Ranking All 30 WWE SummerSlam PPVs

It's the Biggest Event of the Summer , but which SummerSlam impressed us the most?

SummerSlam has been, for decades now, one of WWE's biggest shows. However, in recent times it's grown in status, in my opinion, to become the second biggest night of the calendar.

Comparing it to WrestleMania, SummerSlam could actually be seen as a far more consistent show. There's less in the way of flat-out happy endings, but in terms of sheer quality, a strong argument could be made to suggest that the August spectacular actually tops its older brother.

That's not to say every single SummerSlam has been a knockout. Like most wrestling pay-per-views of any great history, there have been weaker shows dotted amongst the stronger efforts. But by and large, SummerSlam can often be relied upon to deliver.

In the build-up to this weekend's stacked card, we've ranked all 30 of the events throughout history - from iconic cards packed with classic moments, to anarchic Attitude Era affairs.

Hopefully, SummerSlam 2018 will be deserving of a place somewhere amongst the best shows on this list, but in the meantime, let's take a trip down memory lane and look back at the best parties - or events considering how posh you want to sound - from WWE's last 30 summers...

If you have a minute, make sure to check out the rest of the WWE SummerSlam-related content on both Cultaholic.com and our YouTube channel!

30. SummerSlam 1993


Where: The Palace of Auburn Hills - Auburn, Michigan

What: A show that was, at best, shabby, and at worst, very annoying. The main event was a prime example of this, featuring a truly infuriating finish.

Having knocked Yokozuna out of the ring with a big forearm, and attacked the dastardly Jim Cornette, Lex Luger saw the WWF Champion counted out of the match. Instead of showing frustration at failing to win the title, Luger instead celebrated. And this wasn't any normal celebration. This was an All-American, red-white-and-blue, balloon-filled celebration, with several members of the locker room coming out to prance around with him.

We also had Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez to enjoy on the undercard - although sadly, that match went about as well as expected.

Elsewhere, Shawn Michaels defended his Intercontinental Championship against Mr. Perfect - another title match ending in a countout - and Bret Hart put Jerry Lawler in the Sharpshooter for three-and-a-half minutes.

Star of the Show: The Steiner Brothers. This show is at least a reminder of a time when Rick and Scott were one of the most exciting tag teams in the world. Here they retained their WWF Tag Team Championship, demolishing the Heavenly Bodies in the process.

29. SummerSlam 2010


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, California

What: This pay per view should have been the high-point of the Nexus angle, the moment where Wade Barrett staked his claim to become the first English WWE Champion. Instead, things went a little bit differently...

The main event saw the Nexus take on Cena and Friends in a 7-on-7 elimination match. Barrett and his boys should really have won, propelling Wade towards an eventual title reign. Instead, Big Match John overcame 2-on-1 odds and a DDT on concrete - a last minute decision allegedly pushed for by Cena himself.

The bad booking sadly spilled over into the rest of the show. Big Show beat the popular Straight Edge Society in a 3-on-1 handicap match, while Sheamus fought Randy Orton for 20 minutes over the WWE Championship - before getting himself disqualified for trying to bring a chair into the ring

Star of the Show: Justin Gabriel. Although he wound up on the losing side in the main event, Nexus' resident high-flier really showed his stuff here. He made it to the final three alongside Barrett and Cena, but was eliminated after missing his signature 450 Splash.

28. SummerSlam 1990


Where: Spectrum - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What: A show that could well have been one of the best SummerSlams of all time. The card was stacked with big matchups - Warrior vs. Rude, Hogan vs. Earthquake, Savage vs. Dusty - but none of them truthfully delivered.

Some of the best pay per views have exciting finish after exciting finish, but the finishes here were...less than amazing. In the main event, The Ultimate Warrior beat Rick Rude in a cage match by hitting him with a Gorilla Press, then taking his sweet time escaping to victory. Hogan defeated Earthquake via countout - another lovely countout - and Randy Savage defeated Dusty Rhodes by hitting him with Sherri's purse.

In fairness, Dusty was probably distracted by the fact that Ted DiBiase bought his valet Sapphire before the match. That's uncomfortable on various levels.

Star of the Show: The Hart Foundation. Bret and Jim won the day, snatching the WWF Tag Team Championship in a 2-out-of-3 falls match against Demolition - unquestionably the best match of the night.

27. SummerSlam 2007


Where: Continental Airlines Arena - East Rutherford, New Jersey

What: A frustrating show, topped by a clash of megastars.

