WWE SummerSlam 2014: Most Underrated Matches in Event's History
WWE SummerSlam has been home to some truly epic battles in its 27 years of existence.
Bret Hart's matches against Mr. Perfect and the British Bulldog earned him the reputation of wrestling's best worker, while the Ladder match between Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon in 1995 proved a suitable followup to their WrestleMania X classic.
The Rock and Triple H elevated their games in 1998, while Tables, Ladders & Chairs stole the show and made bigger stars of the Dudley Boyz, Edge and Christian and the Hardy Boyz two years later.
John Cena has two five-star classics on his SummerSlam resume in matches against Daniel Bryan and CM Punk, the latter having his own epic encounter in the form of a TLC World Heavyweight Championship match against Jeff Hardy in 2009.
With so many outstanding matches in the annals of SummerSlam history, there are sure to be contests that were quite excellent but were overshadowed by bigger or more historic bouts on the same shows.
The 2014 SummerSlam card appears to be one of the best in recent memory, and with so many high-profile bouts slated for the show, there are sure to be matches that join those overshadowed and underrated matches.
In preparation for the August 17 event, and in celebration of the contests that have wowed audiences but have been forgotten over time, here is a look back at seven of the most underrated matches in SummerSlam history.
The Hart Foundation vs. Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard (1989)
The opener of the 1989 SummerSlam extravaganza was a wrestling purist's dream as Bret "Hitman" Hart and Jim "the Anvil" Neidhart, staples of WWE's tag team division, squared off with former NWA stars Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard, known collectively as the Brain Busters.
Blanchard and Anderson entered the match as champions of the tag division, yet the titles were not on the line as they clashed with one of their top contenders, the Hart Foundation.
Far superior to anything else on that evening's card, the match featured two teams in their prime delivering a fundamentally sound tag match.
The two teams traded control of the bout, neither really turning the tide in their favor for any extended period of time. Ultimately, it was Anderson and Blanchard's ability to manipulate the referee and level Hart behind his back that led to a victory for the champions.
Why the titles were not on the line when the Brain Busters were going over anyway remains a mystery to this day, but the quality of the match and the star power involved were enough to overcome the ludicrous non-title stipulation.
Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano (1994)
In 1994, WWE attempted to reintroduce fans to women's wrestling, with Alundra Blayze as the centerpiece of their rebuilding efforts.
Her greatest opponent was Japanese star Bull Nakano, a strong worker who brought a style to the United States unlike any the audience had ever seen before. Together, she and Blayze would deliver matches that were far superior to many of those featuring more established and prominent stars on the WWE roster.
At SummerSlam, they wrestled their finest bout for Vince McMahon's promotion, utilizing a formula that would work for Sting and Vader in WCW on numerous occasions. Nakano was the superior competitor, utilizing size, strength and technique to wear Blayze down.
Ever resilient, the WWE Women's Champion fought back and won the match with an impressive German suplex.
The match went over with the Chicago crowd, and the finish elicited a huge pop. Unfortunately, the booking team within the company refused to follow up on the momentum the women had created for themselves, and as a result, any chance women's wrestling had at going over ended with Blayze's win at the summertime spectacular.
X-Pac vs. Jeff Jarrett (1998)
SummerSlam 1998 may best be remembered for the WWE Championship bout pitting "Stone Cold" Steve Austin against Undertaker and the Ladder match between Triple H and The Rock for the intercontinental title, but it was the Hair vs. Hair match between X-Pac and Jeff Jarrett that diehard fans remember as being the night's most underrated and one of the event's most underappreciated.
The two competitors had prior history, feuding four years earlier when X-Pac was known to fans across the globe as the 1-2-3 Kid. The quality of the matches they had in arenas from Boston to Sacramento should have been enough for expectations to be high entering the show, but a neck injury suffered by X-Pac had created questions about the type of worker he was and the quality of matches he could deliver.
He answered all his critics with a gutsy performance in which he overcame a very game Jarrett and attempted interference by the villainous Southern Justice to blast his opponent over the head with a guitar and pick up the win.
After the match, as per the pre-match stipulations, X-Pac and a wealth of Superstars who had been humiliated and assaulted by Jarrett shaved the Nashville native's blond locks to the approval of the hardcore New York fans.
The match began a hot streak for X-Pac, who delivered a tremendous series of bouts against D'Lo Brown over the European Championship and became one of the more reliable workers during the critically acclaimed Attitude Era.
