So here is my list of the best Summerslam matches ever. This list is, obviously, not meant to be definitive in any way. When compiling my list, I came upon approximately 25-30 matches that could lay claim to having rights of being on this list. Narrowing it down was a difficult task. I find myself leaning towards the matches of my childhood, as opposed to those from my young adulthood, when in doubt. Which I suppose makes sense. Those memories are the fondest for me. In any event, here is my list.
1.) Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, 1991
I think Eric put this one best in an MSN Messenger conversation. This one closely parallels the Steve Austin vs. Shawn Michaels match from WrestleMania 14. Perfect went into the match with a bad back. You can see him noticeably wincing at times. This, however, did not prevent him from taking bump after bump, going about things in typical business as usual fashion. Perfect’s bump taking obviously influenced Shawn Michaels’ bumping later in his career. Meanwhile, this match in effect served as the launching pad for Bret Hart’s career. From this point on, Bret is a credible singles act, a future World Heavyweight Champion. A simple but effective story told, which, when you think about it, is what wrestling should be all about.
2.) Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels, 1995
This one moved up my list upon second and third viewing in the process of compiling this list. I almost like this one better than their first ladder match, from WrestleMania 10. The crowd heat might be better, and they employ better psychology than in the first. As it will stand in the history books, this one is just slightly worse than the original, but being slightly worse than the best is nothing to sneeze at. And to think, this match almost didn’t take place at all. Thank God it did. (Or at least, thank Bill Watts.)
3.) Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog, 1992
I can definitely see where a person would have this ranked at number one on their list. It’s certainly a stellar match-up that is impossible to leave off any best of SummerSlam list. What downgrades it slightly for me is that for much of the match, it’s a one man dance. Thankfully that one man is the best dancer of the ’90s. Hart was able to carry Davey Boy to what was an awesome match that lived up to the spectacle of being in front of the largest crowd ever for a WWF show, even in spite of Bulldog’s steady summer diet of television watching and frying his brain cells.
4.) Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H, 2002
For much of wrestling in the 2000s, I can’t remember any of it. There’s too many pay-per-views, too many television shows, and not enough good booking to make any of it stick. So unfortunately, some good matches from this decade slip from memory for me. Thankfully, this is not one of those matches. I instantly remembered it upon putting the DVD in. A great story being told here: Shawn Michaels in his first match in four and a half years, against his former apprentice turned enemy and main event super duper star. And Jim Ross is at the height of his game calling it, too.
5.) Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage, 1992
Really shows how great 1992 was, if a person can name two of its matches in the top five all time for this show. This is much like Razor vs. Shawn in that it will go down as just slightly below their WrestleMania 7 classic. It’s still very, very good, as they are given plenty of time to shine on their own before Ric Flair and Mr. Perfect come out to perform perhaps the best dog and pony show wrestling has ever seen. They wrestle a smart match within the confines of their limitations, and the “who’s side are Perfect and Flair on?” storyline only adds to the drama at the end. The only negative of this match for me is Warrior’s hideous body suit.
6.) Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle, 2001
A great match under the new Austin Rules, necessitated by his neck injury and compounded by wear and tear over the years. This is another match that wasn’t only good as far as in ring work goes, but also told a great story that was perfectly executed. Another gem from The Lost Decade.
7.) Dudley Boys vs. Hardy Boys vs. Edge & Christian, 2000
Sure it’s a stunt riddled spot fest, but it’s perhaps the best of its kind. This is the peak of tag team wrestling, competed under the loosey goosey, ECW-inspired anything goes format that WWF adopted during the Attitude Era. Maybe bad for the business, but the kind of match you want to watch again and again.
8.) Bret Hart vs. Undertaker, 1997
Shawn Michaels as the referee is almost as good as any of the action inside the ring, and it’s worth noting as the first thing about this match. As far as the match itself, this would be Bret Hart’s last great WWF match before going to the greener and worsely booked pastures of WCW. The storyline of Bret winning and Shawn hating to count the pinfall adds to the intrigue of this one.
9.) Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude, 1989
What the halibar hell am I doing with two Ultimate Warrior matches in my top ten? Well, as luck would have it, two of his three best matches ever (besides the aforementioned match with Savage at Mania) happened to be at SummerSlams. Rude at this point is not quite the great worker he would become by 1992, but he’s more than capable of carrying the Warrior to something memorable.
10. Shawn Michaels vs. Vader, 1996
The only flaw with this match, keeping it out of the top five, was that Shawn Michaels won. Having win by countout and disqualification was masterful booking that in a perfect world would have culminated with him winning the title in some dirty, disputed fashion, setting up a rematch where Michaels could reclaim “his” belt. Unfortunately, they chose to have Michaels win this, and Vader would never be the same in the WWF. Therefore, one could label this as Vader’s last great match.
11. Demolition vs. Hart Foundation, 1990
12. Steiner Brothers vs. Heavenly Bodies, 1993
13. Bret Hart vs. Jerry Lawler, 1993
14. Shawn Michaels vs. Mr. Perfect, 1993
15. Hakushi vs. 1-2-3 Kid, 1995