WWE SummerSlam 2014: Power Ranking Every Card in PPV's History
For WWE SummerSlam 2014 to surpass the greatest event in the pay-per-view's history, Brock Lesnar will have to outdo the night he first became world champion.
The latest SummerSlam's main event is set—Lesnar vs. John Cena. Can that bout be as captivating as Bret Hart vs. The British Bulldog, Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker or Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk?
SummerSlam's timeline is chock-full of classics, but it's not without its forgettable snoozers. A great SummerSlam has far more of the former and a slim helping of the latter.
The following list ranks every version of the summer show based on how entertaining and memorable the undercard was and the excellence of the main event. The number of big moments are factored in as well.
Lesnar and Cena's names come up often toward the top of the list. It begins, though, with the inaugural edition of the event.
Main Event: Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage vs Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant
Notable Match: Ultimate Warrior vs. Honky Tonk Man
The first ever SummerSlam produced no classic.
Fans will most remember the event for featuring the shortest Intercontinental Championship match ever. Ultimate Warrior's blink-of-an-eye win over Honky Tonk Man shocked. Filler held down the rest of the night.
Other than a few solid tag matches, there's not much to enjoy here.
Demolition vs. The Hart Foundation and The Fabulous Rougeaus vs. The British Bulldogs were both good, but not the kind of show-stealers that other SummerSlams showcased. The Mega Powers (Hogan and Savage) taking on Andre and DiBiase in the main event was fun.
There is nothing about the in-ring action or story told between the ropes with those four stars that could save a forgettable first SummerSlam, though.
Main Event: Diesel vs. King Mabel
Notable Match: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels
Stealing the show wasn't a difficult task for Ramon and Michaels. Their Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship had little competition.
The classic those two eventual Hall of Famers put on is enough to move it past the 1988 SummerSlam, but nothing else about the pay-per-view thrilled fans.
Bob Holly vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Isaac Yankem vs. Bret Hart and The Undertaker vs. Kama were all underwhelming to be kind. That sentiment sums up the main event as well. When ranking the greatest SummerSlam championship bouts, there's no reason to put Diesel vs. Mabel anywhere but near the bottom.
A lack of fireworks, big moments and compelling action was too much of a running theme to rank this SummerSlam any higher.
Main Event: Bret Hart vs. Undertaker
Notable Matches: Mankind vs. Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Owen Hart vs. Steve Austin
Before WWE caught fire in the Attitude Era, it suffered through growing pains. SummerSlam 1997 is representative of how awkward that period was.
Goldust battled Brian Pillman, forcing his foe to wear Marlena's dress afterward. The British Bulldog took on Ken Shamrock in a tepid affair. These matches, like much of the card, offered little to remember.
Hart and Austin's battle for the Intercontinental Championship is the event's most famous match, but not for its quality. A piledriver breaking Austin's neck is why this match is talked about.
This SummerSlam ranks above the 1988 and 1995 versions because of its main event. After a weak undercard, Hart and Undertaker put on a good show. It wasn't the classic that fans have seen in other SummerSlams' marquee bouts, but it certainly beats out Diesel vs. King Mabel's belly flop.
Main Event: John Cena vs. Randy Orton
Notable Match: Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero
Had this batch of average matches been a part of a less-hyped pay-per-view, fans would have been pleasantly surprised. It simply didn't feel worthy of being a SummerSlam, though.
Forgettable undercard matches didn't hurt this show like the ones ranked below it. Instead, the night offered a number of solid-not-spectacular efforts.
Kane vs. Finlay, Umaga defending the Intercontinental Championship against Carlito and Mr. Kennedy, and Triple H against Booker T all fall into that category.
Mysterio vs. Guerrero improved the show, but other SummerSlams have had classics on its undercard, not just good bouts. Cena and Orton's long rivalry has seen them produce much more compelling action. This doesn't compare to the enthralling nature of Cena's SummerSlam battles with CM Punk or Daniel Bryan either.
Main Event: Team WWE vs. Nexus
Notable Matches: Randy Orton vs. Sheamus, Dolph Ziggler vs. Kofi Kingston
Had Nexus not stomped its way into Ziggler and Kingston's match, SummerSlam would likely have had another classic to boast about.
The invading rookies may have halted a potential show-stealer, but their presence gave this SummerSlam a special feel. They were the hungry, young predators lurking throughout the night.
