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THE FINAL COUNTDOWN - Top 10 Greatest WWE SummerSlam Moments of All Time
By Mr. Tito
Aug 9, 2013 - 12:44:08 AM
IT'S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!
SummerSlam 2013 is upon us and it has been 25 years since the event was first conceived. WWE first struck Big Event/Pay Per View gold with Wrestlemania in 1985 and to absurd levels in 1987 with Wrestlemania 3 but soon tried a second event during November 1987 called Survivor Series. That was crazy successful, so why not create a third? That was SummerSlam 1988. Created as a direct follow-up to Wrestlemania, the show was an instant success and remains a success for the WWE to this day.
In terms of singles matches, main events, and storyline blow-offs, SummerSlam is only second to Wrestlemania as the WWE's most important show. Many HUGE moments in WWE history have been present on SummerSlam shows and today's FINAL COUNTDOWN will review TOP SUMMERSLAM MOMENTS. Note that these are MOMENTS and not MATCHES. Big difference in terms of column content as you'll soon observe. If time allows during this busy SummerSlam week, the Final Countdown staff (1) will attempt a matches column, but no guarantees.
Enough banter, onto the Top 10 SummerSlam moments! And no "Final Countdown" column is delivered without the recommendation of seeing this awesome Europe "Final Countdown" cover found HERE.
TOP 10 WWE SUMMERSLAM MOMENTS
#10 - John Cena vs. Chris Jericho - SummerSlam 2005 - Most remember SummerSlam 2005 for the overhyped Shawn Michaels vs. Hulk Hogan match. However, this countdown remembers it for another match entirely. John Cena vs. Chris Jericho was an important match for several reasons... John Cena was still new to the World Title scene and a strong win was important to strengthen his main event stature on the WWE roster. But this match was the last Pay Per View swansong for Chris Jericho. Jericho would actually wrestle John Cena once more on RAW during the following night and leave the WWE (and pro wrestling) until returning during 2007. His WWE contract expired and he wanted to try other entertainment venues for a while. Jericho was an important wrestler in the WWE since late 1999 and probably needed a break. Fans knew that Jericho was leaving and thus quickly divided the face pops during this Cena/Jericho match. The match was entertaining itself, but hearing the crowd split and debating between the wrestlers was classic. You still see the fan division to this day. Cena got a huge win here and collected another win on the following night at RAW. Truly, a big moment for both wrestlers.
#9 - CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy - Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, OH MY - SummerSlam 2009 If I were to tell you that John Cena vs. Randy Orton for the WWE Title wasn't the main event of SummerSlam, you'd call me crazy. But on one fateful night, CM Punk and Jeff Hardy got the spotlight and stole the show. The hype was high for this match and both guys delivered in a fantastic TLC match. The real shame is that both guys didn't quite have the booking afterward. CM Punk endured the Undertaker feud and a disappointing 2010, while Jeff Hardy would leave the WWE to heal injuries but opt to join TNA Wrestling during early 2010 instead and hasn't returned to the WWE since. Punk's time would be 2 years later, going to show you that timing and booking are everything in pro wrestling. But on this fateful night, the spotlight was on CM Punk and Jeff Hardy and they delivered an alternative to the normal Batista, Orton, Cena, and Triple H crowd.
#8 - Steve Austin wins the Intercontinental Title, Breaks Neck - SummerSlam 1997 - This was a subject of a recent What If column... Believe it or not, Steve Austin was fighting to win his first Intercontinental Title within 1 year of winning his first WWE Title. WWE wanted to get the most out of Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels so thus Steve Austin was moved to feuding with Owen Hart instead over the Intercontinental Title. Austin's popularity was booming and a big win over Owen was certain. Then, the worst thing possible happened... Austin and Owen had a series of moves where both oddly tried a Tombstone Piledriver with Owen reversing Austin's attempt to piledrive Austin. However, Owen did a sitdown version of the Tombstone and all of Austin's weight came crashing down on his neck when Owen sat down. Destroyed his neck... Austin felt numb from the neck down for the next few moments but collected himself for a cheap roll-up of Owen Hart to win the Intercontinental Title. That's right, this match wasn't called off despite Austin's horrific injury. Completely exposed the wrestling business, but most fans knew that wrestling was scripted by 1997... Unique moment in time where the WWE refused to break script despite a legitimate injury.