Cena vs. Orton has become something of a running joke on the internet, but their meeting at SummerSlam 2007 was actually their first singles match on pay-per-view. Even more surprisingly, it was probably the highlight of the show! 

Yes, this was prime SuperCena time, and yes, Big Match John picked up the victory, but only after an entertaining bout between the generation’s two biggest stars. 

Sadly, the rest of the card tells a bit of a different story. The other big title match saw Batista try to get anything out of Great Khali, but despite everybody begging for a title change, the giant got himself disqualified and retained the World Heavyweight Championship. 

One of the best things in WWE around this time was King Booker, but he was beaten in just seven minutes by a returning Triple H - because Triple H will always beat Booker T forever and always until the end of time.

Star of the Show: Randy Orton. He may have lost the match, and he may have been slow and methodical for large portions of it, but The Viper displayed exemplary psychology in the main event. He seemed to have Cena scouted, giving the bout a fresher dynamic than a lot of other Cena matches around this time.

26. SummerSlam 2005


Where: MCI Center - Washington, D.C.

What: Simply put, the weirdest SummerSlam of all time.

The most memorable aspect of this decidedly strange show was Shawn Michaels' over-selling of Hulk Hogan in the main event - a hilarious response to the Hulkster's refusal to put Shawn over in a rematch.

Elsewhere, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio waged war in the "Custody Of Dominick Ladder Match," one of the most unintentionally hilarious stipulations of all time.

The stipulations and (and performances, Shawn) weren't the only weird aspects of the show. The booking also veered into very weird territory at times too. For example, everything was set up for Matt Hardy to get a big win over Edge, after the Rated R Superstar literally stole his girlfriend in real life - but Edge absolutely dominated and won by referee stoppage. 

Star of the Show: Chris Jericho. The best match of the show was Cena's successful title defence against Y2J. The close friends displayed a real chemistry, and even though he came up short, Jericho was probably the most impressive performer of the night on balance.

25. SummerSlam 2015


Where: Barclays Center - Brooklyn, New York

What: A show where the action was largely good, but the booking was largely...not so good.

The biggest match on the card saw Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker face-off for the first time since the end of The Streak.

This was supposed to be the scene of Undertaker’s vengeance, but things descended into confusion at the end of the match. Lesnar caught Undertaker in a Kimura, and the bell suddenly rang. The referee turned his back to argue with the timekeeper, and ultimate crowd favourite ‘Taker nailed big bad Brock with a cheap low blow, before rolling him into the Hell’s Gate and forcing him to pass out. It wasn’t exactly the heroic victory we’d all pictured, and although it did lead to a very good tiebreaker at Hell in a Cell, they surely could have found a better way to get there.

Still, that was nothing compared to the farce that was Rollins vs. Cena. Or, rather, the finish of Rollins vs. Cena. Talk show host Jon Stewart somehow hurt the younger, faster, larger Cena with a chair to the gut - allowing Seth to take advantage and win.

In the aftermath, Stewart admitted that as a huge Ric Flair fan, he didn’t want to see Cena equal the title record. Essentially, he outed himself as a huge smark, like the rest of us.

Star of the Show: Seth Rollins. Despite Jon Stewart, Rollins' match with Cena was one of the best of the night, action-wise. This was around the time that Seth was really hitting his stride as the top heel in WWE, and proved it again here with a great display of his talent.

24. SummerSlam 2017


Where: Barclays Center - Brooklyn, New York

What: A very top-heavy show - literally. The monstrous four-way main event saw Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, and Roman Reigns bash one another to pieces, and it was very fun indeed. Unfortunately, we had to get through a long and underwhelming PPV to get there. 

John Cena absolutely buried Baron Corbin in the opening match, a win so emphatic it managed to fuel rumours that Corbin was about to be released from WWE. 

Later, AJ Styles and Kevin Owens somehow managed to not have an excellent match, despite being two of the best wrestlers on the planet. What should have been a North American indy dream turned into a strange roll-up fest, featuring a botch from the referee, or maybe a botch by one of the wrestlers, or maybe it was deliberate. That's one to ask special guest official Shane McMahon.

Sasha Banks beat Alexa Bliss for a big feel-good title win, but SummerSlam 2017 seemed determined to leave a bitter taste in our mouths, as Rusev lost to Randy Orton in about six seconds.

Star of the Show: Braun Strowman. 2017 was, in many ways, the year of Braun Strowman - and a crucial chapter came at this event. Although he didn't win, Strowman was the chief architect of destruction in this bout, crushing Brock Lesnar beneath the announce table, and hurling his other opponents around with ease.

