As SummerSlam 2022 approaches, The Inner Sanctum looks back on what made this pay-per-view the biggest event of the summer. These are the ten best SummerSlam main events over the past 34 years.
10. 2015: The Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar
Disappearing after Wrestlemania 30, where Brock Lesnar ended his iconic unbeaten streak (21-0), The Undertaker pulled out every move in his arsenal to try and get his revenge. Like all the classic matches they’ve had in the past, it began with their familiar starting moves.
Each of the competitor’s ambitions to get the upper hand shifted the match to the outside of the ring, where Undertaker was put through the announcer’s table with an F-5, as the ‘Holy S***’ chants echoed throughout the Barclays Center.
The match continued with both men applying their signature moves to one another. It was only able to end after The Deadman applied the dreaded Hell’s Gate to receive the submission win. Their previous match at Wrestlemania was disappointing but this match delivered.
It was one of The Undertaker’s best matches in the later part of his career, before his retirement in 2020.
9. 1996: Shawn Michaels vs Vader (WWF Title Match)
This was one of Shawn Michaels’ first challengers during his inaugural reign as WWF Champion, after he won the belt against Bret Hart at Wrestlemania 12.
Vader was an agile and talented brawler who promised Michaels a challenge. Their chemistry in the ring together was undeniable and helped to make this match one of the best in Summerslam’s history.
The match was originally won by Vader twice before ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ came out on top in the end. This was due to the rule that states wrestling championships cannot change hands if the victory was earned by way of count-out or disqualification. Each time this occurred, Vader’s manager Jim Cornette demanded the contest to restart.
Ending with a beautiful moonsault by ‘HBK’ to get the three count, this match is fondly remembered for infamous reasons.
During the halfway point, Vader forgot where he was meant to be placed for a Shawn Michaels elbow off the top rope. This caused ‘HBK’ to stomp and scream at Vader, creating an interesting environment for the remainder of the show.
8. 2004: Chris Benoit vs Randy Orton (World Heavyweight Title Match)
The year 2004 centered around the push of third-generation superstar Randy Orton. Despite Evolution stablemate Triple H’s valiant efforts to beat Chris Benoit, he came up short on multiple occasions. So, the cocky young superstar Randy Orton decided it was his turn to become the next world champion.
From the get-go, both wrestlers relied on their technical ability on the mat, delivering holds, submissions and Suplexes to each other in the back and fourth affair.
Benoit ended the match with seven suplexes to his name but wasn’t able to get Orton in the Crippler Crossface. Just like he has always done Orton countered Benoit’s attempt at a crossface into an RKO for the win.
The victory for Orton was his first big break in the company, making him the youngest world champion in WWE history at 24 years of age. Since this match Orton has cemented his position in the main event scene, becoming a multiple-time world champion and a certified hall of famer.
7. 2002: The Rock vs Brock Lesnar (WWE Undisputed Title Match)
2002 was the year of Brock Lesnar. ‘The Next Big Thing’ quickly ascended to the top of the main event and after winning King of the Ring, he had his sights set on the Undisputed Champion The Rock.
While Lesnar was rising up the ranks, The Rock appeared less on television due to his acting career taking off. So a match between the two was perfect for the company to create a new star in Lesnar.
The match took place after a thrilling unsanctioned street fight between former DX tag-team partners Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
With fans already red-hot After the bell rang, Lesnar showed his dominance using a variety of power moves to take down his competitor. As always The Rock fought back executing the Sharpshooter and two Rock Bottoms, one of them being through the announce table, but It wasn’t enough for Brahma Bull to retain the title after Lesnar kept kicking out.
Rock went for the People’s Elbow but was countered by Lesnar who neutralised him with the F-5 for the three count.
This win made Brock Lesnar the youngest world champion in WWE at the time and solidified him as someone not to be messed with.
6. 2009: Jeff Hardy vs CM Punk (World Heavyweight Title Ladder Match)
The rivalry of both Jeff Hardy and CM Punk in the summer of 2009 took them to unprecedented levels. Mainly seen as mid-card wrestlers in the past, their bouts against one another proved to everyone that they have the talents to hang at the main event scene.
With the rivalry based on Punk’s Straight Edge lifestyle and Hardy’s substance addiction, many individuals in the audience could relate to the storytelling in this feud.
The Tables, Ladders and Chairs stipulation over-delivered with many memorable moments. These include Punk executing a Superplex on Hardy onto the ladder, a Swanton Bomb off the ladder through the announcer’s table, Suicide Dives through ladders and many high-impact chair shots.
With both wrestlers climbing the ladder Punk gained the advantage, kicking and shoving Hardy to the canvas to reclaim the title. Many fans believed this was the end of the show, but when the lights went out the returning Undertaker appeared under Punk to deliver a devastating Chokeslam, letting him know he was back and ready to claim the World Heavyweight Championship once again.
