The second most anticipated pay-per-view of the year, SummerSlam, is just four days away. And with the arrival of the WWE's classic summer event comes the possibility of history being made.
Quite a lot has happened in the show's 23-year history. We have seen names such as Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and the Undertaker achieve wrestling immortality. We have seen talents such as Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and CM Punk emerge into the spotlight. Simply put, eras were defined and many lives were changed.
So with SummerSlam less than a week away, here are the top ten moments in the history of this summer extravaganza.
Venue: Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario
About a month before SummerSlam, Randy Orton eliminated Chris Jericho in a 20-man battle royal to become the number one contender for the World Heavyweight Championship. The youngest member of Evolution had booked himself a title match with "the one who shall not be named", Chris Benoit, at the company's summer extravaganza.
As the main event on the card, Orton and Benoit did not disappoint. The match lasted a little over 20 minutes and ended in the Legend killer's favor. Benoit attempted his patented Crippler Crossface, trying to pull Randy's arm down to the mat. However, Orton countered with a swift RKO and pinned Benoit for the three count. After the match, Benoit and Orton exchanged a handshake to cap off the hard fought match.
That night, Randal Keith Orton became the youngest Heavyweight Champion in the history of the WWE at the age of 24.
Venue: Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Dissatisfied by his sister's relationship with Andrew "Test" Martin, Shane McMahon set up a "Love Her or Leave Her" Greenwich Street Fight at 1999's edition of SummerSlam (I never knew street fights took place in Greenwich, Connecticut).
Anyway, the stipulation to the match was if Shane won, Test and Stephanie would have to break up. However, if Test pulled it out, he would be able to stay in his relationship with McMahon. Fans knew the battle would an interesting one, but they didn't know how hellacious it would turn out to be.
Shane and Test went above and beyond their capabilities in the ring, matching big hit for big hit throughout the bout. The match was highlighted by two elbow drops—one by Shane to Test through the commentator's table and one by Test to Shane which ultimately ended it.
Test won the match and rejoiced with Stephanie. Although Shane ended up on the wrong side of this one, he scored a major victory with fans and marks alike. He wasn't exactly your prototypical wrestler, but he did display some of his wrestling chops that night.
Venue: Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana
Was it peculiar when a non-Heavyweight title match was booked as the main event? Yes.
Was anybody thinking the same thing after that Taker-Edge match? Hell no.
Why? Because the show put on by those two athletes was simply amazing. There's just no other way of describing the Hell in the Cell match between the Undertaker and Edge in 2008.
This nearly half-hour affair saw part of the cell going down. It saw Edge taking a Spear to Taker right into the commentator's table. It even saw a chair shot from Edge to Taker, off a ladder, and through a table.
But the end was perhaps the most thrilling moment of the match. Undertaker chokeslammed Edge off of the top turnbuckle and into a table below. He then proceeded to give Edge a Spear, a con-chair-to, and a Tombstone Piledriver to finish it all off.
Venue: MCI Center in Washington, D.C.
In a dream match for a lot of early WWE/WWF fans, Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan finally squared off. The 80's phenomena of Hulkamania was set to clash with the 90's poster boy known as the Heartbreak Kid. Both were icons, both represented an era, and both were undefeated at SummerSlam.
Before the match began, you could feel the electricity in the arena. Michaels was ready, Hogan was ready, and the Washington crowd was fully tuned in.
The 21-minute match was exactly as expected. You had your HBK showmanship at its finest. You had Hogan enter his Hulk-up mode. And to nobody's surprise, you had Michaels carrying Hogan throughout the majority of the match only to see Hogan's Leg Drop conquer the greatest performer this business has ever seen.
Regardless of various rumors pertaining to Michaels' "over-selling" of the match, this was definitely a moment to remember for all fans.
Venue: Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York
You could feel it coming. Brock Lesnar was rapidly rising, The Rock had already gone Hollywood, and the changing of the guard was all but imminent. The Long Island crowd was heavily backing Brock and he gave them just what they wanted.
On July 25, 2011, the man who was dubbed by Paul Heyman as "The Next Big Thing" became exactly that. Lesnar defeated WWE legend The Rock and captured the WWE Undisputed Championship in the process. The match ended after Lesnar stopped a People's Elbow and hit Rocky with an F-5. Lesnar was the youngest wrestler to ever win the Heavyweight title until Randy Orton came along just two years later.
