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10 Best Matches In WWE SummerSlam History

The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Brock Lesnar and more...

WWE have turned their Biggest 'Party' of the Summer into the Biggest 'Event' of the Summer and I need to know what exactly this entails.

Are we supposed to ditch the Hawaiian shirts in favour of suits and ties? Are we supposed to put down our bikinis and hosepipes - yes, lads, I mean us too - and pick up some couscous and hummus or something similarly posh? I just want to know what this means for SummerSlam - because with this slight change of branding, they've made their biggest show of the summer sound that little bit more boring, to me at least.

I doubt it really means anything for the event because, at the very least, SummerSlam is the third biggest on WWE's stacked calendar. And that standing is the reason why a lot of WWE's biggest matches and moments have taken place in August - a time of the year, traditionally, when we're all on beaches falling asleep as our skin turns a dangerous shade of red.

Some may argue that down the years, SummerSlam has been all about the moments rather than the matches, but that hasn't stopped some bobby-dazzlers from taking place. Often overshadowed by NXT TakeOver specials in more recent times, here are the 10 best matches in the illustrious history of WWE's summer spectacular...

(Apologies to both John Cena and Brock Lensar whose 2014 efforts just missed out on a spot inside the top 10)

10. TLC I - 2000


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Fans were given a lovely taster of what was to come at WrestleMania a few months prior in that ladder match, but nobody could have been ready for what they were about to see at SummerSlam. No doubt about it, the WrestleMania X-Seven TLC blows this one out of the water, but this was the first, and completely blew anything extreme we had seen to this point in WWE out of the water in its own right. SummerSlam 2000's TLC was the 1st generation iPod Classic to X-Seven's 6th... I think. I don't know technology that well at all.

Mick Foley aside, never before had we seen a group of WWE Superstars show such disregard for their own safety, and it made for a match that had just about everything - even Jim Ross calling Edge a “son of b*tch” for hitting a Spear on Lita on the floor.

Naturally, this is just one of those car crashes you'd come to expect from the TLC stipulation, but there was a large slice of psychology present too. Months before, at 'Mania, Jeff Hardy nailed Bubba Ray Dudley with a massive Swanton Bomb, but when he came to attempt the same move again at SummerSlam - through two tables at ringside no less - Bubba had him scouted and moved out of the way. Unagi.

There was certainly more than meets the eye with this one, including the finish, with Edge revealing The Hardys were due to win before he and Christian were handed the 'W' after the powers that be had a change of heart due to the amount of heat they'd built up in the months prior.


9. Triple H Vs. The Rock - 1998


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I've got to be honest, while planning this article I had Edge and Undertaker's 2008 Hell in a Cell bout in this spot but changed my mind at the last minute. I have no idea why, both matches are fantastic in their own right - but this is where we find ourselves, at the mercy of the content. She can be such a cruel mistress at times.

Anyway, two pretenders to the main event scene both proved they should very much be in the main event scene thanks to a match that rivalled the best ladder matches WWE have showcased down the years. Just look at the history books by the time we reached 1999's SummerSlam - Rocky was a three-time WWE Champion, while Triple H was readying himself to win his first - that's no fluke, my friends.

The pair had the crowd in the palms of their hands in what was a slightly different feeling ladder match to what we'd seen before. Brawling and hardcore action was the order of the day, such was Stone Cold Steve Austin's Attitude Era style. This more rugged feeling match proved just how versatile both performers were, with Hunter coming off a long old run portraying a smug son of a gun who knew how to worm his way out of trouble, while Rock and weapons weren't exactly relatable at the time.

By the time we reached the latter stages of the match, MSG was ready to explode. And they did, when Triple H won the match with an assist from Chyna.

8. Kurt Angle Vs. Rey Mysterio - 2002


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Could this be the best sub-10 minute match in WWE history? Very possibly. It's either this one or Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg from WrestleMania 34.

They always say that if you're a performer and you can't go on last, you want to get on first. The crowd's fresh, you set the tone for the night, 'follow that, lads' you say (probably).

