When you hear someone refer to “Mr WrestleMania”, one man springs to mind; Shawn Michaels.
The Heart Break Kid has rightly been afforded the aforementioned accolade due to his jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring performances on the grandest stage of them all. Behind WrestleMania, you have SummerSlam. WWE bills SummerSlam as second in line when it comes to their “big four” PPV’s of the year; behind ‘Mania, but ahead of the Royal Rumble (which personally, I view as second place) and Survivor Series.
Despite the significance this show holds, no wrestler is yet to be gifted the seasonal equivalent term of endearment that Michaels currently holds – until today, that is. We are going to look at five possible candidates for “Mr SummerSlam”. The qualifying criteria for the title itself will differ from person to person. Is it the win to loss ratio which an individual holds? If so, you would imagine that Hulk Hogan and Ultimate Warrior; both boasting a 100% record, must be front runners. Is it the performance in the match itself? Maybe it is all dependant on the championships that have been won or the match significance itself? Taking all of that into consideration, as well as re-watching some classic encounters and researching the event back to its 1988 debut, I list five men who have more than earned the right to be in the argument for “Mr SummerSlam”.
5. Kurt Angle
This man certainly needs no introduction. The Olympic gold medallist made his SummerSlam debut in the year 2000 in a Triple Threat match against Triple H and The Rock for the WWF Championship. Despite it ultimately being a losing effort – the only loss on his SummerSlam record – main eventing the show in your inaugural appearance in a contest with two of the company’s biggest stars is not something to be scoffed at. Angle followed this up with a win against Stone Cold Steve Austin, then of The WCW/ECW Alliance, via disqualification. The match, coming the following year, was for the WWF Championship which was held by Stone Cold at the time. Angle was in pursuit of his second reign but as the win came by way of DQ, Austin retained the belt.
A further four SummerSlam wins came for the WWE Hall of Famer, bringing up a record of 5-1. Successful outings against Rey Mysterio and the late, great Eddie Guerrero respectively came either side of a WWE Championship defence against “The Next Big Thing” (Remember that?!) Brock Lesnar. But let’s not forget his final appearance on the show; a submission victory over Eric Bischoff’s nephew Eugene, which gifted back Angle his coveted gold medals. Kurt has put on contests with some of the best names the sport of professional wrestling has to offer (that includes Eugene!) and comes out with a more than impressive record to show for it. Is it surprising? I mean, he won an Olympic gold medal with a broken freakin’ neck!
4. Rob Van Dam
“Mr Monday Night”, “The Whole F’N Show” and now “Mr SummerSlam”? Well, he certainly has a case for it. Rob Van Dam was brought in to WWE (then WWF) following the closure of ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling) in 2001 and made his SummerSlam debut the same year. In a match against Jeff Hardy, RVD regained the WWF Hardcore Championship which he had lost earlier in the year to the Charismatic Enigma.
The following year, Van Dam had won gold again. He picked up the win as well as the WWE Intercontinental Championship after pinning Chris Benoit. It would be over ten years until RVD would attempt to gain his third separate title win at a SummerSlam event. In 2013, he challenged Dean Ambrose for the WWE United States Championship and looked set to walk away with gold once more, hitting Ambrose with the Five Star Frog Splash. Before Van Dam could cover the champion, Ambrose’s Shield brother, Roman Reigns, delivered a spear to the challenger which resulted in a DQ win for RVD.
In those ten years came a loss; as before with Kurt Angle, the only one of his SummerSlam record and another win. The loss came in a No-DQ match against Kane whilst the victory was by way of pinfall in a contest against Rene Dupree. Van Dam’s final SummerSlam appearance was a single contest against the Swiss Superman Cesaro, in 2014. The veteran came out on top, taking his final tally to 5-1.
3. Triple H
Triple H first appeared on a SummerSlam event back in 1995 under the guise of Hunter Hearst Helmsley. The perfect start, pulling off a victory against Bob Holly. His next contest on the show came in 1997, inside a steel cage (THE WONDERFUL BLUE ONE!) against one of his long term rivals, Mankind. Helmsley, accompanied by Chyna, went on to lose the encounter with Mankind escaping the cage. The year that followed saw Triple H leave the biggest party of the summer as a champion for the first time. A ladder match with The Rock unfolded and The Game won, climbing highest to retrieve the WWF Intercontinental Championship.
The turn of the millennium saw the return of Triple H’s long-time friend and tag team partner, Shawn Michaels. But before we got the D-Generation X reboot, in 2002, the two men competed in an Unsanctioned Street Fight at SummerSlam; a match which I still go back and watch to this day. Almost half an hour of tearing lumps out of each other eventually resulted in HBK picking up the win. In 2003, Triple H entered the event as the current World Heavyweight Champion and was ordered to defend the belt inside the Elimination Chamber, against Chris Jericho, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels. He successfully defended his title inside the punishing structure after pinning Goldberg. “Trips” had to rely on an old friend, as he delivered a sledgehammer shot to the head of the former WCW Champion, allowing him the opportunity to retain the gold.