Chris Jericho vs. Chris Benoit (2000)
The series of matches between Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit resulted in one of the best rivalries of 2000.
Two extraordinary workers who learned their craft by working in Mexico and Japan, Paul Heyman's ECW and Ted Turner's WCW, Jericho and Benoit were able to wrestle a seemingly endless series against each other without the matches ever becoming stale or repetitive.
A great match at Backlash was ruined with a bad disqualification finish. A month later at Judgment Day, Benoit got the best of Y2J, much to the dismay of the WWE fans. They took a break from one another to flirt with the main event, with Benoit feuding with The Rock and Jericho focusing on Triple H, before they turned their attention back to one another.
At SummerSlam, their rivalry would culminate with a big 2-out-of-3 Falls match with nothing on the line but pride and bragging rights.
The psychology was strong, the offense brutal and violent as Benoit once again frustrated Jericho, reversing a roll-up attempt and holding on to the bottom rope to secure the victory in the third fall.
The two would renew their intense hatred for each other in January 2001 with a Ladder match for the Intercontinental Championship. Jericho would finally knock off the Rabid Wolverine, ending their feud before working together in their war against Steve Austin later in the year.
Jeff Hardy vs. Rob Van Dam (2001)
How a Ladder match between Jeff Hardy and Rob Van Dam can possibly be underrated is a mystery, but that most certainly is the case some 13 years after they clashed at SummerSlam 2001.
Van Dam made his debut as a member of the ECW/WCW Alliance and was the unquestioned breakout star of that faction. His popularity rivaled that of any other star on the roster thanks in large part to his laid-back attitude.
From the moment he arrived, fans dreamed of a match between he and Jeff Hardy, a Superstar very much RVD's equal in terms of unconventional offense and athleticism.
At Invasion in July, the Superstars stole the show in a Hardcore Championship bout won by Van Dam. They would trade the title in matches on Raw and SmackDown before a Ladder match was announced for SummerSlam.
While it did not feature as many jaw-dropping, breathtaking spots as the TLC matches that fans had come to love, Hardy and Van Dam still let it all hang out in a match that captivated the San Jose audience. RVD won the match and the title and continued his climb to the top of WWE, a climb that would climax with a WWE Championship opportunity at No Mercy in October.
The match was overshadowed by the classic Steve Austin-Kurt Angle match that followed it, not to mention the flashier Ladder bouts of the time, but Hardy vs. Van Dam is most certainly a hidden gem that deserves the attention of today's fans.
Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley (2006)
After a bad match at Vengeance two months earlier, there was reason to expect more of the same from the aging Mick Foley and Ric Flair when an "I Quit" match between the two was announced for SummerSlam.
Two all-time greats, not to mention WWE Hall of Famers, silenced all of the critics and doubters with a brutal, violent, intense match at the summertime spectacular.
The rivalry, born of very real animosity between the competitors that began when Flair called Foley's legacy into question in his autobiography, had featured some truly extraordinary promo work but badly needed a match that lived up to all of the hype.
The SummerSlam bout did. Both Flair and Foley bled buckets, and the "Nature Boy" got his first taste of the new era of hardcore wrestling as he found himself covered in thumbtacks at the hands of the former WWE champion.
It was the arrival of Melina, a dear friend of Foley's, that proved to be the element Flair needed to force his double-tough opponent to say the two words he dreaded most. Threatening the beautiful young woman with violence, Flair demanded that Foley quit. With no other options, he did just that, losing the match to his hated foe.
The match was booked to perfection, with both men playing to their strengths and masking their weaknesses. As a result, it nearly stole the show out from underneath the marquee bouts on the 2006 card.
Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (2009)
Today, Dolph Ziggler is recognized as one of the best wrestlers in the world and has more than earned his "Showoff" nickname, but his reputation for delivering show-stealing performances is nothing new.
No, in 2009, he and then-intercontinental champion Rey Mysterio had a series of matches that thrilled audiences, put the prestigious title at the forefront and elevated Ziggler to the next level of competition all at the same time.
At SummerSlam, they would wrestle their finest bout, a 15-minute contest full of dramatic near-falls and exciting reversals.
Sure, Mysterio won the match and retained the title, but the attention was on Ziggler, who proved that he could hang with a former world champion the caliber of the masked, all-time-great Superstar.
In the weeks and months that followed, Ziggler became a centerpiece of WWE's midcard, wrestling outstanding matches on a nightly basis against the top young stars in the industry. Without his match against Mysterio that August, we may not be talking about the cocky, arrogant and great performer some five years later.