In the main event, they battled Chris Jericho, Bret Hart, John Cena, Edge and others in what was an entertainingly chaotic affair. Daniel Bryan's surprise return and The Hitman having our nostalgia glands tingling with a Sharpshooter helped make it a memorable showing.
Orton and Sheamus highlighted the rest of the card, making for a pay-per-view that eclipsed editions with limping undercards. Other SummerSlams, though, had a higher percentage of greatness leading up to its marquee bout.
Main Event: Zeus and Randy Savage vs. Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake
Notable Matches: The Brain Busters vs. The Hart Foundation, Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior
On undercard alone, the second ever SummerSlam would rank a lot higher.
Thank Rude and Warrior for making the Intercontinental Championship feel like a prize worth battling over. They put on an excellent show that showcased Warrior's energy and power and Rude's cunning and viciousness.
The Rockers joining forces with Tito Santana against The Fabulous Rougeaus and The Brain Busters battling The Hart Foundation were welcome, entertaining additions.
They weren't the kind of classics other SummerSlams have produced, though.
Add that to the fact that the main event featured an actor and a wrestler in Beefcake that didn't belong there and it's hard to rank the 1998 SummerSlam higher than its more complete peers. The night's final bout was more spectacle than spectacular.
Main Event: Edge vs. John Cena
Notable Matches: Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair, Rey Mysterio vs. Chavo Guerrero
Edge and Cena's stellar chemistry capped off the 2006 SummerSlam.
The Ultimate Opportunist fended off WWE's Superman in a dramatic contest. That title bout along with Foley and Ric Flair's grisly I Quit match were the show's peaks. Barbed wire and blood made for an unsettling story one couldn't look away from.
D-Generation X against the McMahons and Mysterio vs Guerrero were additions that bettered the show, but weren't enough to make up for the most lackluster bouts around them. Big Show vs. Sabu, Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Orton and Batista vs. Booker T all disappointed.
The absolute best SummerSlams didn't have as many duds.
Main Event: Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger
Notable Matches: Mr. Perfect vs. Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart vs. Doink/Jerry Lawler
The main event produced emotion aplenty, even if it wasn't a showcase of great wrestling. Lex Luger winning for pride and country against the foreign villain as balloons tumbled onto him was a striking image.
Bret Hart taking on Doink and then a supposedly injured Jerry Lawler was a match that shot past expectations. The show-stealer combined with Mr. Perfect's loss to Michaels were the undercard's biggest strong points.
Cut out Razon Ramon vs. Ted DiBiase and The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez, which were both flops of the highest order, and the 1993 SummerSlam would rise higher on this list. The dregs of the show along with a main event that delivered with heart but not with in-ring action keeps the show from surpassing better editions.
Main Event: Shawn Michaels vs. Vader
Notable Match: Mankind vs. Undertaker
Fans who sat through the tedious early parts of SummerSlam 1996 were rewarded with a classic.
Vader and Michaels put on one of SummerSlam's best matches. Michaels' strategy and gutsiness allowed him to retain the world title against a monster. The Heartbreak Kid's reputation for getting the best out of opponents was on display once again here, Vader having the greatest showing in his WWE run.
Before that, Mankind and Undertaker's Boiler Room Brawl rode viciousness and a strange setting to a solid bout.
There is little to savor beyond those two matches, though. Vader and Michaels' masterpiece is thrilling enough to carry it this high on the list, but a number of duds including Jake Roberts vs. Jerry Lawler and the Fatal 4-Way for the tag titles are the kinds of matches fans skip past to get to the good stuff.
Main Event: Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior
Notable Matches: The Hart Foundation vs. Demolition, Hulk Hogan vs. Earthquake
SummerSlam 1990 rightfully falls in the middle of the list.
On average, the matches were better than the sleep-inducing bouts the worst the pay-per-view has had to offer. The show didn't produce the kind of classics the best SummerSlams have either, though.
A huge part of that can be attributed to the card featuring too many matches. That crowded a schedule forces potential excellence to stop short. Mr. Perfect vs. Kerry Von Erich and Jake Roberts vs. Bad News Brown both ended at about the five-minute mark.
Any one of those clashes could have stolen the show with more time.
Instead, the tag team title match was the undercard's highlight, a 2-out-of-3 Falls match that saw Demolition try to win via secretly switching out one of its members for a fresh man.
