Yesterday, we got this party started with the first 25 of the 100 Greatest Matches in SummerSlam History. If you missed that, go read it! Then come back here and continue on this journey.
75. Ken Shamrock vs Steve Blackman (1999)
Shamrock and Blackman did a Lion's Den Match here, which also included weapons, unlike the first Lion's Den Match at SummerSlam '98. This one wasn't as good as that one, in part because Steve Blackman is no Owen Hart. But it was still plenty entertaining, and the feud was a natural between two guys with fighting backgrounds. It was unique and fun.
74. Bret Hart vs Doink the Clown (1993)
This was part-match, part-angle, with Jerry Lawler saying he'd been in a car accident and couldn't wrestle, so he was sending his court jester, Doink, to replace him. Bret and Doink get about ten minutes and go into a non-finish, more or less, with Lawler interfering and proving able-bodied, but Hart and Doink were both so good in 1993 that they managed to have a pretty good match, anyway.
73. Mark Henry vs Sheamus (2011)
Mark Henry was large and in charge in 2011, put the beatdown on everyone in sight, breaking legs and cashing checks. Sheamus was all, like, "Hey, fella (I'm Irish, btw), I like to foyt!" Henry obliged at SummerSlam. It's a coupla big ol' boys colliding, something I enjoy on principle when it's not just two guys staring at each other and being really big. Like, Khali will never have a good "hoss match," and Junkyard Dog didn't have good matches, really, but Henry and Sheamus specialize in this sort of thing. This isn't a great match by any means (we won't get into the really great matches for a while yet); it is a good one, though, and got its point across.
72. Hulk Hogan vs Shawn Michaels (2005)
I've never known quite how to take this match. It's decent enough, and it's fun to watch for the novelty of basically redoing "biggest star vs best worker" idea with Hulk Hogan against Shawn Michaels instead of Ric Flair, 11 years after that finally came to pass a bit late in WCW, but it's a strange match. Is Michaels' ridiculous overselling his way of saying, "This is about all I can do with this guy," or is it Shawn reverting back to petulance? Hogan was totally shot at this point, as his body had broken down beyond any significant repair, and Michaels really had to figure out something to make this work. He chose comedy that isn't quite comedy, always a weird thing in wrestling. Are we being asked to laugh with this match, or about it? This is really like some goofy CHIKARA match where they bring out some old man you remember from your youth and the cornball wrestler he's facing flies all over the place for his signature Punch.
71. X-Pac vs Tajiri (2001)
A little shorter than you might like, and once again with Waltman vs a Japanese guy, not as good as you might hope. But Tajiri is up for making X-Pac look as good as X-Pac was going to look by 2001, as he had started a pretty steep decline in 2000 after years of good work. Pac could still go a little, but needed help. He'd had a quick feud with Billy Kidman before this, and both Kidman and Tajiri were capable of putting him on their back. This was the X-Factor days, and I sincerely think people hated that terrible Uncle Kracker song way more than they hated X-Pac.
70. The Steiner Brothers vs The Heavenly Bodies (1993)
This match is generally a bit overrated, in my view, and it's not as good as the Steiners-Headshrinkers, but Steiners-Bodies is a solid, old school tag team wrestling match. A lot of the '93 SummerSlam featured nice matchups that probably saw better executions on house shows and whatnot. This, the insanely disappointing Michaels vs Hennig match, Bret-Doink, Bret-Lawler. It's a good show, really, but almost everything on the night feels a little off, even though it's mostly pretty good anyway.
69. CM Punk vs John Cena vs The Big Show (2012)
Punk was still red-hot in the summer of 2012, and Cena was Cena, for better or worse, and Big Show ... also was there. That's the story of this match. Since Big Show is there, you have to let him Big Show, so he gets to Big Show, and both Punk and Cena are good at letting Big Show Big Show.
68. Rey Mysterio vs Chavo Guerrero (2007)
In 2006, they opened with a blood feud (we'll get to it in a bit). In 2007, they went on third in a match where Mysterio was coming back from injury, Chavo having put him on the shelf in October 2006. Rey's big event outfit this time was Silver Surfer, including silver body paint. It didn't work. JBL called him "Tin Foil Man" at one point. Like basically all Rey-Chavo matches, I thought this was about a 7 out 10, a three-and-one-quarter star match (I know that's not seven out of ten), a strong B, etc. Their other SummerSlam match was better, and they had plenty of other matches that were a tick or two better or worse, all roughly about the same quality.
