Best Matches in Recent SummerSlam History
On August 17, World Wrestling Entertainment will present its annual SummerSlam event. The card for this year's show is stacked with matches that have the potential to not only steal the show but also rank as some of the best in the long and illustrious history of the summertime spectacular.
Great matches are nothing new for WWE's second-most prestigious event. Over the last five years, SummerSlam has been home to some outstanding matches that have elevated the talent involved, legitimized championships and served as Match of the Year candidates.
CM Punk, John Cena, Christian, Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler are among the Superstars who have brought the goods on one of wrestling's biggest stages, thrilling fans in Los Angeles' Staples Center year after year.
Three of those men will have the opportunity to add to their SummerSlam legacies when they roll into the City of Angels for the 2014 incarnation of the event.
Whether they do or not is a question that will be answered when WWE presents its latest pay-per-view extravaganza on the WWE Network.
In anticipation of the huge event, and in celebration of the fine work of some of sports entertainment's finest performers, relive the 10 best matches from recent SummerSlam history!
10. Christian vs. Alberto Del Rio (2013)
Christian and Alberto Del Rio were anything but strangers to one another when they clashed over the World Heavyweight Championship in 2013. In fact, it was Captain Charisma who derailed Del Rio's plans to acquire the title some two years earlier when he beat him in a great Ladder match at Extreme Rules.
That night would go down as the greatest in Christian's Hall of Fame-worthy career, but his second chance to wrest the title from Del Rio's grasp was anything but celebratory.
The skilled professionals delivered a competitive and dramatic match full of reversals and counters that kept the fans in Los Angeles on their feet. Despite having little in the way of story entering the show, the match won the audience over thanks to the outstanding performances of the men involved.
Del Rio, in particular, was on the hottest streak of his career and was in the midst of one of the most dominant runs with the world title that any Superstar had ever enjoyed. Champion for nearly 10 months, his reign as one of the top competitors in the sport broken up briefly by Dolph Ziggler, the Mexican aristocrat was as good as he had ever been.
Christian, on the other hand, continued to prove himself as one of the most underrated performers in WWE, showcasing his ability to craft sequences that not only strengthened the match but kept the men, women and children in attendance invested in the action going on inside the squared circle.
Del Rio ultimately emerged victorious, utilizing his vaunted cross arm breaker, but it was anything but easy. Despite not having the name recognition that some of the second-generation, international star's other opponents have, Christian proved a tough and adequate challenger for the champion.
It wasn't one of the flashier matches in recent SummerSlam history, but it was an incredibly hard-fought example of two wrestlers plying their craft on one of the biggest nights of the year and thus earns its spot on this countdown.
9. Chris Jericho vs. Dolph Ziggler (2012)
A lack of any great story was hardly an issue for Chris Jericho and Dolph Ziggler as they kicked off the 2012 edition of SummerSlam with a great match that nearly stole the show right from the get-go.
Widely considered two of the best workers in the industry, Jericho and Ziggler were facing understandably high expectations as they took to the ring for their match. After all, they had worked with so many other Superstars to deliver so many excellent bouts in the past that it was a given that they would be able to replicate those quality performances when working with each other.
Jericho was dealing with injuries suffered at the hands of Ziggler and Alberto Del Rio two days earlier on SmackDown, and that most certainly played a role in the match. Despite being hampered by tremendous pain and outside interference from Vickie Guerrero, Jericho overcame a very game Showoff and forced a tapout with the Walls of Jericho.
It was a big, and rare, win for Jericho during his latest stint with the company and further proof that Ziggler could hang with the top stars in the industry.
8. John Cena vs. CM Punk vs. Big Show (2012)
CM Punk's heel turn during the 1,000th episode of Raw took the wrestling world by surprise but, at the same time, returned the Straight Edge Superstar to the role that best suited him. As WWE champion, he had knocked off stellar in-ring competitors such as Dolph Ziggler, Chris Jericho and Daniel Bryan but had been overshadowed by John Cena's feud with Big Show, who had aligned himself with heel authority figure John Laurinaitis.
Punk's heel turn and the Cena-Show rivalry would come together to create a tremendously fun Triple Threat match for wrestling's top prize.
