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SummerSlam Power Rankings Part 5: The Best of the Best (#5-1)

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It’s August once again and that means the eyes of the WWE Universe will once again be turning to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center where WWE’s SummerSlam will emanate for the third year in a year. This one carries additional historical significance as this will be the thirtieth edition of “The Biggest Party of the Summer,” which first took place on August 29, 1988 from Madison Square Garden.

While SummerSlam lacks the pageantry and mainstream appeal of WrestleMania, what SummerSlam had not lacked over the years is the kind of amazing moments that make us all wrestling fans. With the tendency of SummerSlam to deliver incredible matches and great storylines, one can think of SummerSlam as almost the Smart Fans WrestleMania is some ways, and SummerSlams are some of the best shows in the history of the WWE. One thing that is for sure is that the men and women who will be putting on a show next week in Brooklyn will have a lot to live up too.

Not all SummerSlams are created equal, of course. Some of them are really freaking awesome. There is a rarefied air of SummerSlams that not only represent the best of SummerSlam, but represent some of the greatest shows in the history of the WWE and in some cases, all of wrestling. Here are the absolute five best SummerSlams of all time. If you haven’t seen these, do it now.

  1. SummerSlam 2004: August 15, 2004 – Air Canada Centre – Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Of course, this show is clouded forever by the Chris Benoit tragedy, being that this is his only SummerSlam main event. But this was one of the best shows during one of the very best years for WWE, with a stacked burgeoning roster that they used to great effect. Kurt Angle beat Eddie Guerrero in a WrestleMania rematch, the opening six man was a lot of fun, and the main event, where Randy Orton became the youngest World Champion beating a prime Chris Benoit was excellent.

But this show stands out for another reason. Toronto has always been a bit unorthodox in it’s a crowd reactions, but over the past decade it has been given an appropriate nickname, Bizzaro-world. This is my mind is the genesis of that. For example, Edge, as Intercontinental Champion, was booed in his hometown. Then Eugene, which was a red-hot gimmick that was beginning to be beaten to death, was booed out of the building in his third from match in Triple H. As much as it upsets things during the show, it also adds to the ambiance of it all. No matter how you put it, this is an all time great SummeSlam, based on matches, talent, and story.

      4. SummerSlam 2005: August 21, 2005 – Verizon Center – Washington D.C.

In another one of the great years of the WWE, in one of the more underrated periods in all of wrestling history, the WWE topped the great show of the year before with a show that had been built expertly in the previous months, and almost every single match was part of a strong, ongoing story. Yes, Eugene wrestling Kurt Angle was a bit of joke and Batista and JBL had no chemistry, but there are so many great things about this show.

Edge and Matt Hardy have a crazy brawl to kick their feud into overdrive. Randy Orton and The Undertaker top their excellent WrestleMania match. Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio culminate their excellent feud with a terrific ladder match. Chris Jericho and John Cena tear the absolute house down in one of the more forgotten matches in either man’s career. Of course, the main event was the dream match between Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan. Shawn did some of the best work of his entire career, both in the buildup to the match and during the match. But the outcome was never in doubt. Hogan Must Pose. It hurts this show, but enough to hide that this was absolutely terrific.

  1. SummerSlam 2013: August 18, 2013 – Staples Center – Los Angeles, California

This is show that isn’t talked about enough, but give it time. The best show of 2013 and one of the best WWE PPV’s of the entire decade so far, this is the show that set up everything we now know in the WWE. It was the beginning of what we now call The Reality Era and it had tremendous action from bell to bell, but the ending of show, where Daniel Bryan beats John Cena in an absolute classic to win the WWE Title, only to be screwed by Triple H and have lost to MITB winner Randy Orton, setting up the Authority storyline which last (maybe) to this day.

Alberto Del Rio and Christian had an absolute classic of a match, which almost everyone has forgotten, partly in because CM Punk and Brock Lesnar had a brawl for the edges, which after everything that has happened with those two guys afterward, almost everyone has forgotten. Hell, does anyone remember that Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow had a damn good match on this show and Sandow actually won? Or that the Miz was the host? This was a terrific show, and compared to dull show the year before, the shot in the arm that WWE had long needed.

  1. SummerSlam 1989: August 28, 1989 – The Meadowlands – East Rutherford, New Jersey

Every show needs a standard. Something that you can look at it and see-“that’s how its done.” We see that was Starrcade 83, WrestleMania III, and Clash of the Champions I. This was the standard for SummerSlam. 1989 was one of the best years for WWE, and when you look at the card, you can argue that this is the absolute deepest card in the history of the WWE, when you look at the number of top stars and World Champions, past and future, are on this card. It is almost crazy to see.

I mean, the opening match is a dream match between the Hart Foundation and the Brain Busters. And it’s awesome. Dusty Rhodes is here. So is Mr. Perfect. Rick Martel and The Rougeaus have a fun ass six man with the Rockers and Tito Santana. Ultimate Warrior has the best match of his career in winning back the IC Title match from Rick Rude. And yes, this is the Zeus show, but Macho Man Randy Savage put one of the best performances of his career, carrying the main event in tremendous fashion. And the crowd was hot as hell for all of this. It was a great show that stands the time almost thirty years later, and was actually has the WWE’s best shows-and best-selling shows for a very long time. Wow.

  1. SummerSlam 2002: August 25, 2002 – Nassau Coliseum – Long Island, New York

Was there any doubt this would top the list? WhatCulture. Com went as far as to name this show as the second best pay per view in WWE History, behind only the historic WrestleMania X7, and it’s hard to argue with that. In the summer of 2002, WWE had their deepest roster ever, and better yet, they were figuring out how to use it. This was one night that used to its maximum effect, and the WWE was at their best in the build to this show, building with excellent video packages, including using the song “Fight” for the first time.

First off, this was the first (and supposed to be the only) show back for Shawn Michaels, and one can not underestimate how nervous most people were. Every shot to his back felt like the one that could end his career. You completely suspended disbelief. So when his street fight with Triple H, he flew around the ring and looked almost like the Shawn of old, it was very special. And that was just one match on the show. Hell, Kurt Angle and Rey Mysterio was THE OPENING MATCH. And they tore the f’n house down.

Ric Flair vs. Chris Jericho. Edge vs. Eddie Guerrero. Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit. All in the middle of the card.  There was no filler. Every match felt important and every match was good. And less was more here! Eight matches!

And then the main event was the ultimate passing of the torch, when five months into his main roster career, Brock Lesnar put the end to The Rock’s championship days for over a decade, pinning him cleanly to win the undisputed title. It was a great way to cap one of the best shows in the History of the WWE.

There you have it. There’s the list! Ranking some of these shows, especially in 6-3 and the middle shows was a little tough and took some hard decision-making, but I think I got it mostly right. Now we wait for Sunday and hope for something more like a Friday, and not a Monday. Only time will tell…

Frank has been a wrestling fan since he was two years old. (Don’t worry, he’s got proof.) He’s also a huge boxing and UFC fan and has a long standing love affair with Popeyes Chicken. He still owns a VHS copy of the first Ring of Honor show ever and was watching NXT before it was cool (or good). Bret Hart > Shawn Michaels. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightFanaticPod and on Tumblr at FrankTheFightFanatic. He’s also starting his own podcast soon!

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