Its moments, memories and matches pushed WWE SummerSlam 2014 into the event's all-time top 10.
Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins' brawl bleeding into the crowd around the ring, Nikki Bella attacking her own sister and Brock Lesnar turning John Cena into his own heavy bag place the latest SummerSlam in elite territory. The pay-per-view compares favorably to its other editions in terms of entertainment and impact.
Fans may pine for "the good old days" to return, but WWE keeps using SummerSlam as proof of how great the present is.
Staples Center hosted a tremendous show for the second-straight year. SummerSlam 2014 lacks the true classic bout that its peers boast, but the quality of its matches never dipped into bust territory.
The card's bouts resided in tiers as follows:
- Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz
- AJ Lee vs. Paige
- Brie Bella vs. Stephanie McMahon
- Rob Van Dam vs. Cesaro
SummerSlam 2014 didn't stumble on the undercard the way that other editions have. Even the least appealing offerings had excitement to offer.
No one is going to confuse Ziggler vs. The Miz with Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1991, but it was a fun bout that ended with the thrill of a new champion being crowned. It was a surprising result as well with how much The Showoff has lost in recent months.
It was a short match with few highlights but gave the audience a reason to get excited.
That same sentiment was true with AJ vs. Paige. Although a better match than their Battleground clash, it won't challenge for best Divas match of the year. It was a solid offering capped off with Paige's reversal of the Black Widow.
The title change will create more headlines than the action itself, though.
Nikki's heel turn highlighted the slow McMahon vs. Brie bout. McMahon was better than expected despite her decade-long absence from the ring, but it was the shock of the betrayal that made this memorable.
More excitement before that back-stabbing would have elevated it.
- Rusev vs. Jack Swagger
- Chris Jericho vs. Bray Wyatt
- Roman Reigns vs. Randy Orton
Physicality powered both Rusev's and Wyatt's matches.
Swagger left Rusev hobbled with an early ankle lock, and that created a compelling subplot going forward. The Bulgarian Brute had trouble standing, much less kicking Swagger to the mat. He gutted through the pain, though and left Swagger unconscious in The Accolade.
That created an enduring image—the patriot out cold in the foreigner's monster grip.
Wyatt and Jericho pounded on each other to great effect. The Eater of Worlds smashing Y2J into the barricade and ring steps were fun to watch, but it was the heel's unsettling nature that most impressed.
Shouting that he was already dead and stunning Jericho into inaction with his spider walk made for quality in-ring storytelling.
Had Reigns put in more offense earlier, his match with Orton could have been even better. The narrative was a simplistic one of Orton dominating and Reigns charging back. There wasn't enough variety, though, to keep the fans engaged before that comeback.
Like much of this year's SummerSlam, though, it created some lasting memories.
Reigns kicking out of a mid-air RKO is one of them. Him then sidestepping a punt attempt and spearing The Viper for the biggest win of his career is another.
- Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins
- Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena
Fans bemoaned the idea of Ambrose vs. Rollins being a Lumberjack match, but the two emerging stars thrived with the stipulation.
Their brawl spilled out into the collection of wrestlers circling around the ring and big moments kept following big moments. Ambrose suplexing Rollins into a wall of humanity below him instantly goes into SummerSlam's list of greatest spots.
Lesnar then proceeded to tear Cena apart in a shocker of a main event.
The Beast Incarnate winning was not the surprise here. How dominant the victory was will make this a match fans will remember for years.
It didn't have enough back-and-forth to slide into classic territory, but managed to suck in fans from the first punch to the last F-5.
The Best Shows That 2014 Beats Out
That consistency and lack of flops makes SummerSlam 2014 better than the 1992, 2004 and 2011 versions.
Fans will always treasure Hart battling British Bulldog in London, but much of the rest of the 1992 SummerSlam drags it down. Nailz vs. Virgil, Shawn Michaels vs. Rick Martel, Crush vs. Repo Man and Undertaker vs. Kamala are all the types of matches that beg to be skipped.
That's too many low points to compete with this year's show.
