WWE SummerSlam 2017: 10 Worst Booking Decisions in PPV's History
WWE's SummerSlam pay-per-view may be the Biggest Party of the Summer, the setting for some of the greatest matches in the company's illustrious history and the second-most important show of the year, but that does not mean it is without its fair share of questionable, if not downright awful, booking decisions.
Over the first three decades of the event's existence, it has been home to some head-scratchers, to be sure.
From truly putrid cards to outcomes that served only to direct attention to the following month's show, downplaying its own significance.
Why these decisions are allowed to make it out of the booking meeting and onto screens across the world is a question only Vince McMahon himself can answer. They did, though, and remain some of the lowlights of an otherwise fan-favorite spectacle.
As the WWE Universe gears up for the 2017 edition of the broadcast on August 20, which will almost certainly feature a few WWE Creative decisions that create unrest among the fanbase, journey through the annals of the annual extravaganza and relive these 10 moments that left fans with one question: why?
10. The Ring of Fire (2013)
The Wyatt Family exploded onto the scene in the summer of 2013 and while Kane may have been a questionable opponent given the quality of his in-ring work at that point, the tone of his character at least fit that of Bray Wyatt.
Unfortunately, with the mind games and supernatural elements of the two personas came the ridiculous idea from the crack creative staff behind WWE programming at the time for a Ring of Fire match. Essentially the same concept of the Inferno Match of the Attitude Era, the competitors would fight in a ring surrounded by flames.
Unlike that aforementioned gimmick bout, the PG Era would not allow for one Superstar to ignite the other on fire.
The bout had been shoehorned into an era it no longer fit, and as a result, Wyatt and Kane were forced to work a slow and plodding match that did nothing to suggest the third-generation Superstar Wyatt was a competent in-ring worker.
The bout, one of the worst in SummerSlam history, nearly derailed The Wyatt Family act before it began. While all of the smoke and mirrors help to make a more entertaining product, today's wrestling fan demands a certain level of in-ring work and that match hurt the perception of Wyatt as a worker right out of the gate.
It was a terrible start for the young performer that would not be entirely rectified until the Royal Rumble 2014 showdown with Daniel Bryan. Worst of all, the match was indicative of the type of disjointed booking choices that would ultimately doom the Wyatt character to the mediocrity he currently suffers from today.
9. Edge and Christian Win TLC (2000)
The turn of the Millennium brought with it the rise of three teams that would go on to define an era of tag team wrestling. The Hardy Boyz, Edge and Christian, and The Dudley Boyz earned increased television time and substantial pushes thanks to their show-stealing efforts at WrestleMania 2000, and by the time SummerSlam rolled around in August, WWE officials were counting on them to deliver in another big spot.
The first-ever Tables, Ladders & Chairs match was designed to play to all three teams' strengths while simultaneously serving as the comeuppance for heels Edge and Christian.
Except they overcame the odds facing them and won the match, retaining the titles and disappointing the fans in North Carolina.
The same North Carolina the immensely popular Hardy Boyz called home.
Why WWE waited until September's Unforgiven pay-per-view to execute the most obvious title change imaginable is a mystery. Other than, you know, to stick it to fans who thought they had all the answers.
Matt and Jeff were as popular as any Superstar not named The Rock and should have had their hard work pay off in front of hometown fans and friends. Instead, they lost the match and had to wait until a C-level pay-per-view event a month later to collect the titles that should have been theirs much sooner.
8. Shawn Michaels Defeats Vader (1996)
At In Your House: International Incident in July 1996, Vader pinned Shawn Michaels in a huge Six-Man Tag Team match and earned himself a shot at The Heartbreak Kid's WWE Championship at SummerSlam.
All signs pointed to the red-hot Vader rolling into SummerSlam, beating Michaels to win the WWE Championship and embarking on a run atop the company that would see him become the unstoppable monster the likes of which fans see today in Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman.
Instead, Vader picked up two controversial wins over Michaels via disqualification and count-out before manager Jim Cornette demanded the match be restarted a second time to ensure his client's championship coronation.
That obviously did not happen as Michaels blasted him with Sweet Chin Music and pinned The Mastadon's shoulders to the mat.
Unfortunately, it was as close to the title as Vader would ever come.
The talented heavyweight would remain an instrumental piece of the main event scene, but any shot he had at reigning as champion vanished the moment the referee's hand slapped the mat for the third time in Cleveland.
Once a heel capable of carrying the WCW brand on his back, Vader appeared poised to do the same for WWE. That is, until he ran into Michaels, his backstage political pull and a poor booking choice that extinguished his heat.
