It was a slow news weekend, and I’ve been watching a lot of vintage SummerSlam moments in preparation for my series of Retro Reviews. In that spirit, I thought it would be a fun way to pass the time to put together an All-Star SummerSlam match card featuring exclusively the bouts of WWE’s annual summer classic!
Here are my self-imposed rules:
- Choose between 8-12 matches from only past SummerSlam pay-per-views
- Each wrestler can only be used ONE time
- Each championship can only be used ONE time
- There must be at least one women’s match
- There must be at least one tag team match
- Match times & card placement is important
Match #1 – Eddie Guerrero vs. Rhyno vs. Taijiri vs. Chris Benoit in a Fatal 4-Way match for the WWE U.S. Championship [10:50]
Every great pay-per-view needs a strong, exciting opening match to get the audience pumped up. You really can’t go wrong with any of these guys, and most of them could wrestle a broom to a standing ovation so putting together a fun, fast-paced Fatal 4-Way to showcase the WWE U.S. Championship was a walk in the park. There were admittedly other, better Eddie Guerrero matches I considered for my All-Star card, but for multiple reasons (time constraints, redundant title matches, etc.) I needed a good opener and knew these guys could get the job done.
Match #2 – Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano for the WWF Women’s Championship [8:10]
We need to talk about the serious lack of women’s wrestling matches throughout the history of SummerSlam. This pay-per-view event goes back more than THREE DECADES and all I had was a small handful of options to choose from, and to be honest none of them were really classics. I’m not even talking about the usually frustrating standards by which I judge WWF in the 90s, but even into the mid-2010s when they had no excuse not to feature multiple women’s matches, they just decided not to. Many, many years there were just no women’s matches at all. That said, I figured since the pool is shallow we might as well go back to watch two legends in Alundra Blayze and the great Bull Nakano compete on a big stage. It’s still nothing compared to what Bull was doing internationally around that same time period, and a far cry from contemporary Manami Toyota matches, but hey – it’s something.
Match #3 – Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon in a Ladder Match for the Intercontinental Championship [25:04]
Here we go! We’re three matches deep and the crowd is nice and warmed up, so it’s time for our first of quite a few all-time classics on this All-Star SummerSlam match card. This was the sequel to the legendary Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon’s “five star” ladder match at WrestleMania X, and while they worked in several call-backs to the original, they also found a way to make it feel totally different. In the year-and-a-half since their first collision both men had become much bigger superstars, and you could feel the shift in dynamics as they came face-to-face. The sequel was slower, and more psychological. The difference between a battle between two young and eager up-and-comers, and a war between two legitimate top stars. You can argue all day long about which one is better, but it totally comes down to personal preference.
Match #4 – Dean Ambrose vs. Seth Rollins in a Lumberjack Match [10:55]
This is such a random match, in retrospect. The biggest story of that summer was Seth Rollins turning on The Shield and joining up with The Authority, leading to a series of wild and brutal matches. Dean Ambrose would show up week after week and beat the hell out of him, to the point where we started to guess each week how he would show up and blindside Rollins. This was bitter and personal. An absolute war in the making. So naturally… they put them in a lumberjack match? Yeah, I don’t know either. The scenario meritted a Hell in a Cell and at least 25 minutes of raw physicality – the reality was a hilariously wild 11-minute scuffle between Rollins, Ambrose, Kane and half the WWE roster. It’s a bit ridiculous, but it gets them both on the card as well as a lot of the lumberjacks who would otherwise not appear, and it also makes for a good break between two longer, slower wrasslin’ matches.
Match #5 – AJ Styles vs. John Cena [23:10]
This is actually a match that I’m not personally a huge fan of, but I’m including it on my All-Star SummerSlam card because it’s so highly regarded by just about everyone else that I’ve ever talked to about it. I don’t know – maybe it’s just me. I loved their rematch at the Royal Rumble and thought it might have been Cena’s best match ever. Something about this one just didn’t “click” for me. That being said, it’s rated highly and many consider it to be a SummerSlam classic between two all-time greats on a major worldwide stage. There were plenty of options to sneak Cena onto the card, but less for Styles and I think most people would want to see this on their lists.
