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The WWE Championship had its earliest placement ever on a SummerSlam card this year

I was pretty stunned during SummerSlam 2018 when the WWE Championship match between AJ Styles and Samoa Joe was placed as the 5th match of the night out of 10 total matches on the main card. It seemed wild to me that the WWE Championship wasn’t among the final three matches of the night. Not only that, it was technically placed in the first half of matches on the main card!

So I wanted to check every past SummerSlam card to see where the WWE Championship has been placed throughout the history of that event. Here’s what I found.

Match Placement for the WWE Champion at SummerSlam

Year WWE Champion's Match Placement
Year WWE Champion's Match Placement
1988 Mega Powers vs. Andre & DiBiase 10 / 10
1989 Hogan & Beefcake vs. Savage & Zeus 9 / 9
1990 Ultimate Warrior vs. Rick Rude 10 / 10
1991 Hogan & Warrior vs. Triangle of Terror 8 / 8
1992 Randy Savage vs. Ultimate Warrior 6 / 8
1993 Yokozuna vs. Lex Luger 10 / 10
1994 Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart 6 / 7
1995 Diesel vs. King Mabel 9 / 9
1996 Shawn Michaels vs. Vader 7 / 7
1997 Undertaker vs. Bret Hart 7 / 7
1998 Steve Austin vs. Undertaker 8 / 8
1999 Steve Austin vs. Triple H vs. Mankind 9 / 9
2000 The Rock vs. Triple H vs. Kurt Angle 10 / 10
2001 Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle 7 / 8
2002 The Rock vs. Brock Lesnar 8 / 8
2003 Kurt Angle vs. Brock Lesnar 5 / 7
2004 John Bradshaw Layfield vs. Undertaker 8 / 9
2005 John Cena vs. Chris Jericho 6 / 8
2006 Edge vs. John Cena 7 / 7
2007 John Cena vs. Randy Orton 8 / 8
2008 Triple H vs. The Great Khali 5 / 7
2009 Randy Orton vs. John Cena 7 / 8
2010 Sheamus vs. Randy Orton 4 / 6
2011 CM Punk vs. John Cena 6 / 6
2012 CM Punk vs. John Cena vs. Big Show 6 / 7
2013 John Cena vs. Daniel Bryan 8 / 8
2014 John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar 8 / 8
2015 Seth Rollins vs. John Cena 7 / 10
2016 Dean Ambrose vs. Dolph Ziggler 6 / 9
2017 Jinder Mahal vs. Shinsuke Nakamura 9 / 10
2018 AJ Styles vs. Samoa Joe 5 / 10

Here is the proper way to interpret most lines in the table, using 2008 for this example: “The WWE Championship match between Triple H and the Great Khali was the 5th match of the night out of 7 total matches on the main card of SummerSlam 2008.”

The WWF Championship was not defended at SummerSlam in 1988, 1989, and 1991. However the WWF Champion did wrestle in a tag team match on each of those cards, so for the purposes of this exercise I counted those tag team matches as the representation of the WWF Championship on those nights.

I determined placement based on the number of matches on the main card, omitting any pre-show matches, dark matches, and Money in the Bank cash-ins. I also excluded all non-wrestling segments that occurred in the ring. Therefore I did not count the segment between Roman Reigns and Rusev at SummerSlam 2016, because the advertised match between them never officially happened. If you think that segment should count, then the placement for the WWE Championship match between Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler would be 6th out of 10 total segments rather than 6th out of 9 total matches.

The above table shows that the the WWE Championship was never placed in the first half of matches on the main card until 2018, where it was 5th out of 10 total matches.

Furthermore, the only years where the WWE Championship was not placed in the final three matches of the night were 2015, 2016, and 2018.

The only years where the WWE Champion wrestled in one of the first five matches of the night were 2003, 2008, 2010, and 2018. However the only card in that group that featured more than 7 total matches on the main card was SummerSlam 2018. I guess one could technically argue that the 2010 placement of 4th match of the night was the earliest placement ever, but that main card only included six total matches.

I’ve mentioned in the past that the WWE Championship has yet to main event one of these dual-branded pay-per-view cards, and now it’s actually slipped into the first half of a major PPV card. The information in the above table suggests to me that the 2018 match between Styles and Joe is the earliest placement ever for the WWE Championship on a SummerSlam card.

Do you think this is a problem, Cagesiders? Will Styles and Joe fare any better in their rematch at Hell in a Cell on Sept. 16?

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