There's no doubt about it, despite the time constraints and positioning on the card, the rest of the WWE locker room would have bemoaned both Kurt and Rey for what they achieved. It was a frantic, technical masterpiece that moved up through the gears as it went along. This was the quintessential opener from two performers who were nearing, if not at their absolute peak. I bet it's no coincidence that the other seven matches on the card produced arguably the best SummerSlam of all time - they had no option as they couldn't allow the opener to steal the show?!

7. Bret Hart Vs. Owen Hart - 1994


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The seeds were sewn for this one at the '94 Rumble with Owen's shocking turn, as the jealous, petty, younger sibling of World Champion and God among men, Bret Hart, had enough of playing second fiddle. This, in turn, kicked off a mini run of stellar bouts between the two siblings, the first one arriving at WrestleMania X - if you haven't watched that yet put down everything and go a watch it now - and the second inside a blue bar steel cage at SummerSlam - again, if you haven't seen this one, watch it immediately after you're done with 'Mania 10's offering.

The drama is always heightened when family is involved and this encounter was no different, with just about the entire Hart clan sat at ringside. As you would come to expect, two technical masters between the ropes put on a match that two technical masters would - with the brutality you'd come to expect from a steel cage bout added more sparingly than usual. This one was all about frantic motion, seamless sequences, emotion only a sibling rivalry can evoke, and bloody great wrestling with a gritty edge.

We had two thinking wrestlers here, wrestlers who clearly studied - or just knew since they lived under the same roof for so long - each other's arsenal and knew exactly what counter to hit. In the end though, with the pair dangling on the outside of the cage, Owen lost his grip and would hang upside down with his leg caught in the blue bars, allowing Bret to drop down for the win.

I'm sure if Sir Alex Ferguson was watching that finish, his arse would have been squeaking - you either get that reference or you don't. The stuff after the bell involving the late Jim Neidhart and British Bulldog was pretty nifty as well, mind you.

6. John Cena Vs. Daniel Bryan - 2013


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We thought we had it. Bah Gawd, we thought we had it. We thought we had the moment that completely nullified the disappointment of the Royal Rumble months before. This was the moment when poor Rey Mysterio *almost* breathed a huge sigh of relief.

However, Triple H got all of that positive energy and kicked it right in the crotch. Yes, Daniel Bryan and John Cena had a barnstormer of a match - perhaps Cena's best in WWE to that point - before The Game and subsequently his Viper friend took the big one away from our boy, D-Bry.

Let's forget about the heartbreak for now and focus on the match, where 'Mr. you can't wrestle *clap clap, clap clap clap*' wrestled really, really well against arguably the best in the world at that time. The Leader of the Cenation looked to outmuscle his opponent, but Bryan would counter with technical prowess. Against all the odds, Cena was able to hang with the more mat based stuff on a night that portion of the crowd realised he's actually bloody good.

Varying styles, emotion, a SummerSlam moment with Cena shaking Bryan's hand following the final bell - this was WWE at its best... until HHH and Randal decided to ruin it.

5. Mr. Perfect Vs. Bret Hart - 1991


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I mean, what else could you expect from a match involving these two? Eighteen minutes - technical marvel - a symbolic passing of the torch - once more, this was WWE at its best.

While Mr. Perfect's career was winding down, Bret Hart's was very much on the up. You wouldn't have known that Perfect was struggling with a back injury looking at the action that took place from bell to bell, with a cocky veteran hanging with a very gifted newcomer to the upper echelons of the card every step of the way.

In many respects, this match was way ahead of its time. It's the sort of thing we're used to seeing from the likes of Seth Rollins and Dolph Ziggler today, but action like this was pretty foreign to WWE back in 1991, with the land of the lumbering giants and gimmicks over 'workrate' (goodness me I cringe when I used that word) the order of the day.

And you know, Bret's kicking out of a Perfect-Plex and reversing attempted Leg Drops into Sharpshooters - and that's just amazing.

