Wednesday, August 15, 2012

25 Memories of SummerSlam

By Kevin Hunsperger
@kevinhunsperger & @my123cents on Twitter

Since Sunday marks the 25th SummerSlam, I decide to share with you my top 25 memories from the August tradition.  Keep in mind, these are moments, and not matches.  Admittedly, I have not seen every SummerSlam, so my list may be a bit skewed and I'm sure my old school mostly top 10 will annoy fans of the current product and even the Attitude Era, but hey, it's me.  By the way, photos all come from WWE.

Orton wins the gold
SummerSlam '04

Orton's Golden Moment: This is actually probably my least favorite SummerSlam memory ever, but it was memorable, and I'm not necessarily touching on my favorite things there.  Randy Orton was a young up-and-comer in the group Evolution in 2004.  Chris Benoit was relatively fresh off his world title victory from Wrestlemania XX.  When this contest was announced, I had hoped that it would be a typical defense for the champ and Benoit would continue to hold the gold.  I was wrong.  This was the start of the mega push for Orton.  The reason this was bad to me was not that it was Randy Orton.  They could have put the belt on ANYONE and I would be complaining.  I don't feel like the WWE ever really gave Benoit (or Eddie Guerrero) a chance with their respective title runs.  But let's be honest the fact that it was Orton at the helm does make the outcome sting a little more. Just sayin'...

Piper gets rude with Rick
SummerSlam 89
Great Scots!: "Rowdy" Roddy Piper left the world of wrestling in March 1987, after a victory over Adrian Adonis at Wrestlemania III.  He stayed out of the ring for more than two years, returning at Wrestlemania V for a special Piper's Pit.  Hot Rod disappeared again, but reemerged at SummerSlam 89 to serve as a distraction to "Ravishing" Rick Rude as he dropped the Intercontinental title back to the Ultimate Warrior.  Piper mooned the Ravishing One, allowing the title switch to happen.  Being a mark for Roddy, I was happy to see him back and wrestling full-time again.

Brock dominates the Rock
SummerSlam '02
Here Comes the Pain:  By 2002 the Rock was starting to wind down his wrestling career.  He had been bitten by the Hollywood bug and was on the cusp of crossing over to movies and TV.  So who would he pass the torch to?  The behemoth known as Brock Lesnar.  The rookie beat the Rock at the 2002 installment of the summer tradition.  While I wasn't ready to see the Rock go, I was willing to give Brock a chance.  He was successful for a time, but I think the WWE put too many of their eggs in Lesnar's basket.  If memory serves me correct, that was the Rock's last run with the WWE title.

Austin & Undertaker go head to head
SummerSlam 98

The Highway to Hell: The buildup to the main event at SummerSlam 98 was outstanding in my opinion.  All summer long Stone Cold Steve Austin had been feuding with the Undertaker and Kane.  Mankind was thrown into the mix too and it lead to many memorable Raw moments, including one night when Taker was dressed as Kane and attacked Foley.  Look it up sometime, I personally thought it was done very well.  In the main event of the pay per view, it was Austin coming out on top and setting up for more chaos between himself, Undertaker, Kane and even Vince McMahon.  The Rock lost the IC title that night in a ladder match to Triple H, but soon he'd become the WWF champion.  It was interesting how the seeds were being planted and the plan came to fruition.  

Who's your daddy?
SummerSlam '05
I'm Your Papi:  Great match, excellent feud, silly storyline.  That's how I'd sum up my thoughts on the battles between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guererro.  The two had an excellent match earlier that year a Wrestlemania XXI.  The feud developed into Eddie laying claim to really being the father of Rey's young son Dominic.  Things came to a head at SummerSlam 05 in a ladder match between the two.  They struggled for a briefcase to make the legal claim of being the boy's papi.  The feud spawned the catch "I'm Your Papi" which of course included an official T-shirt.  Eddie's wife, Vickie (excuse me!) got involved and actually helped Rey win the match and the legal right to be the daddy.  It was another great ladder match presented at SummerSlam.

The Body is back
SummerSlam 99

The Body Returns:  SummerSlam 99 featured the return of WWE legend Jessie "the Body" Ventura.  A year earlier, the former star shocked the world by being elected governor of Minnesota.  Riding the wave of his popularity and its own new found success, WWE tapped the governor to serve as a special guest referee in the main event.  "Stone Cold" Steve Austin defended the WWF title against Triple H and Mick Foley.  In a big surprise, Foley captured the title for a third run as champ.  It didn't last long as he dropped the title the next night on Raw to Triple H.  It was good seeing the Body back in a WWE ring, even if it was just as a referee.  The move worked too, as news outlets everywhere covered the event.  I had just started a new job at a TV station in Indiana and ran the story in my newscast as well.