#7 - Shawn Michaels costs Undertaker the WWE Title - SummerSlam 1997 - 1997 was quickly becoming an important year for the WWE. Steve Austin was on the rise, Bret Hart was actually getting over as a heel with the Canada vs. America feud, and Shawn Michaels was back on the WWE roster after some time off (healing a knee injury or finding his smile). Heading into SummerSlam 1997, the Undertaker remained WWE Champion after defeating Sycho Sid at Wrestlemania 13 and Bret Hart was catching momentum as a heel. Oddly enough, Shawn Michaels returned to the Special Guest referee... WWE played up the legitimate heat between Michaels and Bret, but little did fans know that an awesome feud would sprout from this match's finish. To end the match, Bret Hart attacked Undertaker with a chair while Shawn Michaels was hurt on the outside. Michaels saw the chair, however, and confronted Bret with it... Attempting to hit Bret with the chair after being spit on, HBK instead hit the Undertaker... Bret was WWE Champion, which he'd hold until Survivor Series 1997, and Michaels would go on to have a great series of 3 matches with the Undertaker including the first ever Hell in a Cell match. Michaels vs. Undertaker feud was so good that it was relived 10 years later to eventually headline Wrestlemanias 25 and 26 after a chance meeting at Royal Rumble 2007 as the Rumble match's 2 finalists.
#6 - Undertaker puts over Steve Austin - SummerSlam 1998 Steve Austin was "King of the Mountain" after being crowned WWE Champion at Wrestlemania 14. For the past year, he fought with convincingly or defeated the 2 big mid-1990's stars of the WWE in Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. In fact, 2 of the last 3 WWE Champions. But there was 1 last mid-1990's top guy and the 3rd WWE champion that Steve Austin had yet to conquer: The Undertaker. The Undertaker, himself, fought hard against Shawn Michaels and then had to endure battling with his brother Kane. Austin was feuding with Vince McMahon and Vince's punching bag, Mick Foley. However, as new WWE Champion, Austin needed a more convincing win to really put him over the top as WWE Champion. That was the Undertaker and Taker put him over 100% clean. Better yet, after the match, Undertaker acknowledged his defeat in a salute to Austin in the ring. In addition to losing cleanly, Undertaker showed respect to the person who beat him after the match. It was gravely important to Austin's career and he exploded with growth after that.
#5 - British Bulldog defeats Bret Hart for Intercontinental Title - This countdown will probably get heat for placing this #5, but come on readers, moments 1-4 are pretty damn good... The simple question about this match is what would the pop be if SummerSlam wasn't in England? It's a huge moment for Davey Boy Smith who was just starting to get momentum as a singles wrestler and the plans were now in place for Bret Hart to win his first WWE Title. Fitting to have this match in England where the fans would be rabid for Davey Boy and they exploded when Davey Boy won the belt. At the time, it was a good moment for Davey Boy here in America, but the WWE was in decline by SummerSlam 1992 that it didn't gain that much attention here in the states. In hindsight, this remains more of a moment in Davey Boy's career rather than an achievement, given how he was soon gone from the WWE for disputed reasons. Bulldog would join WCW for one of its worst years during 1993. It's unlike the guy at SummerSlam 1988 who began drawing huge after he won the Intercontinental Title, and that's why it's #5 on this countdown list.
^ Gotta love that Sunset Flip counter pin by Davey Boy!
#4 - Miss Elizabeth Distracts Ted Dibiase/Andre the Giant to help the Mega Powers - SummerSlam 1988 - As a follow-up to the events of Wrestlemania 4, Hulk Hogan and new WWE Champion "Macho Man" Randy Savage became fast friends and formed the MEGA POWERS tag team that was crazy over in 1988. Savage won the WWE Title by defeating "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase in the finals of the Wrestlemania 4 WWE Title tournament thanks to Hulk Hogan's assistance. Hogan had been feuding with Andre the Giant for the last 2 Wrestlemanias and Andre's association with Dibiase was after Andre stole the WWE Title from Hogan and attempted to give it to Dibiase. With the Mega Powers forming, they would collide with the "Mega Bucks" (Dibiase/Andre) at SummerSlam 1988. As a perfect follow up to Wrestlemania, the Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks put SummerSlam on the map as yet another successful WWE Pay Per View franchise.