23. SummerSlam 2012


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, New York

What: 2012’s SummerSlam was a little similar to 2015’s - good action, but finishes that didn’t quite click. Thankfully, these missteps weren’t QUITE as bad - (Jon Stewart didn’t get involved, for example) - but certain things perhaps didn’t go quite the way WWE wanted. 

The main problem came after the main event, a very good match between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. The action was intense and compelling, but the aftermath was very weird indeed. Triple H milked his post-match injuries for all they were worth, trying to drain every drop of sympathy from the crowd. The story was supposed to be that The Game was coming to the end of his in-ring career, and his body simply couldn’t carry on any longer. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that he won the 2016 Royal Rumble and added another title reign to his resume - but back then, it could have been legitimate. The only problem was, the crowd didn’t care in the slightest.

The show’s other big match saw Cena, Punk, and Big Show square off for the WWE Championship. Again, the match was decent, but the finish was a little untidy. Show submitted to the Anaconda Vice and the STF at the same time, leading AJ Lee to come down and restart the match.

Cena took full advantage, nailing Show with the AA - only for Punk to take ACTUAL full advantage, carting John out of the win and scoring a cheap victory. 

Star of the Show: Brock Lesnar. Lesnar cemented his return to WWE with a marquee victory here, showing that he hadn't lost a step since walking out of the company eight years prior. Sadly, Triple H's attempt at playing the sympathetic babyface didn't go over quite as well.

22. SummerSlam 1991


Where: Madison Square Garden - New York City, New York

What: A show main-everted by a wedding angle, which, to be honest, didn't go as disastrously as it sounds on paper.

There are a lot of similarities between weddings and soap operas, but the biggest is that weddings never go well. Although the ceremony itself went to plan, Savage and Elizabeth’s reception was ruined by The Undertaker and Jake Roberts.

The show’s tagline billed the wedding as ‘A Match Made in Heaven’, while the biggest bout on the show was dubbed ‘A Match Made in Hell’. That’s quite a strange way to describe a five-man handicap tag team match, but we’ll go along with it I guess.

Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior convincingly saw off Sgt. Slaughter, Colonel Mustafa, and General Adnan - another example of the classic ‘America Wins!’ ending. Good for popping a crowd in the early 90s, not so exciting on repeat viewing. 

Importantly, this show was also the scene of Bret Hart’s first singles title win in WWE. He defeated Mr. Perfect in a technical masterclass to win the Intercontinental Championship, before heading into the crowd to celebrate with his family.

Star of the Show: Bret Hart. It was very hard to separate Hart and Perfect here, given the respective technical mastery of both men. However, the moment was truly Bret's - his first singles title win, and the beginning of his remarkable ascent to main event status.

21. SummerSlam 1995


Where: Civic Arena - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What: Arguably the worst main event in SummerSlam history: Mabel vs. Diesel. The fact that the show ranks this highly on the list is nothing short of a summer miracle. 

There’s one shining reason why SummerSlam ’95 didn’t earn our wooden spoon, and that is Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon's incredible ladder match. A rematch of their innovative WrestleMania bout, this one saw HBK emerge victorious (even if he did throw a little tantrum during the finish, because the ladder broke and ruined his big moment).

A less likely high point of this card was Barry Horowitz' victory over Bodydonna Skip - an unlikely pay-per-view win for the perennial jobber. Heartwarming.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. Yes, he may not have been at his most professional here, but his ladder victory is one of the best of his career - and a key piece of evidence when considering his case for G.O.A.T. status.

20. SummerSlam 2006


Where: TD Banknorth Garden - Boston, Massachusetts

What: An okay show, but one that could have been better streamlined (and, given some of the names appearing, maybe a little more modernised).

The main event of this show saw Edge do his best John Cena impression, overcoming the odds in surprising fashion. The Rated R Superstar defeated Big Match John to retain his WWE Championship, despite being in Cena’s backyard of Massachusetts, and despite the fact that he’d lose his title if he got himself DQd. (And also despite the fact that Lita didn’t seem to know the stipulation, and kept trying to interfere.)

SummerSlam 2006 also saw Hulk Hogan’s last ever WWE match, and unlike many legends including Shawn Michaels and Ric Flair, he actually won it - against top star Randy Orton. Questionable.

In happier, but equally silly news, DX managed to overcome Shane and Vince McMahon - as well as about 50 heels who jumped in to help the boss. Michaels and Triple H managed to fight off the Big Show, William Regal, Finlay, the entire Spirit Squad, and Mr. Kennedy. 

