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
At north of 600 pounds, former WWE Champion Yokozuna was defiantly agile for much of his career. Yet, he could not react quickly enough at SummerSlam 1996 when his tried-and-true Banzai Splash was foiled by a dislocated top turnbuckle.
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
Elvis lookalike The Honky Tonk Man claims to this day that he is the “greatest Intercontinental Champion in history,” and seeing as his reign lasted a staggering 454 days, he may have a point. At SummerSlam’s debut in 1988, though, Honky Tonk Man’s cocksureness backfired when he agreed to put up his title against a mystery challenger.
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
Hell in a Cell has always been a figurative title for a barbaric matchtype, but at SummerSlam 2008, when The Undertaker faced Edge, the name suddenly took on a much more literal meaning.
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
In dropping The Mountie at SummerSlam 1991, Big Boss Man dealt the condescending, anti-America Quebecer more than one severe blow. Yes, the loss symbolized the end of The Mountie's hunt to become WWE's top law enforcer. But thanks to a pre-match stipulation, Boss Man's win also meant The Mountie had to spend a night in a New York City jail cell. Immediately after the match, The Mountie was escorted out to the paddy wagon and taken directly to clink. WWE cameras checked in with the inmate throughout the night, documenting his finger-printing and the introduction to his cellmate.
Tatanka sells out
Native American Superstar Tatanka was a force from the start of his WWE career, accumulating an undefeated streak that lasted nearly two years. Few Superstars rivaled his popularity in the early 1990s, but one who did was the blissfully patriotic Lex Luger. Leading into SummerSlam 1994, however, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase made clear that one of the two Superstars had quietly signed a deal to join his stable of greenback-chasing rule breakers, The Million Dollar Corporation. Both men adamantly denied the accusations, and a match was scheduled for SummerSlam.
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
Former mixed martial artists Ken Shamrock brought elements of the octagon, including a submission-based offense and four-ounce gloves, to the squared circle when he became a WWE Superstar in 1997. But Shamrock’s greatest MMA-influenced contribution to WWE may have been a specialty match that bore the name of his MMA training facility: the Lion’s Den Match. Fought inside a nine-foot-tall, 12-sided steel cage without ring ropes, the Lion’s Den Match was a lawless invention that more closely resembled pit fighting than a wrestling competition.
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
As the bodyguard/butler of “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase, working-class warrior Virgil endured years of verbal abuse from his wealthy employer all in the name of earning a living. By 1991, Virgil had grown fed up with the poor treatment and decided to part ways with DiBiase. Not only did Virgil sever ties, but he also set his sight on DiBiase’s custom-made Million Dollar Championship, a pricey, diamond-encrusted gold title.
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
Watching Shane McMahon compete in the ring was not unlike watching a car wreck. Even though you knew it’d end badly, it was hard not to watch. McMahon’s Hardcore Championship Match against challenger Steve Blackman at SummerSlam 2000 was no exception.
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”
The year 1991 was an eventful one for SummerSlam. It was then that Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth famously tied the knot. Though the ceremony itself went off without a hitch — a rarity in wrestling circles — the reception that followed was anything but unremarkable.
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
In 1994, a bizarre twist confounded the WWE Universe: After losing a Casket Match to Yokozuna at that year’s Royal Rumble, The Undertaker mysteriously vanished from the scene for months before seemingly reappearing by the side of diabolical manager Ted DiBiase. Though "The Million Dollar Man" said he successfully lured The Undertaker back into action with a lucrative offer, Paul Bearer claimed he had made contact with the real Undertaker and that DiBiase’s charge was nothing more than a Deadman doppelganger. With that, a match was signed for SummerSlam pitting DiBiase’s Undertaker and Bearer’s.
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 Nielsen reunited with “Naked Gun” co-star George Kennedy who, appropriately enough, was also on the case.
A “Stone Cold” setback
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was on the fast-track to the WWE main event when he faced Intercontinental Champion Owen Hart at SummerSlam 1997 As meteoric as Austin’s rise to the top was, it very nearly came to a screeching halt that night.
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
When Mick Foley first appeared on the scene in 1996 as the maniacal Mankind, he tended to be most at home lurking in the dark, dingy corners of WWE arenas. Appropriately enough, his SummerSlam 1996 showdown against The Undertaker, one of the first of their many legendary fights, was termed a “Boiler Room Brawl,” and it began with The Undertaker entering Mankind’s lair, the boiler room, to do battle.
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
On the wide spectrum of SummerSlam innovations, few match up to the Tables, Ladders & Chairs Match, whose landscape-changing start came at SummerSlam 2000 in a Triple Threat Tag Team Match. Won by the championship-rich duo of WWE Hall of Famer Edge & Christian, the first TLC match broke down barriers. Yes, the WWE Universe had seen many stunning Ladder Matches by that point. And in 1997, the now-defunct ECW introduced a Tables & Ladders Match.
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
John Cena and his all-star Team WWE, featuring Bret Hart, Chris Jericho, Edge, R-Truth and John Morrison, were one man short for their Seven-on-Seven Elimination Match against the Wade Barrett-captained Team Nexus at SummerSlam 2010. Their surprise seventh member? Former Nexus member 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)!
Longtime WWE journeyman Barry Horowitz, though undeniably talented, boasted a win-loss record that would make most competitors cringe with embarrassment. So, when Horowitz rolled up workout fanatic Bodydonna Skip for the three count in summer 1995, play-by-play announcer Jim Ross could not help but to scream in shock, “Horowitz wins! Horowitz wins!”
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.