There have been 33 SummerSlam events in WWE history. I have reviewed them all. Some of them were live, some of them were decades later and you can find them all in our Listing of Every WWE PPV Review right here on TJRWrestling. I think it’s pretty handy to have on the site and makes it easy for you, the reader, to decide what kind of SummerSlam show you want to watch before this year’s event.
The first edition of SummerSlam in 1988 was headlined by Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan as the Mega Powers taking on Ted Dibiase and Andre the Giant as the Mega Bucks. The last SummerSlam was the only one to take place in front of no fans because it was the first event that was held in the WWE Thunderdome last year.
Shoutout to the old WWF SummerSlam logo as well. Love it. The way I’ll break it down is put all 33 shows in tiers starting with the worst, work my way up to the average ones and then onto the best.
The Worst of the Worst
There were four SummerSlam events that I thought were terrible and I really think you should be smart enough to never watch them again.
- 33. SummerSlam 1990 (Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude) – 3.5
The 1990 show really only had one good moment with The Hart Foundation beating Demolition for the Tag Team Titles and the crowd went crazy for it. Ten-year-old me loved it too. Other than that, it was an awful event.
- 32. SummerSlam 1993 (Lex Luger vs. Yokozuna) – 4
- 31. SummerSlam 1995 (Diesel vs. Mabel, Michaels vs. Ramon) – 4
It’s no surprise that two SummerSlams from the 1993-1995 era are in here because that three years stretch was probably the worst time for WWE as a company. I’ll remember 1993 for Lex Luger’s ridiculous celebration for beating Yokozuna by countout and not winning the WWE Title. Why was he celebrating so much? It was so cheesy. The 1995 show only had Shawn Michaels beating Razor Ramon in a classic ladder match that was added to the show a few weeks prior because WWE realized the card was awful. It was originally going to be Michaels vs. Sid, but that was changed. Thank you to whoever changed it. Diesel vs. Mabel in 1995 is one of the worst PPV main events ever.
- 30. SummerSlam 1991 (Match Made In Heaven & Hell) – 4.5
The 1991 SummerSlam was mostly crap that would have been a lot lower if not for Bret Hart and Mr. Perfect having a classic match for the Intercontinental Title, which was Bret’s first singles title. I thought main eventing with the Savage/Elizabeth wedding was the wrong decision, but the fans liked it.
The Average SummerSlams
If I rate a show in the range of 5 or 5.5 out of 10 that means it was just average. As you can see below, there are nine editions of SummerSlam that fall in that category.
- 29. SummerSlam 1988 (Mega Powers vs. Mega Bucks) – 5
The first SummerSlam was nothing special, but I don’t think I can put into words how huge that Savage/Hogan vs. Andre/Dibiase main event was. Unlike today, we didn’t get those matches that often, so it was a big deal to see that on PPV and a fun match to main event the first SummerSlam. There were a couple of other good tag matches on that card too.
- 28. SummerSlam 1999 (Mankind vs. Steve Austin vs. Triple H) – 5
I know 1999 WWE was hugely popular, but a lot of the PPVs that year were just average. It was more about the storylines during that year and that meant PPV match quality was down. The main event was enjoyable. A lot of it was bad, though. The end of The Rock vs. Billy Gunn was brutal. I won’t even mention it again.
- 27. SummerSlam 2010 (Team WWE vs. Team Nexus) – 5
It was such an up and down year in 2010. They built up The Nexus as this big deal, everybody thought they were going to win this main event against John Cena’s Team WWE, but it didn’t happen because (as we found out years later) Cena got the finish changed. There wasn’t much else to save it, so it was just an average one match show.
- 26. SummerSlam 1994 (Undertaker vs. Underfaker, Bret vs. Owen) – 5
I’ll never forget Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in the blue bar steel cage. Great match for the WWE Title that Bret barely won. After the match, Owen and brother in law Jim Neidhart attacked Bret while other brother in law Davey Boy Smith made the save. If the show ended there then maybe it would have been a 7, but Undertaker vs. fake Undertaker was so bad that I could not go that high.
- 25. SummerSlam 2007 (John Cena vs. Randy Orton) – 5
The lineup was just average and they relied so much on the return from injury of Triple H and Rey Mysterio, but both guys looked rusty in their matches. The Cena/Orton match was their first major PPV singles match, so it’s historic for that reason. Pretty good match as the main event too.