Rude and Warrior's cage match wasn't as good as their previous efforts, a letdown of a final bout. Like the show itself, it was a middle-of-the-road effort.
Main Event: Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Mankind
Notable Matches: Shane McMahon vs. Test, Tag Team Turmoil match
The tag team division took up a good chunk of the night with a Tag Team Turmoil match that showcased The Hardy Boyz and Edge and Christian the most.
That and McMahon's Street Fight against Test were the undercard's strengths. Big spots and McMahon's daredevil in-ring style made for a crowd-pleasing contest.
Like the 1990 SummerSlam, the pay-per-view ended up residing in the space between terrible and great. Ken Shamrock vs. Steve Blackman, The Rock vs. Billy Gunn, and Big Show and Undertaker winning the tag titles from X-Pac and Kane were all average matches.
Mankind's triumph over Austin and Triple H followed it.
Few fans will rank this as any of those men's greatest matches, but it was a fun bout, exciting at times. SummerSlam has too many main event classics for it to compete with the best shows in event history, though.
Main Event: Undertaker vs. Undertaker
Notable Matches: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart, Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano
Had SummerSlam 1994's main event been anything other than a train wreck, it would be among the top 10 shows in that pay-per-view's history.
Instead, WWE went with Undertaker battling a fake Undertaker. A silly story and uncomfortable-to-watch in-ring action makes that one of the worst main events SummerSlam has ever produced.
A far better undercard saved the show.
The Hart brothers' near-perfect Steel Cage match is the highlight. Their intensity and chemistry made for a title bout that sucked fans in early on and kept them entranced throughout.
Blayze and Nakano's excellent women's title match boosted the event as well. Diesel vs. Razor Ramon was a solid addition, two big men going to battle in a fun brawl.
The night's other matches didn't do enough to make up for the failure that was the last match of the night.
Main Event: Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels
Notable Matches: Chris Jericho vs. John Cena, Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
While not the clunker that Undertaker vs. Undertaker was, Hogan and Michaels' match was no resume-enhancer.
Michaels oversold Hogan's offense, making a joke out of the match at times. The over-the-top elements hurt what should have been a thriller. It still ended up being good, but not enough to compete with SummerSlam's greatest main events.
Jericho and Cena stole the show with a fluid, exciting match. Add Mysterio and Guerrero's excellent Ladder match and even with its warts, the 2005 SummerSlam's undercard is one of the strongest in event history.
Another standout match elsewhere and a better effort from Hogan and Michaels and this would be in contention for best SummerSlam ever.
Main Event: Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H
Notable Matches: Dolph Ziggler vs. Chris Jericho, CM Punk vs. Big Show vs. John Cena
One won't find a single masterwork re-watching SummerSlam 2012.
The show made up for its lack of home runs by consistently hitting singles and doubles, though. The worst SummerSlams have featured garbage in between the gourmet, but everything on this card was at least solid.
It says a lot when a quick, fun Daniel Bryan vs. Kane match is the worst the pay-per-view has to offer.
Punk's world title defense, The Miz vs. Rey Mysterio and Sheamus vs. Alberto Del Rio strengthened the undercard, even if none of those contests was of the show-stealing variety. Ziggler and Jericho handled that assignment, delivering a fast-paced battle brimming with energy.
Lesnar and Triple H provided a match with the proverbial big-fight feel.
Their trilogy featured better bouts, but this one was hard-hitting and compelling enough to earn SummerSlam 2012 this high of a ranking.
Main Event: Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior vs. Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa
Notable Matches: Bret Hart vs. Mr. Perfect, Virgil vs. Ted DiBiase
Vengeance, patriotism and wedding bells made for a unique, memorable SummerSlam in 1991.
Hart and Mr. Perfect put on a classic for the Intercontinental Championship, two mat technicians showing off their mastery. Virgil and DiBiase's grudge match was surprisingly great. The effectiveness of that bout is proof of the power of storytelling.
After years of being abused by his boss, Virgil fought back. His revenge was a cathartic bit of theater.
The tag match main event was no classic, but like Lex Luger's victory in 1993 was an emotional powerhouse. Seeing two megastars beat up pro-Iraqi Slaughter and his allies made for a moving experience.
It wasn't a great match in terms of actual wrestling, though. SummerSlam that year was more about entertainment than in-ring artistry, as fans saw when Randy Savage and Elizabeth's wedding followed the main event.