Big Show perfectly filled the role of dominant giant while Cena and Punk did all of the heavy lifting. The champion and his top contender had demonstrated strong chemistry in the past and thus were able to devise spots, counters and near-falls that kept the fans invested while their gigantic opponent broke up pinfalls and bumped them around the squared circle.
Punk and Cena both applied their submission finishers to Show, forcing a tapout. But who won? Who was champion? Raw general manager AJ Lee ordered the match to continue, something that did not sit well with the champion. Punk protested but returned to the ring, capitalized on an Attitude Adjustment from Cena and pinned Show to successfully retain.
The interactions among the three performers, the way their characters approached the contest and the storytelling throughout helped make it far better than it probably should have been. Especially with the presence of the giant.
7. Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler (2009)
Dolph Ziggler was a surging young star by the time SummerSlam 2009 approached and, after a great showing against intercontinental champion Rey Mysterio a month earlier at Night of Champions, he was given a second opportunity to wrest the prestigious title from the celebrated Superstar.
Kicking the event off with a fast and furious title bout chock-full of close calls and near-falls, the Showoff and his masked opponent improved upon their previous bout with a competitive, athletic match that wowed the Hollywood crowd.
The finish saw Ziggler attempt a gutbuster, only for Mysterio to counter into a huge hurricanrana for the hard-fought victory.
While the champion retained and basked in the glory of his victory, it was Ziggler who earned the respect of an audience that had, to that point, not bought into him or his undefined character. In one night, he elevated himself thanks to his performance. Now a two-time World Heavyweight champion and one of the most consistently great workers on the roster, Ziggler owes a great deal of his success to the show-stealing series with Mysterio in summer 2009.
6. Team WWE vs. the Nexus (2010)
The Nexus had invaded WWE in summer 2010 and immediately targeted some of the top stars in the company, leading to a huge seven-on-seven tag match at SummerSlam that August.
Wade Barrett captained the group of young upstarts, which included Michael Tarver, David Otunga, Heath Slater, Skip Sheffield, Darren Young and Justin Gabriel, into battle against the likes of a returning Daniel Bryan, Bret Hart, Edge, Chris Jericho, R-Truth, John Morrison and the WWE franchise player, John Cena.
It was one of the most star-studded main events in SummerSlam history, the biggest to be certain.
The eliminations came fast and furious until Cena was the last remaining star on Team WWE. Faced with the challenge of young, hungry and determined competitors Barrett and Gabriel, it appeared as though the odds were too much for even Cena to overcome.
But he did, much to the dismay of the fans, who believed SummerSlam should have been the defining moment for The Nexus. Instead, Cena was left celebrating to close out the show, the sole survivor in a superb tag team elimination bout.
5. Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (2009)
Jeff Hardy's personal life and history of addiction were the target of CM Punk's Straight Edge crusade as the Superstars found themselves embroiled in a heated and personal feud over the World Heavyweight Championship in summer 2009.
After several inconclusive bouts and the trading of the title back and forth, a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match was booked for SummerSlam in an attempt to bring their personally and emotionally charged feud to an end.
Hardy was a veteran of the match type, but Punk had a great deal of success in Ladder matches, too. A two-time Money in the Bank winner who actually started the feud with Hardy by cashing in months earlier at Extreme Rules, he knew how to handle a ladder. More importantly, he knew the damage a ladder could do to a human being.
Despite enduring a breathtaking Swanton Bomb from Hardy, through the announce table, Punk recovered and retrieved the title. It was the first time in his main event run that Punk was definitively and decisively put over a legitimate main event star. That win helped elevate him and changed fans' perspective of the Chicago native.
Most importantly, it gave him a taste of the main event scene that he would work so very hard to attain, and retain, years later following his infamous "Pipe Bomb" promo.
4. Randy Orton vs. Christian (2011)
While CM Punk was the apple of the wrestling fans' collective eye and John Cena was consistently atop the Raw mountain, SmackDown featured a quality rivalry between Randy Orton and Christian over the World Heavyweight Championship.