Which one is real?
SummerSlam 94
Undertaker vs Underfaker: The mid 1990's were a definite low point for the WWF, but it was memorable.  It seemed the company was still struggling to find that post-Hulk Hogan megastar.  The steroid trial and sexual abuse allegations devastated the front office and had an impact on the talent.  So for some reason there was an idea to create a fake Undertaker.  The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase claimed that he had bought the contract of Taker from Paul Bearer, who denied the claims.  Undertaker hadn't been seen in months after a huge loss to the massive Yokozuna at the Royal Rumble.  Underfaker was really Brian Lee who dressed the part and tried hard to pull it off.  It just didn't work, and throwing Leslie Nielsen into the mix just made the angle stink even more in my opinion.  The real deal got his revenge, pinning the phony and burying the storyline forever.

A sobering moment
SummerSlam '09
Hardy Gets Punked: One of the best feuds in the WWE in 2009 was the one between Jeff Hardy and CM Punk.  Punk, the straight edge heel, did battle with the alleged party guy Hardy.  What was even better was this feud was about more than just the difference in lifestyles.  The two were battling for the world heavyweight title too.  The contest at SummerSlam was a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.  It was something we'd seen Jeff in before with his brother Matt against Edge & Christian and the Dudleys.  Punk though pulled out the victory and won the title, but his celebration was cut short by the returning Undertaker, setting up a new feud with one of the WWE's all time greats.  I'm trying to remember, but I think Hardy left right after this or very soon after as he appeared in TNA about four months later.

No Holds Barred
SummerSlam 89
No Holds Barred: The WWE/F has always been about entertainment.  In 1989, Hulk Hogan released his first film (as the main star).  It was called No Holds Barred, and his nemesis in the movie was a guy who went by Zeus (played by actor Tiny Lister).  The WWF brought Zeus in for "real" feud with Hogan and I think to cover up any shortcomings, threw "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake into the mix.  Their match ended with Hogan and Beefcake victorious, but it set things up for a rematch inside a cage.  It was sold as "No Holds Barred: The Match, the Movie" so fans got to see the cage match and watch the film.  I have no idea how it did, but bringing Zeus in is something I won't soon forget.

HBK returns
SummerSlam '02
He's Back: I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of Shawn Michaels, but I can not deny he is one heck of an entertainer.  When he left the WWF in 1998 after Wrestlemania XIV, I thought he was done for good.  So when he returned to the WWE in 2002 and wrestled Triple H at SummerSlam, I was more than a little impressed.  Despite all the backstage stuff I've read about, I think Shawn ended up maturing and becoming a better man on his second go around with the company.  He proved to me that he's worthy of the accolades he's received through the years and overcame some huge obstacles along the way.

What a cluster...
SummerSlam '10
Nexus or Against Us: New blood was pumping in the WWE during the summer of 2010.  But it didn't take long for the momentum of the very hot Nexus angle to cool off.  SummerSlam featured a seven on seven elimination match between Team WWE (captained by John Cena) against Team Nexus (captained by Wade Barrett)  WWE overcame and won the match.  I felt like that style of match should have been held at Survivor Series, not at SummerSlam.  I also think they cut the legs out from under the young guys of Nexus too soon.  This story could have percolated much longer.  But I digress.  It was good to see new blood on the roster and main eventing a major pay per view, so I'll give the WWE credit in that department.

Mankind dominates Undertaker
SummerSlam 96
He Urned It...: Undertaker and Paul Bearer had a great wrestler-manager relationship.  The duo had been together  more than five years when they entered SummerSlam 96.  Taker was doing battle with who I believe had been his toughest opponent to date, Mankind.  This was no ordinary match as the two locked horns in the boiler room of the Gund Arena.  It was a hard hitting, brutal match that took both men to the limit.  Things ended in the ring, with Paul Bearer turning his back on his main man and smashing him in the head with Undertaker's urn.  Mankind got the win, the urn, and the services of Paul Bearer.  This too was part of a long-term feud between two great superstars.

