We've got just ten more matches to go! No. 1 will be obvious, but a full write-up on that match is coming tomorrow. Let's count down numbers 10 through two this time. Let's go!
10. Christian vs Randy Orton (2011)
Christian has been one of the stronger performers in WWE's recent history, and underrated pretty much the entire way. He and Orton put together an excellent, hate-fueled brawl that killed it as the blowoff to a heated feud between the two. Filled with unexpected counters, near-falls, and Christian spitting on Orton which caused him to "hear voices in his head" -- one of my least favorite things that even works in this one.
9. Kurt Angle vs Brock Lesnar (2003)
A rematch from their WrestleMania XIX main event, they did better work in this one, and Brock didn't almost kill himself on a shooting star press, so that was good, too. Plus, this just had a better story, with Lesnar having gone full evil, aligning with Vince McMahon and breaking Zach Gowen's one good leg, while Angle was the babyface underdog that McMahon wanted rid of at the moment. Angle retained here after a brilliant, back-and-forth, trading finishers and near-falls WrestleMania type match, making that two of three years that Angle brought the WrestleMania feel to a SummerSlam main event (though this wasn't technically the main event, and neither was the Austin match in '01). McMahon running around the ring as Lesnar went from rope to rope trying to avoid tapping out was good comedy, even if perhaps misplaced given the stakes.
8. The Rock vs Hunter Hearst Helmsley (1998)
There were four "major" WWE ladder matches in the 1990s: Michaels-Razor at WrestleMania X and SummerSlam '95, this, and Hardys-Edge/Christian at No Mercy '99. This might honestly be the best of the bunch. The WrestleMania X match set the standard, and the Michaels-Razor rematch was right about its equal. This one set a new standard, and with a lot of hindsight now, I don't think there's much arguing that this is better than both of the HBK-Razor matches. This is a brutal, hard-hitting match that elevated both guys to a new level. A few months later, The Rock would win his first WWF title at Survivor Series, and HHH would win his first the night after SummerSlam '99. Rock and HHH had both taken off in '98 with the roster turnover. Sans Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, there were big openings, and these guys took the ball and ran with it. The crowd comes unglued when Helmsley retrieves the Intercontinental title to win this one. It's an epic clash of rising superstars.
7. Bret Hart vs Owen Hart (1994)
Because they're both SummerSlam matches featuring Bret Hart (who was Mr. SummerSlam, really), I've always compared this with the '92 Bret-Davey match. In a head-to-head, both have their arguments. The argument for this match is that it's probably still the best straight cage match in WWE history, and Owen Hart was a lot better than Davey Boy, meaning this was a lot more of a two-way street, a more complete piece of art, or whatever. Like a fair amount of matches on this list, this is a WrestleMania rematch of sorts, and like a many of those, even better than the WrestleMania match.
6. Chris Benoit vs Chris Jericho (2000)
In a year filled with great Benoit-Jericho matches, the SummerSlam, this two out of three falls match was their best. The two of them already had good chemistry going into their 2000 series, but they just kept getting better and better as it went on. I think they peaked here.
5. John Cena vs Daniel Bryan (2013)
When you consider that John Cena's elbow was badly injured for this match, it's even more incredible. Cena did everything possible to "make" Daniel Bryan in this match, ultimately losing clean to the hottest star in WWE, an unlikely phenomenon and the people's choice. Obviously hurting this for some is the fact that this isn't what really ended the show, as referee HHH turned on Bryan after a lengthy celebration, leading to Randy Orton picking up the WWE title. But that doesn't actually have an impact on this match, which is incredibly dramatic and a crowd-pleaser throughout.
4. CM Punk vs John Cena (2011)
Not quite as good as their Money in the Bank thriller, but it's also not much worse. Punk and Cena just worked. Whatever it was between them in the ring, they made their matches spectacular every time they got together for a big showdown. The personalities worked, too, as Punk came across as the genuine article professional wrestler, while Cena was the A-side superstar, and one that many of the audience doesn't believe deserves it. Punk and Cena and WWE tapped into audience frustration beautifully with this feud, and without sacrificing either man's credibility or standing.
3. Steve Austin vs Kurt Angle (2001)
Austin and Angle put on a WrestleMania-level epic, with both guys taking an awful beating over the course of a long match that saw Angle kick out of two Stone Cold Stunners, Austin hit with an Angle Slam, Austin escape the ankle lock, Austin break out the Million Dollar Dream from his Ringmaster days, blood, sweat, three referees taken out by Austin, and then a terrible DQ called for by WCW head referee Nick Patrick, who came in appearing ready to count, counted one, paused, and DQ'd Austin for excessive abuse of the referees. If this had had a finish of any kind, screwy or not, this probably would be No. 1. It's an incredible match. Austin's heel run didn't work because people didn't really want to boo him and the Alliance just couldn't get over, especially once it became about the WWF's Austin, and not any of the WCW or ECW guys, but he did do great heel work during that run, too, and this match is a fine example. He did a lot of weird backstage comedy and whatnot, but he also wrestled with a nastier mean streak than ever.
2. The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz vs Edge & Christian (2000)
The first TLC match in history set yet another standard for the WWF tag team trio of yesteryear. First, the Hardys and Edge and Christian had an unreal ladder match at No Mercy '99. Then, the Hardys and Dudleys had a terrific tables match at Royal Rumble 2000. The three teams got together for a ladder match at WrestleMania 2000, which stole the show on an otherwise lousy WrestleMania. And then came this match, ordered by Mick Foley, and raising the bar even further. It's a completely crazy disaster filled with huge bumps, great highspots, and a white-hot crowd that can hardly believe what they're seeing, even though they saw Shane McMahon fall from "75 feet!" earlier in the show. The athleticism and chemistry on display in this match is on another level. These teams were born to wrestle one another. The WrestleMania X-Seven TLC rematch was no better than this one, which is not to say it's worse. Just that this one is on that same exact level. It was an instant classic.
TOMORROW: No. 1!