My apologies for the gap between now and my last column. It has been a busy time, as of late, and my extracurricular time for wrestling has been dedicated to a brief hour of radio time last Wednesday (which is linked below) and the editing phase of my book - "The Wrestlemania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment" - due out next spring.
Doctor's Orders: Summerslam's 25 Best Matches (How do the Doc and WWE lists compare?)
By The Doc
Aug 5, 2013 - 7:31:42 AM
I was over at the WWE's dotcom earlier in the weekend and noticed that they had written had an article on their "Best 25" Summerslam matches. As I have shown in the past, I really enjoy coming up with my own list in counter to theirs and, then, comparing the two compilations. So, I have not actually looked at the WWE's list, yet. I will do that later, post it here, and analyze accordingly.
25) "Ravishing" Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior (1989) - When we talk "best," we're talking strictly about quality, differentiating the list from a conversation of "greatest." I have Rude vs. Warrior pegged at (***1/2), beating out several others, most notably Owen Hart vs. Steve Austin from 1997 and Team WWE vs. Nexus from 2010.
24) Batista vs. John Cena (2008) - Opposite of the above, this match had the epic feel that can only come from two iconic stars clashing for the first time. I have a high historical opinion of Batista, making this match my 2005-2010 version of Hogan vs. Savage.
23) Rob Van Dam vs. Jeff Hardy (2001) - This Ladder match was one better executed finish away from being remembered as one of the all-time best versions of the gimmick. Up until RVD missed an almost impossible spot (springboard back kick to Hardy hanging from the title hook), it was borderline classic.
22) Chris Jericho vs. John Cena (2005) - Jericho's efforts helped put Cena on the map. Cena had good-to-great matches before the summer of '05, but the microscope had never been at a higher power than it was when Cena entered the main-event scene that year. He needed this match.
21) Steve Austin vs. Undertaker (1998) - On the "Highway to Hell," Taker and Austin clashed in this clunky, borderline classic at Madison Square Garden. They missed on several spots, but the atmosphere of two all-time greats facing on a major PPV was enough to keep it a very good performance.
20) The Legacy vs. Degeneration X (2009) - Personally, I rank this as the best tag team match since No Mercy 2002's Angle/Benoit vs. Mysterio/Edge. I thought Trips and HBK did a marvelous job of making Dibiase and Rhodes look like future stars.
19) Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage (1992) - In this legacy enhancing match, both Warrior and Savage brought back memories of their Wrestlemania classic but with the WWE Championship at stake. They each had "greater" rivals, but neither had "better" opponents.
18) John Cena vs. Randy Orton (2007) - For those that expected this to be higher, it was essentially the modern era's version of Hogan vs. Savage from Mania V (a lengthier version of the prototypical Cena/Hogan match) - only slightly better. I still love it, but it was not epic.
17) Randy Orton vs. Chris Benoit (2004) - Every match from here on can be interchangeable, in my opinion. Orton vs. Benoit was an excellent match with some interesting dynamics from a crowd that you would've thought to be pro-Benoit.
16) CM Punk vs. John Cena (2011) - In the last 2 years, I have watched this numerous times. On each occasion, it has followed either the other 4-star (+) match from Summerslam or the other matches in the Cena-Punk rivalry. I need to watch it by itself.
15) Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon (1995) - The Ladder rematch did well to follow the original. I thought it was more a showcase for Razor, much like the original showcased Michaels. The winning roles reversed, of course, making the previous sentence sort of interesting.
14) Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar (2003) - I think this match flies under the historical radar, frankly. It had sort of a confusing ending, in which Brock broke Kurt's ankle lock numerous times via the ropes, but Angle was allowed to continue it.
13) Bret Hart vs. Undertaker (1997) - With HBK as the special ref, this was the pre-Attitude era version of what we recently saw with Taker-Trips-HBK at Wrestlemania 28. It is one of the most fascinating matches to review with greater historical perspective.
12) Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan (2005) - HBK bumped all over the place as the heel to absolutely make this match interesting. All other elements were there for this to be a classic. Subsequently, this is one of the best matches of all-time that just as many people hate.
11) Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin (2001) - For as much talk as there has been about Austin's heel turn being a flop, there was one night when it at least felt like it was working - against Angle at Summerslam '01.
10) The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (2002) - This match was excellent. Brock stepped up big in his first major match. Overall, the match had a crazy crowd reaction, two motivated performers, and drama to the nines.
9) Christian vs. Randy Orton (2011) - I think this could move up the list in the future. As time goes on, historical perspective will increase and we might see this remembered as high as right outside of the top 5.
8) The Rock vs. Triple H (1998) - I cannot write enough kind words about the Summerslam '98 Ladder match. Both men started the legendary parts of their in-ring careers with it.
7) Mr. Perfect vs. Bret Hart (1991) - Historical context makes this already iconic performance that much better. Perfect wrestled this match with herniated discs in his back. Ever had one of those? Try walking, much less wrestling...
6) CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy (2009) - Each time I watch it, I am that much more inclined to put it in my Summerslam top 5. It has not reached that point, just yet, but it is inching closer with each passing view.
5) TLC 1 (2000) - If the above gets in, it will probably be because one of the greatest stunt brawls of all-time wears thin on my memory. I do not think that the TLC matches will stand the test of time as we get, say, 20 years past their original air date. I hope I'm wrong.