SummerSlam 90
Rick's Rude Awakening: One of my favorite heels of all time is "Ravishing" Rick Rude.  He's high on my list of guys who should have won the world title at some point.  And at SummerSlam 90, the Ravishing One had the opportunity.  He wrestled the Ultimate Warrior a steel cage match for the gold.  It was the closet he ever got to the gold.  I remember all the hype prior to the match, including the training videos released on WWF Superstars each week.  This match also marked the fourth time in a year and a half that he and Warrior would have some sort of interaction with each other in the ring.  They had a pose down at Royal Rumble 89, wrestled each other at Wrestlemania V, SummerSlam 89, and again at 90.  Even though Rude came up short in this battle and was soon gone from the WWF, I think it's fair to say he went on to bigger and better things in WCW.

Brother vs. Brother
SummerSlam 94
Brotherly Hate: Bret Hart and his brother Owen never failed to put on a good wrestling match.  Their encounter at Wrestlemania X is one for the ages.  Owen picked up the surprise win that night, and when brother Bret went on to become the WWF champion again, it only made sense that Owen would be the number one contender.  I'll admit, I didn't watch SummerSlam 94 in its regular format.  I had resorted to watching and listening through the wonderful world of scramble vision.  The match between the brothers was inside a steel cage and featured outside help from brothers in law Jim Neidhart and Davey Boy Smith.  Smith sided with Bret, while Bret's former tag team partner Neidhart had Owen's back.  This set up for more feuding between the family members throughout the fall.  

Shawn screws Undertaker
SummerSlam 97
Shawn Helps Bret: In an ironic twist of fate Shawn Michaels actually helped his rival Bret Hart regain the WWF title at SummerSlam 97.  The two had feuded off and on since their days in the tag team ranks.  Shawn was serving as the special guest referee in Hart's match against the Undertaker.  HBK "accidentally" hit Taker in the head with a chair and Bret took the opportunity to win the title back.  This of course set up a nice feud with Shawn and Undertaker, leading to the first ever Hell in a Cell match, the introduction of Kane, and the formation of DX.  Who would have thought one swing of a chair could write so much wrestling history...

Summer of Punk
SummerSlam '11
#10 Two Belts Become One:  The Summer of Punk storyline in 2011 was one of the best ideas WWE had come up with in some time.  CM Punk won the WWE title from John Cena at Money in the Bank and walked out of the company.  Since he took the title with him, COO Triple H held a tournament to crown a new champion.  Rey Mysterio won it, only to drop the title to Cena later on Raw.  Punk came back and the two met in the main event of SummerSlam to unify the gold.  Triple H served as the ref and Punk ended up winning... But then Alberto Del Rio cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and walked out with the title.  Lame ending to what was looking like such a great story.  But it was still a very memorable moment.

Rung by rung
SummerSlam 95
Steppin' Up: SummerSlam has been the sight of several great ladder matches.  In 1995, it was a rematch between Razor Ramon and Shawn Michaels and was once again for the Intercontinental title. Michaels had recently had a change of heart, and he and Ramon were actually friends going into this match.  It was another hard fought battle, but this time the Heartbreak Kid would end up with the win and was being prepped for a go with the big title just a few months down the road.

Whatcha gonna do, brother?
SummerSlam '05
Oversell, Brother: Hulk Hogan and Shawn Michaels are without a doubt two of the biggest names in the history of the business.  The match between the two at SummerSlam 05 came several years too late, but none-the-less was still interesting to me.  There are rumors about what was supposed to happen during this feud between the two.  I think if you go back and watch the match, you'll see that Shawn is clearly overselling most of what Hogan does.  It made the match that more entertaining in my view.  I'll admit I was surprised that Hogan ended up winning, as HBK had been one of Vince McMahon's most prized pupils for so many years.  The odds of a rematch at this point seem doubtful, brother.

I do...
SummerSlam 91
Match Made in Heaven: SummerSlam 91 touted the headline "The Match Made in Heaven and the Match Made in Hell"  The hell part was the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan's challenge against Sgt. Slaughter, Col. Mustafa, and Gen. Adnan.  The heaven part came with the marriage of Randy Savage and Elizabeth.  The two were a real life couple for years, but had split up as part of a storyline more than two years earlier.  Savage and Liz reunited at Wrestlemania VII and decided to share their nuptials with the world at SummerSlam.  The wedding went off without a hitch, but the reception was interrupted by Jake "the Snake" Roberts and the Undertaker, setting up a classic feud between the Macho Man and the Snake.  I should also mention Sid Justice's refereeing the Main Event was also a significant memory for me as well.