Captain Charisma had developed into quite the crybaby following the loss of the title in May, just days after a vicious Ladder match against Alberto Del Rio. After every loss to Orton, he petitioned SmackDown GM Teddy Long for another opportunity. He threatened legal action and blackmailed Long into giving him what he wanted.
At Money in the Bank in July, he capitalized on a special stipulation that stated if Orton got himself disqualified or counted out, Christian would become champion. He spit in the face of The Viper, causing Orton to lose his cool and deliver a straight low blow. The referee called for the bell and awarded the title to the cunning, sneaky villain.
SummerSlam was meant to be the blowoff to the Orton-Christian feud. In a No Holds Barred match with the big gold belt on the line, the competitors unleashed months of frustration, anger and despair on one another, all the while using kendo sticks, steel chairs, trash can lids and the steel ring steps to wear the other down. A springboard attempt by Christian proved costly as Orton caught him in mid-air with an RKO onto the steps.
Orton won the title and left Los Angeles still the unquestioned face of the SmackDown brand.
3. John Cena vs. CM Punk (2011)
At Money in the Bank in July 2011, CM Punk defeated John Cena to win the WWE Championship and hightailed it out of the Allstate Arena in Chicago, taking the title with him. It was a moment that created many questions about the fate of the top prize in the sport.
Those questions would be answered when John Cena defeated Rey Mysterio, who had captured the supposedly vacant title in a tournament final against The Miz earlier in the night, to win the title. Punk returned, setting up a dispute over who the real champion was. At SummerSlam, they would settle their differences in a match with incredibly high expectations given the five-star classic they delivered a month earlier.
Punk and Cena, knowing each other as well as they did, were able to counter and escape trademark offense while special referee Triple H counted every near-fall evenly. Unfortunately, the inexperienced officiating of The Game proved to be the determining factor in the outcome as he missed Cena's foot on the rope and counted Punk the victor.
The finish kept Cena in the title picture while ensuring that Punk continued to stockpile momentum with a big win at the second-most important event of the year.
2. John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan (2013)
The rise of Daniel Bryan began in August 2013 at SummerSlam, when he met John Cena in the biggest match of his critically acclaimed career. With the WWE Championship on the line and an arena full of fans chanting "Yes," Bryan was under tremendous pressure to prove that he could hang with the face of the company in a high-profile, marquee main event.
To Cena's credit, he wrestled a legitimate classic with a torn triceps muscle, the damage unknown at the time. He withstood a targeted attack on the arm and still nearly ended Bryan's dream of hoisting the WWE Championship high in the air in a celebration befitting a main event attraction.
It was Bryan's heart and determination, however, that proved the difference. After a year of watching his popularity grow week after week, Bryan exploded across the ring and caught Cena with a knee to the face. Three seconds later, he scored the pinfall victory and his first run with the title.
Of course, his reign would be short lived as Triple H and Randy Orton worked together to take the title from him just minutes later, but it was the first hint that the bearded star was capable of being the top babyface in Vince McMahon's company.
1. CM Punk vs. Brock Lesnar (2013)
CM Punk had seen his 434-day WWE Championship reign come to an end at the hands of The Rock, was beaten by The Undertaker and betrayed by friend and manager Paul Heyman, so to say he had plenty of frustration and anger to dish out when he took to the ring for his SummerSlam 2013 match against Brock Lesnar would be an understatement.
In his last great performance with the company, Punk showed incredible intensity and emotion as he waged war with the former UFC and WWE heavyweight champion. Despite being overpowered and physically manhandled on several occasions throughout the bout, Punk demonstrated considerable intestinal fortitude as he fought through the pain and suffering.
Punk destroyed Lesnar with chair shots, dropped an elbow with a chair and locked in the Anaconda Vise. Perfectly timed interference from Paul Heyman allowed Lesnar to recover, blast Punk with a chair shot of his own and end the Chicago native's night on a disappointing note with the F5.
The match was perfect. It was David and Goliath storytelling at its best and featured a motivated Punk, one of the last times that would happen prior to his departure. Lesnar was outstanding, and if he can deliver a similar performance when he meets John Cena this August 17, fans will be treated to another Match of the Year candidate.