4) Edge vs. Undertaker (2008) - The modern blueprint for the Hell in a Cell match, Edge-Taker was the conclusion of a great rivalry. "Understand" that was one of history's most underrated feuds and ended with one of its greatest, non-Wrestlemania matches.
3) Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart (1994) - The greatest Cage match of all-time, in my opinion. Bret and Owen made it about winning...all about winning. They did not throw each other into the Cage until 17-minutes into the match. The entire match was spent on the cage or near the door - the only means for victory.
2) Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog (1992) - I think it's awesome that two matches from the early 90s still maintain their place in the top 5. The classic from Wembley is still an incredible watch to this day.
1) Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H (2002) - This won't top everyone's list and I understand that, but HBK was one of my childhood favorites. To see him come back and do what he did was absolutely fascinating for me. I was so emotionally invested. It still stands the test of time.
25) Test vs. Shane McMahon (1999) - I had this on my "most underrated list" from earlier in the summer, but it does not belong on any top 25 list of "best" or "greatest." It was very good for what it was, but if you were writing for the WWE and wanted to have a shot at sucking up to Vince, why not just go with McMahon vs. DX from '06?
24) Triple H vs. Mankind vs. Steve Austin (1999) - Wow. This is a stretch. Maybe I could see it making the "greatest" list given that it was Foley's highest profile championship victory, but "best"? Makes you wonder who makes the lists...
23) Virgil vs. Million Dollar Man (1991) - Another one from my "ten most underrated" list, I can see this making the top 25. It was an outstanding mid-card match that has stood the test of time.
22) Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano (1994) - This was actually a very good match. Because it occurred in the women's division - particularly during a time in which the women were less of a focal point - it tends to get overlooked. Top 50? Yes. Top 25? Hardly.
21) Batista vs. John Cena (2008) - Finally, a match that made both our lists. I'm surprised it took this many matches.
20) Steve Austin vs. Owen Hart (1997) - This was the last match cut from my list. There are several matches on their list that made my underrated countdown. Owen vs. Austin was outstanding until the botched piledriver. Unquestionably a top 25 candidate.
19) Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude (1989) - Very glad to see this make the list. Of their two Summerslam bouts, I thought that - based on what the WWE had listed, so far - the 1990 Cage match might have made it instead.
18) Mankind vs. Undertaker (1996) - You know, I can see the appeal, here. At the same time, I cannot. The Boiler Room Brawl was a unique match that can be great or awful depending on your mood while viewing. It was taped...that's my biggest knock against it.
17) Warrior vs. Macho Man (1992) - Glad to see this one make the cut. My ranking (#19) and the WWE's are pretty similar. Great match, but not on the level of their "Career" match at Mania 7. Then again, few matches are...
16) The Hart Foundation vs. Demolition (1990) - As time has passed, I have moved the Foundation vs. Brain Busters ahead of this 2/3 Falls match on my all-time list of Summerslam matches. Demolition was not the same by the time their rematch with Hitman and Anvil from 1988 took place. This is out of place in its position on the WWE list.
15) Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar (2012) - This would've made my "greatest" 25 list, but there's no mistaking any of the Brock-Trips matches as being the "best" of anything. They were all really good matches, but none were more disappointing than the original. It should have been epic, but for whatever reason it wasn't...
14) Taker vs. Steve Austin (1998) - Separated by 7 spots on our respective lists, Austin vs. Taker is another one of those matches that would best fit a top 15 ranking on a "greatest" of. "Best" implies something based on pure quality. "Greatest" takes into account intangibles that go beyond purity. Taker-Austin was "great." It was not an example, however, of in-ring excellence.
13) World Title Elimination Chamber (2003) - A curious choice considering how many great matches have already been left off of their list in favor of a few head scratchers. It was the best showcase that the WWE ever had for Goldberg, but #13 in Summerslam history?
12) Bret Hart vs. Taker (1997) - This is more like it. My #13; their #12.
11) Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero (2005) - I do think that history has been kind to this match. Eddie's stamina, from a clinical perspective, could be seen as far lesser than it had been even the previous year. They mistimed a key spot, too. I can see why they'd put this on the list, though not this high.
Their honorable mentions included 123 Kid vs. Hakushi (agreed), Team WWE vs. Nexus (agreed), Hart Foundation vs. Brain Busters (very much agreed), Steiners vs. Heavenly Bodies (eh...), Rock vs. Booker T (agreed), and Mankind vs. Triple H (my 2nd to last cut).
10) The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar (2002) - Ditto.
9) HBK vs. Razor (1995) - The Ladder rematch is no surprise given the WWE's tendency to highlight the hell out of HBK matches in their top ten lists.
8) John Cena vs. CM Punk (2011) - Once I watch this as a stand alone match instead of in sequence with other great matches, I'll be better able to verify my opinion of their placement for this match. If Christian vs. Orton fails to make their list, it'll be a shame.
7) Undertaker vs. Edge (2008) - I'm always surprised when this doesn't make people's top 10 Summerslam lists.
6) The Rock vs. Triple H (1998) - The lists should be similar from here on out...
5) TLC 1 (2000) - Ditto.
4) Bret vs. Owen (1994) - Good call, WWE.
3) HBK vs. Triple H (2002) - A common choice for most top fives.
2) Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect (1991) - Best WWE match since Mania III.
1) Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog (1992) - This is why Bret Hart is the only real choice for Mr. Summerslam.
The Doc gives initial thoughts on "WRESTLEMANIA XXX"