With all of these matches feeling a little strange and bloated, the best action came courtesy of an unlikely source. Old-timers Mick Foley and Ric Flair put on perhaps the best bout of the night, a brutal 'I Quit' match. Babyface Flair got the win with some rather un-babyface tactics, threatening to hit Melina with a baseball bat until Foley gave up to protect her.

Star of the Show: Edge. In the mid-2000s, there was no better foil for John Cena than the Rated R Superstar. This was a crucial chalk in the win column for Edge, who picked up one of the biggest wins of his career.

19. SummerSlam 2016


Where: Barclays Center - Brooklyn, New York

What: SummerSlam 2016 is a good example of WWE’s interest in 'moments' over stories. The best example of this was the main event, which saw Brock Lesnar face Randy Orton for seemingly no reason. Vince McMahon may have been trying to take a leaf out of the UFC’s book, pairing two major stars who didn’t actually have much in the way of personal history - they were even on different brands at the time.

However, the match did its job in providing a real 'moment', albeit one that divided the audience. Lesnar forgot about pinfalls and submissions, instead brutalising a prone Orton with elbow after elbow. The Viper was deliberately cut open, and left lying in a pool of his own blood.

Another big 'moment' came when Seth Rollins and Finn Balor fought over the new Universal Championship. This was a time when the big red belt was more than just Brock’s personal trinket, but again, Seth and Finn didn’t exactly have the best feud heading into it. The match itself was good, but is remembered for sad reasons, as Balor got injured and was forced to vacate his title the following night on Raw.

Still, SummerSlam 2016 was a pretty enjoyable show - certainly the best in recent years. Much of this is down to a blow-away classic between AJ Styles and John Cena. Styles won clean as a whistle, a sign that WWE were ready to strap a rocket to his back. 

Star of the Show: AJ Styles. It's not lost on me, by the way, that many of these sections have been taken up by Cena's opponent so far. Maybe John's the most consistent performer in SummerSlam history - who knows!

18. SummerSlam 1989


Where: Brendan Byrne Arena - East Rutherford, New Jersey

What: The second ever SummerSlam, an event which would have ranked a lot higher, were it not for the silly Zeus stuff in the main event.

Zeus was the rival of Hogan's character in No Holds Barred, who decided to avenge his cinematic loss by beating the Hulkster in real life.

So yes, in the main event of this SummerSlam, Hogan teamed with Brutus Beefcake to take on an actual fictional character from a movie about wrestling. And also Randy Savage.

Still, there was enough good stuff on this show to make it a beloved classic. Ultimate Warrior defeated Rick Rude to win the IC title, and The Brain Busters put on one hell of a tag match with the Hart Foundation.

Star of the Show: Rick Rude. There are few heels in wrestling history more detestable - and therefore more useful - than Rick Rude. The talented villain helped engineer incredible support for Warrior, before doing the job in expert fashion.

17. SummerSlam 1994


Where: United Center - Chicago, Illinois

What: Like SummerSlam ’89, this was another interesting undercard held back by a silly main event.

Bret and Owen Hart’s feud continued with an absolutely epic cage match for the WWF Championship, and even though Bret picked up the victory, Owen kept the rivalry going. He and Jim Neidhart locked themselves inside the cage with Bret and beat him down NWA style, while the rest of the Hart family tried desperately to climb in. 

That was great, as was Razor Ramon and Diesel’s clash for the IC title. But there was one match that really held back this SummerSlam: Undertaker vs. Undertaker. If you're not familiar with this feud, you probably need an explanation. I'll try to keep it brief.

‘Taker lost a ridiculous casket match to Yokozuna at the Royal Rumble and his spirit went up to heaven. Months later, Ted DiBiase brought him back, but Paul Bearer said ‘nuh uh, sister. That Undertaker is fake’. 

Bearer then brought back the real Undertaker and built to a match between the two. Leslie Nielsen was also involved, which sounds like a joke, but honestly isn’t. Anyway, real Undertaker beat Fake Undertaker and reclaimed his place on the roster.

Star of the Show: Owen Hart. The best periods of Owen Hart's tragically shortened career were as a bratty heel, specifically when he was antagonising his older brother. Their cage match here is a prime example of that.

16. SummerSlam 2011


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, California

What: If you know anything about SummerSlam 2011, you might be surprised to see it rank this high. It’s commonly remembered as the place where the Summer of Punk went off the rails. 

Punk and Cena clashed in the main event, a rematch of their legendary Money in the Bank encounter, to decide the undisputed champion. It was good, although it suffered from a dodgy ending, as special referee Triple H counted a pinfall for Punk despite Cena’s foot being on the ropes.