With The Rock transitioning from the WWE to the silver screen, Brock Lesnar was the new "it" guy for the company.
Venue: Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York
When Shawn Michaels returned after a four-year absence, he was re-introduced to the WWE in a feud with Triple H. The angle had The Game turning on his longtime buddy Michaels in order to prove that Shawn was "weak." Triple H pedigreed Michaels and smashed his head through a car window in the build up before their unsanctioned battle at SummerSlam. It would be Shawn's first match since WrestleMania XIV.
This Michaels-HHH match was everything fans could have wished for. We had high-risk moves, we had pure brutality, and we had two guys putting their bodies on the line for the sake of entertainment.
Michaels rolled up Triple H after he reversed the Pedigree and stole what would be the match of the night. A disgruntled Triple H would go on to assault HBK after the bell and caused Michaels to be carried out on a stretcher.
The post-match actions were not exactly great, but the match that took place was.
Venue: Madison Square Garden in New York, New York
Prior to SummerSlam '91, Bret Hart primarily worked tag team matches. He captured tag gold twice as one half of the Hart Foundation leading up to WrestleMania VII, where they dropped the straps to the Nasty Boys.
After his split with Jim Neidhart, Bret received his first big singles opportunity when he was booked to face Mr. Perfect for the Intercontinental Championship at 1991's SummerSlam. Luckily for Hart, he seized the chance.
Bret Hart and Curt Henning, Mr. Perfect, went on to work one of the greatest matches in history.
The highlight of the match was when Hart became the first wrestler to ever kick out of Henning's PerfectPlex. Hart later applied his famous Sharpshooter and forced Henning to submit. Bret Hart grabbed the IC title and the attention of the wrestling world.
Venue: Pittsburgh Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The title says it all. If you get Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, and a ladder then you are assured some great action.
In a rematch from their legendary WrestleMania X bout a year earlier, HBK and Razor faced off in a ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. And although that WrestleMania match was almost impossible to top, both men put on yet another exhilarating show.
As expected, the matchup started off quickly and immediately gained the crowd's attention. In the latter half of the match, Razor pulled out a second ladder which was rare at the time. Michaels went on to win the strap after he reversed the Razor's Edge and flipped Ramon to the outside.
Razor and Michaels capped it all off with a surprising congratulatory handshake.
Venue: United Center in Chicago, Illinois
This one needs no explanation. But since this is an article, I guess I would need to write something.
Bret Hart, Owen Hart, and a steel cage. And it's for the WWF Title!
- A piledriver from Owen to Bret
- Sharpshooters by both Owen and Bret
- Straight up brawling
- Hair pulling
- A suplex by Bret off the top of the cage
So basically we saw just about everything in this match. This is why this sibling rivalry ranks at the second spot on this countdown.
Bret would come out victorious when Owen's leg got caught between the cage bars. As Owen laid trapped, Bret climbed down the cage and retained the WWF Championship.
Venue: Wembley Stadium in London, England
The 80,335 that packed Wembley Stadium that summer knew they were in for something special. It was the British Bulldog, Danny Boy Smith, squaring off against his brother-in-law Bret Hart for the WWF Intercontinental Title.
Emotions ran high for both the Bulldog and Hart that night as Diana Hart-Smith, Bulldog's wife and Bret's sister, watched from the crowd. Smith was accompanied by boxer Lennox Lewis who carried a British flag down to the ring.
The expectations for this match were surpassed as Bret and Smith locked up for one of the most epic 25 minutes in wrestling history. It was a back-and-forth affair, seeing Bulldog's power moves being matched by Hart's picture perfect fundamentals. Near the end of the bout, the Bulldog managed to escape Bret's Sharpshooter and throw Hart against the ropes. Hart ran back at Bulldog and attempted a sunset flip which would then be countered. Smith stopped the flip, grabbed Hart's legs, and pinned him for the victory.
Bret and Bulldog would later embrace at the match's end and were subsequently joined by Diana Hart-Smith. It was a perfect ending to a perfect match.
Not only is this matchup considered one of the greatest in SummerSlam's history, but perhaps one of the greatest matches of all-time.