Some truly classic matches for the now head of NXT and we cannot mention the No-DQ match with Brock Lesnar in 2012. Lesnar returned to the company and after a brief feud with John Cena, found himself at loggerheads with Triple H. Lesnar broke the arm of “Trips” which lead to the latter challenging the former to a match at SummerSlam, which was eventually agreed. A very physical encounter commenced, resulting in the former UFC Champion breaking the arm of Triple H again by way of a Kimora Lock. Triple H tapped to Lesnar and later refused medical attention in the ring after the match had finished.
2. The Undertaker
In my opinion, the greatest character ever to have been brought to life in the world of professional wrestling. The Dead Man made his SummerSlam debut in 1992, gaining the win by way of disqualification in a bout against Kamala. He continued his summer success the following year, competing in a Rest in Peace match against Giant Gonzalez and again, leaving the victor – 2-0. In 1994, the impressive Undertaker went three for three at SummerSlam. This time, his opponent was, well… it was himself. ‘Taker lost a casket match to Yokozuna at the ’94 Royal Rumble and hadn’t been seen since. Ted DiBiase, his former manager who had actually brought him into WWF three years prior, claimed to have brought him back, but current manager, Paul Bearer, advised that this was an imposter (are you still with me?) This led to an Undertaker vs. Undertaker match at SummerSlam. Of course, Undertaker was victorious; The Undertaker managed by Paul Bearer. This sent the imposter into hiding (well until 1997 at least, when he returned as Chainz).
The Phenom continued with unique match types, as was shown by the Casket Match victory over Kama in ’95 and the loss to Mankind in a Boiler Room Brawl at SummerSlam ’96. An ever-present at the summer PPV, he lost the WWF Championship to Bret Hart in ’97, as well as a losing effort in an attempt to regain the same belt from Stone Cold Steve Austin the following year. The barren spell ended in 1999 as he tagged with The Big Show to form The Unholy Alliance. The pair won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Undertaker’s brother Kane and his tag team partner X-Pac. 2000 saw the only “No Contest” on his record, as he and his aforementioned brother decided that they didn’t want to wait for the bell and tore lumps out of each other instantly. ‘Taker removed the mask of Kane, forcing the latter to retreat. The match never officially started.
Tag Team success came again in 2001. The Brothers of Destruction – Undertaker and Kane; the current WCW Tag Team Champions, defeating Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) and Chris Kanyon; the defending WWF Tag Team Champions.
When all is said and done, Undertaker has a current record of 10-5 at SummerSlam events.
THE RATED R SOOOOOOOOPERR – my apologies. I couldn’t help myself. My humble opinion is that although Edge is rightly thought of in the highest regard by a lot of people… that regard still isn’t high enough! The man excelled in everything he did and went to the very top.
His first SummerSlam outing came in 1998. He tagged with Sable to successfully overcome the team of Jacqueline and Marc Mero in a Mixed Tag Team contest. In 2000, Edge, alongside his long-time tag team partner Christian, took on The Hardy Boyz and The Dudleyz in the first-ever “TLC” match. I know I don’t need to go into detail with this match as we’ve all seen it on more than one occasion (we have, right?!) Edge and Christian were the defending champions and were first to climb the ladder and retain those belts. Seriously, if for whatever reason you haven’t seen TLC from SummerSlam 2000, maybe it was before your time, open up WWE Network and get to it. Thank me later.
The following year, Edge won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Lance Storm and he successfully defended the belt three years later in a Triple Threat against Batista and Chris Jericho. In between those events was a victorious effort against Eddie Guerrero in 2002.
From 2000-2010, I really do believe that Edge was just as important to the success of WWE as the likes of John Cena, Batista and Randy Orton (those three are usually used as examples for the Ruthless Aggression era). His importance showed in 2006, when a successful defence of the WWE Championship came against the now 16-time World Champion John Cena, as well as a losing effort to The Undertaker two years later in a Hell in a Cell match.
Honourable Mention: John Cena
You may be wondering why I’ve added a sixth name to the list, as it is clearly titled “FIVE potential wrestlers for Mr SummerSlam”, but it’s just a little nod of recognition. For years, people have often stated that Cena has stolen the limelight from others and in some cases that may be true. However, when you look at his SummerSlam record, in particular, it reads differently. As we’ve mentioned, SummerSlam is the second biggest event in WWE’s annual programming yet Cena, as it stands, holds a record of 5-9. I won’t continue, but it’s something for others to have a think about.
So we’ve come to the end of our SummerSlam history lesson. These may be numbered due to the way we do things on TWM but I cannot separate these guys and put one above the others, so I’m leaving that for you to do.
Each of these individuals stakes a claim for the non-existent title “Mr SummerSlam” – who is your pick? Is it someone I’ve listed or is there someone else you believe to be more deserving of the accolade?
You can find the author of this article on Twitter @RyanRBoyd. Thanks for reading!