With WWE’s 28th annual SummerSlam event taking place tonight, let’s look back at 5 noteable matches from the past.
#1: The Hart Foundation vs The Brainbusters (SummerSlam 1989)
The second SummerSlam opened with Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, accompanied by Bobby Heenan, facing off against Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart and Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. The Brainbusters had won the tag team titles from Demolition a week earlier, presumably as an incentive for Anderson and Blanchard to stay with the WWF when their deals ran out 2 months later, but this was a non title match.
With three of the best workers in the world in the ring and Jim Neidhart holding his own, this was a hell of a kickoff to a PPV that wasn’t exactly exciting on paper.
For the first time on a WWF PPV Gorilla Monsoon was not part of the commentary team but the team of Tony Schiavone and Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura made for entertainment while a mat classic of chain wrestling unfolded on the screen. With heel tactics winning out, the Brain Busters emerged victorious but it was fairly bittersweet as this would be the last time they would tag on PPV as Blanchard failed a drug test on the day of the next PPV, Survivor Series. Despite their plan to return to the NWA to reform The Four Horseman, Blanchard’s deal was retracted and he was left unemployed and after a few dates with the AWA retired, while Arn jumped to the NWA immediately sollowing Survivor Series. It was a pretty sad end for one of the most talented tag teams in wrestling.
#2 ‘The Texas Tornado’ Kerry Von Erich vs Mr Perfect (SummerSlam 1990)
The word ‘luck’ isn’t one you’d associate with Kerry Von Erich normally as the man had an incredibly tragic life. Von Erich had been a huge star in his own family’s promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling, during the 80s and had even beaten Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship but by 1990 his star was waning and on July 28th he debuted for the WWF. It’d be easy to believe that SumerSlam 90 was cursed if you believe in such things with Shawn Michaels being sidelined with a knee injury, Jesse Ventura and Rick Rude about to leave the company and most importantly, Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake being seriously injured in a parasailing accident which smashed the entire facial part of his skull shortly before the event. With Beefcake needing 100 metal plates in his face, his Intercontinental Championship run went to Von Erich in one of the few lucky events of his life.
On August 27th, less than a month after his debut, Kerry was crowned champion in a short but crisp match. Unfortunately it was only 3 months before he dropped the belt back to Perfect. Within 18 months Von Erich had been relegated to jobber status as his addiction to painkillers (stemming from a 1986 motorbike accident) became worse and 2 years after his Intercontinental win he left the WWF.
6 months later on February 18th Kerry Von Erich would commit suicide with his death revealing a major secret. In the 1986 motobike accident, Von Erich’s right foot and ankle had been fused which was pretty common knowledge, but what wasn’t common knowledge was that after walking way too early on the foot and reinjuring it, doctors had been forced to amputate. Kerry had wrestled since 1986 with a prosthetic right foot and had hidden the fact from almost all of his fellow wrestlers by going as far as to shower with his boots on, behaviour that had been attributed to his ‘issues’.
In retrospect it’s easy to see that the SummerSlam match was kept short to protect Von Erich but the fact that he was still able to work to that level and was given a title run was a tribute to his determination to overcome his injury.
#3 Shawn Michaels vs Triple H (SummerSlam 2002)
Easily a classic but not on the list purely for the quality of the match.
After suffering a career ending back injury at The Royal Rumble 1998, Shawn Michaels had only made non wrestling appearances for the WWF sporadically over the 4 year period after he dropped the belt to ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin at 1990’s Wrestlemania. When Michaels returned to reform D-X with Triple H in 2002 it didn’t seem much more than shoehorning in an old favourite due to a lack of current stars but when HHH turned on Michaels things got physical.
In an ‘Unsanctioned’ match at SunmmerSlam 2002 very little was expected of a very small looking Shawn Michaels as most expected the no rules stipulation was there to cover his lack of ability. However, no one could have forseen Michaels performing at a level equal or better than before.
The 27 minute long epic has gone down as a classic and has prompted many to wonder if Michaels’ back injury was as bad as he had actually claimed. Shawn had a habit of becoming “injured” when he had to lose title belts and had apparently not wanted to lose to Austin in 1998. There’s no doubt that his injury was legitimate but it seems convenient that Michaels sat out a 4 year period where he’d have been eclipsed by rising stars Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar only to be able to return at a time where half of those had retired or left and his legit best friend, Triple H, was starting to wield power in the company thanks to his relationship with the owner’s daughter.
Michaels would go on to have some of the best matches of his career over the next few years until he retired again in 2009.
#4 Brock Lesnar vs The Rock (SummerSlam 2002)
‘The Next Big Thing’ Brock Lesnar lived up to his moniker at SummerSlam 2002 by defeating The Rock in the main event for the Undisputed World Heavyweight Championship. What make the match particularly stand out is that Lesnar had only debuted in the WWF 4 month’s earlier.
In 2000 Lesnar had signed with the WWF and been sent to their developmental terrirtory Ohio Valley Wrestling where he’d shone as a performer thanks in part to his background as an amateur wrestler. On March 18th 2002 Lesnar debuted on the main roster and through the next few months crushed everyone and won The King of The Ring tournament along the way, earning a title match at SummerSlam. After beating Hulk Hogan and being slated to beat Steve Austin (who walked out of the company rather than lose to a rookie) Lesnar would become the youngest WWF champion in history at the age of 25.
Over the next few months Lesnar would rack up wins over The Big Show, The Undertaker, Chris Benoit, Edge and finally Kurt Angle in the main event of Wrestlemania XIX, where Lesnar almost broke his own neck while performing a Shooting Star Press. Lesnar would leave the company in 2004 but with one of the most impressive 2 year careers ever seen in wrestling.
#5 Brock Lesnar vs John Cena (SummerSlam 2014)
Following a stint in the UFC where Lesnar had won the UFC Heavyweight Championship from legend Randy Couture, he made his return to the WWE in 2012 on a part time basis. In his first match back Brock dominated John Cena only to lose in a perfectly booked match which played on Lesnar’s MMA history.
From there Lesnar would trade wins with Triple H and go on to beat CM Punk at SummerSlam 2013 then steamroll through Mark Henry and The Big Show. At Wrestlemania XXX Lesnar did the unthinkable and ended The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania undefeated streak leading to him being the number 1 contender for John Cena’s World Heavyweight Championship at SummerSlam 2014.
This match was expected to be another classic brawl but was actually a squash match with very little offence from Cena. Not only are squash matches rare, but to have one in the main event of a PPV and for the victim to be WWE franchise John Cena was absolutely unthinkable, but that is exactly what happened with Lesnar battering Cena with 16 German suplexes and two F5s.
With this win, Lesnar became a 4 time WWF/E World Heavyweight Champion in addition to being a former IWPG Heavyweight Champion, a former UFC World Heavyweight Champion and NCAA champion. Lesnar is the only man to win both WWF/E and UFC World Heavyweight titles further cementing his legacy as a future pro wrestling legend.
Tonight will he do the unthinkable and beat The Undertaker again or will The Phenom get his revenge?