67. The Dragon, British Bulldog & Texas Tornado vs Warlord & Power & Glory (1991)
The opening match at SummerSlam '91 benefits from a hot MSG crowd, but it's also just a pretty solid six-man tag match, hiding the weaknesses of Warlord and Hercules nicely, which is something good tag team wrestling can do. Roma was still pretty solid at this point, and Steamboat does the bulk of the work for his side, good news because Von Erich was washed-up by now, despite his enthusiasm, and Davey Boy wasn't really much better than Warlord or Hercules at the moment, either. Davey would later hit more of a groove as a singles wrestler, but was really always pretty overrated. Of course, that's a long discussion for another time. Steamboat takes a good beating, the heels work together nicely, and then the babyface team erupts with a sprint of offense to close it out for the win.
66. The British Bulldogs vs The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (1988)
The first match in SummerSlam history. The Bulldogs were near the end of their WWF run coming into this one, as Dynamite's body was breaking down, and his real life reputation as a bully was catching up to him, too, as not long after this, Jacques Rougeau punched Dynamite in the mouth (with a roll of quarters, some say), knocking out his teeth and embarrassing him. This was the second-to-last PPV match for the Bulldogs, as they would finish up as part of the ten-team Survivor Series match in November. The Bulldogs and Rougeaus had solid chemistry. The old clipped VHS version of this match saw just over 10 minutes of action, but it is in fact a 20-minute time limit draw. The Rougeaus are good in this one, psychologically playing with the Madison Square Garden crowd and making even the slower parts of the match mean something, an art that was later lost on guys like Randy Orton and his ilk. (Randy Orton has ilk? (Yes.))
65. D'Lo Brown vs Val Venis (1998)
A really hot opener at the '98 show in MSG, with Val and D'Lo cutting a good pace and trading plenty of nice offense. Both guys were young (JR keeps mentioning D'Lo is 26, Val is 27) and fairly new on the scene. '98, in fact, is a very clear "turnaround" kind of show for SummerSlam. While '97 was a good show, mostly those guys had all been around for a while. '98 features a lot of dudes in key roles who weren't there the year before: Venis, D'Lo, Rock, Sable, and Edge, notably, plus revival time for the New Age Outlaws, X-Pac, Jeff Jarrett, and big elevation for HHH. Also, the Oddities were there.
64. Eddie Guerrero vs Chris Benoit vs Tajiri vs Rhyno (2003)
Starting in late 2002, Smackdown was The Workrate Program, while RAW was The Story Show, beginning with Paul Heyman's Tag Team Mania, which eventually mixed and matched, before most of those guys splintered off into a bunch of singles matches. Guerrero and Tajiri had briefly held the WWE tag belts on Smackdown when Tajiri replaced an injured Chavo Guerrero, and Benoit and Rhyno had been partners, too, because they were both aggressive and didn't like to talk and short. Like most four-way matches in the mid-card, this doesn't get enough time to be anything more than a strung-together series of cool spots and big moves, but these four guys were all pretty cool in 2003, so you wind up with some good stuff in the crappy format, anyway. Guerrero was streaking toward the WWE title, which he would win in February 2004 from Brock Lesnar. Benoit would win the Royal Rumble in January 2004, then pick up the world heavyweight title at WrestleMania XX, after jumping ship to RAW. Tajiri and Rhyno did things like this until they didn't have jobs.
63. Wade Barrett vs Daniel Bryan (2011)
A year after Barrett led The Nexus into a fight with Team WWE in the main event of SummerSlam 2010, overcome in large part by surprise Team WWE member Daniel Bryan, these two rising young stars went toe-to-toe at the Uncle Who Owns a Lake House of 'Em All. (Starrcade is The Grandma; WrestleMania is The Grandaddy; Survivor Series is The Other Grandpa Who You Don't Visit So Much Because He's Kinda Racist and Mean and Stuff, But He's Old, What Can You Do?; SummerSlam is the Uncle Who Owns a Lake House; Royal Rumble is The Much Older Brother From Your Mom's First Marriage; Great American Bash is The Spinster Aunt Who Joined a Cult; King of the Ring is Your Cousin Steve Who Died, He Was a Good Dude But Always a Little "Off.")
Daniel Bryan in the mid-card is kind of a waste because, like, he's still really great, obviously, but he doesn't get to do the sort of stuff he can really do, which is make a longer match incredibly special. And all due respect to Barrett, who I think is terrific now, but he wasn't in Bryan's class in 2011, and CAINT NOBODY TELL ME DIFFERNT, as Stone Cold Steve Austin would say. That's one thing I think we sometimes forget about Daniel Bryan. He'd been a top worker, industry-wide, for, like, eight years, before he got to WWE. He wasn't just "indy great," he was legitimately great.