The match itself was a big deal... But how it ended was spectacular. Miss Elizabeth was Randy Savage's valet and as a heel, Savage berated her while face opponents would show sympathy for her. It was the perfect heat drawing gimmick for Savage, especially with Elizabeth's stunning looks and reactions to Savage drawing actual concern by fans. But then through Wrestlemania 4, Randy Savage turned babyface and began to treat Elizabeth like the queen she was. Now, as a duo, Savage and Elizabeth were a power couple in the WWE and drew together strong. In fact, Savage had something drawing fan reactions that Hulk Hogan didn't with Elizabeth. Then, you pair Miss Elizabeth with BOTH Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan, it's an unstoppable trio. Miss Elizabeth accompanied Savage and Hogan to the ring for SummerSlam 1988 wearing Yellow and Red dress that was rather tight up top (yuuup!) but had a dress that looked sort of awkward. Little did we know what was in store for us, particular for WWE fans who were just kids heading into their teen years...
At one point, Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase got the upper hand and were left in the ring alone when Miss Elizabeth stood up on the apron... It was there that Elizabeth tore off the dress and revealed DAT ASS:
And Dibiase and Andre the Giant were stunned at the sight and it allowed the Mega Powers to storm the ring and get the eventual win. The end. Hulk Hogan seemed to enjoy the celebration of SummerSlam's victory a bit much and it would set the stage for growing paranoia by Randy Savage that Hulk Hogan was trying to steal Elizabeth from him. Eventually, the Mega Powers broke up and drew HUGE at Wrestlemania 5.
#3 - The Rock puts over Brock Lesnar - SummerSlam 2002 - Summer of 2002 saw the WWE trying to quickly elevate Brock Lesnar up the card. Certainly, it could be argued that the WWE was pushing Lesnar too quickly, but he had the size, the look, and the credibility of being a successful NCAA heavyweight amateur wrestler. However, the WWE was struggling for that one moment to officially land him as the next big WWE star. They tried to hotshot a match with Steve Austin on a random edition of Monday Night RAW, but that led to Austin actually walking out of the company in disgust. Much like Austin refused to work with Hulk Hogan earlier in the year for Wrestlemania 18, the Rock stepped up to the plate to take on Brock Lesnar. But what the Rock did should be a teachable moment to the entire pro wrestling industry.
By 2002, pro wrestling was beginning to be in Rock's rear view mirror with Hollywood showing more and more interest. Thus, it was time for the Rock to elevate other talent. For Brock Lesnar, it was 100% clean. Rock put over Lesnar like a champ and it was perfect timing. If you watch the event, the WWE crowd was chanting Brock's name and booing the Rock heavily. Rock was at the tail end of his peak years, particularly as a babyface Main Eventer, and the fans knew it. Brock Lesnar was the real deal and quickly learned to be a credible guy to take Rock's torch and run with it. Fans went crazy when Lesnar won the Undisputed WWE Title and Lesnar would soon become a Smackdown exclusive wrestler that would actually make Smackdown the superior brand between 2002-2004... And then Brock Lesnar left after Wrestlemania 20 in 2004.
#2 - Shawn Michaels Comeback - SummerSlam 2002 Shawn Michaels had a crippling back injury during early 1998 that changed the trajectory of the WWE forever. WWE went from a promotion dominated by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels to both guys gone from the WWE as active wrestlers after Wrestlemania 14. Bret was obviously gone by the Survivor Series 1997 screwjob, but Shawn retired from the ring after sucking up a back injury to put over Steve Austin at Wrestlemania 14 for the WWE Title. Michaels hurt his back in a Casket Match against the Undertaker at Royal Rumble 1998 when a back body drop over the ropes went wrong when Michaels landed on part of the casket outside. This injured 3 discs in Michaels's spine and caused him to have serious back surgery to repair. It was thought that he would never wrestle again...