- 24. SummerSlam 2003 (Elimination Chamber) – 5.5
It’s the only SummerSlam to have an Elimination Chamber match in the main event with Goldberg destroying everything in his path until he was stopped by the trusty sledgehammer of Triple H. As a story it was fine, but the match wasn’t that great. The best match was Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar in what was the best rivalry of that year.
- 23. SummerSlam 1989 (Hogan/Beefcake vs. Savage/Zeus) – 5.5
The main event reminded me of how amazing Randy Savage was because Zeus was as bad as any professional wrestler I’ve ever seen, but Savage bumped his ass off for the faces to try to make it look like a competitive match. The strength of this card were the tag matches (a common theme in this era) and a good Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior match too.
- 22. SummerSlam 1996 (Shawn Michaels vs. Vader) – 5.5
I remember being so upset that Steve Austin wasn’t even on the card. He won King of the Ring, he was the hottest act in the company and all they did with him was put him on the pre-show in a bad match against Yokozuna. The show was carried by Michaels vs. Vader in the controversial main event that really should have been a win for Vader to establish him as a dominant heel. The Undertaker vs. Mankind is a damn good match too with a controversial finish where Paul Bearer turned on Undertaker after being together for six years.
- 21. SummerSlam 1997(Bret Hart vs. The Undertaker) – 5.5
I think my rating is a bit low. I think I would boost it up to about 6.5 out of 10 because the storytelling was strong. In terms of matches, it was not great by any means, but the atmosphere surrounding Bret Hart vs. Undertaker with Shawn Michaels as the ref was pretty special. I’ll never forget Steve Austin’s neck injury either. It shortened his career for sure.
Pretty Pretty Good
That name is in tribute to one of my favorite comedy shows, Curb Your Enthusiasm. The last four years of SummerSlams fell into this tier.
- 20. SummerSlam 2006 (Edge vs. John Cena) – 6
When people talk about the bloodiest matches in WWE history they don’t think of Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley at SummerSlam 2006, but they really should. It was pretty wild. The show was filled with a bunch of matches in the three-star range. There wasn’t one match that really stood out, but it was a solid night of action.
- 19. SummerSlam 2012 (Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H) – 6
A lot of matches were pretty good in that three-star range that I mentioned, but nothing was significantly better than the others. I liked the Jericho/Ziggler match a lot. Some people really hated Lesnar/Triple H, but I don’t mind the slow style that Triple H often did for his big matches.
- 18. SummerSlam 2004 (Randy Orton vs. Chris Benoit) – 6
It’s a common theme with the two shows mentioned above where there’s not one standout match. The best match was probably Orton vs. Benoit and it was a memorable moment with Orton setting the record as the youngest World Champion in WWE history. Orton still is the youngest World Champion in WWE history and it may not be broken for a long time.
- 17. SummerSlam 2018 (Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns) – 7
The 2018 show was long at just over four hours for the main card without one match really separating itself from the pack. My favorite match was Rollins vs. Ziggler just ahead of Styles vs. Joe and Miz vs. Bryan. The booking was pretty good most of the night too.
- 16. SummerSlam 2005 (Hulk Hogan vs. Shawn Michaels) – 7
The build to Hogan vs. Michaels is one of the best in the history of SummerSlam main events. The match was a bit cheesy due to Shawn’s overselling, but I enjoyed it. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio had a very emotional ladder match with a few mistakes towards the end (“where the f**k is Vickie?”), yet I thought it was well done. Cena and Jericho had a solid match too. It’s an easy show to watch during one of WWE’s better years in the 2000s decade.
- 15. SummerSlam 2019 (Seth Rollins vs. Brock Lesnar) – 7
The standout matches were Rollins/Lesnar and Flair/Stratus. My third favorite was Lynch/Natalya, so two of the three best matches belong to the ladies. I think the card could have been structured better since we got nine singles matches with only one of them feeling different with the opening Submission Match. The lack of tag team matches hurt. They could have used another stipulation match or two to make other matches stand out a bit more.
- 14. SummerSlam 2016 (Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Orton, AJ Styles vs. John Cena) – 7
AJ Styles and John Cena had a classic five-star match that really carried the 2016 show. I watched it back recently and it’s amazing that they did it while barely leaving the ring. It was full of action too. Lesnar’s beating of Orton was memorable although I think WWE’s management made the wrong call of letting Lesnar destroy Orton with elbows to the head. That was not a safe match.