62. Tatanka & The Smoking Gunns vs Bam Bam Bigelow & The Headshrinkers (1993)
1993 was a fun WWF year in retrospect, with a lot of crappy characters that died on the vine, and weird guys having standout performances regularly. Tatanka was to 1993 WWF what Sheamus is to 2014 WWE, consistently delivering and nobody has a thing to do with him. The Gunns were still new to the scene at this point, and thus giving maximum effort, running through a series of contrived finishers and what have you. The Headshrinkers and Bigelow all came to work in this one, too. It's a surprisingly awesome match. There are about three odd spots with Billy or Bart (both of them didi it) coming off the ropes at a Headshrinker (either one) and there seeming to be some miscommunication, but other than that, this is a great time to be had.
61. X-Pac vs Jeff Jarrett (1998)
This was a hair vs hair match, and a really hot match, too. Both X-Pac and Jarrett don't get the credit they deserve as workers, as both were consistently good for a long time, though neither were ever exactly great. I think what hurts them is a similar perception. Jarrett was pushed into main event roles he wasn't fit for, first by Vince Russo in WCW, and then by himself in TNA. X-Pac was friends with key guys in the WWF, WCW, and WWF again, and was in important spots in both companies, and maybe sometimes over more deserving guys. (Maybe.) So there's the idea that they were over-pushed. Honestly, Jarrett was, but in WCW and TNA, who really cares? Nobody was saving those ships. And I don't think X-Pac was really ever over-pushed. He was never a top guy, never even really more than a good mid-card guy, which was about right for his range of talent, most of which was in the ring. (Similar to early career rival Jerry Lynn, X-Pac was about 80% in-ring ability, 20% charisma when speaking, though Lynn might've been more 95-5.) But watch X-Pac in this match. When he kicks up the speed even a little more than normal, he is just flying in there. These two were a nice fit for one another, and this was a good "other" feud at the time. Jarrett got his hair cut and went on to become the short-haired "Don't Piss Me Off" guy with Debra and the puppies and all this. The best news is, he stopped wearing that awful ring gear.
60. Daniel Bryan vs Kane (2012)
Another good Kane tag team broken up so that they could have underwhelming singles matches with each other, just like Kane and X-Pac, and Kane and Rob Van Dam. Good matches, sure, but forgettably so. Nobody's ever, like, "Yo, let's put on that Kane vs X-Pac/RVD/Daniel Bryan match and watch that again, I gotta see it several times." Kane is just Kane. Always. Kane has been at the same level for about 15 years now. That's remarkably, in all honesty, and I mean it as a compliment. The only thing about Kane that ever really changes is that sometimes he gets stale and needs to bail for a while, because he doesn't do more or less than his usual.
59. Rey Mysterio vs Chavo Guerrero (2006)
The better of the two SummerSlam mathces between these two, but again, not by a ton. And it should have been by a ton, too. This was a disappointing match in that it was supposed to be this big blood feud, but then it got slotted as the opener, where you want hot action to get the crowd a-rockin', and it doesn't really nail that, either. Rey and Chavo did not do "hot action." They told stories. I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing, either, but they were caught between a rock and a hard place in this match, sort of stuck between the two ideas for what they were going to do. Vickie Guerrero gets involved and blah blah blah. Chavo's a real Guerrero.
58. CM Punk vs JBL (2008)
An underrated Punk match and one of JBL's better matches. Listen, I like Bradshaw, but he was not ... good. He's not what you'd call "good," necessarily, not in the ring. He wasn't quite the thinking man's brute he wanted to portray, nor was he quite brute enough to be a true Texas badbutt like a Stan Hansen or a Bruiser Brody. But Punk and JBL were a nice contrast and brought out the best in each other for where they were at in their careers in 2008. This was a match that meant to prove Punk was no fluke, and I think it succeeded, particularly because he had to dig deep against a savvy veteran who was also, you know, a much bigger man than him.
