WrestleMania, debuting in 1985, was conceptualized as Vince McMahon’s answer to Jim Crockett’s successful Starrcade Pay-Per-View.
The two titans engaged in a buyrates and ratings war, in which McMahon defeated Crockett when the first Survivor Series in 1987 went head to head with Starrcade, and came out on top.
In 1988, the final two events that would soon be known as the Big Four, the Royal Rumble and SummerSlam would launch triumphantly.
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Excluding WrestleMania, these four enterprising writers are tasked with extolling the virtues of a chosen Pay-Per-View, in order to sway the peers of Bleacher Report.
SummerSlam, promoted as The Biggest Party of the Summer, was created in 1988, slated for an August debut. It may have been the last of the Big Four to be established, but it was conceived with loving care and given a hot main event for its first outing.
The Mega Powers, then WWF Champion Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, defeated The Mega Bucks, Ted Dibiase and Andre The Giant, despite the biased Jesse Ventura as the Special Guest Referee. In an oft replayed moment, Savage entered the ring and slammed Ventura’s hand down on the mat for the final count.
If that wasn’t remarkable enough, the longest running Intercontinental Champion, up to that point and to the present, saw his reign come to a startling end when The Ultimate Warrior pinned The Honky Tonk Man in 31 seconds.
SummerSlam would go on to accumulate countless memorable moments, rivaling only WrestleMania for the amazing victories, anguished defeats, and shocking turns in storylines.
In 1992, the event would be held in the United Kingdom, drawing an astonishing 80,355 attendees. With a main event of Bret Hart versus home country hero Davey Boy Smith for the Intercontinental Championship, the attendance of this SummerSlam is the second largest event for the McMahons, bested only by WrestleMania III.
The inaugural event for the home to the Chicago Bulls, the United Center, was SummerSlam 1994. Following a Casket Match with Yokozuna at the Royal Rumble, The Undertaker made his much anticipated return from his mysterious disappearance.
Yet, the highlight of the night was a brutal Steel Cage Match between brothers Owen and Bret Hart.
One year later, Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon would steal the show with a rematch from WrestleMania X. The second ladder match was every bit as exciting as the first, despite new regulations that limited the use of the ladder as a deliberate weapon.
The next few years were notable for the instigation of the program between Shawn Michaels and The Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997 and the first female Intercontinental Champion crowned in 2000.
Without SummerSlam to act as the perfect platform for the Michaels versus Undertaker feud, the Hell in a Cell match may never have been created. Without the Hell in a Cell match, the new staple of the No Way Out Pay-Per-View, the Elimination Chamber, would not exist.
As a demonstration of the importance of SummerSlam to the billion dollar empire of World Wrestling Entertainment, Brock Lesnar would secure his place in history as the youngest WWE Champion in 2002. Two years later, Randy Orton would win his first World Heavyweight Championship, making him the youngest World Champion.
2002 also saw the triumphant, exhilarating return of Shawn Michaels to the squared circle after over four years of retirement due to a crippling back injury. Michaels would win the nearly thirty minute, vicious bout against Triple H, and it launched the remarkable feud between the two former best friends.
SummerSlam is the only Pay-Per-View to boast the last two matches of Hulk Hogan, beginning in 2005 against Shawn Michaels and again in 2006 in a match that showcased the mature ring ability of Randy Orton.
In the latest edition of the SummerSlam franchise, the WWE offered a WrestleMania caliber match in the first clash of John Cena and Batista. The show closed with an explosive Hell in a Cell match-up between Edge and The Undertaker, effectively ending their epic program.
Some might argue that SummerSlam and Survivor Series have lost the consistency and excitement of years past. However, I would counter by saying that the prestige of the event and its enviable position in the calendar year are points in favor of SummerSlam.
Because SummerSlam is the last major Pay-Per-View prior to the encroachment of the NFL season, the WWE tends to use a mix of ending and beginning programs at every SummerSlam.
Missing SummerSlam is a surefire way to miss the end of heated programs, such as Edge versus The Undertaker, or miss the commencement of phenomenal storylines, such as Shawn Michaels versus The Undertaker, and Matt Hardy versus Edge.
Outside of WrestleMania, no other Pay-Per-View can match the sheer volume of title matches boasted by SummerSlam.
The Intercontinental Championship was defended regularly; the WWF/E Championship, the World Heavyweight Championship, the Women’s Championship, the European Championship, the Cruiserweight Championship, the Tag Team titles, and the Hardcore Championship have all seen numerous title defenses and championships changing hands at SummerSlam.
Fans that do not see SummerSlam might as well skip the NCAA College Football Bowl Season, the conference championships in the NFL, and the first six games of the World Series. The McMahons are savvy business people and, as such, have invested almost an equitable amount of time into SummerSlam as they do for WrestleMania.
The August event is dubbed The Biggest Party of the Summer for a reason; it is the most strategically important, exciting, and prestigious event next to WrestleMania.