Then, bafflingly, Kevin Nash hit the ring and attacked Punk. This allowed Alberto Del Rio to cash in his MITB briefcase, and rob the hottest angle in years of all its momentum. Eventually, the Summer of Punk somehow became Nash vs. Triple H, and SummerSlam 2011 was the starting point. 

Thankfully, other parts of the show were pretty damn good. Randy Orton and Christian met in no holds barred action, an excellent addition to their excellent feud. Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan put on a decent contest, as did all members of the opening six-man tag bout.

Star of the Show: Christian. Although often in the shadow of former tag partner Edge, Christian was a more than capable singles star in his own right - and often proved it against a man with whom he shared a surprisingly deep chemistry: Randy Orton.

15. SummerSlam 2004


Where: Air Canada Centre - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

What: An event of twists and turns. There were a lot of tonal shifts throughout the night, but even though some matches weren’t as strong as others, it still made for a nicely varied pay-per-view. 

Early on, Kane and Matt Hardy clashed in the infamous ’Til Death Do Us Part’ match - where the stipulation literally decided whether Lita would be forced to marry Kane or not. Spoiler alert: she was. 

Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero put on a decent match, and by decent, I mean very good. It’s just hard not to be a tiny bit disappointed when a bout between two all-time greats doesn't shake the very foundations of the wrestling business.

Undertaker tried to end JBL’s SmackDown reign of terror, but the champ deliberately got himself disqualified. It was perhaps the low point of the night, but Taker at least got a measure of revenge, Chokeslamming JBL through the roof of his own limousine. 

In a great main event, Randy Orton beat Chris Benoit to become the youngest ever WWE Champion. He was 24 at the time!

Star of the Show: Randy Orton. It's not every day you become the youngest ever WWE Champion. Well, for the vast majority of WWE superstars, it doesn't happen at all. But hopefully, you see what I'm getting at here.

14. SummerSlam 1997


Where: Continental Airlines Arena - East Rutherford, New Jersey

What: We’ve talked about one match shows already, but SummerSlam ’97 could be seen as a two match show.

The main event was Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker - with Bret’s hated rival Shawn Michaels as special guest referee. Amazingly, The Hitman triumphed, with HBK reluctantly counting the pinfall to hand his nemesis the WWF Championship.

That’s great storytelling, and the previous bout may have been remembered equally as fondly, were it not for a horrific injury.

Yes, this was the match where Steve Austin broke his neck. He and Owen Hart put on a crisp 15-minute display, but everything went wrong courtesy of a botched Piledriver. Austin still had to win, otherwise the stipulation meant that he would kiss Owen’s ass. Stone Cold bravely crawled over and rolled Owen up for the three, but his career was drastically shortened as a result.

Star of the Show: Bret Hart. In one of the most compelling finishes ever seen at SummerSlam, the Hitman emerged victorious - taking the WWF Championship from Undertaker courtesy of a reluctant Shawn Michaels pinfall. Genius.

13. SummerSlam 1996


Where: Gund Arena - Cleveland, Ohio

What: This SummerSlam really could have been much higher on the list, but fell short of its potential. 

The main event between Shawn Michaels and Vader was excellent, but is sadly more remembered for HBK’s tantrum towards the end. Infuriated at Vader forgetting to move out of the way of an Elbow Drop, Michaels landed straight on his feet, bent over, and screamed "Move!" in the giant’s face.

Elsewhere, Mankind and Undertaker clashed in a boiler room brawl. It was hardly a classic, but also sort of was. Yes, it was clumsy, but this bout can also be seen as a pioneer. It set the tone for WWF’s increased interest in brawling and hardcore stipulations over the next few years, and gave a rougher edge that many wrestling fans wouldn’t have experienced before. 

Sadly, for all the good on this card, there was also a lot of clutter. For example, Jake Roberts and Jerry Lawler may have put on an amazing bout in the 80s, but 1996 probably wasn’t the right time. We were also ‘treated’ to a crowded four way elimination match for the tag titles, featuring the Smoking Gunns, The Bodydonnas, The Godwinns, and the New Rockers.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. Unprofessionalism aside, there's no doubt that WWF would have been in an even worse state around this time were it not for HBK.

12. SummerSlam 2009


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, California

What: This show was a real mixed bag, but thankfully, the good outweighed the bad.

Punk and Jeff hardy stole the show with a TLC title match, one which saw Punk win the World Heavyweight Championship to end the night. Or almost end the night, as Undertaker appeared to Chokeslam the Straight Edge Saviour and announce himself as a new challenger. 

