WWE SummerSlam 2018: Most Underrated Matches in PPV's History

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2018

WWE SummerSlam 2018: Most Underrated Matches in PPV's History

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The SummerSlam pay-per-view is one steeped in classic wrestling matches featuring the greatest Superstars in WWE history. From Bret Hart to Shawn Michaels, The Rock to Triple H, John Cena to CM Punk, every recognizable world champion of the last 30 years has made their mark on the summertime spectacular.

    Not every match, though, receives the recognition it should for the quality of its action.

    Some suffer from sharing the card with all-time great title bouts or newsworthy angles that overshadow them. Others are lost in the annals, forgotten in an era of bloated, long cards.

    With the 2018 broadcast shaping up to be one of those long shows, touting more matches than a typical card can house, the likelihood that a great match flies under the radar is high.

    In preparation for such a thing, relive these 10 hidden gems from the three decades of WWE's annual SummerSlam extravaganza.

10. WWE Tag Team Title Match: Steiner Brothers vs. the Heavenly Bodies (1993)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    To say the Steiner Brothers' run in WWE was underwhelming would be an understatement. Creative disappointment ruined what should have been one of the all-time great runs by any team in company history but that does not mean Rick and Scott did not deliver their fair share of superb in-ring performances.

    Fueled by hometown support and their mother and sister seated in the front row, the tag team champions entered Detroit to a thunderous ovation and set out to defend their titles against the Heavenly Bodies, Dr. Tom Prichard and "Gigolo" Jimmy Del Rey.

    Scott found himself in the unenviable position of being isolated from his partner across the ring, at the mercy of the talented in-ring technicians Del Rey and Prichard.

    The late-match hot tag to brother Rick sparked the champions' comeback. An attempt at an underhanded win by the villains, using manager Jim Cornette's tennis racquet, was unsuccessful. Miscommunication gave way to Scott's Frankensteiner, and the champions won.

    At just over nine minutes, the match was nonstop action throughout. There was no time for extended rest holds over long heat sections. The wrestlers kept up a furious pace throughout and the result was a red-hot crowd eager to cheer on their hometown boys.

    A strong match from a 1993 SummerSlam card that is one of the more unheralded in WWE history. A quality show throughout.

9. Cesaro vs. Kevin Owens (2015)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    On the heels of a rivalry with John Cena, Kevin Owens' SummerSlam 2015 match against Cesaro almost felt like a step down. That it was sandwiched in the dubious "death spot" of the card, between the Champion vs. Champion match between John Cena and Seth Rollins and the rematch between Undertaker and Brock Lesnar did it no favors.

    Despite the hurdles in its path, Owens and Cesaro took the 14:15 it was allowed and turned in a hotly contested match that remains one of the better bouts of that bloated show.

    That Owens turned in the performance he did just 24 hours after a brutal ladder match against NXT champion Finn Balor at TakeOver: Brooklyn is even more amazing.

    He and Cesaro slugged it out, delivering a hard-hitting match that ended with a Popup Powerbomb to the Swiss Superman that helped Owens rebuild some of the momentum he lost toward the end of the Cena program.

8. Intercontinental Championship Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (2009)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Rey Mysterio is one of the more giving Superstars in WWE history. A legitimate legend whose contributions to the industry are undeniable, he has made a career of working with the lesser experienced, helping with their in-ring evolutions and lending them credibility they otherwise may not have had.

    That was the case in August 2009 when he engaged a young Dolph Ziggler in a rivalry over the Intercontinental Championship.

    Setting the bar for the remainder of the show to eclipse, Mysterio and Ziggler delivered a 12-minute match that not only established The Showoff as one of the brightest young stars on the roster but Mysterio as one of the most valuable on-the-job teachers in the industry.

    Mysterio would retain his title but it was Ziggler who won, star brighter and his status on the roster enhanced to levels few imagined it would be after his dreadful debut a year earlier.

    A match so good one can only imagine what a rematch here in 2018, with a more seasoned Ziggler and determined Mysterio, would look like.

7. World Heavyweight Championship Match: Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (2013)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Sometimes in wrestling, there are two Superstars whose in-ring chemistry is undeniable. Christian and Alberto Del Rio are two such competitors.

    At SummerSlam 2013, the grizzled veterans of the mat game squared off in a match for Del Rio's World Heavyweight Championship in what amounted to an afterthought of sorts. A stacked card featuring Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena and CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar relegated Christian vs. Del Rio to the backburner.

    Perhaps fueled by ego and frustration over the diminished significance of their title bout, Captain Charisma and the second-generation heel set out to steal the show.

    While they did not quite achieve that goal due to the two, legitimate five-star classics elsewhere on the show, they did wow the fans in Los Angeles with a match that kept them guessing despite a seemingly obvious outcome.

    Christian and Del Rio worked a match follow of dramatic near-falls and counters, culminating with Del Rio trapping the injured challenger in a cross arm breaker and forcing a tapout, despite momentary defiance by the Toronto native.

6. Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero (2002)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The year 2002 featured some of the best in-ring content in the history of the SmackDown brand, thanks to writer Paul Heyman's trust in six specific Superstars: Eddie and Chavo Guerrero, Edge, Rey Mysterio, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit.

    At SummerSlam, Edge battled Eddie Guerrero in a singles bout that may have lacked the hype of other bouts on the card but delivered one of the more underrated gems of that stacked card.

