15 SummerSlam moments we can't forget
In much the same way that summer camp is much more than swimming lessons and roasting marshmallows over open fires, the uniquely seasonal appeal of SummerSlam goes well beyond title changes and five-star thrillers. In its quarter-century-long history, WWE’s hottest event of the summer has played home to much-anticipated blow-offs between arch-nemeses, entrancing and unforeseen twists and turns, as well as the birth of concept matches (both enduring favorites and bizarre stipulation one-offs).
With that, WWE.com looks back at 15 “signature moments” — both historically significant events and those fleeting-but-fun occurrences — that are unmistakably SummerSlam.
A Banzai snafu
The mishap occurred against "Stone Cold" Steve Austin in a bout that technically aired on "Free for All," a free, pre-show event that led into the actual SummerSlam pay-per-view and featured two future WWE Hall of Famers. With Austin in position to receive the sternum-collapsing Banzai Drop, Yokozuna climbed the turnbuckles. But when he shifted weight to the top rope, the turnbuckle yanked off and the heavyweight dropped, presenting a golden opportunity for Austin, who escaped damage and quickly covered the sumo standout for the pin.
Warrior knocks Honky Tonk out of tune
That challenger was revealed to be Ultimate Warrior, a galaxy-surfing, face-painted, adrenaline rush who was still fresh to WWE audiences. The Warrior raced to the ring so quickly that WWE Hall of Fame ring announcer Howard Finkel had to scurry out of the squared circle before finishing his introduction. After a flurry of punches, a flying shoulder block, a fist of a clothesline and a splash, the Warrior captured the Intercontinental Title. The Honky Tonk Man’s reign of more than a year ended in a match that lasted half-a-minute.
The Phenom sends Edge to Hell
The crazy match-up saw Edge Spear The Phenom through a wall of the cell and The Undertaker drop The Rated-R Superstar face first onto steel steps with his patented Snake Eyes, among a number of other sinister acts. The moment that takes the cake, however, came after The Undertaker won the match: With Edge and The Undertaker standing on adjacent ladders, The Deadman hoisted Edge before sending him hurdling toward the mat with a chokeslam. The impact was such that Edge was driven through the canvas, and moments later, The Undertaker closed SummerSlam with a scary burst of fire that shot up from the hole in the ring.
The Mountie's ride to the big house
Tatanka sells out
That night, WWE cameras caught DiBiase sneaking into Luger’s locker room with a red, white and blue bag that screamed “Luger payoff.” Though the WWE Universe was torn, a slight majority believed Luger to be the sellout; a pre-match poll found that 54 percent of fans sided with Tatanka. As it turns out, the majority was wrong: A DiBiase distraction paved the way to victory for Tatanka, who wound up joining DiBiase’s crew of evildoers.
SummerSlam’s trips inside the Den
The Lion’s Den contraption debuted at SummerSlam 1998 for a match between Shamrock and Owen Hart, and it was broken out again at SummerSlam 1999 for a duel between Shamrock and Steve Blackman. Though the Den would make an appearance on Raw in April 1999, as far as pay-per-view goes, SummerSlam was its home.
Virgil gets retribution
With the help of WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper, Virgil got into ring shape and dealt DiBiase a countout loss at WrestleMania VII. DiBiase’s true comeuppance, however, came at SummerSlam 1991, when Virgil finally scored gold of the Million Dollar Championship variety. It was a feel-good moment that electrified that night’s capacity crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Shane falls, Blackman dives
After taking massive amounts of punishment, McMahon sought to escape Blackman by scampering up a huge steel structure located near the stage. Much to his displeasure, Blackman, Kendo stick in hand, followed him up the tower. After Blackman delivered three swift strikes with the weapon, McMahon dropped backwards and tumbled nearly 50 feet in one of the most insane falls in WWE history. Not to be outdone, Blackman then launched himself off the structure and caught McMahon with an elbow drop of epic proportions.
Interrupting the “Match Made in Heaven”
As “Macho Man” joked with guests, Elizabeth opened gifts, including one well-wrapped box that contained a dangerous surprise. As Elizabeth peeled off the lid of the box, a cobra — the unmistakable calling card of Savage rival Jake “The Snake” Roberts — reared its head and slithered out, causing the entire wedding party to panic. With Savage distracted by the clamor and trying to help his wife, The Undertaker, who was Roberts’ ally at the time, used his urn to blast the groom. Just then, Roberts, slithering with evil intent, appeared on the scene to taunt a horrified Elizabeth. Chair in hand, Sid Vicious heroically made the save, but a traumatic toll had already befallen WWE.
Leslie Nielsen and The Case of the Two Undertakers
Before the authentic Undertaker’s eventual return at SummerSlam to fight off DiBiase’s forgery, though, the WWE Universe stayed abreast of The Phenom’s whereabouts, kind of, thanks to the detective work of comedic acting legend Leslie Nielsen, who was assigned to crack “The Case of the Two Undertakers.”
All but reprising his “Naked Gun” role of bumbling gumshoe Lt. Frank Drebin, Nielsen filed reports updating the WWE Universe on his investigation for weeks. The goofy fun climaxed at SummerSlam, where Nielseen reunited with “Naked Gun” co-star George Kennedy who, appropriately enough, was also on the case.
A “Stone Cold” setback
The match was a masterpiece, and Hart and Austin, two of WWE’s most gifted athletes (not to mention, fiercest rivals), more than delivered the goods in their championship clash. What made the bout historically significant, however, was its game-changing ending: Hart stuffed Austin with a piledriver and, in a freak accident, fractured The Texas Rattlesnake’s neck.
In the face of insurmountable odds, Austin stunningly carried on, managing to schoolboy Hart for the title. Though the injury forced Stone Cold to vacate his newly won championship gold, its occurrence underscored the point there is no quit in The Rattlesnake.
Brawling in the boiler room
The objective of the bout was to be the first Superstar to make it into the ring and take The Undertaker’s mystically powerful urn from Paul Bearer. The match is remembered for its many insane hard-nose collisions, including a steep fall off a ladder by Mankind and a piledriver onto the concrete for The Deadman. Perhaps the biggest takeaway was the startling turn of events at the end: Paul Bearer, long The Undertaker’s lone trusted confidant, turned on The Phenom to join sides with the masked Foley.
TLC is born
But tables, ladders and chairs? The lethal trio has since produced some of WWE’s most remarkable matches. Today, of course, the TLC Match is perhaps best recognized as the backbone of WWE’s annual December pay-per-view, WWE TLC, an entire card devoted to matches that include any combination of the three weapons.
Team WWE lands Daniel Bryan
After Nexus kicked him out for showing regret about the group’s initial attack on WWE, Bryan returned to WWE as the Nexus-stopper, submitting Darren Young off the bat and allowing Team WWE to get an early lead. Though the advantage would sway throughout, Bryan stayed in until almost the bitter end. With Barrett and Justin Gabriel the last Superstars standing for Team Nexus, The Miz jumped Bryan from behind with his Money in the Bank briefcase, setting up the “submission specialist” for a pinfall. Before he was eliminated, however, Bryan put away Nexus member Heath Slater in addition to Young, making the then-humble Bryan an important cog of Team WWE.
Horowitz wins (on pay-per-view)!
Horowitz may have scored victory once, but it was unfathomable he’d defeat Skip a second time at that year’s SummerSlam … right? As the saying goes, “Anything can happen in WWE,” and Horowitz proved that with a second, equally amazing, pinfall over the always-game Skip.