4. The Beast Vs. The Best - 2013


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CM Punk's last hurrah as part of WWE - frankly, he wouldn't hit these heights again. Although, recreating a match of this calibre where his dived, ducked, dipped, dived and dodged his way around at Brock Lesnar's mercy would have taken something mighty special from the Straight Edge Superstar.

The Best in the World was arguably The Best in the World at making Brock look like The Beast he's billed as being - throwing himself all over the shop in a match that lasted a whopping 25 minutes. 2013 can't be just five years ago, can it, Brock?!

From the moment the compelling buildup started, everything just went right in this feud with the SummerSlam match acting as the cherry on top of the proverbial cake. Brilliant story, unmitigated violence, and a bloody good, logical match put on by two of the best around who were clearly invested in what they were doing together.


3. Shawn Michaels Vs. Triple H - 2002


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"I will fight you, and I will put you in the ground," that absolute banger from this match's promo package said, and my goodness did Triple H and Shawn Michaels come mighty close to doing that to one another in this unsanctioned match.

In what was Michaels' SECOND match in something like 1600 days - yes, match in Texas in 2000 I know where you live - Michaels simply didn't miss a step. In terms of storytelling, it has to be one of the best from The Heartbreak Kid's career, but it's quite hard to focus on nuance when there's lots of weapons, blood, and men flying off the top of ladders - this one truly had it all.

In what everyone seemed to believe was going to be a one-off for Michaels, nothing was left to chance. Both men put everything on the line and didn't give fans the opportunity to say "oh I wish they'd done this!"

Naturally, Michaels got the big comeback win but was brutally murdered in the aftermath as Triple H hitting him twice with a sledgehammer - like, proper swings too - not those silly fist over hammerhead things he normally does.

2. The Undertaker Vs. Bret Hart - 1997


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This is my favourite match finish in WWE history. Here we had three GOATs working in unison, producing something that looked like it was better suited to happen as part of a synchronised swimming routine rather than a main event wrestling match. Please just go and watch it if you haven't already, and if you have, you should watch it again because it's definitely better than you remember.

As for the rest of the match, it was a classic WWE main event. The pace never got out of control, everything felt real, and Bret Hart once again proved that when it comes to psychology in a wrestling match, he simply can't be matched - that's not to say that 'Taker isn't great at the psychological aspect of a wrestling match, of course, but you could just see Bret's fingerprints all over this one. It has to be said, Hart - now whining and complaining about everything as his issues with special guest referee Shawn Michaels simmered in the background - and The Phenom, fresh off many a brutal encounter with a whole host of heavyweights since winning the championship at WrestleMania 13, had unbelievable chemistry together.

Some say the finish to this match is the moment that kicked off The Attitude Era, and I'm not disagreeing with those people at all.

1. Bret Hart Vs. The British Bulldog - 1992


WWE


What else could be number one, right? We currently live in a time where the Intercontinental Championship can main event a pay-per-view where the WWE Championship is present and that is strange to me. What isn't strange to me is the fact that this IC title match main evented SummerSlam '92 because it was the absolutely right thing to do, with Englishman, The British Bulldog, going after gold and a massive feelgood moment for the 80,000 behind him inside Wembley Stadium.

We've all heard the stories of how Bret planned the match out all by himself, but ended up having to walk Devey Boy through the entire thing step by step as the Bulldog's problems caught up with him. For me, the fact that you simply can't notice this bump in The Hitman's road happened is first of all unbelievable, but also makes the match all the more amazing.

With the match taking place in England and with an Englishman involved, we actually got to see shades of the future Bret Hart as he used subtle underhanded tactics that didn't quite scream full-blown heel, but did enough to establish his role in the piece.

Of course, with this being 1992, this wasn't a match brimmed with high spots - it was all about the storytelling and emotion, which made the result of the bout all the more special.

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Ross Tweddell

Written by Ross Tweddell

Presenter over on the Cultaholic Wrestling YouTube channel. Email: [email protected]