of the best technical wrestling matches at SummerSlam took place in 1991, when Mr. Perfect defended his Intercontinental Championship against Bret "Hit Man" Hart. The two put on a back-and-forth wrestling clinic for 18 minutes until Perfect (who was severely injured before the match) submitted.

11.

Hart's War

Bret "Hit Man" Hart had been a dominant Intercontinental Championship since regaining the belt at WrestleMania 8, but eventually crossed paths with his own brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith at SummerSlam 1992. In front of 80,000 fans in Wembley Stadium, Smith got the better of Hart and captured the gold.

9.

Highway To Hell

At the height of The Attitude Era in 1998, two of the WWF's biggest stars were set to square off at SummerSlam. Champion "Stone Cold" Steve Austin defended the belt against fellow babyface The Undertaker. Although Kane teased that he would get involved in the match, he didn't, and Stone Cold won by pinfall.

7.

Brock. Rock. Shock.

Although Brock Lesnar had a dominant championship win in 2014, he was almost as dominant in his rookie 2002 SummerSlam outing. That year, The Beast Incarnate was wrestling WWE Champion The Rock in Lesnar's very first shot at the gold. Sure enough, he trapped The Great One in an F5 and captured the title.

5.

Match Made In Heaven

SummerSlam 1991 featured a "Match Made In Hell." But it also featured a "Match Made In Heaven" - the long-awaited wedding of Miss Elizabeth and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. Unlike most wrestling weddings, this one went off without a hitch (although the reception later that night didn't).

3.

Hart vs. Hart

Bret "Hit Man" Hart has had to defend against family members at SummerSlam, but perhaps his most memorable such encounter was in 1994 when he defended the WWF Title against his brother Owen Hart - and in a steel cage! Nearly a dozen Hart family members interfered in the match after Bret won the match.

1.

The Mega Powers vs. The Mega Bucks

Perhaps the most iconic and memorable moment in SummerSlam history was the very first main event - a tag team match in 1988 pitting the Mega Powers of Hulk Hogan and WWF Champion Randy "Macho Man" Savage against The Mega Bucks of "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase and Andre The Giant. The four had a classic contest for the era, which ended when the Mega Bucks were "distracted" by Savage's manager Miss Elizabeth removing her Mega Skirt, causing The Mega Powers to capitalize and win the match.

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Wrestling Merchandise and Memories podca
Wrestling Historian Mike Rickard