- 13. SummerSlam 2017 (Lesnar vs. Reigns vs. Strowman vs. Joe) – 7
SummerSlam 2017 had one of the best main events in the history of the event with Lesnar retaining the title in a four way. The real story was Strowman putting Lesnar through the announce table multiple times, then Lesnar was helped to the back and came back to win anyway, which is a finish WWE loves to do (Daniel Bryan at WM30 rings a bell). There were also two great tag team matches (Usos vs. New Day on Kickoff Show, Rollins/Ambrose vs. Sheamus/Cesaro) that helped the card as well.
- 12. SummerSlam 1992 (British Bulldog vs. Bret Hart) – 7
The 1992 SummerSlam at Wembley Stadium was taped a few days before it aired, which would never happen today, but most of us had no idea they did that in 1992. Bulldog vs. Bret is one of the best matches in WWE history, so ending the show with that match and that memorable moment with Bulldog and Bret hugging in the ring is something I’ll remember forever. I thought Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior was very good too. I may have overrated this one a bit, but it’s one of my favorite shows from the early 1990s and I know a lot of fans (especially in England) love this too.
- 11. SummerSlam 2020 (The Fiend vs. Braun Strowman, Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton) – 7.25
The only SummerSlam without a crowd took place at the Thunderdome – the first event held in that setting. I rated Drew McIntyre vs. Randy Orton as the match of the night at four stars while Asuka had two matches in the three-star plus range with Bayley and Sasha Banks that were a nice reminder of how awesome Asuka is. There really isn’t a bad match on the show, so that helps too. Plus, while the main event of The Fiend and Braun Strowman isn’t that great, the return of Roman Reigns after missing five months was huge because it was the start of heel Reigns and would set the stage for Roman’s dominance over the next year.
The Near Elite
It seems like I enjoy giving SummerSlam shows a score of 7.5 out of 10 because four of them were rated with that score. Think of it as a B+ in school where it’s very good work, but something was missing to really make it stand out among the best.
- 10. SummerSlam 2000 (The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle) – 7.5
My favorite year in WWE history was 2000 and the PPVs that year were so amazing. The main event was memorable because Kurt Angle suffered a serious concussion when he took a Pedigree through the announce table, he was helped to the back and then the others in the match had to help him get through it. The highlight was the first TLC match with Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz. There was some shit on the card too, but the good far outweighs the bad.
- 9. SummerSlam 2014 (Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena) – 7.5
Anybody that watched this SummerSlam will remember the ass kicking that John Cena took to put over Brock Lesnar. The match wasn’t great, but I think there is something to be said about being memorable. The best match was Roman Reigns beating Randy Orton in what was Reigns’ biggest win at that point while the rest of the card is solid.
- 8. SummerSlam 2009 (CM Punk vs. Jeff Hardy TLC) – 7.5
It was so fun watching that Punk vs. Hardy TLC match when I went through this show again. That is one of my favorite rivalries in the last decade and they had a great match. It was nice to see two “small” guys in a main event feud too. There was also an awesome Mysterio vs. Ziggler opener plus another DX reunion featuring one of the longest entrances in SummerSlam history. It was probably ten minutes long. It was ridiculous.
- 7. SummerSlam 2015 (The Undertaker vs. Brock Lesnar) – 7.5
The Undertaker got his WrestleMania 30 revenge on Brock Lesnar by beating him thanks to a well-placed low blow leading to a submission win. There was also an outstanding Rollins vs. Cena match with Rollins really standing out due to his performance. There were some other decent matches too.
I just realized my ratings for the six SummerSlams from 2014 to 2019 were all 7 or 7.5, which shows WWE knows how to format the show to have a pretty good event although none of them really stand out from the others.
The Fab Four
I couldn’t think of a great name for this tier, so I went with what I did because the word “fabulous” would describe them all well. They are full of multiple great matches and are very easy to sit through.