Main Event: Chris Benoit vs. Randy Orton
Notable Matches: Kurt Angle vs. Eddie Guerrero, The Dudleys vs. Rey Mysterio, Paul London and Billy Kidman
Orton's time in the spotlight arrived courtesy of outlasting Benoit in an excellent title bout. The new titleholder as he held up the World Heavyweight Championship is one of SummerSlam's better, most enduring images.
The undercard saw a number of entertaining matches before that.
Angle and Guerrero put on one of their many classics together. The six-man tag that opened the night was a thrill ride featuring the high-flying skills of London, Kidman and Mysterio.
John Cena vs. Booker T, Kane vs. Matt Hardy and John "Bradshaw" Layfield vs. Undertaker all underwhelmed. Had any of those bouts been more memorable, the 2004 SummerSlam would have slid past more editions of the event.
Main Event: Booker T vs. The Rock
Notable Matches: Lance Storm vs. Edge, Kurt Angle vs. Steve Austin, X-Pac vs. Tajiri
SummerSlam 2001 began with excellence, but didn't end that way.
Edge vs. Storm for the Intercontinental Championship is one of the best openers in SummerSlam history with its blend of showmanship and technical wrestling. Tajiri and X-Pac would outdo them later in the show and then Angle and Austin would surpass that effort.
The one-upmanship ended with the main event, though. Compile the most thrilling SummerSlam main events together and Booker T and The Rock won't be anywhere near the top.
It was a good match, far better than Undertaker vs. Undertaker or King Mabel vs. Diesel from previous years, but disappointing enough to keep this SummerSlam from competing for greatest ever.
Main Event: Undertaker vs. Edge
Notable Matches: Batista vs. John Cena, CM Punk vs. John "Bradshaw" Layfield
The biggest bouts on the card delivered.
Batista and Cena made their match feel like a main event despite going on second to last. Punk and JBL's world title contest was a fun, physical battle.
Undertaker and Edge then entered Hell in a Cell and produced the kind of momentous match that setting and SummerSlam is supposed to have. It remains one of the better Hell in a Cell bouts after WWE tempered its level of violence in the PG Era.
Giving Triple H an opponent other than The Great Khali would have catapulted this show even further.
While deserving of a top-10 spot, SummerSlam 2008 fails to climb any higher on this list because it featured great matches, not classic matches. Even better SummerSlams outdid what Undertaker, Cena and Co. produced in Indianapolis.
Main Event: CM Punk vs. John Cena
Notable Matches: Wade Barrett vs. Daniel Bryan, Randy Orton vs. Christian
Christian and Orton's searing rivalry and Punk's momentum highlighted a fantastic SummerSlam.
The best of Orton and Christian's stellar 2011 battles saw intensity that makes one forget that the action is scripted. It truly felt like these men hated each other and that the world title was a prize worth going to war over.
Punk and Cena capped off the night with an excellent championship match.
A surprise Kevin Nash appearance and Alberto Del Rio cashing in his Money in the Bank contract followed that action with a stunning series of moments. Barrett and Bryan's effort boosted the show as well.
A few too many duds bring the event down, though. Had WWE replaced Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix or Mark Henry vs. Sheamus with something better, this SummerSlam would move up the ranking.
Main Event: Elimination Chamber match
Notable Matches: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Benoit vs. Rhyno vs. Tajiri
Had SummerSlam 2003 just been the Elimination Chamber match and Lesnar vs. Angle, fans would have gone home happy.
The former saw Triple H emerge from the steel structure the victor thanks to Ric Flair and a sledgehammer. The brutality and thrills that made up that main event make it one of SummerSlam's greatest matches.
Angle and Lesnar competed for that label as well with another stellar showing between them.
Their chemistry has always made their collisions must-watch. This one was no different.
A Fatal 4-Way for the U.S. title was a strong addition, enough to help push this event into the No. 7 spot. Other SummerSlams, though, offered deeper undercards that didn't have disappointments like Kane vs. Rob Van Dam or The Undertaker vs. A-Train.
Main Event: Bret Hart vs. British Bulldog
Notable Match: Ultimate Warrior vs. Randy Savage
Had their been anything other than filler and mediocrity outside of its two top matches, the 1992 edition of SummerSlam would arguably be the greatest show in its history.
Unfortunately, Virgil vs. Nailz, Shawn Michaels vs. Rick Martel (where either man was not allowed to hit the other's face) and Undertaker vs. Kamala were all tepid bouts. One had to sludge through the event to get to the excellent world title bout between Warrior and Savage.