Hart vs. Bulldog is miles better than any single match from SummerSlam 2014, but beyond that, the most recent pay-per-view trumps that well-loved event. Watch Crush vs. Repo Man side by side with Dolph Ziggler vs. The Miz or compare the three-minute disqualification finish of Undertaker and Kamala to anything 2014's SummerSlam has to offer.
The 1992 show isn't winning those battles.
A similar fate awaits SummerSlam 2008. As excellent as its two best matches (Undertaker vs. Edge and Cena vs. Batista) were, the event's flops allow 2014 to overtake it.
The Great Khali's loss to Triple H, the 30-second ECW title match or the mixed-gender mess that was Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella vs. Kofi Kingston and Mickie James were all letdowns.
SummerSlam 2014 had no blink-of-an-eye match like Matt Hardy vs. Mark Henry. The shortest match (Paige vs. AJ) went over four minutes, per ProFightDB.com. It offered more thrills than Henry and Hardy despite its short time.
There were no goofy contests like the mixed-tag, and if someone complains about the pace of Orton vs. Reigns, have them rewatch Khali lumbering around the ring in a world title bout.
As for 2004, take out Orton vs. Chris Benoit and Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero, and you have an watchable show. Remove SummerSlam 2014's two best matches, and it's still plenty entertaining.
SummerSlam 2004 had three matches that Dave Meltzer rated two stars or less in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t ProFightDB.com). That doesn't include the forgettable Triple H vs. Eugene match or the Diva dodgeball segment.
Fans in the Staples Center didn't see that kind of filler this year.
The Divas matches in 2014 told compelling stories and provided both a new champion and a heel turn. Orton becoming the youngest world champ ever is one hell of a moment but so is Lesnar steamrolling over WWE's Superman.
Orton vs. Benoit was the better match, but 2014 didn't swing and miss like the shows that should be ranked below it, 2004 included.
SummerSlams 2014 Didn't Surpass
A lack of an all-time classic means that SummerSlam 2014 can't break the very top of the event's greatest hits. The shows from 1998, 2002 and 2013 beat it out.
The 1998 SummerSlam had its flops, but its best bouts keep it in the event's top 5.
The show offered a classic in Triple H vs. The Rock, a great match in Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker and two really good ones in X-Pac vs. Jeff Jarrett and Ken Shamrock vs. Owen Hart in a Lion's Den match.
The novelty of that last bout, the star power in the main event and the powerful story that was Mankind battling against two men trumps SummerSlam 2014's consistency.
WWE offered excellence in overstock in 2013. Lesnar had a better match that year, punishing CM Punk for allowing hunger for revenge to blind him.
That match along with Daniel Bryan vs. Cena and Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio piled on the greatness. When WWE compiled its list of 25 best matches of 2013, SummerSlam provided three of them, including No. 15, No. 2 and No. 1.
Lesnar vs. Cena and Rollins vs. Ambrose will surely make their way onto this year's list, but it's hard to imagine them being in the top two spots. In addition, there isn't that third great match that 2013 offered.
Add the heart-stabbing feeling that came with Orton cashing in on Bryan and SummerSlam 2013's victory over 2014 is clear.
After a great show like fans witnessed this year, it's easy to start throwing around the "best-ever" tag. After all, the thrill of the present is more vivid than faded memories.
SummerSlam 2002, though, remains king of that pay-per-view.
No show in the event's history has been so stacked with outstanding matches. Shove that card's offerings into the tiers mentioned above, and that fact is clear.
- Classic: Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
- Great: The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio
- Good: Booker T and Goldust vs. Christian and Lance Storm, Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit
- Solid: Undertaker vs. Test, Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho
- Dud: None
Like 2014, 2002 didn't have any duds, but it had less offerings that were just solid. Mostly everything the wrestlers composed that night was a hit. One could argue that Lesnar vs. The Rock was a classic as well, but either way, this event's surplus of entertainment makes it the best SummerSlam to date.
Last year, Punk, Cena, Bryan and Lesnar came close to knocking off its crown.
WWE delivered another tremendous SummerSlam in 2014. The show gave fans the shock of a one-sided beating, the best Lumberjack match ever and consistent in-ring action. Those elements make it one of the best editions ever, outdoing at least 17 others.
It can't make it all the way into the all-time top 5, though. Other versions of the event have had more masterworks to offer.
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