Not only did SummerSlam 2009 have a good ending, it also featured a great opener between Dolph Ziggler and Rey Mysterio. A third excellent match came in the form of DX vs. Legacy, meaning that quality can be found throughout the card. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean there weren't a few dips in quality too.

The show’s semi-main event was, for example, not so good, as Orton and Cena clashed in a rather overbooked mess. Also, Christian vs. William Regal - one of the most mouthwatering prospects on paper - lasted a mere eight seconds. 

Star of the Show: CM Punk. He may have never main-evented a WrestleMania, but Punk seized his first SummerSlam-closing opportunity in a big way. His shattering of the glass ceiling was only a couple of years away, and it's easy to see why in hindsight.

11. SummerSlam 2008


Where: Conseco Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Indiana

What: Although not the most spectacular show ever, SummerSlam 2008 was one of those pay-per-views where everybody seems determined to do a good job. It’s quite heartwarming really, or as heartwarming as a show can be that featured Chris Jericho punching Shawn Michaels’ wife in the face for real - inadvertently of course.

There are lots of candidates for this event’s MVP. Edge and Undertaker clashed in an occasionally-terrifying Hell in a Cell match. Batista and John Cena packed a tonne of action into 13 minutes. Punk retained the World Heavyweight title against JBL. Even Great Khali had an alright match - largely due to the heroic of work of opponent Triple H.

It’s a real shame to leave this SummerSlam out of the top 10, as it’s an ambitious and enjoyable show - and certainly worth a re-watch too.

Star of the Show: The Undertaker. 'Taker and Edge set out the blueprint for safer Hell in a Cell matches in the modern era - and while the quality of this bout may not have been replicated too often since, it's worth noting that both men were on absolutely top form. Particularly The Deadman.

10. SummerSlam 1999


Where: Target Center - Minneapolis, Minnesota

What: In the heart of the Attitude Era, this was a wild card from top to bottom, featuring several exciting matches. It’s mainly remembered for a gigantic main event, pitting WWF Champion Steve Austin against Triple H and Mankind, with the beloved underdog pulling out an unlikely victory. The Game would end up winning the title the following night on Raw, but Foley pinned him here to send the crowd home happy. 

We also saw Undertaker and Big Show team up to defeat Kane and X-Pac, a surprisingly fun tag match considering the odd combination of guys in the ring. 

The best match on the show, however, saw Test and Shane McMahon do battle in a ‘love her or leave her’ match. Yes, this was another example of a woman’s wishes being dictated by the result of a wrestling match - but the bout itself was an absolute thrill-ride. It proved that Shane McMahon could really go, and even though we might be used to seeing him pull off risky spots these days, it was an incredible surprise at the time. 

Star of the Show: Mankind. There's nothing quite like a Mick Foley title win to really set the crowd alight - and despite the fact his reign didn't last very long at all, it remains one of the more jubilant moments in SummerSlam history.

9. SummerSlam 2003


Where: America West Arena - Phoenix, Arizona

What: This SummerSlam was rowdy and wild, just like the previous one we mentioned - but the action itself was a little more polished. 

The show is often remembered in a negative light, probably because Goldberg utterly dominated the Elimination Chamber main event, only for Triple H to sneak a victory right at the death. On the other hand, this allowed the WCW icon to defeat The Game one-on-one at a later date - so on balance, it was probably the right decision. 

Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar clashed in a WrestleMania rematch, and this time, unthinkably, the Olympian forced Lesnar to tap out. It’s surreal to watch it back these days, now that Brock is basically indestructible - but even in 2003, it felt like a monumental victory for Angle.

It’s hard to find much wrong with this show. The smarks were pandered to as Eddie Guerrero won a fatal 4-way against Benoit, Rhyno, and Tajiri, and the more casual fans were entertained thanks to Shane McMahon vs. Eric Bischoff. Yes, even Shane vs. Bischoff was well-received - although that may have been down to the interference of Steve Austin. 

Star of the Show: Kurt Angle. The transformation from dorky Kurt Angle to ruthless Kurt Angle happened in quite a shockingly short space of time, and he was rarely more clinical than here - forcing one of the most imposing men in wrestling history to submit to the Ankle Lock.

8. SummerSlam 1988


Where: Madison Square Garden - New York City, New York

What: This may have not been a stellar show in terms of outright match quality, but through modern eyes you have to agree that it contained a pair of absolutely iconic moments.