57. The Mega Powers vs The Mega Bucks (1988)
This is actually a pretty good formula tag team match, with the 1988 shell of Andre the Giant hidden as well as he could be, and getting enough in that it wasn't overly obvious that he was, you know, being relegated to guy standing on the apron. DiBiase does the heavy lifting both on offense and in terms of selling for Hogan and Savage, which was his job for most of 1988, actually. Both sides have some pretty solid team work, with the Mega Powers executing some nice quick tags and cutting off the ring in the early portion. Hogan and Savage wind up splitting face-in-peril duties, which is nice to see, and then Elizabeth takes her skirt off, which stops DiBiase, Andre, Bobby Heenan, Virgil, and bought-off referee Jesse Ventura dead in their tracks, all five of them. This leads to the Mega Powers executing their signature handshake at ringside, and then DiBiase getting pinned after a flying elbow and legdrop.
56. Sheamus vs Randy Orton (2010)
Sheamus and Randy Orton have had lots of matches, and this is one of them. I've got a lot of things to say about a lot of these matches, but I'm just drawing a blank on what to say about this Sheamus-Orton match. It's good? I liked it? Sheamus is under-appreciated?
55. Demolition vs The Hart Foundation (1990)
A good match, but one that I am sad to say has not aged well, and has a lot of issues. For a two out of three falls match, this feels really rushed and kind of jumbled, as Demolition get the first fall, then the Harts get the second on a DQ when Crush breaks up a pin by awkwardly tackling the referee, which looks terribly clumsy. Demolition had Ax hiding under the ring, and he kept switching off with Smash in the third fall, as Vince McMahon and Roddy Piper decided they were the two people on earth who couldn't tell Ax and Smash apart (except that Vince could, clearly, and so can everyone else, because they look nothing alike). Then the Legion of Doom get involved for a dopey finish. Leave the memories alone, you guys. This one's not worth a look back. It can only disappoint you.
54. Eddie Guerrero vs Edge (2002)
It wasn't their best match together, but it was a key part of their '02 feud, which helped continue Edge's rise up the ladder, and was also sort of the starting point of Eddie's eventual rise to the top of the card in late 2003 and early 2004. Eddie had a lot to prove when he came back to WWE in 2002, and he just kept proving it. This is a really solid mid-card match for a couple of guys who were trying to fight their way into the main events.
53. Ted DiBiase vs Virgil (1991)
Virgil's all-time best match, and one of DiBiase's finest performances, as he carries Virgil through a great story and a really emotional match, with Roddy Piper's over-the-top, Virgil-supporting commentary also helping things. This goes into overdrive after the initial DQ spot, where the referee rules that Sensational Sherri needs to return to the dressing room, and the match will continue. DiBiase lays in a horrendous beating on Virgil, only for his arrogance to backfire, making Virgil the new Million Dollar Champion.
52. Tito Santana & The Rockers vs Rick Martel & The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers (1989)
This probably wouldn't be one of the 10 best six-man tag matches in 2014 WWE, because there have been lots of great six-man tag matches in 2014, but this is a good match, and oddly enough, it's Tito Santana doing, like, ALL the heavy lifting. The Rockers are barely involved in the match at all, as Santana gets his ass stomped forever, and does so quite nicely. Were the Rockers hungover again? Either way, this is less "six-man showcase" than you'd expect on paper, as it's much more a storytelling wrestling match that focuses on the effective teamwork of Martel and the Rougeaus, and Santana's intestinal fortitude.
51. Diesel vs Razor Ramon (1994)
It's hard to believe that less than two years later, these two rising WWF stars would defect to WCW, where both had failed before, and start a gotdanged revolution with Hulk Hogan. This is one of Diesel's better matches, as he's up for working with his pal, and Hall was really good at carrying on the occasion he had to; the occasional, Flair-endorsed idea is that Michaels had his WMX ladder match with the ladder, and not with Razor, but that's bullshit, and when he was in shape and in his prime, Scott Hall could really go, and he could go with a variety of opponents. Maybe he wasn't quite a great worker, but he knew how to build matches, and he does that very well here. Shawn Michaels co-stars at ringside with Diesel, with whom he'd won the tag belts the night prior in Indianapolis, and Walter Payton gets a co-starring role in Razor's corner, since it's Chicago. Few have ever looked as generally disinterested in being at the wrestling as Walter Payton did at SummerSlam '94. Michaels screws up, kicking Diesel in the face instead of Razor, and just a couple of months after this, babyface Diesel was the new WWF champion. It wound up being an absolutely terrible idea. Razor regains the I-C belt from him here. I always thought they should have probably turned Diesel heel during his WWF title reign when it was clearly flopping, and let him work with guys like Razor, who were over, credible, and could get good stuff out of him, but nah. Mabel.
TOMORROW! Part 3!