    Guerrero was a tenacious pitbull, taking the fight to his opponent and singling out his left shoulder. A cerebral worker, every ounce of Latino Heat's offensive arsenal was aimed at the joint, looking to disarm (pun intended) the future Rated-R Superstar.

    Edge, ever resilient, fought back into the match and scored the come-from-behind victory using a spear.

    And therein lies the controversy surrounding the bout.

    Many point out that Edge used his injured shoulder to deliver the spear and thus, it should never have been as effective as it was. There is validity in that argument but, taking into account it was his last-ditch effort at a victory and the shoulder he routinely used to execute his finisher, it can also be debated that it makes sense in the heat of battle.

    Even if you argue against the finish, the match that preceded it was so good it earned a spot on this list.

5. WWE Championship Match: Triple H vs. the Great Khali (2008)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The last thing you expected when clicking on the link to this article was a match involving The Great Khali. That's fair; the guy is hardly what one would consider a competent wrestler, let alone someone involved in a SummerSlam hidden gem.

    Yet, in August 2008, Khali was the challenger to Triple H's WWE Championship in a match most pegged as an afterthought on a card that also featured John Cena vs. Batista and The Undertaker vs. Edge. The Game was tasked with doing what few before him could: get a cohesive match out of a guy whose mobility was nearly nonexistent.

    He did just that.

    The David to his challenger's Goliath, Triple H made Khali look like a credible opponent. He sold for him and, when the time came, fought back from underneath before delivering a Pedigree and retaining his title. The Cerebral Assassin did a phenomenal job of playing to Khali's strengths, and the result was a match that stands out for its unexpected greatness.

    On a night where the attention was on the Hell in a Cell main event and the battle of the babyfaces, it was Triple H's miracle performance that flew under the radar and finally deserves the attention it did not get back then.

4. Ladder Match for the Hardcore Championship: Jeff Hardy vs. Rob Van Dam (2002)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam tore the house down, stealing the show at the Invasion pay-per-view in July 2001, so it was unsurprising that WWE management was eager to get them back in the ring with each other at SummerSlam.

    With the Hardcore Championship up for grabs, The Charismatic Enigma battled The Whole Dam Show in a ladder match.

    Contrary to all preconceived notions, Van Dam and Hardy wrestled a safer match than the ladder and TLC matches that immediately preceded them. They were smarter, saving the most high-risk spots for the right times, as if to emphasize their importance to the story they were telling.

    The demolition derby ultimately concluded with Van Dam winning back the hardcore title but for the second year in a row, Hardy was part of a match that wowed the crowd and let him use his creativity to betterment of the match. 

3. Love Her or Leave Her Street Fight: Test vs. Shane McMahon (1999)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    The relationship between Test and Stephanie McMahon infuriated the McMahon family, but no one quite as much as her brother Shane. The prodigal son took exception to his sister dating a long-haired, tattooed former bouncer and took to the ring at SummerSlam 1999 for the first—and only—Love Her or Leave Her Street Fight.

    With the stipulation that Test would have to break up with Stephanie if he lost while Shane would have to butt out of the relationship if he was defeated, emotions were high for one of the show's marquee matches.

    A wild, chaotic and violent match that featured interference from both The Mean Street Posse and The Stooges concluded with Shane McMahon enduring a flying elbow drop from Test as the Toronto native scored the biggest win of his career.

    The post-match embrace between Test and Stephanie was the happy ending even the most hardcore of Attitude Era fans desired, hammering home the overall effectiveness of the match.

2. Two-out-of-Three Falls Match: Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (2000)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho have one of the great, underrated rivalries in WWE history. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding the former's passing, its greatness has been wiped from the WWE history books.

    SummerSlam 2000's Best Two-Out-Of-Three Falls match ranks among their finest. At only 13:20, the match is short, succinct and action-packed. The intensity from the competitors, particularly Benoit, is off-the-chart and demonstrates the hatred that existed between the characters.

    Benoit won the match, taking the match two falls to one, but both men demonstrated their ability to be stars at the next level.

    Unfortunately for them, what would have been a classic on any other card was overshadowed by the first TLC match and a red-hot Triple Threat match for the WWE Championship.

1. The Hart Foundation vs. the Brain Busters (1989)

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Fresh off a victory over Demolition for the WWE Tag Team Championships, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard battled Bret "Hitman" Hart and Jim "Anvil" Neidhart in the opening match of the 1989 SummerSlam. Refusing to put the titles up for grabs because the match was made when they were not the champions, the heels sought to continue their winning ways without much at stake.

    A technically sound match that showcased the new champions properly against a popular babyface duo, it was the perfect bout to set the stage for the rest of the pay-per-view.

    Neidhart uncharacteristically played the babyface-in-peril, and Hart mounted the comeback with an energetic late flurry.

    Unfortunately for the Hart Foundation, The Brain Busters scored the win when an alert and opportunistic Anderson blasted Hart with a double ax handle from the top rope, allowing Blanchard to score the crooked victory.

    There is nothing at all spectacular about this match, and in today's landscape, where the flashier moves are preferred, its greatness may be lost on fans. But the psychology is so strong and the work of the individuals so good that it remains one of the best matches in the early days of the summertime spectacular.

    Even if it has become lost in the shuffle over time. 

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