Fans remember this night for that final showdown, though.
The Hitman and Bulldog electrified the London crowd. A stellar match ended with the Englishman celebrating in front of his countrymen. The magic of that moment makes this highly memorable, but not enough to make up for the dregs that was the undercard.
Main Event: Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk
Notable Matches: Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler, DX vs. Legacy
Mysterio and Ziggler thrilled in the opener. DX returned to face Legacy in a fun, entertaining bout.
Orton and Cena didn't deliver as well as they have in the past. Even so, their match along with ones mentioned above made for a strong undercard despite its flaws.
Christian squashing William Regal and Kane beating The Great Khali didn't offer much to the pay-per-view.
The high point was clearly the Hardy and Punk battle, a TLC match that is among SummerSlam's most exciting contests. Broken ladders and tables merged with the compelling hatred between these men to make for a satisfying end to the night.
Main Event: The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle
Notable Matches: Shane McMahon vs. Steve Blackman, Tables, Ladders and Chairs match for tag titles, Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit
That classic here is the TLC match.
Edge, Christian, The Dudleys and The Hardy Boyz stole the show as they did each time they brought ladders and tables into the mix. The rest of the pay-per-view featured a number of good matches, even if there were no more masterworks.
McMahon and Blackman's Hardcore match, Jericho vs. Benoit and an entertaining main event made up a card that delivered from open to close. Had Angle, Triple H and The Rock delivered a classic like the three top pay-per-views did, it'd compete with them for those spots.
It featured less greatness than the shows ranked above it, but was more consistently good throughout than the long list of SummerSlams that it passed by.
Main Event: Steve Austin vs. Undertaker
Notable Matches: Triple H vs. The Rock, X-Pac vs. Jeff Jarrett
It's an event like this that has fans reflect so fondly on the Attitude Era.
Minus a Handicap match featuring The Oddities and a mixed tag pitting Edge and Sable vs. Jacqueline and Marc Mero, SummerSlam 1998 was all hits. X-Pac and Jarrett surprised in a Hair vs. Hair match and Ken Shamrock and Owen Hart intrigued in a Lion's Den match, an MMA-style cage bout.
The Ladder match that saw Triple H outlast The Rock is one of SummerSlam's most treasured classics, a showcase for two men en route to becoming megastars.
Austin and Undertaker's title bout was a powerful drama with that all important big-fight feel. It was a great way to cap off a great SummerSlam, but the two best editions of the event had even better clashes in that spot.
Main Event: Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena
Notable Matches: Alberto Del Rio vs. Christian, CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar
Last year's SummerSlam featured a trio of great matches and one of the most heartbreaking Money in the Bank cash-ins ever.
Had Del Rio vs. Christian put on their compelling, fast-paced performance on most shows, it would have been the talk of the event. They faced stiff competition that night, though.
The debate over 2013's best match had to include both Punk vs. Lesnar and Bryan vs. Cena. The former was a brutal battle that saw Punk suffer at the claws of a beast he couldn't topple. Cena and Bryan then put on a classic, their styles meshing together perfectly.
That came after an undercard that was mostly solid beyond the two aforementioned matches.
Add Randy Orton cashing in on Bryan and the gut-punch sensation that followed and SummerSlam's history was made far richer by the 2013 edition. The last entrant on the list outdid it, though, with an even more stacked card.
Main Event: The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar
Notable Matches: Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels
SummerSlam 2002 remains king.
For WWE to top this in 2014 or in the future, it is going to take a thrilling show packed with memorable matches. Fans in Uniondale, New York, saw Angle and Mysterio excite in a great opener. Speed and technical skill powered that battle.
Edge and Eddie Guerrero added a very good effort. Rob Van Dam and Chris Benoit's clash for the Intercontinental Championship was a touch better.
After that excellent undercard, two more bouts took the show home.
Michael's return after years away with a back injury resulted in a classic, bloody, stirring match. That would have been a fine main event and even had the show ended there, the event would still rank high here.
WWE had one more display of excellence to share, though. Lesnar taking down The Rock was a huge moment, the crowning of a rising star. The action leading up to that was captivating, two great athletes at their best.
For SummerSlam 2014 to move past this show, it's going to take a flawless undercard and Lesnar producing magic again, this time with John Cena opposite him.