Match #6 – Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio [9:20]
What I love about this fast-paced clinic is that you can shove it anywhere on a card and it totally works. It’s a great opener to get a crowd hyped up, you can use it as a pallet cleanser in between heavier matches, or you can add another 10 minutes and let them tear the house down in a classic main event. Angle and Mysterio are two of the most versatile Superstars in wrestling history, and that’s a rare attribute. This 9-minute match flies by and leaves you wanting more, while also completely satisfying that technical itch.
Match #7 – Sasha Banks vs. Alexa Bliss for the Raw Women’s Championship [13:10]
Again, I just want to point out that it’s ridiculous how few women’s matches have taken place at SummerSlam over the last THIRTY YEARS of possibilities. I came really close to including the triple threat trios match from SummerSlam 2015 because it really is quite good, but ultimately I ended up going with this totally decent Raw Women’s Championship bout between The Boss and The Goddess from 2017. But seriously WWE, do better.
Match #8 – The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian in a Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match for the WWF Tag Team Championships [18:38]
In searching for a tag team title match to add to my All-Star SummerSlam card there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for this historic triple threat TLC match. I did briefly think about including some of the great modern brawls between The Usos, The New Day and The Bar in particular from the 2017 pay-per-view, but in the end there was really only one right answer.
There’s a good reason why, if you ask virtually any fan that grew up during the Attitude Era about their favorite tag team, dollars to donuts their answer includes either the Dudleyz, the Hardyz, or the Canadian dynamic duo of Edge and Christian. This match, along with the many other Tables Matches, Ladder Matches and TLC repeats to follow, are the stuff of absolute legends. If there’s anything the turn-of-the-millennium wrestling product did right, it was absolute chaos in the tag team division.
Match #9 – Mick Foley vs. Ric Flair in an “I Quit” Match [13:14]
This bloodbath is an absolute gem. A 57-year-old Ric Flair on the doorstep of retirement, covered in a pint of his own blood, swinging a barbed-wire-covered baseball bat at a defenseless woman is peak Nature Boy. I don’t know who looked around in 2006 and decided Mick Foley was going to get the push of a lifetime, including a damn fine WrestleMania match with Edge and a run as a top heel throughout the summer, but that person needs a promotion. No, I don’t care that it was 13 years ago.
The best thing about this match is that it’s only 13-minutes long. It goes straight into fourth gear righto out of the gate and stays there the entire time. Flair will always be the greatest seller in the game and Foley is an absolute master of conveying emotion and passion in the ring. It’s not a “five star classic” by any means, but for a sub-15 match featuring two aging legends, it’s so much better than it probably had any right to be. The GOATS, man…
Match #10 – Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in a Steel Cage Match for the WWF Championship [32:22]
You just gotta, man. You just gotta…
Two brothers trapped inside a steel cage to work out lifetimes of frustration in the most physical and violent way possible. This one of course came about five months after their incredible show-opening performance at WrestleMania X, where little brother Owen actually defeated the”Hitman” clean in the middle of the ring, only to watch big brother Bret go on to capture the WWF World Heavyweight Championship later in the night.
The sort of ironic thing about the steel cage as a stipulation is that both the Hart brothers were well known for keeping the action squarely in the center of the ring at all times. When you’re an absolute master of the ring, leaving it only gives your opponent’s an advantage. That was the theory anyways… I’m not sure that the cage was actually necessary, but they used it to perfection and it really did feel sort of like the Hart family had locked the two boys in their room without supper to work out their differences.
Bret vs. Owen is perhaps the single greatest SummerSlam match of all time, even if it didn’t actually headline its own show back in ’94. I’ve heard people make arguments that it is even better than its WrestleMania counterpart, although I’ll leave that one up to the masses to decide on your own. If you’re putting together an All-Star card, Bret Hart absolutely must be at the top of it. Some well-deserved respect to his other incredible SummerSlam matches with Mr. Perfect and the British Bulldog, which were also in consideration for my list.