We had Elizabeth removing her skirt to distract the heels, allowing Hogan and Savage to pick up a big main event victory. We also saw Ultimate Warrior making a surprise appearance to defeat Honky Tonk Man in seconds, bringing his historic IC title reign to an explosive end. These moments are both etched forever into wrestling history - and although these days the action may be more frantic and acrobatic, it's hard to recapture the magic of a historic boom period.

On the whole, although the pace of the wrestling may not have aged too well, the first ever SummerSlam has to be seen as a great start for the pay-per-view. There’s a reason it’s one of the most fondly-remembered PPVs of the golden era. 

Stars of the Show: The British Bulldogs. The first match in SummerSlam history was a great one, a 20-minute time limit draw between two classic tag teams. The Bulldogs impressed as always, but in fairness so did their opponents - Jacques and Raymond, the Fabulous Rougeaus.

7. SummerSlam 2014


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, California

What: Aside from one match, this SummerSlam has perhaps been lost in the shuffle. However, just it was a very consistent show underpinned by four key bouts.

The opener was a great little match between Ziggler and The Miz, an energetic affair between two men with questionable dress sense. Later, we had a very enjoyable lumberjack match between bitter rivals Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose.

Randy Orton lost to Roman Reigns in the penultimate match of the night, and it was before everybody didn’t like Roman very much, so his victory was actually a well-received one! What a collector’s item.

Finally, the main event, in which Brock Lesnar crushed the dreams of not only Cena, but his legions of young fans around the world. It remains a shocking and groundbreaking result, as well as the beginning of Lesnar's 'Suplex City' style - for all the good and bad that has caused since.

Star of the Show: Brock Lesnar. He may have snapped The Undertaker's undefeated WrestleMania streak a few months prior, but this was the result that showed us Brock Lesnar was here to stay. The title win - as well as the manner of his victory - set him in good stead for the years of domination that followed.

6. SummerSlam 1998


Where: Madison Square Garden - New York City, New York

What: The 1998 SummerSlam was held in one of the wrestling world’s classic venues - Madison Square Garden. Fittingly, it was also a classic show, featuring a huge main event, a couple of wacky stipulations, and one of the best SummerSlam matches ever.

X-Pac and Jeff Jarrett helped each other to one of the best bouts of either man’s career, although unfortunately for Double J, it resulted in him losing his hair. 

The night’s other big stipulation was the infamous lion’s den match between Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart, which sounds ludicrous on paper, but was actually quite fun in an off-kilter way. Even if it did take place in a tiny MMA-style cage.

Austin vs. Undertaker clashed in the main event, and although it maybe wasn’t the best SummerSlam closer ever, it was still an unquestionably huge match-up. Austin - legitimately knocked out early on in the bout - retained, and everybody went home happy.

That just leaves Triple H vs. The Rock in a ladder match - one of the best SummerSlam bouts of all time, and the beginning of both men’s rise to megastar status.

Star of the Show: Triple H. It’s rare that you see two future greats put on a classic years before their peak, but that’s exactly what happened here. Triple H picked up the victory, but both men benefitted immeasurably from this match.

5. SummerSlam 2001


Where: Compaq Center at San Jose - San Jose, California

What: Wait, SummerSlam 2001? Wasn’t that during the infamous Invasion angle!?

Yes, yes it was. But don't worry, because despite happening in the midst of one of wrestling’s biggest blown opportunities, it was still an excellent show. 

Austin and Angle put on maybe the best match ever to end in a deliberate DQ, as Stone Cold couldn’t take the Olympian’s intensity. It may have been frustrating not to see a title change, but nobody could deny the quality of the action on display. 

To send everybody home happy, The Rock beat Booker T to become WCW Champion - a battle of The Rock Bottom and Book End. The pair are, for my money, two of the most underrated workers of all time (especially The Rock, whose charisma is often seen as a cover for some sort of perceived weakness as a wrestler).

RVD and Jeff Hardy attempted to seriously hurt one another - and themselves - in a very entertaining ladder match, and Lance Storm went down to Edge in a great opener.

Star of the Show: Kurt Angle. Turning Austin heel at WrestleMania X-Seven may have been a misstep in hindsight, but it helped various other up-and-coming babyfaces, including Jericho, Benoit, and at this event, Angle. The Olympian's intensity was off the charts, and although he didn't score a big win here, it wouldn't be too far away...

4. SummerSlam 2000

Where: Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena - Raleigh, North Carolina

What: At times, this show ranks up there with the most intense action ever seen at a SummerSlam. Unfortunately, it also provided us with bouts such as The Kat vs. Teri in a stink face match - so you can see why it’s just missed out on the top three. 