Warrior rules
SummerSlam 88
The Ultimate Surprise: In 1987 the Honky Tonk Man became the Intercontinental champion.  During his reign he managed to become one of the most hated men on the WWF roster.  I however was a huge fan of his.  While I was surprised by his victory, it was cool seeing someone outside the typical mold holding the belt.  HTM was champ for 64 weeks when he issued an open challenge to anyone in the locker room at Madison Square Garden, the site of SummerSlam 88.  His original opponent Brutus Beefcake had been injured by Ron Bass.  Much to Honky Tonk's and the fans' surprise, the Ultimate Warrior accepted and in 31 seconds became the new champ.  HTM never even got out of his jumpsuit. The victory no doubt was just the tip of the iceberg for the Warrior during his days in WWF.

Family celebration
SummerSlam 92
The Bulldog Has His Day: I think for the first time ever, the Intercontinental title match main evented a WWE pay per view at SummerSlam 92.  Technically you could say the Hogan-Warrior match at Wrestlemania VI was a IC title match too, but the world title was also involved.  Anyway, the WWE did an excellent job hyping this match as Bret Hart was set to battle his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith.  Up until this match, I think that information was not widely known.  The title defense took place in London (the first time WWE did a PPV from overseas).  Since it was the Bulldog's backyard, I'm guessing that's why it was the main event.  The Warrior-Randy Savage world title match perhaps had bigger star power here in the U.S., but the crowd erupted for their hometown hero.  I was a huge Bulldog fan, so naturally I popped when he won the title.  After reading about his condition though in Bret's book "Hitman" I'm amazed the two were able to pull it off.  That being said, it's still an awesome memory and I wish Bulldog's would have lasted longer too.

Excellence vs. Perfection
SummerSlam 91
Hart of a Champion: In the early days of SummerSlam one of the biggest surprises to me was the Intercontinental title victory Bret Hart picked up in 1991.  Known as one half of the Hart Foundation, I figured Mr. Perfect would turn back the challenge of the "Hitman."  SummerSlam '91 was during my freshman year in college.  My roommate's parents recorded the show and we couldn't wait to get our hands on the VHS copy of it.  I bet him $5 that Hart would lose.  Wow was I not only wrong, but we ended up seeing Bret Hart become one of wrestling's top stars of all time.  Remember too this was in an age when there were no Internet spoilers, which made the victory all the more surprising and hence being so memorable.  Of course it was an awesome match too, and Hennig did it with a jacked up back.  Props to both guys for a helluva show.

Von Erich gets the win
Tornado Gets a Reign: Regular readers of this blog know I'm a total mark for Kerry Von Erich.  So naturally him winning the WWF Intercontential title was a big deal to me.  It was SummerSlam 90 and Von Erich (wrestling as the Texas Tornado) was named the fill in for Brutus Beefcake, who'd been hurt earlier in the summer in a parasailing accident.  Von Erich stepped up to the plate and beat Mr. Perfect in about five minutes to win the gold.  It was a significant moment also for the fact that Von Erich became only the second wrestler (at that time) to hold both the NWA world heavyweight title and the IC title (Ricky Steamboat) was the first.  I recently went back and watched the match again for old times sake.  If you look closely in the prematch interview Kerry is wearing yellow tights, but in the match his tights are white.  Oops.

The night that changed Austin
SummerSlam 97
Austin Gets Stunned: SummerSlam 97 changed "Stone Cold" Steve Austin forever.  That was the night Owen Hart inadvertently dropped Austin on his head.  Owen was attempting to do a reverse pile driver, but didn't have Stone Cold in position.  Clearly the move did a lot of damage to Austin who was barely able to get the pin fall.  Shortly after the match, he had to forfeit the title because of his injury.  Sure he came back and ended up not only reclaiming the IC title, but also holding the world title more than a few times.  Austin was a changed man after that and I believe his in ring career ended a lot sooner as a result.

Liz with the distraction
SummerSlam 88
She's Got Legs: From SummerSlam 88, the first event.  Who could forget the lovely Elizabeth revealing her gams to Andre the Giant, Ted DiBiase, and special guest referee Jesse Ventura in the closing moments of the main event.  She dropped her bright yellow skirt to distract the heels and allow her team of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage pick up the victory.  Back then this was a big deal even though by today's standards Liz wasn't showing off a whole lot.  It was a great moment in history and one I won't forget anytime soon.

So there you have it, my 25 most memorable SummerSlam moments.  What's on your list?  Post here or on Facebook.

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