The excesses of the road got to Shawn Michaels through his tenure in the WWE and in addition to gaining confidence to wrestle again after injury, it took time to overcoming his personal demons. Thanks to a loving wife and becoming a born-again Christian, Michaels overcame his troubles and began investing himself again in the pro wrestling business. He began training other wrestlers at his academy until he became confident in returing to a WWE ring for 1 last time. That one time was at SummerSlam 2002 in a match against his buddy, Triple H. Triple H, on RAW, teased a Degeneration X reunion only to turn heel on Michaels. The revenge match was set for SummerSlam 2002. Wrestling in blue jeans, Michaels came out and fans were legitimately worried that he'd injure his back. In fact, Triple H exploited this fan feeling and through psychology, worked on HBK's back... Michaels, however, squeaked out a win against Triple H with a roll up pin. This could have been the #1 moment, but instead of Michaels being able to celebrate his comeback, Triple H attacked him afterward.
As the months would follow, Shawn Michaels would keep testing his limits and by late 2003, Michaels would become a full-time wrestler again. Little did we know that SummerSlam 2002 was the beginning of an epic 7+ year journey full of great matches, several of which were either a wrestler's own personal best match or a legitimate Match of the Year winner by many publications. Michaels comeback would erase much of the ill will that his 1990's run may have caused other wrestlers and maybe fans.
#1 - The ULTIMATE WARRIOR defeats the Honky Tonk Man to become Intercontinental Champion - SummerSlam 1988 Many younger wrestling fans are probably shocked that an Intercontinental Title victory could be a #1 moment, especially given how that midcard title is treated now. Back in 1988, you only had 2 singles titles: the WWE Title and the Intercontinental Title. The WWE Title club was very exclusive during the 1980's as between 1984 and 1989, you only had 3 WWE Title holders: Hulk Hogan in his prime, Andre "the Giant", and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. As seen with Bruno Sammartino and Bob Backlund before him, WWE Title was kept around the main guy, Hulk Hogan, with only a few others considered as contenders. Thus, you had a thicker roster of singles wrestlers that had to chase the Intercontinental Title instead. And chase they did...
The Honky Tonk Man beat Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat after Wrestlemania 3 in 1987 and was able to hold the Intercontinental Title for over a year through SummerSlam 1988. With many midcard wrestlers, many of them being fan favorites, chasing the Intercontinental Title, the WWE pulled a fast one on fans. Honky Tonk Man wasn't exactly the greatest in-ring performer, but he had natural heel charisma that easily aggitated fans. Looking like a cheap Elvis knockoff, jumpsuits to boot as well, Honky drew an enormous amount of heat from fans and they wanted him to lose the Intercontinental Title badly. WWE knew this and figured out that they could draw lots of houseshow money by having Honky escape defeat, time after time. WWE could actually headline shows with Intercontinental Title matches due the fans' desires to see Honky lose.
Eventually, the heat was wearing thin and the WWE trickery to have Honky Tonk Man escape defeat was getting old... Thus, it was time for Honky Tonk Man to drop the Intercontinental Title and SummerSlam 1988 appeared to be the time. It appeared that Brutus "the Barber" Beefcake, a popular midcarder, would be the guy to defeat Honky after chasing him for a good part of 1988 but never being able to capture the IC Title (thanks to DQ finishes or outside interference). Before SummerSlam, however, the WWE ran an angle where "Outlaw" Ron Bass attacked Beefcake and cut him legitimately open with a spur. Whether Beefcake was legitimately injured from Ron Bass or had another injury, who knows... But a MYSTERY OPPONENT was now hyped to go against Honky Tonk Man at SummerSlam 1988 instead.