But on to the good stuff - The Rock, Triple H, and Kurt Angle clashed in a huge triple threat match, one which saw the announce table famously give way before Angle was Pedigreed onto it. Kurt was legitimately knocked loopy, but was guided through the match by the excellent work of his opponents, as Rock was eventually able to retain the WWF Championship. 

The undercard was almost unnecessarily stacked, with the likes of the first ever TLC match, a technical 2-out-of-3 falls classic between Jericho and Benoit, and the famous Shane McMahon fall from the side of the 'Tron. 

Although a rough and imperfect show, SummerSlam 2000 remains one of the most high-octane pay per views of the Attitude Era.

Stars of the Show: Edge and Christian. Any of three teams involved in the first officially-named TLC match are worthy of a mention here, but the dastardly Canadian heels always seemed to come out on top somehow.

3. SummerSlam 1992


Where: Wembley Stadium - London, England

What: Although perhaps not as consistent as the other top-tier SummerSlams on this list, ’92 remains a beloved pay-per-view for various reasons - as well as being the only major WWE pay per view to take place on UK soil.

The most obvious high point is, of course, Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog for the Intercontinental Championship. It remains one of the most important moments in British wrestling history, and the pop when Bulldog trapped Bret for the pinfall is one of the most overwhelming of all time. 

We also saw Savage and Warrior do battle, with Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect stirring up trouble on the outside like a pair of mischievous schoolboys. Elsewhere, Shawn Michaels and Rick Martel did battle in an entertaining heel-off, with both men fighting over Sensational Sherri and getting each other counted out.

The rest of the card was admittedly quite average, but few shows are as iconic as this one - especially topped off with one of the most heartily-received victories in wrestling history.

Star of the Show: Bret Hart. According to various sources, Davey Boy was sadly not in a good way around this time. It was therefore down to Bret to help him through the match, and boy did he. The pair created perhaps the most magical SummerSlam bout ever.

2. SummerSlam 2013


Where: Staples Center - Los Angeles, New York

What: Some of the best SummerSlams of all time have been chaotic affairs, hiding any potential weaknesses with balls-to-the-wall action. 2013’s edition is the very opposite, a nicely paced, incredibly consistent show with no major flaws.

That’s not to say this show wasn’t hard-hitting. Just ask CM Punk and Brock Lesnar, who really laid into each other in a long no disqualification match - probably one of the best in SummerSlam history. 

The main event was, fortunately, another of the best in SummerSlam history, as Daniel Bryan picked up the biggest win of his career so far, defeating John Cena to become WWE Champion for the first time. 

Then, a cruel twist straight out of Game of Thrones, as special guest referee Triple H turned heel. He booted Bryan in the gut, nailed him with a Pedigree, and allowed Randy Orton to saunter out and take the title from him.

Star of the Show: Daniel Bryan. From elation to despair, Bryan sold every second of his post-match rollercoaster to perfection. It may have ended in defeat, but the former indy darling's showing only meant that his eventual WrestleMania XXX triumph was even more heartily received.

1. SummerSlam 2002


Where: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - Uniondale, New York

What: Here we go, it’s time to end the list with - in my opinion - the best SummerSlam of all time. 

This event really shows off WWE’s stacked roster following the death of WCW and ECW. It’s a massive line-up, featuring matches like Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero, RVD vs. Benoit, Angle vs. Mysterio, and Flair vs. Jericho. And if that wasn’t enough, the show was closed by two hugely important bouts - for very different reasons.

Firs,t we had the epic street fight between former friends Triple H and Shawn Michaels - HBK’s first WWE match since losing to Austin in the main event of WrestleMania XIV. Over the course of half an hour, the pair battered and bloodied one another, momentum swinging back and forth - but eventually, to the delight of just about everyone - Michaels was able to emerge victorious. 

From an incredibly close contest to a shockingly straightforward one, the main event saw Brock Lesnar snatch the torch from The Rock with brutal simplicity. The Next Big Thing dominated the early stages of the match, and even though Rock fought his way back into it, there was no stopping the sheer power of his young opponent. Paul Heyman even took a Rock Bottom through the announce table, which is a lovely little bonus.

Star of the Show: Shawn Michaels. Coming back from a career-ending injury is one thing, but doing so in a match this epic is quite another. We now know how astounding HBK's latter career would be, but this match was really the first clue that he would go on to show us something special.

Share this post

30 Facts You Might Not Know From 30 Years Of WWE SummerSlam History

10 Things We Learned From WWE SummerSlam 2018

Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]