- 6. SummerSlam 1998(Steve Austin vs. The Undertaker) – 8
This lineup reminded me of a lot of what made 1998 such a fun year. There’s clearly a best match with Triple H beating The Rock in a breakthrough Ladder Match that was huge for both men, but what really stands out is the consistency. Everything else on the show is good enough that I wouldn’t fast forward through it at all. The matches got a decent amount of time, there were interesting characters and I liked most of the finishes. The Austin/Undertaker main event would have been better if Taker was more heelish. I still enjoyed it, though.
- 5. SummerSlam 2011 (CM Punk vs. John Cena) – 8
The “Summer of Punk” was in full swing, so the question was could CM Punk beat John Cena again? He did, but Punk didn’t leave SummerSlam as WWE Champion due to a cheap attack from Kevin Nash (so random) and Alberto Del Rio cashed in Money in the Bank to leave with the title. In addition to the main event, I thought Randy Orton vs. Christian was an awesome match between two guys that had incredible chemistry together. I even thought the Kelly Kelly match was fine on this show. That shows how good it is.
- 4. SummerSlam 2001 (The Rock vs. Booker T, Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle) – 8
It was all about the WWE vs. the Alliance in the summer of 2001. Some of the storylines during that time were confusing, but I thought this SummerSlam was pretty awesome thanks to the Austin/Angle match that ended in a disqualification. It’s the best WWE match with a DQ finish (along with Michaels/Mankind at Mind Games 1996) that you’re going to see and the fans hated it, which was the intent in the story. Rob Van Dam and Jeff Hardy also had a very good ladder match. Plus, the rest of the card was full of matches in the three-star range. It ended on a happy note with The Rock becoming the WCW Champion.
- 3. SummerSlam 2008(The Undertaker vs. Edge HIAC, Batista vs. Cena) – 8
The first Hell in a Cell match in the PG era featured The Undertaker and Edge in a match that put an end to their long rivalry. It was an awesome match that was very well put together without any blood. Plus, the ending was cool with Edge being “straight to hell” in a fiery pit under the ring. Batista vs. John Cena was really good too, which was a bit of a surprise since both men were faces. Another highlight of this event was the brilliant angle with Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels where Jericho accidentally punched Shawn’s wife. They didn’t have a match, but that’s okay because what they did helped elevate their already excellent rivalry.
The Best of the Best
It’s really difficult to decide between these two shows. I think both of them are 9 out of 10 shows, which means they are among the best WWE PPVs ever. I would only have a few shows ahead of them.
- 2. SummerSlam 2013 (Daniel Bryan vs. John Cena, Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk) – 9
It’s the only SummerSlam to have two matches that were Match of the Year contenders on the same card, plus one of the better endings to a SummerSlam in WWE history. The Lesnar/Punk match was an incredible story with Paul Heyman doing everything he could to help Lesnar win, which he did, but it made Punk look strong in defeat. Bryan beating Cena for the WWE Title was a huge moment while Cena worked the match with a serious arm injury that required surgery. The third best match was very good between Alberto Del Rio and Christian as well. Some of the other matches on the card weren’t great, so that kept it from being even higher. Plus, it had a memorable ending with Randy Orton cashing in Money in the Bank. Due to the quality of the great matches, SummerSlam 2013 ranks first as the greatest SummerSlam ever.
- 1. SummerSlam 2002 (Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock, Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H) – 9
In terms of my favorite SummerSlam as a fan of this business, this one might be first because of all the real emotion that existed in the Michaels vs. Triple H match. It was Shawn’s first match in four years, so every bump had us reacting to it as if it really hurt him due to the back surgery he had. What makes this show so awesome is everything is easy to get through except The Undertaker vs. Test, which is the only match that wasn’t really close to the three-star range. I loved Lesnar vs. Rock in the main event with a hot crowd cheering Lesnar on even though he was the heel. The opener with Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio is also one of the best under ten-minute matches I’ve ever seen. I wish they got more time. It’s an all-time great show and one of my favorites ever.
(Note: Last year when I did this I had 2013 ranked first. Then I watched them both back to back over the last week. I think SummerSlam 2002 is just better overall. There are some weak points to both shows, but I like SummerSlam 2002 more. That’s the best SummerSlam ever to me.)
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know via my contact information below.
You can read my review of all the SummerSlam shows by clicking the links above where I mention the PPV name or by visiting the Listing of Every WWE PPV Review right here on TJRWrestling. You could also type “SummerSlam 2001 tjrwrestling” in a web search any time and the review will likely be right there.
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