7. Brock Lesnar Headlines over Crowning of the 1st Universal Champion (2016)
Brock Lesnar had been at the center of SummerSlam promotion for five years by the time he rolled into Brooklyn's Barclays Center for a match with Randy Orton in 2016. Rightfully so. He had brought a big match feel to the show and elevated its significance on the WWE schedule, to the point that it surpassed Royal Rumble as the No. 2 show.
A match with Orton, though, did not quite carry the star power previous encounters did. The Viper, for all of his accomplishments, was not John Cena, CM Punk, The Undertaker or Triple H. He was a step down—a surefire Hall of Famer without being the marquee attraction the others were at the time they battled Lesnar.
Considering the Raw brand was launching the brand-new Universal Championship in a match between Finn Balor and Seth Rollins, two Superstars who could carry the company on their backs for the foreseeable future rather than pop up from time to time, surely Lesnar vs. Orton could be the heavily promoted box office attraction while Balor and Rollins competed over the title in the actual main event, right?
Even with an unsatisfying knockout finish that saw Lesnar elbow the holy hell out of a bloodied Orton, management thought it best that main event go on last, at the expense of the crowning of a new champion.
Some will argue the decision, in hindsight, was the right one given the injury suffered by Balor during his match with Rollins, but in reality, that championship would have meant so much more had it been presented in the main event spot rather than third-to-last.
Lesnar could have claimed box-office supremacy with another major-marketed main event, while Rollins, Balor and the Universal title could have gotten the rub from having closed out the broadcast.
Instead, that match, which neither man needed any more credibility or notoriety, did.
6. The Entire Card (1995)
The 1995 SummerSlam pay-per-view is, at best, a monumental misstep by WWE's creative forces.
At worst, it is one of the absolute most putrid pay-per-view events ever presented by Vince McMahon and company, and that's not even taking into account King Mabel challenging for the WWE title.
For all of the issues with Mabel as champion, he was at least a physical force who matched up with Diesel according to size and was believable enough to present a real threat to Big Daddy Cool. The rest of the card, though, sticks out a like sore thumb in the annals of SummerSlam events.
Superstars such as Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, The Undertaker and Bret Hart are spread out over the card, minimalizing the high-profile matches that could have strengthened the show. Hart and Undertaker, in particular, are left to wallow in mediocrity as they work with Isaac Yankem and Kama, respectively.
Speaking of Michaels and Ramon, management considered the card so pathetic at one point that it canceled the previously announced Michaels-Sycho Sid match for the Intercontinental Championship and booked a Ladder match between HBK and Ramon with no build to speak of.
WWE president Gorilla Monsoon even went on television and bluntly said no one wanted to see Sid challenge Michaels.
Creative turmoil and a lack of depth across the board resulted in a show in which Yankem, Kama, The Blu Brothers, Bob Holly, Yankem and Kama earned television time. Lex Luger and British Bulldog, the latter of whom recently turned heel, were conspicuous in their absence.
Mismanagement and a warped sense of what the audience actually wanted to see earned the event the recognition as the worst SummerSlam card ever.
5. Kevin Nash Returns, Alberto Del Rio Cashes In on CM Punk (2011)
WWE champion CM Punk was the hottest star in professional wrestling as SummerSlam 2011 hit the pay-per-view airwaves, live from Los Angeles' Staples Center.
On that night, he would meet interim champion John Cena at the summertime spectacular as the company promoted a match to determine the undisputed titleholder. With Punk's name on the lips and minds of fans everywhere, and his star burning brighter than it ever had before, it would have been wise for WWE to book him to go over his rival and stand tall atop WWE.
Though he beat Cena in controversial fashion, it was not the match that lands among the worst booking decisions in event history.
Moments after Punk retained his title, he was attacked by a returning Kevin Nash, who entered the squared circle from the crowd and dropped The Second City Saint with a massive Jackknife Powerbomb. As if management had not just sabotaged Punk's reign as champion by setting up a potential rivalry with a nearly immobile Nash, it obliterated it moments later with the decision to book Alberto Del Rio's Money in the Bank cash-in on the same night.
What should have been Punk's night of triumph, a suitable follow-up to the monumental events of Money in the Bank in his hometown of Chicago was, instead, a not-so-subtle reminder that openly bashing the boss both on- and off-camera is never a good idea.
Punk's reign as champion ended that night in L.A., and though he would regain the gold months later at Survivor Series, the heat he had for that three-month span in the summer of 2011 would never be recouped.
4. Triple H Does Not Win the WWE Championship (1999)
It seems almost wrong to consider a moment when Triple H didn't win something a "worst booking decision," but that was absolutely the case in 1999.
