With SummerSlam 2018 just around the corner and the WWE celebrating thirty years of the Summer’s biggest event, we know all about the heralded classics hosted by the show such as Davey Boy Smith Vs Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels Vs Triple H and, yes, John Cena Vs Daniel Bryan.
But what about those lesser remembered matches that almost stole the show. Matthew Roberts digs into the vaults and picks five matches you may have forgotten about but are well worth re-visiting.
1989 – Brainbusters Vs The Hart Foundation
Both of these teams would be fairly high up in a list of the greatest tag teams of the 80’s; many would argue a case for either team being one the best of all time. And yet this 1989 match-up has long since been forgotten about by most. Perhaps it’s because Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard’s run in the WWE was relatively short and even now, in more enlightened times where the WWE is quick to trade on nostalgia when it can make them money, there are other opponents of the Hart Foundation who are higher profile in terms of the WWE’s mind. Maybe it’s because this was a tag team match at one of the big pay-per-views that had the Champions in it but not defending their titles. (The devious Bobby Heenan said his charges didn’t have to defend the belts here because this match had been signed before they won them). Whatever, if you’re looking for classic “old school” tag team wrestling, that nevertheless could stand up today, this is a great place to visit. The chemistry between the teams is evident, everything is crisp and executed, well, excellently and the way the heel champions sneak a victory and yet the face challengers still come out with a ton of momentum is textbook psychology.
1995 -Barry Horrowitz Vs Skip
On a card remembered, positively, for the Shawn Michaels Vs Razor Ramon Ladder Match #2 (whisper it quietly, but it’s arguably better than their Mania one) and, negatively, for Mabel being in the main event is it any wonder that the world’s most famous jobber taking on a fitness instructor doesn’t make it to the top of the memory bank? This could be seen as a bit of a guilty pleasure pick here as I was a big fan of Chris “Skip” Candido from his Smoky Mountain/NWA days but the storyline where long time “job-boy” Horrowitz had scored an upset victory over Skip and he and his Bodydonna partner Sunny wanted their revenge was simple enough but very well told. And both could work, and were given enough time to show that they could. As an added bonus if you watch this you will get to see Dean Douglas explain afterwards how Horrowitz got the win.
1998 – D’Lo Brown Vs Val Venis
With a show headlined by Steve Austin Vs The Undertaker (accompanied by one of the greatest hype video’s ever courtesy of the backing of ACDC’s Highway To Hell) and it being a night where Triple H and The Rock put on a ladder match which cemented their progress to true main event status it’s easy to see why a match between two mid-card stars such as D’Lo and Val would be forgotten about. And I’m in no way saying that it’s a five star classic. But as a microcosm of what the Attitude Era was about below the main-event stars it’s a fantastic slice of history. D’Lo’s chest protector gimmick, which did more damage to his opponent than it did in terms of saving his own skin, might be as old as the hills as a wrestling gimmick but it gave him a character and something to work with in matches. Venis’ “porn star” gimmick certainly wouldn’t fly today but if only every mid-card guy in 2018 had an identifiable personality that marked him out from the rest of the guys in trunks. In its own way the DQ non-finish is also a staple of the Attitude Era. No-one wants to wax lyrical about that part of the Attitude Era but non-finishes were commonplace at that time. Still, appreciate the effort that goes into this PPV opener, if nothing else.
2001 – Lance Storm Vs Edge
It’s common opinion that the “Invasion” angle was one of the WWE’s biggest missed opportunities. And there can be little argument against that, especially after the Invasion PPV drew the biggest non-Mania buy-rate the company ever got. And yet for all the WWE’s faults in the summer of 2001 with that, it’s often forgotten that for a while not only did it provide much excitement but also some damn fine grappling. SummerSlam 2001 is a case in point, with a memorable Jeff Hardy/Rob Van Dam ladder match and a Steve Austin / Kurt Angle match that was a tour de force of storytelling. With other highlights including The Rock taking the WCW title from Booker T and The Brothers of Destruction taking on DDP & Kanyon in a Steel Cage is it any wonder that a match between “the boring” Lance Storm and the pre-singles superstar era Edge is largely forgotten? And that’s a shame; the crowd are white-hot for this ppv opener and both men bring their A-games to the ring, assembling a back and forth cracker whose result is in doubt right to the very end. Edge would go onto much bigger things, Storm would drift along never really getting a push commensurate with his in-ring talent (and would get any number of counter-productive gimmicks hung upon his shoulders) but that doesn’t lessen this great match one bit.
2013 – Christian Vs Alberto Del Rio
When people look back at 2013’s edition most minds will wander to Daniel Bryan Vs John Cena and Brock Lesnar Vs CM Punk. I would have no problem with people labelling either of those as Five-Star classics. The World Heavyweight Championship match between Christian and Alberto Del Rio was almost treated as an afterthought in the build-up. In a world where title lineage and prestige is protected, a company could of course just rely on a title being on the line to push a match but that’s not quite, shall we say, the WWE’s style. Which made the mini-masterpiece of great psychology, hard hitting blows and ingenious reversals all the more exhilarating. With a crowd at fever pitch you could almost have imagined this was the night that proved to WWE management that Christian could be a true headliner and the night that Del Rio showed the WWE Universe he wasn’t an over-pushed bore. Hindsight shows it was nothing of the sort, but that doesn’t hurt what happens in the ring, which still stands up today.