WWE acquired a wrestler by the name of Dingo Warrior from World Class Championship Wrestling. Dingo Warrior had decent success in World Class and looked great with an impressive bodybuild and awesome facepaint. During the late 1980's, facepaint was a fad and wrestlers like the Road Warriors, Sting, Demolition, and the Great Muta got over with the younger fans. The WWE renamed him as the ULTIMATE WARRIOR, gave him great theme music (thank you Jim Johnston), and allowed the Warrior to run to the ring like a maniac and easily dispose enhancement talent on WWE Superstars or Challenge. He was quickly becoming a midcard sensation and was beginning to present the WWE with a strong midcard babyface draw. This was perfect because the heel midcard draw, Honky Tonk Man, was beginning to run out of steam with his "escape title loss" act and a transition was needed. Instead of Brutus Beefcake at SummerSlam 1988, the WWE delivered the ULTIMATE WARRIOR:
Fans went bonkers in attendance and popped huge when Warrior defeated Honky Tonk Man. Warrior would draw huge as an Intercontinental Champion and had a high profile Wrestlemania 5 match against "Ravishing" Rick Rude. Rude and his manager Bobby "the Brain" Heenan drew tremendous heat by stealing the Intercontinental Title away. Warrior won it back but was soon on track to boldly make the "Ultimate Challenge" to Hulk Hogan for the WWE Title. The 2 would face off at Wrestlemania 6 in a unique babyface vs. babyface match that actually delivered in terms of match quality. After Wrestlemania 6, the WWE would give Warrior Rick Rude to feud with (again) and "Million Dollar Man" Ted Dibiase, two guys whom the WWE had no plans for a WWE Title run. Most will blame lukewarm business on Warrior but I would simply point out that he did awesome business feuding with "Macho Man" Randy Savage for Wrestlemania 7.
Instead of wasting Randy Savage during 1990, the WWE should have thrown Savage at Warrior to headline SummerSlam 1990. No disrespect towards Rude, but the WWE had no plans for him at all for the WWE Title. Savage could have still caused Warrior his WWE Title to Sgt. Slaughter, as originally intended, and the Retirement Match at Wrestlemania 7 could have actually meant more. Most rip the Warrior's 1990 WWE Title reign but I point out that the WWE gave him midcarders to feud with when one of the greatest main eventers of all time, Randy Savage, was just hanging around in 1990. Warrior "retired" Randy Savage at Wrestlemania 7, but by SummerSlam 1991, Warrior was out of the WWE due to a reported disagreement with the WWE company over payments. Warrior would return at Wrestlemania 8 but was placed in a bizarre Papa Shango feud. Additionally, the business was feeling a true downslide and babyfaces of the late 1980's were losing fans through late 1991 as even Hulk Hogan found out. Warrior was gone from the WWE just before Survivor Series 1992 for reasons that are disputed.
Once you thought he was gone for good, the Ultimate Warrior was hyped for a return at Wrestlemania 12 against a then-midcarder Hunter Hearst Hemsley (Triple H). Warrior destroyed Triple H, even bouncing right up from a Pedigree! Warrior's 1996 return was short lived and we wouldn't see him again until he would debut with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) as simply "Warrior". He would feud with "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan for a match at Halloween Havok 1998 and leave the promotion shortly thereafter. And we would not see the Warrior appear for any major mainstream wrestling promotions until recently when he did a video game advertisement for 2k Sports's WWE 14 game.
It's great to see the WWE and the Warrior working together. I'm hopeful to see the Ultimate Warrior officially inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame for 2014. Based on the work he did from SummerSlam 1988 to SummerSlam 1991, he gets in easily. He was a remarkable performer that as a kid made you want to watch more WWE programming. I can remember renting SummerSlam 1988 during early 1989 shortly after I became a big pro wrestling fan. Having seen Warrior wrestle on Superstars (or All American Wrestling), I was well aware of the Ultimate Warrior but didn't know how he won the Intercontinental Title. I was in complete shock to see how he won that title belt. Then, later in the evening, Miss Elizabeth tore off the skirt during the Savage/Hogan vs. Andre/Dibiase tag match, and I wanted to watch a lot more WWE programming. SummerSlam 1988 was truly a groundbreaking show.
Hope you enjoyed the FINAL COUNTDOWN! Thanks for reading!
SO JUST CHILL TILL THE NEXT COUNTDOWN!
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