Triple H was, arguably, the hottest star in WWE. After a heel turn earlier in the year, he had finally found himself as a villain and was embracing the opportunity to headline for the company. With Undertaker preparing to take time off, The Game was positioned as the lead heel in the hottest promotion in professional wrestling.
Having been featured prominently in the promotional tie-ins with MTV, it appeared as though Triple H was on his way to his first world title. His infamous "I Am The Game" promo even aired on Sunday Night Heat leading into the event.
His coronation as the WWE champion was the surest thing on a stacked card.
It never happened.
Mankind pinned "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in the night's Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship and left Minneapolis with the gold in tow. A frustrated Triple H got some of his heat back by obliterating The Texas Rattlesnake's knee, but it was too little, too late.
The man who should have enjoyed the defining moment of his career on pay-per-view instead had to settle for an illogical title win the next night on Raw.
Yes, his victory was seen by more viewers on Monday night than it would have been a night earlier, but the prestige and historical nature of a pay-per-view win were lost.
3. Lex Luger Wins by Count-Out (1993)
In the summer of 1993, Lex Luger bodyslammed Yokozuna, instigating a babyface turn that would see him become America's next great hope to dethrone the evil foreign champion.
He went on a cross-country bus tour on his custom Lex Express, greeting fans and building support for his All-American character ahead of a SummerSlam main event against the behemoth titleholder. There was genuine excitement for Luger's championship opportunity and, at the very least, a brief glimmer of hope that McMahon may have manufactured a new superhero babyface to take the place of the departing Hulk Hogan.
Then Luger blasted Yokozuna with his steel plate-reinforced forearm and won the match via count-out.
Confetti fell from the ceiling, fellow Superstars The Steiner Brothers and Randy Savage hit the ring to congratulate him, and all seemed right with the world.
Except for the fact that Yokozuna retained the title, seemingly rendering an entire month of hard promotion meaningless.
Luger never would win the title. By the time his stint with WWE ended in 1995, he was a glorified midcarder whose red, white and blue promise was never fully realized.
2. Goldberg Loses Inside the Elimination Chamber (2003)
Triple H may have been robbed of the WWE Championship in 1999, but he was directly involved in one of the worst booking missteps in SummerSlam history when, in 2003, he successfully retained the World Heavyweight Championship over Goldberg inside the Elimination Chamber.
The main event from the Raw brand saw The Game faced with defending his title against top contenders in Randy Orton, Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, Kevin Nash and the aforementioned WCW icon. It was to be the culmination of months of storytelling. He would finally be knocked off his mantle, with the title taken away from him by the bald-headed ass-kicker who had taken WWE by storm, beginning with his victory over The Rock back in April.
That Triple H was suffering from a fairly significant groin tear that forced him to change his wrestling gear only pointed to the fact that Goldberg would win the match and The Cerebral Assassin would take a leave of absence to heal up and, also, shoot Blade: Trinity.
Instead, Triple H won the match with the assistance of a sledgehammer shot to the face. As if that was not enough to thoroughly kill Goldberg's heat, the previously unstoppable force was handcuffed to the cage and belittled by Evolution.
As was the case in previous years, Goldberg would march into Unforgiven the following month and win the title he should have received at the summertime spectacular. It would be his, but the timing was wrong and the moment nowhere near as meaningful as it would have been at the prestigious SummerSlam event.
The result was an underwhelming title reign and disappointing first run with the company.
1. John Cena Overcomes the Odds, Beats Nexus (2010)
Nexus took WWE by storm in the summer of 2010, thanks to an unpredictable, never-before-seen destruction of the company's Superstars, ringside personnel and set.
Wade Barrett, Skip Sheffield, Darren Young, Daniel Bryan, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Justin Gabriel and Michael Tarver spent weeks wreaking havoc on anyone or thing in their way in a path of destruction not seen since the heyday of the New World Order in WCW.
As SummerSlam approached, John Cena and several of the other Superstars affected by the renegade group banded together to battle the faction, including Bryan, who returned at SummerSlam.
Common sense says the seven-man band of pissed-off brothers would beat the established stars and earn themselves more heat as they continued to play a significant role on WWE television. Instead, Nexus lost the match when Super Cena overcame the odds and pinned Barrett's shoulders to the mat to score the final elimination.
The match immediately killed any threat the Nexus had of dominating and overtaking WWE. It hurt their credibility and damaged their legitimacy. No longer were they a danger to the top Superstars but, rather, a crop of young talent unable to overcome wrestling's resident superhero.