5. 2017: Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns vs Braun Strowman vs Samoa Joe (WWE Universal Title Fatal-4 Way Match)
An all-out brawl between the four competitors produced a great fight for the WWE audience. This was a war between four of the strongest and most frightening superstars on the roster, as Brock Lesnar defended his Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, Samoa Joe and Braun Strowman.
When the bell first rang all wrestlers had one-on-one fights with each other, delivering hard blows. Reigns, Joe and Strowman decided to take the defending champion out of the picture by using their signature moves. Joe locked Lesnar in the Coquina Clutch, Reigns speared him through the barricade and Strowman dispatched him through the announce table with a Running Powerslam.
The match continued with the three others using their full arsenal to try and take each other down. Strowman hit Reigns with a Running Powerslam and was bound to win until ‘The Beast Incarnate’ returned from the depths of despair.
Despite three Superman Punches from Roman Reigns, Lesnar could not go down and as “The Big Dog” was setting up the spear, it was reversed into the F-5 for Lesnar to retain.
4. 2011: CM Punk vs John Cena (Undisputed WWE Title Match)
Built around the concept of Champion vs Champion, this match between John Cena and CM Punk was a rematch of their five-star classic at Money in the Bank. To add more intensity to the match, Triple H was brought in to be the special guest referee.
This showdown had everything. Near falls, counter-moves, technical mat-wrestling, signature moves and even a tribute to the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Unfortunately, the match didn’t have a clean finish, as Triple H made the three count without acknowledging Cena’s foot on the bottom rope.
After Punk was declared the champion, the WWE universe welcomed an unusual surprise appearance. ‘Big Daddy Cool’ Diesel attacked Punk and hit him with a Jackknife Powerbomb before Alberto Del Rio stole the title after cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase on an unconscious Punk.
3. 2013: Daniel Bryan vs John Cena (WWE Title Match)
With the fans behind his back, Daniel Bryan sky-rocketed into the main event picture in 2013 and at Summerslam, he challenged John Cena for the WWE Championship. With such a big match happening at a prestigious event, Triple H once again stepped in as the special guest referee.
After receiving a mountain of ‘Yes’ kicks to the chest, Cena was finally able to come back into the match starting with the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena continued his assault on Bryan with deadly blows until his Attitude Adjustment was countered into the Yes Lock.
Once several minutes had passed, Cena broke out of the submission hold and was destined to win after finally hitting the Attitude Adjustment.
Unfortunately for Cena this was not to be, after Bryan was able to kick out and even introduce his patterned Running Knee on his opponent for the upset win.
Celebrating his first world title with the crowd, Triple H attacked him out of nowhere with Randy Orton cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase to walk away with the title. This would go on to create one of the best feuds of the modern era of wrestling; Daniel Bryan vs The Authority.
2. 2008: Edge vs The Undertaker (Hell in a Cell Match)
The year-long rivalry between Edge and The Undertaker accumulated towards this Hell in a Cell match. Starting when “The Rated-R Superstar” cashed his Money in the Bank contract on the Deadman to become the new world champion, their feud was reignited throughout the back end of 2007 and 2008.
In their first match, Undertaker got the submission win at Wrestlemania 24 but Edge got his revenge by beating him in a TLC match at One Night Stand.
To end their feud both competitors decided to settle their differences inside the dreaded steel structure. With nothing off-limits, both competitors decided to use any weapons they could get a hold of to gain an advantage. This included tables, ladders, chairs, steel steps, a camera and the cell itself.
The match came to a conclusion after The Undertaker put Edge through two tables with a Chokeslam, before following up with a con-chair-to shot to the head and a Tombstone Piledriver. If that wasn’t enough, the Deadman sent Edge to Hell with a Chokeslam off the ladder which put him through the ring.
1. 1992: Bret Hart vs ‘The British Bulldog’ Davey Boy Smith (WWF Intercontinental Title Match)
The members of the legendary Hart Family stole the show in the first major WWF pay-per-view outside of the United States. In his home country of England, The British Bulldog decided to challenge his brother-in-law Bret Hart for the coveted Intercontinental Championship.
Accompanied to the ring by future Boxing World Champion Lennox Lewis, the match was a technical masterpiece. Smith gained the early advantage through the use of various Powerslams and Suplexes, but the advantage didn’t last long as Hart managed to overpower him and lock in the Sharpshooter. Lucky to escape the submission manoeuvre, Smith struggled to get back into the match.
The match ended when Hart attempted a Sunset Flip with Smith catching him with the roll-up pin for the count of three, to a roar of approximately 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium cheering for their hometown hero.
This win was the biggest in Davey Boy’s WWF career and proved to be one of the biggest moments in British wrestling history.
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